Metal Firecracker

First off, I’m breaking the rules. This story isn’t about a song lyric referencing Heavenly Bodies, Planets, Moons, Suns or Stars, which is this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme. Building off a complying lyric is how the game is supposed to be played. I’m posting this up front so no one feels cheated. At the end of this essay, no one will say “Hey, where’s the heavenly body?” (Probably). As I ruminated the prompt: “Hmmm, planets, suns, stars… maybe I could write about Big Red Sun by Lucinda Williams.” Yes, it’s a great song, but it doesn’t stir any emotions in me. So what’s the point, why spend time writing about it? Lucinda Williams, however…

– – – – –

Ed took a shower. I drank a beer, my second. After mountain biking, we stopped by his apartment to transition into night. That shower, a clean t-shirt and shorts—casual, no one we needed to impress. Twenty minutes later I’d do the same at my apartment. Then out to a bar. Beers with friends, a burger, more beers late into the night.

Sitting alone in Ed’s living room, relaxation washed over me—a feeling that only comes from a second beer after hard, outdoor exercise. Six years sober now, that exercise/second beer feeling is what I miss most about alcohol. Then I noticed the music.

Once we rode together
In a metal firecracker
You told me I was your queen
You told me I was your biker
You told me I was everything

A slow song, a picked melody. So pretty, so wistful, it made my chest ache with longing. She sang it with a country drawl, not cleanly, sounding kind of drunk, slurring a bit, her pronunciation off, like Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Ed emerged from his bedroom. “Whoa Ed, what’s this music?”

“Isn’t it cool? It’s Lucinda Williams’ new album.”

I bought her album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road the next day. Calling it life-changing might be superlative, but it certainly shook up my musical tastes. My steady diet of punk and classic rock stepped aside to make room for alterative-country. I quickly snapped up CDs by Casey Chambers, Laura Cantrell, Nancy Griffith and of course, more Lucinda Williams.

When I started writing this, I listened to Metal Firecracker a couple of times. I descended into a melancholy mood. I already used the word wistful. Which one is stronger, which is right? Maybe both. It’s a sad song, and that sorrow comes through in the melody and the vocals. A head-over-heels relationship ended. The intimacies shared are now a source of embarrassment.

Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you

But it’s more than that. In 1998, the year I wrote about, I had friendships, a group, a crowd. Ed and I were like brothers. I still have friends now, my wife and my kids, my besties, but those relationships outside my family—I had so many—are all gone. I let them fade away, one after another. Some I simply turned my back on, some I clung to, I dug in my claws, but ultimately, they slipped away. Listening to Metal Firecracker fuels regret over that loss.

I’ve spent untold hours thinking about this, wondering where I went wrong. Periodically, I regroup, reach out to old friends, but then can’t sustain the effort. I’ve blogged about this many times.

There must be a reason: a mental defect. There’s my brain injury, my sobriety. These could affect my interest in relationships. But the timeline doesn’t work. The bike crash was 1995. I gave up alcohol in 2016. My friendship decline happened in between. Possibly medications? I take a few. Anxiety, Tourette, OCD, depression. A cocktail of pills evens me out, smooths the rough edges. Possibly it dulls my brain, makes me incapable of emotional connection.

Susan suggests the most likely cause is that life intervenes. The cumulative effect of decisions. Marriage, careers, children, the fact that we moved, and of course my sobriety. Too many variables to point to a single cause. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our empty-nest weekend with no children. By chance, a couple we hung out with years ago in DC came to town to ride bikes that weekend. Unencumbered with responsibility, we met them for lunch. We both had a wonderful time. I want to do it again. Maybe just finding space in my future empty-nest life is the only push I need.

So, no planets or stars here, just a moderately bummed-out blogger. I broke another rule, too. I’m posting this four days early. Sunday’s a long way off.

Metal Firecracker is a song of regret. Recognizing what you no longer hold in your hand. Trying to salvage dignity after failed intimacy. Acknowledging what you lost. With that cheery buildup, listen to Metal Firecracker by Lucinda Williams. It’s a beautiful song:

Once we rode together
In a metal firecracker
You told me I was your queen
You told me I was your biker
You told me I was everything

Once I was in your blood
And you were obsessed with me
You wanted to paint my picture
You wanted to undress me
You wanted to see me in your future

All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you

All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you

Once you held me so tight
I thought I’d lose my mind
You said I rocked your world
You said it was for all time
You said that I would always be your girl

We’d put on ZZ Top
And turn ’em up real loud
I used to think you were strong
I used to think you were proud
I used to think nothing could go wrong

All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you

All I ask
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
Don’t tell anybody the secrets
I told you

Photo by visualsofdana on Unsplash

17 thoughts on “Metal Firecracker

  1. I hope you’ll link it on Sunday! I think you explained how you got to this song well enough.
    It’s a great story, and while country is my least favorite genre, the song isn’t bad😉 It does have a heartfelt truth to it.
    I still haven’t figured out what song I’m going to use. Too many options😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most likely I’ll link it but for some reason I always feel like an interloper. Probably because I tell my own story and don’t do the song facts thing. The song I thought I was going to write about was low red moon by belly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The song facts thing is mostly just to share something interesting… we all like to learn new things. Your personal stories are more interesting than a bunch of copy/paste stuff that we could all look up ourselves.
        You may have noticed that I don’t always follow the rules precisely either😉

        The main objective is to share music. We’re all music lovers looking for a song we’ve never heard, or to be reminded of an old favorite.
        You always bring something interesting!

        I’ll have to look up Low Red Moon. I’ve never heard of Belly. 🤔 See? New stuff 😉🎶💃🏼

        Like

      • That opening bass riff is pretty good! Thanks Jeff! A new band for me, here’s one for you… check out The Interrupters. “She’s Kerosene” is a good one, but really they’re all pretty good

        Like

      • The leader of Belly, Tanya Donnelly, was previously in a band in the mid-80s called Throwing Muses, that made a big avant grade artistic splash. My fiancée and I went to see them one night in Newport RI, and Janet said “my godparents (Tanya’s parents) are here.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • I remembered she had some sort of family connection to Tanya. For some reason I thought Janet was her babysitter. I saw Throwing Muses one time at the 9:30 club. The Pixies warmed up for them… I was there for the Pixies.

        Like

  2. I don’t know the song or the singer but I will check it out. I can relate to the social aspect of this post. Where have all my friends gone? I know I had some at one point. Even running buddies, but now, nothing. Was the loss because of Covid? Or, is my lack of reaching out because I got really comfortable being alone. Not that anyone is reaching out to me either. I swear I go weeks without talking to a single person outside of my family. I find that now when I talk to someone – at my kid’s sporting event or something – my speech is pressured and I talk really fast. Almost stuttering. I guess I am expecting them to walk away before I make my statement. Anyway, great post. I’ll check the song out.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with David above, one of the best albums ever. As far as the social situation, I also agree with Susan – life happens. I’ve been making a concerted effort to meet new people and work pretty hard to keep the friendships alive. It’s been really fun. I learned through COVID, there are some peeps I’d like to let go, as sad as that is.

    Liked by 1 person

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