Mellow Is the Man Who Knows What He’s Been Missing

My therapist’s office is a short walk away from the house on Shady. A figure in large, loosely-fitted clothing serenades me as I walk, singing “Dress You Up” from a street corner as I crest a hill. Another figure sings to me from a bus stop. The neighborhood has a bit of an edge, always has, air charged with noise. Birds, motorcycles, cars cruising up and down First and Second Streets. Construction work over by the ballpark up the hill. But what was before a desolate field is now a park.

“This park can be a place to perform the Work,” thinks the Time Traveler. Birdsong relaxes him as he sits at a table gazing toward the house on Shady. Walking the bend of the park, he reads a plaque about the 1778 Salem Waterworks, part of the park’s past. A waxing ¾ moon appears in the sky above the dome of the most notorious of the city’s landmarks, the one referred to by locals as the “Phallus Palace.”

5:55 turns up again as I rise from one of the park’s benches and continue on my way. Same numbers, same time of day, two days in a row. And there in the sky, the moon, near full. What of it? What of the tape on the telephone pole flapping in the wind? Or wind chimes in a neighbor’s yard, sounding like gamelans? Or wind in the trees? The air is cold, my walk brief.

I communicate with loved ones as best I can, sending and receiving valentines and giving thanks. Yet come evening I’m alone again in my flat, listening to Love’s “Alone Again Or,” cooking dinner for one. Spaghetti and meatballs. Wishing it were otherwise. “Yeah, I heard a funny thing,” sings Arthur Lee to flamenco swells, nervous violins.

Up on the stereo afterwards rumbles Richard & Linda Thompson’s “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.” “I wanna be dancing and rolling on the floor,” thinks the Traveler, “I want it to be me and you.” Temperature rises, food cooks as I dance to Ananda Shankar’s cover of the Rolling Stones song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

It’s that time of my life, I guess, when all of these feel right: Shuggie Otis’s “Strawberry Letter 23,” Link Wray & The Wraymen’s “Rumble,” Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream.”

Nico climbs atop the stack, bums me out with “These Days,” until Arthur Lee returns to remind me of how good it feels to always see your face. Songs replace songs as posts replace posts, but the music never changes, and I never quite learn the words I sing.

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