“What If You Knew Her?” (March 8th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

You’re sitting in a restaurant having lunch, staring into space, trying to organize your mundane day. The restaurant has a satellite radio subscription, and oldies–comfortable, rockin’ oldies–are blasting out into the space. The other diners are working on their taxes, fiddling with phones and laptops, complaining about their days so far, asking a server why mustard’s on their hamburger when they clearly didn’t ask for it. The cooks pick up the tension and nervously, clandestinely, dart glances at that table. There’s a silence as a song (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy”?) ends. That silence dovetails with the coincidental sudden pause in patron chatter.

Then, a lurching, threatening, familiar guitar figure, and:


What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.

The anguish that rolls out across the melody behind those first three lines would have seemed impossible for us to tune out. The anguish–and the awful familiarity–shot through the words would have seemed to command our attention. The truth of that fifth line? A confirmation we could surely recognize.

From the first note, I’d been sitting bolt-upright. In Macbeth, a knocking at the palace gate and an ensuing comic hellscape imagined by a commoner snaps us out of murder-induced shock. In this tableau, the horror should have snapped us out of a routine-induced trance. I looked around, into every nook and cranny of that restaurant, and nothing had changed. So I resumed eating.

But those lines echoes all day, and all night, and this morning, and assuredly, horribly, tomorrow.


On the brighter side, in honor of International Women’s Day, I put together the following YouTube playlist. Enjoy, if you’re curious, but beware a couple of full albums I mischievously dropped in, and be vigilant for an appearance by Diamanda Galas.


Short-shrift Division:

The Clash: Sandinista!–I can still remember, as a college freshman at the University of Arkansas, and already-avid Clashaholic, snapping this triple-LP up the day it showed up at White Dog Records some 37 years ago. I, um, liked it, but–Clash fans will understand. On impulse, I slapped it on, and–as it has been doing to me for the past two decades–it rendered up new favorites I hemmed and hawed through as a young man. I wasn’t ready. Thankfully, not only do we never step in the same river twice, but we also should stop stepping into the river, period. Tracks I repeat-played yesterday: “Something About England,” “Somebody Got Murdered,” “Crooked Beat.”

The Kinks: The Kinks’ Greatest Hits, Face to Face, disc one of The Kinks Kronikles–Mick Jones’ fragile, plaintive singing on “Something About England” flipped my Kinks switch, and based on past experience I will be in their England for the entire coming weekend.

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