But the days went by, and they turned into weeks and months – was I bored? I will concede that one does not always have a book that will yield hour after hour of memorable experience; moreover one’s attempts to improvise at the piano have at times been complete failures, and one has sat by the window, smoking cigarettes, while gradually and irresistibly a feeling of distaste creeps over one, distaste for oneself and for everything else.
Mann, Thomas. ‘The Joker’ in Death in Venice. Translated by David Luke. London: Vintage Books, 1897/1998. 44-45.
‘Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity’.
Robert Pirsig, quoted in Paul Kennedy, ‘The Motorcycle Is Yourself’, CBC (2015).
Bars and booze and lacquer and glass and smoke and tv and tourists and shots, and pit-stop at Randall’s to chop up a Xanax, to snort then smoke then back to the bars. In this city, through the bars, we wind up packed in a room full of ads. Living ads, that is, sexy and skimpy young women ads. New England or Oklahoma transplants, wannabe country stars clad in fishnets and bra tops, hot pants and logos, who proffer shots of some dye-injected Extreme Liquor product. A temp job, they swear, they serve you straight out of their mouths, out of their navels, wherever, no problem. For ten bucks a pop they make ten bucks an hour, while your lips suckle shots off of their amazing young stomachs. And they’re dying to sing, will do anything to demo. (All of this action in a Vandy sports bar, not an airport strip club, let alone a music industry hang.) And tomorrow I leave, for Forts Jackson then Benning. Signed the contract when the Army offered me 11B, Option 4: Airborne Infantry. I am twenty-six and terrified. Yet I felt compelled to follow through after the recruiters told me how difficult it was to secure this assignment. How rare it is these days to earn Option 4, Airborne, war on and all.
Hoo-ah! they barked. You tha man, man!
Randall and I depart that bar, we drive on. He says zero about my deployment. We pay cover and squeeze into an East Nashville venue, find another Brooklynesque band, another huddle of white hipsters in white V-neck t-shirts whose everything is constructed by camouflaging their incomes, by folding tattooed arms across their chests, and/or nodding and/or spying at their phones. Superb denim, everywhere. We drive off. Drop twenty bucks to park on bustling and hyper-sold Second Avenue: Hard Rock Cafe, Coyote Ugly, chain, chain, etc., etc. At a pseudo-upscale music hall, stuffed with pseudo-upscale music industry fakes, reclaimed wood and iron, taxidermy mounts, Randall yanks me into a hallway and flask-feeds me bourbon. Tells me he can’t get away from unknowns who want to write songs with him—Hey, man, let’s write; Hey, Randall, let’s write—everywhere he goes, because they know that their chances of landing their first album cut are stronger with his name on as cowriter. (A couple years back, Randall wrote a chestnut called “Urban Cowgirl,” a one-off departure from his non-paying folk songs. After the tune was cut by a cosmetic cowboy, it topped the Top 40 and made Randall a universe of cash. Now nobody artsy and literate and frustrated will hang out with him. He is and forever will be the “Urban Cowgirl” sellout.)
Randall hates this process, this creative suck-off, yet he does the same thing to more established songwriters: calls them to cowrite, wedges into their conversations at industry gatherings, pumping gossip like heartbeats, desperate to book a session, to redefine himself. I do not call him out on this. We are all chasing better narratives.
Odie Lindsey, ‘So Bored in Nashville’ in Southern Culture, v. 22, 3. Fall 2016. p. 72-6
A little boy across the aisle was perched on the edge of his chars, eagerly reading the comic strops over an old man’s shoulder. Kids were funny. They got so enthusiastic about such trivial things – dogs and circuses and funny papers.
College profs were about the same. They became enthusiastic about Keats, Shakespeare, or the pronunciation of French. They were always talking about ‘the proper relations of things’ and ‘fundamental truths’. The bored young man had once assumed that these expressions meant something, though he had never listened to the professors long enough to discover just that. He knew now that they really meant nothing.
College professors were supposed to be intelligent, but he found them stupid. They were so easily outwitted. He had made a ‘C’ once in a course for which he had not spent an hour’s study, by copying from a crib prepared by the girl who sat next to him. He was rather proud of this; it was a record.
Arleen Wilson, ‘The Bored Young Man’ in Manuscripts, Vol. 3 (1935).