Behind The Notes: ASHLAND

The song Ashland began as a story about Goldilocks teaching Icarus balance and moderation, then falling in love in present-day Chicago. People are acting out the plots of the great myths every day, and it’s a good chunk of fun to bring them to life on our contemporary city streets.

In the Greek myth, Icarus- against his father’s advice- flew too close to the sun, and fell to the ground when his gossamer wings melted. Goldilocks avoided extremes in her story and found a chair and a bed that were not too big, and not too small, but “just right”. Included in the song are several real-life experiences from my own storyline, which could just as easily match Icarus’ fall.

She found him dead in the brush in a puddle of wax
broken rib, swimmer’s ear, and a hell of a tan
She came on him with gifts in tow
of ice, isopropyl, and aloe

I was on a retreat with my family in Green Lake, Wisconsin, and was zipping around on a waverunner. My cousin Greg told me it was great fun to get going as fast as possible, then whip the steering wheel all the way to one side. Being the naive s.o.b. that I am, I did this and was thrown from the craft, not before smashing my body on the frame of it. Broken rib. All of the lake activities also left me with a bad case of swimmer’s ear, as well as a sunburn. This works for the other song’s dimension, as a broken rib and a ‘hell of a tan’ were something Icarus most likely sustained. My girlfriend at the time (Golidlocks in the allegory) did bring me ice for my ribs, isopropyl alcohol for my swimmer’s ear, and also aloe for my sunburn.

Ashland is a north/south street that runs throughout Chicago, and it’s true that if you time your drive just right, the traffic lights will all be green. I’m a big fan of synchronistic events like this- things that happen when you’re ‘in the zone’, but I also wanted Ashland to be a reference to the ‘ever after’ in Icarus and Goldilocks’s story, or even have the concept of Ashland extend to the afterlife.

Still fighting the cold war
what else is a well-trained soldier to do
buried in the deep suburban towns?
Come 30 he’s finally learning to read on the surface
instead of sweeping for mines.

This verse breaks a bit personal for me, and touches on my turbulent childhood. The image in my head is of the guys hiding out in caves thinking the war is still going. That’s the way it often goes for kids that have grown up in traumatic situations. They can grow up and recreate the war-zone of their upbringing if they’re not careful. I think even the fact that I was writing about this indicated my breaking free of my ‘war’ in some regards.

And by song’s end, Goldilocks raises Icarus from the dead with love, by gently ‘stitching his wings by degrees’.

Ashland appeared on the 2001 album, Roadstar, and is also included on the Live At Gabe’s collection in 2010.