Riding on the Subway

In 2002, Jesse Malin released an album called The Fine Art of Self Destruction. As I traveled around Chicago for a couple weeks attending academic meetings and informal gatherings with other scholars, I kept thinking about one song on this record – “Riding on the Subway.” In the song, the narrator describes all the things he sees while bouncing around a city, and interprets these observations – like the people playing jazz on the platform – in relation to his own life and expectations about the world. While riding trains – even those elevated – is likely enough to bring this type of song to mind, it was actually the interpretive process that caught my attention as I wandered through the city.

This process caught my attention because I experienced it many times – although only when I was alone on the trains – during my visit. Let me provide a few examples:

  • A young couple smiles and laughs when they notice the hoodie I am wearing and tell me how Counting Crows (the band name written on the front of my hoodie) changed their lives and they listen to them constantly.
  • A young male-appearing traveler asks me what I’m listening to, and I reply by naming the Garth Brooks song playing in the midst of my shuffled playlist at the moment. Looking first at my long hair, then at my Alice Cooper t-shirt, then again at my long hair, he says, “Wait, you listen to country, would not have guessed that.”
  • I apparently have my music on rather loud late at night as the person sitting behind me taps me on the shoulder and says, “I really like that song, what is it” and we enter a 15 minute discussion of music tastes and selections. The same thing apparently happens the next night, but instead of conversation I get dirty looks from the people around me until I turn down my headphone volume.
  • Seven different people on four different trains express something to the effect of “Yeah Wilco” as I ride the trains wearing a Wilco t-shirt.

While I find the details of these “spontaneous interactions” interesting in their own right, what really captures my attention is the way we interpret others in relation to musical displays or aesthetics on their persons. What about me did or did not look like I listened to country music? In the first and fourth examples, how was a shirt all by itself enough for strangers to imagine a bond to one another? What created the difference in reactions in the two nights noted in the third example? In all such cases, I wonder how we go about interpreting the musical symbols of others in the course of our lives and what these interpretations might say about us or about the people we encounter.

J. Sumerau

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COUCH STONE SYMPOSIUM 2016 – Call for Papers #sssi #sociology #interactionism

Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction

COUCH STONE SYMPOSIUM 2016

Nanaimo, British Columbia, Vancouver Island Conference Centre

April 21-23 (Thursday pm to Saturday)

Diversities of Social Engagement:

Where Dialogue Happens

Call for Papers

The way we engage in the world is changing: the way we communicate with one another, how we present ourselves to the world, how we experience our differences. We invite you to join us in a very special liminal space – a finite space (our island) for a finite time to talk about infinite ideas and make sense of the changes we are seeing and the impetus behind those changes. We view these changes as evident in diverse narratives about our world that come from many directions. Social media, digital identities, the enormous growth in image production brought on by technological change, the growth of surveillance and our awareness of and resistance to it, all contribute to the diverse ways in which we engage with each other. And they require an understanding of how dialogue can continue within such diversity. Please join us to share and explore narratives and images about these changes and how they are recreating space for interaction. Beyond these ideas we hope to engage you in exploring the ease with which such narratives are now shared.

For this conference we welcome submissions with a focus on how changes have impacted the narratives and/or images associated with contemporary issues. We are especially interested in stories, narratives, and images that have been impacted directly by our new plugged-in world. The topics are many but we are particularly interested in – but not restricted to – portrayals related to contemporary topics such as indigenous peoples, climate change, and science, terrorism and justice.

Submission Deadline: November 20, 2015

Submit your abstract for proposed conference papers (400-600 words, Microsoft Word or PDF) to Couch Stone 2016 couchstone2016@gmail.com. Please include a cover page with the paper’s title, name and role (faculty or student) of all authors with affiliation and contact information. Notifications of acceptance will occur during December.

Detailed information about hotel accommodation, conference registration, student travel stipends, and the planned conference program are forthcoming. Please direct other inquiries to Elizabeth McLin at Vancouver Island University (Elizabeth.mclin@viu.ca)

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Minutes – 2015 SSSI Business Meeting (Chicago), #sssi #sociology

The SSSI 2015 Business Meeting was held at the Public Hotel in Chicago on August 22, 2015. The Minutes of the meeting are online on our website.

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Carolyn Ellis’ documentary “Behind the Wall” on SSSI YouTube channel

This is not music related but you might be interested anyway.

