Insomnia Pointless Narcissism Rant Think

Sometimes The Antidote Is Poison, Too.

Last night, after having had a wonderful, laid-back, toxin-free afternoon (unless you call sun a toxin, which I’m incapable of doing), I decided that rather than sitting in my house doing mostly nothing, I would go out. I did not get far–I went first to my workplace, then to a bar right around the corner from it, where my niece’s boyfriend was spinning. I had never before been into the aforementioned nearby bar, so when I ordered a Sapphire gimlet, I didn’t realize it would be served in a sheetrock bucket and cost as much as a middle-of-the-road steak. I’m talking about a martini glass so big that one could actually, if gravity had spectacular aim, pass out in it. A veritable vat of gin with not much else in it. After I gasped out loud at the price of my drink ($11) and told him I better start tripping after I finished it, the bartender allowed me to help myself to the fruit tray. I have a rather significant lime addiction, but no amount of freshly-squoze lime is gonna make a swimming pool full of gin anything less than utterly poisonous. So of course I had two. I’m not sure if was the booze that made me opt for round 2 or if I was still reasonable at that point and simply wanted an excuse to stare at the bartender’s fantastic tattoos, but at some point I made the decision that ultimately doomed me.

This morning I woke up at nine-thirty a.m., drunk. Shitfaced. Plastered. Reeling around my messy room like Hunter S. Thompson in a hotel in Vegas. I promptly embarked upon an epic Excedrin binge, after which I attempted to return to the peace-less slumber from which I’d risen, quite unsuccessfully. And no, it was not the caffeine. I keep forgetting, on the rare occasion when I veer from my normal beer routine, that hard liquor wakes me up early and still drunk. For several hours I lolled around miserably in my bed, then at about noon, I took more Excedrin, drank about a gallon of water and attempted to sleep and failed again. Sometime mid-afternoon, mother nature decided that I wasn’t in enough pain already and horse-kicked me in the abdomen. This, of course, provoked another pharmaceutical cocktail: Ibuprofen, Pepto and black coffee. None of it worked for at least two hours. Nor did the Rock Star I downed within minutes of arriving at work.

Eventually, the whole army of drugs I ingested decided to band together and complete its collective mission, and I miraculously felt human again by about six o’clock and made it through my shift without keeling over onto a pool table or ripping anybody’s face off. By about ten, I’d pieced together the scattered fragments of the end of my evening and reassured myself that–to the best of the knowledge of everyone I remember talking to–I did not make a monumentous ass of myself before stumbling back into my workplace and promptly going to sleep with my head on the bar. The most amusing discovery was that I’d answered the phone during the worst part of my inebriation and told my friend, “I can’t talk to you right now,” and hung up on her.

Now, with my bloodstream most likely clear of all of the aforementioned pharmaceuticals, I feel as though my veins are filled with liquid lead and I’m practically ecstatic, because I know with a near-absolute certainty that I will sleep–without flail–until the hideous screaming of my alarm clock wakes me, no earlier than half-past noon. And if I “poison” myself again in the next seven days, I’m damn well going to do it with plants. They’re so much more forgiving in the morning.

Blather Faraway Places Insomnia Islands Nostalgia Ocean Pointless Narcissism Rant Think Travel

A Salt Girl Without Salt Is…What, Exactly?

This morning I woke up two hours earlier than I’d intended due to the frantic yowling of my neighbor’s horny cat. The cat, as it is an inside cat and was hanging out on a second-story balcony about eight feet from my bedroom window, did not have any other place to go howl, nor did it have any likelihood of finding another feline to make passes at, so this painful-sounding onslaught went on for nearly an hour without relenting. When the cat had finished, someone in a rather large vehicle decided to back it up slowly, prolonging the reverse-alert beep into an epic form of auditory torture. Doors slammed. A jet flew by. Cars honked at each other. After a while even the flock of itty bitty birds that perpetually chirp outside my window (and who I’ve learned to mostly ignore) became menacing.

