“You didn’t sing along!” My friend, M, was annoyed at me.
“No. I don’t like to sing along. I sing off tune and it destroys the pleasure I have in listening.”
“You have to sing along. You know the words. It hurts the musicians feelings to see you sitting in the front row not singing along.”
“What is the point of what he does if no one listens? I’m a music appreciator. That’s my job.”
My friend is a musician. He and his wife, my friend L, have a band. When they perform, I go watch them. I always laugh at M’s bad jokes and I am appropriately charmed by his goofy grin. I’m awed by L’s beautiful voice. I appreciate the superlative bass played by D and the masterful guitar of S. I’m the person sitting and listening, applauding, thinking they’re amazing. And I occupy a seat. All this is a description of my job.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Zarathustra says to the sun, “Oh great star, what would you be if not for those for whom you shine?” I’m the one for whom they shine.
I love music. I love a wide variety of music. Some songs I love for the words; some I love for the sound and the mysterious ability they have to stimulate joy or hope or share despair. Like many people of the car radio generation, I have a catalog of first lines — not even whole, lines, first SECONDS — of countless pop-songs. I can identify a song from two notes or a chord.
So, anyway, here’s what and where I didn’t sing along — Steve Goodman’s great, nostalgic, heart-string pulling song, “The City of New Orleans” which was Arlo Guthrie’s biggest hit. The City of New Orleans didn’t die, by the way; it retired to the San Luis Valley just like I did. Truth. Just listen to the words. They will tell you how the story ends.