Are there any positive aspects to a 90-minute commute? Usually … not. Though yesterday morning I encountered some surprise entertainment. The first part of the ride was very smooth, mostly owing to my late start. I left at around 8:20AM and reached the highway 40 minutes later. At the overpass a quick glance over the railing confirmed a traffic jam, with cars extending out to the horizon in both directions. Lovely. So I continued on, taking a known surface road over to the next entrance.
Not surprisingly, hundreds of other desperate drivers had the same idea. So what would normally be a five-minute drive took more like 20. By this time, The Velvet Underground & Nico had finished, so I picked Leonard Cohen‘s latest album Old Ideas. Right around the time Cohen was singing “He’s a lazy bastard/Living in a suit” and “Going home/To where it’s better/Than before” (fragments of a verse and chorus from “Going Home”), I look up to discover that I’m in the middle of a construction zone. There are enormous piles of dirt and rocks on either side of the road, ongoing work (I learned later) for a strip mall. When I heard that last line, I happened to be stopped right next to an old wooden single-car garage. It had been left standing even as the ground on all sides of it had been completely torn up. This is progress, I guess.
Even though I ended up listening the the rest of the album, it was those two lines that stuck with me. The combination of the words — heard in that particular listening context — generated some extreme resonance.
Later in the evening, I came across an article about the artist , who has gained some notoriety recently by installing his poetry billboards over existing advertisements. When I read “There are wooden houses on land in far-away places that don’t cost much money, And strings of lights that make paths to them gently and do not turn off the stars,” that one fragment about the lights again stuck with me. It felt like the words lifted themselves off of the page. Now here was a collision: words that evoke the sparseness of the out of doors, but surrounded by an urban environment. More extreme resonance.
When I read the Montgomery piece, it brought to mind my oft-repeated (and often scorned) admission that words in music are not particularly important to me. And even when I do pay attention to them (for whatever mysterious reason), I often hear them in fragments.
I’m not sure there’s much of a conclusion to be drawn from any of this. It was just another day.