How The West Was Won (And Where It Got Us)

I just got sidetracked by a flashback to November, 2004.

Bush had just stolen another election. Heather had just been published. And I had just released “Love & Other Indoor Games,” moved to 80th Street, and hit rock bottom.

I read those words now and shiver. I remember being That Guy. I remember finding myself drunk in the middle of Brooklyn at six o’clock in the morning on a school night after another Smith Family show. I remember defining myself by my songs, and an audience’s validating applause. I remember blundering through one relationship on top of another. I remember the drama, the heartache, the uncertainty. I remember it as an especially cold, dark and almost sinister time. Not surprisingly, then, I don’t miss one single part.

Shortly thereafter, I made a very concerted effort to sort my shit out. I resolved to grow up a little bit, to embrace a bit more solitude, to take a vacation or two, to find a spot where music fit into everything but wasn’t everything. Shortly thereafter, I resolved to keep out of relationships until I could keep my relationships out of the paper.

And so, these days I hail a cab early. I define myself more broadly not in how many songs I’ve written, records I’ve sold, or shows I’ve played, but in how well I’ve loved friends, family, and strangers. And these days my next New York Times appearence is far more likely to be the Vows, not Modern Love.

Still, this afternoon found me sorting my shit out again. Today, I began preparing for what Abbi has come to jokingly refers to as “the merge.” In three weeks, her one thousand square foot East Side apartment and my 800 square foot West Side apartment will be merged into our 750 square foot Hell’s Kitchen apartment.

And so I dragged three bags of t-shirts, sweaters and sport coats to Goodwill. And so I left a dozen DVDs on the stoop, and hauled three dozen books to the library. And so, downstairs in the trash compactor, eight boxes of CDs — my CDs — await incineration.

It’s not, of course, about the stuff, though. It’s about all of the things that we bring with us, packed and unpacked, seen and unseen. It’s not about what we were, but what we’re becoming.

Come to think of it, maybe it always was.

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