Some songs are as delicate and fragile as they are strong and lovely. Perhaps it’s the secret depressive in me that so authentically connects to music that warbles with vulnerability. Or maybe that’s just the undercurrent that makes good music, and it’s natural to like good music. Regardless, this track isn’t new…just new to me. I like it very much.
I recently unboxed my grandmother’s set of World Book Encyclopedia–the same set my uncles used to research school assignments. Fathom that: a time before the internet. Grandma also purchased supplemental year books, 1965 through 1984 (the year I was born), and they’re fascinating in their brevity. An entire year reduced to a series of essays on international and domestic affairs written by journalists, professors, diplomats…astronauts.
I love this set of encyclopedias, although I didn’t need to inherit them. I already took the set I grew up using when we sold my childhood home, and DID NOT need a second clogging up valuable shelf space in my San Francisco apartment. But it was either that or the dumpster, so lo and behold–my bedroom has not one but TWO complete yet different sets of encyclopedias. Like grandmother like mother like daughter.
They say history repeats itself, but this isn’t wholly true. The pendulum of culture swings towards extremes with reliable regularity, but the faces and places and the events they unleash are always unique if not tainted by similar archetypes. We live in uncommon, unsettling times but I find solace in history knowing that we’ve been annihilated (in every sense of that word) before only to rebuild the world anew. Given the state of the world, I’m particularly interested to see how people assessed their uncommon time. It helps to know people before me also tried to make sense of nonsense, so I thought it would be a “fun” to start some #tbt posts in which I extract passages from Grandma’s World Books that resonate with the now.
This is from an essay by James R. Reston called “Focus on The Nation.” I recommend listening to The Barr Brothers’ new album, Queens of the Breakers, while mulling this over.
“‘This is a day,” Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner said in October, ‘of dissent and divisiveness. Everyone speaks with unbridled anger in behalf of his point of view or his party or his people. More and more, hostility and venom are the hallmarks of any conversation on the affairs of the nation.
There used to be only a few chronically angry people in our national life. Today all seem caught up in mutual recriminations–Negro and white, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, dove and hawk, Democrat and Republican, labor and management, North and South, young and old.’
What produced this mood of self questioning and self-doubt? Was it as bad as it sounded? And why did these symptoms of something like a nervous breakdown suddenly seem so much more serious in 1967? These were the questions of the year.”
There are many ways to break a heart. The newest method I’ve learned is when a man you’ve loved for eight years leaves you for the final time (for another woman) one month after your Mom is diagnosed with cancer. You really do learn something new every day.
Life isn’t kind enough to stop and let you heal; you have to do that on the run. Friends, family, work that inspires and distracts you is key, and…slowly…through the pain…you take away the things that made you better, even if, in the pain, you see time and youth wasted. Blame feels good for a moment, but the truth is no one leaves an eight year relationship without blood on their hands. I am certainly no saint. Human beings are tragic mishaps, which is why you can love someone deeply but can’t find a way to make it stick. That’s the crux of the human condition.
But if something is taken from you, replace it. If you can’t fill the void with something new, then stitch yourself together, mend the tear from what you have left. And if there’s power in numbers, then music is the way to reclaim mine–as the notes in each song add up to a rhythm that reminds the heart to beat, the lungs to breathe, and keeps the nervous system in check. The last time I had my heart broken, I remade myself as a music journalist and found my footing.
So in that spirit I’m launching a new feature on Nostos Algos with this post. These are a few of my… will be a regular(ish) series that shares a few of my favorite things by theme, and, if musical, will be tied to Spotify playlists. The playlist that corresponds here is titled “…favorite breakup songs,“ and is composed of songs previously featured on Nostos Algos because I’m stitching myself together with what’s sustained me for years. One exception to this is an entire album by Daughter, since this indie British outfit is my spirit animal. Content runs the gamut in tone, from angry to sad, nostalgic to uplifting, and the order is mixed because that’s the reality of emotions: they are not linear.
There are many ways to break a heart, but there are just as many ways to mend it. Here’s to starting that process by sharing it with you, since there’s power in numbers, and healing…one song at a time.
Everyday she falls in love…
For those who don’t know, I’ve been working with the California Historical Society (CHS) for the past six months or so creating and curating digital content for a Summer of Love 50th anniversary that is now upon us. CHS is working with SF Travel to coordinate a statewide commemoration with international reach, and partner organizations such as my beloved Western Neighborhoods Project will have programming and exhibitions throughout the year that showcase San Francisco and California in 1967.
To whet your palate, I’ve curated a playlist of songs and speeches from 1967. All from 1967.
Turn on, tune in, and drop out of 2017…my little time travelers. Nostos Nic Loves You.
Like a whistle in the night,
Sound without sight.
A note that hangs,
Monstrously cleffed in treble.