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the list

It was a simple request, but it took me months to solve it. Soon we will have guests in the house for V's birthday, and the cascading piles of notes and camera parts, the lopsided villages of books, the forgotten bowls of loose change - they all had to find homes. I even bought a collection of clear, stackable boxes just after Christmas, but they sat like empty open mouths gathering bits of fluff and dust in them until today. With little flakes of fresh snow dancing against the windows, I began at one end of the room.

The problem with cleaning is that you constantly find lost treasures, windows into your past lives. Here, a set of notes from a film I was writing some seven years ago. Here, the warranty for a watch I bought for N (that I still need to register). And next, a Soviet ruble that I bought in Tbilisi at the dry bridge market, the location of the lost wonders of the world. Next to a broken saxophone and an old rug, I remember noticing a handful of old coins that I bought…

The end of an epic (finding your way back)

An epic project ends, and I stare at N in the morning suddenly without the latest update to discuss. Nights and weekends for over a month were lost, with everyone staring at the back of my head as I hacked away. V is kicking her feet in the carriage. The sun is splashing around through the leaves and some left over puddles. I shrug my shoulders, standing quietly as we all look at each other for a little while. Kisses on cheeks and they roll off into the neighborhood, to feed stale bits of bread to some ducks, to make their way through a small forest until V takes a nap.

Upstairs, E is still asleep. Her arms stand at odd angles, elbows poking from beneath the covers. I wander the rooms for a little while, listening to the scrape of the soles of my feet on the wood floor. The guitar stands in the corner, more waiting for V to poke at it than for me. But all at once I am tuning it, and the black journal on the table leaps open and there is a good fresh pen and some fragments I scribbled in the middle of one night last winter. Something about love swinging a hammer or maybe not swinging a hammer, which of course sounds forced and foolish either way but most lyrics do that when they stand naked on the page. They cannot share the low mumble they come from, the honest melody, the humble pronunciation.

Sure, let's use the A to the chord that is part of an A, going back and forth. I am prone to verses that use two chords, which is both a good habit and a bad one all at the same time. To add accident to injury, I let the chorus be those same two chords. But that is something many great blues songs do, the delta blues ones especially. Am I writing a blues song? I didn't think so, but maybe all songs are blues songs. Plenty of people have said that. I am trying not to write a Tom Waits song, but that is a losing battle. If it is going to happen, you have to get out of the way, let yourself name some places in it, towns like Unadilla.

E wakes up, passing me on the way to the bathroom. She does not pause, or bat an eye.

"There's a part in this for you." I tell her, when she returns. "This echo part and then harmony on the chorus."
She shrugs her shoulders, and goes to make a bowl of cereal.

This is how I find my way back.


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