Thursday, March 10, 2011


 by Brendan Cavanagh

i step out the door, hearing that reassuring click of the door locking behind me.  i look both ways- as if crossing the street- making sure there is no one around me.  firmly resolved that i am indeed undisturbed, i swivel the volume on my ipod all the way up, letting the music fill my ears and thoughts and soul.  its tough being hearing impaired, always having to ensure that my music isnt too loud, disturbing those around me.  i think back on those instances in study hall in high school when i thought the clancy brothers & tommy makem were singing softly in my ears, only to look up and find my peers laughing at me, subsequently telling me to turn it down.  this is the deepest embarrassment.  oop!  someone ahead.  i turn the music down momentarily, with my thumb resting readily on the click wheel.  hes wearing headphones, he cant hear me.  he passes, i can turn it back up.  now im finally crossing the street, off the block on which my dormitory resides, technically out of butlers realm.  to the left- police headquarters.  i hope they don't follow me, thinking im up to no good.  what if i accidentally trip on a cracked sidewalk because of my lack of coordination or awkwardly sidestep a patch of resistant mud?

What are you doing?
Oh, hold on.  (hand goes in pocket)  No! i don't have a gun, i just have hearing aids.  (left hand raised, right hand in pocket containing hearing aids)
Have you been drinking?
No officer, I haven't been drinking or smoking.
Why do you say you weren't smoking?
I just meant- I don't want you to-

no, stop it!  thatsentirely irrational, stop envisioning things that wont happen.  just enjoy your daily walk.  i pass the iron railings of the first nice house on the block.  iron railings are highly significant in literature.  james joyce knows that.  they're all over dubliners- eveline feels trapped in dublin when she grips the railing and watches her chance at escape with her lover fade as she succumbs to the gloomy confines of her native city.  im more like the boy in araby- gripping the railings and silently admiring the beauty of that girl i cant have, mangans sister=the virgin mary?  that was my best paper.  five pages instead of two and a half, and an a- to prove my talents.  i saw a black woman enter the garden through a gate in these iron railings the other day.  thats funny.  black people were once confined to iron shackles when they were first exported to america like cargo.  now they own houses.  they look at me from the porch, over the railings.  am i confined by these railings now?  they have more than me- age, experience, money, a house.  bob dylans chimes of freedom [live] clang and toll in my ears.  thats a great political song, ive heard some say its the single greatest protest song of the civil rights movement.

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

i want to be one of the lonesome-hearted lovers he sings about,  standing on top of a hill and witnessing these magnificent chimes of freedom flashing across the sky, like brilliant lightning or colorful fireworks.  i should have been in the civil rights movement, or at least been alive so i could see dylan perform this at newport '64.  i love the way he laughs in the live footage as he struggles breathlessly to belt out that long line towards the end.  why am i staring down at the sidewalk like im struggling to begin on a test?  i look up.  im halfway across the block.  there are silent, sparse snowflakes drifting lazily down from the impassive gray sky.  this could be the start of a coen brothers movie.  i distinctly recall snowflakes or ashes drifting in a like manner at the beginning of true grit and a serious man in particular.  i watched both of those with my cousin in st louis last time i visited, over christmas break.  i cant wait to go back this summer.  with all this imagery around me- iron railings and scant snowflakes- its like im conducting a close reading on a short story about my life.  thats amazing.  i can find so many intangible themes traced throughout these walks.  ive reached 44th & graceland, the next block.  that would be a great album title.  44th & graceland.  the album cover would probably be a washed-out faded photograph of the conjoined street signs.  i wish i could improvise.  you would think playing the piano since i was five and having eight years of formal practice i could improvise.  if a band ever asks me to play piano or keyboards or synths for them AND they tell me theyll write the sheet music, im in.  too bad i finally turn after crossing the next block, making that street corner more significant than 44th & graceland.  44th & boulevard.  what a crummy (holden spells it crumby) album title- no let's use lousy- what a lousy album title.  bob dylan comes on again.  ah yes, this song perfectly matches my mood and the gloomy, rainy weather.  why do i identify so heavily with any song of his that deals with moving on after a relationship?  ive never been in a long-term, serious relationship.  i dont know what its like to feel that acute a pain upon splitting up.  yet when i hear his words i feel that pain in my heart.  i attribute too much significance to people in my life that dont really relate to the characters in his songs.  here comes the good part, the third verse

