Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We'll welcome the stars with wine and guitars

Last night I re-watched "Be Here To Love Me," the documentary about Townes Van Zandt. What a truly devastating set of circumstances he encountered in his abbreviated life. I feel like a late comer to his music. However, when I first saw this film two years ago, I was immediately taken in by the sturdy yet transient nature of his songs. He reminded me of the delapidated houses I would see in the middle of fields in Idaho and Montana. Though they were no longer inhabitable, the basic strucure and the stark beauty remained with them long after everyone had moved on. I got the sense that he could either roar or fall over. When I heard lines like, At my window/ watching the sun go/ hoping the stars know/ it's time to shine, I understood that I found the songwriter that put in to words what I'd been striving to articulate and never could.


His relationship with alcohol and his partners resonated with me pretty deeply at the time. I first saw this film while housesitting for a freind who was away at sea for three weeks. At the time, Nick, who is now my husband, and I were seperated. This is pretty untrue, really, as we were still living together, playing in a band together, and generally tooling around together ALL the time. There had been some deep, unresolved anger that had caused the "seperation." When I drank, which was often by myself at the time, and it was often red wine, I would be hurled out of my head in to a foggy void of wine and id-driven expectations. My limitations were erased. I could too easily imagine tossing myself, as Townes did, off of a deck four stories up just to feel what it's like. Every night there was a possibility that I would feel like the line from his song, "Rake."

"My body was sharp,
the dark air clean,
and outrage my joyful companion
"

The other line that rang true was just as possible:

"The sun she would come and beat me back down
but every cruel day had its nightfall
"

The mornings are what I remember as a cautionary tale. To extinguish despair with wine makes explosions that are at once cataclysmic and boring. Noone else can feel (nor should they have to) the fucked-up drama of a well earned hang-over for you. Feeling like you have been bruised from trying to crawl out of your own skin? What was I, fifteen? I said "no thank you" to that.

The warnings everyone gets when their young about time going by so fast are absolutely true. As Issac Brock from Modest Mouse sings in "Heart Cooks Brain," The years go fast and the days go so slow.

It seems like a million years and a lot of kicked cans from who we were then. Watching the film last night helped me understand that the beauty I find in these songs or in the telling of his life don't have to be a reflection of how I'm living. I don't think his songs are sad. As Steve Turner of Mudhoney said in the DVD extras, "he's not sad, he's well rounded." Despite having beers now and again, I know I can keep shit between the lines. And, more than ever, I can relate to these lines:

?If I needed you would you come to me,
Would you come to me, and ease my pain?
If you needed me
I would come to you
I'd swim the seas for to ease your pain
"

Thanks, Townes.

1 comment:

A.M. Polydora said...

This is a beautiful post, most especially because you are open. Thanks, it resonates.

One of my favorite Steve Earle tunes is his tribute to Townes Van Zandt, "Fort Worth Blues." Just lovely in all its melancholy splendor.

you can catch it on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vq4MgDwmIs