In the Spirit of Johnny Cash.
I wrote in an earlier post how I feel like I have lived a life of quiet anonymity. In “Walden”, Henry David Thoreau writes about how he went to the woods because he wanted to live deliberately. He wanted to find seclusion from the lives of “quiet desperation” that he saw in the surrounding rural communities. I, too, often want to find some escape from this modern, lonely, chaotic urban lifestyle and society. I just got off Skype with my brother and told him how I felt that, for a lot of people, the modern apartment has become a kind of sanctuary. For me, that’s also true. I mean I have all of my stuff here, and I am free from the prying eyes of others. But sometimes I don’t want to be. Sometimes I want my society, and my community and my neighbours to care about me, even to nurture me. Sometimes my apartment feels more like a prison. When I take my dog with me to the park, I always tell him, “Hey Sera, do you want to go and see the world for a bit.” People often look at my dog and feel free to pass comment on how cute he is. “Kawaii!” they say, or “So Cute!” I always think, I know but how come you guys can’t just say “Konichiwa” or “Hello” or “Good afternoon” to me? I mean, I can say something back, you know? My dog can’t. He is more or less oblivious to your presence as you are oblivious to mine. I told my brother that I feel like I am living in a Facebook world where a lot of people might as well be the Man without a Face. In this world where people prefer email and texting to phone conversations I feel like society has voluntarily cut off it’s own tongue. So many of us now are keyboard warriors, people whose fingers do the talking as they type out yet another text to people they consider friends. When I feel like that, I often turn on my Ipad and listen to a bit of Aimee Mann.
For those who don’t know her, I think Aimee’s music is the most eloquent expression of what it means to live in modern urban society. A storyteller, she tells the ordinary stories about heartbreak, loneliness and pain lived by so many in modern suburban communities. If you have forgotten the name perhaps you are more familiar with Magnolia, that modern cinematic classic directed by the masterful Paul Thomas Anderson. So right now, I’ll just go and listen to the soundtrack of that film which was largely inspired by his listening to Aimee’s music. (Gets up and takes out Blackalicious and puts on the Magnolia soundtrack). Ah… that’s it. My life. “One is the loneliest number you can ever do. Two can be as bad as one , it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” So true. So real. So honest in a world full of @#%&*! smilers. Thanks Aimee. You make me feel less alone. As I write this I think back to yesterday and what it was like to meet another reader. I was at the library at the Nagoya International Centre, when this young Spanish guy came up to me and asked me what I was writing. I was parked in the children’s literature section, and was reading some Dr Seuss and scribbling furiously in my notebook.
“What are you doing?” he asked me, “Are you writing poetry.” “
“No,” I said, “I’m working on my literacy blog but I really want to write a book”
And so we talked. I showed him where the Bukowskis were because he was into them. I told him that he had to read “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. On the way to the shelf, I also pointed out a little known but truly amazing novel called “This Thing of Darkness” and recommended he read Milan Kundera, who was once my favorite writer. At the counter, he asked me what poetry I had read. I know the names of a few of his poets but hadn’t read many except Pablo Neruda. Downstairs, I had a smoke and we talked about Kafka and laughing in the dark, Celine and misanthropy, Fight Club and Nietzschke and how both were close to but not quite nihilism, money and the meaning of life and the difference between revolution and reform and between capitalism and democracy. It was good to feel less alone. But for the most part, in a world with so few voices to be heard, it’s Aimee’s I listen to the most. Sometimes when it feels like I have no momentum, or I am feeling lost, I feel like I really am driving sideways. Sometimes I do just feel like it’s not going to stop and I do wonder who will save me from this prison of the self. That doesn’t feel like my fault. I feel like that’s where we live now. I feel like we are living in some kind of ghost town where all of the real people have left. At least sometimes, I do. I do. I really do.
I began writing this paragraph like this: “These are some of my favorite Aimee Mann songs with some of the lines that kill me. Some of her lines will just break your heart. I mean, all of her music isn’t like that, but there is a lot of honesty, truth and power in her music, at least to my mind. I will only pick one from each album.
“Phoenix” from @#%&*! Smilers:
“I wanted to believe in you and maybe I believe it still but baby I’ve just had my fill. You love me like a dollar bill. You roll me up and trade me in.””
Then I started listening to the Forgotten Arm and “Beautiful” and “Videos” and “Little Bombs” on it. And I realized this can not be written that way. Not when I love so much of this music. But here’s a little taste of Aimee Mann at her finest from “It’s Not” on Lost in Space. This is a truly beautiful song, haunting in its melodies and it’s lines that
“So here I I’m sitting in my car at the same old stop light. I keep waiting for a change , but I don’t know what, so red turns into green, turning into yellow. But I’m just frozen here on the same old spot… So baby kiss me like a drug, like a respirator and let me fall into the dream of the astronaut where I get lost in space forever… and I believe it’s you who should make it better though its not.”
