Our Way to the Mercy Bridge
333 · 14 June 01
Mishima USA: Hold My Breath
Although I enjoy going places, I don't really like being away from my home for very long, so it hadn't occurred to me to allocate much time or energy for reintegration after my recent trips. I'm happy to come home, and that's always been enough. But I realize, after being back from Belgium for almost a month, that this time it hasn't been. I've slipped back into my routines without apparent difficulty, but they seem more incomplete than I remember them. The simplest explanation, of course, is that I was just distracted. For a few weeks, my calendar was so busy that when I was home I let myself switch into emotional-subsistence mode, not really doing anything with myself beyond what was required to get from one trip to the next, keep things in order at work on the few days I was there, and write a little. The trips themselves were all more or less booked solid, so when I was away I had only to follow the instructions on my schedule. Today: Drive to New Jersey to see a soccer game. Today: Drive from Wilmington to Chapel Hill for another one. Today: Photograph architectural minutiae in Bruges. Today: record shopping. None of the days said "Obsess about being single or 34 or misguided or misemployed or obsessive", and although I did manage to make a slot for that, during a couple idle hours in London, for the most part I just did whatever I had come to wherever I was for, and let the consequences and implications wait for later. But I think I may have left something behind, somewhere. I'm back home, but I'm trying not to be. I had an elusive epiphany in London, which I'm still pondering, but I've started to realize that it wasn't the only one, and may not even have been the most important. I didn't think I felt too strongly about Brussels, but I'm missing the chocolates and waffles way too acutely for their intrinsic virtues to be why. I had Krispy Kreme donuts for the first time on my trip to North Carolina, and they don't correspond at all to what I would have told you was my donut ideal, but I keep mentally reliving the squishy, overwhelming sensation of biting into one. Similarly the salmon-skin maki I had in London, and presumably if it were really food I am missing, the mental juxtaposition of warm, chocolate-coated donuts and intense wasabi-laced fish-skin bundles would seem problematic to me, but it doesn't.
And maybe in time I'll think of a third-order effect these trips might be construed to have had, but for the moment the second-order one, not that much more complicated than the first, feels true enough. It comes in two parts. One part is that all four of my trips involved personal dynamics I wish were part of my non-traveling life. I went to New Jersey with my family, and although I see my sister a fair amount now that we have season tickets together to both the men's and women's Boston pro soccer teams, I don't see my parents as often as I'd like. The North Carolina and Belgium trips were to visit childhood friends, and I see them another order of magnitude less than I do my parents. We all live in different cities, now, and every time one of us finds an excuse to visit one of the other ones, or even more dramatically when a wedding or a reunion supplies an opportunity to get the whole band back together, I'm reminded acutely how hard it is to form new bonds, as adults, that have the same tenacity. Two of them I've been in love with, one of them I've known since I was five. After I see them, it hurts for a few days, knowing that our lives have taken divergent courses. In Chapel Hill we saw a book store and a burrito restaurant, both recently closed, and immediately began fantasizing about moving there to run them. A cute server at the smoothie place down the block reminded us of a girl I had a crush on in fourth grade, whose picture we'd just seen in a scrapbook, so she was recruited for the fantasy, too. There's no reason to assume I'd be particularly adept at, or satisfied by, running a burrito restaurant, especially in a location that has just demonstrated its reluctance to sustain one, but it's a facetious implementation of a serious dream. I wish we had the courage, or the freedom, or the combination, to base more of our lives around each other. I wish we could just pick a city, everybody I love, my family and all my friends from high school and college and old jobs and mailing lists, and then worry about what we were going to do there. I love Boston, and I like what I do, but I'd consider running a pawn shop in Provo if I had the right company. Even my fifty-five-hour business trip to Orlando, with a group of co-workers who I'm not friends with outside of work, had an immersing shared-ordeal character that our days together at the office don't, and would be better with.
