Fugue in G Minor (“keep it like a secret”)

Spring beer festival in Germany

It was hard to understand my relationship with that CD. I remember the day I bought it in Portland my last visit to Loren before Germany. I knew the record but felt I should own it on CD, I only had the files. Having the CD, the object, carried more weight. There was a kin I felt with the artist I wanted to carry with me on our trip to Europe, to see what would happen. But I couldn’t play it in the car with my family, I knew that, there was bad language and the music was hard at times. It bothered me to know it would bother other people and they’d be dismissive about it. So I saved it for the last couple months after we’d come back from the UK and spring was coming on, in Germany.

There was the forest near the place you dump your yard waste Eberhard used to take me when we first arrived and he’d pruned and cleaned my mom’s yard and suggested I could haul the clippings and dump them there in a pile, that’s what you did, he said, like it was obvious, matter-of-fact.

We got out of the car and stood there looking at it and he had a cigarette and I thought this is nice, here’s something I could do, I didn’t have much going on. I could periodically drive to the Häckselplatz and dump yard waste and it was easy and free, something for me to be responsible for.

I played the Mark Kozelek record driving there. And I kept going back every day to the forest to walk the trails. There was the impression it was farther away than it was but walking from one side to the other to the ridge overlooking the valley you could connect to the fields we used to walk with my mom and the dog, and I thought how funny, there was a metaphor in that, it seemed farther away than it was but it was really close—the same impression I had from another walk I’d take up the Himmelsleiter (“heaven’s ladder”) through the vineyard to a lookout over the village with graffiti and people’s names written there, the year—and I’d sometimes look over the town and my mom’s house in the middle, the scale of a diorama and perfect-looking houses with people waving and smiling…so strange, to see the windows along her old framework house and picture my wife and kids in there, or my mom moving about inside busy and unseen, it all looked so small.

And then from the lookout I would disappear into the trees with my dog Ginger and rarely be seen, and not keep track of time, or only do so for academic purposes, which is to not keep track at all.

I played the same record over and over again in the car we bought in Germany and drove to Holland by way of France and by ferry to Newcastle, spinning around the UK in a series of swirls like storms corkscrewing and falling apart, all our shit in the back, a kid’s sized guitar, a crate full of books, cookware, computer tablets, CDs—more clothes than we could ever wear.

I played the record again after we got back and drove to Portland to see Loren, and decided on that trip I was done with it, it was time to give it away—so I mailed the CD to my friend Walt with a note saying why (and tried not to put too much weight on it). I think the only other person I know who likes it as much is Loren, and we shouldn’t get so attached to things. It’s not that big of a deal. The problem is you start putting more on something than you should to try and save it. It’s like putting leaves in a book, they take you back for a second but it doesn’t look as special taken out of its natural habitat like that. We should let things be things and not try to keep them for ourselves. We need to love them and let them go. I just bought it on vinyl though, and will probably play it now.


Categories: Memoir, music, travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. Do you read, study and/or practice Buddhist philosophy? Because this is it in a nutshell. Attachment breeds misery. And that goes for attachment to people, material objects or perceptions of happiness or sadness.

    On the other hand…I’ll bet that vinyl sounded mighty fine.


    • I don’t really do any of the above. But I read others who study Buddhism (The Snow Leopard now, by Peter Matthiessen) and my friend Loren’s now ex-wife did, so there’s a couple layers of that in this story here…I got way attached to that record and was trying to understand why. Total, utter, navel-gazing. Appropriate for that artist, too. And yes, the vinyl is a nice decadence. Though no gatefold, which is lame. Two records you know, and a lot of lushness in the lyrics but no gatefold goddamnit!


  2. I heard the song “Astronomy” by MK yesterday. It was kind of uplifting, so that was new.


    • I heard that once too. I went ‘off’ with him recently but then he put out yet another record, just last Friday, and listened to that with Loren over the weekend and I’m back in again. I do admire him. The record here “Universal Themes” came out in 14 I think or maybe 15, but that was a peak I think. And he’ll peak again, and it will be different.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently found out that Built to Spill is actually an Idaho-based band. Living in Idaho now, I would love to see them live. I guess the opportunity arises all of the time, but I rarely have my ears perked up until the day after a show. If you haven’t, it might be worth checking out Doug Martsch solo stuff. He does interesting things with a guitar and slide. I vaguely remember having fixated on an object like that, specifically with certain albums. I also can’t get the song “I would hurt a fly” out of my head and can’t remember if it is from that album.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Justin: yes, they are the ‘boys from Boise.’ One of my favorite bands and same for Doug, his artistry (hasn’t gotten compromised by commercial success, surprisingly). I Would Hurt a Fly is from their amazing album Perfect From Now On. Both that one and this one (Keep it Like a Secret) are perfect in my book, good anthem for sunny, spring days like this one…thanks for reading and riffing off that BTS vibe with me. Have you heard Keep it Like a Secret? Check it out, and thanks for reminder on Doug’s solo…haven’t spent much with that but yes, like the slide he did there…Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Had to go and listen to a bit of that record. Love how he makes his voice sound cracky. The arrangements are really stripped down, which is always the sign of a confident songwriter, I think.

    You’re spot on about not putting too much on things. Things are personal, and there aren’t many people who’ll get it, just like you won’t get their things. You had to be there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny, I’m not sure if you’re talking about Built to Spill here or Mark Kozelek and that’s my fault, I knew that, because I blended the two in a kind of ambiguous manner. See, we all need an editor! Knock the cute, clever shit off. Your observation could apply to either I think, though I’d probably have more fun hanging out with Doug Martsch than Mark Kozelek, I’m pretty sure about that.


  5. No gatefold? Scandalous!
    Enjoyed the snapshot and the punchline Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can imagine this post as a Mark Kozelek song. The ending would have more of a sardonic bite.


  7. i loved the ending/new beginning of this –


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