Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Days like that should last and last..."

The summer of 2006, for all intents and purposes, was one of the most glorious of my entire life. I was 15 years old, I didn’t have a care in the world and I’d just escaped from my one single torturous year at the local junior high school. I felt like I’d been on autopilot for a year: my classes were ridiculously easy and viciously boring, my teachers didn’t seem to give a shit and I was moving through the most awkward stage of adolescence, where basically all my classmates were about as far from cool as they could possibly get, but didn’t seem to get the joke. I was running track and cross country, trying to follow in my brothers footsteps, but the training became so mundane that I almost immediately realized that wasn’t the path I wanted to take. I was trying to figure out who I was, but I was in the absolute worst and most confusing environment for doing so. The truth was, I’d never minded school before that year. I’d attended a small charter school for 8 years and had learned so much there that when I came to the public school, it felt like I was going backwards. I could write better than just about everyone in my year, I was re-doing math that I’d already taken and I’d already done roughly half of the stuff we studied in biology as well. Bored out of my mind, I turned to music as my only refuge, becoming passionate about singing and still listening, over and over again, to every album I could afford to buy.

By the time the year was out, I needed a summer vacation more than I’d ever needed one in my life. That school had, in one year, made me loathe the idea of public education, and a break was a necessity. Luckily, that summer was just the break I needed: a lot of rest, a lot of fun with family, and a slew of what remain some of my favorite summer records of all time. Dashboard Confessional's Dusk & Summer was one of those. For the 15 year old version of me, the title track might have been one of the greatest songs ever written. This album gets written off all the time by fans, but for my money, it might be the best thing Carrabba has ever done, because the highlights of this record (the title track and closer "Heaven Here", most notably) do as good a job of capturing a specific moment and a specific feeling as just about any I’ve ever heard.

"Dusk & Summer" is the perfect end-of-summer ballad, a slice of acoustic perfection that sounds like how the world looks in the moments right after the sun goes down on a beautiful August night. It sounds like the final nights of a perfect summer and that feeling you get when you watch the sun go down one last time, trying to hold onto the glorious season, even as it slips through your fingers and out the door. Truthfully, it’s a pretty simple break-up ballad: looking back on a relationship that ended with the summer, and wishing you could change things, but knowing you never can, but Carrabba expresses so much more than that with his softly strummed guitar and his emotional, wavering vocals. It’s about growing up, it’s about the passage of time and about love found and lost. It’s about having to say goodbye to your hometown and to the people you love at the end of a great summer, and it’s about wondering just how that summer flew by so fast. All of that hit me when I listened to this song one late night towards the end of that summer. I wanted it to last forever, to bask in the heartbreaking beauty of that song and to just live on like this for countless long, beautiful days and warm nights, but instead, the summer had flown by twice as fast as any other part of the year. Truth is, they always do.

Ever since that year, even as I’ve grown up and changed, even as friends have come and gone, that song has stayed with me like few others have. Every year on the last night of the summer, I play that song, and every year, it makes me tear up a bit. I can hardly believe it’s been five years since it first came into my life, but every time I listen, I can still hear bits of each of those summers in the bars of that song: a perfect family vacation to Palisades in 2006, running on the golf course after sundown in 2007, late night drives home from friends houses in my first car in 2008, bidding farewell to Northern Michigan as a high school graduate in 2009, kissing my girlfriend goodbye in 2010 and realizing I was in love with her, and going on one last summer walk with her in 2011, watching the sun go down and seeing the entire season flash before my eyes. That song is all of those things and more, but when I hear those first chords, strummed softly on Chris Carrabba’s guitar, the first thing I see is the way this place looked in 2006, when I fell in love with summer in a big, big way.

No comments:

Post a Comment