Then I looked through the rest of that albums playlist before…
So, I’m listening now to the songs on Bachelor #2, and I like all of them, I love How Am I Different? Red Vines, and, Save me, and so many others. I don’t know, I could just listen to all of this music forever. I used to think they should listen to the Forgotten Arm in church, just to understand how a lot of the beauty in this world is connected to its pain. Who are the people that need salvation? Salvation from what? Would you have me disown the notion that I should feel a little bit of pain while I’m down here on earth; because that’s what we call empathy. Save me from all of the smiling, someone, please. I’m writing this on Good Friday, this is my sanctuary in a way. I love going to mass, you know. Everyone else doesn’t have to but I do. I like being in solidarity with the world’s poor and dispossessed and wondering at other peoples pains and struggles. So I guess that makes me a bit of a disciple. Hey, guys? You think all of the people in Church are Christian? You think there are no people outside the Church who are Christian? That’s why the church finds itself ostracized and alone.
But I will flick back further and listen to “Par for the Course” on I’m With Stupid, and listen to that tremendous crescendo of “I don’t even know you, I don’t even know you, I don’t even know you, I don’t even know you ANYMORE “ or go back and listen to superball and feel it’s energy, feel how it makes me want to feel, to clap, to jump, to jive, to laugh, to think that I’m a Superball, bouncing back and forth between this and that, but not one person can hurt me unless I choose not to push away all of the pain. But why would you do that? Why would you feel pain? Because it’s a part of life and I want to be open and free. Open with my feelings, free to feel the pain of myself and my world. That’s just me.
Then finally, I have a quick listen to “Mr Harris” on Whatever. This story talks about a young woman and the relationship she begins with an older man who looks like Jimmy Stewart in his younger days. The chorus goes like this “And honestly it might be stupid to think that love is love but I do. And you’ve waited so long and I’ve waited long enough for you.” It’s probably the inspiration for the relationship between Julianne Moore’s character and her older, dying husband, one of the most beautiful parts of that most beautiful movie, Magnolia.
So, it’s very difficult to say how much this music means to me. I am me for listening to it. It has made me, listening to these bittersweet stories and truths about the real world. Hello? Where is everyone else living. Why do we we feel the need to pretend to others and ourselves that everything is fine when some things are and some things are not? C’mon guys, that just makes no sense. I will be an open book, because I feel like it. It’s who I want to be. I respect that way of living in this world. I will shed my tears. To be honest, I don’t cry much. People can’t see me when I write. They don’t know who I am. But if I never voice these things, they never will know me. They just won’t. Time to leave your hiding places and drop the act and bring out the real self from the closeted heart. Oh yeah, you have to listen to “I Know There’s a Word for This.” Has anyone ever explained so well what its like to feel pains that are indescribable. There must be a word for how I feel, so I’ll look it up in the dictionary, find out what it is and I will try to avoid it. And sometimes “saying uncle” is all we want to do to the pain inside of us.
I will pick my favorite song from Magnolia, though. “Wise Up.” C’mon, Grant, if you don’t wise up some parts of your pain will never stop. I will turn my I pod off right now. Well, at the end of this song, “I’ve Had It”, because it’s so beautiful and I can’t just press stop. I want to listen to it. When they bury me, I want them to play all of these songs on an endless loop and say my son really loved that music. Or my brother. Or my husband. I don’t who will be around when I say my goodbyes, Who does, but hopefully someone will be there. And then play “Wise Up.” Ah… There it is. Its not what you thought it would be like when you began it. Now, you know its not going to stop, its not going to stop, its not going to stop, till you wise up. See me now, mum, dad, Michael, Luke, Stacey, Helen, Satoko, my friends, even if you don’t call me, see me writing, listening to this music, typing. Thinking. Feeling. Seeing. Rewinding the tape inside my mind. Seeing William H, and John C, and his love, and her father, and the old man on his death bed and his wife, Julianne, and the nurse, Philip Seymour, and that little boy and his pain, and even Tom as Frank, what a courageous performance, and I see frogs, and I see them falling out of the skies. I see the rain, and the storms, and I see the rainbows, too, the hopes for broken dreams for broken people from broken places on a broken planet to all be mended and to be made well again. I listen to Aimee’s music because it makes me think of everything, of human lives lived everywhere. I am in church, even now, because It’s with me everywhere and that’s what I choose to believe. Then, at the end, play this one song, Wise Up, one time for me and say, it’s stopped now, Grant, at least for a while. Now, let’s see what happens next. For now, I’m up and at it, off to see my world. I hope it says hello.
Written on Good Friday, in memory of Jesus of Nazareth, a beautiful human being. We can at least all try to agree with that, can’t we?
I know you are at peace.
PS: Save Me