Archive for Song
I can remember when I first heard this song. It was not in 2002, when Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out; it was two years later, 2004, living in a semi-unfinished basement room in a shared house with dysfunctional roommates. My mom and my friend and my friend’s dad came to help finish the room enough to live in–put up sheetrock, paint, clean, put in the bathroom fixtures (it had a tiny bathroom of its own). The room was so cheap. That’s why I took it. Two hundred dollars a month, you can’t say no. The walls were smooth and white, the floor was chipboard painted white, there was no ceiling, the closet had no door. But we rigged it so there was a light in there.
It was the second year of my (three-year) MFA. I had a single futon, a real, heavy, firm one from a family friend who’d gotten it from a Japanese shop some years earlier; I had a desk which had been made by hand in a highschool shop course half a century earlier. I had a lot of books. Along two sides of the long room, the wall had a shelf built into it. My books were there, beneath the large, south-west facing windows. A lot of light came into the room, more than I would ever have thought. And I had a large hanging lamp from a past life of my dad’s, a red half-moon shade with a white interior. I hung it over my desk, in the corner made by the wall and the closet, next to the windows. My little aluminum laptop, which I saved up to buy when I started grad school, sat on a typist’s stand spray-painted a bright blue.
There was a lot of confusion that year. I was twenty-four. I know now how difficult your early 20s can be. I didn’t know it then, I just assumed that things were crazy and confusing and impossible to see. I had no perspective. I was writing, teaching, swimming along with very little sense of navigation. I sensed currents and handled them poorly. Eh. That’s what you do.
This song, Jeff Tweedy’s voice–I can see myself very happily making things, writing things in that room. I can feel how possible everything seemed to me then, and even now I know that so much was possible. The song’s full of a longing I felt even then, for something which wasn’t there. In its fullest moments, happiest moments, still this sense of something not-there, a little too sweet, an ache just under the surface of things. A good one. It made me write. Looking back I cringe a little to think of how coltish I must have been in my interactions, in managing my relationships with other people. How naïve. But all right. There was also the circle of light from the lamp, and the bright white light of summer coming through eyelet curtains I sewed myself, the sound of Wilco and the stars, distances to cross and long ways to go. The song’s about the future, about the possible, what we can’t know.