The night before last I was unable to sleep because my apartment had been converted, in the course of twelve hours, into a sauna. The air was so thick and heavy that as I lay in my bed drenched in sweat at three a.m., I kept rolling around as if by moving I could shake off the weight of it. It’s only May, and already I’m beginning to regret that I didn’t take the financial and emotional risk of returning to the Island Of Misfit Toys for the summer. To have enough trees to generate sufficient shade, to be free from the sounds and smells of city, to have the ocean–swimmable ocean–only a 15 minute walk away…

I am not a city mouse. With two short exceptions, both of which made me moderately miserable, I have never lived in a place where I couldn’t walk to the beach. Though the water in Monterey was unbearably cold, it was there, and if I’d chosen to swim in it at any given point, I wouldn’t have been arrested or poisoned (with the exception of Lover’s Point, that beautiful shit-filled idyll in Pacific Grove, which we locals all knew to avoid). If it got too hot during the day, I could just take a dip in the drink and cool off. I’ve never been able to understand how people can reconcile the germ-ridden ick of public pools enough to actually get in them–until now. Though public pools will retain indefinitely their title of “bodies of water I’m least likely to step into,” I can understand the desperation that the sweltering hell of summer in the city can bring a person to, particularly if that person is a child and countless hours of nothing to do while their parents are at work.

Since I’ve been on my summer schedule (four days of working in the city, three days off on the island), it’s as though I’ve been living two distinct and separate lives. In one, I do very little apart from working. I wake late, laze around for longer than I should, and on the very hot days, I pray for rain. In the other, I am up before noon, out in the sunshine, the fresh ocean breeze taunting my nostrils and inviting me to go for a swim (I haven’t yet, and I have no excuse). Half of my week is spent looking forward to the other half. Though the social aspects of my life have not changed at all in the city (all I did was work to begin with), I feel I’m constantly missing out on something that’s going on on the island, something that I should be part of because–and it’s taken me years to even consider saying this–I might belong there.

I have spent many years pining for faraway places–California, Europe, New Zealand–and I pine for some of them still. I never thought, however, that I’d come at some point in my life–and certainly not so soon–to pine for where I came from. But then, everything is circular, isn’t it?

Blather Faraway Places Islands Observations People Pointless Narcissism Think Travel

The Salt Girl On Perpetual Motion

I am by nature a traveler. A mover. I like to be in motion—on a bus, a train, in a car, on a boat, even on a bicycle or walking. Perhaps it was my father, who used to take me on weekend driving trips when I was little, who nurtured this tendency in me. Or perhaps it’s a function of the innate desire to escape wherever it is that I am—a discomfort with my own skin that is blind to the fact that going away from wherever I happen to be won’t take me away from me.

Whatever the reason for the urge, I feel most comfortable, most okay with myself, when I am moving. When I’m going somewhere, I have a purpose, a destination—and sometimes, as the old saying goes (and I can’t remember who said it), the journey is the destination. I have crossed this country by bus, train and car (if you count going from Texas to LA in a stuffed station wagon as crossing the country, which I sort of have to because Texas lasts forever). I have backpacked and bussed it around New Zealand and traveled through pokey little towns in Eastern Europe with ten other people in a spitting and whining hired minivan. Aside from the trip to Eastern Europe, the majority of my distance traveling has been done alone, and I prefer it that way. There is a feeling I get from traveling—even short distances, like the bus trip I’m currently taking from Boston to Woods Hole—that I just don’t want to share or have interrupted by other people.

Although I am capable of relaxing in other ways, for me there is no more pure relaxation—unfettered, unstressed, reflective—than sitting on a bus or a train and watching the scenery go by, either listening to music or simply to the engine. Sometimes I read or write; most times I just sit. Though I often stay awake, I find that when there are wheels beneath my seat, I can fall almost instantly asleep, which is not the case on stationary ground, as many of you know. It’s as though the moment I board a bus or train, I leave the anxiety of everyday life behind me on the platform, and it can’t possibly catch up with me until I’ve reached my destination.

