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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…

underfoot (rare air)



I took a long walk on our last day in Vada. The baby was sleeping next to N, curled up on top of the sheets as a breeze moved the light around the room. E was passed out on the couch, her cheeks just pink from the sun. Cameras in my bag, I headed for the pine forest that ran along the beach. The smell of sap and smoke and salty air came up to me. People in bathing suits were passed out on blankets, face down in the afternoon as children played quietly. A boy stared at me.

The water was as blue and clear as a postcard. I waded in, my shoes slung around my neck and felt the sand dancing around my toes. It was a moment to drink in, to take all of that rare air and hold it inside for as long as possible. I did not know when I would stand in the ocean again, and it was three years ago the last time I did this.

The vacation had not been an easy one. Viruses, allergies and bad directions had snagged us at every turn. We still sipped cold Vermentino late at night, on a tiny balcony. We still laughed and got sunburned, as the baby painted her face in olive oil somehow getting spaghetti into her mouth. We still got out of Moscow, past its cold wet summer, past the headlines, past the gates, past the traffic.

I headed back into the forest, and then along the main road. Here, an empty amusement park with rides frozen in time, here a sign by the road promising wine and olive oil, fruit and preserves. I take it of course, as cars spit gravel as they pass, as a sky crammed with black birds opens up on my right, as a pair of horses nuzzle a fence on my left. I walk for some time, thinking of them still sleeping in the room, still breathing so lightly as the tiny spots of light dance around them.

And then I understood it was time to head back.




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