Blood, Yellow Slime, Tears and Reflections on Sarah Palin and Motherhood
Ah, it’s all coming back to me. The cracked nipples, that slightly sour smell of witch hazel and healing flesh, the endless bleeding, the Ibuprofen tablets the size of horse…
I liked Superman when I was a kid, but not as much as I liked Spiderman. I liked how tortured Spiderman was, how geeky, how bewildered by his own nascent powers. But Spiderman disappeared from TV around 1976, and all I could find was the George Reeve version of Superman. Perhaps Congress was offended by seeing the colors of the American Flag on an arachnid during our bicentennial. Somehow Superman seems more American, more clearly patriotic. He is quintessentially American in a way Spiderman is not. Spiderman was twisted and confused, cursing his strange spidery gifts even while using his talents to help The People, practically Bolshevik. Spiderman was maligned by the media, whereas Superman, in his Clark Kent guise, it could be argued, WAS the media. And Superman was beloved; he leaped tall buildings in a single bound, after all. The people never turned against him. “Look,” they said. “Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”
One thing that intrigued me about Superman in 1976 was the story of George Reeves.
“He killed himself,” my father told me.
“Why?” I said, horrified. At the age of nine, this was the first suicide I’d ever heard of.
“Well, I think it was because he tried to play other roles, but no one could see him as anything other than Superman,” my dad explained. “The same thing happened to the kid who played Dennis the Menace.”
This morning, Tom came back from walking Cody to find me glued to the TV, watching a DVD of the last episode of the second season of The West Wing, the one where President Bartlett curses out God in Latin in the National Cathedral after his secretary, Delores Landingham gets killed in a car crash.
“Do you watch any current episodes of this show?” Tom asked me later when we were eating breakfast and reading our newspapers.
“No,” I said. “I don’t like it ever since Aaron Sorkin left. Now it’s just ER with politics instead of patients. Now it’s about big dramatic plots and crises in the lives of the ever tormented characters. I’m not interested in that. I liked it when it was funny and smart and had natty dialogue and was more about how the story was told and less about what the story actually was. Also, I have a theory that TV shows should only last three seasons anyway. After that they jump the shark and become unbelievable.”
Tom nodded. “Congress should pass a law like the twenty second amendment to the Constitution barring any TV show from lasting past three seasons. “
“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe that would’ve saved George Reeves and Dennis the Menace.” I was grouchy. Tom was reading the Boston Globe and I the New York Times. Kerry is doing better, but the race is too close to call and the Bush machine is probably going into diabolical overdrive. Last night I prayed hard for good things (other than reelection) to happen for my political enemies, but my heart is still a screwed up muscle of partisan fury. Checking to see if Tom had better news, I noticed my hero, Bob Dylan’s photo on the backside of Tom’s Globe and I shrieked. He has a new book; an autobiography! The Times had an article on the front page of the Arts section:
“The Old Him is the hellhound who taunts Bob Dylan. From time to time this 1960’s deity surfaces driving nostalgists to rhapsodies (the Old Him is back!) but making Mr. Dylan angry enough to want to bite himself… ‘It was like carrying a package of heavy rotting meat,’ he writes about his most celebrated songs. ‘I couldn’t understand where they came from.’” (Janet Maslin, New York Times, 10/5/04)
I love Bob Dylan, and reading this reminds me that my heroes are not Superman or anything having to do with TV shows. Bob Dylan has made forty albums and been on a never-ending tour since the mid eighties—-twenty-five years AFTER he started touring in the first place. The article in the Times ends with this “epitaph” from his book: “Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it’s like they didn’t fade away at all.”
I have this theory that it is a gigantic blessing that my band, the Nields, never made it big. It’s a blessing that we never had a hit. To have a hit is to be defined by that hit. To not have a hit means you are continually trying to write a better song than the last one. To have a hit is to continually try to write something that is as good as the hit was; or else to write something totally different, to reinvent yourself (as Dylan did/does so well). But what if you just want to keep being yourself?
Also, having a hit or not having a hit can’t protect you from the suicidal thought: “This is the end.” George Reeves thought it was the end; Dennis the Menace did too. Aaron Sorkin might or might not have had that thought, but certainly I’ve had that thought about The West Wing. And I’ve thought, “This is the end/My career is over/ The band is over,” so many times I can’t even count. I remember thinking this in 1995 when we finished making Gotta Get Over Greta and had to drive from three in the afternoon from the studio in North Brookfield, MA to Black Hills, NC to perform at 10am the next morning at a festival. Katryna had a polyp on her vocal chords, and I thought she might never sing again. The entire time we were onstage, I thought, “This is the last Nields show ever. Katryna will lose her voice and we will never play again.”
