5 Against 1 – The Inevitable Pearl Jam Blog - The Music - Pt. 2
Growing up with Pearl Jam - Part 2
Continuing my list of a song from each record that means something to me.
Sleight of Hand (Binaural)
When this album was released in 2000 I was nearing the end of my sophomore year of college. At the time my favorite songs from the album were Breakerfall, Gods’ Dice, and Grievance. These are songs that rock hard with fast drum beats and guitar solos that will melt your face.
But the older I get and the more I live the closer I get to understanding the song Sleight of Hand. I’m going to go through all the lyrics to this song (so settle in because this may take a while) and relay how I feel they relate to my life now.
Routine was the theme,…he’d wake up,…wash and pour himself
Into uniform,…something he hadn’t imagined being…
As the merging traffic passed,…he found himself staring…
Down,…at his own…hands..
Not remembering the change,…not recalling the plan,
He was okay,…but wondering…about wandering
Was it age?...By consequence?...or was he moved by
Sleight of hand?
This entire first section is how I felt for a long time about life and work. It was a routine. It was just something to pass the time to get to the next thing. Commonly referred to as a “rut”. This was before I met Rizzo. This was before I started my current job. This was before I had Cece. This was before I had the life I have now.
You see, being in a “rut” isn’t a bad thing in itself. Usually a rut is a comfortable place. You aren’t moving forward but you aren’t moving backwards either. Sure, you may not be totally fulfilled in what you are doing but it isn’t a terrible thing either. That is sort of what makes it awful and hard to change. In a “rut”, there is no risk. You wake up, go to work, come home, got to bed, do it again. But there has to be more out there, right?
The song continues:
Mondays were made to fall,... lost on a road he knew by heart
It was like a book he read in his sleep,... endlessly...
Sometimes he hid in his radio,... watching others pull into their homes
While he was drifting...
On a line,... of his own,... off the line,... on the side
Bye the by,.... as dirt turned to sand,
As if moved by sleight of hand...
I hear these words and I feel like the person in the song is feeling more and more lost in this “rut”. This is the part of the “rut” where it starts to feel bad that you are no longer moving forward. I think it’s a human instinct to continue to grow as a person; to continue to evolve. This was me right before I met Rizzo. I decided to get out more and to be part of the world with my friends.
When he reached the shore of his... clip-on world...
He resurfaced to the norm
Organized his few things,... his coat and keys...
Any new realizations... would have to wait...
Til he had more time,... more time...
Time to dream,... to himself... he waves goodbye,
To himself... I'll see you on the other side...
Another man...moved by sleight of hand...
This is me now with the help of this blog and with the love of a family. Rizzo made me want to be a better man. Cece made me want to be a healthier man. And this blog is making me want to continue to grow as a writer.
When I was in seventh grade I wrote a short story for English class. It wasn’t anything extraordinary but some people seemed to like it. I don’t even remember what it was about but I do remember that I got a good grade on it and my English teacher asked me read it to the class. I did which was fine and then we went about the class. After class a girl that never talked to me (not like she was “cool” and I wasn’t, just because we had different groups of friends) made a point of coming up to me and told me that she liked my story and that I should be a writer.
Maybe keeping this blog is part of me doing exactly that. Even though life has created a much tighter schedule for me with Cece and Rizzo; life has also put me in a much for happy and content place that allows me to time to dream and to wave goodbye to myself. I feel like I can explore much more than I ever have before and I have been moved by sleight of hand.
I Am Mine (Riot Act)
Most people of my generation can remember where they were and/or how they found out about the attacks of September 11, 2001. I was just starting my senior year of college. At this point in my life I was super deep (probably a bit too deep) into Pearl Jam fandom. I was in it so much that the first thing I would do when I woke up in the morning was log onto my computer to check out the Pearl Jam fan club’s message board (yes, this is worthy of mocking and I deserve any mocking you may make).
