I was talking with someone yesterday about a project I've been sketching out about the sad songs we listen to and the stories we have about them, and she asked me what my saddest song was. Without hesitation I responded: "Farewell Transmission by Songs:Ohia."
It was the last song I played before shutting down Punk Planet, the magazine I founded and ran for 13 years. In many ways it was the hardest day of my life and the saddest song I knew. It was years before I could listen to it again. And while time has blunted the pain of it, and I've had many sad days since, the song still hurts something awful.
I'd written a short draft about that song and that day a few months ago as part of a writing exercise with Megan Stielstra, and since my conversation yesterday has me digging up those old ghosts, I thought I'd revisit it and share the work-in-progress here with you.
"The real truth about it is, no one gets it right."
Jason Molina's voice echoes across the cavernous walls of the dusty warehouse space we'd built into an office, built into a life. For years it had thrived and then it didn't and now it's as empty as the day we moved in. It was once alive with people and ideas and color and dreams and now it's just me and this sad song.
"Farewell Transmission," it's called, and today it very much is. A final song. It's mournful and empty and sounds like I feel, like I've felt for weeks. When it's done playing I'll take apart the stereo, disassemble the final desk in the office, turn out the lights, and lock the door. But until it's done, I turn it up.
The 18 foot walls I'd just stripped of shelves and posters—posters all the way up—have Molina's voice bouncing around them like a ricochet. There's drywall chunks all over the floor and piles of magazines in a dumpster outside. We'd given away as many copies as we could and still there were hundreds left, they'll end up in a landfill or molder in a pulp mill, quickly-decomposed artifacts of the only life I've known. A life that started as a teenager and a life that ended today, at 33, a scared new dad, broke in every sense of the word, with no idea what's next.
I didn't have a plan, I never have a plan. Things fall apart and you pick them up and hope that they'll fit together again, maybe not in the same way but at least in a way that makes sense to someone. Hopefully to you.
It's been years—decades—since that day. Since that moment where it felt like everything had fallen apart. (Everything had fallen apart.) I've built lives since then and some of those have ended too. That's how it goes, really, when you do things the way I've done things: a continuous cycle of starting and ending. You get used to it, sort of, but it never gets easy. Even with the years that have transpired, the lives that have been lived, that song continues to cut into me when I hear it, but I put it on sometimes: to remember, to mourn, to celebrate.
"The real truth about it is," Molina sings, his voice haunts the room back then and haunts my head still today, "we're all supposed to try."
Published January 07, 2023.
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