Monday, January 1, 2001

A Very Marilyn Xmas

"I'm walking through the summer nights, jukebox playing low. Yesterday everything was moving too fast, today everything's moving too slow. I've got nowhere left to turn. I've got nothing left to burn."

Leo says to Josh, "There's a man who falls into a hole too steep to climb out. A doctor passes by and the man in the hole calls out, 'Excuse me sir, could you please give me a hand?' And the doctor writes out a prescription and throws it down. A few moments later a priest walk by and the man in the hole calls out, 'Father, could you please help?' And the priest writes down a prayer and throws it down. Later a friend of the man in the hole walks by. 'Hey Joe can you give me a hand?' And the friend jumps down into the hole. The first man says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both stuck.' The second man says, 'Yeah but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"

I used to supervise the angriest state employee, the ever ulcer inducing Nancy Jean, who every year suffered through the most severe case of the holiday blues. Every year on the last workday before a holiday, particularly Christmas and New Years I would pass Nancy Jean's desk and stop by to chat. Nancy Jean was the division's receptionist so she would see others scurrying off to do holiday shopping or get an early start off to long distance relatives. She used to tell me how miserable it made her feel that she in essence had no family to go home to. Her mother passed away just as Nancy Jean was becoming a teenager. Her father was abusive, her brother in trouble with the law, and her sister saddled with a drug problem. I used to say I understood, and I really believed I did. But more and more I see it was presumptuous to say I understood, and for that I wish to take this moment to make a public apology to Nancy Jean.

"The light in this place is so bad it's making me sick in the head. All the laughter is just making me sad. The stars have turned cherry red."

My sister recently told me of a brand new malady that is afflicting those young "dot-com" execs that have made millions and millions in an insanely short period of time. Not used to having that much money they are now suffering from what is being called "Sudden Wealth Syndrome." Excuse me if I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for those people, not when there are others, myself included, who have a heavy dose of the more traditional Nancy Jean like holiday blues.

I'm not exactly sure why but thoughts of shopping and putting up decorations and following through on the many traditions caused absolute dread this year. Thus I put it all off until the last possible moment which only added to the stress. I found myself on Christmas Eve day at the Roseville Toys 'R' Us, looking for that final holiday present. Expecting a Jingle All the Way like frenzy I pulled into the parking lot which was half empty and wondered if the store was even open. Once inside I was shocked to find that the majority of the people inside were Asian. Is there something in my genes that causes procrastination? Hmmmm....

"Last night I danced with a stranger but she just reminded me you were the one. You left me standing in the doorway crying, in the dark land of the sun."

I did find one cure for the holiday blues, a wonderful live version of Bob Dylan's "Standing in the Doorway," from a June 15, 2000 concert in Portland Oregon. The song was one of the last Time Out of Mind songs to get a live treatment (only "Dirt Road Blues" which would make a terrific opener, has yet to be performed live). Listening to the song I'm reminded (of course) of Dylan's Target Center performance two years ago. I attended with a person not all that familiar with his work and my apprehension over whether or not she'd enjoy the concert was thankfully relieved when she turned to me and said, "I love his voice!" Leaving the concert she asked me what Dylan song contains the line, "Don't know if I saw you if I'd kiss you or kill you, it probably wouldn't matter to you anyhow." The song is "Standing in the Doorway."

A couple of my closest closet confidants have expressed the belief that when one has the blues one shouldn't listen to the blues. But this particular version of "Standing in the Doorway" proves them wrong. Have you ever been lucky enough to be at a place where everything is as it should be? Where everything for a single solitary moments feels just exactly right? The song is intensely sad, being about a person who has been abandoned by an important other, just as that abandonment could hurt the worst.

The song uses the perfect metaphor to convey its mood. The singer is placed in the exact spot where he can't be with the one in his heart and also in the spot where he can't leave. He's waiting for something that is long past gone. And when Dylan croaks out the final verse of the song, the way he sings "blues wrapped around my head" hurts and hurts deeply. Yet there is the empathetic voice of one who understands, one who has been there many times before and has survived and will continue on.

"It always means so much. Even the softest touch. I see nothing to be gained by any explanation. There's no words that need to be said. You left me standing in the doorway crying, blues wrapped around my head."

For Christmas my Dad (who it turns out might have been Santa Claus all these years) gave me a guitar. It's my goal this year to learn how to play it. Thus far I been able to learn enough to pluck out an excruciating mistake laden ten minute version of "Ode to Joy." But the desire is there as I envision myself across the street at the coffee house one day pouring my heart out in the most amazing cover of "Standing in the Doorway."

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