Track 8: The Past Was Close Behind

The Past Was Close Behind

Joe Fruscione

 

We’d turned 30 just a few months apart, but I’d never given the album much thought until we were the same age. Blood on the Tracks found me in an eventful, moody, and transitional year, and Bob Dylan now mattered to me. A lot happened in 2005, including—most significantly—earning my doctorate in English and dealing with the end of a seven-year relationship. In mid-April, I was single again after a sudden but necessary breakup. Then, in early August, I was “Dr. Joseph Fruscione” and preparing for my first semester as a professor, who wasn’t also writing a dissertation.

That summer, a cousin sent me some burned CDs from artists I’d always meant to get into, among them Yo La Tengo, Wilco, and Dylan. Blood on the Tracks was the first Dylan album I’d listened to in full. I was hooked from the beginning. Earlier that year—not long after the breakup—my friend Meg told me to just keep on keepin’ on. Her dad had always said it to her, so she passed it along to help me. When I first heard Dylan sing, She had to sell everything she owned and froze up inside / And when finally the bottom fell out I became withdrawn. / The only thing I knew how to do / was to keep on keepin’ on / like a bird that flew, late in “Tangled Up in Blue,” I paused, remembered what Meg had said, and smiled. (more…)

Track 7: Something Good

Something Good

Monique Kluczykowski

 

These days when I listen to the radio, I mostly leave my dial on NPR—I like in-depth news, interviews with authors, some light jazz, or Chopin. But every once in awhile, I tune in to a classic rock station and almost without fail, I hear those magical beginning chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” And just like that, I am transported back to the late 1970s, back to my high school years in the southwest end of Louisville, Kentucky.

As a military kid, I’d lived all around Europe and the U.S., so my dad’s retirement in Valley Station was just another in a long series of moves. But unlike Department of Defense schools on military bases, my new school was filled with civilians who’d never known the challenges of changing schools, and/or countries, every year. It was tough to be the new kid amongst those who had been together since kindergarten, even tougher to be the slightly chubby girl with no aptitude for cheerleading or sports. (more…)

Track 6: Perfect Day

Perfect Day

Matthew Cheney

 

That moment: album — book — car ride.

How long ago now? Twenty-five years? Something like that.

It was (roughly) sometime between 1988 and 1991, which means sometime between when I was (roughly) 12 years old and 16 years old. Most likely 1989 or 1990. Most likely 14 or 15 years old.

Interstate 93 North between Boston, Massachusetts and Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Blue Toyota Tercel wagon, my mother driving.

Mass market paperback of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner tie-in edition).

Black Sony Walkman cassette player.

Soul Mining by The The. (more…)

Track 5: The Only Time Sufjan Stevens Pissed Me Off

The Only Time Sufjan Stevens Pissed Me Off and How I Learned to Enjoy My Rabbit

S. Amanda Clevinger

 

I have a 12-year-old bunny named Persey, short for Persephone, queen of the underworld and harbinger of Springtime. I have been listening to a musician for 12 years named Sufjan, which means “comes with a sword.” Persey and Sufjan have a lot in common: they’re both rabbits (Persey, literally; Sufjan, Chinese zodiac-ly); they both have black hair and long eyelashes; they’ve both spent quite a bit of time in Oregon; they’ve both been on NPR; they’re the two people who I would save during an apocalyptic event. I love them both very much, I would even go as far to say I cherish their existences. Persey and Sufjan make me happy.

As for me, let’s do some free association. What do people say about me, Amanda, “worthy of love”? A lot of people say I’m funny. About the same number of people eventually ask me if I’m depressed or bipolar. Yes, I am funny and bipolar, the winning combination that leads to morbidness, strange looks, long nights that turn into long days, many essays and/or tears, and eventually suicide. (I laughed as I typed that … in trying to be funny, I just said something true.) (more…)

Track 4: Where does America begin?

Where does America begin?

M.C. Mallet

 

“Where are you from?”

“I was born in Germany.”

“Wow. What’s it like there? Do you speak German?”

“I don’t remember it; we left when I was about two.”

 

“Where are you from?”

“Kansas.”

“They have Black people in Kansas?”

I am a Black man, a U.S. citizen by birth, though born in Europe, whose first words (according to family legend) were in German. I am the child of a Black American Southerner and  an Afro-Panamanian immigrant  and native Spanish speaker with roots in Jamaica and St. Lucia. I was reared in the Roman Catholic church, not the Black church. The first 13 years of my life were spent in motion—Germany, California, Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Panama—living on Army bases with Army families similarly transient and ethnically/culturally mixed. At the beginning of my teenage years, I fell into what we conventionally call “America.” Kansas, to be specific. The middle of the middle. Landlocked. Predominantly white. Population about 35,000. A small town in general terms, but a city in that region of the country. (more…)