Monday, October 31, 2011

Songs for the Walking Dead

Last day of Rocktober. Day of loosing evil spirits. Zombies and vampires lurk.
Seems like a perfect day to celebrate the third-most important purpose of modern music: lamenting the Break-Up.

One of the best break-up quotes I’ve ever heard:
“Divorce is like a death in the family where the corpse continues to walk the earth.”

I first heard these sentiments from our former pastor, a man who served as one of many valued mentors in my life, although he was just passing along the quote. An intensely private man, Larry kept most of his personal life to himself, which weirded out most of the AARPies in our congregation, because our church has always been accustomed to extroverted and deceptively open leaders.

This much about him was public: he was divorced and remarried. He had two daughters from his first marriage. The divorce was the beginning of the end of his run at his previous church, and he disappeared from the pulpit for more than half a decade, during which time he remarried.

We were talking about marriage and love and heartbreak and all that jazz when he offered this Divorce = Zombies quote.

For reasons I can’t explain, he shared many additional details about his divorce with me, often while watching football and drinking beer. Maybe he was using this information in a pastoral role as a cautionary tale or a warning of what not to do. Maybe he knew I was more than bitter enough about church to handle anything he shared without my opinion of him or Jesus being at risk. Maybe it’s got to be hell on a pastor, everyone expecting you to be perfect or mostly perfect all the time, especially when you get thrice-punished for a divorce over which you had little control.

Whatever the case, the experience clearly tore a hole in his soul. It didn’t completely crush his spirit, but it broke just about everything else in him. His entire being must have felt like someone who has been in such a devastating wreck that his entire body was in a cast, with several limbs dangling suspended in the hospital bed. He speculated that, were it not for his devotion to and love for his daughters, he might have never healed.

Divorce is the break-up to which all other break-ups aspire. Cute Puppy Love Break-up Demons lick the scraps from the dining room floor of Divorce, their little puppy love tails tucked fearfully under their butts as they whimper under the table, their ribs pushing through their flesh while Divorce sits fat and slobbering and engorged on an overabundance of food.

When it comes to the battlefield of love, I’m like Morgan Freeman in Glory, the dude who walks out into the aftermath and piles up the bodies, except with nary a tenth of his wisdom. I’ve watched lots of good men and women fall on that field, but I’ve barely earned minor battle scars. Yet there's this twisted dark part of me that, in moments of insanity or weakness, wonders what I've missed out on. How screwed up is that??

I’d love to make some argument that we’re so spoiled in contemporary America that we even glamorize the value of break-ups, that the reason the marriage rate has gone down is because it’s more culturally celebrated to break up than it is to stay together, because staying together inevitably means that you choose to put up with entire truckloads of shit and flawed behavior from your significant other.

And I totally want to believe it, too, because it sounds so damn convincing.

Except there’s this whole Romeo & Juliet thing, which is a few decades old, serving as a reminder that we’ve romanticized break-ups since the dawn of the second female.

We may have always and forever romanticized break-ups, but not divorce. I don’t know many normal people who romanticize divorce. Plenty of people pull that D trigger too soon or too often, but they’re usually the ones who pulled the wrong M trigger when they walked down the aisle in the first place. Wrong marriages end in sad divorces. Right marriages end in sadder ones. But all divorces leave corpses walking the earth, some hungrier and more present and dangerous than others.

So, in honor of respecting demons on this Halloween, I pay tribute to the world’s only real zombie-maker: Divorce.

Below are a smidgen of recent favorite break-up songs. Trying to pick a Top 10 would be like trying to pick the 10 hottest women on the planet. It’s foolish to even try, and I’d wake up tomorrow with a totally different opinion anyway.

A Sampler for the Walking Dead:


Bob said...

A fitting coda to the month. Well done, my friend.

John said...


How perfect! Today is my 4th divorce-ary and your observations ring true. I'm grateful that so many of my friends have successful marriages, have never had to endure the trauma of divorcing.

The difficult thing for me was in feeling like I was looking in on another person's life; I'm not the sort of person who GETS divorced. It really violated my sense of who I was as a person and, like your pastor, my children probably saved me, though that's an awfully heavy burden to lay on a child.

Anyway, I love this post--thanks. Very prescient. I'd add to the list a song that Bob put on a mix for me about 4 years ago, Jesse Owens Young, "The Fuck". That song got me through a rough patch or two, so thanks, Bob, for that one.

John said...

Correction: "Fuck Was", not "The Fuck". There's probably a song out there called "The Fuck" but it's likely a very different sort of gig...

Billy said...

@Bob - Thanks pard.

@John - I once tried making a "Favorite Break-Up Songs" CD and gave up after I couldn't narrow it down from a 3 CD set. It seemed somehow masochistic or dangerous for me to spend too much time on the topic.

Daisy said...

I'd like to add The Eagles "Already Gone" to the list