Posting My First Novel: ‘CONDITION OAKLAND: Confessions of a Naïve Punk With a Heart Full of Arson, An Oh, How the World Doth Quake & Burn’ – TRACK 2 – CHAPTER NINE: A Run For the Border

About ‘Condition Oakland’
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TRACK 2 – CHAPTER NINE: A RUN FOR THE BORDER

We really have our shit together sometimes, with the band. I mean, sometimes we all get to practice early, when we plan it out, and we play songs on the stereo for each other. Songs we want to take an influence from, or at least inspiration. So we all sit on the floor next to the CD player, and take turns putting on a song, and listening. And we really listen, too, really hear the music. It’s great. It feels like we’re doing something important.

I play a song by one of my favorite bands ever called ‘The Weakerthans.’ The song is called ‘Greatest Hits Collection.‘ The lyrics and music are perfect. It’s hard to describe the Weakerthans to someone who’s never heard them. It’s like never having seen a certain color. I just want them to hear this song… to listen to how powerful and amazing songwriting can be, and we sit there after listening to it. It ends, and the guitar fades out, and no one says anything for a few seconds, until I ask them what they think. 

“Incredible,” Mark says.

“Yeah.”

Lane plays the Ben Folds Five song “Evaporated,” and it has a similar effect. Even though we all know the song, we are actually sitting there listening to it together, and it nearly kills me. “I poured my heart out,” he sings, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.

“That’s what we have to capture,” I say. “Like that Emily Dickenson quote, ‘If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.’ That’s it, there.”

Mark busts out a Grateful Dead song. “Ripple.” I have never heard it before, and I love it. It is so pure and clear, and makes me happy just listening to it. 

Sidney won’t show us the CD before putting it in the player. He puts his hand over it, skipping the track and then hitting play. We wait about three seconds, having no idea what we are about to hear. And then it comes on. The opening chord, then the bass drum pounding. Leave it to Sidney to pick this song.

The song is T.N.T. by AC/DC. We all look at Sidney and he’s smiling like his head is going to explode.

I get up, laughing, and simply walk out of the room. But I come right back in. I’m just kidding with him. He has made his point, that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. He says to us, over the music, “We must not be afraid to rock, boys.” We agree.

We absorb the songs and they become a part of us, and somehow we a part of them.

That night we write a song called “This Poor City.” I write the lyrics first, in a fury, sitting there on the carpet, trying to pull an unnamable feeling out of me and into my words. Then we write the music, together, and the sound evokes, in me at least, an image of kids driving around at night. The vocals are simple and powerful, but the words, I think, are sensitive and poetic. So it all comes together and makes the song. It goes like this:

VERSE:

“Looking for something bigger than myself /

Or maybe just looking for a party /

I put the CD in and forgive the world for everything /

So don’t worry about saying sorry /

What should I say here? /

It’s silence that I fear /

So I turn it up, and try to smile /

Taking it all in while my car eats the miles /

I’ve spread myself too thin /

So won’t you let me in? /

CHORUS:

We’re the adherents of a brand new religion /

We tend to the streetlights in the sky, 

spot me a slurpee from 7-11 / 

                Let’s not waste this /

This poor city needs us now /

I could love you, like you want me to /

You’ve just gotta tell me how /

VERSE:

So here we go again /

Where do we begin? /

Let’s not talk about that now /

It’s hard for me to face /

Staying in one place /

When will it ever seem like now? /

So the past is gone /

And tomorrow may never come /

We didn’t need it anyhow /

And it’ll never feel like now /

BRIDGE: 

There would be a bridge right here /

If I hadn’t burned it down /

And who says restlessness is bad? /

Maybe wanting more is all we ever had /

CHORUS:

We’ve got a brand new religion /

The perfect music 

it’s like choreography the way we improvise heaven /

Let’s not waste it /

This poor city needs us now /

I could love you, if you want me to /

You’ve just gotta tell me now /

Tell me now…

Tell me now…

Tell me now…

Tell me now…

It’s so beautiful and rocking when you hear it with the music. I wish you could see us this night, playing it through for the first time. I’m buzzing inside the entire time, electricity running straight down my neck and back. It stays there till I finish holding the last note, the only sound at the end the clear tone of my voice.

We have just finished and we’re all standing there silent when Charlin comes in.

“Uh, hey guys. I brought tacos.”

We all crack up, can’t help it. It’s just so random and absurd after such a moment.

                I attack Sidney, incoherently yelling something about tacos as we carouse our way from practice.

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