Carolyn Ellis’ film ‘Behind the Wall’ now is on our YouTube Channel – http://youtu.be/w9es0TQkj8s

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Released…via Chicago

When I woke up this morning, I was greeted by the Chicago skyline I have enjoyed staring at so many times before.  As is always the case when I come to this city for whatever reason, I find myself thinking about Wilco quite a bit.  I still remember taking my own little pilgrimage to the Wilco loft the first time I came to this city, and standing outside the building smiling as if on sacred ground.  It was thus not surprising to me that when I left the hotel for some coffee this morning I popped on the latest Wilco record – Star Wars – for the trip.

As I listened to this (in my opinion) masterpiece from Tweedy and company, I started thinking about the way it was released.  Without any warning and free of cost (other than signing up for the band’s newsletter), the record was released online for download about a month ago.  Combining the recent release styles of Beyonce’s amazing 2013 self titled record, which appeared with almost no warning on iTunes one day, and U2’s 2014 Songs of Innocence, which was released for free to all iTunes customers, the latest Wilco record continues a trend of innovative releases in recent years by artists in a wide variety of musical genres and career stages.

Although the past couple of years have seen more and more of these (often online) events as well as a dramatic rise in services for streaming music (often for free) online, I’m reminded of 2007’s “pay what you want” release by Radiohead and Ryan Adams releasing random full albums no one knew existed (that never have gotten official releases and likely never will) for free from his website around the same time.  I also remember when the Wilco started streaming their albums for free prior to release from their website over a decade ago.  As streaming music has become (best I can tell) as ubiquitous as standard dial radio stations once were, I find myself fascinated by the ways people react to and engage with these technological developments, release styles and events, and content delivery systems.  What would analyses of streaming platforms, content delivery systems, and the ways people engage with and make sense of these technologies reveal?  How do people engage with new types of musical releases, and how do these engagements mirror or diverge from traditional musical releases?

I can’t pretend to have answers to such questions, but I think this could represent an interesting area for interactionist analyses.  While some of these efforts and offerings have met with widespread joy and critical acclaim, others have met with controversy, technical glitches, and disappointment.  In either case, shifts in the ways artists release materials for public consumption provide fertile case studies in shifting landscapes and technological efforts in relation to music.  I find myself wondering what might be learned from an interactionist examination of musical releases, ways of releasing music, and / or ways people interpret releases over time, between varied communities, and in relation to different musical types and mediums.

After all, technological innovations have always influenced the production and dissemination tactics of the arts and vice versa in varied and nuanced ways.  What might we find via systematic explorations of these variations and nuances currently and over the passage of time?  How might a concert attendee view the experience of seeing their favorite band both in an arena in their hometown and then again two weeks later utilizing a live streaming service capturing a concert two states away?  How do people manage and use streaming services and are these endeavors similar to and / or different than the use and management of other mediums and formats?  Do people react differently to a unannounced release by an artist than they do to one with traditional marketing, buildup, and individual song releases in advance?  Regardless of what we might learn about these or other questions, I suspect there may be much of interest in the social experience of musical and other artistic release strategies, styles, technologies, and events.

J. Sumerau

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Covered in Meaning

Earlier this week, news broke that Ryan Adams will be covering the entirety of Taylor Swift’s latest record – 1989. Amidst the joyful, shocked, and unhappy reactions I read all over the Internet in the days following, I began to think about the meaning of covers. What experiences, ideas, memories, identities, emotions and / or other social reactions do covers generate? What makes for a “good” or “bad” cover? How do people think about or engage with covers?

Just in case there is anyone unfamiliar with the term, a “cover” is a new version of a previously recorded and (usually) commercially released song by a new or different artist. While many musical genres rely upon the work of songwriters behind the scenes and thus regularly have artists singing songs someone else wrote or published, covers are considered distinct because the song in question has generally been released by and associated with a former artist whether or not that artist initially wrote the song. In fact, in some cases “cover versions” of previous songs actually become more popular than the originally released versions, and entire albums (often called tribute releases) are often made covering the work of a given artist considered to be important in some way.

Returning to the questions above, what reactions do covers generate? While I would guess the answers to this question would be as varied and broad as covers themselves, what I thought about first while following the news this past week (and yes I’m looking forward to this release as I’m a huge fan of Ryan Adams and have enjoyed what I’ve heard of Taylor Swift thus far) involved debates I’ve witnessed wherein people seek to claim one or another version of a song is more authentic than others. For me, the prime example of this involves the Bob Dylan song “All Around the Watchtower.” While there are many different recorded versions of this song by various artists, the debates I witnessed always revolved around the original Dylan recording and 3 specific cover versions.

