Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harvest Moon

The roaches are taking over my kitchen. The little roach motel traps I recently set up in various hidden corners of my kitchen seem to be doing nothing. I lost most of my phone number contacts when I lost my phone this summer, among those contacts my landlord's phone number. I only have his PO Box still where I am to send the rent check to each month. I am trying to figure out his number somehow so I can have him come over and drunkenly (because he's been drunk every time he has ever been over to do any sort of handiwork) spray whatever poison he sprayed a year or so ago shortly after I moved in and called him about the same problem. I think writing a letter about the roaches would be a bit much, as fun as it would be to craft an illustrated and handwritten letter describing the problem.

The recent surge of the roach population is really making me feel like I live in some crack house, which apparently I actually do. The hallways are terribly lit and creepy. There is no working light on our stoop and so various neighborhood youth have taken to hanging out on my stoop, which is already fairly annoying when they give me dirty looks because I am trying to get past them with bags of heavy groceries, but which is now starting to bother me even more as the other night I saw an awkward drug deal taking place in our foyer with some nervous teenage girls buying and someone that doesn't even live here selling. There is a huge cop presence on my block most nights and I guess since our building is fairly dark, it has become the new drug dealing spot. Despite my fondness for various drugs, I am not particularly thrilled about this. But really, the only thing I care about my landlord addressing at the present moment is these roaches. Drug dealing in the hallways, okay. No lighting in the halls or stoop, I guess. But these roaches, no. Sorry, this must be addressed.

Tonight is the harvest moon. In celebration, I am listening to Neil Young's Harvest Moon. It is one of my favorite albums of all time. I have listened to it innumerable times. At any point if you asked me to name my Top 10 albums of all time, this album would always be on there. But do people still even ask that? Is that going to be a thing that people still ask in some future time as albums become less important culturally, economically, and musically, as fewer and fewer people pay for albums, instead just purchasing, downloading, or more and more so just streaming the particular songs they want to hear, creating elaborate Spotify playlists? More and more the album holds less weight as a coherent concept; we strip its parts to makes the really badass car we have always wanted to drive. We take the party songs or the slightly melancholy and good for getting stoned songs and place them in their corresponding playlists to match that particular mood, no longer going on the journey the artist mapped out for us in their narrative's structure, that there are songs to take you from one mood to the next, these transitional ones that we so often leave off our assembled playlists but which at some point we discover are in fact the real gems of the album, the person that grew on you a lot, that you hated on first impression but whom you eventually realized was really awesome. Are we still going to get lost in albums while we spend long periods of our twenties drinking red wine and writing in our diaries about boys? Surely. Hopefully. But who knows? Think about the children!

Like with most of the albums that I have really intense and personal relationships with that have been developed over many years and through countless listenings to during emotional ups, downs, and way downs, each time I hear this album, Harvest Moon, there is a new song that for whatever reasons really reaches its hooks into me at that particular time, and which I identify with and hear shades and meanings in the song that I somehow never heard through the first several hundred listens to. Tonight that song was "Dreamin' Man," which you can hear a beautiful live version of in this video during a performance for PBS in 1992 (it's the first song he plays in the long video, so don't worry).

I'm a dreaming man./
Yes, that's my problem:/
I can't tell when my
dreams won't come true.
In the meadow dusk/
I park my Aerostar/
with a loaded gun/
and sweet dreams of you.

And what a depressing line that is, that he is a dreaming man, a dreamer, because he can't tell when his dreams aren't coming true, that a dreamer is someone that still believes things he hopes for might come true. It's a perfect line the way it is sung and so much better than the album version of the line. Instead of "I can't tell when my dreams won't come true," on the album version you have:"I can't tell when I'm not being real." The first is so much more bleak, so much more visceral, so much more to the point, and as result so much more powerful. In all the live versions I have found on Youtube, he says the dreams not coming true line instead of the line that is on the album.

As with any Neil Young song though, it always comes down to his voice. There is so much honesty and exposed vulnerability in that voice, so much of that human quality you so rarely hear people admit to, that voice people have but which people so often try to hide out of some insane version of shame that we all have which prizes a sort of everyday falsehood. It would be so awesome if we could just do long melancholic blows, sighs really, into a harmonica throughout the day at all the sadness and mystery and beauty there is to this project of life that we are all temporarily involved with, that it would be such a beautiful world if we all could just admit to this softness that we all have.

And somehow I never heard the either suicidal or homocidal thoughts played with in that song's first stanza, the narrator with a loaded gun and thoughts of someone. Hear Neil Young sing it and you might barely hear it as well. What you hear him is, a person, an exposed human being, and the shock of that might be so much that you are only half-hearing what the actual lyrics are, there being so much emotion in his voice alone.

It is in "the meadow dusk" that he has these "sweet dreams" of the person he is addressing, a loved one or a formerly loved one. And I heard echoes for the first time of a line from a movie that I have always loved and which I am now thinking David O. Russell may have been referencing this song with. In his film, I Heart Huckabees, there is the line: "What happens in a meadow at dusk?" Through his characters, he is also asking by way of talking about the power of nature (the nature about to be wiped out by everything Huckabees represents) - asking what it is that happens there in that Aerostar in the meadow dusk. What is Neil Young doing in the car with a gun and sweet dreams of that someone? Is this some insane psycho murderous stalker thing about to happen or is this the misery of a person spurned perhaps metaphorically spinning a gun by himself in perhaps a metaphorical meadow at dusk thinking about what it is that life means, about what, if anything, a life lived alone means, what, if anything, it could mean?

The question is asked: "What happens in a meadow at dusk?"

Everything happens in a meadow at dusk.

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