The other part of the effect of my trips was the counterbalancing of the familiar with the strange. In Orlando we stayed in an appalling hotel built to simulate, in the most superficial possible sense, an Italian bay, complete with fake fishing boats moored in the fake ocean, fake architectural detail painted on the cement walls, and every unremarkable lobby labeled a "piazza". I'd been to Giants Stadium once before, but fifteen years ago; the friends I was visiting in North Carolina only recently moved there; the friends I was visiting in Belgium really live in Austin. I don't just miss the people, I also miss the sense that we are exploring something together, whether it's a place or just the mysterious future. We spent so much time in high school figuring out where we were going to go to college, and what sort of people we were going to try to become there; we spent so much time in college speculating about the world beyond; my friends from dysfunctional past jobs (oddly, or perhaps not, I've made far fewer close friends at my current distinctly-less-dysfunctional job) were part of my planning to escape to better ones. We always assumed there were better things, better places, and if you know that, at a sufficiently deep level, then you relate profoundly differently to your current flawed surroundings and experiences. I'm not sure it's all good, by any means; it's too easy to become a tourist instead of making a home, or a dissident instead of taking responsibility for the regime. I could sign up for a cooking class, and a French class, and maybe another volleyball team and some auto-cross races, and defeat introspection by brute force, without actually solving anything. The hours would be easier, and the days, and maybe even the years, for a while. I miss the sense that there is no inertia, that upheavals happen constantly, through forces beyond our control, and we evolve or perish. I'm 34, I own a house, I work for an internet company that hasn't gone out of business in our first five years and might not any time soon. My daily existence provides challenges, but they are rarely radical. They are just problems, phrased in well-known grammar, and I solve them using familiar tools. I don't remember the last thing that unsettled me as much as an hour in a grocery store in Brussels. Maybe it wasn't a productive or revealing strangeness, just an entertainment and thus a form of procrastination. But it suggests that I have allowed my life to become over-constrained, and in bringing my life under control have undermined its ability to surprise, and thus change me.
The familiar and the strange swirl around each other, in this reverie, until I realize that all these alternately (and at times simultaneously) frightening and laughable heavy metal records I've been listening to for the past few weeks are probably an attempt to extend the effective duration of the trip, as well. I bought some of them in London, but I've bought a lot more since coming home, and the parallel to visiting an old friend in a foreign city is glaringly obvious once I think to look for it. Half of me plunges forward into the unknown, following leads from the few bands I already know about towards all the ones I don't. The other half of me sits back, unraveling knots of what could just as easily be wisdom as cynicism, trying to remember how to reconstruct a me nonjudgmental enough that I can listen to an album by a band called Kamelot without collapsing into four-fold hysterics at the spelling of the name, the idiotic font they write it in, the never-got-over-D&D cover art and lyrical motifs, and the frenzied never-heard-about-minimalism musical aesthetic. I'm not going to stop, because I can reconstruct the appropriate frame of mind, and once I'm in it the music is no longer frightening or laughable, but I also realize that it's largely a tangent. Maybe this is the same revelation I had in London, after all: whatever I thought I found in Belgium is almost certainly a placeholder for something harder to find here at home. Chocolate and waffles can't be the problem, and now that I've noticed my failure to reconnect, it ought to be easy enough to start addressing it. My pending-CD pile has means for every end. (Possibly my habit of looking for means to ends in my pending-CD pile, first, is the most telltale symptom of a much bigger problem, but this is the night of the week I reserve for postulating that it isn't.) I will put aside the grim Norwegian heavy metal bands for now (and the bubbly Swedish pop bands, while I'm at it), and get back to some of the small music being made in the city where I live.
Fittingly and helpfully, the Boston record I've been waiting for the longest has finally just come out. It is the debut album on fledgling local label Catapult Records by the quiet drum-and-guitar pop duo Mishima, who by not putting a record out sooner have allowed a Québecois emo band on The Mintaka Conspiracy to claim the name, which forces them to now trade under the somewhat point-defeating Mishima USA. I've seen them in concert several times, and grown fond of their earnestly haphazard live presence, but the real reason I was looking forward to this album so much was that "Stop Swerving", their one single, indicated that they are much more comfortable in the studio, or maybe it's me who's am more comfortable with them when I can't see guitarist Arto Payaslian's braces or drummer Sean O'Brien's teddy-bear sideburns. Watching them live, I