Going To The Woodshed

Saxophonist extraordinaire Ornette Coleman dropped off the face of the earth in 1963.  He had tremendous success with two trailblazing albums, The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959), and Change of the Century (1959).  But for reasons that he’d never fully explain, but which you might intuit, he decided to go to the woodshed to re-tool himself, to update, to refresh, to experiment, to practice.  And he stayed gone from the music scene for two years before he re-emerged.

I always admired Ornette, and I loved Ornette’s mustic.  I loved his plastic saxophones.  I loved that “free jazz” was, in fact, partially written.  I loved the incessant repetitions of Dancing in Your Head (1976).  I loved that later in his career his son played drums for him.  But most of all, I admired his knowing that he’d benefit from pulling the plug in 1963 and his going to the woodshed without any fuss.  For a while.  Not forever. With the intention to return.  Just for then.  Just to attend to what he wanted to attend to.  In 1963 I was in high school.  The idea that a premiere musician and one of my favorites could just leave struck me.  To me, it was as if Coleman were Henry David Thoreau, and the woodshed was Walden Pond.  And I thought only good things could come from that.

I’ve toyed with leaving la blogosfera for the woodshed before. This past December, I tried to get myself banned from dKos.  It didn’t work.  In fact, it seemed to be some kind of lunatic performance art.  All that happened was I lost my trusted user status briefly.  I didn’t really go anywhere.  I returned to write diaries despite my intentions to break free.

I’ve previously declared that I was on hiatus elsewhere.  In September, 2005, I put my email group, dedicated to fighting state killing, on hiatus.  That didn’t last very long. In less than 2 months, there were enormous injustices I felt compelled to talk about.  The hiatus ended unceremoniously with the 1,000th execution in the US and California’s killing Tookie Williams.  

All of which brings me to my decision to give myself a break.  I’ve previously explained that if I left, I would just go.  But that seems to me too abrupt, and also, I’m not really leaving.  It’s not a GBCW.  It’s not permanent in any way. I just wanted to say that I’m now taking a break from dd and GOS.  I’ll continue to post at The Dream Antilles.  And I’ll be back after I finish with the woodshed.

Before I left, I wanted to thank you all for being here, for reading, for carrying on.

Oh, and I will read the comments.  And perhaps reply.  And then I’m off.

Hasta pronto.


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  1. Thanks for being there.

  2. Your series against the death penalty was outstanding and I can well imagine how much energy that must have taken out of you.  (Not to minimize your other contributions, but that was way above and beyond, imo.)

    The reason it was outstanding was because you were able to take a very complicated situation and write about it clearly enough for anyone to understand.  I believe Valtin has done the same when it comes to torture.  And the two of you showed me how these two issues are intricately connected.

    I wish you the best at the woodshed and have no doubt you’ll be back – am looking forward to hearing what you’ll bring to the table.

    • kj on February 15, 2009 at 18:41

    i make a point to look for your essays and comments.

    i will greatly miss your pov and writing.

    but retreats/rests are rejuvenating, and in that spirit, i will visualize you sitting in front of the fire, book in hand, taking in the dull sunlight from the west.

    i will await your return, boons in hand.

    • kj on February 15, 2009 at 18:45

    way too nice and understanding above.

    i don’t want you to go… i want you to stay and join in the conversations about partnership and power and building community.  i want you to help lead that work by your examples and experience and way of being in the world. i want your participation, your direction, your ideas, your plans, your energies.

    now i am extremely bummed, and doncha know, it’s all about me.  🙁

  3. You make a tremendous contribution here.

    But I have to say that I love your “woodshed” analogy. I’ve always found the whole GBCW blog phenomenon odd. But I do find myself needing to take a break every now and then – something about reconnecting to my inner perspective – a kind of grounding.

    I guess the selfish part of me hopes that your woodshed sojourn is a short one. But I trust that you’ll take the time that you need.

  4. You’re giving up all that, just for an interlude of peace and tranquility on the shores of Walden Pond????

    Walden Pond Pictures, Images and Photos

    Makes sense to me.

  5. I am sure that you must feel a burning need for this break and I believe it right to heed one’s own inner voice.

    I will miss your many tales, always interesting, and often, so enlightening and uplifting.*  

    I hope that whatever you have planned for this “sabbatical” will be enriching, as well as affording you some peacefulness from this horrible mess we find ourselves in.  

    Until next — be well!  And thank you!

    *(still have some reading to do!)

  6. I went looking for a picture to send you off with. I think I found the perfect one – to me it evokes the Dream Antilles… and it looks a lot more fun than hanging around some dusty woodshed.   🙂

    Diosa Madre Tierra by Carrie Thompson (courtesy of Erowid.org)

    Take care and see you around!

  7. One of the hardest things there is to do, is to be an unrelenting advocate in the face of a seemingly infinite wall of obstruction. From what I have gathered from your essays, you have been that unrelenting advocate for 40 plus years, and have done a damn fine job of it.

    Thank you for your words, your thoughts, and most of all the heart you have given so freely.

    So head off to one of those beautiful white sand beaches south of Cancun, and enjoy the peace.

    Con amore, hasta la vista compadre.

  8. I hope we’ll be treated to much more when you’re ready to return.  I’ve always enjoyed your wit and wisdom, and it will be missed here.  

    The economy has forced me to concentrate on other things (food, shelter, etc.) and I’m on a bit of a hiatus too.  I’ll try to check out The Dream Antilles when I get a chance though.

    As for GBCW’s — I like ’em.  I’ve already written two of them here and they were some of my most popular essays.  Hmmmm . . . now that I think about it, maybe I should spend some time pondering my inability to take a hint . . .

    Best of luck in the woodshed!  Does it have a well-stocked mini fridge?

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