Occasionally I’ll find myself gazing lazily out the window and thinking of the departure scenes in a number of movies, where the main character gets on a train or a bus (usually in the rain, which I also love), sits down and begins to think about what they’re going to do to change their life. They are leaving a lover or heading toward one, leaving a place which holds them down or taking a chance on a new place they’ve never had the guts to go to. They are running away, or they are going home. In film, buses and trains tend to represent beginnings or ends, fractured happiness or the pensive first steps of self-reconstruction. Often in the scenes I’ve just mentioned, the main character winds up staring out the window of the bus, crying. I’ve done this before, and on the few occasions when it’s happened, it’s been perhaps the most cathartic, simple release of emotion that I’ve experienced. Crying alone is awful, even more depressing than the catalyst for the tears has been in the first place. But crying alone when you’re in motion somehow doesn’t feel so bad; for me, it’s like a cleansing. Sometimes—and I’ve done this, too—the character will be looking out the window and a big, uncontrollable grin will spread slowly across their face–a satisfied, triumphant look–a look of confidence bordering on invincibility. Sometimes a smile can be just as cathartic as tears.

I do not drive. I’ve never driven, really, so I don’t know whether I could achieve the same sort of peace behind the wheel, or if part of the magic is the ability to let go and not think about the logistics, to let someone else drive. I imagine that it would be both better and worse—better for the freedom to veer from the chosen route, to speed up or slow down or stop at will; worse because driving is often stressful and requires undivided attention, which leaves much less time for rumination and renegade bouts of tears.

Also, I despise traveling by airplane. I am not afraid of flying—though I was for a time—I just do not like the entire process. From the check-in charade to the fluorescently lit waiting areas to the well-dressed, time-neurotic yuppies that pepper every airport from here to Timbuktu, air travel is just plain uncomfortable, even before you get on the plane. There are just too many people, and they’re all in too much of a goddamn hurry. Smashed between dodgy-smelling strangers on a vehicle that [I believe, contrary to most people’s opinions,] doesn’t make nearly enough noise, it’s quite impossible to attain my little narcissistic nirvana. Simply put, on an airplane I just can’t convince myself that the rest of humanity doesn’t exist because it’s so close to me that I can feel its collective anxiety pressing in on me and it’s crushing.

I am one of a rare breed of people who actually enjoy traveling by bus. I have even managed to enjoy parts of a bus trip from Phoenix to Dallas on a Greyhound bus whose air conditioner was a bit shy of fully functional. And I love train travel. If I had my way, I’d go everywhere by train. I love the backward lurch just before the train starts moving forward, I love the clickety-clack, I love the melancholy announcing whistle. When the train’s going fast enough, it rocks side to side like a boat, and I love that, too.

Somehow, when I’m in motion, on wheels that are controlled by someone other than me, I feel for a moment or an hour as though when I get off at my destination, I will emerge as an ideal: the wild girl with wild hair, big heavy boots and a guitar or a knapsack slung over her shoulder, ready to take whatever the world might want to dish out. And for a few minutes after my feet touch the ground, I walk like that girl—independent and unencumbered—and people notice. I notice. Which is, perhaps, why I keep repeating the process.

Blather Observations Pointless Narcissism

Of Rain Worship And Epic Broken-ness

Picture this: A young woman clad in a black sweatshirt and motorcycle boots walks aimlessly along a busy Boston street in a meekly spitting rainstorm, listening to heavy metal on unseen headphones and occasionally letting go the odd impulsive air guitar riff. Unlike the other people walking on the street, this girl has her face turned upward, toward the rain, letting the drops roll down her face. She is euphorically umbrella-less.

Congratulations: You have just imagined the highlight of my evening.

The thing is, I love rain. Love, love, love. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve loved the feeling of rain on my face, the sound of the drops pounding the pavement and windowsills, the presence of an excuse to curl up in an age-old comforter and read a book or watch a movie of no cinematic merit whatsoever. I have often left my house in the middle of the night to find the perfect vantage point to watch a thunderstorm–thankfully for me, the perfect vantage point this afternoon was my front porch.

Unfortunately, the euphoria of the rain has been tempered by the fact that my body is currently an un-symphonic orchestra of “Ow.” Due to an innate clumsiness that rivals that of every idiot sidekick in every bad comedy you’ve ever seen, the weather I love loves me back with a less than gentle touch. You see, I have been a rather frequent victim of barometric old-lady ache since the age of fifteen, when I tripped over my nephew’s trailing ice skate and flew (picture a sack of mortar flying), landing directly on my knees, which promptly swelled to the size of grapefruits and turned a rather morose shade of eggplant. In addition, I just spent a night attempting to sleep on the most brick-like motel bed in existence (I failed) and upon returning home from my rain-soaked walk, I bent to put a 12-pack of soda down beside the refrigerator and when I got up, I managed to smash my right temple directly into the pointy part of the freezer door handle.

