In Liverpool

I remember saying in one my posts, I guess in Black, that I will keep going back to writing about, or getting help from music. Particular songs. The song of the day, of that day. Sometimes the song itself is the source of inspiration. At other times, I have something to write about in mind, a theme, a feeling, mostly – always? – when I am feeling bad, and a song magically finds its way into the theme, capturing the feeling better than anything I could write.

That’s what happened today when I took myself forcibly off of the bed to take a stroll in the empty streets of Vienna, with the vain hope of drenching my solitude in strangers’ eyes, furtive looks and improbable encounters. As always, I looked for “cafés nearby” in Google Maps and decided on one, some Luxor-Bar on Grünentorgasse 19B, which seemed promising for someone in search of “eyes, looks and encounters”.

The weather was gloomy, the streets emptier, the café more woeful than I expected. Cheezy music, uncomfortable chairs, and one customer, a middle-aged nice-looking guy with messy hair (the proverbial “artist” or writer), taking notes on his laptop while sipping his cafe. I could have chosen any chair as the whole place was mine and his, but I chose to sit across him. Maybe I was trying to attract his attention, to exchange a smile.

This was exactly when Suzanne Vega’s angelic voice broke into my reality, kidnapping me from myself and the present:

In Liverpool
On Sunday
No traffic
On the avenue
The light is pale and thin
Like you
No sound, down
In this part of town
Except for the boy in the belfry
He’s crazy, he’s throwing himself
Down from the top of the tower
Like a hunchback in heaven
He’s ringing the bells in the church
For the last half an hour
He sounds like he’s missing something
Or someone that he knows he can’t
Have now and if he isn’t
I certainly am

I knew it was coming. I knew he was coming. I knew I was missing something, or someone I knew I can’t have now, at least not in the reality I inhabit.

Maybe he was still here with me as mamma keeps telling me. “When you cry he’s by your side, hoping you will see all the good things in life”, she recently reminded me, when I reached out to her in one of my many breakdowns. But if he was here, why wasn’t I able to see him, to feel his presence as she could? Why couldn’t I even look at pictures of us, laughing, playing, having fun (living is fun, dying is boring, right my son?)?

Maybe I had to change my reality to be able to see him. Not the way I perceive reality for, as I said above, this wasn’t possible, but start thinking about inhabiting another reality, his reality, the place I could find him. This required a huge sacrifice, not for me, but for those who love me, and maybe for him too. “He wants us to live in all the ways he couldn’t”, said mamma. For that, I had to stay alive. I had to persevere, endure the breakdowns. But how could I know that this is what he would want? He wasn’t old enough to know the meaning of altruism. This is us imparting ideas on him, to make his departure from the world of the living more bearable. We all suffer in different ways, and we are all:

Homesick for a clock
That told the same time

And yet, there is no such clock. Clocks show different times; it is 13:51 in Vienna, 06:51 in Guadalajara; it is Suzanne Vega here, the Little Mermaid over there. But what time is it where he is? What song is he listening to? If he were here, we would be listening to Despicable Me. But he is not here. And sometimes, most of the times, I don’t want to be here either.

The guy sitting across me packed and left. I am still here.

Happy Father’s Day Sweden…



Some of these days you’ll miss me honey…

Do you know the song? Or maybe I should ask, have you ever listened to it? Because I didn’t know of the song until I saw the lyrics in Sartre’s Nausea. Repeated several times. I had read the book when I was quite young – no, not at an age you should be reading French existentialist novels! – and naturally, all I remember are glimpses.. One of the protagonists sitting in the park and observing a tree (“How could one devote so many pages to this?” was my first reflection of course) and these lyrics. Some of these days you’ll miss me honey…

Oddly, perhaps understandably given my adolescent boredom while reading the book, I have never listened to the song. Never even checked what it was, who sang it and all. Apparently, it was an old song from 1910, covered by many singers. Nothing special about it if you ask me, but… It must have meant something to Sartre. There must be a reason he chose that song and not another.

My completely non-scientific theory is, he was listening to it while working on his novel, that’s it! Probably it didn’t mean much to him; at least I would like to believe so. Or it did mean something that pertained to the period he was writing.

Some songs mean something only some times, and not others. You may already know the song; you may have accidentally noticed it. Who knows. But for one reason or another they become synonymous with a period (should I say “moment”?) of your life. They come and go. You don’t want to listen to them later because they might remind you things you have tried so hard to forget. Or you do listen to them just to remember those moments. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about extended periods in one’s life, when one is obsessed with a certain kind of music, certain bands or singers. Just one song, just a very short period of time. Days, maybe one or two weeks. Until you move on.

I had written about such a moment, at hospital with him, when we had danced frantically over Jethro Tull’s “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day” – hardly a dance song, I know. But a happy one since it made him smile.

I met the song of this period of my life accidentally, while fooling around on youtube. Eddie Vedder was singing it acoustically in Firenze, as a tribute to Chris Cornell who died last year. I didn’t know they were good friends. I didn’t know that it was Chris Cornell who convinced Vedder, a surfer in San Diego, to come to rainy Seattle to audition for a new band. Vedder recorded three songs as a demo and sent them to Seattle. They told him to come over via Cornell. He recorded three songs but wrote lyrics for one more, a ballad composed by the guitarist Stone Gossard who called it “E Ballad” until Vedder wrote the lyrics.

The group was Pearl Jam. The song that would make it to their debut album was “Black”. They never made a video for it; Eddie Vedder refused, believing that it would kill the song. When asked the story behind it, he said: “The song is about letting go. It’s very rare for a relationship to withstand the Earth’s gravitational pull and where it’s going to take people and how they’re going to grow. I’ve heard it said that you can’t really have a true love unless it was a love unrequited. It’s a harsh one, because then your truest one is the one you can’t have forever.”

When he sang “Black” with a very enthusiastic crowd in Firenze, he changes the end of the lyrics and calls out to Chris Cornell… “Come back! Come back!” The third “come back” is barely heard. While he cries.

Hey, oh
Sheets of empty canvas
Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did
All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn

Oh and all I taught her was everything
Oh I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
I take a walk outside
I’m surrounded by
Some kids at play
I can feel their laughter
So why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin
Round my head
I’m spinning
Oh, I’m spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away

And now my bitter hands
Cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
Turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see
All that I am
All I’ll be

I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine