The scene has been quiet recently, owing to my needing to travel back to the East Coast for the funeral of my grandfather, Guy P. Mantz, Jr., who died in his sleep after hip surgery on February 27. In the midst of an emotionally trying experience I was reminded of how there are moments when music can speak to us in a way that goes beyond a cool beat or a witty lyric, when it connects on a level that unites us soul-to-soul.
After I arrived in Charlottesville and went to pick up my car at the Hertz counter I was asked which I preferred, a Malibu or a Mustang. Thinking that I should have at least something enjoyable in all of this, I went with the Mustang, which also had satellite radio installed. I tried out the Area 33 channel with its terrible bombastic trance and tribal house, but it was the Chill station that felt most appropriate as I drove to the graveside rites on Saturday. After the service, in which my grandmother broke down and cried from the depth of her soul while laying her head on my shoulder, and then passed out as we tried to walk her back to the car, we went to the Church where I exchanged mostly false pleasantries with relatives I haven't seen in 20 years and never really liked that much in the first place. The whole experience made me feel like I should get at least a +1 on my Existential Angst rating. When I got back into the Mustang to return to my grandparent's house and turned the key, bringing the radio to life, I heard Tracy Thorn's voice singing the chorus from "Protection:"
I stand in front of you
I'll take the force of the blow
I can't say the the lyrics were especially relevant, but in Tracy Thorn's voice I could hear the knowledge of having felt something like what I was feeling at that moment. If I could have driven off to a bar, lit myself a cigarette, had a couple drinks, and just listened to Everything But the Girl for an hour or so, I think I could have found a solace that would have been far more satisfying than readings from scriptures and prayers to a God I don't believe in. When death makes all human activity seem like mere vanity, when you see people you love stripped down to the emotional bone, when loss hollows out all joy, at least there is music to connect us with others who have felt the same way.