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One of my favorite bands, City Boy, released an excellent concept album in 1979, The Day the Earth Caught Fire. As concept albums go, it was more fully realized than most, and with City Boy, the musicianship and songwriting always were top-notch. I made it a point to get CD’s to replace my vinyl copies of all of their albums—that’s how much I liked them.

Several songs on this album dealt with the idea of “a world in flames today/that’s all the papers had to say,” lines from the title song. Other songs depicted people facing the end of the world in more personal terms: the brilliant “Interrupted Melody,” about a small-town girl who leaves for the big city and becomes a junkie prostitute; a man who draws the hanged man’s card during a Tarot reading, symbolizing someone who attains an utterly clear knowledge about life, only to realize the knowledge can’t last; and an ambitious young man who drives his motorcyle off an interstate highway with “no chance of coming out alive/poor kid was cut off in his prime/almost a legend in his time.”

And then there is a song called “New York Times,” about how the singer turns the page of the newspaper and “spilling coffee on my shoes/I noticed you/saw it all in black-and-white/the Broadway girl makes good tonight.” One line from that song has stuck with me over the years:

But old times come on back again when you
Think you heard the last of them.


I always interpreted those lines as being more about people than times. Over the years I’ve received a few phone calls from decades past, even run into a few people whom I thought I’d never see again.

But lately the “old times” have resurfaced in my head—in dreams, to be specific. I wake up anxious, fighting to figure out where I am and what day it is.

Haunted, I am.

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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