Four Ages

Inspired by The Three Ages of Wonderchicken and my birthday today, a fat set of files for your perusal.

The criteria seem simple enough on the surface: songs that “put me in the mind of being” a certain age. I soon found it was more difficult, because each of the ages (18, 28, 38, and 48) were quite complex. At eighteen, it was just before some really interesting events. I wasn’t very social at eighteen. I lived in the middle of nowhere around the corner from a dairy—adjacent to a potato patch—but with an excellent view of the lights of the city after dark. The wind and dust blew solidly, day and night. There was an iron Ben Franklin fireplace on a flagstone slab. Many memorable times involved The Burning of the Midnight Lamp.

The morning is dead, but the day is too
There's nothing left here to greet me, but the velvet moon
All my loneliness I have felt today
It's a little more than enough to make a man throw himself away
And I continue to burn the midnight lamp alone
Now the smiling portrait of you is still hanging on my frowning wall
It really doesn't really doesn’t bother me too much at all
It's just the ever falling dust that makes it so hard for me to see
That forgotten earring laying on the floor
Facing so coldly towards the door
And I continue to burn the midnight lamp alone
(Loneliness is such a drag)
So here I sit to face that same old fireplace
Getting ready for those same old explosions going through my mind
And soon enough time will tell about the circus and the wishing well
And someone who will buy and sell for me
Someone who will toll my bell
And I continue to burn the same old lamp alone

The hazards of doing this sort of thing on a birthday is that all the songs seem much more “angsty” than is really necessary. Things weren’t really that sad, it’s just the criteria of “putting oneself in the mind of” after so many decades tends to accentuate the atmospheric, rather than any specific ennui. At twenty-eight, I didn’t have that fireplace anymore. It was more like watching life go by from a car, or better still, from the heights of a plane. My first marriage was a year old; the rate of change was balanced by a wandering spirit moving against the grain. I took a lot of pictures of empty things—Roy Harper’s Twelve Hours of Sunset pretty much sums it up.

Sweeping skies and breezey greens, can maybe show us what it means,
To feel the worlds, imagination.
I'll come and see you yesterday, we'll close our eyes and drift away,
Can we be real, without escaping?
Twelve hours of sunset, six thousand miles.
Illusions and movies, far away smiles.
Twelve hours of sunset, half a day in the skies,
(I'll) be with you tomorrow, as the steel crow flies
Oh how time flies
I used to think I wasn't mad, but now I know its all I had,
Can hope be lost, or only seeming.
Now that time's turned into space, there's no time to check the pace,
And no-one cares, except for dreaming, dream
Twelve hours of sunset, twilight sublime,
Be with you tomorrow, backwards in time.
Oh how time flies

By the beginning of my thirties, there was a lot of pub-crawing going on. At thirty-eight, the first (and hopefully last) divorce. Though I didn’t roam as much as I had mid-decade, I suppose you could say I wandered so far that I couldn’t find my way home. I ended up in Arkansas. The Wipers Romeo probably says it well enough.

He walks the city at night
The tall dark building's cast a ghostly shadow in his burning eyes

Oh Romeo
Roam Romeo
Romeo roam
Roam Romeo

Cruises the streets at night
Under his feet lay the remains of all the cruisers before him
When out of the alley comes these green laser eyes
Saying come closer...
(whisper)come closer
He's still alone

Oh Romeo
Roam Romeo
Romeo roam

Around the corner's there is nothing there
Juliette! wooh!

Cause there is no Juliette

At 48, I’d say I’m in a much better place. Married again, although I was so gunshy it took a very special woman to make it happen. Steve Wynn’s latest, The Deep End, pretty much covers it.


March 18, 2006 5:15 PM

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"The Wipers Romeo probably says it well enough."

Oh man, I knew and loved that song many years ago, and lost it again since (I didn't remember the artist).... thanks for the blast from the past!