Week 306 // Scenery

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Oh power lines
Reach into the land and drink of it
Reach into our hearts
Just think of all the power you’d find in there

Oh Sisyphus
Let it roll back down the mountain
Let yourself be light
And find the scenery you’ve been missing out on

Pace around the house
Pace around the house
And ponder what could be done

Oh radio
Fingers in the air we’re breathing in
Fingers everywhere
Just think of all the thoughts you have seeded in us

Oh animals
Growing in a carved up wilderness
Growing up to chase mankind
From the grove of the deepest regret he should feel

Pace around the house
Pace around the house
And ponder what could be done

Notes
Here is an embarrassing disclosure: this week’s song was completely done on Sunday because I knew how distracted I would get by the presidential debate, and I completely forgot about it until my wife reminded me at 11pm on Monday that I hadn’t posted it yet. This presidential race is a steamroller running down everything I care about. I’ll be damned if it ruins my nearly six year streak of posting a song every Monday, so thanks to Rebecca for safeguarding that interest.

What’s this song about? I’m going to give you kind of a shrug. It gestures toward bigger concerns and smaller concerns. Mostly it juxtaposes macro problems against micro worries. In doing so it asks in passing what man’s place in nature might be, and also asks man if he even understands that he has a place in nature. It covers a lot of ground for a two minute song that I literally almost forgot I wrote. All that said, when I sat down with it after such a stressful nationally televised shit-show, I felt comparatively at ease. There’s something to it.

~M.E.

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Week 305 // Words to Offer the Silence

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I’ve only got so many words
To offer the silence
It used to be I’d summon the sound

And on the way home
I was orchestrating the masses
Like parting seas I spun them around
And I walked right through them

And ride away
And come home
Ride away
Come home
Ride away
Come home

And once I pass
Through yonder gate
And flash recognition
I feel the whole world melt away

And on my way up
I was scattering bricks from their mortar
Just put them back up yesterday
But I bust right through them

And ride away
And come home
Ride away
Come home
Ride away
Come home

Notes
This is a sleepy, pretty little number that I dreamed up while snoozing on the subway. It is about the no-space/no-time we occupy in transit. Unlike most songs that I write about routine, I’m not trying to be overly critical here. More than offering a critique of the mundanity of modernity, I’m just trying to notice and acknowledge the back and forth, back and forth, back and forth rhythm that is inevitable in most people’s lives. It’s as easy to view it as a respite as it is to consider it a trap. It’s a time of anticipation, and a time of reflection. It is about where you were and where you’ll be, both in an immediate micro sense, and a reflective macro sense. It’s the part of your day that you are most likely to erase from your memory, which lends it a sort of dreamlike impermanence. I’m trying to hold onto it long enough to consider it, because when I get home I will probably forget it all.

~M.E.

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Week 304 // The Seed

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The secret of the forest:
A moment lasts a while
And if you reach the end of it
You’ll never know

And memory and time
Are silent thoughts
And they take a while
And the quiet part of me
Wants to hang around

The secret of all humans:
A heartbeat lasts a while
And if you reach another one
You’ve earned it

And empathy and love
Are giant thoughts
And they take a while
And the seed is pushing up
Into the light

Notes
I spent much of the weekend exploring giant sequoia groves with my family. Giant sequoias are the largest living organisms on Earth. Some have been alive for thousands of years. Their scale, by comparison to more common trees, is difficult to comprehend or convey. I took many photographs, but nothing true about these trees can be communicated by a picture. The image accompanying this post is the view from inside the naturally hollowed-out log of a specimen large enough that I could stand fully upright within its tunnel. We saw trees that had footprints 25 feet in diameter. Giant, it turns out, can be a modest term when applied to something large enough.

The power of the groves we visited surpasses that of the most spectacular cathedrals. Nature’s spirit is older than that summoned by human beings. We know nothing standing next to these silent behemoths which defy not only our notions of scale, but of time and memory as well. When european descendants came upon these trees, they cut up a lot of them as amusements and curiosities. Fortunately, later generations were inspired by the likes of John Muir to cultivate a more reverent awe toward the sequoias. Like a giant sequoia taking root and reaching for the light, empathy toward living things apparently takes a very long time to grow within us humans.

~M.E.

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Week 303 // Just Wait

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Turn up the radio
Listen to what it says
Think about the radio waves
Call in and have your say
Call them up and have your say

And I’ll grow up to be
This thing or that thing
And suddenly everything will make sense
Just wait

Waiting on the platform
Watching all the folks below
Carrying all their burdens
Burdens, just let them go
Oh lord just let it go

And I’ll grow up to be
Like you or like me
And suddenly everything will make sense
Just wait

Notes
I started a new job last week. It’s a good kind of grownup professional person’s job, for an adult with aspirations of building a serious type of life. I’m flirting with the edges of impostor syndrome, just as I did when I was a graduate student. Impostor syndrome is a suspicion that you don’t deserve the station you occupy, and that somebody must have made a mistake to put you there. It is a lingering fear that you might be exposed as a fraud at any moment. I’m not feeling it nearly as acutely as I did at NYU, particularly because I was ultimately so successful at keeping the university fooled for my entire run there. This kind of deception seems to be one of my talents.