In the original Dylan version, the song is a simple folk tune set to a story that makes little sense in concrete terms with a simple drum, acoustic guitar, and harmonica arrangement. In the most famous cover version of the song (and some say the most famous version of the song), however, Jimi Hendrix takes this foundation, and turns the song into a roaring rock n roll classic with a vibrant electric guitar solo inserted into the middle. In another version of the song, the Dave Matthews Band added a horn section and a fiddle-plus-acoustic-and-bass-guitar trio to the mix to create what felt like a surreal and somewhat creepy version of the tune, which sometimes included the Jimi Hendrix cover version of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Finally, I have heard people argue that U2 actually captured the “essence” (whatever that means) of the song with the pounding drums and guitars of Hendrix blended with a vocal delivery that amplified Dylan’s original delivery style.

I do not seek here to enter this debate (i.e., I actually like all four of these versions and many others), but rather to note the variation in how people respond to different versions of the same song. What do these reactions suggest for the people who have them, and what do cover versions come to mean for people – the artists, the audience, others – in relation to the original recordings? How do people interpret cover versions similarly or differently than original releases? What does it feel like when someone realizes their favorite song by “x artist” was actually originally done by “y artist”? How might people react when their favorite song is redone by another artist in a different style? What significance do tribute albums (and other albums composed primarily of covers) have for the people who buy them? I suspect the reactions to covers would likely provide some fertile ground for exploring meaning making in relation to music more broadly.

What does make a “good” or “bad” cover? If, for example, one takes a trip through Google, then they may see regular articles posted from various sources exclaiming things to the effect of “most covered songs ever,” “most over-covered songs,” “covers that are better than the original,” and all sorts of other lists promising the merits of this or that set of covers. How do people come to such conclusions about the covers they encounter? Randomly asking a few people this week, I got various responses along the lines of “well, if its better than the original,” “if it adds something to the original,” “if the artist is talented,” “if it’s a good song, “if its completely different from the original,” and “if it’s exactly the same as the original but with a different voice” to name a few. That I could tell (admittedly only based on a bit of conversation), there were no defining criteria for covers, and in fact, what would make something “good” to someone would make it “bad” to someone else. What I did notice, however, is that everyone seemed to have an answer to the question without needing to think about it too much. This makes me wonder what systematic study concerning people’s evaluation of covers (and other music) might reveal, and where people develop these responses in the first place.

Not surprisingly, I then started asking myself the same question. I have a whole lot of covers in my music collection, and a lot of my regular listening materials include various covers. I also have purchased my fair share of tribute albums over the years. In the end, I came up with three criteria that I think work for me – (1) do I like the song itself in the first place, its lyrics and / or melody; (2) did an artist I already enjoy do the cover; and / or (3) does the cover add something new to the song. I don’t know what these criteria say or mean in my case, but they seem to apply to all the covers I think of as “good” and especially to the ones I listen to regularly.

All of this leads me to consider what could be learned from people’s engagement with covers. Whether we look at official cover versions, countless covers posted on youtube, television shows – like the Voice or American Idol or Glee – that contain covers as a primary component of their storylines, or even people’s experiences of social activities like karaoke bars and open mic nights, what do revisions to existing songs tell us about people, society, and music in general. I’m not sure, but as I prepare for Ryan Adams’ interpretation of Taylor Swift I find myself hoping for such studies and considering possible answers while I listen to my own favorite cover versions (listed below just in case anyone is curious) and encouraging readers to share your own favorites or interpretations of mine in the comments section.

My ultimate list of the greatest covers ever:

  1. Counting Crows – You Ain’t Going Nowhere (original by Bob Dylan)
  2. Counting Crows – Return of the grievous angel (original by Gram Parsons)
  3. Ryan Adams – Always on my Mind (original by Brenda Lee)
  4. Pearl Jam – Twenty-five minutes to go (original by Shel Silverstein)
  5. Sinead O’Connor – Nothing compares 2 U (original by Prince)
  6. Nirvana – Lake of Fire (original by the Meat Puppets)
  7. The Fugees – Killing me softly (original by Roberta Flack)
  8. Johnny Cash – Hurt (original by Nine Inch Nails)
  9. Garth Brooks – Maggie May (original by Rod Stewart)
  10. Aaron Lewis – Afraid (original by Motley Crue)

J. Sumerau

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Counting Selves via Crows

Last week on Write Where It Hurts, I wrote about some of my experiences managing chronic health conditions in the academy. At the same time on this blog, I talked about an experience at a coffee shop with a stranger that led me to reflect on the meaning of songs and playlists in relation to the people we believe ourselves to be. At the end of the week, I thought about the intersection of these posts as I attended my 15th Counting Crows concert to date. As I enjoyed the show with my life partner, I began thinking about the interesting ways Xan Nowakowski used Alice Cooper’s music to discuss nuances and variations in their own selfhood. In this post, I seek to engage in a similar form of self reflection utilizing my now over 20 year relationship with the songs of the Counting Crows.

