Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Sometimes, all a person can do is grin and bear it. There's just something about the unrelenting power of the negative to overwhelm the hopefulness of that person and force them into what can only be characterized as a submission, albeit one that isn't a defeat. It's more like letting the smoke, coming off of everything that's burning to the ground, to just get coaxed into the lungs, instead of feeling it barge in. It's taking one long pull of the exhaust and the exhaustion and declaring that it shouldn't be a surprise that it's all come to this. The beds have been made, or so we'd claim. We're always knee-deep in the travesties and the hard times. We get to be more and more understanding of all that is back-breaking as we start to get up there in years. We start to get the depression and the worn parts of our fathers and our grandfathers as we become fathers ourselves. We start to see that nothing really gets easier and that's not really good or bad. It's just how everything shakes out.
Al Scorch, a songwriter and musician from Chicago, fills his dirty floor country songs with stories of people living in ghostly towns, dealing with ghostly feelings. They are tired and beaten up. They have taken all kinds of body shots and yet, they're still standing as well as they ever hoped they could at this point. For many of these stories, he gives them a good, solid jolt of urgency, but you're curious about the urgency you hear. Some might be packing their bags for the afterlife, something they've been promised as the reward for a good life lived, whether it was a hard one or an easy one. Scorch sings, "All you're gonna find at day's end is you're a little closer to your time."
It's a sobering observation, but no one can really argue with it. You can just figure out how best to get to your time. It's the choice that everyone's got to make. The way that Scorch suggests taking is one that's going to cut out the bullshit. It's one that's going to maximize the time spent with the sweetest people in your life and worrying little about the stuff that gums everything else up. He sings, "Now that you're grown son/Have your own son/Won't you teach him that money isn't right/And if there ever comes a great reckoning/The world'll burn a dollar at a time."
*Essay originally published September, 2012