Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Day 19: Fair Play


"Fair play to you," a colleague messaged me the other day after I made a particularly pointed joke on chat. "Killarney's lakes are so blue," I almost typed back before stopping to ask whether she was, in fact, referencing the opening song on Van Morrison's 1974 masterpiece, "Veedon Fleece." Never heard of it, she said. But by that point my mind was elsewhere, specifically a train from Hamburg to Munich, then overnight to Rome, then to the coast, then a 19-hour ferry ride across the Adriatic to Greece. An almost three-day journey I took in 2005 during which I listened to Veedon Fleece throughout. It's definitely a breakup album, written on his journey back to Ireland after a divorce from his wife in San Francisco. My girlfriend and I were living in different continents at the time, and I wasn't sure how things would turn out. A few months later I decided to drop out of grad school in Europe and head home to find a job and resume our relationship. But I never forgot the melancholy of this album and decided that for my next epic train trip I did not want to go alone.


  1. I may not know Veedon Fleece, but I know other things. While you were transported to European trail travel, this conversation brought me back to Astral Weeks (basic, I know) and my then-long distance relationship with my now-husband. He was in DC, I was in New York. We were nominally seeing other people (I was; he wasn’t happy about it) and classes and work made visits less frequent than they had been in the summer when we spent three days a week together in my dingy Bronx apartment. I listened to that album often, and always replayed “Sweet Thing,” thinking about the good man who wanted me for himself and warmer days spent together. A (basic, I know) image: the repeating opening strum pattern an eddy in a stream on a bright day; the chime the sun glinting; the strings a dragonfly doing its halting dance across the surface of the water. Turning one’s face to the sun, choosing warmth and contentment over novelty.

  2. Beautiful comment of another transcendent opening track from VM. It's amazing how much is contained in those opening strains, strums, chords, and I loved hearing about the details you noticed in that moment. I had a strikingly similar realization the first time I heard "Wonderful Remark" (a Van Morrison b-side) early in my relationship and realizing, wow, I actually feel happy and I don't need to fight this. I wanted my brother's band to play this song at our wedding, and he pointed out the lyrics are actually pretty bitter and might not play well with the older generation. Guess I'm more of a mood than content person after all. Anyway thanks for chiming in!


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