“It’s 4:30 am on a Tuesday. It doesn’t get much worse than this – in beds in little rooms in the middle of these lives which are completely meaningless.” (Perfect Blue Buildings).

Like Alice Cooper for Xan Nowakowski and other artists for countless people I have met, Counting Crows have been an essential element of my life since I first discovered their debut album – August and Everything After. At the time, I was realizing a previously unknown aspect of my origin, trying to understand fluid and gender sexual preferences and desires, helping my first love understand what it meant that he was initially born intersex, and seeking to make sense of the odd ways my brain seemed to work that no one seemed to understand. I remember falling in love with telecasters as I screamed “she must be tired of something” as Round Here echoed in my headphones, feeling like maybe I wasn’t completely alone in the way my mind worked as I heard “asleep in perfect blue buildings beside the green apple sea” and “how am I gonna get myself away from myself and me,” and feeling an ache as I repeatedly sang along to Mr. Jones as Adam Duritz asked listeners to “believe in me cause I don’t believe in anything.” I remember that listening to “Raining in Baltimore” made my first love smile without fail. I remember I didn’t understand why I was given away by my birth parents, why I wanted to hug and kiss the boys and girls (and intersex people I was just learning about) in class equally as much, why I wanted to wear pants sometimes and skirts at others when I could get them (I usually wore the skirts in the woods where no one would see), why I couldn’t believe in anything I couldn’t see, or why the world seemed to constantly change around me no matter how hard I tried to make sense of it – in short, I wondered “why am I so alone, I can’t go outside I’m scared I might not make it home.” I remember hearing a line from “Rain King” incorrectly and thinking it said “Mr. Henderson is looking for his son” and thinking if the Mr. Henderson I had just learned was my biological parent was doing this too. The record didn’t provide answers, but it did provide comfort and a form of expression I could not yet come up with on my own as a horribly confused pre-teen. It gave me hope for the everything that might be after August. It helped me imagine the possibility that “we were perfect when we started” and reminded me that “you don’t want to waste your life” when I really needed to be reminded of this point.

“She is trapped inside a month of gray, and they take a little every day. She is a victim of her own responses shackled to a heart that wants to settle and then runs away. It’s a sin to be fading endlessly, yeah but she’s alright with me” (Mercury).

Three years later, I was no less confused about my gender, sexuality, and lack of ability to believe in the unseen, but I was also reeling emotionally from the deaths of close friends and being sexually assaulted. I really felt “wasted in the afternoon” when Recovering the Satelites hit record stores. The melancholy in the songs somehow spoke to me on levels that no one in my life could reach and that I couldn’t really verbalize even if I ever would have wanted to. I remember howling “have you seen me lately” as I realized (though I couldn’t seem to stop) that I was strategically making sure less and less people knew anything about who I was, what I was going through, what I felt, or what I thought – I remember having learned at some point that people who’s minds were different, so called boys who felt like a girl, and people who were attracted to everyone instead of just one sex could not safely share these experiences. My life became a surface performance where I, like a trained monkey “all dressed up” with “no place to go,” put on a show and kept almost everyone away from what I actually felt and desired. For the most part, I don’t think anyone noticed, and looking back I think that was the point – “she’s trying to be a good girl, give em what they want, but Margery’s dreaming of horses.” As two more friends succumbed to violence and I tried to understand the ups and downs in my own head, the whole time period felt like “a long December” without the reason “to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.” I remember feeling dead inside (a feeling that would become normal over time – a numbness that it felt like only “Miller’s Angels” could understand) and filling notebooks full of nightmares and dreams, side by side, almost hugging each other in search of some meaning or peace for even just a moment. I remember begging for the way I was feeling to “please, don’t don’t come around.”

“All my friends got flowers in their eyes, but I got none this season. All of last years’ blooms have gone and died, time doesn’t give a reason” (all my friends).

