Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Gas Station Observation

The guy with the beard at the gas station:  He gassed up his truck staring blankly ahead.  The boy sat in a car seat in the back, staring ahead with the same blank expression.  They were headed back to his mother’s home, a woman that was known to his friends almost exclusively as “my fucking ex-wife”.  Most of them couldn’t tell you her real name, even on a bet.  He got the boy every other weekend, but was able to cobble together an agreement to have him overnight on Christmas Day.  They spent Christmas Day at Grandma's, a modest house that smelled like cigarettes and burnt pot roast.  After the excitement of ten minutes of opening presents abated, they all spent the next 18 hours trying to put up with one another.  His fucking ex-wife had re-married almost immediately after leaving him, which often led him to speculate on the timeline of things.  She and her new husband Matt lived in a large colonial suburban house.  He could fit his entire bungalow into the living room of the God damn thing.  When he picked the boy up he would stand in the enormous hallway, staring at the various pictures of his son, his fucking ex-wife, and fucking Matt in their spectacular fucking vacation photos.  In the photos, the boy had a smile that was totally foreign to him.  Their visits together had taken on the mutual enthusiasm of a dental appointment.  Everyone agreed though that “it’s good for the boy to spend time with his real father”.  At his fucking ex-wife's house, he would stand in the hallway waiting for the boy, now aware of his shabby boots and filthy Carhartt jacket.  There would be forced small talk where Matt would ask, “How are you doing?”, which was actually code for “Do you need money from us again?” while his fucking ex-wife looked on with feigned concern.  They would stare at each other for a moment and all hope the boy would emerge from his room so the charade could mercifully end.  They would rush out an all too excited greeting when the boy finally appeared.  He would then guide the boy outside with his hand as they both endured his fucking ex-wife's sing-songy goodbye, Matt's hand carefully placed around her shoulder.  He put the gas pump back, closed the cap, and wearily dragged himself into the driver's seat of the truck.  Neither spoke as the truck slowly pulled away.

Side Note:  I have received the Johnny Cash Complete Columbia Album Collection as a fabulous Christmas gift.  This mammoth box set has all 65 full length records Cash cut for Columbia.  I am intimidated by the immensity of the collection, much as you would be if you sat down to eat a sheet pizza by yourself, or open up Marcel Proust "In Remembrance of Days" as light beach reading.  I have decided that this is not a gift, but rather a commitment.  I need to fully give myself to this box set, so when I have listened to it from beginning to end, I will know more about Johnny Cash than even June Carter Cash.  This is going to be an endurance test.  I know there are some dark days ahead as I attempt to make it through Johnny's 1970s catalogue.  It's not going to be easy, but I will see this thing through.

I started at the beginning, as that seems a reasonable place to begin.  Disc One:  "The Fabulous Johnny Cash" has the #1 hit "Don't Take Your Guns To Town", as well as "Frankie's Man Johnny", "I Still Miss Someone", and "Pickin Time".  It also has a lot of those songs that sound dated and annoying with those backup singers hitting all that call and response stuff.  If this came out today, we'd all be crying out "Johnny Cash is a sellout man!".  "The Troubadour" is especially brutal.  Disc Two:  "Hymns By Johnny Cash" must be the album they let Johnny record to get him signed to Columbia.  Johnny loved his spirituals, but even he knew this must be commercial suicide.  "It Was Jesus" would have been an awesome Uncle Scratch cover.  Boy, do I miss Brother Ed...  This has "The Old Account" on it, which is as close to a hit as there is on it.  Disc Three:   "Songs Of Our Soil" has a bunch of workin' man songs on it including the hit "Five Feet High and Rising".  I really dig a lonesome seafarer song called "I Want To Go Home" I've never heard before, and "Clementine" would be good if the arrangement was completely different.  Who the hell talked him into letting those syrupy backup singers hit that chorus?


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