July 06, 2005

OPEN LETTER TO HANDSOME CHRISTIAN DUDE WITH VAGUE MARXIST STREAK, SINGING OF MY CITY

Dear Sufjan Stevens,
I heard you on NPR this am, on 848 - the local news show, when they interviewed you. I had just woken up (I know it was 10 am - I am self-employed) and heard you so serious, so focused, and when the host asked "What do you mean?" you explained about how hard it is to have your art tangle with commerce, that you are constantly weighing, because you know how attention can get your attentions. I was moved by your sincerity and your directness, yr personal politics and yr grave articulations: Right On.

My friend JR, he heard you, too, and was so moved he purchased yr CD on his lunch break today, and showed it to me, shook it in the air when he came over around dinnertime "It's fucking great!" he said. I agreed. I am writing about your record, and listening to it at the same and have spent about 14 hours doing so in the last few days, at current tally. I have only gotten past track six maybe twice, so if I give you a hint, and you do a little math, that means I have listened to the first track something ridiculous, like 56 times. Maybe not 56, but like, 30, for sure.

I like the piano part a lot. It reminds me of "Sweet Thing", which is a song off Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, a great record that, like yours has pretty details, rondos of heartache and love-wonder for the world. Last week, I listened to that song by accident in the car. I was scrolling and I saw it, and it was, for me, like maybe what finding some little crack rock in the carpet is for other people. I thought "oh, I shouldn't" and I did anyway - see, I had to find parking and go in the show and 'act normal' and 'look cute' and 'seem affable' -- and I cannot hear "Sweet Thing" without weeping. I turned up the stereo, I played it, and did just that. Tears by the time he says "viaduct of your dreams". It felt fucking great, so I did it again. Music means a lot to me.

During the worst break up of still-young life, a few years ago, in my house that tour had emptied out, I went to the bottom. I stopped bothering to turn lights on once the sun went down and I would listen to Side A of Van Morrison's TB Sheets and cry and/or do this sort of wobbley dance until about 2 or 3 am. This went on for a little over a week. People started coming by. Knocking on the window and checking on me. I could not talk. they would goad me out of the house, I would go on bike rides and they would ask "How are you doing, buddy?" I would cry, just sob, right there on the corner waiting for the light to change. I just wanted to go home and be with my mom's copy of the Van Morrison record, because I did not yet know that that breakup would be the greatest move of my mid 20's.

Being young is like that. Everything seems really serious, and people who are old will force feed you all that 20/20 fish-ocean metaphor goo, and in yr head yr all "clearly, they do not understand my plight." Right? But then yr 29 and yr like "God, I wish I had listened to them and stopped moping and got on with my life, and had spent that year writing books, kissing people and not apologizing once! UGH!". Do you know what I mean? About regret and hindsight and the heaviness of being 24? From what I read, yr totes Christian and roll with the Drang and that JP-USA crew, so maybe you have never had a girlfriend, because you got married when you were 19, and maybe you have already been married for like, 11 years, and so you only know what it's like to be someone's husband. Perhaps you are so down with jesus that you will be weirdly embarrassed that in my review of you, I discuss yr merging of the ecclesiastic with the erotic. You talked about romanticism in poetry today on the radio, so maybe you will get what I mean. Same diff, as we used to say.

Anyhow, I am wondering if you are available, one day, like in the future when you are less busy with the business of being a newly famous Christian troubadour, to drive around Chicago and listen to "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison over and over, and see who cries first, you or me. I do not know what "losing" would consist of - crying first or not crying. It wouldn't be a date or anything weird like that, it'd just be a contest. Then, I could show you the cool things around town that you did not sing about on your new record: drive under the long Lake st. Green line tracks where a bunch of car chase from The Blue Brothers movie took place, the fern room at the Garfield Park Conservatory, the top floor atrium of the Harold Washington library where the floors are marble and cool and very clean and no one is ever there so you can lay on them and look up into the downtown sky or just read the books you checked out, Soul Vegetarian vegan soul food resturant which is run by the African Hebrew Israelites, the B'hai Temple in Willamette which gets a lot of god in the archetecture and has seven gardens, if you are not scared of dark isolated places there is always the train line landbridge that runs through the industrial corridor to downtown where there are tons of baby rabbits and great discarded things - last time I was up there there was part of some old fair ride and the sign to some mid-sixties hair salon with those sequiny letters, we can sneak on to the elevators at the Drake Hotel and look at the lake at night - and if it's fall they have apples in baskets in the hallways that are for decoration, but if you are me, they are for stealing and eating.

Maybe you wrote songs about that stuff for yr Illinois record, but they did not fit on the album, or the choruses were weak, or the song about Decatur was more fun to sing because of those half funny half rhymes ("aviator"?!). If you did not already write those songs, once/if I show those place to you, you are going to wish you had.

Yours very truly,
JH

Posted by Jessica at July 6, 2005 12:56 AM | TrackBack