I was an anxious young scholar back in the late 80s when I attended Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois. My freshman year, stranded on campus without wheels, the long, northshore weekends were, at the beginning, depressing and unbearable. So, my long-suffering father, without so much as a whisper of complaint, would drag himself - dinnerless, clothes still soaked in nylon vapors after a long week laboring on the factory floor, north, through the Chicago rush hour up, all the way from Tinley Park to Bannackburn, then down again. Why? To haul his only son, along with his college homework and his laundry, back to South Holland for the weekend.
And this way we would travel the insufferable miles through the thick city, week, after week, after week, in silence.
In silence, except that I would make it a point to subject him to the latest tunes that had captured my rebellious heart, courtesy of the JC Penney tapedeck buried in the dash, and the week's latest mix tape. Every week, all the way back home, week after week. The Alarm. The Cure. Big Country. R.E.M. The Silencers. Simple Minds.
And so we'd go, the two of us, riding with no words between us through the long, long city on Friday night, the selfish soundtrack of my struggling new-adulthood drama trying to crowbar some vaguely angry and pointless point into a tired and good man's life.
But, of course, all revelation has its roots in underestimation. My dad is many things: among them, a musician. And also - of course - a dad. Little did I know that he was slowly giving me and and my fervent demands for attention a fair shake.
And so it was, one night, in that long struggle against Chicago traffic, when this song ended, and he asked, "What do you like about that?" And I explained. And he understood. And then he explained. And I understood. And we talked about improvisation, and genre, and precision, and ambiguity, and four-part harmony, and poetry, and faith and art. At the time, we rewound the tape and listened to this track again. He said he could appreciate it - he may have even said he liked it - but it didn't matter at that point. He was showing me how to be a dad, and it's an example I try to hold up in front of me every day as I navigate my boys' days.
This song is near to me for many reasons, but especially for this.