Week 313 // Mourning in America

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It’s morning in America
Anyway, can’t we all sleep in today?
‘Cause all the safety pins and words we say
Aren’t even nearly making up for this mistake
And I wonder, are we strong enough
To stop the coming war?
Is there love enough in our righteousness
To fathom what it’s for?

We’re in mourning on the subway train
Heading back and forth forgetting from which way we came
And our silence is a bitter frost
Its crystals spreading over every love we’ve lost
And I wonder, have we lost enough
To stand for what we’ve got?
Is there love enough in indignity
To move us from this spot?

It’s sunset and I break my stride
And ponder all the fighters who have lived to die
And if anger seeks revenge
I’ve said let love proclaim that justice must be done instead
And I wonder, have we heart enough
To brave the coming storm?
We must love enough
And in loving so decipher what it’s for

Notes
We have a winner and now we must make sense of the new future ahead of us. This is a mopey song, and a self-indulgent song, because I wrote it as much for therapy as to make any kind of commentary. At face value, this song says, “all we need is love” but I’m not naive enough to believe that’s true. What we need is to do a whole lot of hard fucking work. The question at hand is what the emotional source of our work ethic will be.

Anger has gotten the better of me since Trump announced his candidacy, because it was pretty obvious that win or lose, a whole lot of people were going to grok to his hideous message. We watched that happen in a way that eclipsed everyone’s expectations, apparently even the president-elect’s. Hillary campaigned on a slogan that said “Love Trumps Hate.” Trump understood that no press is bad press, at least where he is concerned, and that putting his name in one of her slogans only fed the ball back to his side of the court. The thing of it is this: love didn’t trump hate, because too many of us lefties were lashing out at our political opposites in anger, instead of building a movement on love.

Anger is good for seeking vengeance. Love is good for seeking justice. That’s why vengeance beat justice in this round. We tried to fight for justice with anger and indignation, and love would have worked better. So marshal your love and put it to work in your community. Put it to work by organizing. Put it to work by demonstrating. Put it to work by running for office. Put it to work by writing letters. Put it to work by opening your doors to your neighbors. Put it to work by listening. Put it to work.

And yes, I know my heart is bleeding through my shirt as I write that. That’s because it’s broken. I’ll tell you one thing, though. It’ll never mend through anger. Only love can mend a broken heart.

~M.E.

P.S. Rest in peace and thank you to Leonard Cohen, who was the greatest at writing songs that are poems and poems that are songs. You’re a ghost in everything I write from here on out. You already were.

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Week 311 // October Surprise

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Up late on a Saturday night
I’m stirring my thoughts
Except they’re made of stone
And I’m staring knives at the screen of my phone
Over politics

Then the very next afternoon
Holding my wife as the wind comes alive
We watch out the window
Does anything survive
A wind like that?

Oh, so I’ve got a nightmare
And I’ll tell you how it goes
It goes that only the old men vote

One time way before I was born
A moment to conjure
In an ugly red hat
A moment to die for
What could be better than that?
Believe in it

Oh, so I’ve got a nightmare
And I’ll tell you how it goes
It goes that only the white men vote

Notes
The election is careening into its final week and I can’t ignore it anymore on this blog. I’ve gestured toward it, but it is dominating my attention more than mere innuendo can adequately express. I spent much of the weekend distracted from my life by my computer phone, upon which I scrolled aimlessly hoping for a glimmer of good news to puncture the apocalyptic revelation that Hillary Clinton’s emails are once again the subject of federal inquiry, and that Donald Trump will definitely become the next and last President of the United States.

Old white men everywhere cheered! I’m an aspiring old white man, so I find their position on the subject devastating. Will I harden into a callous, bigoted ethno-political nationalist someday? What will my beloved think of me then?

My wife bought a wonderful new T-Shirt from the Internet. It reads “Nov. 8th Pussy Grabs Back.” Indeed. Let’s hope so.

~M.E.

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Week 308 // Moonshot

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Scream to the night sky
Like you’re all alone
Look around to see
A city block

Pray to your idol
That you crack the core
Pray to your lover
That the door’s unlocked

Up late
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
I’m sure we will
Of course we will

Driving the wrong way
Down an empty road
Pass the signpost
On the county line

Watch the moonshot
On a tiny screen
Fly through radio waves
Just to pass the time

Up late
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
Will we ever climb so high?
I’m sure we will
Of course we will

See the bright lights
Count the tail lights

Will we ever climb so high?
I’m sure we will
Of course we will

Notes
Real life has to be a group effort. Last century the brightest minds joined together and put humans on the moon. Perhaps those ambitious doers stayed up there and started a moon colony that doesn’t want much to do with us earthlings anymore. Our ambitions must have been left behind up there on that rock, because all we seem to aspire towards these days is making increasingly distracting gadgets and hopefully not ending civilization in the immediate foreseeable future.