focus unavoidably on the structural novelty of the line-up and how little they look like rock stars. On record, they are invisible. If I listen for it I can hear that there's no bass on most of these recordings, but its absence is not political or significant, and on a few songs somebody even fakes one with a keyboard. If pop can tolerate one-man bands, a two-man band shouldn't have to directly emulate Simon and Garfunkel to fit in, and this one isn't an experiment, it's a perfectly traditionalist attempt to write sweet, understated pop songs. At least eight of these eleven could serve as the album's summary, for me, which I suppose could constitute a critique of Sean and Arto's range, but first albums don't have to demonstrate range, and are usually better off not even pretending to try. A lilting, slightly-sour guitar riff and Sean's background sighing guide the hushed, cyclic "Twist My Arm". "Now that the colonies have all gone free", Arto sings, introducing a broken-romance theme that wasn't new even then. "I hate your words", in the first chorus, turns to "I hate my words" by the second, getting closer to the truth, but instead of resolving to resignation, he ends with "You've got to twist my arm", making this a rare lovelorn pop song with the wherewithal to ask for help. "I Suspect" is a little faster, a little more Mission of Burma, Arto's voice pushing towards emo urgency and Sean leaning into snare rolls, but they're still fundamentally closer to early-REM jangle than Braid's catharsis. "I suspect you're just lame", goes the refrain, letting its subject off. "Draped" seems to clip half of a beat out of the verse measures, although when I count through them I find they've really just moved it to the other side of the downbeat. "Frame Relay" is jumpy and Cavedogs-esque, and the Vehicle Flips-ish nerdiness implied by the title is present only implicitly: "Why can't I be like the guy who drives the fast car and always lies to all the pretty girls that line up to get cheated, then dumped off his tower?" The second verse shifts to a girl's point of view, and a hint of Nevermind's caged desperation creeps into Arto's voice just before he flips the narrative back for the final verse. "I know you're still waiting", he promises. "I'll get there before the showers that pour down and wash away your towers." I bet he will, but I bet she won't be there.
If I had to pick the single (which I don't; it's "Twist My Arm"), I think it would be "Stupid Kid". The drums are crisp, the guitar restrained, the verses undulating softly, but in the chorus Arto finally risks brushing against the upper limit of his range, and the hairline cracks that fan out through his voice as he sings "It's the love I had for you inside me, / A stupid kid confused and happy", especially on the extra syllables in the word "happy", are everything this kind of bookish, romantic, reduced-palette pop aspires to, a moment of seemingly indescribable internal poignancy unexpectedly translated into human language. "If I Wake Up" is a little vague and glassy for me, processing in lieu of cogency, but "Stop Swerving" is as compelling as ever, channeling Buffalo Tom and the Feelies and the Caulfields, introvert pop that even manages a crescendo at the end. "Apt. 1-E" sounds a little like an REM/VU inversion, the latter somehow covering the former, and inserting a trace of New Order trebliness while they're at it. "Huge List" seems to me to be missing its chorus (unless that little "whoo-hoo-hoo!" Sean abruptly emits is supposed to be it), but "Familiar Marks" forgets about the limitations of the instruments and surges into New Wave exuberance that's only a little too slow to really dance to. And "Up the Branch", the final track, brings in violins and Swirlies vocalist Seana Carmody and suddenly shoots for grand atmosphere, somewhere between Ida and Catherine Wheel. It nearly gets there, and while I understand the impulse to end a debut album with something beyond yourselves, I hope this doesn't mean that Sean and Arto's faith in simplicity is wavering. You can waste a lot of time trying to do somebody else's job, and since you can't count on them doing yours in return, the danger is that we'll never hear all the things only you know. And they may seem small, but that doesn't mean they aren't important.
Willard Grant Conspiracy: Everything's Fine
Willard Grant Conspiracy are kind cheating as a "local" inclusion, since their records usually come out in Europe many months ahead of their release here, but I walked into Other Music in Harvard Square the evening of the US release of Everything's Fine to find the band milling around getting ready to play a brief in-store set. I'd already bought the new album, and although I did so with some ambivalence, having never managed to enjoy the previous one, Mojave, very much, it seemed pretty inane to walk out on a free performance, so I stayed.
Mojave has two problems, for me. One is that most of the songs seem weirdly listless and empty. Flying Low had a lot of extraneous found-audio for texture, and Mojave is much more straightforward, almost all of it built on morbid mid-tempo acoustic-guitar strumming, which leaves me feeling let down. The other problem is "Go Jimmy Go", a two-minute monster-blues spasm in the middle of the album that to me totally wrecks its pacing and logic. I don't just not like it, I hate it. If it were the first track on an album by a band I didn't know, I might not make it to track two.