The truth is that I’m not really a grownup type person. I don’t really think anybody is, because the kid inside of us will always regard our advancing station and accomplishments with bewilderment. If you asked me as a kid “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would not have told you “I want to be a communications associate at a non-profit specializing in leadership development programs for international graduate students”. That’s a silly answer to such a serious question. The answers “rock star” and “comic book illustrator” still make more sense to me. Nonetheless, I’m really happy to be a communications associate, and the world is falling into deeper focus for me now that I am one. I guess what I’m trying to say is that growing up is pretty funny.

~M.E.

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Week 302 // Pilgrim

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Night
The forest is a great dark hand
The city is a smudge of light
Tossed in your eye
A photograph

Once
A pilgrim on a great dark road
A searcher in a vast old land
Dwarfed by the map

And I confess to nothing yet
And my feet are worn dog tired
Hold the door for me

Notes
I have made a lot of allusions to this fact, but I have never quite overtly admitted on this blog that in order to subsidize my recently concluded job search, I walked dogs in New York for nearly a year after completing my Master’s degree. It was a bit embarrassing, so maybe this is the confession that I gesture toward in this little tune about walking. I’m not ashamed of it anymore. Actually, I’m proud. I wish I had kept a comprehensive record of the distance I covered by foot over land this year. I’m sure it was far, although I’m doubtful that I could have reached the holy land, had I gone in a straight line. A certain tragedy dawns on me when I ponder a pilgrim walking circles around Manhattan and Brooklyn with no specific destination, yet still clinging to his longing for arrival. Lucky for me, this pilgrim has walked far enough.

~M.E.

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Week 301 // A Lighter Way to Feel

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The way ahead is clear
The way ahead is clear
The way ahead is clear
For the first time in a little while

And oh what a lighter way to feel…

The wind is changing fast
The wind is changing fast
The wind is changing
And I’m feeling it at my back

Oh what a lighter way to feel…
Oh what a lighter way to feel…

The autumn’s come at last
The autumn’s come for me
The autumn’s come this year for me
A little bit early

And oh what a lighter way to feel…
Ohhh
Ohhh
Oh what a lighter way to feel…

Notes
After a while, I think this project became a fairly good resume item. It impressed admissions at NYU a few years ago, and so I got my master’s degree here in the big city. I’m sure there were other factors involved in that admissions decision, but it certainly represents an experience that makes me sort of different from other people on paper. And so it went that on the week of my 300th Mount Everest entry, I was finally given an honest to goodness grownup job offer. That cosmic alignment felt absolutely right to me, although I confess that I would have gladly accepted it on my 200th or 100th week instead. Nonetheless, I am grateful. More than anything I am relieved. The search has been long, and I grew weary of it long, long ago. This song is a simple sigh of relief.

~M.E.

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Week 300 // Throwing a Millennial Fit

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In a cab with an open window
‘Cause I can’t take the heat
White light on an empty highway
And it’s pulling at me

Hot fire on the broadcast lately
And I’m turning it up
Oh the view from a burning building
As I’m filling my cup

And I can’t seem to get anywhere
And I lost my ambition again
And I don’t like this city no more

Hundred years just to knock it over
And we watch it go down
Feel the rain, all the angels crying
As it crashes to the ground
And it almost moves me

And I can’t seem to get anywhere
And I lost my ambition again
And I don’t like this city no more

And spitting my curse in the wind
And I’m throwing a millennial fit
And this city don’t like me no more

Notes
Now there are 300 Mount Everest songs! That feels like a lot of songs, and I’m happy that I decided to write them all. I’m also very happy to have had a lot of help from some truly wonderful artists and friends along the way. Thanks to family, thanks to friends, thanks to wife, and thanks to life. Thanks most of all to anyone who listened to any of these songs. You’re all great, and I like you.

With the heat punishing all us God-forsaken city dwellers this week, it was hard to write something cheerful, but at least I wrote something with a beat! Listen to this song loud if you can. When you listen to this song, imagine that you’re lying on hot pavement staring at the sun. Your skin is making a sizzling sound that reminds you of bacon. You’re not allowed to look for shade, and you’re certainly not allowed to complain, because nobody lives in New York by accident, so this is really your own fault if you think about it. I like New York a lot. I don’t like it so much right now.

