A silent devotion

This morning I put on fingerless gloves to drive Marlo to school because the weather in Utah has hit that point when breath meets air in a plume of mist. These gloves allow me to mimic the baseline of any song on the bottom of the steering wheel — again this behavior is in no way disconcerting for the 13-year-old who has perfected the Art of Eye Roll — and make it so that I can find my music as if I were said 13-year-old whose hands and wrists have not been ravaged by years of texting.

There is an old saying that goes something like, “Having kids is like being pecked to death by a duck.” Let’s just say that my mother’s iPhone is the parent of her right hand. I once found myself searching for a photo exactly like she would with a wild and unforgiving forefinger and the shiver that ran up my spine made me drop my phone like a bomb. Never again.

Henceforth, I thought, I will text like a motherfucker.

Side note: Yesterday I took Marlo to a seasonal pop-up shop called Spirit of Halloween, an enormous warehouse that should be renamed Six Flags Over Satan.

Utah loves to celebrate Halloween in a way that borders on diabolical, and when we couldn’t find any fake blood for their costume we were forced to ask one exuberant employee for help. That kid was born to peddle plastic tombstones and battery-powered witch’s brew, and he walked us over to Fake Blood Island as if this was our next stop on a ride at Disneyland.

Turns out you can buy fake blood in a motley assortment of bottles and vials including the jug of fake blood we bought in a container that looks exactly like motor oil.

I told Marlo not to drink it all in one night because we might need some for the lawn mower.

This morning I flipped through playlists and landed on one I had compiled of music that is nostalgic not only of this time of year but also of seminal events in my adult life. Keep in mind, Marlo asked if they could play a song yesterday on our way to HalloWalmart, and I know I have raised the best kid on earth, but come on. They put on a song by the Foo Fighters from 1997 and I started bawling like a cat shoved into a bath against its will.

We pulled away from the house this morning listening to a song I discovered in 1999 while watching an episode of 120 Minutes, an alternative music show that aired on Sunday nights on MTV hosted by one Matt Pinfield. A raise of hands for those of you who just got a lump in their throat.

And, whoa. The tiny glimpse of Billy Corgan in this clip hit very, very close to home.

I had been in Los Angeles for about five months and, as usual, I was sitting about two feet away from the television gripped by whatever new music Matt would spin out into the world. And I will not ever forget what happened to me when I heard this song for the first time, that wall of sound, dear lord. It’s by a band from Northwich, England, and this song took the art of what I call “ramping” and raised the bar a band must meet in order to be able to claim a sufficient ramp in a song. Because they dropped the ramp, just opened their hands and let it hit the floor and suddenly the bass line and the piano start toying with each other in a duet that is its own unexpected embrace.

The bass eventually takes over with a bang, but it is unfurled by that duet in a way no other song has ever managed to master. The song is itself one giant ramp.

The Charlatans – “Forever”

After I dropped Marlo off, the following song came on and it is one that holds within it a heartache that is difficult to put into words. My marriage had ended and my career was having to navigate a giant curveball. I have not heard this song in at least eight years, and every year in Utah colder weather is met with the smell of campfire in the morning and evening. I heard the first few notes and the smell of chimney smoke seemed to trace the part of my jaw that hits the bend of my ear.

They are a trio from Wandsworth, London, and I got to see them live in October of 2017 here in Salt Lake City.

The xx – “Angels”

This last song came on before I turned off the car in front of my house, a song I discovered in 2015 when I was 40 years old and felt like my whole life lay ahead of me, a feeling I did not share with any of my friends who felt like this milestone birthday was a death knell. I never understood that. I was so happy to have experienced the thickness of life, to have learned from so many mistakes, from so many bumps to the head. I didn’t want to trade places with any part of my younger self because that younger Heather had so much to teach me.

When I sat down to write this and found this video, I had to get up and walk around for a minute. I do this thing where I scratch the hairline at the back of my neck when I am forced to contemplate something startling and heavy.

I had a dream two nights ago that Leta and I were driving around in the car my parents bought me when I was 16, a gray Datsun 510 stick shift that I called Bertha. I was looking over at her in the passenger seat as she told me a story that made her smile, her hair cutting across her face from the wind, both of her hands adding emphasis to the parts of the story that meant the most to her.

The car in this video looks almost exactly like Bertha.

ON AN ON – “Drifting”