Everything's Fine is drastically different on both counts. The dialog snippets don't return, but every song has some evidence of particular care: a tolling, funereal piano on "Notes From the Waiting Room"; harmonica, organ and mandolin on the relaxed, engaging "Christmas in Nevada"; tape hiss, purring cello, banjo and more piano on the meditative "Kite Flying"; bluegrass-gospel backing vocals on the penitent waltz "Wicked"; trash-barrel-sounding drums and keening violin on the instrumental "Hesitation"; spindly ukulele on the stately folk dirge "Ballad of John Parker"; slide guitar and more violin on the distended, "Wild Horses"-like "Southend of a Northbound Train"; punchy drums on the rousing "The Beautiful Song", which aspires towards a Wallflowers/Wilco-ish rock/Americana cross-over; chiming harpsichord-esque guitar-picking on "Drunkard's Prayer"; the creak of fingers running along guitar strings in the intimate "Closing Time", a bedtime lullaby for rueful alcoholics that isn't likely to replace Semisonic's song of the same title as sporting-event exit music; bare piano and haunting, wispy harmonies in "massachusetts", and tiny rustles of percussion as if the drummer isn't playing on the song, just sitting at the kit waiting while it's being recorded. Together, Hold My Breath and Everything's Fine form a reassuringly comprehensive antithesis to Pain of Salvation and Eidolon and Sonata Arctica, pensive where the metal albums are didactic, warm and rich where they're icy and shrill, tragic and beatific instead of operatic and epic. Everything's Fine's production, by Pete Weiss, Peter Linnane and Robert Fisher, does an award-worthy job, if there were music awards for accomplishments that are actually valuable, of capturing the comfortable closeness of old friends playing quiet songs in a small room with its windows open to a light summer-evening's breeze. For a form that almost invariably consists, in fact, of people playing instruments in small rooms, popular music rarely does this environment justice. Everything's Fine falls somewhere in between Luka Bloom's Turf and Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden, neither as resonant as the former nor as elemental a depiction of life-force as the latter, but maybe less overbearing than Turf can be at times, and certainly less cryptic and elusive than Spirit of Eden.
But I'm going backwards. I'd surrendered to this album before I ever played it. The in-store show was so low-key it almost didn't happen at all. Other Music isn't really big enough for such things, so to make room for the band they had to roll one entire pod of records into the back room. The electrical outlets were inconveniently placed, so the guitar and bass amps ended up wedged underneath yet another record pod, basically crippling the store as a shopping mechanism. I can't remember if the violin player had amplification, but they had no vocal mic, so singer Robert Fisher simply stepped forward, in front of the players, and sang to the people standing a few feet away. I was completely unprepared for how revelatory this last detail would turn out to be. It's not the first time I've heard a singer I know from records perform without amplification, but the others all had something to hide behind, a piano or a guitar, or a guitar-case for change, or the line of a low stage. Performance, we have learned primarily from TV, has extent. At some very specific point the performance stops and the audience starts. Live theater sometimes tries to erase the distinction, but usually ends up turning a clear, thin line into a thick, smudged one that's even harder to miss. But this time, there was nothing. We could have been having a conversation, a handful of people standing around in a random room, except the one who happened to be speaking was doing it in song. At times Robert would close his eyes for a few seconds, and I could imagine that his eyelids were the boundary, and I was outside it again, but then he'd open them again and the illusion of separation would dissolve. We laugh at the glib fidelity claims in old magazine advertisements for hand-cranked Victrolas, smugly pleased that we have audio-reproduction equipment that can render the entire audible spectrum, and indeed under laboratory conditions, blindfolded, I'm not at all sure I could tell the difference between a live human voice and a 2001 state-of-the-art recording of it. But if you insist on laboratory conditions and blindfolds, you've already missed the point. It is a different act to sing to a person in front of you than it is to sing to a variable that represents that person or any number of other interchangeable listeners. It is a different act to stand close enough to a person to talk over them, and choose not to so you can hear them sing. A perfect recording, and I believe Everything's Fine is within a standard deviation or two of perfection in this sense, gets there by carefully stipulating its own terms of evaluation: frequency response, stereo separation, dynamic range, time-lock. Not included, and implicitly irrelevant, are the way the singer's eyes flick over to you when you shift your weight to the other leg during a verse; the faint sensation of air movement from the other people around you breathing; the glow of the lights; the way you think, standing there, about how you would have missed this if you'd come half an hour earlier, or tomorrow; how you're sorry, now, that you didn't like this person's last record, and how much more rewarding not liking something is when it bothers you. So in a way, I never did hear this album. By the time the band stopped playing, and I left the store and drove home and finally put it on to listen, it had already become a symbol of another experience. I think it's a good record, in the same way I can look at an artfully composed picture of my father and decide that it's also a good photograph, but maybe if you weren't there or you don't know him, it's not as interesting. This is a momentarily depressing thought, because logistics militate against every band in the world coming around to play their new songs to every dozen potential fans, so if that's what it takes, if albums have to be mementos of personal experiences, then most bands won't make it and I've bought a whole lot of records I'll never be able to use. But then I remember how many of those other records I love just as much as this one, or more, based on nothing but what the hopelessly inadequate medium can communicate. Turf and Spirit of Eden are not tokens of anything, to me. Most art, to most people, starts out as well-composed pictures of strangers, and much of it ends there. So pick a few, and stare at them, until with a jolt of recognition they become something more.