I had that thought “We will never play again” in 1998 when our record company folded and took our CD back catalogue with them.
I had that thought in 1999 at Oberlin College when we’d decided to make a huge change in our touring and have Katryna and me do more duo gigs and fewer band shows.
I had that thought in 2000 when Katryna was pregnant with Amelia.
I had that thought in 2001 when the Nields did the last show with David Nields in New Haven on the Green.
My Buddhist friends tell me that everything changes and the quickest way to create a climate of misery is to try to hang on to what is past, to fight the change. At each stage, I’ve been able to do this, to say, “OK, well if this is the end, I’m going to enjoy myself for this last show.”
My Christian friends say the one unforgivable sin is suicide, because suicide is the complete absence of faith, the most willful declaration of self-assertion and attempts to control circumstances. Suicide is saying to the world, “I’m not able to live with this condition any longer. If it can’t be the way I want it, I quit.”
It’s never really the end.
In our own version of the never-ending tour, Katryna and I were in the middle of an ongoing conversation in the Van just last week.
“Remember that folkie we opened for in the mid nineties, the one who said, ‘If I win the lottery, I’m never playing THIS club again?’”
“Yeah,” I said. “I remember. Hey stop at the next rest stop. I need coffee.”
“Fine,” said Katryna who was driving. “Well, if we won the lottery what would you do?”
I thought about it. I probably would buy some more clothes, but not a lot because too many clothes confuse me and I always end up wearing the same thing day after day anyway. “I’d hire someone to drive so I could read and write in the back seat like I used to when we traveled as a full band. Also, fly first class.” I said. “And I’d lower our ticket prices so more people could come to the shows. And I’d buy Patty season tickets to the WNBA. What would you do?”
“Hire a tour bus with a jungle gym in the back; open a college fund for both my kids and pay the band members to tour with us sometimes,” said Katryna. “And sleep in hotels where they give us soft terrycloth bathrobes.”
Winning the lottery notwithstanding, we’ll be on the road again next March, back in the van, doing our shows, staying in Comfort Inns and lugging our guitar and suitcases full of CDs around Chicago O’Hare airport, reading O Magazine with Hoi Polloi in standard class. I don’t know why we don’t have to be Superman in order to by happy, but we don’t. Like Spiderman, like Dylan, we’ll look backwards and forwards and shrug and enjoy the music that we’re making right this moment.
Ah, it’s all coming back to me. The cracked nipples, that slightly sour smell of witch hazel and healing flesh, the endless bleeding, the Ibuprofen tablets the size of horse…
I took the photo at the top of this post a couple of days ago, just walking down the street. I almost didn’t stop, but the colors in the yarn…
Join the Conversation. Post with kindness.
You recorded in North Brookfield? What a coincedence- my family has a summer cottage on the lake in West Brookfield and I’ve loved it since my childhood days. We’re neighbors, sort of!
Oh, by the way, I absolutely loved your show at the Iron Horse! You guys rock!
Nerissa, I love your blog! It’s serioulsly the best I’ve ever read. I agree that it’s a good thing you didn’t “make it big” (even though you are a Big Deal to some, like me). Watching you guys is so much more fulfilling in an intimate setting where you can feel your music right through your bones. It’s the most amazing experience. And while you may not be ultra-famous, you can still mean a whole lot to a whole lot of fans. Thanks so much for being magical–amazing in an un-famous way!
I had the opposite problem with George Reeves as Superman – I couldn’t imagine him *as* Superman. I grew up with Christopher Reeve in the role – even got to meet him when he visited my elementary school – and when I saw George Reeves, he just looked wrong. Funny how these things work out – similarly, I grew up watching the tv show M*A*S*H, but didn’t see the movie until I was 19 or 20 or so, and when I did see the movie, although I knew it came first, I couldn’t get over the sense that all the characters just looked *wrong*.