This song touches on some of the city themes that I’ve played with before. Most notably, I am engaging the notion that the city is constantly destroying itself. It is demolishing its past to build its future. It is paving itself over. It is rewriting its face in an ever forward facing gesture. Living here is to never look behind you. Sometimes it’s pretty frustrating. When the heat is up and you can barely move, you’re stuck standing in one place. When you can’t move forward, and you can’t look behind you, you might feel lost. The pressure can build inside you. I wrote this song to let off steam. I think I’m feeling much better now.

Thanks again for sticking with me through all this willful creation. I’ll keep on doing this if you keep on listening.

~M.E.

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Week 299 // Hold Out

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Early
I don’t know where I am
Hot light
The horizon at dawn
Hold out
For an hour or two
Hold out
‘Cause I’m dreaming of you

Notes
Sleep is a tricky thing for me. Staying asleep is often as hard as falling asleep, which is too bad because I really love a good snooze. Waking early in the morning can be stressful, because I have to race against the clock to get back to sleep before my alarm goes off. But if I’ve got nowhere to be and no reason to get up, I often enjoy a sudden waking moment at sunrise. The colors are a warm blanket, and the prospect of returning to my slumber is a long, satisfying exhale. This little tune is kind of a lullaby to myself on those rare, wonderful sunrise mornings when I have the time to drift away again.

Over the next few days, I will ponder the profundity of writing 300 songs in 300 weeks. If you return next Monday, I will sing you a song about it.

~M.E.

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Week 298 // Anniversary

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Way way back then
In a forest with the color of the summer
Around the corner heard the echo of a friend
In the music of the laughter of my lover

Oh, and moon rise up
A lucky coin I’ll snatch from heaven just to give you
And on the eve of ever, lifting up your cup
I saw you look my way
The moon was shining through you

Who sets the rain to fall?
Who starts the blowing of the wind?
Oh my love, the storm that’s spinning through you
Is blowing out to see and gone again

Way way up there
A road that winds along the bank above the river
And each of us had saved a flower in our hair
I’d give her more of me if I had more to give her

Who sets the night to fall?
Who starts the blowing of the wind?
Oh my love, the dark you’re staring into
Is breaking into dawn and gone again

Notes
Last summer, Rebecca and I celebrated our new marriage by recording a song together. I recommend listening to “Week 247 // On Account of I Love You” if you are a fan of unbridled sentiment, joy, and love. It remains my favorite musical collaboration of this project, and it is an invaluable souvenir of a precious moment in time. Today is our first wedding anniversary, and Rebecca suggested that we celebrate by recording a followup.

This song is not so much like Week 247. As married people everywhere will know, getting married and being married are two different experiences. Both are powerful and life affirming, but the contrast bears exploration. Getting married is a beautiful dream that you float through with your favorite person. It barely feels real. You don’t touch the ground for weeks, until the daily routine of life reasserts itself. That is when the wedding ends, and the marriage really begins.

We didn’t have an easy first year of marriage. Don’t misunderstand me: our challenges primarily came from the outside, and the marriage is the reason we’ve still got ground to stand on. Our first year of marriage was defined by the necessity of our mutual support, and the refuge that support provided us. This song recalls both the magic of our wedding, and the trials of the year that followed, as it charts a course to an optimistic future. Bright though tomorrow may be, the path that leads there can be dark and obscured by storms, so we hold ever tighter to one another.

I worked really hard to give this song a grounded, yet rambling instrumental, and to craft words that say what they mean. Nonetheless, the true star is my dear wife’s soaring vocal. I don’t intend to wait for our next anniversary to feature her again.

~M.E.

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Week 297 // Real Like Everyone Else

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Melting to the sidewalk
My imagination gets going
I’ll never be a radio star
But I guess there’s nothing wrong
With being just like everyone else

Everybody’s losing it
They’re barking like dogs in heat
They will never be president
Ease up, there’s something free
About being real like everyone else

The light shone down on you
The perfect hour’s holy light
My thoughts are crystal clear
My perfect shining crystal thoughts

Flying over rooftops
My imagination gets going
I ain’t never been a common man
I got fists that can punch through thick steel walls
I just wanna be seen for me

And with you on a summer evening
And we’re sweating through our shirts but it doesn’t matter
Who’d want to be Spider-Man?
I know there’s something free
About being real like everyone else

The light shone down on you
The perfect hour’s holy light
My thoughts are crystal clear
My perfect shining crystal thoughts

Notes
Today I wrote about reckoning with escapism. I feel like most people are trying to untether themselves from themselves. We do it through fiction, politics, daydreams, sports, the news, work, delusions of grandeur, film, TV, shopping and on and on and on and on. I do it all the time, because my job is mundane, and because it can be really fun. I’m not here to say that we should never seek solace from ourselves outside of ourselves. Maybe we shouldn’t do it quite so much. This song is about being ok with being ordinary, and loving the extraordinary things about an ordinary life.

~M.E.

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