Every year, I put out a playlist of my favorite songs from the year. I used to say this playlist was the “best” songs of that year, but I have definitely put that behind me. These aren’t the best songs, just the ones I liked best throughout the year. The ones that for one reason or another stuck with me. There are blindspots and omissions, sure –– it’s not a perfect playlist, but I really love it and I love the process each year. The playlist can be found here. I would play it straight, not on shuffle.

One thing I always think about doing but never get around to doing is putting together a smaller list of favorite songs and writing a little about those specific songs. That’s what this post is all about. I wrote it in one sitting, mostly stream of consciousness. Like the playlist it’s not perfect and it’s probably not even exactly how I’ll feel about these songs in a few months (in a few months, I would probably write about a different collection of 10 songs!), but I wanted to put some words to some thoughts. The songs are not ranked, but listed in the order they ultimately appear in the playlist. …


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Image courtesy of Netflix

I love musicals. It’s endearing to me, the way a character can take time to process something with music and poetry differently than if the character were just speaking. I understand that sometimes it can be jarring to have a character suddenly be singing; it can be hard, as a viewer, to maintain the suspension of disbelief when seemingly out of nowhere instruments are playing, a character has the perfect words to describe their newfound feelings of love, and the entire town (including random birds and other woodland creatures) suddenly has an entire dance choreographed and elaborate harmonies worked out. …


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I’m sitting at the dining room table on chairs that I just assembled in my first apartment. I’ve been living alone for a week and a half.

I wanted to take this moment during this time to take stock of where I am and this moment in life. Some things haven’t changed. I still think about being in love. [1] I still love the same kinds of people and by the same kinds of people, I mean the wrong kinds of people, and by the wrong kinds of people, I don’t mean that they’re wrong, but I mean they don’t love me, and that’s been the pattern my whole life. I don’t really think I’ve ever felt mutual affection. Even in the friendships in which I feel most comfortable, I always have this sense that I love them more than they love me. …


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Ta-Nehisi Coates. (photo courtesy of Commentary Magazine)

In her book, A Brief History of Myth, Karen Armstrong discusses the prevalence of myth-making through time as a way that humans have reconciled certain realities and mysteries of life. She claims that humans are animals that rely on stories to explain the way things are. According to Armstrong, myths aren’t mere fairy tales or ancient legends that without modern significance, but myths are specific kinds of meaning-making stories. Armstrong is arguing for an understanding of the pervasiveness of myth. She makes the argument that myths guide our lives and descend from the fantastic to the mundane. She argues that stories, as mechanisms of meaning, tend to give human beings order and structure with which to define, process, explain, and project their real, current lives. They are more than pleasant tales. They actually work to guide our lives by providing a grand structure, order, and set of aspirations. …


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photo courtesy of Buffalo Construction, Inc.

I wanted to keep packing, but everyone else was hungry and bored so they came to pick me up. We went to the Texas Roadhouse on 28th Street at 5:45 p.m. Jon wanted steak. In the waiting area, they have a window to the kitchen and below the window is a display case with a number of shelves, each displaying a few selections from each cut of beef that they offer. I don’t think Jon wanted it that badly.

They had a sign in the waiting area — more than one of the same sign, actually — that read “We will not seat incomplete parties before complete parties.” There were only five of us. …


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photo by Kendra Larsen (instagram.com/kendralarsen1)

In between bands at my last Parlor Voice show before graduation,
I was explaining how I edited the audio from that section of the documentary I had been working on about the Women’s March on Washington, the part where Kendra says Fuck but she didn’t want to say Fuck if people were going to see it.
— not that she cares about swearing, she’s just sensitive of others

The trick I pulled was possible because she said Fight right after
so I smashed the F — from Fuck together with the — ight from Fight
which especially worked because her mouth was out of frame. …


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First Grief

It was November sixteenth but the tree, lights, and other decorations were already setup at the funeral home. My grandfather had died of lung cancer five days earlier. I was nine.

At the visitation, I stood in the corner facing the tree, my back to everything else. I was afraid to see the body in the casket. My mother, in the middle of the room, was speaking to friends and acquaintances. Together they were mumbling memories and laughing when they could. My father, by her side, hardly said anything. …


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Nothing to hide

Mom rang the dinner bell at six o’clock. We took our places as she put the last, hottest dish in the middle of the table. She sat down, bowed her head, closed her eyes, and stretched out her hands. She was waiting for us to join her in prayer, but she was not waiting for Dad.

“Heavenly Father,” — she began, with a deep breath — “we thank you for –”

Dad came into the room and pulled his chair back from the table, taking a seat. Mom only paused for a second.

“– and please bless this food to our bodies. Help it to nourish and strengthen us. Make us clean, give us peace, show us mercy. …


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Amethyst + Flowers

I keep having this vision: as I’m walking down the path, I get a call that someone in my immediate family has died: either the mother who is my whole world, or the brother that I love but rarely agree with, or the sister who is pregnant, or the sister with whom I shared a womb, or the brother that I pray for every day at 10:00am. My sight doesn’t go blurry, it goes black; my breathing isn’t staggered, it’s stopped. I collapse in the grass, or in the leaves, or in the snow, or in the mud depending on the season. All these strangers from the path surround me. None of them know who I am. All of my friends are either in class or another state. I hear a voice I don’t recognize trying to get my attention because I’m still on the phone. Why is a stranger calling?


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Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

This past Sunday, as I sat in church and the offering basket was passed from row to row, the pianist played “Be Thou My Vision” softly, instrumental. As I listened, humming to myself and thinking of the words, I began to consider the opening line in ways I never had before — in semantic and grammatical ways. …

About

Michael Lentz

Writing about memory and love. michaelentz.co

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