Funny about not having to live in the shadow of one’s Hit. You, Nerissa, said the same thing at the Nields Tag Sale at Patty’s house, 9/5/98, on a crisp clear Indian Summer day sandwiched between gigs at Trinity College and South Street Seaport. If it was true then, it must still be true today. In the midst of the kaleidoscopic changes in life, there is a base of constancy that never changes too. A song by The Story called it “The Still Point of Desire.” I don’t know where they got that phrase from though. 🙂
The song “Superhero Soup” heavily favors DC Comics (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern) but barely even gives a nod to its competitor, Marvel Comics (Spiderman). 🙂
The whole Marvel Comics / Stan Lee / Spiderman ethos was entirely different from the relatively more staid DC Comics heroism. Marvel heros like Spiderman, Daredevil, and especially Silver Surfer were the epitome of “challenged.” They were openly hated and derided by the very people whose lives they were committed to saving. And each of them had “issues,” psychologically speaking. There was more psychological depth, due to more self-doubt, conflictedness, and angst, in Marvel as opposed to DC.
Nields Music is far more “Marvel” than “DC.” 🙂
Besides the ultimate pathos of Silver Surfer, who saved the ungrateful earth every issue from interstellar conquest unbeknownst to us Earthers, I really dug the whacked-out Marvel cult hero Doctor Strange, who had to battle demons from other dimensions who were trying to conquer earth through left-hand, back-door strategems of sorcery. Xenophobic paranoia was hardly just born in the American pulp pop culture psyche, beginning on September 11. It just assumed a new form then.
There’s a lot of the Spiderman in me, even today, as well as the Silver Surfer in me and the Doctor Strange in me. Call it “embracing the inner child” within, who never really grew up. 🙂
Batman had his “issues” too — he was sort of the precursor of the whole Marvel conflicted hero thing — but Marvel characters like Spiderman were more apt to wear their neuroses on their sleeve. 🙂
And Superman *did* have that lonely Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole, too. I’ve often likened the “heart of stone” characters of “Bulletproof” and “Snowman” to the icy refuge of the Man of Steel, where he could hide away from the world, from his own personal demons, and from the love of an earth girl, Lois Lane.
In hiding from love, we all have our own personal Kryptonite issues that need dealing with.
You do not disappoint–I have been faithfully checking, waiting for an update while sitting at my desk job, and as usual, you crack me up.
Love your commentary on the West Wing…that particular episode is a favorite of mine…I love that he’s smart enough to rail at God in Latin (unlike GWB).
If you and Katryna winning the lottery wouldn’t end your touring, then I’ll add it to my prayer list 🙂
~Kris (who was ironing her black dress this morning, singing “In my best black dress…”)
Good call about the Spidey/Superman thing. Superman had everything; one weakness, and it was a crazy glowing rock. That doesn’t make for much dimension as a character, I’d say.
Congrats on getting engaged!
Did you ever see the repeats of Sports Night? It’s the show Aaron Sorkin wrote before West Wing. It’s smart and funny and only _2_ seasons. BTW, it has little to do with sports.
I think there should be better odds for people who would do good things with their lottery winnings. If I won the lottery, I’d give lots of the money away. My dream job is to give money the great causes/people without all the PC BS. After years of writing grants, I think I know how.
Unless there was a version of Dennis the Menace other than the one I used to see on Nick at Nite, Nerissa’s dad was mistaken! Jay North is still alive and well, and is now a bit of an advocate of sorts for other child actors. Kind of reminds me of back in 198X, when one of my teachers told our class about the irony of Bobby McFerrin’s suicide….
Thank you for not saying the hoi polloi. 🙂
I like Comfort Inns. They bake fresh cookies for their guests each evening.
Oh Nerissa!! i know EXACTLY what you mean about The West Wing. It hasn’t been the same since “Two Cathedrals” has it? Sigh . . . .
I can’t wait to see you guys again in March!!
The commonality between Bob Dylan and the Nields is that both performers have been putting out quality music for a long time. (For Dylan, an astoundingly long time.) Not many songwriters can say the same.
Even such legendary songwriters like Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, and Robbie Robertson, who were able to produce marvelous new songs for a few years ultimately succumbed to ordinariness.
Is it that the Nields never had a hit record, so Nerissa was never able to rest on her laurels? (I doubt it. Can there ever be a better song than Easy People?) Why does the muse continue to inspire Dylan and Nerissa?
I think it’s a gift from God. And I count my blessings that my two favorite songwriters are still creative after so many years.
Jeff from Charlotte
I hope this comes through as this is my FIRST EVER BLOG-YAy! Anyway spiderman is SO FAR superior to superman– I mean he can do all those cool things weaving tangled webs– he is just more complex and this is simply why I love him. That and secretly I love the new Spiderman movie because of Toby whats-his-faces ab muscles. I mean what is that? He is ABS OF STEEL!
