Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crown & Anchor Me

Rain now rolling in..  perhaps it's time to post this one.  Letting the storm pass before I ride my (new) bike home through rain-slicked streets.


Sophomore year of High School.  Dayton, Ohio.  Ludlow and Franklin Streets.  Study hall.  Wearing Chuck Taylor's and a P-coat.  There's a girl sitting behind me.  Probably a junior.  Maybe a senior.  Long, dark hair parted in the middle.  Probably Birkenstocks.  And a conversation that fell into music quickly.  She raved about Joni, particularly Blue (and Leonard Cohen, but that's another story).  I'd known Court and Spark  and Miles of Aisles from my dad's record collection, but was just starting to explore everything on my own. 

So I picked up a copy of Blue at a thrift shop on 5th Street and took it home and played it in my basement bedroom, cool linoleum floor beneath my feet, for days.  Weeks.   I was hooked.  Sold.  Sunk. Lost.  I had no idea someone else had felt these things. Like an old friend talking to you in the middle of the night..

There  were worlds within worlds here -  a promise of adventure, of red-haired rogues taking cameras to sell.  Of dancing on Grecian isles.  Parties down long dirt roads.  Reading the news in a park in Paris France.  She'd been to sea before..  and I wanted to sail with her.

I remember being particularly taken by Last Time I Saw Richard.  The details (Detroit in 68.  the waitress. with fishnet stockings and a bow-tie. 'drink up now, it's getting on time to close.').  Which might be an Eliot allusion ('hurry up please, it's time.'), but I doubt it .

She made love sound like a complicated, delicious, entangling thing.  I hate you some / I love you some / I love you, when I forget about me.  But she could drink a case of me and still be on her feet.  I wanted to be her.  To be loved by someone like her.  It showed me a glimpse what I thought the world might be like.  And how people moved in places that weren't suburban Kettering basements.


"I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it... the sweet loneliness of solitary travel."
I'd always admired Coyote.  From the Last Waltz, among other places.  The sheer propulsiveness of the rhythm.  It's a train going somewhere fast.  Ruthlessly.  Those lines that cut deep, full of pitch-perfect details - keyholes, numbered doors, eagles, appaloosas, tides.. 

But it wasn't until years later that the whole album swallowed me.  Whole.   It's like Didion's Play it as it Lays.  Or Atwood's Surfacing.  It's elemental.  Liminal.  A person caught in a space without definition.  Or boundaries.

A series of snapshots.  A visit to Memphis to see the one and only Furry Lewis.  But not talking about his music (and certainly not imitating it) - just talking about him as a person.  His life.  His crankiness.  A plane leaving contrails on the blue sky becomes Amelia - oh Amelia - love was just a false alarm.  

But the big moment, for me, was when I sat down and listened carefully to Song for Sharon.  The story she tells.  The contradictions and overwhelming, overlapping, sets of desires. It starts so simply - "I took the ferry to Staten Island, Sharon. / to buy myself a mandolin."  And then the winding narration of a story about choices made (or not made, or allowed to be made).  Lighting a candle for your love luck and 18 bucks going up in smoke. Facing the dream's malfunction. The apple of temptation.  The lure of walking green pastures, by and by. 

It's darker than Blue (hiding behind bottles in dark cafes notwithstanding).  Sadder.  Richer.  Lives lived.  Love lost.  Back to sea.  Crown & Anchor me.  Circles within circles.  And actually has a lot in common with Yeezus - but that's for another post.

No comments:

Post a Comment