"Black Sheep Boy" and the sadness it brings... aka how terrifyingly common sexual assault is... Pt. I

Every once in a while (OK, maybe more than once in a while, thrice in a while?), a song will stop me in my tracks.  Not because of its' beauty or familiarity or awesomeness but because of a powerful memory that's associated with it.  I know this happens to other people too, but it's so strong and overwhelming for me due to the way I process time.  Time, as we all know, is infinite, strong-willed and unrelenting while also being short-sighted, moldable and relative.  Time for me is usually defined by records.  For example, I don't think of 2004 as "2004" but more of the year of walking through Tenney Park in Madison, WI listening to the Arcade Fire's "Funeral" on my Sony Discman (with Sony MDR-7506 headphones.  Yes, I was, and still am, a headphone snob.  And, even now I own a second pair of Sony MDR-7506's since I gave my first pair away.  Seriously people, the 7506's are $99 while people pay two to three times that for Beats...  I don't get it...) while I had Sun Kil Moon's "Ghosts of the Great Highway" and Great Lake Swimmers eponymous album in the pouch of my hoodie, ready to put on after my first lap through the park and while sitting on a bench watching Lake Mendota roll in and out against a starless summer night, the pitch black water aching for you to listen to her song as she lulls herself to sleep, with the occasional duck or seagull interrupting our slow dance but doing little to shake our intense gaze deep into one another, remembering all the times we shared and the moments of insecurity revealed with such timidity, and relief, that only those who've experienced tragedy (read:  all of us) could relate.  Wait, what the fuck?!

 

But, sometimes there's a song.  And this song brings back memories we no longer want, that we no longer enjoy.  Sometimes, those memories are too much and we actually block out both the memory and the associations.  Sometimes, we can't forget...

 

So, this weekend I was filming a quick intro to my Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/bradleywik.  No, the video is not up yet, hold your horses.  Later this week...) when I suddenly felt sad.  I didn't know why.  I finished the video and immediately starting tearing down my video setup.  I didn't know why.  I still had other videos I wanted to film.  Why take down the lights and backdrop and camera when you just need to set it up again.  It didn't make any sense but I wanted to.  And, while I packed things up, I wanted to put on some music to help get me out of my funk.  I instinctively grabbed my phone, fired up Spotify (though my Pro-Ject turntable and vinyl sound better, as does iTunes through my KRK monitors), linked onto my bluetooth speaker and fired up "Black Sheep Boy" by Okkervil River.  This record was the year after "Funeral" and "Ghosts of the Great Highway" and "Great Lake Swimmers."  It consumed my ears and stole hour and after hour with its' rugged beauty and heartfelt tales.  Well, I guess it was more painful tales than heartfelt.  One in particular...

 

Okkervil River's "Black" is a song that I have literally loved and lost.  The moment I heard it, I felt such a strong connection to it.  The upbeat music, the tragic (seriously fucking tragic) lyrics and the earnest vocal crushed my baby, eighteen year old heart.  To convey sadness, depression, pain, terror, sorrow, empathy, sympathy, anger, resentfulness, forgiveness, avoidance, passion, hope, and all the other "human" emotions, into one song as wonderful and simple as this, well, then fucking congratulations, you goddamn nailed it.  And Will Scheff did.  He really fucking did.  I couldn't stop listening that song because of the range of emotions I could interpret (Asperger's baby!).  Little did I realize I would eventually come to understand the sexual abuse overtones (undertones?), which I would decipher much later in life, of that song.  Again, with Asperger's, it's difficult to understand the meaning of things that are not explicitly laid out for you (well, me, in this case).  Things that are said metaphorically are way over my head.  I don't get them and I don't care.  That's why I've always been drawn to songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Neil Young, I need clarity and beauty in the simplicity of honest, personal storytelling.

 

But, I now understand the singer's point of view.  I've watched someone struggle with the, sadly, all too familiar pain of sexual abuse, someone I've loved.  And not one, but multiple woman.  Unfortunately, their stories are not uncommon.  It's depressing to think about the amount of women who have to deal with this shit.  It's terrifyingly common.  And, one time, I saw all the ramifications up close, as it happened to someone I loved.  I can't imagine what it was like or any of it, but I do know what it feels like to want to hurt someone immensely for what they've done to someone you love...

 

(to be continued...)

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