Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Twenty-one

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

If you’ve ever listened to a song that you introduced someone to and heard them singing along in hushed tones, tones still uncertain that the words they sing are correct, then you know that feeling.

Yesterday I saw the biggest tree in the world, and oddly enough, it was named after a hero of mine, General William Tecumseh Sherman. The tree moved me, in ways I cannot describe. The majesty of nature sometimes has the effect on a body of making you feel small and enormous. Rejecting a Saint as you praise ’em, and cursing their influence as you beg their forgiveness. Near that huge tree, I went to a small museum that contained a few lovely and modest displays explaining the history of the region and the life cycles of the trees in it. Nearly every display was accompanied by a John Muir quote. My favorite was this, paraphrased: “What else can one see in this natural destruction but creation. Beauty succeeded by beauty.”

William Tecumseh Sherman will best be remembered for his ‘March to the Sea’, where he commanded his calvary troops to destroy everything in sight between Atlanta and Savannah. No one will ever know the weight these acts bore upon his heart. After the American Civil War ended, I have read, many people urged him to enter politics, a calling he resoundly refused. He famously said, in rejection of a bid for the presidency, “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

This from a man who had set fire to a not unsignificant part of his country.

There is a pairing of songs I used to daydream about, accompanied by a video I will probably never create. The songs are tracks nine and ten from the Neutral Milk Hotel album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, ‘Ghost’ and ‘     ‘. The idea I had for the first song was of  a young man walking through a large city picking petty fights with everyone he saw, and eventually setting the entire city ablaze. The young man falls asleep towards the end of the song. As the second song begins, the young man awakens to find the city ablaze. He quickly remembers it was his doing, and takes a few moments to marvel at the wonder of it all. Then he races through town, recruiting everyone he meets to help extinguish the fire.

 They fail.

At the song’s end, the young man stands with his group of volunteers and other survivors at the edge of the city, and gazes upon the wreckage. The young man then looks heavenward and sees a single shaft of light pierce the charred ground, and a flower blooms instantly. A look of disbelieving astonishment crosses the faces of the crowd. The flower dies just as quickly. The young man and the surrounding crowd start crying, and as the point-of-view pulls back, we see that nothing can ever grow there again, and one can only imagine the people will eat garbage until they starve.

I still see this vision, but I see it in sepia tone, as if it really happened, years before I was born. So many words have been pissed away describing a calloused heart that sheds its wounds and throws itself back into the world, raw and innocent and vital…

This one’s for the eyes. I wasn’t supposed to cross the fence and get close to that enormous tree, touch it, so I didn’t, but I could see myself doing it, and I did it in my waking dreams. Stretch yr palms as far away from yr body as possible, and convince yrself that they’re right there by yr side. Yr not wrong. Laugh.

Laugh again.

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