Gleaming, Sparkling, Furious

…a Letter to YVYNYL

Central California’s Stephanie Croff thought she had everything in order, that her life was in perfect alignment. And then it wasn’t. Her relationship broke apart suddenly and left her thinking about where she landed, or if she had landed at all. Healing came slowly, but when sharp shattering pieces found their way back together it’s not surprising to learn that power came from crafting the music she loved.


Dear Mark,

One of my favorite things to do is suss out the best burrito joint in town. When I was in Boise, there weren’t any good burritos, but there was a street vendor with this insane Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, and no matter how many times I listen to The War On Drugs, I always think of that sandwich instead of the town, and how I’m amazed that I actually like a really good tri-tip burrito better than that most delicious sandwich. But that band, ohmygod. They’re my new favorite band of all time.

I “discovered” them earlier this year when I was at a local bar, Elsie’s, with a friend after another friend’s show. We were drinking water when this guitar solo crept into my head. It was so good. Mellow, still driving, and I was instantly distracted by it. The tones reminded me of Pink Floyd, in the way that I love so much… dreamy, spacey, pulling my heart in directions I don’t know how to follow… I asked my friend who it was, and he immediately said, “War On Drugs”. Me, “What?!?” Him, “The War On Drugs.” Wow. I didn’t even think of that as a band name, it’s brilliant. I went on the internet and stalked everything I could, finding out they were playing in a nearby town the following week. I freaked out, bought tickets, and had my mind blown and heart explode with the realization that I COULD have a new favorite band of all time… not just hold onto the relics of the past…


I have always loved a screaming guitar solo. Old-school rock and roll, dirty blues riffs, pent-up grunge, even some super-fast distorted shred for the skaters can move me. I think this is why I fell in love with my now ex-husband. He had unruly long hair in a time when I loved a crew cut. He had stooped shoulders from spending his life cradling his guitars. It was them he worshipped, and the sounds he made with them were like angels dueling in love-battles amongst the stars… gleaming, sparkling, furious.

We were together for eight years. It was the most amazing relationship I had ever been a part of, and one of the most difficult. I know those two really go hand-in-hand, when it comes to learning life lessons. Or dealing with certain tragedies. To have a journey partner, through thick and thin, well, you just know it’s not going to be easy. But I wasn’t prepared for him leaving a year and a half-ago. I wasn’t prepared for no longer being a part of our band, or having him as my producer, or guitarist.


And interestingly now, I wonder if that’s really why he left. Maybe we weren’t really husband and wife, so much as creative partners in every other way. I may never really know why, but that’s not my riddle to solve. What I did learn though, was that everything that moves me, was still inside of me. Everything that inspires me about the world, about music, about sound, about art, was not only still inside of me, but it was pulsating more and more vibrantly because of the space now available in my life.

So I did the work. I dug into myself and read books and cried on the floor and picked myself up and went to meetings and cried in my car and then created work and delivered it and shook business-owners hands and signed contracts and did more work and earned as much money as I could to fund a project like I had never funded before.

I was funding my life’s work. My passion. My ability to create meaning out of tragedy. My ability to express deep wounds through the beautiful analogies of nature: her sunsets, the breeze, the gentleness of it all. I was able to see the gifts in this new place in my life, and generate the courage to own these gifts and then offer them to those around me.

I forged ahead through my heart’s footsteps, which brought me to a producer and engineer and musicians who are all amazingly talented and world-reputed for their work. I kept working and doing the tasks necessary to keep supporting this project, while also enjoying the discovery of how fun it can be to socialize as a single woman again. How exciting it can be to reconnect with music from a pedestrian perspective. How enriching it is to have friends you can be vulnerable and open with and know that there’s nothing left to prove in life anymore. Every monument I held had been shattered, and I was still alive. Actually, I wasn’t just still alive, I was thriving.


So, here I am today. Monday after Solstice weekend, which, in Santa Barbara, is a really big deal. I had quite possibly, one of the best weekends of my life thus far. I finished sewing a skirt that had been in my to-do bin for years, made a necklace I had a vision for last month, met up with a dear old friend who I used to sing with in the late 90's, went to a bitchin’ house party where one of my girlfriends was singing, then went to a small theater show where my other friends were playing, then back to the party where my friends rocked the shit out of it with their band. And, I got to join on stage to harmonize! On my way home, I was still enjoying the buzz of the evening, and I popped in the disc of my new EP for perspective. I actually had to drive around the neighborhood again to listen all the way through, because I was in disbelief that this was actually me, this was actually my life, and this was actually the truth of my existence.

I just love it so much. This is all I want to do. Sing and play for ever and ever. The friends, the songs, the road trips, the secret burrito and cheese steak joints, this is what life’s about.

And to think, all I had to do to realize this, was to let go. To realize, to make real, The Dream Is Gone.


So, Mark, thank you for engaging me to write an actual letter. And insisting that it be good. For me, authenticity is the measure of goodness. And you’ve helped me uncover another level of clarity on why I want to share this body of work with not only you, but the world.

Because ultimately, life is for everybody. The shitty parts in between, can be the precursors to amazingness. Life, it’s fullness, it’s incredible awe-struck, new favorite band discovering moments, all are born out of the wondering, even the dire disbelief that they may never happen again. And if we can look those moments in the face, shake their hands, give them a hug or maybe just punch them in the nose, then let them go on their way, then we’re on OUR way.

For your enjoyment, here is a link to my new EP on Bandcamp, released last Friday.

For future recognition, attached is a picture of my face so you know who to say “Hi” to.

This song, “Stay” is accompanied by perfectly illustrated scenes of my past life… And while I’m not booked in Philly yet, I can be heard at these locations.

In the meanwhile, I hope you find the time to write back, I feel like you’re now an unofficial pen-pal, and now I’m curious if you actually hate Philly Cheese Steak references, because maybe you’re a vegan. Or just tired of the cliché. If so, I’m sorry. I’m a carnivore.

Thank you for your time,

Stephanie


To listen to more, to read more, to live life more, to be more…

Please feel free to check out more Letters to YVYNYL, an ongoing series of personal notes about life, love and the magical power of music.

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