Three years later, I began to suspect that Adam Duritz, the lyricist of Counting Crows, might be following me around. As This Desert Life emerged, I was obsessed with “films about ghosts” and I was certain that “the price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings.” Over time, more important people passed away, and I was no closer to making sense of my mind or my life in any coherent fashion. I was in the midst of considering sex-reassignment listening to “I wish I was a girl” while managing ever increasing swings from manic belief in my own awesomness and invinsibility to depressed suicidal fantasies and beliefs that the world was trying to kill me and that I deserved such a death. These swings were coupled with nightmares that made it almost impossible to sleep. My happiest moments came in day dreams and fantasies where everyone was still alive, being a boy and a girl at the same time was no big deal, my brain didn’t feel like it was out to kill me, my first love wasn’t dying, and everyone reacted like the couple of people I had met at that point with smiles and affirmation when I sheepishly noted that I desired and dated people of all genital types and gender identities (though I didn’t know or use the term gender identity at the time). I thought about the people I’d lost already and wanted to find a way to tell them “I’m doing alright these days” but I came up empty. Empty and numb wrestled for primacy inside me unless I stepped out into a fantasy reminiscent of “St Robinson and his Cadillac Dream.” I felt like I’d been “Hangin’ Around” inside my own head for “way too long” and desperately wanted a way out. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs every time “All my friends” came on my stereo as I sang along to the lines “one way or another I’m just hoping to find a way to put my feet out in the world” and “tryin’ to find a better way to get through the things I do the things I should.” Unconsciously, I began a pattern I continued for the better part of the next decade wherein I sabotaged any possible relationship (romantic or otherwise) because somehow being alone and unknown felt safer – “all I really know is I wanna know and all I really know is I don’t wanna know.”

“Can I say I wish that this weather would never leave. It just gets hard to believe that god sent this angel to watch over me. Cause my angel, she don’t receive my calls, says I’m too dumb to fuck, too dumb to fight, to dumb to save – well, maybe I don’t need no angel at all” (Miami).

When Hard Candy arrived three years later, some things had begun to change. In some ways, I had begun to “empty drawers of other summers where my shadows used to be” as a result of learning a lot about mental, sexual and gender variations, existing communities of other non-believers or nonreligious people, and common reactions to traumatic experiences. It turned out there were many people who saw and experienced sexual and gender fluidity as normal and natural like I did, there were countless people whose minds operated differently than standard models in the world, there were many folks who did not believe in the unseen, and many people who (like me) had experienced adoption, rape, loss of many loved ones, and other potentially traumatic events that felt lost, alone, different, or just plain changed after the fact. In all such cases, many people “had something breakable just under the skin” and many of them just wanted “to have a good time just like everybody else.” On the other hand, information only provided a frame of reference for understanding (on some level) the things I felt. I understood that what I was experiencing (in all cases) was not unique, but I remained “black and blue” and continued to shift back and forth between suicidal impulses and self medication. Only in a “dimly lit room where you got nothing to hide” did it all go away for a moment amidst the chemicals and tears. A contradiction emerged where I was happy I wasn’t alone, but only felt okay when I was alone – “I been up all night, I might sleep all day, get your dreams just right, let em slip away.” I dove into journal keeping as a way to have conversations since I couldn’t talk to people for the most part while sober, and I tried to find some meaning in everything I was learning from others and everything I had experienced to date. I felt like it really was “too late to get high” so I focused on trying to build some kind of life where the horror inside my head and the pain in my bones might benefit the world – in short, I began what Xan Nowakowski would later call Writing Where It Hurts. Simply put, I finally stopped hoping to be saved, and instead began to focus on what I could do that might help save others. For some reason, creating some kind of purpose from the pain slowly removed the suicidal thoughts, self medications, and fear and replaced them with an almost obsessive need to help anyone I could that continues to drive me to this day.

“Have you seen the little pieces of the people we have been? Little pieces blowing gently on the wind – they have flown down California, they have landed in L.A. – little pieces slowly settling on the waves. I’m one of a million pieces fallen on the ground. Its one of the reasons when we say goodbye we’ll still come around” (Come Around).

