To the Woman Who Stared at Me at Exit 38

I think maybe you were once very pretty. You are, still, in a tired way. But like a sunflower in fall, it is clear that you have seen better days. I look at you because I like looking at the cars that I pass. They seem like self-contained worlds to me. You look as if you understand that.

At first, I’m flattered that you are staring at me. I do look good with facial hair, highway wind whipping through my closely cropped hair, and black shades on. But you hold your stare for too long. I make eye contact with you and hope we will share a moment. I hope you will wave or turn away and laugh with your friends. But you don’t. You keep your eyes on me, and as much as I try to look away, I can’t.

Your eyes are empty. That’s the best way to describe them. And I’m terribly scared of them. I’m scared of them because they don’t seem self-aware. In fact, they seem the opposite of it. They are empty. They are shells. And they warn me that most people have souls that look similar.

The woman who waves or laughs is no more self-aware than you are. She is simply better at acting. She knows that a well-placed laugh can make it seem like she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She knows that a well-timed wave goes well with her personal aesthetic.

The scary thing about your eyes is that they show that you have given up. As I try to cut away every opinion, every action, every thought that is not my own, you realize that it is not an achievable goal. You have given into the cookie cutter. You have allowed it to rule your sunflower face. Nothing in the world can make you more or less than you are now because you will be gone by winter.

“What’d I Say” About Trying to Force Things

I wrote a post a while back about listening to jazz while I do work. Recently, I fast forwarded to listening to 1950s R&B, and I think that was a marvelous decision. Ray Charles has been one of my go-to’s

Ray has this one song called “What’d I Say.” It’s almost a six minute song and Ray wrote it by improvisation at a show one night, and it quickly became a crowd favorite. It became so popular that he made his producers record it.

The problem was that at the time, singles didn’t really go over three minutes. In the dramatized¬†cinematographic version of Ray Charles’s life, the producers threaten to cut out a verse or two. I don’t know if that’s true. But I imagine something like that is. We always want to put new things into the mold of old things.

Ray and the studio came to a compromise – they would record the whole song, but they would split it up into an A-side and a B-side. While that worked out, I suppose, the entire six minute song is really worth listening to all the way through.

And the song deserves a full listen. It almost brought on the genre of soul all by itself.

The point of all of this is to say two things.

1) We should probably stop trying to make new things like old things. New things would be more successful if we let them be new.

2) Sometimes, though, even when we mess up and think that new things need to be like old things, magic still happens.