Anyway, I am reading through the BLOGS and thinking of FABULOUS ways to have more and more people reading and writing in this amazing blog.
Also I wanted to say– too many clothes is SO hard. I have this thing now where I bought new clothes, but I don’t know how to wear them. It is like I bough back-to-school clothes and I am SO SUPER thrilled about them- but kind of scared to start wearing them because than they lose that new clothes thrill. So for now, I have a beautiful closet full of color and hopefully, a day at a time, I will cut the TAGS AND FREE MY CLOTHES.
Until then, please forgive my old jeans and favorite hoodie.
Welcome to the internet, Nerissa – it’s good to have you in the neighborhood!
If you guys had had a couple of big hits, you’d be engaged to some punk drummer, Katryna would be fighting for custody of Amelia between court dates and rehab, and David’s tell-all book would be #35 on Amazon. But Patty would have her season tickets!!!!!
Love you the way you are – t
you’ve got a great blog… and you’re all kinds of right about spiderman. he’s way more compelling, because he’s relatable, human, even has a tortured love life- you just gotta love him…
if you guys won the lottery, and won enough money, you could even buy patty her own wnba _team_. but then, you might never see her again, and that would be sad.
Tom, that’s hysterical. Glad Nerissa found you instead of some punk drummer!
Growing up, as I did in the ’60s, kids were divided on their comic book tastes. Either you were a Marvel fan or a DC fan. The first comic book I ever bought was a DC (Justice League) but I quickly became a diehard Marvel fan. They just seemed more “real”. Looking back at it now, I think I related more to the complexity of the characters — the stories were certainly filled with “Clobberin’ Time!” aplenty, but there was always a human/tragic side to each of the characters that was missing in the DC comics. (Somehow Clark Kent never being able to get Lois Lane just didn’t compare with Spiderman’s problems with the law or Crl. Stacey’s dying request that Peter — still in his Spiderman costume — take care of his daughter)
On George Reeves:
There’s a Forensic’s File-like show on one of the cable channels on the investigation into Reeves’ death. There were lots of inconsistencies with his death including the placement of the body to the placement of the gun, the fact that Reeves and his wife/girlfriend (I didn’t know there was going to be a Quiz on this!) had hosted a party in the house that evening and he’d been in good spirits, that there were still people in the house when the shot was fired, that there was a jealous boyfriend of Reeve’s girlfriend who was a suspect in the shooting…
On Jay North:
I don’t think he’s dead, although your blog post didn’t really come out and say he was another suicide. I think you were just trying to say he was another stereotyped child actor who never found work after his childhood series ended.
This is close to being true. North has continued to work in Hollywood, albeit sporatically. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) has a listing for North (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0636020/) that lists several cartoon voice rolls (including Prince Turhan in “The Arabian Nights” — which should really date me — and Bamm Bamm in several Flintstone incarnations throughout the ’70s)
TVTome (tvtome.com) also has a listing of his roles (http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/PersonDetail/personid-3693) all of which suggest that North is another Television Oddity — he was hired to appear in “Dickie Roberts” the David Spade movie about a childhood TV actor who can’t find work as an adult.
Director Tony Dow and actress Melissa Gilbert (“Little House on the Prarie) did a show back in 200 called “Child Stars: Their Story” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299659/) Very few of the people they interviewed had positive stories to tell. One of the few good ones involved Jeannie Russell, the actress who played the obnoxious Margret Wade to Jay North’s Dennis the Menace. She’s now a Chiropractor in California and Jay North is one of her patients.
(And to bring it all to a weird obtuse circle, Alison Arngrim, the actress who played bad girl Nellie Oleson on “Little House” talked about how hard it was to just date someone when she was a teenager. “Who would want to date Nellie Oleson?” she asked.)
On The West Wing:
I haven’t watched it. (Sorry) However, if you haven’t been introduced to “Television Without Pity” (http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com) allow me to happily introduce you to one of the best sites out there for fans of almost any TV show. (The direct link to the recaps for TWW is: http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show.cgi?show=4) Enjoy.
On the Three Season Rule:
It worked for AbFab (until they made a mistake and brought it back) and for Father Ted. I agree that many, many shows would benefit from this rule.
However, as a diehard “Amazing Race” fan, it’s one of the few shows that seems to be getting better as it progresses.
