Death again. This
time about dying anonymously, as it were.
A body pops up in the lake with no I.D. or identifying marks and then
gets buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.
That’s a downer. But maybe
too–given how noisy the song is–it’s about making a joyful noise, in spite
of everything: as in the line:
Rise on angel’s wings
Sing, Sing, Sing
Maybe, in relation to the whole, we all die
anonymously. Sure, we all have a smaller
social circle. But just beyond that the
circle spreads out to those other people we may even share a few moments but pass
by generally in our daily rounds. I
noticed, one day, at this place where I worked out, that an older guy, who was
usually there all the time, had not been there for some time. So I asked another guy if he knew anything
about that guy. “That guy,”
because I couldn’t remember that guy’s name.
I indicated where that guy usually sat and said that I thought he was
from Wisconsin and had worked for Sears.
And the guy says, “Oh that guy.
He died I think.”
So I worked for a while on a song called “That
Guy. You know, that guy.” But I never finished it.
This is Brother Dan’s song from top to bottom. He plays all the guitars and percussion and
sings it. I do a little back up. He also wrote it, some time ago, back in the
80’s, when he and his wife, Kim, had a punk band. I don’t know what they were calling
themselves at the time. Goodbye Blue
Monday? Mr. Pleasant? I don’t know, as I said, but I always liked
the song from the first I heard it. And
it mixes well with the overall malaise of the CD. It’s about a suicide, I think.
If “Around Once” was lugubrious, this one is at
It’s about insomnia, about suddenly being wide awake at 3 AM
and not being able to get back to sleep again, knowing that you have a long
hard day ahead, and will need every bit of energy you have to get through it,
yet here you are at 3 AM wide awake with the minutes slipping by. No rest for the wicked, eh?
I hate it. I have
been insomniac for years. At one point,
years ago, I used as my soporific cheap wine and was for some time in effect a
situational alcoholic. But that proved
counter-productive, and anyway, I
discovered prescription meds. Before I
couldn’t get to sleep at all. With the
meds, I got off to sleep OK but started waking up at aberrant hours, like 3
AM. Now apparently, as a senior citizen,
according to what I have read, I am likely to have only “fragmented”
sleep the rest of my days.
I don’t know why exactly but the song makes me think of a
bit from Freud’s essay on Narcissism:
We should then say: the sick man withdraws his libidinal
cathexes back upon his own soul, and
sends them out again when he recovers.
‘Concentrated is his soul’, says Wilhelm Busch of the poet suffering
from toothache, ‘in his molar’s narrow hole.’
I was aware of something like this, I think. The first two parts of this song are very much
concentrated in my molar’s narrow hole.
I tried to break out of the narrow hole in the last part by suggesting
there are other people–poets, lovers, soldiers–doing other things at 3
AM. But true to form, I return in the
last line to narcissistic grandiosity claiming that, as I lie there, I hear the
world turning round.
This is one lugubrious sucker.
We all get to go around just once.
What’s the big deal? I don’t
know. But I think it is.
As I wrote I thought it was in the genre of the
stages of life poem.
But the song didn’t turn out like that.
The first stanza is sort of about what life looks like when you start
out. Much potential seems to lie
ahead. Things look different in the
middle stage; mostly regrets at things not done and sadness at how quickly time
has passed. And the last stanza is about
how things look right at the end: pretty bleak.
The emotional key to the song for me is the line, “And
you ain’t got time to unpack your trunk.” The psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut
tries to differentiate the classical theory (Freud) of man [sic] as suffering
from guilt from what he calls “tragic” man [sic]. The former he says:
…cannot illuminate the sense of fractured, enfeebled,
discontinuous human existence; it cannot explain the essence of the
schizophrenic’s fragmentation, the struggle of the patient who suffers from a
narcissistic personality disorder to reassemble himself, the despair–the
guiltless despair, I stress–of those who in late middle age discover that the
basic patterns of their self as laid down in their nuclear ambitions and ideals
have not been realized.
That’s a long way of saying: and you ain’t got time to
unpack your trunk.