If you get close to her, kiss her once for me
I always have respected her for busting out and gettin' free
Oh, whatever makes her happy, I won't stand in the way
Though the bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay

i would want to tell the next boyfriend that.  that a part of me will still love her, but i have to say it without looking pathetic or anything.  i hope shes happy.  who am i talking about?  maybe i need a serious girlfriend so that if we break up, these songs will finally have meaning.  i need to stop wallowing in unnecessary depression.  though i feel like self-imposed depression brings out the suffering artist in me.  all great artists suffer.  that was mentioned in english today.  does one have to suffer in order to be an artist?  i didnt say anything.  i wanted to say yes, but i felt that would be unfair to those who have prospered off making happy songs or poems or stories, telling themselves theyve never been depressed.  maybe thats possible.  but i think suffering leads to superior art.  ill always identify with the poets whose fathers have died and the singers who had to move on prematurely from a relationship.  when i suffer i feel like writing papers, or blog posts.  i need to start carrying a notepad to record my thoughts and transcribe them to classic brian.  i dont know if im ready to dabble in experimental writing or creative writing.  i definitely cant write fiction.  coming out on top of the zombie snowpocalypse poll was a fluke.  im better at relating events that ive actually experienced and making them applicable to everyones lives.  but maybe if i write about the imagery i see on my walks, people will respond positively.  maybe my thoughts and ideas are more significant than i imagine.  this is really heavy stuff, these are my innermost thoughts.  it would definitely be thrilling to write about this.  i think im gonna- no, going to- do this.  i better put this off for a while, to collect my thoughts.  gather more images.  no.  im going to finally do this today.  the lewis & clark ken burns film soundtrack appears on shuffle.  somebody speaks out thomas jeffersons words regarding the success of the corps of discovery above a beautiful instrumental- god, that was my favorite part of eighth grade.  that video is beautiful and the music so sweet- he says

The work we are now doing is, I trust, done for posterity, in such a way that they need not repeat.  We shall delineate with correctness the great arteries of this country...those that come after us will fill up the canvas we begin. (his voice cracks) Thomas Jefferson.

after his words fade, the music plays on and seamlessly ties into the next song, a continuation of when summer ends.  hauntingly piercing flutes and rhythmic strings and soft violins.  the song is so sad, but so uplifting.  i feel like lewis & clark as they ascended the great divide and looked out across the vast expanse of undiscovered america.  the gut feeling they must have experienced- accomplished, tearful, heart-rending, triumphant.  i feel it too.  is this an epiphany?  is this song telling me to reveal my stream of consciousness to the readers of classic brian?  this is much like the climax of james joyces a portrait of the artist as a young man.  stephen dedalus ascends a great hill as he achingly mulls over what his true vocation is.  he decides to abandon his hope of becoming ordained and decides instead to be a writer, a lover of language,

to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

ill do it, then.  ill write this blog post.  this revelation surges in my body- i feel as if i could walk forever, but no.  its terribly cold and windy and i have a lot of work to get done.  im nearly back anyway.  i look into the windows of parked cars on my left- my reflection peers back at me, the windswept hair flying over my sunglasses- the sunglasses make me invisible.  invisible man wore sunglasses to conceal himself as he walked alone on the streets of new york.  i do the same.  i dont want people to see me when i take my walks.  if my thoughts are my own and my music pouring into my own ears, then i should remain undisturbed as i walk along the sidewalk

i walk on the sidewalk
down the sidewalk i amble
across the narrow stretch of stone i pass

ever since i read mark hallidays poetry in class and saw him read it aloud when he visited last month i play with words throughout the day.  i couldnt be a poet, but its so enriching to color my mental play-by-play of the day.  like filling a blank page of paper with whatever i want.  i sprint up the short flight of stairs leading to the door.  ever since my friend said he always runs up stairs ive done the same.  i wave my butt over the scanner outside the door (my id rests in my back pocket).  although my ears are filled with a new song, i still hear a dull thud that i immediately recognize as the reassuring click of the door being unlocked.  i step inside, mindful to turn down my music so none of my floormates will hear.  i sit down and begin to type.


  1. This is really cool, Brendan. I don't think I would be able to type out my stream of consciousness. I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. I want to kiss this blog post. If you asked me which person, literally out of all the people in the world, I would want to do this, I would say you. Good stuff.


  3. Like a past relationship, I do not regret my time with "Brendan has hearing aids" jokes. I am happy we had our time together, but I do not want them back, either. Well. Only on cold, lonely nights.