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the long way around

The living room is a forest of mic stands and cables. A cup of coffee, a large glass of water and a shallow shot of whiskey sit on the tiny white table. I alternate between them, making sure the guitar is in tune, trying to understand if the chair will creak when I lean my head back on the second chorus.  There is a hush in the room. I can hear my own heartbeat. The lyrics are printed out on a fresh piece of paper, large and thick so I can read them easily even though I sing with my eyes closed and will surely forget a handful of words no matter what I do.

The guitar sounds dry, perfect - even honest. I can play a simple D chord with a long strum, or the side of my thumb and it sounds so different. I record a few takes, barefoot in the bright room. I am going too fast in some parts, and my fingers are already sore from the chord changes.

And then all at once, I am thinking of a show I played in an old factory in Brooklyn, way back when I had just started writing songs almost twenty y…

the Abraham Lincoln summer

I remember the summer when I was ten, the same age E is now. We were poor, living off of food stamps and the garden. Summer was an epic stretch of time, one and a half lives removed from the last ride on the long yellow school bus, the weeks spent shirtless in a pair of cutoffs exploring the forest and turning over rocks in the creek. There was the smell of the lopsided barbecue, watermelon, fresh corn. 

We took rides to the local pool, the water so amped up on chlorine that our eyes burned after we got out. The car was the old pale blue Dodge Dart with the AM radio that came in loud and strong, cranking out Glen Campbell singing Wichita Lineman. There were a handful of pretty girls that flopped across towels on the grass, letting their hair dry, girls that wore polka dot bikinis, with pink toenails in their flip-flops. We oggled them from the deep end, our chins on the surface of the cold water. My brother never made a move, and neither did I. We just held back, treading water, satisfied all the same.


When school started again, and I entered the fourth grade I told everyone I had been in Florida all summer with my grandfather. In truth he died some years before and I had only met him twice. I told everyone we picked oranges and went to the beach every day. Then I told them that Abraham Lincoln was with us the whole time, that he had not died and he was living well in the outskirts of Miami.

The thing is, I really believed what I was telling them. It was real to me. I saw it all, the wet trees in the mornings, Abraham's big laugh, my grandfather with a cigar (or maybe it was a pipe). The kids gave me plenty of trouble, names, insults and the occasional gut punch. Later I understood I would do anything to avoid the fact that we never went anywhere, during summer or anytime else.


E has navigated another one of her summers, cooped up in Moscow drawing pictures, pointing cameras at leaves and trees and sunrises. She read some long books. She slept in. She stayed up late watching movies with me, with plenty of chocolate by her side. She has grown taller. She has lost more baby teeth, and she still gets visits from the Tooth Fairy (who is generous in a different currency every time she visits).

We made more of a film together, a part I wrote for her, a part she is proud of. I think this surrogate summer plan we cook up each year is getting better, but there are nights when I wish she was enjoying a gelato in Rome, or the salty ocean water on her lips at the end of a day in the sun.

 











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