Music Monday | Tangled Up In Blue – The Whitlams (cover) of Bob Dylan

If it is so difficult to begin, imagine what it will be to end—
Louise Glück

I am reading Geoff Dyer’s book of endings; The Last Days of Roger Federer. I have tried and failed before to read another book by Dyer that came highly recommended: Out of Sheer Rage. Perhaps, after listening to (because that’s how I read almost all books these days) The Last Days of Roger Federer, I will be able to return to it. I was attracted to this current book by its title and my adoration for Roger (as Dyer notes, it’s always just Roger despite not knowing him, only Roger), and also due to the fact that I’d failed to read his previous book. Although, it’s not his only previous book. Only the one I’d previously attempted to read. This new book starts in a fashion I particularly enjoy; short “chapters”. Though most people would probably refer to them only as paragraphs. Other authors whose work I appreciate for the same reason; Yiyun Li in Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, and Lewis Hyde in A Primer for Forgetting. These short chapters are put together to form a whole picture based on seemingly small, dissimilar or unrelated snippets. They are the style of book I someday hope to write.

Dyer moves from an opening chapter on The Doors, to a second chapter about Bob Dylan and references his song Tangled Up in Blue.

I had forgotten this song. And, when duly reminded, had only the briefest inkling that it was originally written by Dylan (Dylan, not Bob—never Bob, unlike Roger). Instead, I was most familiar with a cover version by The Whitlams. The Whitlams formed in Sydney in 1992 and released their third album, Eternal Nightcap, (which really felt like their first) when I was in my early years of university. They toured university campuses with high energy but I preferred to listen to them at home, alone, in my bedroom with favoured songs on repeat. It is this album that boasts the cover of Tangled Up in Blue. It was my least favourite song on the album and I frequently skipped over it, preferring Buy Now Pay Later (Charlie No. 2), and No Aphrodisiac. But the reference Geoff Dyer made to a lyric from Tangled Up in Blue “We’ll meet again someday, on the avenue” reminded me of a different song by The Whitlams. It was on a later album, Little Cloud. And I used to play it incessantly on the piano when I lived in Queensland. It was called Keep the Light On.

I do not cope well with endings. Even when I have instigated them.

It is impossible for me to turn off my care, compassion, and curiosity for people I’ve had a connection with—who are or have been friends—regardless of whether they’ve hurt me. Or, perhaps, especially if they’ve hurt me. (There are a couple of notable exceptions to this but I won’t be revealing who they are or my former relationship to them.) I don’t know if this is healthy. But I do know that I don’t know how to operate any other way. I always just want to know that they’re well.

Music Monday | Friends – Michael W. Smith

Suitcase wheels whir and grate as I haul the rollaboard along behind me, running for the train. Two minutes to departure. And I still have to make it up a level, over the bridge and down an escalator to platform 15A. A lyric pops into my head as my feet beat against the white polished concrete floor of the bus terminal.

And friends are friends forever.

Conversations play out in my head, both real, and imaginary. Constantly. Mostly, I let them create scenes of their own accord and don’t pay much attention. But as I run, I replay the discussions I had over the weekend. I’ve been in Newcastle and Sydney for four and a half days, and due to my recent engagement, most of my talks with friends have centred around relationships, dating and marriage.

A question I used to ask prospective dates, I said to the friend I grew up across the street from in high school, was “How many close friends do you have, and how long have you known them?”

The answer was often indicative of how well a person could create and maintain relational bonds and boundaries. How well they could manage a relationship over time and all the challenges that came with it. How good a friend they could be. No close friends was always a worry. Short-lived friendships were a worry. But not making new friends was a worry, too.

Of the people I connected with this weekend, the range of time for which I’ve known them is between eight and twenty-eight years (or my entire life, if you count my parents). Long-term friendships require work from both parties; they need trust, respect, vulnerability, kindness and love to flourish. And I’ve always found that if you can be a good friend, you can be a good partner. But most of us don’t consider what makes us a good friend, nor what makes a good friend to us in return.

Although I don’t resonate with all of this song anymore in the same way I used to, it’s the one that popped into my head as I ran and the message is still meaningful.

A lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

And I’m exceedingly grateful for mine.