Now, picture this: A young woman, barefoot and wearing a black sweatshirt, is slumped in a painful-looking puddle in a papasan chair, watching a movie of no cinematic merit whatsoever.

The second highlight of my day. And now for the ibuprofen binge that will keep me human.

Blather Faraway Places Insomnia Music People Rant Travel

Can I Come Take A Nap At YOUR House?

My father and I have just returned from a two-day ill-fated trip to Maine, which was supposed to be a three-day lazy poke-around-in-the-nooks sort of trip. Of course, as Murphy’s Law dictates, it started raining shortly after we left Boston, and continued to get worse as we drove–which meant that my father got depressed and turned around, and I am back in Boston with one more day off left. When I first got here, I was elated–we drove into the city and were greeted by the ominous black cloud that precedes a thunder storm, my favorite sort of weather. Though I was disappointed that my father did not have a good time, as the trip was his idea and he’s been looking forward to it for weeks, I was relieved to still have some time before the beginning of my work week, the weather was ideal, I’d just scored a new leather jacket (for an unbelievable $75), and it was mid-afternoon, leaving me with plenty of time to take a much-needed nap before heading off to a movie or some other rainy-evening endeavor.

The thing is, my father is a morning person. A five o’clock in the morning person. Which means that yesterday morning, after having gone to sleep at two a.m., I was awake at six and sitting in a car, listening to my dad talk. I think I might have talked back, but I couldn’t tell you what I said because I had the approximate mental acuity of a grapefruit. My father is also a principled traveler: when traveling with him, one must not read, listen to a portable music device, sleep, talk on the cell phone, or any other such activity that does not involve either talking to him, listening to him talk, or looking out the window. By the time we reached Camden, Maine, late yesterday afternoon, I was a pretty useless human being–so useless that when we dove into our motel room beds for a much-needed nap, I couldn’t sleep. Nor could I sleep last night when I went to bed at midnight and lay awake until about two a.m. listening to my father snore. Six a.m. came around and he was awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and pissed off that the weather was still bleak. I woke, showered, attempted to smear a smile across my drooping face and climbed back in the car. And listened to him talk. For another seven hours. But, as I mentioned earlier, when I got home, the sky was a brilliant and joyful shade of black, and the rain was coming down hard enough to lull me into a peaceful and prolonged sleep. I didn’t have to smear the smile, it was there.

Five minutes later, my roommate (I think I’m going to start calling him “Murphy”) came home. My roommate who likes to mix arbitrary harsh synthesizer sounds, seemingly endlessly, and seemingly only when I am in desperate need of sleep. My roommate who, when approached and asked politely if he can turn down his [what can only be called noise–and I have a liberal definition of the word “music”] responds that he should be able to play whatever he wants during “normal” hours, and I am the rude one for expecting him to turn it down, as it’s “weird” to want to sleep in the late afternoon. My roommate who I’m convinced has lost part of his hearing, which is the only possible way to account for the deafening and bone-rattling volume at which he plays sounds which create visceral reactions, even at low volumes, in most people.

So here I sit, in my room, afraid to begin an argument which I know I will lose, listening to distorted amp-buzz and eighties wee-oo sound effects, with NO RHYTHM WHATSOEVER, at a volume which can likely be heard in New Hampshire. A friend who I talked to on the phone during this onslaught informed me, unsurprisingly, that this particular form of audio assault is one way that torturers extort information out of prisoners–by playing music or sounds at extremely high volume, with no predictable rhythm or regularity, until they crack….

I stole a pack of gum when I was five. I stole hundreds of dollars worth of things from stores on Martha’s Vineyard between the ages of 12 and 15. I once changed a fifty dollar bill and the cashier gave me a hundred back and I said nothing. I pay my phone bill a week after it’s due EVERY MONTH. I’ve been the other woman, though I didn’t know it at the time. Last semester I sort-of cheated and handed in a paper I’d written for another school two years ago, and collected another A without doing a minute’s work. I run red lights on my bicycle every day, and I curse at drivers when I’m probably the one in the wrong. If you want to know my friends’ and family’s sins, I’ll tell you them too, just MAKE IT FUCKING STOP.

