Discover more from Anxiety Shark
Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo
a pause, for a bit, but an explanation why
I’m not even sure what I intend to do here today.
October is kind of a hell month for me. The first draft of my first book is due on November 1st and my whole life I have wanted to do this, to be this person I get to be if I finish this. To be a 41 year old woman and to write a book, to get a box delivered to my doorstep that I could carefully open with a steady blade and see the cover with a title and my name and an image I argued with a graphic design over email about. That feels within my grasp now and so naturally I’m afraid I will most certainly fuck it all up.
This morning I am listening to the Harvey Danger album King James Version, the follow up to their debut Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone? Yes, the “Flagpole Sitta” one, but if there’s any information I can impart upon you in this life or the next it’s not write anyone or anything off as a singular moment in time and instead grapple with the entirety of the grand promise of creation. Harvey Danger is so much more than a single song that is arguably one of the best singles to emerge from the 90s about how the idea of the 90s were becoming commodified. But more about that later.
I will go to war for Harvey Danger — and Sean Nelson the primary songwriter who has gone on to make beautiful works of art after the band ceased to be — as important and integral pieces of 90s and early 2000s culture. I bought a used copy of Merrymakers from the used record store after hearing “Flagpole Sitta” on the radio a hundred times a day and never once getting sick of it. After I wore out the repeat button on my discman and ventured into the rest of the album there was so much in there to love, songs and melodies to haunt the unfurnished basement of my memories. A place where scraps of lyrics and misremembered faces spill out onto the floor and create the shadow of a life in the rearview.
There was a time when it didn’t matter to me how much people made comments about my favourite album being a one-hit-wonder, they belonged to me and that was enough. I locked myself away in my head and my bedroom and was always quiet with headphones on draining the life away from a landfills worth of AA batteries. This was my life, I worked and I hid myself away and I read books, wrote in secret notebooks and made mix tapes with Harvey Danger songs on them just for me.
I’m thinking about this newsletter this morning because it’s Monday which means I need to have this written for Tuesday and I am looking at my word count goals for the week that will work to get me through this month to the finish line and then wondering how much time I will spend on this newsletter and also the two columns I have started for Paste Magazine and my podcast. More on those later too.
And also, the Substack conversation. There’s a lot in my circles and scenes lately about who is elevated and supported by this platform. This is a conversation I don’t feel inclined to get into here but if you go looking for it, it’s easy to find. I want to dismiss it, to think about the nebulous idea of a career and what it means to be visible and to create and I wonder sometimes if I’m the idea of a person more than something real and this is what life in media does to you sometimes. I had a breakdown about this last week too.
I have said time and again that the reason this newsletter is called Anxiety Shark is because this is how my brain works. Not with honest intentions but with spite and destructive desires.
I am listening to “Meetings With Remarkable Men”, the opening track on King James Version and thinking that I wish more people talked about how much this record leapt from where Merrymakers stood. Where Nelson and crew stretched their songwriting and showmanship and created a record that feels more cohesive, but delightfully shambolic where it matters and tight where that does too. I love a record that opens by kicking the door down.
It is an album that pushes and pulls, an ocean of feelings that will pummel you if you are none to careful. I think about writing long on this album, 2000 words that turns into 5000 that turns into a lifetime. And maybe I will. But not today.
Today I remember being with my headphones on, huddled away reading and writing and shutting myself away and how lonely and free I felt all at once. I’m remembering worrying that I wanted to be someone I could never achieve, and how limiting the world felt when I was young as I imagined no safe future for someone who felt so different than everyone I could see. I never saw myself getting old, changing my career and my gender and my home. I just kept the headphones on, turned “Sad Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” up real loud and danced alone in a room plastered with pictures cut out of magazines that dared dream of something beyond all this.
I have never felt so lost and free all at once than when I was young, in my teens most of all. When I knew who I wanted to be, and felt there was no chance for it to become real, and how destructive the intentions of your brain become when it feels like all is lost.
But I am here now, and I am worried about fucking it all up.
So this is to say this newsletter is going to be silent for October. I need the time away to stop saying yes and to just get through the yesses that have stacked so high on my plate they might topple and crush me if i’m not careful.
Instead, this month, you should know that I have two new columns that premiered in Paste Magazine last month that you can read!
One is called Flirted With You All My Life, about my relationship to addiction and music, and you can read the first edition of it HERE
The second is Restaurants, Rest Stops and Red Bulls, where I interview musicians about what they eat on the road, and the first edition of it with Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem is right HERE
My podcast, Blue Eyes Crying By The Chips, about the beautiful songs we love and the places we have cried listening to them in public, is ongoing in its first season and you can listen in allllll the pod places!
And that’s it, other than a few other oddball things I cannot do any more work this month, I am already breaking down and this is part of the hustle that kills you if you’re not careful: poisoning the bloodstream with the promise of just one more yes.
I leave you with the fleeting thoughts of an older Harvey Danger record, and the promise to return with something to say.
Anxiety Shark is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.