As I start this, my second post in “The Writing Experiment” files, I’m already thinking to myself, Christ, Al, you’re so predictable. Yep, I started by writing about a female writer who inspired me, and now I’m launching into a post fueled by The National lyrics.
Whatever. It’s happening.
So maybe you’ve stumbled upon this blog before. If so, then you’ve picked up on my obsession with a certain band, and a certain songwriter. Ahem. In fact, the song I’m about to talk about, I’ve already posted a video to, not so long ago. IN FACT, I’ve actually already written an essay inspired by this song. Lucky for you, I didn’t post it here. Instead, three of my unlucky friends received it in their email inboxes, because it was something I didn’t feel like sharing with the Interwebs.
This is the song. It’s called, “Baby, We’ll Be Fine.” Some lyrics:
"All night I lay on my pillow and pray
For my boss to stop me in the hallway
Lay my head on his shoulder and say
Son, I've been hearing good things
I wake up without warning and go flying around the house
In my sauvignon fierce, freaking out
Take a forty-five minute shower and kiss the mirror
And say, look at me
Baby, we'll be fine
All we gotta do is be brave and be kind
I put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile
I don't know how to do this
I'm so sorry for everything"
This past fall, I saw The National for the first time in Indianapolis. My anticipation to this show was akin to anticipation over my first sexual experience. Seriously. I have never been as excited about a concert as I was about this one. And if you know me, that is a big statement to make, because I get really fucking excited about concerts. I was so excited about this concert, as a matter of fact, that I listened to The National even more than usual (which basically means I exclusively listened to The National for a solid week), and the day of the concert, I was ready to go, pacing around the house three solid hours before the show started. (As it turned out, it was a good thing I had gotten ready early, because I left my ticket at my dad’s house and ended up driving an unnecessary hour and a half just to make it to the show on time.)
The good news is, the concert was a much better time than … Yeah.
Back to the song, and away from uncomfortable comparisons. One reason I love this particular song so much is how it affects me in so many different ways, on so many levels. Overall, I’m always a sucker for a song with some sad, desperate longing for something that’s just outside of your grasp, but you feel like it shouldn’t be: “All night I lay on my pillow and pray/For my boss to stop me in the hallway.” Then that feeling is coupled with the hope, that stubborn hope that, you know what? Baby, we’ll be fine!
I love the sense of longing, coupled with this frantic, anxious behavior. He’s “flying around the house,” but then taking a ridiculously long shower, followed by a pep talk in front of the mirror. This behavior is me, in a nut shell. I don’t mind admitting it.
I sensed this sort of anxiety and heightened excitement—but also a little bit of a “Fuck it, I’m just gonna do what I do” attitude— the two times I’ve seen The National. Matt Berninger alternates between screaming in the mic, just really fucking killing it, to pacing around in circles, looking down, and clutching his wine glass. The second time I saw them, this past Easter in Chicago, during one song (I forget which! Shit!) he fucked up a line and the mic stand fell.
Standing in the packed crowd, surrounded by people who pretty clearly were mostly there to see Arcade Fire, I actually felt scared at that moment. I wanted to run up to the stage and say, “Matt! It’s okay!” Not that he would have cared. He retaliated by taking several huge gulps out of his wine, picking up the mic, and screaming, just screaming, the rest of the song.
Allllllll riiiiight, Matt, I get it.
I have a tendency to apologize, a lot. I say “I’m sorry” almost as much as I cry about shit. And I cry, a lot. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I’m so damn intense about everything. Maybe I have a desperate longing for something that is a little out of my grasp. Maybe I just want my boss to stop me in the hallway and say, “We’ve been hearing good things!”
But the good news is, like Matt Berninger and the rest of The National (I’d like to think), I also have this hope, this stubborn hope, that baby, we’ll be fine.
All we’ve gotta do is be brave, and be kind.