2006 Year End Thoughts
gather from the weather and deadlines, that it’s the end of the year, or at least the time when that end begins to slide into view, when some of what has happened since whenever, and the home I will be revisiting soon, starts to seep in, a full subjunctive whammy of anticipation, nerves, delight. Where I will be returning to is fully a quarter-way round the world by both longitude and latitude; it will be sunny and thunderous, messy, and too-brief. And there will be presents, despite the annual injunction against, because there’s always a few important things that are hard to come by over there, and I have the pleasure of carrying them half a world away.
This year I will be packing my bag with, amongst others, a squash racket for my father (a year since his surgery and he’s already burned through one), a book on “awareness” for my mother (who’s acutely aware as it is), a friend’s novel for my sister (but really for me), Vietnamese silk for a friend’s wedding dress (she will sew it herself in blue and gold) and Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold DVD for everyone.
Life, in the form of papers, classes, and the washing up intervenes all too often in my music-enjoyment—I can’t think of the last time I got to listen an album I loved all the way through on a decent set of speakers—but I do slightly better with DVDs, if only because there’s less temptation to multitask. And so it came to pass that watching Heart of Gold was the first time I really thought about going home, and what that would be like. Partly it was the sheer Neil-ness of Neil, whose winged eyebrows and wide hat brim casting a shadow over a glare that defies death, pain, brain aneurysms, and anything else reminds me acutely of the ragged glory of an old friend and hero. And partly it was the unabashed sentimentality of the show Demme puts on: the craggy, unshaken Young playing alongside his wife and old friends, singing about his guitar and his daughter leaving home (with one of the loveliest introductions: Young says “I used to write songs like this for girls my own age,” then glances ruefully at his wife).
After brain surgery and the rhetorical gesture of Living With War, I dare anyone to accuse Young of going soft, but Prairie Wind did sound a little too cozy and flakey even for old man Shakey. But played live, the songs ache with the burden of time, which is death in the same way sex is: moments that are gone as soon as they are grasped. Young sings about the death of his dog, the death of his father and his own mortality with the sort of no-nonsense immediacy that sends you (that is, me) running to tell the people you love exactly how much they matter lest time get there first.
Stylus’ own De Soto has remarked that the process of absorbing art refreshes us for the banalities we take for granted. Going home is banal in the most overwhelming of ways, as all the untied threads of a previous life get caught in the holes and snags of the last year. We all go home, eventually. The best we can hope of the time in between—the papers written, the dishes scrubbed, and the music embraced and interrupted—is that it makes us more ready to face the time that has passed, here and there.