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“The Ice of Boston” by The Dismemberment Plan

( Check it here: http://krucoff.com/2006/01/pop-open-3rd-bottle-of-bubbly.html)

Pop open a bottle of bubbly…yeah.
Here’s to another goddamn new year.
And outside, 2 million drunk Bostonians
Are getting ready to sing “Auld Lang Sine”…out of tune.
I sit there in my easy chair, looking at the clouds, orange with celebration
And I wonder if you’re out there.
Hey! The ice of Boston is muddy
And reflects no light, in day or night
And I slip on it every time
Pop open a third bottle of bubbly
Yeah, and I take that bottle of champagne
Go into the kitchen, stand in front of the kitchen window
And I take all my clothes off, take that bottle of champagne
And I pour it on my head, feel it cascade through my hair
And across my chest, and the phone rings.
And it’s my mother.
And she says “HI HONEY HOW’S BOSTON?”
And I stand there, all alone on New Year’s Eve
Buck naked, drenched in champagne, looking at a bunch of strangers
Uh, looking at them, looking at me, looking at them, and I say:
“Oh, I’m fine Mom—how’s Washington?”
Hey! The ice of Boston is muddy
And reflects no light, in day or night
And I slip on it every time
Hey! The ice of Boston is muddy
And reflects no light, in day or night
And I slip on it every time, time, time, time, yeah…
So I guess the party line is I followed you up here.
Well, I don’t know about that.
Mainly because knowing about that would involve knowing some pathetic, ridiculous, and absolutely true things about myself that I’d rather not admit to right now.
Woke up at 3 A.M. with the radio on, that Gladys Knight and the Pips song on
About how she’d rather live in his world with him
Than live in her own world alone
And I lay there, head spinning, trying to fall asleep
And I thought to myself: “Oh, Gladys, girl, I love you but, oh—get a life!”
Hey! The ice of Boston is muddy
And reflects no light, in day or night
And I slip on it every time
Hey! The ice of Boston is muddy
And reflects no light, in day or night
And I slip on it every time

—–

I don’t know that “Ice of Boston” is the best introduction to the D-plan if you’ve never heard them before. I think my favorite song would be “Back and Forth” (an explication of which (or an effusion of glee regarding) I also owe you, followed closely by “A Life of Possibilities.” That said, “The Ice of Boston” captures something for me.

I wonder how many people have spent New Year’s alone. I talked a little bit about solitude, and I think that winter and solitude are kind of linked–snow carries with it such silence, and everyone seeks shelter indoors, so there are times when you’re all alone.

I remember, in Baltimore (whoa–just had a moment of deja vu. have i written this before?) a time when…so, I need a little back story.

In Baltimore, for the last year and a half or so, Cheryl and I lived in an apartment in Mt. Washington, a really great little neighborhood that had a little businessy district type thing with a few restaurants and a pottery place and a psychic, and then a Light Rail stop, and then a fancier little place with a Whole Foods and a wine shop and some other stuff–a garden shop. Anyway. The closest thing to us was Mt. Washington Pizza, about a 2 minute walk or a 60 second sprint. The two nice things about which were that it also served Indian food (really common in Baltimore: Pizza/Indian food place. who knows?), including kickass Chicken Tikka Masala, and B. that you could order a pizza when the Simpsons started, head over when the second commercial came on and get back before the commercials were over.

So the memory is during one of those commercial breaks, heading out, walking down the steps, walking across the street, going inside, exchanging my cash for pizza, heading back out, walking back across the street, and going inside again. It must have been mid-to-late December. There was a thin layer of snow on the grass (it never really sticks to the streets that far South), and outside it was completely silent–as silent as I have ever heard it anywhere outside. In rural areas, there is honking of geese, which carries, and falling snow and cracking limbs, but there were no cars, and the snow muffled everything so much, and it was just my footsteps. I went inside the pizza place and it was filled with an amber incandescent glow tinted blue by a television set, and it was warm and loud and bright when I opened the door, and when I went back outside, I was warmer because I was carrying a pizza, but it was still silent.

That’s not what the Ice of Boston brings to me, though, although the silence is part of it. In the winter of 2000-2001 and the winter of 2001-2002, I stayed in the apartment of my grandparents’ barn. So my grandparents bought an old farmhouse when they decided not to move to a smaller, more manageable place like sane people in their early 50s. The barn of which has an attached “apartment”–kitchenette, bathroom w/shower stall and one big room. It has brown carpeting, a treadmill perennially covered with boxes and boxes of read romance novels, a refrigerator full of food that will get used shortly after nuclear winter sets in, and a shower stall perennially full of boxes and boxes of romance novels.

Two Christmas seasons I stayed in that room, chain smoking and watching 2 am infomercials for electroshock stomach tighteners. (reread that last sentence and really try to picture it) I’m not sure if I ever actually spent New Year’s Eve by myself, but I spent a lot (a LOT) of time by myself in that room, especially considering I spent a whole summer working at Hollywood Video, closing up shop, coming home with 2 movies, watching them both til like 5 in the morning, sleeping til noon and then doing it all over again.

