Week 389 // The Fixed Point

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The man on the bus unprovoked
Raised his fists to the driver
And the people in stages
Cast eyes to the fixed point inside them

Why don’t we look away look away?
Why don’t we come back here another time?
Think we should look away look away
Why don’t we come this way another time?

The light through the rain
Looks the same as the place I was raised in
The house down the street
Looks the same as the houses in my town

Why don’t we look away look away?
Why don’t we come back here another time?
Think we should walk away look away
Why don’t we come this way another time?

Nobody said I was any different
Everybody says that we’re all the same

Notes
I grew up far from here in a Boston suburb, and lived there again in my twenties for a time as I sorted some things out. It’s a nice place, but a very different place from where I live these days. Like many transplants from far and wide who share my zip code, I bring with me a certain point of view and a sense of otherness that I doubt I will ever shed. It’s not a bad thing. I feel increasingly comfortable in my surroundings, having lived here for nearly five years. Still, many times each day I am aware that I am an outsider, and it doesn’t only happen when I encounter something unfamiliar to me. Rebecca pointed out the silence outside our window the other night as we lay in bed. Far from the persistent clatter of Manhattan, fortunate Brooklynites can sometimes experience a sustained moment of calm. I breathed deep in the quiet, because It felt like home. The familiarity seemed out of place.

~M.E.

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Week 388 // Scattering Footprints

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On the way to where I’m going
Losing seconds while I tie my shoe
Hold the phone
Hold the door until I can walk through
To the other side
And what will be there?

And on the first of May
I plan to peer into
A crystal ball
The light of futures we could walk through
To the other side
And we can choose one

And I’m only walking
To get outside
I got no place to be
But I’m still going
Nothing left to do but move
Nothing else but scattering footprints
And filling up time

Once I was a speck of dust
Spinning from a single truth
Hurtling through
Yours is the orbit that I fell into
And there I shall remain
And there I shall remain

And we’re only talking
To try out words
I could make any sound and mean it
Anything I utter is true
Anything I whisper into your ear
Is only for you

Notes
I’m relieved to finally put this song to ones and zeroes after several weeks of flirting with the guitar part. This was one of those songs that made me nervous to finish because I liked playing it so much. As the form grew out of itself, this was a song for evenings and mornings and moments in between; a therapeutic perambulation for my fingers as I passed the time. The words didn’t come quite as easily.

This song anticipates the month of May, from which my context is spun, and through which I annually interrogate the emerging futures and receding past of my life. I am a son of springtime. Wherever I wander, that is what I’ll be. Each year my songs turn toward the unfolding horizon as the spring sets in, and my constellation nears its alignment. There will be more like this yet.

~M.E.

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Week 387 // Holy Signs

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Holy signs
Skin set aglow
Yesterday had sprung
That’s just the way it goes
The ache sets in
Hold me to your breast again

And you were there
In your dirty clothes
The light climbed across your back
It goes where you go
So I can see you shining there

Holy signs
The clock strikes nine
I scramble to my feet

I’m the boy in the rain
A cold dark place
The course of the river changed
It goes any which way
And I could follow each one

And oh when the sun goes down
I look to find holy signs

Notes
I tripped over this lovely little guitar run while trying to avoid finishing a different song that I’ve been playing around with for the last week or so. Feeling intimidated to properly write that other song set me free to follow the path that this one lay out ahead of me. I followed it step by step, listening for its wisdom and guidance, and shortly it had led me to a pretty nice folk song.

This is a springtime song. As such it is filled with the sun and rain, the warmth and the chill, high hopes and hedged expectations, and at the center of it all a bright, warm light to follow. It’s a love song. It rolled off my fingers, my pencil, and my tongue as if it had always been there. Perhaps it had been.

~M.E.

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Week 386 // Trial (Error)

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In the middle of the night
With a demon on my shoulder
And the radios all tuned to
A sermon from the mouth of God

I’ve had a hundred years
And not a single moment wasted
I’ve been listening to static
All night long

I never once saw the sun
or the poetry cast about
I never ruined all my chances
I’ve never once seen my shadow long

At fifteen paces
I turned around and the west was won
I’ve been listening to fireworks
All night long

Notes
I like this week’s song, but I think I’m going to feel guilty whenever I hear it. When I first arranged it, it was twice as long. I casually jettisoned half of it, including a chorus section that will never see the light of day. It also had a nice finger-picked guitar overdub that I abruptly decided to toss. At more than four minutes, It was set to be my longest song in months. That particular distinction doesn’t hold much merit in and of itself. Maybe I trimmed off a lot of fat.