The Sheila Divine: Where Have My Countrymen Gone
The Sheila Divine sound Irish, and while I don't know how popular Where Have My Countrymen Gone is with actual Belgians, it appeared to be fairly popular with Belgian-record-store purchasing managers while I was there, so they may deserve an asterisk, too. But they're from Boston, and I was a fan before they had a major-label record deal. "The music they play," I wrote, two years ago, "has no ingredient even remotely in demand." Why Roadrunner ever thought otherwise, I don't know, but I was grimly prescient, and album two finds them back in the minors, one of the founding members (with the Push Stars, Todd Thibaud, Letters to Cleo and Orbit) of the DIY-collective label Co-Op Pop, partially operated by the New England record-store chain Newbury Comics. After all the "back to their roots!" hype accorded U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind, and the similar murmuring in advance of Radiohead's Amnesiac, I wouldn't have been too surprised if the Sheila Divine had figured that the original occupants were returning to the anthemic-guitar-rock stronghold, and cleared out while they had the chance. But I'm pretty sure you could get most people to admit that All That You Can't Leave Behind is hardly War if you cut off their supply of Red Bull for a couple of days. Amnesiac is finally out, and the statisticians are hard at work trying to figure out who published the four-letter review "Kid B" first. And the Sheila Divine haven't budged. "Where have my countrymen gone? / All your patriots are just millionaires", opens "Countrymen", the "just" especially damning. A minutes or so later the guitars kick in, and it's as if Grand Parade and Urban Beaches and October and Crimes of Conscience and Land have all crowded into one head, like Mertin's refugees into John Malkovich, or everyone into the baby at the end of I Will Fear No Evil. I've read some interviews with Aaron Perrino, so I can relay that he claims the chorus, where he's clearly singing "Will my woman ever fail?", is supposed to be "Will my warm heart ever fail?", but none of the interviewers had the presence of mind to point out that "warm heart" makes even less sense than "woman" in this context. It hardly matters, of course. As the Alarm demonstrated most vividly, when your convictions are strong enough, they become their own substance. "Ostrich" spins and stretches, Perrino's strangled howl slashing through a Chameleons-like guitar blur. The opening of "Wanting Is Wasted" could be Coldplay, but by the middle of the song harmonies are soaring, and producer Brian Charles is starting to believe that Eno and Lanois' were only defending themselves. The sweeping, plaintive "Antidote" reminds me of Hothouse Flowers, up until it falls apart in noise. "Sideways" sounds like a post-NIN updating of "New Year's Day", and the half surging, half fluttering "Every Year" evokes Cactus World News' "The Bridge", fury only slightly tempered by wisdom. "Walking Dead (Who Speak)" and "Monarchs" both sound enough like The Bends-era Radiohead for me to wonder whether there could be massive demand for this after all. "Spirits" makes a decent case that all Travis really needed was a month locked in a seaside cottage with Script of the Bridge. "Some Kind of Home" could be the Sheila Divine's version of Big Country's "Porrohman", although I'm aware that I'm probably just about alone in having "own equivalent of 'Porrohman'" on a checklist to begin with. And although Where Have My Countrymen Gone doesn't end on a fade like New Parade's "Sweep the Leg", the mid-tempo ballad "Vanishing Act" doesn't exactly amount to going out in a blaze of glory, either. It makes the record the wrong shape, to me. It should explode, refusing to return to the ground, but instead it meekly coasts to a stop in front of us, intact. But I suppose if there's one thing I don't mind a band I think might one day be Great not having learned yet, it's how to tear itself apart for dramatic effect before it gets there.