If anyone happens to drive by my house and find an extremely expensive keyboard smashed to shards on the sidewalk, rest assured that I am sleeping, in comparative comfort, on a concrete bench in the closest jail. Do not bail me out until I’ve been in for at least twelve hours–I need the sleep.


Staring Into The Fish Tank, Wanting To Be A Fish

Today is, as everyone knows, Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is–sort of like Christmas but not as severe–one of those holidays which make me feel like I’m not playing the same game as everyone else. My mother died when I was twelve, and for a long time after, Mother’s Day was a terribly sad day for me. I’d go to the ocean and throw handpicked flowers into it in her memory, as we’d done to commemorate lost soldiers on Memorial Day when I was in elementary school. My mother’s ashes were scattered in Provincetown Harbor just under a year after her death, so this sort of tribute seemed appropriate. She was technically in the ocean–somewhere–and I was giving her flowers. Gradually, however, I stopped doing the flower thing. For a few years, I shopped for Mother’s Day cards and sent them or gave them to all of the women who’d mothered me in the course of my youth–my sister, my mother’s friend Tammy, my high school best friend’s mother, etc. In the past few years, however, I’ve done nothing. I’ve made a few phone calls to the closest of my “mothers,” and I’ve immersed myself in waiting on other people and their mothers at work (I’m a waitress). This morning I woke up around noon, after having been up late reading, and I called a friend who I’d planned brunch with. It dawned on me that it was Mother’s Day, and that we’d have a difficult time getting a table nearly anywhere. She didn’t call back for a while and I had time to stew on the day, the feelings–the absence of feelings. I called my sister and left a message that I loved her, and I hoped that one of her children was taking her to brunch and that’s why she wasn’t answering her phone. I should be taking my mother to brunch, I thought, but I’m not. My mother’s been gone so long that the last Mother’s Day I saw her she probably paid for her own present. For a while, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what emotion it was that had me sitting slack-faced on my front stoop, not fidgeting, not smoking, just sitting. Then I realized, finally, that it was uselessness. I felt useless. What is a motherless daughter to do on Mother’s Day? I can send cards to other people’s mothers, and I can thank the women who brought me up when my own mother wasn’t there to do it, but it’s not the same. I could take all of my “mothers” to brunch at once—all eleventy-six of them–and still I would sit in the restaurant, surrounded by women who loved me, feeling entirely and completely empty, staring with envy at all of the daughters dining with their actual mothers.

It’s not even sadness anymore, most of the time. It’s just this feeling–this numbness that leaves my face almost completely expressionless a few days a year. It is what it is, I guess, and that’s all that it will ever be.

Blather Islands Ocean Pointless Narcissism Travel

Wandering Barefoot Toward Nirvana

Grades closed this morning, which means that my semester is officially over. In addition, I have the weekend off. I have worked in the restaurant and retail industries since I was fourteen, which means that aside from pre-scheduled vacations, unfortunate bouts of unemployment and grave illness, I have not had a weekend off since probably sometime in 1994. With my free weekend, I intend to go to the Island Of Misfit Toys and spend some long overdue time with friends who’ve probably begun to forget that I exist. In addition, I intend to achieve nirvana by Monday.

The way I see it, this endeavor will require me to do the following:

1. Buy A Book.
I just finished a semester in which I had two literature classes and two writing classes, the reading loads of which required a remarkable amount of ocular tenacity and a fair amount of sacrificed sleep. What this means is that I have not read anything (I mean, truly, nothing) that was not assigned since September of 2006. That’s nearly eight months without voluntary reading. I have been looking forward to this day–the day I’m allowed to buy a book that no one told me to read–since about a week after the Fall semester began, more than half a year ago. In my quest for a book, I intend to simply meander around the book store, preferably one which allows beverages so that I can meander with coffee, and look at everything I feel like looking at until something hollers, “Buy Me!” If I find two, I will buy both. If I find six, I will buy them all. I will not rush myself, or give myself a budget, or feel guilty for buying something that one might not actually be able to count as “literature.” If it’s Michael Crichton I want, it’s Michael Crichton I’ll get (not that there’s even a remote likelihood of this).

