When I got up this morning, my husband Jimmy had already “left the building.”
This is not unusual, he’s retired--yes, we’re old people--but he gets up at 5:30 every day. This morning, a Saturday, his appointed duties, after breakfast at Hardee’s, were going to the community “shred” day at the county recycling station and washing the car. He probably washed the car first because the car wash he uses is right down the road from the Hardee’s. He said there was a major delay at the shredding event so he was late getting back. (We have a shredder of our own for sensitive documents--those with social security and credit card numbers--which we want to throw away but when we have a lot we save them for community shred days.
So, I had the morning paper to myself; I didn’t bother finishing the crossword he’d started but went straight to the front page section. It’s the Tennessean from Nashville. The front page lead was the city’s agreement with the new owners’ of the Predators (Nashville’s ice hockey team).The upshot: “they’ll stay for awhile; but the fans better show up and make them some money.”
Inside there was news about the Hollywood writers’ strike--the writers’ union and the producers will restart negotiations. Also in the news were stories about the New York stage hands' strike and the nurses’ strike in West Virginia. There was a lengthy feature story on this including comments from a striker and a strike-breaker, and background information on the union tradition (mine workers) in the state.
These strike stories, the first union stories in years (decades maybe) to pierce the corporate media’s blockade against anything that might disturb the consumer society’s slumber, cheered me immensely. I exclude, of course, stories about the United Auto Worker's Union, which always serve to remind us that unions are on the way out thanks to the global economy and the cost of health care.
Then, my husband came home and after a few minutes, he started listening to the new Eagle’s CD. The Long Road from Eden. I was still reading the paper when ”I don’t want to hear anymore” with Timothy Schmit singing lead vocal came on. The song and the voice were so beautiful, we were both stopped in our tracks. We couldn’t find out who the lead was from the CD booklet so I rushed upstairs to find out via the internet. Then we found his picture in the booklet. We’ve seen the Eagles’ “Farewell Tour,” on tv a couple of times and the photo brought to mind scenes from the performance, first of Timothy with his long hair, then of all the others, different views of the performance. The concert is great, by the way.
Our attention thus gained we settled in for a real listening of this new album: beginning with the title song. The aforementioned booklet contained the lyrics of each song, so I just followed along: “Moon shining down through the palms, shadows moving on the sand, somebody whispering the 23rd Psalm, dusty rifle in his trembling hands, somebody trying to just stay alive, he got promises to keep, over the ocean in America, far away and fast asleep.” (Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, “Long Road Out of Eden.”)
The thing about the Eagles is 1.) the utter unity of the music and lyrics in their songs, and 2.) the utter unity of the songs and their singing of the songs and then 3.) the utter harmony of their voices in the singing of the songs and finally 4.) the way instrumental interludes flow in, between and around the singing, inseparable from but somehow framing the lyrics, deepening their meaning. This must have something to do with their having been working together for so many years.
Having said all that, all those union stories and this new CD with its little booklet of lyrics have had a profound effect on me, not unlike that of Ezekiel prophesying to the valley of bones. Striking unions and a popular singing group's album, packaged and sold by Walmart, are speaking to my broken, nearly apathetic little heart, about “the sorrows of empire” (to borrow Chalmers Johnson's book title) in the land of the free.
Just a few lines will show you what I mean. They're from “Business As Usual” written by Don Henley and Stewart Smith:
Monuments of arrogance; reach for the sky
Our better natures buried in the rubble
we’ve got the prettiest White House than money can buy,
sitting up there in than beltway bubble
And when “El Jefe” talks about our freedom
Here is what he really means:
Business as usual
How dirty we play
Business as usual
Don’t you get in the way
Makes you feel helpless
Makes you feel like a clown
Business as usual is breakin’ me down.
But you know these words by themselves , like other words in other songs, only hint at the revival that’s going on in this album. You have to hear this album (I’m sorry CD just doesn’t cut it with me; sounds too metallic, technical, electronic, too mechanical).
This revival of “our better natures,” comes from the group’s acknowledgment of what’s missing in our lives as Americans today. It deepens the meaning of the love songs which connect “let’s face the facts” tracks.
And what is missing in our lives today?
I’m not talking about nostalgia for the good old days, here.
What is missing is a connection to our better natures, replaced in some by a vile cynicism, in others by a shame-filled apathy. Worst of all this gaping emptiness has been glossed over by our own steadfast refusal to face the truth of how bad things really are, how twisted and ugly things have become under the reign of “business as usual.”
Truth can bring an awakening. And you know these guys are not young starry-eyed hippies "on the road." Not that those hippies were wrong, they were just young, too young to be listened to back then. We all were.