There was a night this summer which was supposed to be a movie trailer, but one that was so good you wouldn’t even care that it gave away the ending. I spent this summer working and living in the suburbs (and as much New Jersey pride as I have, I will not deny that it is a state of suburbs by almost any definition), and so nights in New York City had to potent, so full that they’d certainly spill over if even rattled a little bit. To make myself clear, after days of working a shitty office job and getting home to my dog’s occasional guilt trip of a piss stain on the rug, I wanted to surround myself with very tall buildings, drugs, alcohol, pretentious conversation, and some kind of mattress or at least the last bus home at the end (man, if I didn’t know myself so well, I’d surely want to punch myself in the face after that last sentence).
It was a hot day and it was one of the last ones before I moved back to the Midwest, and it needed to be big. I went into the city, and was supposed to meet up with a latent high school crush who managed to move to new York and still smile and breath regularly. And I’m not saying I didn’t not want anything to come of it. Already with some alcohol in the body, I call her at 9:30. 10. 10:30. 11. Wandering around the east village, drinking something that tastes passingly like the weekend out of my brother’s abandoned nalgeen in tompkins square park and watching rats slowly colonize a garbage can. Near midnight, calling my brother and asking his voicemail whether I can sleep at his house. Calling almost anyone I knew who was in new york, trying to salvage the last part of an evening and the last moments of the upswing of the remains of the drink that had slipped away. It wasn’t just the eroding of plans, or the failure of what would never dare call itself romance, or the panic about where I would sleep that night (the answer: somewhere up by Columbia, in a lobby, to be woken up by a jogger who did not know the name of the friend i knew who lived there and asked me to leave), or the waste of alcohol, or the fact that despite being surrounded by millions of passing bodies, I had been drinking by myself.
It was that I hadn’t felt that entirely alone and unmissed in a while. It was a feeling vastly accentuated by the alcohol, but this past summer wasn’t really one for maintaining the friendships I should have worked at. Here’s what i learned from that night: If you’re at a stage in life where whole weeks can stich by without any genuinely worthwhile conversations, make sure you get in, at bare minimum one, of those every few days. Or you’ll end up drunk and moneyless in new york, looking for a bed, and blasting through the perfectly enunciated hyper-angst-iety of a bunch of musicians from Montreal. Let me tell you, Shapes and Sizes followed me step for step that night. They’re an unbelievably good band (Moreso on their more recent album than on their first.), but at least for now, they are inextricably tied the day that 2008 had to get on its hands and knees and ring out all the hair and soapscum and all the rest from the bottom of the basin.
This song takes it in the teeth. It is not faking it, it does not have insurance of any kind, and it takes it right in the fucking teeth.
sometimes the years just coalesce into a few minutes. Condensed and quiet, they go down like thick beer a non-fatal diagnosis or the traffic before the accident has finished falling. When it happens, nothing, not handcuffs, handguns, or offered hands can speed things back up, help you move along. You’ve just got to accept that you must stand and wait for this to pass.
“Motherless Children” is from the 2006 Ralph Stanley album A Distant Land To Roam: Sings The Songs of the Carter Family.
not to hate too much, but the fourth and fifth sentences of this embody what i think is a nadir of lazy, uninsightful, tossed off music journalism.