There are five songs I that I can remember made me cry. I would say this was appropriate two out of five times.
The first was “God Bless The U.S.A.” I don’t know how young I was, but young enough that wherever we were, it was tough for me to stay up late enough for a fireworks show to start. And when they did, Lee Greenwood blared over the speakers, and I started to cry. I did love the U.S.A. And a fireworks show is a great place to cry. Nobody is looking at you.
The second was the country(ish) song “Love, Me” from Colin Raye. It’s cheesy as hell. I think. I don’t know. I won’t listen to it now because I’m sure my memory of it is sweeter than hearing it again. Most of the time, the things that seemed sincere and hit hard when you were a kid don’t weigh the same when you’re grown. Anymore I like to leave them be and live off the memories instead.
What I remember is I was in the car. It was night. I’d never heard the song before, and it was way before you could figure out what a song was by typing the words in somewhere. It was a story song, something I’ve always been partial to, and I cried. I remember it was night because I remember that the rest of my family couldn’t see me cry. I didn’t have to explain. It was a personal, private moment in a family setup where you didn’t get a lot of those.
The next one didn’t come for a long time. It was “Nightswimming.” The REM song. I was young, but old enough to start feeling old. It’s not like years ago.
“Nightswimming” has to be one of the most complicated songs ever. There’s a photo on a car’s dashboard. It’s turned backwards, so every time they drive by a streetlight, it reflects the photo’s image on the windshield. The whole setup is picky, so particular that is has to be true. Nobody would go through that much work to describe something that wasn’t real. Which is why it hurts.
Number four was a Bon Iver song. Designed to make a person sad. There’s really nothing about Bon Iver that isn’t leaned towards making you cry. It’s a little like if I told you that a teaspoon of salt made me thirsty. Mission accomplished.
The last, number five, was about a week ago. When I say last, I mean most recent.
My partner moved to Oregon. 20 hours away in the car. I know because we drove it together.
She’s in a little apartment with carpet and cork on the floor. It’s in a complex where they all look similar from outside, and it’s hard for me to remember which one is which by the numbers. One of her neighbors has Disney sheets that double as curtains, which helps, and the cat’s carrier is on the porch because the cat peed in it on the way out. The cat’s carrier looks so small on the porch, barely bigger than the cat.
There’s something to the whole idea that when I left her apartment on my own, I had trouble when I had to get back on my own. But let’s leave that one be for now.
When I came back to town, I took it easy on music for a few days. Happy songs only, or metal. There was safety there.
The radio was safe too. Only gonna be songs I’ve heard enough times that any power they had was drained.
Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” came on. I figured that one was pretty safe. A goofy song about having sex in the back of a car, one with a title and chorus I found pretty funny, no problems there.
I listened to “Night Moves.” Maybe for the first time because I didn’t remember the middle very well.
All the drums and guitars and even the piano cut out. It’s just Bob.
Woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in
Night moves aren’t just sex. I mean, they are in the first part of the song. But then they change. Night moves are how the night moves, how the night feels. When you’re alone, like Bob.
It turns. The song tricks you, and like any good piece of writing, lulls you into a place where you think everything’s good.
It turns out Bob Seger wrote this part of the song first. Tricky bastard.
If you’d asked me two weeks ago whether “Night Moves” was a very silly song, I would have said yes. A song I like, but a silly one. If you’d asked me if I’d consider titling a memoir “Night Moves” because it’s just that funny, also yes.
If you’d asked me if I’d be in the car and “Night Moves” would set me to tears, I would wonder what had happened. Was Bob Seger dead? Was I dying? Whatever it was, I’d have to figure it was something outside the song itself. Because tears for “Night Moves” would be like weeping when you heard “Crazy Train” or “…Baybe One More Time.”
But that’s the way of these things. It’s not what you expect. It’s not when you come across the ticket for your flight back, which you stuck inside a book as a bookmark. It’s not when you see the goofy cat magnets she made for you on the fridge. It’s not when you look back through the pictures you took and see some and say, “Shit, that was 2 years ago already.”
It’s when you’re in the car, and you think you’re safe. You’re in sweatpants. You’re totally unprepared. That’s when it happens.
I don’t know what the next thing will be. I don’t know where the next song will come from. This I’ve learned.
But I will ask that if any of you are more familiar with Bob Seger, let me know if there are any hidden landmines in there. I’m terrified to discover “Old Time Rock N’ Roll” is about his mother dying of cancer.