Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Grant Johnson at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
How often does it actually happen that we're in the only place we want to be in? Now, to compound this little game, how often are we in that place and surrounded by the people that we'd want to be in that place with? Oh, if we're honest, we know that the number of times when that's the case is very small. We might get the place right, or we might get the person right, but the combination of the two is nearly unfathomable. It's just asking too much, we convince ourselves. No one gets that, or they hardly ever do, so we shouldn't let it eat us. We should just presume that no one is completely satisfied when it comes to that criteria.
We think these grim thoughts today because of Chris Smith, who writes and performs under the name of Moonlight Gram. The name alone brings with it strong sentiments from the book and movie, where a character of a similar name wrestles with time and misfortune in terms of the right circumstances just never fully clicking into place. The good doctor suggests to Kevin Costner's character, Ray Kinsella, that it would have been a greater tragedy if he'd only gotten to be a doctor for a day, not a baseball player. The man then cracked a joke about needing to get home to his wife - the place that he knew he belonged - before she began thinking that he might have a girlfriend, all with the smile and a wink that told us that there was no way his wife would have ever considered such an absurd possibility. She too knew that he belonged where he was, with her, in their home. Smith wears old Iowa Hawkeye sweatshirts on Saturday morning, football game days - an homage to his father's home state - even as he lives in the den of the Texas Longhorns, in Austin, Texas. It's something similar to leaving your heart behind somewhere. The songs that Smith writes take on some of these same feelings of unfortunate timing and of drowning in some woozy old memories.
You get the sense that many of his ships have already left the dock, that all of the wanting and all of the drinking and smoking can't change anything that already happened. There will be no miraculous reversal and it's in that recognition where we hear these protagonists mewling and tossing and turning. It's at that point where you hear the tides turn, where the mood feels doomed to remain overcast and dreary. These characters vacillate between the people they're scrambling to still be around, those who they would sing, "You are why I stayed alive," to and those that they'd rather lose. To them, he sings, "I don't know what you've been told/But you don't know shit about me." He then walks away, off to somewhere else, somewhere with a better chance.