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a fortune for the undertow.

8 Mar 2011

[Matt, on Parrish Beach, 1994 or 1996, taken with the old Pentax K-1000]

My best friend Matt and I were emailing the other day, both of us mildly horrified by the fact that next year, we’ll be attending our respective 20-year high school reunions.  20 years.  But then it occurred to me: if I’ve been out of high school that long, that means that I’ve also known Matt for 20 years, too.  And that was a particularly gratifying feeling.  More than gratifying, actually.  Sublimely comforting, in fact: I’ve known Matt for more than half my life.  In 2012, our friendship will have existed for longer than it hasn’t.

Matt and I met the first day of freshman orientation in college.  We skipped out on half of the orientation events, opting instead to hang out in Matt’s dorm room to listen to music and chat the afternoons away.   In October of that year, we headed out one Tuesday afternoon to go to the mall; REM’s Automatic for the People had just been released that day.   We got back to campus, CDs in tow, and spent the waning daylight hours listening to an album that was full of grace and aching beauty.  And we both had — and shared — a favorite track, Find the River, the last track on the album. 

Do you know this song?   Sweet jesus, this song is …. just about perfect.  (Until I can get this blasted audio player to work properly, you can listen to the track here, though I’d advise against actually watching it, unless you like the idea of Michael Stipe sporting unfortunate facial hair and a baseball cap backwards.  No, really.)

I could go on and on about all the different things I love about this song, from the lyrics to the arrangement, to the way it goes from quiet to soaring to quiet again.   I read back around the time that the album was released that Mike Mills and Bill Berry intentionally recorded their vocal harmonies blind — they had no idea how the other, or Michael Stipe, had sung his part, so each person just sang however he thought was appropriate to the basic song at hand.  And what resulted was just gorgeous. 

But what I love most about this song is that, of all of my favorite songs in the world, this is the only one I share with someone else.  All of my other favorite songs — and there are about five, I’d say — I love deeply, but it’s sort of a private love affair, just me and the songs.   But this is the only song that, whenever I hear it, I never ever fail to think of one other person.  And it’s been this way for nearly 20 years now.  If Matt and I are both fortunate enough to have a 50 years from now, I hope that this remains the case.   

To be sure, Matt and I will always have Swing Kids too, but that’s an entirely different story.

All of this is coming your way.

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