Has everyone listened to the viral “Reply All” podcast episode “The Case of the Missing Hit”? If not, go listen to it before reading the rest of this post. “Reply All” remains the only podcast to which I regularly listen and that episode was my initiation.
I bring this up because I am currently having my own “missing hit” mystery. This morning I woke up to the sound of rain and my brain – for whatever reason – remembered a song from my childhood. I am almost positive it was a song that existed on a videotape we had at home, and that it was some sort of episode or segment from this video that we used to watch all the time. The lyrics (sung by a woman, if I remember correctly) are as follows:
“I sit and watch the rain, as it falls from the sky
And I am glad to be inside, where it is warm and dry.”
Where is this song from?!?!?!?!??!
I just spent twenty minutes googling and came up empty-handed. I don’t know that anyone outside of my family would have seen this video – I think it was relatively obscure – but I am going crazy trying to remember where the song is from. And why, every time it rains, does this song get stuck in my head?!
So yes, it’s a rainy Sunday morning in Berkeley. And for the first time in months, my daily gratitude list included “rain.”
I never understood what that (mystery) song was talking about because, when I was ten years old, all rain meant was that my soccer game, the highlight of my week, would be cancelled. It meant that I’d have to wear a big, inconvenient raincoat to school and worry about the homework and paper bag lunch in my backpack getting wet (and no one likes a wet cheese sandwich).
But now, ~as an adult~, I have more of an appreciate for rain. Or maybe it has nothing to do with being an adult – though I no longer have to worry about my sports games getting cancelled – and more to do with being able to work from home. Because I have nowhere to be, including at an office, I don’t have to deal with the chaos of adjusting my entire daily schedule to accommodate the weather. I am such a creature of habit and routine that rain in California upends my entire day (should I brave my bike commute in the rain? Or should I test the unreliable waters of the bus? Will I have time to shower when I get to work if I’m wet? etc. etc.).
This morning I can bask in the sound and smell and sight of rain because I have nowhere else to be but at home. Better yet, I can read poetry in bed as I watch and listen to the rain fall. And better still, I can read poetry in bed about the rain and have a meta-rain-poetry experience. Raymond Carver:
Did you know that Raymond Carver went to Chico State (I am now reading a short biography of Raymond Carver)?
Thomas R. Edwards describes Carver’s fictional world as a place where “people worry about whether their old cars will start, where unemployment or personal bankruptcy are present dangers, where a good time consists of smoking pot with the neighbors, with a little cream soda and M&M’s on the side … Carver’s characters are waitresses, mechanics, postmen, high school teachers, factory workers, door-to-door salesmen. [Their surroundings are] not for them a still unspoiled scenic wonderland, but a place where making a living is as hard, and the texture of life as drab, for those without money, as anywhere else.”Poetryfoundation.org
So really what I am hearing is that Carver is the poet equivalent of Bruce Springsteen. They both write about – and in many ways, to – the working class, whose hopes and dreams are often obscured by the day-to-day realities of work and hardship.
While Bruce explores these themes in a more lyrical and verbose fashion, Carver tends toward minimalism: simple, few words. Yet they often tell the same story of a working class person or family and, in the words of critic Geoffrey Wolff in his New York Times Book Review on Carver’s poems, “almost all of them hold a promise of mayhem of some final, awful breaking from confines, and breaking through to liberty.”
If that isn’t a good thematic summation of “Born to Run,” I don’t know what is.
The question then becomes: why am I so drawn to these stories in art? I can’t pretend to relate to the experience of factory workers or small-town laborers. I think it’s because I love the reminder that so much of the human experience is universal; that, even though I don’t work 9-5 at a factory like a Springsteen character, I struggle with the same wants for freedom and love and fullness of life, and the same fears of loneliness and broken promises and unfulfilled dreams.
“It’s a town full of losers and I’m pullin’ out of here to win.”