Discreet Music | December 30, 2017

Whole Foods grocery store (Redmond, Washington)

I sat outside the Whole Foods eating lunch, reading, waiting for my car to get done at the Les Schwab next door. Donnie returned the Patti Smith book I gave him and I was halfway through. The first section is her talking about writing a piece about a figure skater and the next section is the actual story. I last read her in August, sitting outside a cabin in Montana, dreaming about going back to the Austrian Alps, which I was set to do that week but it fell through. And the work trip for the UK and Norway fell through too, but I’d gotten my fill of Europe at last.

Bob Seger came on, not someone I’d expect to trigger a poetic response in me, but he did: the clouds whitened and the birds froze in mid-flight above, and I imagined the couples who passed by with their shopping carts and kids were all part of a soundtrack designed by Bob Seger: we were young and strong, we were running against the wind…

And that sentiment in his voice struck me as real; I imagined it’s what my dad heard in his voice, too—why he imbued that on me as a kid. And I tried to go back to that person I was who last heard it, but I couldn’t. And then as I walked to the tire center to collect my car I started a poem about it, inspired by Patti Smith. Maybe it’s a new year’s wish, too.

When the Volvo died it died the death of any living thing. Though mechanical, a matter of failing signals and bad systems, problems to be solved through money and new parts, only to slow an inevitable end. And the sentiment in me died too, it fell off the way an autumn leaf snaps free from a tree. The sentiment I identified with, memories in that car of my mom who’d given it to me when they moved to Europe for good—it was just sitting in the countryside of Pennsylvania, collecting mice. The Volvo was hauled across the country by an Eastern European and when he handed the keys to me I noticed he was missing a thumb, he used the nub to press it into my palm and gave me a strange look as he did, then left. That car moved with us, was always there for us, but things like people and places need to be left behind, passed back to the ground, taken apart, reconciled.

“Discreet Music” is the name of a Brian Eno album from 1975 and also a new blog series I’m running through January, prompted by a journal-writing theme I started in Germany over the holidays. It’s inspired by the David Sedaris book I’m reading that chronicles his journal entries from the late ’70s onward.

The goal of this series is for me to continue working on ‘found insights’ and observations throughout the day that are both personal and universal, and trigger thoughts and feelings in readers. Thanks for visiting. — Bill

Categories: Memoir, prose, writing

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

12 replies

  1. Funny, I was thinking of Seger yesterday, and a moment from my youth, when we stayed out all night at a friend’s house, but not a usual friend, so none of our parents knew where we were. I was old enough to be “independent” but young enough that my parents could still freak out on me. That was the night I played caps with my ex, and we sort of got back together again, though it wouldn’t last and she would eventually come out. “Shame On the Moon” is the song in that flashback. Seger’s songs are steeped in looking back, so it’s no surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patti Smith + Eno + Bob Seger does NOT = mid-life crisis. Just life. You can remove that tag.

    I thought I was the only Eno fan for miles around. Then I remember seeing your shout-out for Before And After Science in your sidebar. I didn’t feel so all alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alright that’s fair. Goddamned “tag police.”
      Dude you ever want to riff Eno (what a pathetic sad, offer this is) stop by any time. He’s about my fave. Though likely not good company. Don’t need him for that, really.


  3. Elegy for the death of a Volvo … Strangely moving this, not for the machine itself, but for all the associations, with your Mum and your family, being a solid, dependable part of your lives until it wasn’t anymore. Lovely Bill

    Liked by 1 person

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