So I took a week off to take the boys down South to see the snow. Our vacation had all the staples of a family road trip: driving through the provinces, stopping by lakes to eat sandwiches and drink from a thermos, then staying in a small town motel that was all you’d expect – roomy, pleasant-but-dated decor, copies of Reader’s Digest from 2001 and managed by an amiable, eager-to-please motelier who I was vaguely surprised didn’t at least try to rape us during our stay*.
When reception allowed, we listened to National Radio as we drove, and on the way back home we heard a segment where a listener was invited to ring in, talk about themselves for a bit and then give their nomination for the Greatest Song Ever Written. When the woman who rang in that day offered Jewel’s “Foolish Games”, not even the presence of an impressionable 3-year-old with a talent for mimicry in the back seat could stop me from exclaiming “are you fucking kidding me?!”
My wife felt compelled to point out that, to a teenage girl (which is what the listener would have been when she first heard the song performed), this is a stirring and meaningful portrayal of the kind of relationship that many young women have found themselves entangled in and anyway, what do YOU think is the Greatest Song Ever Written?
Now, I can never really answer questions like that – out of all of the thousands of songs I’ve ever heard, I need to pick just one? Based on what? How do you even begin to compare all of the different styles and genres? Is a song that makes me feel a bit happy better or worse than a song that makes me feel a lot sad? It’s like staring at a blank page, trying to think of something to write – any time I’m asked to pluck a single drop from the ocean of my experiences, my mind just shuts down, overwhelmed.
So it was something of a surprise to hear myself immediately reply “I dunno, ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam?” (Followed by an internal “Wait, really?”)
What’s the current thinking on this sort of word association/”say the first thing that comes into your mind” stuff? Did I just offer a searing insight into my truest inner feelings, or did my brain simply fling out whichever of the many songs I like that was floating closest to the surface? Or was it some combination of the two? And what really is the Greatest Song Ever? If I keep asking questions at the end of a blog post, will it make more people leave comments, bolstering my fragile ego and preventing the horror of everyday existence from dragging me into a spiral of terror and despair for one more day? Wait, forget that last one.
*He did display casual racism, so that’s something, I guess. And when I first introduced myself to him, he replied “Josh – like Josh Kronfeld!” “Um, yeah – kind of like Josh Kronfeld…”