2. Get A Sunburn.
In the past few weeks, as the weather has been getting gradually more and more fantastic, I have practically become a shut-in. As I do my best work in the middle of the night, I have been up until five or six a.m. almost every night for nearly a month. As I also need a pretty tremendous amount of sleep in order to function properly, and have great difficulty actually getting to sleep, I have wasted a great number of sunny days away in the grey cave of my room, restoring myself to a passable level of lucidity. It is almost summer (though my gut tells me we will probably get walloped with another Northeaster before the end of May), and I intend to celebrate by turning my pasty (redefining white) skin the color of ruby-red grapefruit juice. I will then go into my sister’s garden or living room and find the biggest, juiciest aloe plant she’s got, maim it severely, and slop the goo all over my toasted self until I feel better.

3. Wear A Skirt.
When I think of the word “leisure,” which is normally used in reference to other people, what comes primarily to mind is comfortable, flowy clothing. Light, soft garments which lift and switch with the wind, swirl around your arms or feet when you walk. I am in possession of a rather sizeable collection of hippie skirts, that I wear almost never, which just so happen to epitomize the term “comfortable, flowy clothing.” I’m going to bring them with me to the island, and I’m going to wear them, in true beach-bum style, with hoodies–because there is nothing I can think of that’s more comfortable than a hippie skirt with a hoodie.

4. Go Barefoot.
I hate shoes. I love boots, but I hate shoes. I love (love, love, love) walking around barefoot, particularly if I happen to be wearing one of the aforementioned gauzy hippie skirts. It makes me feel like I am allowed to relax, to do nothing, to sit in a hammock in someone else’s yard (I have neither a yard nor a hammock) and read a book about nothing in particular. As I currently live in a city with icky, dirty streets, and work in a business that requires full-coverage footwear and an inordinate amount of standing on concrete in said full-coverage footwear, the only times I’ve been barefoot since Labor Day have been in my bedroom. I can’t wait.

5. Have A Cocktail.
I do not intend to get uproariously or pointlessly drunk–I have done that enough during the semester that it need not be repeated for as long as possible. However, I am looking forward to sitting on stool by the harbor–preferably while the sun is shining and I am wearing a hippie skirt and no shoes, carrying with me only a freshly-purchased book of no literary merit whatsoever–and having a (1, one) colorful cocktail, mixed and delivered by someone else who is getting paid $2.67 per hour to stand on their feet all day, delivering food and beverages of dubious quality to complete asshole strangers. After I have consumed said fruity beverage, I intend to give the monumentously underpaid liaison of liquid a tip so large it will make them gasp, slip on my flip-flops, and wander aimlessly down the harbor, perhaps down to the beach to slip my un-shod feet into the too-cold ocean just once–a baptism of sorts, in the only water I consider to be holy.

Music Nostalgia People

Saving “Grace”

This evening while having a post-movie beer with a friend, we started to (shocker) talk about music. My friend had told me earlier at dinner that she had “ruined” the CD I had given her last week, Jeff Buckley’s Grace. When she said ruined, I thought she meant that she had scratched it, or run it over, or set it on fire, a problem which could be quickly fixed with a new burned copy, or two–one for backup. She explained however, that she had listened to the album during intimate moments with a recent ex, post-breakup, who she’s not quite over yet. “My roommate put it on and I couldn’t listen to it,” she said. Later, after the movie, while we were standing around at the bar I work at listening to a barrage of ridiculous music that a coworker was foisting upon us, I was reminded of the tragedy of my friend’s loss–not the boyfriend, Grace. It is, without a doubt, the one album I would choose if I had to listen to one thing for the rest of my life, on a desert island, what have you. Forget Bob, and Jimi, and Tori, and Kurt, and Jim, and all of my other Love-em-forevers, and give me Grace. The man may have drowned in the Mississippi under mysterious circumstances in the heart of his prime, but he never made a bad studio album, because he only made one, and it was–is–brilliant.

