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  • Writer's pictureBryon Turcotte

Better Red than Dead

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

by Bryon Turcotte

When I was a young boy I used to think it was very strange to hear people say that they were "living inside their own head".
Better Red than Dead by Bryon Turcotte

August 5, 2009, 12:11 am:

When I was a young boy I used to think it was very strange to hear people say that they were "living inside their own head".

It is just not something a seven year old can grasp without some major explanation.

I couldn't imagine what a statement like that could possibly mean. In 1972 I heard a lot of people talking about "tuning in, turning on, and dropping out". Could this be it's meaning? Drugs? Transcendental Meditation? The Maharishi? Gilligan's Island? What are they taking about? Is it a bad or a good thing to be inside your own head? I guess it depended who you spoke to at the time. An explanation coming from both the Reverend Billy Graham and Charles Manson would have totally different meanings.

At the time, all of the outrageously hairy and freakishly mellow were coining phrases that took on the theme of enlightenment, self-realization and soul searching during a very exciting yet explosive time. To most in this circle, it was very cool to be one who could explore the unknown reaches of their own head. To a depressed, manic and possibly suicidal person it meant something totally different and possibly horrific. Harvard professors were teaching and sitting around in loincloths each day promoting it's wonder. Bands with psychedelic names and half baked frontmen were singing it's praises. The center of the mind was explored, exploited, bought and sold as a simple pleasure trip for some. Over time, for the majority of society, through political correctness and conservative influence, the romance behind these journeys would quickly dissolve, but for others, the same journey became something far more serious.

Back then, dropping a hit of acid or partaking at a bong would get you into your own head quickly and happily. You could then stare at a piece of toast and give a full discourse or seminar about "The Meaning of Bread: The Pain Behind the Slice." You could honestly appreciate it's sadness as it was uselessly tortured between the hellish walls of the toaster. "Poor bread. poor oppressed bread" we cry as we take another hit. Insane but true. Self searching was much more fun when you were in control and could choose your vehicle by the drug that fueled it's momentum. As a young child I took in my experiences and tried to make sense of everything based on my level of intelligence and understanding. Unfortunately, our main education and confirmation of logic comes from our parents, whether they be Harvard educated brain surgeons or fruit pickers from San Jose. My first influence came from my folks, especially my father. I often wonder if his ramblings and opinions were far off from truth.

"This whole world is on dope!" he would exclaim as we watched the six o'clock news as it's cameras stared saturated in college violence and protest marches. The early seventies in my house was a constant forum of debate between my pseudo-hippie sister and my "Harry Truman meets Billy Jack" father proclaiming that "the world was going to shit" and "the hippies and freaks are driving." What joyful and annoying memories came out of those days. Looking on I wanted it all to end. I wanted to find the stage door of my life and escape. I wanted to sneak to the back alley and have a smoke like musicians did in the movies. I liked retreating into the peace inside my mind as well. As the years went on I took on my own pile of insecurity, fears, and frustration that slowly caused me to involuntarily retreat into my own head. I really didn't want to visit that place. It kept getting worse each time I would walk in. Changing directions via drugs, drinking and sex stopped being effective. I finally figured out why. My house has been poorly wired. Sometimes the storms come and the lights go out. Sometimes they flicker. Sometimes I'm in the dark for days and I just don't want to come out. As I get closer to fifty and further away from the days of flowers and L.S.D. it's harder not to hide away inside. It's harder not to just give up.

I've been spending a lot of time inside my own head examining where I've been in my life, what I've done, and why I seem to be hurting so much. Contrary to the way I act, the things I say, and the way I look, I do care about my family, my position in life and my personal actions. It's funny what thoughts get stuck in my head on any given day. One day I may feel extremely accomplished and happy. As things go extremely well, and I get inflated another twenty or thirty pounds per square inch, my head is filled with thoughts of money, success, or quitting my job and buying that perfect house overlooking the ocean in Maui. Those days have not been as abundant lately. The shit fairy has been leaving some good size turds under my pillow.

Some days the small apartment in my head, the place for escape, resembles a dark, unkempt room inside a large warehouse. A room void of color and spirit. The fabric on my furniture is torn and some of the windows are broken. A wind blows through as if this spot was abandoned moving the tattered curtains back and forth across gray, tarnished walls. I sit alone not able to move, petrified and paralyzed from worry like my feet are bound to the the legs with chains. I worry when I see myself there. It's the blackest place to be in my mind. I try not to stay there for very long. There have been times in my life when I have curled up on that torn couch, and been too afraid to get up. I stop thinking of living life, caring where my day will take me, scared to smile, talk, or laugh.

This gray room is that place I go to when things are not promising. It's where I think of the benefits of death, how my faith in myself has been broken and how my faith in something higher may no longer exist. I've been there today. I went inside as my family looked on and wondered where I've gone. I drifted away as I do so often in thought, away from them and eventually away from myself. The room is gray and bleak, but I am glad it is not yet black. If I get inside my own head and the room slowly fades from gray to black, I know there is no return for me. The blackness is not where I want my thoughts to live. I've thought long and hard about this struggle and, very unexpectedly, found a road to the answer through a random song.

When I built my recording studio, I made a pact with myself that I would always use my music and my creativity as my largest healing force. I would use those strengths to help me keep those thoughts away. The ones that suck me into the darkest of places and into the small apartment in my head. My music and art serves as my therapy more than ever before. I needed a color to keep me out of the blackness in my mind and cover me with it's protection and a meaningful reminder. The color red has now become my favorite color. There is no red in the grayness of my thoughts. It seems to burn all the badness away.

One evening, I heard a simple but beautiful song called "Red Cave" by the band Yeasayer.

It's power chanted through my brain as I listened. And somehow, with good warmth and a stream of positive ideas, I felt everything was going to be alright. Just listening to this song seemed to draw a red line through my life and the possibility of darkness. It's chanting began to take some of the pain away and I began to understand how I have the power to redirect my thoughts, my fears, my sorrow, my worry, and my strife towards something much more positive and up lifting. I felt all my truth come out of a simple yet powerful song. I appropriately named my studio and my media company "Red Cave". A place I could go when I felt myself drifting towards the darkness. It's words fit so well and applied to me so closely it was truly spiritual.

The lyrics read:

I went out past the willow and the well

caught my breath upon the hill

at the edge of the domain

and i went down

and further down

and when i got up,

i'm at the red cave

and with that sound

as if i had been put under a spell

she led me to her abode

despite a winter's day

It concludes with a soft, and beautiful affirmation:

Im so blessed to

have spent that time

with my family and the friends

i love with my short life i have met

so many people i deeply care for

You see, I realized that I had a choice. When times get tough and I think I have had enough pain, drama, anger, and fear, I can begin to live in my own head, visit the dark rooms of my mind and eventually give in to the gray and die in the blackness. I could also embrace the brightness of my life, the color red, and retreat to the Red Cave where my hope resides. A place where my freedom lives and creativity rules.

We all walk that line between darkness and light. We all have the choice to grasp color and warmth and never let it go. Our hearts will take us to places unknown and to others we know too well but we always have something that keeps our hearts alive and our spirits strong. For me, Red Cave is more than a name, a song or a small studio where I make music. It's a lifeline to something greater than myself. It is a symbol of my spirit and blessings. I am so blessed to have those important things in life and the ability to share my gifts with others.

I now love getting lost in my Cave of Red. It is an inspiration, a truth, and a comfort...

Best of all...the furniture is brand new. - BT

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