Fun fact: on this day in 1978, Gerry Rafferty’s album City to City managed to knock off the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from the top of the charts (it had been in the #1 spot for 24 straight weeks), and it was all due to this song. “Baker Street” was one of my favorite jams when I was a teenager, and I remember wanting to learn how to play the saxophone just so that I could play the iconic sax solo from the track. (That inclination didn’t last very long–learning an instrument is hard fucking work.) I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve listened to “Baker Street” (easily in the high hundreds, possibly in the thousands), but tonight was the first time I think I actually heard the lyrics. I’ve noticed that the older I get, the better I become at understanding some things (or so it seems), but that understanding always seems to come too late, and this song is an exemplar of that. We have a tendency to fool ourselves into optimism sometimes–often we find ourselves looking ahead to something better at the expense of the good things we currently have. Complacency is underrated, as far as I’m concerned.
funny cruel how life has a way of playing this particular trick on us–of not allowing us to see some things clearly until after the fact, when it’s too late to do anything about it. We as humans like to assume things, and then we like to act on those assumptions. It’s in our nature. Sometimes we prefer to make choices based on what we want to believe rather than the facts because, well, life’s just more romantic that way. We pride ourselves in being a rational bunch, but at the end of the day we’re ultimately creatures of faith–we prefer to believe there’s a certain certainty to the images we’ve painted in our subconscious, and we subscribe to those fantasies with whatever lies or bullshit logic we can come up with. Once we buy into the bullshit, we’re compelled to live with the choices we make because we have no choice but to live with them. (Well, actually, we do have a choice, but it’s admittedly not a very good one.)
I was thinking about this phenomenon at dusk tonight while I was watching a host of fireflies light up my back yard. The “trick” life likes to play on us is a lot like the bioluminescence of lightning bugs in that it’s nearly impossible to register the initial flash of a firefly. You hardly ever see a lightning bug just as it lights up. You can keep your eyes peeled all evening hoping to spot one, but the fact of the matter is that when you see a flash, by the time your eyes are able to focus on the light it’s usually on it’s way out–just as we begin to see them clearly, they’re gone. When the fireflies were done with their dance, I turned my eyes upward to catch the twinkling of the night sky and recognized that I was looking at stars that had burned out billions of years ago.
Sorry… got to rambling there. Here’s the song and lyrics (apologies to Gerry Rafferty):
Winding your way down on Baker Street,
light in your head and dead on your feet,
well another crazy day, you’ll drink the night away
and forget about everything.
This city desert makes you feel so cold–
it’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul,
and it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong
when you thought it held everything.
You used to think that it was so easy–
you used to say that it was so easy,
but you’re tryin’… you’re tryin’ now.
Another year and then you’d be happy–
just one more year and then you’d be happy,
but you’re cryin’… you’re cryin’ now.
Way down the street there’s a light in his place
he opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
and he asks you where you’ve been, you tell him who you’ve seen
and you talk about anything.
He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land–
he’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
and then he’ll settle down in some quiet little town
and forget about everything.
But you know he’ll always keep movin’–
you know he’s never gonna stop movin’,
’cause he’s rollin’… he’s the rollin’ stone.
When you wake up it’s a new mornin’–
the sun is shinin’, it’s a new mornin’,
you’re going… you’re going home.