In the cold of winter, smoking cigarettes under the electric blue of the barn light, with the orange glow of the cherry so shockingly contrasted, that’s what this song brings back to me. These are Christmas seasons that don’t often make it into postcards, but one of them was very formative for me. I was reading DFW’s Infinite Jest, and it was then that I realized how much I strive to be challenged by cool stuff. The book requires 2 bookmarks, one for where you’re reading and one for how far you are in the copious endnotes, as well as a dictionary on the side. It’s hard fun, and it was the first hard fun I’d had in a long time. It was the sort of thing that made you think “why the hell am I spending my time locked in this room? i need to go for a walk.”* At one point, i walked five miles at 10 pm to the nearest McDonalds, got a cup of coffee and took a piss, then turned around and walked the five miles back, just to kill some time. Didn’t see a single soul along the way, although a good half dozen cars passed. That much walking makes your butt hurt the next day. The Christmas lights were pretty though.

Previous time spent in the room bordered on madness, not gonna lie. Anyway, I raise a toast to all of you spending the holidays alone. It’s a different kind of life, one I miss in an odd sort of way. That said, I couldn’t be happier. Tree this weekend!

*I should note that DFW’s articulation of the philosophy of AA (and NA, by extension) is really very well-put and he obviously did a @$#%load of research and I only wish that he’d put a little more faith in it, personally-wise.

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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days
120. A Winter Day on the Sea-Beach

ONE bright December mid-day lately I spent down on the New Jersey sea-shore, reaching it by a little more than an hour’s railroad trip over the old Camden and Atlantic. I had started betimes, fortified by nice strong coffee and a good breakfast (cook’d by the hands I love, my dear sister Lou’s—how much better it makes the victuals taste, and then assimilate, strengthen you, perhaps make the whole day comfortable afterwards.) Five or six miles at the last, our track enter’d a broad region of salt grass meadows, intersected by lagoons, and cut up everywhere by watery runs. The sedgy perfume, delightful to my nostrils, reminded me of “the mash” and south bay of my native island. I could have journey’d contentedly till night through these flat and odorous sea-prairies. From half-past 11 till 2 I was nearly all the time along the beach, or in sight of the ocean, listening to its hoarse murmur, and inhaling the bracing and welcome breezes. First, a rapid five-mile drive over the hard sand—our carriage wheels hardly made dents in it. Then after dinner (as there were nearly two hours to spare) I walk’d off in another direction, (hardly met or saw a person,) and taking possession of what appear’d to have been the reception-room of an old bathhouse range, had a broad expanse of view all to myself—quaint, refreshing, unimpeded—a dry area of sedge and Indian grass immediately before and around me—space, simple, unornamented space. Distant vessels, and the far-off, just visible trailing smoke of an inward bound steamer; more plainly, ships, brigs, schooners, in sight, most of them with every sail set to the firm and steady wind.

The attractions, fascinations there are in sea and shore! How one dwells on their simplicity, even vacuity! What is it in us, arous’d by those indirections and directions? That spread of waves and gray-white beach, salt, monotonous, senseless—such an entire absence of art, books, talk, elegance—so indescribably comforting, even this winter day—grim, yet so delicate-looking, so spiritual—striking emotional, impalpable depths, subtler than all the poems, paintings, music, I have ever read, seen, heard. (Yet let me be fair, perhaps it is because I have read those poems and heard that music.)
(from bartleby.com)

The truth is I have never been much of a beach bum, which is to say that my favorite time to visit the ocean is when there’s nobody else there. I’m not sure why that’s the case. Also, I prefer dawn and dusk at the ocean to mid-day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy chucking a frisbee as well as anyone, and have done my share of bodysurfing and sand-castle-building. I think there must be some sort of psychological imprinting that gets done early in life that goes on to govern ones relationship with nature. Certainly my time around water was with company, but mostly just immediate and some extended family.

All of which is sort of apropos of nothing. The language here is great. I love the “just visible trailing smoke of an inward bound steamer,” and the starkness of “an entire absence of art, books, talk, elegance” is a really interesting redefinition of a winter beachscape in contrast to Whitman’s daily world, and in contrast to the Dickensian winter landscape dominated by the comings and goings of people and their myriad connections and complications.

“Space, simple, unornamented space” is a really interesting thing–the late, great, DFW (who I owe a work of remembrance, one of these days) commented on space as respite in “Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All” and noted that city-folk like to get away from it all, while people who inhabit “space” pretty regularly like to come together in order to experience the spice of life. Whitman’s appreciation for the quiet beach seems to support this notion.

In my case, I think I just like solitude; it’s hard to say. I think solitude is both desirable and dangerous for me, in that it is something I find enjoyable, but which makes me progressively less interested in human interaction. Solitude with beauty attached (as opposed to ornamentation) is even more appealing.

Sorry for the lack of an entry attached to yesterday’s post. I hope you liked. I may comment on it sooner or later, but a lot of what I have to say will come up again later this season. Happy Advent!