10:30pm and I decided to put on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.
There was a semester in college, sometime around my third year or so, where this record was everything to me. I can remember listening to “Madame George” over and over again. The parts of the song that sounded like nonsense, wordplay, syllabic musical accompaniment… were the parts that most amazed me. Never have I read a review that so closely captured my own personal emotional response to a record more than did than Lester Bangs’ famous essay on Astral Weeks. Read it; before or after you read this – either will work. But read it.
There were days in Gainesville in the kind of winter Florida gets where it was actually quite cool. Even then it was usually sunny. It’s that combination of chill and bright that seems stuck in my head listening to this song. The little fluttery string bits about a third in, wowing and hesitating underneath. If you’ve never heard this 1968 album, you owe it to yourself to buy it. When you do, try and get some time to really listen. Try headphones. Try somewhere removed if you can. If not I suspect it’ll adapt to your surroundings anyway. Why, though, am I writing about Astral Weeks?
Tonight the choice seemed inspired.
Sharaun arrived in Florida after midnight east coast time. I’m so glad she finally decided to go. The first thing she said to me from there was a tired, teary admission, “Not being here has given me a false sense security.” It will be a tough next couple of days being apart from her and hearing her upset. I tried not to cry when she told me how real things have become to her since getting there. It’s not that I want to seem unflappable or strong or brave; I think it’s more some fool man notion around conveying a sense of calm. There will be a time when I’ll go wailing right along with her, I’m sure of that as sure as I love her grandmother as my own. Tonight wasn’t that time though.
Astral Weeks is not a sad album. It’s all shimmery and freckled with emotion almost giddy. But over all it’s contemplative. Tonight is all about contemplating.
Part of me wishes we would’ve all gone. Not being there it truly is easy to misunderstand the gravity or reality of things. Nothing substitutes for experience. Sharaun said she wished we were there with her; said she thinks it’d make things easier. Maybe so. On the other hand I feel like her having time alone with her family is important. It’s not an easy thing, “planning” in this regard. Everything seems inconsequential by comparison and any rationalization feels callous or self-serving. Start thinking maybe you shirked the one responsibility that’s clearly definitive of humankind. Nasty thoughts, gauging what you stayed back for; not thoughts that make a body feel real good.
Tonight the end of this record feels like sad prophecy.