a fresh perspective on Christine McVie
Thursday, December 1 2022
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY
I awoke today feeling substantially better than I had yesterday, with a temperature of only 99.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Then I ended up having one of my best workdays yet. I've gradually become the go-to guy for dealing with programmatically generated or interpreted Excel spreadsheets (yes, actual Microsoft-formatted files, not CSVs, which are much simpler in that they lack multiple worksheets, validation, and cell-based programmability), and today I managed to debug a complicated data issue in the complex plumbing of a C# web application related to Excel imports. This was after solving another Excel issue (one related to cell formatting) in surprisingly little time. This had me feeling better about the health of my job, which (in my pessimistic mind) always seems on the verge of dropping dead. This is despite the support of my team and the boring stability of the municipality-targeting software market. While it might be a bloodbath right now at Facebook and Twitter, the only people leaving my employer are long-term employees fed up with lack of recognition and regular salary increases. People like me, who are happy enough with their salaries and delighted with the generally-lax demands of the jobs, can hold out a job like this indefinitely. It's definitely a good safe harbor during a tech downtown (which everyone is saying we are in).
At noon today, I went out with my backpack to retrieve a fairly heavy load of chestnut oak from the bluff southwest of where the Stick Trail crosses the Chamomile. Later in the afternoon, near the end of the day, I went out and retrieved a second load of firewood, this one consisting of White Ash from within the boulder-strewn channel of the Chamomile itself.
At 5:00pm, Gretchen returned from an unusual Thursday shift at the bookstore, where she'd had Neville. I immediately pack up the dogs and the things I would need at the cabin and started driving there, leaving Gretchen and the cats back in Hurley. We didn't get far up the road before the horrible-smelling farts of one of the dogs caused me to stop at the Ulster Travel Plaza to let the dogs walk around in one of the few grassy areas available. But all they did was piss.
I cracked open a road beer as I drove past the Catskill exit (as is my custom), and it lasted through nearly all the Albany exits. Along the way, I was listening to an apparently bro-country station called Wild Country 99.9, since they played very few songs by women. The songs they did play were so full of seemingly inauthentic folksiness and down-homitude, it made me wonder about the many themes that never come up in country music. One of the most obvious of these is interracial love, though that's a special case of the larger constellation of the themes about issues where the singer doesn't give a fuck what the audience might think. With country music, stifling conformity is the most essential component of all. It might even be worse in country music than it is in Christian music, though at least it has more than one potential theme available for songs.
My first scheduled stop was at the Johnstown Price Chopper, where I bought things like bread (they didn't have any sourdough), tofu, tonic water, chip clips, dog treats, and beer (some sort of Guinness coffee combo). I then bought both gin and a large bottle of cheap white wine at the Spirit of the Adirondack liquor store, where the woman running the place was listening to a country music station. Finally, I got my usual dog-friendly Burger King order. Somehow after that, I got a little lost in the Gloversville Street grid north of downtown. Fortunately, at this point, I know the implications of, say, crossing Kingsboro Avenue. I got so lost, I eventually drove past the Gloversville Price Chopper, a store I've tried unsuccessfully to find in the past.
The cabin had a temperature in the low 40s when I arrived, and I immediately turned on the generator (since what little solar power had been put into the battery had already been exhausted) and started a fire. Then it was time to share fries with the dogs while eating my Impossible Whopper. I also ate a bunch of cannabis to make sure I would have some sort of effect.
When the cannabis finally kicked in, I was feeling sentimental about Christine McVie, the member of Fleetwood Mac who died a few days ago. I'm not much of a Fleetwood Mac fan, having found their rule over the airwaves of my childhood somewhat oppressive. But, unlike Gretchen, I always liked McVie's voice actually preferred it to Stevie Nicks' bleat. I read an article in the Atlantic about "You Make Loving Fun," arguably McVie's greatest masterpiece, and this of course had me wanting to hear the song. Music is all about change balanced by repetition and the tension between fulfilling expectations while also providing surprises. It's hard for me to be surprised by anything I've heard play many dozens of times on radio, but the great thing about cannabis is that it allows you to approach familiar material from a fresh perspective, and that was how I absorbed "You Make Loving Fun" when I finally heard it. I agree with the article that the most amazing thing in the song is how the workmanlike boogie slows down and opens up for the chorus, allowing McVie's singing to soar as if picked up by the wind (I would use the metaphor of a flower instead of a something carried by the wind, because her singing remains nicely rooted amid the now-overturned flagstones of the rhythm). But I also detected a flaw, one that has kept me from liking the song more. After two choruses separated only by a guitar solo, we're back to verses. But the verse we hear is McVie imploring, "Don't... don't break the spell." There's something wrong with that lyric, though I can't put my finger on it. All I know is that it actually breaks the spell of the song, which is not something anyone wants to do.
It seemed I might've eaten a bit too much cannabis, because I awoke in the middle of the night with vivid wallpaper-like hallucinations, some of which were animated in time to auditory hallucinations (these were simple short-duration sound effects). If I didn't have to work the next day, I would've found these more entertaining.
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