November: "In Transit" by Albert Hammond Jr.
We spend Thanksgiving in the same seaside town every year. Rehoboth is village of about 1,500 people, right on the coast of Delaware. It’s the same place that I took my first steps, the same beach my family has been coming to years before I was even an idea. During the summer, Rehoboth is packed with tourists, who carry beach chairs snatched from the local boardwalk shops and smell of salt water taffy and sunscreen. Off season, it’s silent. The ice cream stands and arcades are boarded up for the winter, Christmas wreaths and tinsel lining the streets instead of surfers. The only sounds are the soft calls of the ocean, waves rolling in on their own time. After three months of non-stop moving, it’s nice to be somewhere that has a reputation for being slow. It’s nice to come back to myself elsewhere. Time away has helped me realize that November is never really a fun month. Amongst the hype of Thanksgiving lies a subtle somberness. The weather is still transitioning from autumn to winter, making for cold mornings and dreary afternoons. The days are shorter, nighttime creeping in much quicker than most would like. Throughout this past month, there was nothing more that I wanted than to burrow myself away, feeling adrift while the world was swimming just fine on its own. The rational part of my brain tells me that is far from the truth. The irrational part, however, never quite sees things on the same page. It’s been telling me to change in order to feel content, but not in a way that is beneficial to me. I am too much of this, too much of that. I need to get over this, fix that about myself. Ah, the toils of an anxious mind. It sometimes feels like being lost in the bitter cold, not knowing where to go or where I’m supposed to be. With that in mind, finding warmth has been a priority. I have been nestling deep into the music of Albert Hammond Jr., both before and after leaving for break. I’ve found that I can’t really listen to New York artists while I’m there; distance often leads to better appreciation. Between his time briefly studying film at NYU and playing guitar in the Strokes, the reigning kings of the NYC alt-rock scene, Hammond Jr. certainly has roots in the city. Still, there’s something about his solo work that overlooks those standards. Every song is a lesson in genre bending, sending you into a different world entirely. It explores boundaries I’ve never experienced before, as seen in Francis Trouble, an album about the death of his twin brother in the womb. Upon first hearing his music, I immediately wished I had had it when I was in high school. I’m not the kind of person who can listen to an album all the way through. Hammond Jr.’s 2006 record Yours To Keep is one of the few exceptions. I listened to it in its entirety three times in a span of a couple hours. “In Transit” is the second track from this album. There’s a lot to latch onto at first: an early 2000’s guitar riff trying to assert its dominance over another one, a contained drum sound in the midst of all the chaos. It’s the kind of song that feels like it would be at home within a Sundance indie movie soundtrack. Within these words, though, lies a message seemingly made for me. I’m not gonna change ‘till I want to, Hammond Jr. sings, as the hook of the song takes its final form. I initially overlooked those lyrics. They meshed in with sentiments that I’d heard many times before, but after listening to them nonstop for days, they began to take their own form. Albert sings of wanting to break free. From a world he has shut away. From a world he has built walls around. His voice, raspy and desperate, seems to be screaming for somebody to listen. He is himself. That is his redemption. It took burying myself into this discography, this song, to see that I’ve been building my own walls for the last couple of weeks. In a literal sense, I have been hiding away, falling into rhythm with silent, solitude-filled nights. In a more metaphorical sense, I’ve been putting up barriers around myself, not truly taking the time to see what lies behind them. “In Transit” has led me to appreciate what’s there to begin with. Though I do have moments where I want to show myself to the world, I am somebody who feels at home, most often, with myself. I know when I am comfortable and when I am not. Falling into a certain mindset, where I try to force myself into being someone I am not, has become hindering. But, like Albert Hammond Jr. sings, I don’t have to do that anymore. I will change as I want to. I am writing this from my couch, nestled between my two dogs, on a quiet morning that has felt so rare up until now. The ocean is a couple blocks away, and I can hear birds outside the window, chirping against the slight breeze the beach pulls in. The stillness of this small town allows for me to truly catch up with myself, and the moments forming around me, again. Things are slow here. Things come one step at a time. Physically, I am in the present. Mentally, I am myself. I am still in transit. I am still moving towards my final destination, whatever that may be. For the first time in a long time, I am happy to be there.