On Not Having a Hit:
I agree that having a hit can destroy a band. At best they make enough money to survive on for a while, at worst they’re stereotyped as a one-hit-wonder and end up on a six hour marathon special on VH1. (#1 was Sinead O’Connor, a stupid choice if there ever was one. She’s continued to put out amazing albums and has had several songs get decent airplay.
As for The Nields, you have a steady following that will continue to follow you even if you do end up with a “hit”. (For what it’s worth, I have lots of Nields tunes playing in my head on a regular basis, even if I’m not listening to your CDs at the time) I think it does keep you “honest”. There’s little worst that can happen for an artist than to no longer be “hungry” in their art.
(Worst offender [IMHO]: Rod Stewart)
On the Quickest Way to Create a Climate of Misery is to Try to Hang on to What is Past, to Fight the Change:
In the begining of May I lost my job. After 6 1/2 years I was laid off and as a contractor, I had no severence package. Jobs in our area are tight, especially in the tech field, and I spent three months sending out resumes, fighting depression and praying fervently for a job. A wife, kids, mortgage, health benefits, etc, were all too real to me.
While driving one Sunday afternoon we heard a recording of an African-American southern minister preaching to his congregation. Being in a time of Adversity, he said, was like wandering lost in the Wilderness. You have to keep looking up to find you way out, you had to keep moving forward, and you had to never look back and be whistful for what you had in life before you entered into the Wilderness.
Having worked my way out of part of that Wilderness, I think he’s right.
On If I Had a Million Dollars:
I’d quit my day job in a heartbeat.
I’d set my wife up with a proper jewelry-making shop, hire employees and make that business work.
I’d travel — although I’d still want to go on “The Amazing Race”
(“If I had a million dollars/I’d be rich” Bare Naked Ladies)
Oh, and Dylan rocks. No question. (So you y’all)
Spiderman was by far a more realistic, human, superhero, and in that sense was more easily identifiable by us mere normal humans. So I have to agree with you ten-fold on that one…Plus, come on now, can anyone really get past the fact that Superman just takes off his glasses and he’s in uniform? I mean, really, I know people look different with or without glasses, but seriously…
btw–I have the worst timing ever…I just moved from St. Louis to New York City with just the right timing to miss your concerts in both places, although I did see you last year when you were at Wash U…hence the huge dissappointment that I missed you this year…and all my plans to make it up to Mass for a concert failed miserably. Sigh. Love you!
THANK Goodness y’all are playing Passim tonight and I can listen and find your blog and laugh a little! Sometimes, you really appreciate all the money you spend on the internet for 90 minutes of crystal-clear uninterrupted Nields.
The very worst thing about being an English teacher instead of an indie record store buyer is that I can’t surf for things like new blogs by Nerissa at work… Well, I could, but what would the kids do?
Spiderman rocks because he was on Electric Company. However, Electrawoman & Dynagirl were even cooler. James wants you to know that Superhero Soup is better than “James” cause “James” doesn’t really make sense & it’s not a kid’s song. Oh, and playing Jammin’ Java on Yom Kippur was mean, but I’m sure we’ll see you soon.
Nerissa – I know that this is a little bit late, but I only recently discovered your blog. BUT I too suffer from Stiff Neck Virus (which can actually spread to the dreaded Stiff Shoulder Virus) if you are not careful. AND I have found a wonderful antidote to it! Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea with Hazelnut Creamer and listening to a good CD works almost every time!
I remember wishing, time and again, that TN would bust out with a Hit. A mixed blessing, as wishes go, and one I’m glad didn’t come true. I don’t think you are appreciated at your full worth yet, but that will come. This way, perhaps, you won’t end up as a VH-1 special – the ultimate sign of mediocrity, BTW.
Coming in way too late on this, but just in case…
There’s a Don McLean song called Superman’s Ghost:
“I don’t want to be like old George Reeves
Stuck in a Superman role…”
It’s one of the saddest songs because, well, “American Pie”. That one huge hit will overshadow the rest of your career.
