When I listen again to “Shady Lane,” ears like Adam’s on the morning of his creation, I hear Pavement songwriter Stephen Malkmus sounding not like himself, but like a persona worn by a faraway you. You, dear reader, eyes closed before a cascade of ivy. It’s you, there, singing of worlds colliding. You, of all people, whether with emery board or without, shouting “Freeze, don’t move” and “Glance, don’t stare,” looking at me and thinking me beautiful when I cry.
“Shady Lane — everybody needs one,” goes the chorus. And it’s true. For one can scarcely improve on such a place. And I had one: albeit, “once upon a time.” However timeworn the connotations of that beginning, however hackneyed it may sound, I shit you not.
“For a time I lived differently,” sings the Narrator,
“mind out of time
or in sidereal time
because measured by fixed stars
in a house on Shady Boulevard.”
Granted, it was a strange place, this house — one that left me with many questions. Who from the home’s past, for instance, mounted the cattle skull on the home’s exterior above the porch? Was that the handiwork of the Wizard or of one of his successors?
To arrive at an answer, let us report on ourselves in third-person.
The journey occurred, we report, during the period of the professor’s tenancy, in the home of the Gay Wizard. Recalling it now in retrospect, his spiel is, “It never occurred to me at the time that the place might have been haunted.”
“Yet this haunting,” he says, “if that’s what we’re to call it: I insist, here, that the spirits involved were benign.”
“A benevolent haunting! Fair enough,” nods the Narrator. “Tell us more.”