Similar to Counting Crows at the time, the next few years passed in a blur, and before I realized it I was much older and looking at the world in a much different fashion. As Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings came out, I was preparing to enter graduate school, and again I felt like the music was following me somehow. Like the lyrics of “Washington Square,” I “locked up my bedroom” every night in a new city and “walked out into the air” with a sense that maybe, just maybe, classrooms could provide an optimal space for helping others. While my mental and physical pains could render me useless (still can and do at times) on “Almost any Sunday morning,” I had somehow that I still can’t explain figured out how to “open windows” even though I remained sure that when I did I would simply “wait for someone warm to come inside and then freeze to death alone.” I had made peace with living as a boy, girl and anything in between from day to day or moment to moment, with desiring bodies of various types, forms, and histories, and with the fact that “I don’t believe in Sundays, and I don’t believe in anything at all.” Somewhere inside myself, these once frightening realities had become a source of pride, and the way my mind constantly shifted from a Saturday night style all out party to a Sunday morning style wish for death somehow seemed appropriate in a world littered with inequalities, pain, trauma, and violence. I began to realize that being “so different” was worth it as long as I didn’t allow myself to be “insignificant” in terms of positive impact for the world around me because I really didn’t (still don’t) “know how to see the same things differently now” – pain, others or my own, should be something we all fight against daily in any small way we can as far as I’m concerned. I remember being amazed that my ability and (even when I don’t want to) need to de-construct and analyze everything in order to understand how once taken apart it might work better for all was something I was about to do for a living. I listened to Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings on repeat all summer as I prepared for graduate study thinking “I’m coming along real good, but I still can’t do most of the things I should,” and for the first time seeing this as a positive aspect of my experience.

“Now I’m not breaking, the train’s just shaking. I never made it here before and there’s a wide mouth spinning the girls around til they can’t take it anymore. I used to dream in the dark, in Palisades Park, up over the cliffs and down among the spark. It’s a long life, full of long nights, but its not what I was waiting for” (Palisades Park).

Once again, there were many events and transitions contained within the six years between Counting Crows records, and once again, as Somewhere Under Wonderland hit the shelves last fall I felt like it spoke to who I had become in the passage of time. Whether I thought about the ways “the world just spun me around” or the ways “she gets the blues, it carries us through,” I found myself reflecting on the past few years, and the surreal experience of finding myself somehow in possession of everything I could ask for personally in this world at present. I thought about past experiences where I dreamed “of sunlight” and sang “of smaller things,” and how making it through my own “memory play where the memory fades” has allowed me to direct almost all my attention to the little ways I can help others, accept myself in all its varied inconsistencies, and try to make a small difference in the world. Having also learned how to truly open up to others for the first time since I was a teenager, I found myself replaying the many times people asked things to the effect of “come on Adam tell me what the hell is wrong with you” and “tell me what the hell am I supposed to do” before ultimately realizing they love me or leave me but couldn’t live with what I put them through. Recognizing this theme inspired seemingly limitless appreciation for those who fought through my defenses and helped me get rid of them so I could connect to others personally again. I’ve come to accept the contradiction noted above wherein I “live alone, but I am hungry for affection, I just struggle with connection.” I have found piece in my own “melodies of failure and the people I have thrown away” because even if I “spend all my tomorrows coming down” I can still find solace in the fact that even though “I know I never said I loved you” that as long as I don’t give up “I might just try again tonight.” As a result, I experience the present comfortable in the realization that every day is just “one more possibility day.”

“You can run out of choices and still hear a voice in your head. When you’re lying in bed, and it says, the best part of a bad day is knowing its okay, the color of everything changes, the sky rearranges its shade and the smile doesn’t fade into the phone call and one bad decision we made. And the worst part of a good day is the one thing you don’t say and you don’t know how but you wish there was some way” (Possibility Days).

As I look back on the past that makes up my life to date and the imagined future ahead, I thus find myself focused on the possibilities rather than the problems. If my years living with me and listening to Counting Crows have taught me anything, its that the labels are artificial, fluid, varied, and flexible whatever form they take, and what really matters is what little steps we take to ease the pain of others and learn to embrace ourselves in a world that seeks to tell us who and what we should be instead of who and what we could be with adequate support and collaboration. It is with this view that I write to you from Somewhere Under Wonderland encouraging you to, in whatever way you prefer, embrace yourself, reach out to others, express your positive and negative experiences and emotions just in case the process helps you and / or others, and see what positive impact (no matter how large or small) you can make on this world. In my case, the music helps me see myself, and so I ask you to reflect on this possibility in your own life as I step away from the computer, turn on my stereo, and enjoy some Counting Crows tunes on an afternoon in the midst of an ongoing life.

“I am written in the radio, I dream on my TV – dislocation, dislocation. I am fading out in stereo, I don’t remember me – dislocation, dislocation” (Dislocation).

J. Sumerau

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