Alright. I am changing the format a little for a few reasons. One, the damned shuffle on iTunes reloads each time, even when I keep the window open and I have to start over each time. Two, I think things will happen more organically this way. So I will start writing when the first song comes on, and will stop with the last. I will still continue to try not to cheat. Doesn’t look like that will work…
About eight years ago, my brother and I got into a huge fight. Actually, his wife and I got into a huge fight. It was pretty nasty. All sides were right, each of us were wrong, but the line, “If we weren’t so alike, you’d like me a whole lot more” left me aching. We were best friends, whether either of us was willing to admit it. It hurt. It actually tore my family up for almost a year.
Despite things now being better than ever, I realize that sometimes you can make it on your own. I did for almost an entire calendar year. It was difficult but I did. I couldn’t hear my brother’s name without crying. He chose to not call my parents, which killed me more than anything. I felt guilty. But I pressed on.
“How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” began its tour in Dublin the summer of 2009, and I was studying at Oxford for the summer. A dear friend of mine who was studying with me surprised me with tickets to go see the concert with her and her husband. The concert was EPIC. It blew away any concert experience in my life–the people, the crowds, the phone call into space. I had seen U2 before but holy shit. Life changing.
I arrived in Oxford silently grieving the death of my grandmother. I couldn’t talk about it, and put on a brave face, but I could barely breathe. K and S, my friends who saved a ticket for me, got me through it. I don’t know if they know that to this day. I walled myself up, but without realizing it, they tore that wall down. It took me an experience of a lifetime, and traveling halfway around the world to learn that I can’t run, I can’t take cover.
The title of this piece is from the first line of song number three–my proud little secret. I am Dolly Parton fan. I will say it over and over and over again. In fact, I love most retro country–Dolly, Kenny, Willie, Merle, Waylon, Hank. I can’t help it. And I love the sweet duets Dolly sings. Even with the saddest of songs, her optimism somehow shines through. (I have a feeling there will many more opportunities to discuss this. I only own three enormous box sets of Ms. Parton.And why the hell shouldn’t I?)
But it’s true. Sometimes we learn lessons too late in life. Like how not to destroy a relationship with your little brother. Or that Hank Williams Jr. is nowhere near as awesome as his father (or his son, for that matter). Sadly, I purchased this horrible compilation on a road trip somewhere between Bend and San Francisco, visiting my little brother after things were good again between us. I think it was for “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down”. Ah, the irony.
Oddly enough, my siblings and I have nerdy sing-alongs anytime we get together. One brother plays guitar, I sing, and my little brother, the one I’ve been talking about, is the constant source of comic relief. He has no shame. Really. Sometimes the two of us will have a sing off, which bugs the shit out of my other brother because he’s much more serious than the two of us. We have props. Suddenly a belt becomes a headband, it’s all one big split decision explosion. And I love it. Any issue that ever existed between the three of us as children, as adults, as documented by my mom the week before–it all disappears.
I have a tendency to sing loud in my car. It’s okay because I usually am on-key. Seriously. When I hear “I Got You Babe” I sing like nothing else. Both parts. Eyes opened, unashamed. And I think about Groundhog’s Day and how the song plays ten billion times throughout the movie and how I love that movie for ten billion more reasons. And I realize that the two of us, my brother and I, couldn’t be more alike, and that sometimes, you can’t make it on your own. And I am glad I don’t have to.
Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own–U2
Down Under–Men at Work
The Last Thing on my Mind–Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner
Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard–Tom Waits
Kaw-Liga–Hank Williams, Jr.
I got You Babe–Sonny and Cher