If this appraisal seems bleak, start a team and build something. It doesn’t have to be a rocket to the moon. This weekend my wife and I got together with our team — a family of likeminded philosopher queens and kings — and we built a rocket straight to our hearts. If our era is to be remembered as the end of cooperation as we know it, I refuse to be accused of going it alone.

~M.E.

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Week 307 // Authority Figures

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Oh what’s the Bible say about
Watching the evening news
Thinking anti-social thoughts?

Oh and the Constitution says
I can say whatever I want
To anybody I please

So I’ve got strong opinions
About the things you do

Oh what’d your mother say about
Making a face like that?
It’ll stick, then what’ll you do?

Oh and the 10 Commandments say
That you can’t do anything right
And that God is a dirty word

So I’ve got strong opinions
About the things you do
And if you’ve got your own opinion
I really don’t care
I honestly don’t

What does your weapon do for you
When you often disagree
With the strangers that you meet?

And what does a bullet mean to you
When you hold it in your hand
With your knuckles turning white?

So I’ve got strong opinions
About the things you do
And if you’ve got your own opinion
I really don’t care
I honestly don’t

Notes
I have pondered lately that authority figures in our collective consciousness are often used for dual contradictory purposes, both somehow working toward the same end. In our discourse, a figure of authority is both that which we rail against to justify our own actions, and that which we revere in order to legitimize our prejudices. In either case, our gods, our government, our books, and our founding documents exist as containers for whatever feelings we’re having about our own power or lack thereof. External power either makes us feel bigger or smaller, but in both instances we can use it to avoid having to rationally engage notions of ownership over our own thoughts or deeds.

If that all seems like a reach, or perhaps lacks clarity amidst boiling pretense, I would refer you back to the song. It all makes more sense there.

~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 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 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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Week 295 // Prospecting

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The streets are paved with gold
In old New York
I fill my pockets
When I can
At five o’clock
I’m lighting out from here
The hour strikes
I’m my own man

And all the while
The sunlight stares me down
I will not hide behind
A sense of pride
If every whisper
Is a promise made
Then every shout
Must be a lie

The streets have been paved over
The seam is long since mined in this old town

And Christ was born
On Independence Day
He lay his head
In Central Park
And kings from all five boroughs
Bent their knees
And tipped their lovers
In the dark

The streets have been paved over
The seam is long since mined in this old town

Notes
There have been a lot of songs written about New York. I have certainly added to the pile since I moved here in 2013. It is a hard place not to reflect upon when you are a song writer. Sometimes I ponder the New York songbook, and I’m sorry to say that most of the big hit anthems about this city are awful, pandering propaganda. New York is a city of opportunity for many, but the high cost of living and competitive job market make it a pretty hard place to get by for a lot of folks. “I wanna wake up In a city that doesn’t sleep, and find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap…” That’s an aspirational sentiment for many, but not everyone can hit it big like Sinatra. Alicia Keys and Jay-Z really stir up the inspiration when they sing about the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” but then you realize that not everyone’s dreams come true. Also, that lyric doesn’t even make grammatical sense. I thought I’d try to take New York down a peg this week. New York needs an honest song, perhaps even a cynical song. I know that probably isn’t a recipe for a hit, but I never claimed to be Frank Sinatra.

~M.E.

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Week 292 // A Prayer

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Steady my love
Though I’m spinning like a top
You can hold me up
Slowing the world
You ease it to focus again

Grateful am I
In the moment of my crisis
You pin me down
Somehow you shatter
All the untruths I have spoke of myself

I will hold you and love you completely
It’s all I can do

Honest am I
Many burdens of my world
I will place on you
Know in return
I will take up my share of your own

I will hold you and love you completely
It’s all I can do

Notes
Of course this song isn’t really a prayer in the conventional sense. I don’t pray very often anymore, because I gradually found that I usually did so in moments when I sought personal gain. Out of respect for those who pray seriously, I realized I had been treating prayers like wishes, and that’s not really what they are for. These days, In moments of joy and of crisis I tend to turn to someone else instead of the almighty. This is a love song that felt like a prayer when I sang it. It is slow and plodding. It is careful and reverent. It is grateful and vulnerable. It is as true as I could make it.

~M.E.

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