grace cathedral hill: are you feeling better now


[San francisco, grace cathedral]

But. Away to a place we can walk and feel concrete under foot: what is this place that this song mentions? What is this space that the song, in its melodies and silences, seem to echo?
.

Grace cathedral hill, the decemberists.
Many years ago (at least relatively so for me), a kindred spirit in the world of art and music– an at times murky, almost always sidelined world– shared this song.

Then, I was probably too sprightly and indie in my tastes. Weaned on quick turns and complex riffs, i couldn’t settle down long enough to let melody seep in, or piece word and word to uncover morphous meanings and picturesque dreams–the ambitious modus grande operandi of every Decemberists song. While explanations made now are not always truthful of then, i didn’t stand still enough for this song. I don’t think i did then.

One must love the speedy informational transactions of the internet then. For it was on its radio that i chanced upon it again.

This time, a curious thing: i loved it deeply. From the very first strains. Spiritual-physicists would comment on resonating frequencies.. but the strains picked at the tumult in my sluggish self, and the timbre was the low echo of my dragging feet.

The quiet observing voice was the corner i wanted to retreat to. Let the world’s going ons made artful through a steadied frame, be my muse and my preacher.

.


[ .acrylic on wood by bruce docker]

Grace cathedral hill
All wrapped in bones of setting sun
All dust and stone and moribund
I paid twenty-five cents to light
A little white candle
For a New Year’s Day
I sat and watched it burn away
Then turned and weaved
Through slow decay
We were both a little hungry
So we went to get a hot dog

Down to hyde street pier
The light was slight and disappeared
The air, it stunk of fish and beer
We heard a Superman trumpet
Play the national anthem

And the world may be long for you
But it’ll never belong to you
But on a motorbike
When all the city lights
Blind your eyes tonight
Are you feeling better now?

Some way to greet the year:
Your eyes all bright and
Brim with tears
The pilgrims, pills, and tourists here
Will sink fifty-three bucks to buy
A brand new halo

Sweet on a green-eyed girl
All fiery Irish clip and curl
All brine and piss and vinegar
I paid twenty-five cents to light
A little white candle

And the world may be long for you
But it’ll never belong to you
But on a motorbike
When all the city lights
Blind your eyes tonight
Are you feeling better now?

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