Monday, September 16, 2013

Shaking the stalagmites from my tongue

We chat about music, but I typically do most of the chatting. Fueled by great tumblers of drink, which shake the stalagmites from my tongue, and a passion that goes from smolder to blaze when I'm in the presence of others similarly devoted to consecrated acts of music consumption, my words are, simply and unabashedly, endless. One night you spluttered, and my first thought was this was the act of a man drowning in talk, a man coming up for a breath of air, desperate to be rescued by the very individual who was drowning him. Only you had tipped your glass back for a drink and the liquid funneled down the incorrect pipe. I delivered several sharp blows to your back—and then continued chatting.

One summer, in the dimly-lit and dust-touched sitting room of a faraway vacation home, I prattled on about Jason Pierce and how his songwriting veers toward the embarrassingly honest and how frequently his candidness includes drug-related confessions that are blunt and rhapsodic, and as I classified them as "art" and "artful" and "art created by an individual sacrificing himself for art" I couldn't help but wince, because they also feel like a cluttered, detached addict merely wishing to celebrate his gutter-worthy position as a cluttered, detached addict. Your confidence in my mental health was shaken a little; I could tell, even if you didn't vocalize it. But really, how much joy can truly be derived from a passion—even if that passion is druggy songwriters—when it's sealed away inside you?

I'm not always playing the role of incessant talker; occasionally I am a vigilant listener. There was a night where a large party was whittled down to just the two of us. We sat on the couch with drinks, playing deejay on iTunes, the clock on the wall making slow progress toward some ungodly hour. I clicked on "Ballerina" and you talked. The standing-in-the-doorway moment—you loved that. Van Morrison perched on a threshold, a lifetime of decisions bringing him to this very specific moment, a decision of a lifetime waiting to be made. "He's smitten," you kept declaring. "Smitten."

We said the word over and over until it no longer even sounded like the word—or any word, for that matter. It was just a sound, all soft s's and crisp t's. Maybe we were subconsciously taking a cue from Van Morrison. Maybe incantations of the word permitted us to fully grasp and appreciate "Ballerina"'s climax. Maybe we were drunk.

In any case, I suddenly felt like a transaction took place between us, in which you and myself and Astral Weeks were now on one side, and life was on the other, and that side was always trying to get the better of us, and occasionally we rumbled toward a confrontation, but without fail and without losing too much skin, we held off every advance.

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