"Says a prayer as she's kissed by ocean air..."
There's something about mixing a truly depressing, downbeat album with dreary weather and a gloomy mindset that can make it, if not cheering, at least comforting in some strange way. That's the role "Ocean Beach" has been playing for me during these lonely late-afternoon work shifts lately. Around the same time that the weather changed, I started feeling a lot worse than I had been for the past few months. Normally I'm totally ready to leave my house, be around friends, and have fun, but over the past week or so it's been murder trying to make myself do those things, and sometimes I can't manage at all, and end up sitting at home all night by myself. And of course, when I do that, I'm miserable, but sometimes when I go out I feel just as bad. The tendency is to blame the whole thing on the change in weather; perhaps an attack of undiagnosed seasonal affective disorder, or just a combination of environmental influences and already diagnosed bipolar manic depressive disorder. I don't know, really, but in the end it doesn't matter. What matters is that things have been harder lately, and I'm far more likely to retreat into solitude than I had been a few weeks ago. Then again, when I do so, I feel incredibly lonely. What I end up feeling is a desire to be around people and yet to tell them all to go away at the same time.
Nothing is worse during times like this than forced solitude, and forced solitude is exactly what I'm having to endure on these long, dreary afternoons. No one comes into my work, and I can't leave no matter how dead we are (at least, not if I want to keep my job), so I sit here by myself and deal with the crappy way I feel. Listening to Red House Painters is one of the only things helping me get through it. Mark Kozelek's dry, soothing voice is almost like a warm blanket I can pull around myself, sheltering me from the cold world. In particular, the song "Summer Dress" is a comfort, with its spare, acoustic arrangement for a single guitar and vocals. Even at their most uproarious, Red House Painters are never a loud rock n' roll band, but this song is about as far from that idea that anyone could get. Kozelek's words touch on familiar concepts too, even though he's singing about a girl. "Spends her life inside, she thinks she isn't blessed," he sings, and I know that this is me too--the kid who always assumes the worst, who figures no one cares, no matter how far from the truth that may be.
This theme returns a few songs later, in "Shadows", which features another minimal arrangement (though this one is for piano and organ, rather than acoustic guitar). "You ain't doing nothing that I don't already know when you hide your sorry head in pillows," Kozelek repeats several times during the song. The lyrics seem to be about a slowly, torturously dissolving relationship in which one partner would rather hide and forestall the inevitable. The other partner, from whose point of view the song's lyrics are sung, knows that things would be much easier to handle if they both would just face them head on. But that's easier said than done, and through his identification with the significant other who'd rather continue to hide, you can tell that he's done the hiding himself plenty of times.
There are concepts like these presenting themselves in several places in my life right now. I'm still working through heartbreak over the dissolution of my last relationship, even though that was over half a year ago, and since the shift in my mood that I detailed earlier, I've been fighting with my friends a lot. Little things that I could normally laugh off are suddenly too irritating to pass over, and instead, I cause arguments that lead to me saying hurtful things to people I care about. By the time 15 minutes have passed, I'm horrified at the situation I've created, but smoothing things over later is never as easy as it would have been to avoid the argument in the first place. And then, realizing this, I start to feel hopeless, like the only way I could have avoided the problem occurring was to stay home and not have contact with anyone. Surely Mark Kozelek would tell me that staying home never solved anything, only forestalled the inevitable, and he'd be right. Later on, when my shift is over, I'll go and find some people to hang out with (no matter how hard it may be to make myself do that), and I'll try and get along with them better than I have been over the past few days. Right now, I'll stare out the window at the rain, and hope for the next few hours to pass quickly.