Just like every other day, I woke up on September 11, rolled out of bed, slid over to my computer, turned off my AIM away message (which I’m sure was some quote that I attributed deep meaning), and logged on to my Pearl Jam fan club account. The threads were all about something crazy happening in New York. Headlines like “Holy Shit, the towers were attacked” or “Is this real?” I didn’t know what was going on so I slid out of my bedroom into the living room to flip on the TV.
You all know the rest of the story. We were all glued to the TV. I actually saw the second tower get hit live on TV. No one did anything else anywhere in the US for the rest of the day, or the rest of the week for that matter, but watch coverage of what was happening in NYC and later at the Pentagon.
I am Mine is Pearl Jam’s song discussing their feelings about the events of 9/11. None of us knew what to do and I feel like that is felt in the lyrics to this song.
And the feeling, it gets left behind
All the innocence lost at one time
All of those innocent people were taken from us all at once for no reason. You didn’t have to know someone in the towers to be affected. I didn’t but I still cried at the events. No one deserves to have that kind of tragedy happen in their life. But things got better. People got better. For a moment in time people of this country didn’t care if you were man or woman, black or white, democrat or republican, gay or straight. In that moment we all wanted to just feel safe and make others feel safe.
Significant , behind the eyes
There’s no need to hide…
We’re safe tonight.
I’m not looking back over history with rose colored glasses. There was and still is a lot of hate in this country. Some people placed blame on people because they looked like they may be from a certain place or because they subscribed to a certain religion. Some people still do and that is a terrible thing. But at that singular moment in time we didn’t care. Firefighters and police officers didn’t run from the fight but ran into it. People from all over NYC and Washington DC made their way to the tragic locations to help. We cared about our neighbors. For that one moment there was no need to hide.
Inside Job (Pearl Jam)
The older I get the more the music of Pearl Jam changes for me but I can always seem to find a song on each album. Inside Job from what some fans call the avocado album (the record is really self-titled but the album cover has an avocado, hence the name) is one of those songs that when it came out might not have meant as much to me as it does now.
The song is a story of a person that is hiding their true feelings from the world. I suppose that was me in 2006 because I was in a failing relationship but was putting on a smiling face trying to guy my way through. I felt exactly how the song opens “Underneath this smile lies everything; all my hopes, anger, pride and shame”. At the time of the album’s release I related to the song based upon the opening lines.
As time went on and I grew up I more related to later lyrics. My life seemed to continue forward just as the song lyrics progressed. My relationship ended (don’t cry for me as it ended well, if not a bit drawn out), moved out on my own, and was getting back into a normal life. “I used to try to kill love, it was the highest sin; breathing insecurity out and in.” I wasn’t comfortable with myself so I couldn’t be comfortable with others. But with support of my family and friends I grew up and moved on to a better place.
“How I choose to feel,…is how I am.” I didn’t have to be depressed because of my divorce or my single living situation. That was a choice. I could choose to be happy and enjoy the company of family and friends or I could choose to be depressed. I chose to be happy. I chose to be part of my group of friends once again. I chose to be myself and if others didn’t like that that was okay. I didn’t need to change who I was for someone else. I chose to feel me. And it made my life better because it wasn’t long before I met Rizzo.
Just Breathe (Backspacer)
Backspacer was released a week before I met Rizzo. As is my usual practice when a new Pearl Jam album is released, I picked up the CD from the store on release day and then listened to the entire album at least three times. I loved all the songs from the jump but on that first day my favorite song from the album was The Fixer. I was starting to get to a pretty comfortable place in life; living in my little apartment in Stafford, VA with Pigface, working a good job, getting out more to see my friends. I still had things to clean up from my failed relationship but I was starting to do alright and The Fixer was a good rocking song with upbeat lyrics.
Then I met Rizzo and within a week the favorite song went from The Fixer to Just Breathe. To say it was love at first sight wouldn’t be too far off. Rizzo and I had an instant connection on our first date. From that point forward we were spending at least every weekend together if not more. I remember telling Rizzo one night that the latest Pearl Jam album had a song that made me think of her. It was Just Breathe.
