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During a podcast interview recently, the host asked me: “Have all the songs been written, all the stories told?” Since then, I’ve been thinking about the archetypes and allegories we know all too well. Of the people who love bands that sound just like other bands and the people who’ll see every movie made about vampires. And though I try not to shame people’s joy with snobbish critique (especially because I’m occasionally “people”), so many reboots make it feel like we’re either running out of stories or (more likely) hiding in our comfort fables. Re-reading the same book because at least we know how that one ends. Because the art we know can’t disappoint us, waste our time, or re-break our hearts … just trace over old scars. In any horror movie where we’ve followed the rules … there’s even a good chance we might survive.
Today’s 2-Minute Tale
The smell of just-decaying Valentine roses is a little too close to the spot on the couch I swore I would not leave until I finished this letter. I keep thinking about getting up to move them farther away. Soon enough, I’ll mix their petals into the potting soil that nourishes the marigolds I prefer. That may seem cold, but in a few months I will find myself smiling down at summer dirt, discovering torn scarlet remnants of a buried love letter. This reminds me to like the moldering roses in their first moments of unbecoming.
I recognized the smell immediately, no “what IS that?!?” nonsense while sniffing and tracking down the mystery malefactor. This slight waft of death is no dead body - I’ve lived this story before. It’s when a detail is new and unidentifiable that is both thrilling and terrifying.
One morning last month, we noticed a black attaché case of some kind stashed under our mailbox, where only the graves of last summer’s marigolds should be. When the case was still there at the end of the day, we looked inside.
It contained a series of prescription pill bottles: heart failure medication, vitamins, some kind of injectable. The labels gave one address … a different one written on a slip of paper inside – Both at least 15 miles away. Discarded by thieves, I thought. But placed … not thrown. Why right here in the middle of suburbia? There aren’t many driving-age kids in the neighborhood. Every oddity made it creepier. I have always had a near physical aversion to random acts. There can be no triumph over a purposeless evil. No countering rogue stupidity. So, the tales that truly scare me are the ones without reason or rules. Of some comfort, at least, are the ones where you can’t win, but at least you know why.
It's as I’m calling the police that I start to embody my trespassers: You had to have chosen us for a reason. This was no drive by. You spent time here. It occurs to me to check my car.
Of course, it’s been rifled through.
Nothing’s been taken. Not the money I keep in the visor for panhandlers. Not my audio mixer in the trunk. They never opened the garage door with the opener they clearly discovered in the center console. Did they intend to steal the car via that TikTok challenge and then realize … whoops – it’s a stick shift none of the kids could drive? HA HA. I liked that version of the story.
But I’ll never find out. A cop came and replaced the attaché case with a case number and a shrug. There are entire worlds behind this event: a woman somewhere in Baltimore with her ailments, her boyfriend? son?caregiver? ICOE contact? on a slip of paper, an intruder alone or among friends out joyriding or desperate, a vast conspiracy or the most mundane collection of mishaps ... and I will never know the story. That’s frustrating. It occurs to me that, as a songwriter, I could just make one up. A more satisfying one than the truth. I hear C.S. Lewis whisper in my mind: "If this ... is the best you can make, then it's a poor world. And we ... can make a dream world to lick your real one hollow.”
I can’t imagine how terrifying life must be for people who can’t conjure the answers they never get to have.
Your mailing list gift is a symbol of love as classic as those roses: I made you a mixtape.
I love you a lot, so it’s 50 songs long - My answer to “have all the stories been sung” to get you through the rest of your Friday. If these fantastical songs full of flying trapeze artists, painting pigeons, umbrella-peddling saviors, and resurrected sailors are any indication … the sky’s the limit. Here, too, are compelling portraits of life’s most mundane, most insidious, most marginalized characters, reminding us of all the real worlds we ignore until someone invites - or forces - us to look.
This Spotify playlist - by no means exhaustive - is not complete without two appendices: Head to Youtube for Brad Yoder’s “Lite Brite” and to Bandcamp** for Dave Dersham’s “Flying Cars.”
**In fact, if you don’t recognize any artist/song on this playlist, head over to those Bandcamp pages today. It’s Bandcamp Friday all the way until 3am, and artists receive 100% of their revenue share. Now there's a story you don't hear every day.
Some other fleeting moments to consider:
SANDY SPRING,MD: Sometimes there's no other moment but a Monday, so you seize it and throw a pop-up show for an artist that should not be missed: Girl Blue.
BROOKLYN, NY: You can watch from anywhere because there is a livestream option! Grab your in-person or stream-specific tickets here:
Write me. Add me to your mailing list. Come to a show. Find out how it ends.
BACK ISSUES (full of free stuff!):
#1: New Year, Free Tune, Quick Tale
#2 The Dream, A Fairy Tale, A Love Song
#3 The Wife, The Mistress, The Music
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