About five years ago, shortly after meeting my friend Bryant, he and I took a music-oriented drive down the Coast Highway from Monterey to Big Sur, California. I had brought a crate full of my CDs and he’d brought a case full of his. It was my turn to play something and I’d put a CD in the player, but Bryant interrupted my song (I don’t remember what it was) before the intro had even finished and shoved another CD in. “You have to listen to this,” he said, and cranked the volume. The song was “Last Goodbye,” the third song on Grace. It was love at first listen. We blasted the entire album from the beginning of Big Sur to the end and back again, and the next day (this was before every computer had a burner in it) I went out and bought it, listening to it relentlessly for weeks afterward. To this day, I probably listen to the album at least three times a week, sometimes three times in one day. It never leaves my CD player. Ever. I have a 3-disc changer, but one of the trays is permanently reserved for Grace.

When I am restless and cannot sleep, I listen to Buckley’s masterful version of Hallelujah (he owns that song, regardless of the reverence I have for Leonard Cohen, who wrote it–it starts with that heart-grabbing accidental sigh, and just gets better). When I am distraught over a man, or stewing in inappropriate nostalgia, I listen to “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.” When I feel like breaking things, I listen to “Eternal Life.” When I’m feeling listless and depressed, which is often, I listen to the whole damn thing, and it’s so fucking beautiful I find myself surprised anew nearly every time, half of me wanting desperately to resurrect him so he could make more music, the other half relieved that he will never disappoint me.

“You have to un-ruin Grace,” I said to my friend.

“I have to stop associating music with people,” she said, “in general.”

I know what she meant, because I do it too–but though the sound of a certain song may bring me to the verge of tears because of a memory it evokes, as many do, I listen to it anyway. It may be painful, as Grace often is, but it’s worth it. Some songs are worth it only for the memories they recall, such as, for me, The Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.” The first time I went to my ex-boyfriend’s home town with him–for Thanksgiving, shortly after we’d gotten together–he sang the entirety of this obnoxious song to me during a moonlit walk to the loca Circle-K store for cigarettes. The song is annoying, ridiculous, nonsensical and obnoxiously catchy. But it’s his, and it’s mine, therefore I love it, and when I hear it, seven years later, I smile. Every time. Even though that relationship was short-lived and kind of tragic, and the aftermath of it is still not over. Even though I bought the album and couldn’t bear to listen to the rest of it. They Might Be Giants’ “Birdhouse In Your Soul” is another one. He used to sing it to me on car rides, looking at me across the back seat of our friend’s shitbox car with a look that said, Can I keep you? I am gutted every time I hear it, but I cannot not listen to it. It’s all the more special because it hurts.

Music for me has long been about association. There are dozens of songs which I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard them, or the first time I got sick of hearing them. The first time I heard The Verve Pipe’s “The Freshmen,” I was in the passenger seat of my then-friend Lauren’s car, driving over the drawbridge that separates Vineyard Haven from Oak Bluffs. Five minutes later, her engine flooded and we found ourselves coasting to a slow stop in a parking lot, while her Chrysler LeBaron’s internal computer told us out loud, “all monitored systems are malfunctioning.” The music of Sublime was ruined for me by my high school best friend, Chris, who was obsessed for a time with the song, “Caress Me Down,” particularly the line, I didn’t know she had the G.I. Joe/Kung-Fu grip. I must have heard that song twenty times a day for half a year, and it didn’t get any less obnoxious the more stoned we got. Now, however, “Caress Me Down” is the only Sublime song I can stand to listen to–because of the memory of those carefree days of driving around aimlessly, listening to one of a dozen translucent grey recorded-from-someone-else’s-CD cassette tapes that were kicking around his car, smoking ourselves absolutely stupid.

The girl in me, the romantic in me, the heartbreak survivor in me, understands my friend’s reservations about Grace, and her reasons for considering it “ruined.” The music lover in me, however, hopes beyond hope that she can eventually either loose the associations from around the neck of the album and listen through them, feel them and accept that they are painful–that the music is at times almost eviscerating (if it’s that good, and Grace is), but that it is worth it.

To prove it, I’m listening to Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman,” the song I’ve cried to every time I’ve broken up with anyone, and I’m gonna follow it up with Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven,” which I played until the tape became garbled and warbly after my mother died when I was twelve. After that, I might even dig up U2’s “All I Want Is You,” the song I’ve always wanted a man to play for me but no one ever has. After all, the music is simply the music, and it’s never been the music that’s betrayed me, or hurt me, or gone insane, or forgotten me, or died. The music is just the music. Period. And if it’s good, it’s good.