One Sick Piece (Day 73)

Project 194 logoIt’s a rainy day here in Philly on Pi Day, 3/14/15 (that’s 3.1415 for the math nerds among us), and, having completed the presentation of A is for Anything, Project 194 is coming about, reorienting itself to start in a new direction. That’s a great occasion for this little amuse-bouche of a song, written especially for D’Arcy and premiered in her one-woman cabaret show Just One Step: Songs From The Edge. (If you were hoping for pie on Pi Day, I suggest you check out the “Pie Dance” in the selection from Harold and the Purple Crayon that I posted on Day 74!)

I have a passion for self-improvement.
It’s always been my goal
To be the mistress of my fate
And captain of my soul!
Though I pursue perfection,
Sometimes the flesh is weak,
Springs a leak,
In a manner of speaking,
And the captain starts thinking
Her ship may be sinking….

My overbite was a total disaster.
My orthodontist wears quite a grin,
His ship’s come in, I guess.
Oh, yes!
These little beauties are mere engineering.
I should be cheering.
My smile features perfect teeth
But the rage beneath
Means I’m still a mess.

It seems I’ve still got one sick piece.
One little kink that I can’t release.
Don’t think me whiny,
It’s just a tiny disaster
Living with one sick piece.

I see my analyst Tuesdays and Fridays.
I spill my guts while he strokes his beard.
The whole thing’s weird,
But hey!
Friends say I’m less inappropriate,
Moody and manic.
I used to panic
But now I just call my shrink
And he helps me think
Things will be okay.
(Til it’s time to pay.)

And yet there’s still this one sick piece,
One minor problem that just won’t cease.
You think it’s funny,
But trust me, honey, it’s murder
Living with one sick piece.

My rhinoplasty was nasty business,
Cheap at thirty thou.
Anorexia? Licked that too!
Just watch me chew the chow!
How can I go on kvetching,
Now that I’ve come so far?
It’s bizarre,
There’s a burr in my britches.
“With all of her riches,
See how she bitches!”

You may have noticed my elegant diction.
I useta tawk like a Joisey broad
But folks applaud me now,
And how!
I used my talents to balance my budget.
I weigh a hundred and eight
And my breath smells great
And my sex life’s… wait…
That’s more information than you need…

I’d like to think there’s a lesson here somewhere,
Perhaps a moral to be discerned
In all I’ve learned to date.
Yeah, great.
I see my life as a little bit empty.
Though other people might say
That it’s mostly full,
It is full of flaws,
So I clutch at straws

All because of that one sick piece.
One freakin’ squeak that I just can’t grease!
I do pilates but haven’t got easy answers.
After all I’ve done, I am stuck with one sick piece,
And it’s not much fun being stuck with one sick piece.
Could it be my luck to be stuck with one sick piece?

D’Arcy undertook the daunting challenge of making a one-woman show and created a program that was compelling and astonishingly successful. For years, I’d been carrying around the title “One Sick Piece” in my head, and when she announced her plan for the solo show, that was the incentive I needed to create a song worthy of that title. She and Linda Henderson performed her show to great acclaim at UArts, and later D’Arcy and I got the opportunity to perform it at Franklin and Marshall College, which is where this live recording was made.

I’ve been fascinated by the topic of self-improvement for quite a long time, and wrote a couple iterations of a show called Better and Better in 1979 and the early 1980’s to explore the comic possibilities in the subject. I think it’s the curse of certain people to be nagged by the thought that we’re not good enough. Martha Graham put it this way:

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

According to Martha, we should count ourselves lucky that we experience this blessed unrest, this constant awareness of our “one sick piece,” but without question it’s hard to make your peace with the voice that constantly reminds you that you, and your most recent attempt at whatever it is you just attempted, are just not good enough. D’Arcy does an especially marvelous job of transmuting this anguish into comic grist!

Worth noting: I don’t think even Bill Finn managed to get the word “rhinoplasty” into a song – though Thomas Pynchon managed it in one of the comic ditties that his novel V. is salted with.

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