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Archive for August, 2009

THE ARDENT and I have been taking a break due to some  forces in our control and some not. I have spent much of the time appreciating music in the area and from outside the immediate Minneapolis area. I have also had the opportunity to sit down and spend time with musicians and “industry people” who I respect.
One thing was made abundantly clear in all of the conversations was that I have not given the opportunity for anyone to know who I am. (You mean being known as having an unnatural love for Morrissey isn’t enough?)
I had initially scoffed at this idea because I am seemingly more ballsy from behind a guitar and a mead pad than I am otherwise. A few weekends ago I was out with a friend who I have known for years. He was going up for another beer and stopped back to me and asked if I had quit drinking. I think that is what prompted me to write this…

When the Ryan Paul & THE ARDENT myspace page first reared its little head in the jungle of musicians, artists, and social networkers, I had posted a letter to Minneapolis music. I have since had it deleted. I don’t have a copy of it anymore and much of me wants it back. The letter was a direct apology to the entire Minneapolis music scene for sins of my past.

I can’t replicate that letter – no matter how hard I try. So I am going to tell you a little bit about myself using the words from a confessional I had written called “Meet Me Where I Am”. It is the first track on La Vita Nuova and is graced by the amazing slide guitar of Jimmy Peterson. “Meet Me Where I Am” can be heard here

Meet me where I am
In the rain; in the city.
Meet me where I am
All alone; on the streets.

For too many years I struggled with alcoholism and addiction. It was by far one of the more advanced stages witnessed at such a young age. By the age of 25, I had been hospitalized for pancreatitis twice. For those who don’t know, alcoholics in their twenties rarely experience decay like this. Pancreatitis is mainly found in elderly addicts.
I was actually in Buffalo, New York when I was last hospitalized. I was released from the hospital at 9am one morning after having spent a week there. Due to the hour, I did not want to call the person I was staying with. I didn’t have a penny in my pocket, so I asked for directions and started walking.
I found myself wandering around the streets of Buffalo, which looks like just about any city in the US. I noticed that I had been there before. I hadn’t been in Buffalo, but had been alone in every large(r) city with no idea what I was going to do. At that moment, my circumstances were not going to change. I needed someone to meet me there… all alone and on the streets of a city I didn’t know.

Meet me where I am
In the county library.
Meet me where I am
I’m too tired to move my feet.

Seeing as this is an autobiographical story, the assumption would be that I took shelter at a library in Buffalo. I didn’t. But I remembered walking by the old Hennepin County Library in downtown Minneapolis and had always noticed that the homeless used it as a refuge in the cold months of Minnesota.  At that moment, I think I finally understood how that felt. **Had I ever done anything to help the homeless at the Hennepin library? The answer is no. Thusly, no one came to meet my needs either.

Meet me where I am
In the pews at the cathedral.
Meet me where I am
Even though I try to hide.

There is not much to the city of Buffalo, NY. There is a big hockey arena, lots of wing joints, a large lake, and several cathedrals. It seems that there is a mammoth church on every single corner (Ani DiFranco actually refurbished one for her office). On this desolate and frost-bound walk back to my friend’s apartment, I had considered stopping at one to possibly warm up a bit. But I figured that if I stopped in, someone would want to help me with my real problem. At that moment in my life, I didn’t know if I wanted that kind of help. I just wanted to be out of the cold.

Meet me where I am
In my addiction to another.
Meet me where I am
I have stolen. I have lied.

I think that this part of this verse may be one of the clearest images in the entire song to one who has lived the lifestyle of an addict. Addiction is often called a “love affair” with your chemical of choice. I can honestly say that was the case for me. The fact of the matter is that I would do anything within my power to get to what I needed. I had certainly lied. I had certainly stolen. I attached myself to those around me and sucked up all that they were worth. I was not picking pockets or stealing Tv’s, but I was stealing energy. I was stealing compassion. I was stealing anything that would assist me as I strove for more of what I was in love with…

Meet me where I am
At the bus stop on the corner.
Meet me where I am
As I sell myself.

This song was compiled and composed years after the event in Buffalo. This portion of the tune came at a point when I was riding in a car around South Minneapolis. I was looking around at every corner and seeing people who were entrenched in whatever kind of destruction that they happened to fall into. Prostitution, drug dealing, drug buying, violence, and was all right out in the open. My heart sunk. But how was their shit any different than my past shit?

Meet me where I am
As I beg for forgiveness
That I already have…

When I finally decided to call home to my family and friends and ask for help to quit drinking and using drugs, the response was amazing. I remember landing back at MSP airport and taking the escalator down to the baggage claim. I was foggy. I was weak from illness.
Through the hoards of people heading to get their luggage or meeting loved ones, I saw a woman running towards me. Behind her, two men followed. As they came into focus, I realized that it was my mother, father and brother. I’m not sure how long the embrace lasted in the busy airport, but the feeling will never leave me. It was a family saying, “We forgive you. We love you. Let’s get better.”

Which brings me to the Chorus:

I know what I’m getting into
Loving you.

I often reflect back on the moment in the airport. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be my family looking at me as sick as I have ever been. I can’t fathom them realizing the long road ahead and still deciding to love me anyhow. Some have argued that it was a family obligation, but I’m not sure about that. The members of my family were not the only people who helped me on my road to recovery. Everyone who stepped into that ring knew what they were getting into. Thankfully, I pulled through… that time.  It wasn’t my first attempt at getting clean, but it was my last.
I don’t believe that any of it would be possible without the love of my family. I don’t think it would have happened without the support of friends. I know that I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell were it not for a loving and forgiving God.

For the detail oriented types: I did not sober up in Buffalo. I had a little bit further to go. I didn’t sober up at the airport. I didn’t even sober up the day after. But the day after that – April 16, 2007, I checked myself into a detox center and spent 5 of the most un-fucking-comfortable days of my life being fed medication so that I would not have a seizure from withdrawal. I haven’t picked up a drink since.

For answers to the “usual” questions: This story is about me and me only. THE ARDENT and I play bars because we have fun in bars. Hell! Members of THE ARDENT take full advantage of my drink tickets at shows. I’m not against drinking. I’m not against alcohol. However, my body is. I can’t drink it. It consumes me rather than the other way around.

I also want to point out that I did not write this song for the people at the bars. I did not write this song for THE ARDENT. I wrote this song for me. I wrote this song so that I may  never forget the cold desolate streets of Buffalo. I wrote this song so that the memory of the worst period of my life is always fresh in my mind.

Because sometimes it is easy to forget…

Because sometimes I want to forget…

But the months that I consider to be the hardest to think about were the same months that made me exactly who I am today.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope it provides a little more insight on me and our songs (if you happened to be looking for some).

Ryan Paul
http://www.ryanpaulandtheardent.com

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