The following is a reboot of a post from 2012 with a surprise new ending. I have this super vivid and fairly recent memory of writing the original post in a moment of nostalgia at the old Octane Coffee shop in my neighborhood and was shocked to discover that I’d written it just over 7 years ago. My love for this song has certainly not diminished over time.
I’m decades out of high school now, but I still face each Labor Day weekend with grief for the passing summer. Being a grown woman with zero ties to the government’s schedule hasn’t much dimmed my sad memories of August’s end of freedom and September’s beginning of misery. – Now schools torture kids by making them start in August or even July. What happened to summer?!?
Of the 6 Labor Day Mondays that preceded the soul-rape that was grades 7-12, I have the clearest memory of the Labor Day before 8th grade. I was lying on my bed, listening to the radio as teens were wont to do, when the vaguely familiar strains of a haunting chord progression wafted out of my Radio Shack am/fm clock radio with the flipping “digital” numbers.
The song was Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues .
I’d heard it before once or twice and liked it well enough, but in the fleeting 8 measures of those minor intro chords I was filled with a sense of peace and clarity that somehow, I’d survive it all. Life would still be the hell I was expecting until I graduated from Dead Poets Society High for Girls, but, despite the bullying and the frequent lack of meaningful learning, I had a deep belief that I would somehow be ok.
I’m sure there is some complex Zen, Indian, or Tibetan name for the state of oneness (noneness, somethingness, nothingness, whateverness) I felt in hearing that music, but defining it into a single word would take away from the mystery that is an essential part of the feeling. I still get the same sensation when I hear it. Along with Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 , Deacon Blues would be on the soundtrack of my life.
I once spent a long car ride with my Walkman (as in cassette), writing down the lyrics for a friend as I bumped my way through the tangle of back roads in the Nile Delta. “This is the night of the expanding man. That shape is my shade there where I used to stand…” kept me company after visiting an archaeological dig near Tanis and all the way back to the Cairo Intercontinental Hotel where I’d met my driver. I would write a line then stare out the window at the marshy green and ponder how surreal my life was. I was 26. The scenery has changed. The surreality of my life has not.
They got a name for the winners in the world.
I want a name when I lose.
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide.
Call me Deacon Blues…
Growing up in a musical household deeply shaped who I am. I hear music all the time. If it’s not playing live or through speakers, I hear it in my head. Even when I wake up in the dead of night, which is all too often, there is a song that plays through my mind. What it is can tell me as much about where my head is at as my dreams can. Life is full of “ear worms.”
This year as the twinge of sadness at the beginning of September struck, the feeling was mired in confusion. Though it is October, the temperatures here in Atlanta have stayed in the 90’s during the day and the 80’s at night, as our stubborn ignorant behavior keeps the climate changing for the worse. The leaves are as green as ever, and fall shows no sign of appearing though the days are getting noticeably shorter. Shorter days do not mean shorter work days, however, and my time in the studio never lessens. My projects seem to take on projects, which spawn more projects.
My latest is appropriately music based. One of my Giving Voice collaborators , jazz pianist Roddy Noll and I are releasing the soundtrack of the award winning ebook edition. It will be available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon music, and more. The soundtrack includes all the jazz piano compositions by Roddy for Giving Voice’s animations, plus my narration and Roddy’s music for the whole calligraphic chapter of “The Music of Kindness.” It’s jazz meets spoken word meets art.