Tuesday Tune-Up: A Quickie Before the Lights Go Out in Georgia

I Have to Keep This One Short

It’s not Tuesday anymore, technically. I just finished writing the second of my Space Porn articles for tomorrow, and it’s about 1:00 am. Tomorrow Later this morning, I’ll finish my training for the new job (which is going to be fantastic, by the way—see yesterday’s post for details), then I’ll hop a bus up to SeaTac and hang out there while I wait to board the red-eye to Atlanta.

Before I do that, however, I want to write a couple of things about the music I was listening to tonight while writing for Space Porn. The first album of note was U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) and Counting Crows’ Hard Candy.

Both albums were on heavy rotation for me during the early oughts. In fact, it may be serendipity.

Coincidence?

The last time I was in Georgia, I lived on Ft. Gordon, right outside of Augusta. I was stationed there during the second-half of my nearly year-long initial active duty training (or, tech-school, as we call it). I’d never been away from my family and friends for so long, and I don’t know that I’ve ever been so homesick in my whole life. I mean, I while I lived in Bridgeport, I wanted to move back to Spokane almost every day, but at least I could visit every weekend if I wanted. Georgia is almost as far away from Spokane as you can possibly be in the lower 48—both geographically and culturally speaking.

It also didn’t help matters that I was living on a goddamn Army post. Sure, I was also homesick when I lived in San Antonio for the first half of my training, but at least there I was on an Air Force base – which is almost always better than being on an Army post. Everything about the Army facilities was worse.

Through all of that stress, I looked to those two albums more than any other for comfort.

I should probably also explain that this all happened right after 9/11. The whole world was in turmoil, not just my life. I signed my enlistment papers a couple of weeks after the planes hit and I was off to boot camp a couple of months later.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

The first half of this album is absolutely brilliant. The second half? Meh. Don’t worry, though. That first half more than makes up for the second’s inadequacies. The song that helped me the most from this one was “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” The lyrics reminded me that everything I was experiencing was temporary. “It’s just a moment… this time won’t last.”

That, of course, is a double-edged sword, because the good moments don’t last either. I wish the 24-year-old me would have known enough back then to live in the moment rather than trying to get out of it. Hell, most days I wish the 41-year-old me would figure it the fuck out, too.

Of course, the rest of that first half is filled with brilliant material as well, but again, I’m tired so I can’t go into all of it. “Walk On” was another such song, though. Again, the theme’s there are acceptance and perseverance. Both are encouraging when you’re in the middle of it.

I don’t remember the last time I listened to that album. But I’m pretty sure it was at least years ago, if not over a decade.

Hard Candy

U2 was never my favorite band. I like them and all, but they’ve never even been in my top ten. Counting Crows, on the other hand, has been one of my favorite bands since they broke out in ’94. I got really into them in the late ’90s and soaked up everything I could about them. Each album is both on par with, and yet somehow superior to the others. It’s the damnedest thing. August and Everything After was so amazing for its sparsity and vulnerability. Then Recovering the Satellites came along and all of a sudden this clean/acoustic pop band were doing huge rock and roll numbers. Finally, when they hit This Desert Life, they found the perfect mix of both.

Then Hard Candy came out, and though some have said of that album that they pushed the experimentation a bit too far, I still love it. I bought the CD on base because I was sad and homesick. And just as the blues is designed to make a person feel better by expressing all of the sorrow in the world, Adam Duritz makes me feel better when he expresses all of his sorrow. His songs are cathartic rather than encouraging, and sometimes you just need that. I think Duritz actually sums it up best in a line from his own work: “Things are getting worse, but I feel a lot better, and that’s all that really matters to me.”

The two main songs that I fell in love with from Hard Candy were “Good Time,” and “Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood),” though “Goodnight L.A.” gets an honorable mention.

The situation with “Goodnight L.A.” was this: (Disclaimer: Memory is fallible and this particular one happened eighteen years ago.) I was on B-shift (swings) for school. We went to school from around 4:00 pm to midnight. I loved the shift because it meant the march to and from school was a lot cooler, and because I’m naturally a night person.

The problem was that we were also supervised less closely, so we started slacking on our details. We were punished collectively by having to do some extra details on Saturday morning, which meant that all of our sleep schedules were off. And when you’re a dumb ass 18-24 year old in the military, you never sleep through your weekend—too much partying to be done.

So if my memory is correct about this, I had been up since around 6:00 am on Saturday morning by the time Sunday night came around. That Monday morning, at 5:00 am, the entire post had to participate in a five-mile Brigade Run that the head brass in charge of the post set up. Of course, an Army commander can’t really order the Air Force commander to make his troops participate in such a thing, but branch-of-service-pride is way too important for the already maligned “Chair Force,” to pass on the run. So we had to do it, too. All of us—even the B-shift.

A few of my fellow B-shifters and I thought things through, and decided that it would be useless to try and sleep Sunday night, since our sleep schedules were completely screwed up. Instead, we decided to pop some caffeine pills and just tough it out.

The line, “I been up for thirty-eight hours, and it don’t look like sleep’s coming soon,” became a mantra for me that weekend.

Time to Wrap it Up

So here we are. The night before I go back to Georgia for the first time in eighteen years, I get the song “Walk On,” by U2 stuck in my head while in the shower, even though I haven’t heard it in nearly a decade or more. Then I decide to listen to the album. After the album is finished, Spotify picks some another song to play, and it’s instantly not what I want. The only thing that pops into my head to listen to is Hard Candy. So I do.

The music brought me back to those hot Augusta nights. To 95 degrees and 100% fucking humidity and cockroaches the size of velociraptors and nice Southern girls that say “Bless your heart,” in the most condescending way possible to let you know very subtly that they really mean, “Go fuck yourself.” It brought me back to late night talks in the smoke pit between buildings at our detachment. It brought me memories of a time, a place, and a whole mess of people that I don’t really think about nostalgically anymore.

Now I’m getting ready to head back to the Peach State. To a town I’ve never seen, but about which I’ve heard nothing but good things. I’m going to record an album with David Lowery, whose music has also meant a great deal to me.

If you know me at all, you know that I am fiercely independent and have no time for the idea of destiny or cosmic alignment or kismet or whatever the hell you want to call it. I believe in cause and effect, an empirical worldview, and that we are in control of our own destinies. Still, kinda makes a fella’ wonder.

See you tomorrow for Writers’ Wednesday.

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