"At last she looked up at him. Her eyes were full of tears, and her look unbearably naked. Such looks we have all once or twice in our lives received and shared; they are those in which worlds melt, pasts dissolve, moments when we know, in the resolution of profoundest need, that the rock of ages can never be anything else but love, here, now, in these two hands’ joining, in this blind silence in which one head comes to rest beneath the other."
Tomorrow I’ll drive alone through rural east Alabama, Georgia, and north Florida to head to a wedding. I am strangely looking forward to the long drive there and back. A few of my favorite country driving and thinking songs:
I just stood and looked out at the open space and a farmhouse out a ways. And I wondered about the people who lived in it and I wondered if they were happy and content.
I saw your face so clear and bright, I must have been crazy but it sure felt right.
Will you take me as I am, strung out on another man?
I see my light come shinin’ from the west down to the east.
“Then he began to feel a little angry at Irma Fliegler. He wondered whether she appreciated what a right guy she was married to. Probably not. She probably just took him for granted. That was the other side of it: a woman married a louse that beat her and cheated on her, and she got so she took that for granted; and another woman married a real guy, a square shooter from the word go, and she didn’t see anything unusual about that. Al almost but not quite reached the opinion that all women are so used to getting the dirty end of the stick that they took it for granted when they did get it, and took for granted they were going to get it when they didn’t. The hell with them. He wanted to forget about them.
But that was not possible here, at the Stage Coach. It was a woman’s place. All dance places, night clubs, road houses, stores, churches, and even whorehouses—all were women’s places. And probably the worst kind of woman’s place was a place like this, where men put on monkey suits and cut their necks with stiff collars and got drunk without the simple fun of getting drunk but with the presence of women to louse things up.”
A passage on the concomitant powerfulness and powerlessness of women, and a weird little bit of misogyny, from Appointment in Samarra that feels relevant, presently.
This month’s starred trax playlist asks, bluntly, can a listener rapidly ping-pong between punk, pop, folk, country and ‘other’, and still be sane? Answer unclear. It’s unétrangemélange. Try for yourself.
“That summer she thought of her life after college in three ways: she thought of it as unicellular, but a life that reversed the amoeba’s performance. The days got together and formed one life, losing their separate identities. Again, she thought of those four years as calendar years, broken formally by the Assembly (New Year’s Eve), the July 3 Assembly, Easter, Hallowe’en, Labor Day. Put together, they made four years, the length of time she had passed at Bryn Mawr, and like the years of college in that they seemed so long a time and so short a time, but also not at all like the college years, because she felt she had got something out of college. These four years had not had the compactness of college, and they seemed wasted.”
Oof, the Caroline English (née Walker) chapters of Appointment in Samarra are good, too good.
April was painful—overwrought, full of deadlines, flash floods, a stress-compromised immune system, the end of the semester, et cetera. One of those months when people who are really not close enough to you to ask start asking, Are you okay? And you think, is it that obvious? So much for practiced southern poise.
(There were some bright spots, too. The insane gray-green beauty of the Alabama spring. Some long, clarifying talks with my dad. The arrival of old friends in town. The support of the previously-mentioned folks who cared enough to ask.)
But, out of sheer necessity, some of the escapism of March departed, replaced by a grim persistence and an acknowledgment that the work must get done. And so, this playlist is filled with songs to keep me afloat. Love songs sweet and sad (Willie Nelson, Dave Childers), spirit-bolstering kiss-off songs (new Bobby Bare Jr.), and reminders to take song-length karaoke dance breaks from the endless monotony of the computer screen every once in a while (Dixieland Delight, Touch Your Woman, Yalira, all the Blackfoot Gypsies). A farewell transmission one year old (rest, Jason Molina). A little darkness to keep things true to life (Jessica Lea Mayfield, Robert Ellis).
Lord have mercy, there are still six days left in this godforsaken month. But May will come, and with it, tequila holidays and horse races and wedding weekends and summer clothes.
More from Julian, the 30-year-old self-destructing manchild of narrator, justifying his misdeeds—namely, throwing a drink in a man’s face at the country club.
"He wanted to go on thinking about the terrible people, all the members of this club, and the people who were not terrible people but who had done terrible things, awful things. But now he got nothing out of it; it made him feel no better, no surer of himself. It had in the beginning, for there were many things he had thought of that were worse than things that he had done. […] But the trouble with making yourself feel better by thinking of bad things that other people had done is that you are the only one who is rounding up the stray bad things. No one but yourself bothers to make a collection of disasters. For the time being you are the hero or the villain of the thing that is uppermost in the minds of your friends and acquaintances." The uselessness of comparison.
On thirty: "Two kids looked at Julian and said hyuh, but they did not hover thirstily and wait for him to offer them a drink. He wondered about that again, and as it had many times in the last year and a half, Age Thirty stood before him. Age Thirty. And those kids were nineteen, twenty-one, eighteen, twenty. And he was thirty. "To them," he said to himself, "I am thirty. I am too old to be going to their house parties, and if I dance with their girls they do not cut in right away, the way they would on someone their own age. They think I am old." He had to say this to himself, not believing it for a moment. What he did believe was that he was precisely as young as they, but more of a person because he was equipped with experience and a permanent face. When he was twenty, who was thirty? Well, when he was twenty the men he would have looked up to were now forty. No, that wasn’t quite right. He had another drink, telling himself that this would be his last. Let’s see: where was he? Oh, yes. When I was forty. Oh, nuts. He got up and went out to the verandah." Drunken conversations with yourself when you are on the cusp of thirty. I don’t know anyone who would relate to this.