Helicopter Helicopter: By Starlight
Three Boston records down, though, and I'm arguably no closer to the point of this exercise. I don't have to cast myself back quite as far to remember when I first thought Urban Beaches and Land were great as I do to remember when Fire of Unknown Origin and The Mob Rules seemed like all I could possibly want from music, but it's only a matter of a couple years. The Sheila Divine and Mishima USA are both emotionally regressive, at least, and we could argue about the music. Willard Grant Conspiracy are overtly counterfashionable, plus that concert experience is exactly the sort of abstracted intimacy that was making me miss my friends so much. But I have one record left. It's the third album by Helicopter Helicopter, or fourth if you lump them in with Julie Chadwick's previous band American Measles, which I've tended to. Merging the two in my mind was a storage efficiency, but it didn't help me enjoy Helicopter Helicopter's other two records any better. On Squids and Other Fishes I attempted to pretend male co-singer Chris Zerby's songs weren't there, which made it a frustratingly short record. On Analog & Electric Fields I tried the alternate tactic of paying attention to Zerby's songs, but being annoyed by them. This did not turn out to be an improvement. What I thought I wanted was for Chris to shut up and let this be Julie's band. What I get on By Starlight is virtually the opposite, Julie sliding into a nearly-full-time supporting role and letting Chris take almost all of the leads, and it works beautifully. They finally sound like a single, focused band to me, and it's not the band I thought I was hoping for. I asked for a dizzier Pixies, and I get a sturdier Wolfie, or a ganglier Jimmy Eat World, or less-doomed Slingbacks. But I'm quickly convinced they're better at all of these than they would have been at what I wanted. Apparently the week's final obvious thing I had to be reminded of is that when you don't know where you're going, it's a waste of time arguing how to get there.
The strangeness I'm getting from By Starlight, instead of new songs that I like for the same reasons I liked old songs, for once, is an almost knee-weakening flood of déjà vu. I've never seen Helicopter Helicopter live, I haven't been listening to the radio, I don't have any of these songs on compilations, and none of them seem to be covers or remakes, yet I am firmly convinced that I have heard more than half of them before. Did I only imagine the way the censorious "And Just Once" slams into gear with the chorus first, instead of the verse? The Jimmy Eat World-ish surge of "I believe in ghosts and gods" in "Moveable"? Julie's jabbing "You were almost something" in "Trembling God"? The stuttering guitars and escape-song rapture of "By Starlight"? The Slingbacks-like stair-step riffs in "Passing Car"? The drum rumble under the last duet syllables of "We are helpless here" in the bouncy "Bottom of the Ocean"? The weary prom-night pomp of "There are tremors in the afterworld", amidst "Tremors"' lurching cacophony? Or is it just that there are so many details here I might have insisted on myself? An album-opening diatribe against drunkenness, and four different songs with space travel as a metaphor for a sense of personal purpose? Maybe all this just happens to resonate. Or maybe they stole it. Maybe these are songs I've heard a hundred times before, and I just can't place them. Maybe Helicopter Helicopter are pirates, and I've just paid them for something they stole from one of my own neglected vaults. Selling people things they already own is usually rated as one of the most cynical crimes, but if it's something I lost and wasn't going to ever remember to look for, then the difference is existential, and any time I can pay $8.99 to sidestep an existential question, I probably will.
So where am I? "If moonlight is harmless", Julie asks in "The History of Space Flight", "why are all the trees alive?" The fact that a question is pretty doesn't mean it's useful to answer. But does that make it more valuable, or less? Epiphanies are difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as picking one concrete thing to start or stop tomorrow. I'd feel better if I had something to do. I have errands to run, a softball game to play in, some broccoli I should make pasta with before it expires, some holding patterns to maintain. I've done all those things before, so they can't be what I'm missing. I could move, but I like my house. I could quit my job, but I had a good day there today. I don't drink; I guess I could start. In those Start/Stop/Continue drills, I'm always much better at Continue. I'm going to keep believing that asking new questions is at least as important as answering the ones you already have. I'm going to keep listening to new records as if they contribute more to the solution than the problem. I'm going to keep believing that I could be happier than this.
Or maybe there's the thing to change, actually. Maybe I've blundered straight into it as I hit Pause on another ordinary-looking record that somehow makes me unreasonably happy, so I can concentrate better on what I'm going to do to become happier. For a few minutes, at least, for tonight if not tomorrow, I'm going to stop asking. Maybe all these questions are drowning out some answers. I'm going to start this album again, and I'm going to stop being so sure I'm not happier already.