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Three albums can cure a bad day's hangover

By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK editor

So, I had a rough day. Everyone has them. They happen, and you move on.

Easier said that done, though, correct?

Like many, my job can be incredibly frustrating. Not necessarily the work I do, but how the company itself is run and the way decisions are made. These decisions are typically made in a cold, hard-rule fashion, designed with nothing in mind but enforcing a code, for no other reason than to remind employees exactly who is boss at all times. The house always wins, as it were.

This ideal is not unique to my office. It happens everywhere, every day, in more than a few places in America. In fact, in my state, it’s basically the norm, as state labor laws afford employees the fewest rights in the nation. We should really just be happy that we’re not forced to work 12 hours in a coal mine at 9 years old with no lunch or bathroom breaks. At least, we’re not yet …

The point being, coming home from a day like today, the weight of a thousand frustrations are force to be reckoned with. During work, I kept my head down and my iPod set to some furious punk in order to both control my anger at the situation and keep myself focused. It worked, to a degree, but it ultimately didn’t help matters much.

Fast-forward to five o’clock, and I’m out the door, bag around my shoulder, sunglasses in my front pocket, keys in hand. In the car, there’s more loud music, and soon, I’m home. Still angry, of course, but now at least I’m allowed to be.

At first I try to distract myself. I e-mail a couple of friends, then I settle in for the first two periods of a hockey game. It’s fine, but it’s not working. The frustration from the day is not going away, and now I have a pounding headache to complement the baggage.

After taking an Aleve and lying down for a bit in an effort to get the headache under control, I do some dishes, and finally, something clicks. Just before loading up the dishwasher, I walked over to the turntable and dropped the needle on one of the great collections in American music — Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.

Through 10 songs centering on murder, hopelessness and bitter, conflicted characters, Springsteen poked the first ray of light through my bitter, seemingly hopeless day. It’s one of my favorite records, no doubt, and I’ve sung it’s praises before, but it certainly came in handy on this day. Sitting there on my couch, Springsteen singing and picking an acoustic guitar, me flipping through a “Peanuts” collection in my lap, I was finally able to mellow.

I started to pick up on this, and after side two came to a close, I reached for Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, putting side three on first, and listened to the bluesy, shivering “Cold Irons Bound” jump off the vinyl. It might not have been as intimate as what Springsteen offered on Nebraska, but the warm sound of the guitars cutting through their amps further worked to put me in a better place. I worked through all four sides of that album in an unconventional 3, 4, 1, 2 fashion. Dylan sings of love, loss, regret and anger on this album much more concisely and eloquently than, perhaps, anyone. And by the end, I was feeling like I was ready to tackle another day. Almost.

Last up, Eddie Vedder’s one-man show on Into the Wild was given a go. Featuring just his voice, a guitar, and minimal accompaniment, Vedder’s solo turn was the right capper to put my horrible day back into perspective. As Vedder sings of searching for freedom and loosening the shackles that we allow the world to place on us, it put me in a much better place than I’d been all day. In the end, it turns out, it was just another day. As bad as things can be at work, it’s just a job, and it doesn’t define me. As he sings in “Guaranteed,” “I know all the rules but the rules do not know me…”

It’s almost silly how much four pieces of vinyl can do to lifting my mood. Maybe it was the entire composition of it: the act of sliding the record out of the paper sleeve, into my hand, onto the turntable, set just under the needle. Adjusting the volume, settling into my spot on the corner of the couch, book in my lap, head down. And for the duration of those three albums, nearly three hours all told, I was nowhere else to be found.

If only my entire day had been that way.

November 24, 2008

E-mail Nick Tavares at nick@staticandfeedback.com

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