WRITTEN LOG FOR “SM”
December 1, 2019 at 22:37
Good thing about my deadlines is they’re entirely fabricated!
And it’s not ready yet, this record.
I’ve just had an epiphany about mixing; I’ve distilled the process of mixing to its essence and suddenly understand all my songs better.
I don’t use big reference monitors because I can’t afford to soundproof my studio (bedroom), so their use would be perfunctory and hardly functional. I’ve been mixing with acid green AKG Q701 headphones for a few years now, and I’m comfortable with my progress, all I’ve learned with them. The problem with headphone mixing, with open back headphones specifically, is that they require a lot of voltage, a lot of gain, so I’m compelled to push my DAC to the maximum at all times—
“You wouldn’t edit a design without magnifying five hundred times!” I once explained to my sister, who had whined that she could hear my headphones’ bleed from her room—
Then again, our house has notoriously thin walls—
She can’t sleep because she hears my father having arguments with ghosts—
To the mainline: The epiphany I’ve had is simply the act of removing my headphones, placing them on the desk, and playing the entire song, dissecting from this distance. My brain automatically refers to this as, for some reason, Supermarket Distance.
If my music were to be played, god forbid, over some grocery store’s PA system, one would perhaps hear the bits and pieces at this volume; one would perceive the mix from this cursory distance, should be able to distinguish the most important elements of the song from this aloof position; one should be attracted and enticed from there, should be compelled to examine the song further, at which point the lovingly-detailed craftwork would reveal itself—
Supermarket Distance, I call this stage of mixing. I’ve done the details, the magnified stuff, but it’s easy to lose your head there, easy to forget not everyone’s going to listen to your music this way, so now I’m reminding myself to step back, to not care just a little bit. The appropriate amount of apathy.
Mixing is simply determining which elements are louder than the others, which instrument sits above another.
Of course, that’s an oversimplification. But simplification is necessary. Simplification is important.
And the next decade’s greatest record is simply not finished yet!
The word WALKWAY on a green sign in the distance becomes WALKAWAY in my head. Dinner—
Ghislain and I ended the dinner sourly.
A ceramic bird in a clipped cage. A noisy pink-haired lady with tattoos. A candle wrapped in a pseudo-religious print of a woman with a cellphone, in the fashion of Mary. A really good slice of pizza.
Few things are worse than watching your favourite lover's heart twist into a scowl, sneering and contemptuous and exasperated and brimming with disdain.
Few things are worse than hunger. Fewer things are worse than the want for hunger.
A ceramic bird sits in a clipped cage beside me.
There's no gate nor door nor mechanical opening. The cage was ostensibly built without entrance or exit; someone clipped the wires post-construction.
A ceramic bird in a clipped cage.
What's the point?
"No ones ever written me a poem before," Ghislain muttered through a sob-clogged throat once I looked up from my phone, having read April twenty-fourth’s entry.
I wanted to tell him: "It's not about you."
But he wanted it to be about him, so I let it be just that, as I've done a thousand times before, so it now feels.
Yesterday, after collecting the last set of things I had missed during the first sweep through his cluttered apartment the day before, he told me about Patti Smith. About trauma. She was truly traumatised and her writing was so clear and there was a mystical quality to its directness, he told me.
I said yes. I nodded. Yes.
"It's still Thursday," our server said, after I'd craftily tried to order Friday's special, having consulted my wristwatch past midnight.
Ghislain was sat across from me in the booth, across a wide table, an expansive table no longer than a metre; we sat lightyears apart.
"I'm just very disenchanted," he told me.
And I suddenly remembered Michael the Music Manager, and how I had, in another life, into his drunken ears whispered my disgust for him. And he said he was drunk, and the following morning he didn't remember the night before, and so I was absolved yet still punished, and I was kissed on the cheek in a subway heading east.
I disgusted my love and I could do nothing but sit stoic and try to rationalise, to plead using logic and diplomacy. Navigating seas of resentment with nothing but a pool noodle and a damn altimeter: All the wrong tools.
So I watched him hate me. I looked into his eyes and I floundered and foundered and blurted that I would do anything to convince him, that I would say the magic words if I could find them, that I would beg for clemency had his arm outwrestled mine. But it didn’t, so I couldn't.
