Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Heard at the Laundromat

February 19, 2009

Tonight had a feeble sonic start, with me re-listening to an NPR All Songs Considered Podcast to remind myself how brilliant I am for loving Son Lux so much. Then I made a short foray into some old Depeche Mode, but it wasn’t working for me. I briefly considered hanging out with the new Bruce Springsteen, but wasn’t feeling that, either.

So I dialed the iPod back a few years to an album that is brand-new to me. Gillian Welch (yes, I’m pronouncing her first name with a hard ‘G’; I’m hip that way) put out her debut Revial way back in 1996, and thanks to Laci and Rick, I snapped it up for $2 at Amazon the other day. And am I ever glad I did: soulful lyrics, gorgeous vocals, and understated music, all on this roots/rock/Appalachia/blues/gospel album. It’s a diverse collection of music, but she ties it all together wonderfully. I can’t wait to hear more of her stuff (Laci says Revelator is next), but not before I soak in this magical collection for a few more turns. Some serious songs of longing for home, even as she places herself squarely in the midst of life right now. Lovely.

Then the iPod pulled me back even further– to my recent used bookstore acquisition of the double album Physical Graffiti from the mighty Led Zeppelin. Now I love me some new music, but srsly, will there ever be more powerful foursome with a lighter touch? Disk 1 blasts off the pad with no less than ‘Custard Pie’, and Disk 2 dials things down with the less raucous but no less powerful ‘In the Light’. In between are some greats like ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Houses of the Holy’, but nothing moves more than their version of ‘In My Time of Dying.’

All of which got me thinking about my college days, when we’d sit around someone’s dorm room playing (what we sometimes called) ‘Get the Led Out.’ With everyone’s contributions toward the Zeppelin catalog laid out on the floor in the middle of the circle, we’d take turns choosing songs. The art of it was subtle, but compelling. First, you wanted to pick a song that lyrically or thematically connected to the one currently being played. Second, Zeppelin titles are notoriously non-sequitors from the content of the songs, making it hard to find a song, even if you know the lyric. Third, it is always tough to think of another song while you’re listening to one being played (and allowing a delay between songs was seriously frowned upon). The great satisfaction would come when you punched up your song and the opening notes elicited nods, smiles, and groans of satisfaction from your fellow dorm dwellers.

We’d spend hours like this, going round and round. At the time, it seemed silly; like a waste of time. Little did we know how very important it was, and how we’d never be able to return to such heady pursuits. We didn’t know then that we’d spend the rest of our days wishing we could go back and play this game, yet realizing at the same time that such pursuits were better left to our former selves. Sometimes, it’s better not to go back.

Changes fill my time, baby, that’s alright with me
In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be

— ‘Ten Years Gone’

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One Response to “Heard at the Laundromat”

  1. Steve says:

    This a beatiful post Mike. Although I’m sure it was not as magical as the Led that you got out in your college days but you did return to this “heady pursuit.” Do you remember the time we got the Led out with Tim at 2220North Capitol Street? That was a good day.

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