On a personal note

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Before August and Everything After was released, I was listening to country, earlier, and Top 40 radio stations, later, and clearly remember making mix tapes for myself, which included music from UB40 (“Promises and Lies” was the first CD I ever owned), Snoop Dogg, Toni Braxton, US3, and many others. Basically, whatever was breaking on the Top 40 stations, I was listening to. This was in 1992/93 when I was in the ninth and 10th grades.

August and Everything After, the second CD I ever owned, changed everything. And by “everything,” I mean just that. The album changed my tastes in music to a large degree. It changed my view of society, the view I had of myself and to some degree, it would begin to change my worldview. How can one single album have such an impact on one person? Certainly, some intangibles on which I can’t put my finger are probably were at work, but here are at least two answers to which I can point: the lyrics of the album and how that poetry, coupled with the emotional tone of the album, directly spoke to me in a way that no other work of art did before that time.

When the album was released, as I said, I was a teenager and struggling with how to “find myself” and to understand what sort of identity would govern my life as I looked to college and after. To begin, I must say that to tell this story is to tell a very personal one. Counting Crows’ lyrics, or any lyrics that touch me in some way, cut to the emotional quick, deep into my skin, and hit me straight at the bone, to the core. So, I won’t be vague or half-hearted in describing these feelings. Adam Duritz and the guys weren’t vague in offering their music to me, and us, and I will return the labour of love, which, is consequently, the name of another UB40 album, and throw my heart out on a wire.

Simply, I’m not very good with girls. I know beauty when I see it, inward and outward, and long to enjoy, nay, be enveloped by it, but coil up like a frightened worm when someone tries to poke me out of my reserved skin. Thus, “I’m covered in skin; no one gets to come in,” as the Colorblind” lyric goes. One girl whom I dated briefly in high school said that I had trouble showing my emotions. That’s an apt, if not understated, description. In truth, I display my emotions just fine; it’s just that no one ever sees a trace of them, just me. And that’s all there is. Adam Duritz, conversely, gets his fair share of girls (What rock star wouldn’t?), but can’t seem to hold on to any of them. He’s 45 and never married. We, by “we” I mean Adam and I, get to the same highway-barren place via different routes, but we get to the same numbing place, eventually, all the same, in the end.

So, in the 10th grade with August and Everything After, I first heard this wasteland of an album roll out before me like a desert to nowhere. Some of the openings lines of “Round Here” read, “I walk in the air between the rain/Through myself and back again/Where? I don’t know.” I have trailed back and forth through myself time and time again, every single day, for years, even in the 10th grade, wandering and wandering through vast open spaces of aloneness. In “Time and Time Again,” we have what I have often described as a wasteland of a song, in which the speaker is “traveling on a freeway beneath this graveyard Western sky.” The speaker also says, at the beginning of the song, “I wanted so badly somebody other than me staring back at me, but you were gone, gone …” The vast number of times I’ve looked to this song for comfort, I can’t recall. Then, in “Sullivan Street,” the speaker laments a love that fell apart, where he’s making the trip across the bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area, back home after dropping this girl off, knowing it’s not going to work out. In his mind, and in mine, he’s “just another rider, burned to the ground.” In “Ghost Train,” the speaker says, “Love is a ghost train howling on the radio” of all the past loves. “She said, ‘Remember everything when only memories remain.'”

This is the line that most sticks with me when I think about a girl from Pennsylvania whom I dated in my early 20s. She lived about 850 miles away and was planning to move with me to South Carolina, but she was a young girl, got homesick, and on a rocket ride out of town she shot. That one tore me up, and I wrote this song about it at the time. “That picture of you walking away is framed …” And it still is.

Perhaps there were many other bands and many albums before 1993 that might have touched me as Counting Crows have, were I to have listened to them. But this one caught me in a vacuum, and sucked me in, and down, into self actualization and self realization of poetry that, in ways that I can’t express, make my heart ignite and explode in a dumb, cold and lonely simian night.

This is what “August and Everything After” means to me. In this expressionless person, expression was born. In this existentialist, beauty was found in the semantic compass balled up in this dark globe. Thus, the inspiration behind this entire site was born.

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