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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Dylan sing, She had to sell everything she owned and froze up inside / And when finally the bottom fell out I became withdrawn.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 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 3: Tuesday is Gone

Tuesday is Gone

Douglas Thompson

 

When I was twelve, my father took me to an electronic blowout sale in an abandoned department store less than five minutes from our house. The Panasonic single component system held everything a young boy could want: turntable with precision needle technology, radio with AM and FM, equalizer, and stop-my-heart-cold two cassettes players with dual-function recording. If that wasn’t enough for this wannabe rock star, the system came with three-foot high cabinet speakers.

As an only child, I would spend hours in my room listening to music—memorizing all the lyrics to albums or songs on the radio. Top 40 was mostly my game since my parents frowned on the “rock” station. Before I came into possession of that component system, I also came under the influence of my two older cousins, who entered our lives and house as their parents’ marriage deteriorated. Our home became  a designated safe zone and the boys moved freely into and just as easily out. Their imprint, however, stayed with me, especially an introduction to Southern rock.

The younger cousin, two years older than me, became a constant companion in the summers. We listened to the radio and copied lyrics on yellow notebook paper. We imagined starting a rock band, even though neither one of us knew how to play a guitar or drums. Singers, we decided, got the most girls, so we would be singers. (more…)

Track 1: Music Saves

Music Saves

Sean McCloud

The album’s cover alone signaled that this was definitely not going to be like Rupert Holmes singing about Pina Coladas or Rod Stewart gauging how sexy I thought he was.
The album’s cover alone signaled that this was definitely not going to be like Rupert Holmes singing about Pina Coladas or Rod Stewart gauging how sexy I thought he was.

For some people, Jesus saves. For me, music saves. It always has and still does.

Coming from a shitty little poor town in rural northern Indiana, I was trapped by geography, class, and the limited mass and social media technologies of the 1970s and 1980s.

I grew up wanting to escape, but feeling confined by my surroundings and unsure of how I could ever get out (I mean, come on, a family “vacation” for my grandparents and me was a forty mile drive down state road 421/43 to the city of Lafayette to get groceries at Pay-Less and have dinner in the McDonald’s parking lot).  

In my early to mid-teens—and especially after my grandma died a few days before my fourteenth birthday—music solidified as something that I could bury myself in, get my frustrations out through, and learn from. It was something affective that made me feel things with my body and brain. The music and lyrics to my favorite songs, albums, and bands put words to things that I vaguely felt but had no language for. Music helped me imagine a life outside of my hometown. Music taught me to question assumptions.  And Gang of Four’s Entertainment!—perhaps more than any other album—initially pushed me to question things in such ways that continue to influence who I am and how I think today. (more…)

Motherhood and Creative Work

12279060_1151170324908256_2735112922242816204_nDearest Liana,

I keep looking at this quote from Miranda July on motherhood and creativity. It has made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, and I shared it too. I read this quote 10 days after reading your most recent letter, and I cried in my office while the dogs stared at me and the cat chose to ignore me.

July describes how our culture grants men the freedom to pursue their work, their careers, and their creative projects without much discussion of family obligations. “We give fathers all kinds of permission to focus on their work, to be creatively consumed,” she writes. Mothers, unsurprisingly, are not granted the same privilege. When mothers are creatively consumed, we face cultural pressures about what mothers should and should not do. (Often, these are pressures we’ve internalized and assume are the way things are.)

Creative work, like many other forms of work, comes with a host of gendered expectations, which I’m still learning to navigate.

In October, I did a series of public lectures that kept me away from home for six days. At the end of my last trip, I was riding in a cab on the way to Fargo airport and making small talk with the driver. He was telling me about the money he was saving by living in the nearby Moorhead, MN, where I just lectured. He asked if I traveled much for work, and I admitted that I didn’t. I let it slip that I had two children. He took his eyes off of the road to stare at me and asked increduously, “Who is watching your children?” I explained that their other parent had the situation under control, but he looked skeptical. I kept the conversation going until I arrived at the airport, but I was unnerved by his question. All of a sudden, I felt remarkably guilty about my trip. My kids were at home while I was off on my own. I was living my life without them. My mood soured. I was annoyed at my reaction to his question, but also his assumption that mothers were the sole caretakers of children. The mommy guilt appeared and remained with me. My trip was no longer as enjoyable as it had been. I ate Skittles for lunch in protest.

For mothers who want to pursue creative work (and any other work), July notes, “The guilt is unreal.” (more…)