Here’s what happened: the lyrics were sort of an experiment. I wrote and recorded one line at a time, responding to the previous line I had written as I sang the next. The process was amusing to me, if a little disjointed. I’ve tried it in the past, to mixed results. By the time I reached what was meant to be the first chorus, I wasn’t interested in the experiment anymore, so I quit.

I’m not sure precisely what I wrote about. I think the character narrating this song might be some kind of vampire or cowboy. Perhaps he’s both. Both vampires and cowboys are archetypes rich with thematic potential, so perhaps I should take a cue from myself and revisit this character later on.

So there you have it. Take a listen to this fragment, fully aware of what it is. This project is meant to encourage risks and experimentation. Both are more important to me than the results, which I’d defend in this case anyhow.

~M.E.

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Week 385 // Whenever We Move

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I’m a hunter
Blood on my shirt
On the subway
Dressing a kill for my meal
Leaving the guts for the vultures
Believe it

And the motion
Is always the same
We can repeat it
As if willing the rain from the sky
As if calling the mighty ones home again

Always the blue light
Down the block
Cast on the ceiling
Whenever we move
We move together
Cast in the blue
Whenever we move

Do you see it?
Arcing the width of the sky
Bursting through billboards and powerlines

Always the blue light
Down the block
Cast on the ceiling
Whenever we move
We move together
Cast in the blue
Whenever we move

Notes
Having accumulated some experience here, I have a sense that life in a place like this city is deeply shaded by ritual and mysticism, performed en masse as tribute in return for subsistence. Our lives depend on repeated actions, performed motions with lost meanings, and the successful deciphering of runic and oracular symbols that surround us wherever we travel. We imagine this place to be the pinnacle of civilization, steeped in the secular detachment of our technology, and hovering above tribal impulses and sectarian skirmishes. We don’t see ourselves.

Still, there’s something wondrous about the primal humanity I move with. Theres a thrumming libidinal force here; violence and death play out adjacent to birth and lovemaking — life encounters life. I’m trying to gesture toward something very large, but I’ve only got a little song within which to gesture. I’m going to keep pushing against this force as I continue to write and play.

~M.E.

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Week 384 // Rubble

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This is a place I’ll return to
And the faces will change but they won’t change
And the metal bolted to metal will still be here
The snaking path well traced will always be here

Daylight at midnight
Not a cloud in the sky
Not star in the sky
Or a sky up in the sky
Just a layer of rubble a mile a thick

Notes
This song started out as a poem that I wrote in the subway on my way home. It came to me as I changed trains, in the corridor between the 4 and the Q at Union Square. I tapped it into the “notes” app on my phone, and tucked it back into my pocket before returning to my book.

The poem is longer than the lyrics that appear here. I don’t typically write lyrics before music; without the rhythm, my words dislike any sense of consistent meter. As such, the back half of the poem diverges, and would need a totally different song in order to be sung. Perhaps at some point I will write it.

Just as I tapped out the words on my phone without the ceremony of my pencil or notebook, I decided to record the music on the very same device. There are a few previous Mount Everest songs that came to be recorded this way. The result is a compelling argument against wasting money on recording equipment. What an age we live in!

This song is the subway that birthed it. The rubble above our heads is the city itself. I realize upon reflection that my description of my daily spaces might sound ugly. I didn’t mean it that way. As I wrote it, I felt a sense of tranquility. I tried to make the music match that feeling.

~M.E.

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Week 383 // Stories to Tell

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Tonight they’re breaking down the west
And in the morning nothing’s left
If you ever come this way
Don’t believe a word we say
‘Cause we all have stories to tell

Tonight we’re calling a truce for a awhile
While shaking hands is back in style
And if you ever come this way
Watch every single hand you shake
‘Cause we all have bridges to sell

Tonight they’re handing out the blame
Keep my face but lose my name
And if you’re ever in this town
Don’t tell a soul you’ve seen me around
‘Cause we’ve all had stories to tell

Notes
I like when I do one of these songs on the quick, and it still sounds like a real song when I’m finished. A weekend of travel and a Monday at work had me feeling like Mount Everest was more of a chore to approach than usual, so I was relieved when I sat down and this song tumbled out in no time flat. I put it to zeros and ones in a single guitar take, and a single vocal take. That was that. As such, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve got, as far as the text of it is concerned.

I’m certainly pondering, in one way or another, the myriad conmen and crooks that are the hallmark of late capitalism. They seem to buzz all around us in the age of Trump. I perceive them everywhere I turn. In a way, we all have to put on costumes just to be functioning adults in the world. I think perhaps this song is merely about the slow death of honesty, if it ever lived to begin with. We barely knew ye.

~M.E.