The entire song is a story of two people in love. I hear the song from my perspective, as if I was singing it for Rizzo. It isn’t a song about how beautiful she is (even though she is) or how smart she is (even though she is) or how caring she is (even though she is). It is a song about how two people are perfect for each other and all they need to be happy is to be together. As the refrain goes, “Stay with me. Let’s just breathe.”
For me the end of the song is the most touching and the most meaningful:
Nothing you would take…
Everything you gave.
Hold me till I die…
Meet you on the other side.
I hear that and I think of being together forever. If you are a believer in heaven, then the two of you will be together forever on the other side, in heaven. If you believe in some other afterlife, then the two of you will be together forever in that other afterlife. If you believe in reincarnation, then the two of you will be reincarnated to fall in love again and again. I don’t know if any of those things are true. I’m not the type of guy who likes to speculate without some sort of facts to support a theory and none of these items have any facts to support their existence. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the idea of being together forever, whatever forever happens to mean.
Rizzo knows my love of Pearl Jam and my love of this song. She knows how much it means to me and the meaning it has for me in our relationship. So when I said I wanted Just Breathe to be our first dance at our wedding she didn’t even hesitate. She was on board and that couldn’t have made me happier. We didn’t take dance lessons so we could tango across the dance floor or choreograph and elaborate reenactment of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video so we could make it on YouTube. We played Just Breathe and danced slow in each other’s arms, looking into each other’s eyes, and singing along. Sure, we were in front of about 100 people watching but really it was just the two of us. We were in love.
Lightning Bolt (Lightning Bolt)
When Lightning Bolt was released in October 2013, Rizzo and I already knew we were having a baby. We wouldn’t find out for a few months that the baby would be a girl but I think I had that innate feeling that she would be a she. I think part of it had to do with Pearl Jam releasing their newest album and the lyrics to the song Lightning Bolt.
I know I have the tendency to pick a line or two from a song and derive meaning only from those small parts. Maybe we all do that. That is certainly the case for this song and how it has and always will make me think of Cece.
The song starts describing how Cece was to come into our lives:
She comes on like a stone
But you don’t know where from she was thrown
Like a burning meteor from miles high
I hear these lyrics and it is certainly how I felt the day Cece was born. I understand the science behind how a baby was born; maybe not every part as I’m not a doctor or a scientist but I’m a fairly smart guy. What I don’t know and will never know is how and where Cece came from. She isn’t just an animal with arms and legs and an instinct to eat. She is a person with her own spirit, her own style, her own voice, and own being. I’m certainly not a religious man so I’m not saying that somehow Cece was a gift from god (lower case “g” is intentional). I just know that Cece flew into our lives from somewhere and I’m better off for her being here.
The chorus kicks in with a blasting guitar solo:
You gotta know you’ll never let her go
She’s a lightning bolt
Of course I’ll never let her go. Cece is by far my greatest accomplishment in this life. I’ll do everything in my power to make her happy and safe. I’ll always be there for her. As she grows up I have to “let go” more and more. I have to let her climb the stairs to bed; no more carrying her upstairs every night. Soon I’ll have to “let go” so she can play with her friends instead of staying at home. I’ll have to “let go” when she gets a boyfriend or girlfriend. I’ll have to “let go” when she goes off to college. I’ll have to “let go” when/if she gets married and starts her own family. But I’ll never really let her go. If she slips and falls going up the stairs I’ll be there to catch her. When she wants to go play with her friends I’ll be the one who drives her over. When her first boyfriend/girlfriend breaks her heart I’ll be there for her to cry on my shoulder. When she goes off to college I’ll be the one carrying all her stuff up to her dorm room. When she gets married I’ll be there to walk her down the aisle. I’ll never let her go. She is my lightning bolt.
Thanks for reading my rants on Pearl Jam. I promise I'll be funny again soon.