Hey, gang! Welcome to EP 06 of my podcast, “Something That I Wrote.”
We’re on Episode 06, and I’m feeling good. I’m feeling really good. I dunno how the weather is for you – I hope the wind’s blowing alright, wherever you are – but where I’m from, things are finally starting to turn towards summertime. We’ve still got a springtime to get through first, of course, with all its April showers and May flowers. But the two so quickly bleed into each other, don’t they? Sometimes it’s hard to make any distinction between spring and summer at all. I find, up this way, we may have four seasons, but we have two ways of living, depending on what time of the year it is: inside and outside. And we’ve all been cooped up inside for so so long now, all bundled up tight in our mittens and our scarves and our big puffy coats. But we don’t have to anymore. We can go outside, now, and we can walk down the sidewalk in a jean jacket, and with sunglasses on. We can search for sweethearts in the park, and we can maybe even have a smoke, too.
Up here, where I am, it’s a beautiful day, and the sun’s beating down. I’ve got the radio on. And I feel like getting in a car and driving 50 down Highway 55. I feel like flying, and you can really fly on some of the roads round here. Highway 55 ain’t Route 66, but you can still get your kicks, if you want to. And that’s how I got the idea for this story. I was driving 50 down Highway 55. It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, and I had the radio on. I was listening to a song called “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” by Tom Petty. The song’s in the key of E, and in 4/4 time, and I decided I’d write a story that is, too, because it just sounded so wonderful. I’d listened to that song many times before, but I hadn’t ever heard it the way I was hearing it that day. It’s funny how that happens sometimes. Sometimes, you’re in a certain place at a certain time, and in a certain state of mind, and something crosses your path that you didn’t expect, but it suddenly seems more precious and important and necessary than anything else in the world. Sometimes that happens, and you can’t do much about it. You can’t. We’re all just feathers, blowing on a breeze. And you can’t do much about the way the wind blows.
I started thinking about all that, and then I sat down and started writing this story. I listened to “Runnin’ Down A Dream” as I did. I listened to it over and over and over. I listened to lots of other songs, too, but only cause I could hear them playing in the background of the story. I’m not sure how they got in there, but I heard them. How I wish this could be a movie, if only cause it would have one heckuva soundtrack. Till I get to Hollywood, I took all the songs that I heard from inside the story and I put them in this playlist for you. They’d sound better playing on an AM radio, but, at least where I’m from, it’s hard to pick up the signal for the oldies station unless the wind’s blowing just right. But I strongly encourage you to listen to them before you listen to this episode. Not just because they’re amazing, amazing songs – though that certainly is true – but because it’ll all make that much more sense if you do. The main character, Del, was listening to them as this story was happening, and especially after, too – yes, oh yes, especially after – and in some way I think it’ll help you get to know him. It helped me. But if you don’t listen to them, that’s fine. I understand. But I do have another request, and I hope you’ll take this one into consideration: listen to this story while intoxicated, on whatever it is that gets your socks off. Get drunk on anything, as long as it’s something – it can be whiskey, yes, but it can be something else, too. You can get drunk on something stronger, like danger, or distortion, or romance. You can smoke a cigar. You can drink a half a bottle of good red wine. You can whisper sweet-nuthins into somebody’s ear – especially a stranger’s. You can listen to it sober, too – by all means, do so. I won’t mind. But I promise you’ll like it best if you don’t. Cause I was intoxicated while I wrote this. On strong tea and on rock n roll, but mostly, without sounding too ridiculous: on writing. I know that sounds pretentious, but it isn’t bullshit. I promise. There’s something that happens when writing is going good. It’s like dancing in your living room to an oldies song with someone who is beautiful and also a delight. It really is like dancing. I hold the pen in my hand and it just dances across the page. We dance a wonderful tango, and she is such a wonderful partner I never have to lead. I just close my eyes, and smile, and dance. Your head buzzes and whirls and your heart beats fast, and you feel a bit dizzy, and you feel some kinda wonderful. And writing this story felt like that. It’s impossible to know when writing like that will come and when it won’t. It’s like a feather on a breeze, man. Just blowing in the wind.
But writing this story did feel like that, and I think, as a result, the story shows it. I hope it does. Last episode was a bit heavy – things took a turn there, things got quietly tragic. And there’s a time and a place for that. But I didn’t wanna go there again. I wanted to get a little loose. I wanted to get a little reckless. That doesn’t mean the story hasn’t got something to it. It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s not a romp, either. It says something – subtly, yes, but it says something, if you’re willing to listen. And I hope you will. I hope you’ll listen, and I hope you’ll get a little wild. I hope you’ll be senseless. I hope you’ll be free.
I once wrote a song about a nasty little lady named Sugar, who sneaks around at the bar each night, offering sweet-nuthin whispers, and a kiss. I used to write about Sugar a lot. She was awful to me, and yet, somehow, I kinda miss her. Anyways, back when I was in school, I showed this song to a professor of mine, to ask what he thought. He wrote me a note about it, and in it, he offered me the nicest compliment anyone’s ever offered me about my writing. He said the song was “one perfectly sleazy slice of messed up post-punk trash,” and that “that’s a very good thing indeed.” And he said he “loved the vocals, which have this sneering sense of utter abandonment and betrayal that lots of people strive for but few ever really nail,” and that I “nailed it.” And he said that although it could never be called a “pop song,” even if a part of me wanted it to, it “might, just might, be one of those joy rides through hell that we all love so, especially when there’s a girl in the driver’s seat and she doesn’t seem to notice the stop signs…”
And that letter touched me so deeply and so truly, I folded it up and put it in my pillowcase and hoped that every night as I stared up at the ceiling and tried not to think about you, I’d drift off to sleep and dream up something similarly sleazy, something full of utter abandonment and betrayal. I hoped I’d dream up another joy ride through hell with a girl in the driver’s seat who doesn’t see the stop signs. And, finally, with “Runaways,” I have. Once again, I have. I’ve danced the right kinda dance. I didn’t mean to, but, feathers on a breeze, man. So, please – put on a leather jacket and take a motorcycle ride with me. I won’t even make you wear a helmet, not if you promise to hold on tight. If you promise me that, then I’ll promise you this: you’ll love how the wind feels as it blows through your hair.