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Week 382 // On the Verge of Closing off Ancient Circles

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Goodness gracious
Sorting out all these pages
On the verge of
Closing off ancient circles

Do the impossible
Weigh down the line
With just your hand
Pay yourself in phrases

First impressions
Dash away first impressions
Then destruction
Tear the world down around you

Do the impossible
Make the world rhyme
With just a gesture
Pay yourself in platitudes

Oh the morning
All the words swirl around the morning
Oh the fisherman
Sets out to
Fill up his net again

Do the impossible
Run for your life
And don’t look behind you
Pay yourself in phrases

Notes
As introspective and personal as this project has been over the years, there’s a fairly gaping hole in my personal experience that I tend not to write about very often. I will turn to my long-time listeners to correct me, but I think the last time I explicitly wrote about writing was the funky and endearingly weird “Week 200 // Mount Everest“, the self-titled anniversary track that anthropomorphized this very website.

This track is fairly loose and less ambitious by comparison, but it cuts to some of the same truths of how entwined this writing process and I have become. This track wonders aloud about the dangling themes and threads I have never resolved over the years of ponderous writing that this project has traversed. Truly, I’m never really on the verge of closing off any of these “ancient circles”, as I have termed my ever returning topics and musings in this song. Most thoughts can’t resolve. That isn’t really the point of writing them down, or singing them, or playing them out loud. The point is to interrogate a notion from a slightly different angle each time, and to fill in a piece I haven’t actively noticed before.

Anyhow, writing about writing can be rightly skewered as metatextual navel-gazing, but I think I’ve earned it at this point.

~M.E.

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Week 381 // Islands

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Sew it on your jacket
A badge to stake your claim
The only image like it
Never one the same

Moon above this island
A mournful eye does watch
And somehow landlocked I am
A circle of a thought

Oh the army waiting
Grand archway they will cross
The grass is red and laden
The islands never lost

Notes
This week’s song is a broad sketch of the city and the people in it. I’m playing with the geographic and personal barriers that make New Yorkers islands within islands. I’m also somehow interested in the land as a historical series of battlegrounds. Those battles have been both of wars for the continent, and of personal struggles upon slivers of land over which to lay claim. They are in the past, and they persist. I watch them play out on the street, outside my window, on the bus, beneath the sidewalks, and on park benches.

This song is an approaching shape of an idea that I am trying to tease out. I suspect that there is a cycle of songs dealing with these notions on the way, or perhaps I am already in the midst of it. I think before my next entry, I have to take a step back and hear what I have been writing lately. I haven’t kept up a practice of listening to myself in recent months. I fear writing in a vacuum, locked away from a productive dialogue with my own ideas. I want to locate what I am feeling within the recent body of work, and then respond to what I hear. Stand by for more.

~M.E.

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Week 380 // Admission

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I’ve got my
Golden ticket
I keep it
Back at the candy store
Expect us
Uninvited
What are these
Deadbolts even for?

Good answer
Great thinking
I’d never ever
Thought of that before

Good answer
Great thinking
I’d never ever
Thought of that before, not once

My thoughts are
White as ever
Hosanna
Praise the coming war
Remember
To hold the island
Whatever
Were the bridges for?

Good answer
Great thinking
I’d never ever
Thought of that before

Good answer
Great thinking
I’d never ever
Thought of that before

Remember
Not ever
Remember
Not ever
Remember
Not ever

Good answer
Great thinking
I’d never ever
Thought of that before

Good answer
Great thinking
I’d never ever
Thought of that before

Notes
I’m having trouble writing about this song without falling on my own sword. I’ll attempt to be honest. I’m trying to deal with my own racist thoughts and deeds. Living in a diverse neighborhood of a diverse city, I frequently encounter my neighbors of color while combatting thoughts, biases, and fears that circle around my head like racist gnats. As a progressive, I tell myself that my awareness of this problem is a good start. I don’t know whether or not it is. I want to be better than I am.

A lot of white people are congratulating themselves for loving the new film, Black Panther. It’s a great movie, an important movie, and it’s awesome that it is so well received. I have taken great interest in watching the surrounding public conversations about race, representation, and colonialism unfold. I have tried to read more than write about it, and listen at least as much as I speak. Still, I’m amused by the soft awakenings to racism that happen in the context of pseudo events like the release of a thought provoking film in an unexpected space such as superhero cinema. People like me start to have conversations that include epiphanies about the struggles of others. We talk about the subject as if it is new and novel. We come to simple conclusions, and feel proud of ourselves for making intellectual leaps that require the slightest amount of empathy.

This song is an admission that I do all of these things. It’s a sardonic indictment of the shallow epiphanies beheld by white progressives, set against the naked racism and entitlement that I inhabit and hope to transcend somehow. I offer a chorus of white voices congratulating each other for what fascinating ideas they have about subjects they’ve done little work to engage. I’m trying to admit how little I know.

~M.E.

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