I can't feel, I told him. I can't cry. I wanted to but I couldn't so I watched him leave me, staring, gaping, dumb, blank, vacuous, cold, manicured steel and polished porcelain. I helped him peel the flesh off my heart. Drink, I must've told him. Drink and rinse your mouth with my blood and spit me on the ground and hate me. See me unworthy, Ghislain.
I was weeping so loudly, deafeningly, but he couldn't hear me, so we got the bill and I paid for him again because he didn't have enough to cover my portion, even though he had promised he would after the last dinner at Bloomer's, where he'd ordered the pulled jackfruit sandwich just like Joy did the day before, when she and I discussed city life and her moving out, away from her oppressive parents, and I told her living here feels like screaming, feels like you can be as loud as you want and no one hears you, that you can be You, the greatest degree of You, the maximum You because no one cares, that there's power in that grey anonymity, in that faceless bumping of shoulders, in that monolithic shoving. I was screaming all the time, I told her. She didn't understand me, couldn’t hear me screaming, so we discussed her comfortable shoes and bags and dolorous shopping doldrums instead. Ghislain couldn’t hear me screaming, so I paid the bill.
I cried first, maybe. On the way back to his apartment, when we stood before a streetlight that refused to change, I commanded myself to cry, but it was pointless because only I would taste the salt in my tears, only I would see them in the rainfall that whipped around us.
I cried and trailed behind him and inside cried before his cat who newly sat, luxurious and proud, on the footrest I’d cleaned—once was an ashtray table, once was an actual footrest even longer ago, before my time.
The cat enjoyed how I cleaned things up, I noted just then. And so I felt that gush of appreciation, of welcome, of stupidly simple small love, and I cried and crouched and cried and Ghislain came out of the washroom and saw my tearstained face and said nothing or maybe we exchanged sparseness but I was soon pinioned in his room between all of his mess and my things, no longer one but separate entities, a fact then glowing with profound obviousness.
I gathered my things reluctantly before finding myself in the kitchen, which was once again ruined with stagnant black water in the sink and gouged avocado on the cutting board.
“Can't fit all my things in my bag," I said with a mechanical chuckle once Ghislain appeared. He suggested I take one of the two-dollar grocery bags, but not that one, because that one is his roommate’s, and his roommate will want that, so I can have this one. And then he looked at me and his face was crumpled and my head was in his shoulder and he was heaving into me and my eyes were searing just the same and we were stood in that septic shithole of a kitchen for which I was no match. Crying, crying, crying, crying.
"I want this," he said, after some fumbled apologies, self-pity, my forgiveness, my apologies.
"I do, too," I said.
And before I left, because he still needed space even though I’d told him that I loved him while his head rested against my chest, he told me to speak my feelings, to explain myself, to open up.
I ignored him for a few seconds or at least appeared to while I, with fumbling fingers, sought the piece of writing on my phone that would have him weeping again, have him regretting my reading it, for my leaving would be made even more painful.
“No one's ever written me a poem before.”
A different day, I stood just outside his apartment, waiting for the elevator a step away. From beyond the door floated Ghislain's voice, singing some Katy Perry song he'd been teaching to one of his students. He’d been happy.
This time, I stood just outside his apartment, waiting for the elevator a step away. From beyond the door floated Ghislain's voice, heaving plaintive moans stifled by hiccuping sobs. He was devastated.
The day after, while he criticised our Prime Minister Trudeau on the telly, he chewed on Burger King fries and his own nonchalance; I scampered around the apartment on quiet feet, extricating my things from his, guided by a list I'd prepared at home.
Then, head tilted and frame leaning against the kitchen archway, I asked him if he wanted to go to this thing on Sunday. This vegan food thing. He said sure, he loves food things. I didn't tell him I'd already bought our tickets.
I should've stayed. is what I texted him an hour or so upon arriving home yesterday.
He hasn't replied since.
Why clip the cage of a ceramic bird?
I go downstairs and order a deep fried chocolate bar. Upstairs again, I mosey to the water tower where a bartender bemoans her spilling bleach on pants, prompting me to remark the smell of swimming pools. "Just don't corrode yourself," I chastise. Sip some water, look through foggy windows beyond which lay the streets of Grace and Bloor. To the right, on a windowsill, a caged bird beckons my attention once again. I hold it up, giving it a proper study this time.
Why clip the cage of a ceramic bird? I wonder mawkishly. He can't fly, either way.
And then, suddenly discovering a second bird in there with him, I realise: Maybe he doesn't want to.