hey all…..blogging?…this is all so weird for this middle-aged technophobe…in fact, i left this entire message on what turned out to be an old blog, but, thankfully, there’s the old reliable cut-and-paste, which allowed me to reinsert it into THIS blog….i wish we had cut and paste when i was doing my school papers in the 70’s….the teacher wouldn’t ebven allow correct-it-tape so if you made a mistake you had to type the whole thing again!….a terrible thing…..and, oh yeah, i had to walk five miles to school in ten feet of snow!!…. although i have gotten much more proficient with technology, i still cast a wary eye upon it…it took me almost a month to learn how to use a cell phone…i was almost laughed out of my house when i first tried to use my sister’s cell…..having railed against the technology, i thought i was so smug when i handed it back to her and said to her….”ha! so much for that…the damn thing doesn’t even work….look, i can’t even get a dialtone!”…..of course, i had to eat crow shortly after…..but enough of all that…..i actually just wanted to say hello to you nerissa (and to the rest of the gang as well)….i saw you last year in franklin after not having been to a show in years….i was with my big sister at the time and so i felt the need to restrain my usual star-struck gushiness…….i was reminiscing with myself the other day (is that possible without having a DSM diagnosis?) and remembering my fondest nields moments…..let’s see, the time i was with my friend lori at a church in bedford and i was whispering excitedly pre-show (look! there’s nerissa! she’s the one that wrote my favorite song ( i know what kind of love this is)..and look! Katryna!…..doesn’t she remind you of laurie partidge?….and how do you think she keeps her skin so perfect?…..and then, on the way home, my friend and i had an argument about why i put the nields on a pedastel like they were these goddesses/gods….i remember her looking at me and saying, “yes, larry, they’re great entertainers, but they’re just regular people like you”…oh, she was just so unenlightened…..i remember watching you guys at the Old Vienna playing on that stage that was the size of a triscuit…..dave hower was scrunched up with his knees at his earlobes…..a very funny sight….my friend Aileen and i doing our own version of a nields newsletter “Nield to the Cross” (it was BAD)….. .my favorite, memory, however, was the big surprise i got at my 40th birthday party when i got cards from the Nields, Dar williams, and Jane Siberry!! (my friend Aileen did some behind-the-scenes soliciting)……anyway, i haven’t been a concertgoer in recent years, but i still love music and i still treasure all my nields music…..soooo, you guys keep plugging…..you gave me many wonderful times and will forever be a treasured part of the fabric of my life…..(wait, isn’t that a cotton commercial?!)……my best…..Larry
Wow, this blog is terrific! It’s interesting how I came across it, too… I’ve been a longtime Nields fan (since pre-Bob, I guess), and I have all the CDs, including Mousse, and I saw you guys a zillion times back when I was living in Connecticut and Boston.
Since then I’ve moved out to the west coast (Berkeley!) and while I did see you and Katryna at the Freight and Salvage, it’s harder to be a hard-core Nields fan when none of your new friends have heard of them! So I hatched upon an idea: I made a “best-of” 80 minute CD of all your best songs (as I see them) and have been carefully selecting receptive friends upon whom to bestow it.
Of course, it’s been great. Your music is timeless in the way that real human stories are and it doesn’t need a top-40 producer’s sheen to sell itself. Tonight I got an email from a friend to whom I had just given a copy of the CD. The entire email:
“the nields are awesome.”
So that prompted a web visit to nields.com, which has changed much since I last visited. Your blog is great, and it was enjoyable even to read the older entries, back in the days when Kerry had a chance. It made me feel slightly better to see some of my thoughts so elegantly put to word.
My goodness. This wasn’t supposed to be so long. I wanted to comment on your thoughts about music and popularity.
One thing that must feel good is that all the music you’ve created is forever and irrevocably *there*. Like a natural truth or a mathematical proof, once created, it exists. You’ve done it! Kids and grandkids can sing along. Random Berkeley residents can make mixes and enchant friends. This is a facet of art that applies universally, no matter how popular (or, unfortunately, how good :). So you win there, and the sucky artist who was a one-hit wonder and stopped making discs after the second one isn’t in quite the same position.
Secondly, and this is very selfish, your grassroots-but-not-mainstream popularity was a treasure to all of your fans. I remember fondly going to $5 and $10 shows in the mid-90s, getting right up to the stage, singing along shamelessly, listening to your banter (and, after enough shows, learning much of it :), and in general feeling like part of a big family. This is NOT the feeling you get when you see U2 at the Fleet Center, no matter how good they are.
In the end, I’ve been to 100+ concerts in my life, and I can still vividly remember the many Nields gigs I’ve attended — at Hartt, Paradise, Iron Horse, Sanders, in Western CT, …
If you can somehow translate our memory-induced happiness into more of your own, perhaps that might be a small repayment for all the joy that you’ve given us.
On a somewhat related note, this video:
is amazing. It’s perhaps the kind of thing the Nields would have done had you guys actually been famous :). See, as low-key artists, you have impeccable integrity!