I came home from work last week and per my usual routine I responded to some emails, did a little writing, and took a nap. Usually by the time I wake up in the evening my wife has finished her day and is home doing some random thing on the computer. But on this day I woke up, walked down the hallway and instead of hearing the click-clack from her keyboard I heard whistling. Strange, happy whistling coming from the other room. Afraid we might be getting robbed by the whistling bandit, I crept through the door and peaked my head around the wall.
In total darkness but for the glare of the computer monitor my wife was sitting in a chair, curled in a fetal position with her head resting on her knees. The Bye Bye Birdie classic “Put On A Happy Face” was playing on YouTube. And she was listening to it over, and over, and over–
“Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face…”
–and over. You know that scene from all those movies where our hero and his gang wander into the bombed-out village and somewhere in the distance an old record is playing? The town where time stands still? I live there. My wife, in these very difficult times, has taken to classics about better days and brighter tomorrows. And while I wouldn’t dare disturb her if that’s what keeps her sanity, it was one of those moments where I had to take a step back and wonder if we were both being digested in Hell’s stomach. Think about that song–
“Take off that mask of tragedy, It’s not your style, You’ll look so good you’ll be glad ya’ decide to smile!”
When I hear her listening to it I go into the bathroom where I can cry in solitude. I don’t need to explain how difficult it is out there right now. There’s a rich Orwellian quality to calling 2009 “The Age of Hope”, because the symptoms of our great crumbling future are as thick as regular jungle brush. A few weeks ago a man stole the copper fittings from 29 different fire hydrants across the city to sell as scrap metal. We’ve had two different mothers with children knocking on our door asking for spare change this past summer. Things are hairy. Even working harder than you ever have in the past you find yourself becoming familiar with foods whose names you’ve never heard of and whose taste you’ll remember well into old age. And if you’ve heard the words “job security” used ad nauseum chances are your superiors are taking full of advantage of the current climate to shove as much garbage down your throat as they can get away with.
If none of this seems relevent to you – please feel free to get the fuck off my page. We have about as much to discuss as people speaking different languages. But for those of you struggling against it, the economy, the toughness of life, the terrible market– my question is, what gets you through it? What is your lynchpin?
I’ve always had a thing for cheep beer and sad bastard music. So in that spirit I’ve decided to compile my top 5 songs that I’ve used as support for when bad things roll my way. There’s a sense of community in sad bastard songs, the feeling that misery operates on a collective frequency where themes are typical even if circumstances aren’t. And I don’t know why, but I take comfort in that.
“All the Pretty Little Horses” as performed by Calexico
“Like Spinning Plates” by Radiohead
“Junk Bond Trader” by Elliott Smith
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” by Marvin Gaye
“The River” by Bruce Springsteen