Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Caution Horses, 1990

There's something about an afternoon spent doing nothing
Just listening to records and watching the sun falling
Thinking of things that don't have to add up to something
And this spell won't be broken
By the sound of keys scraping in the lock

It must be some kind of milestone when you can reference back to something you wrote on your blog five years ago. And that was the last time I saw that tape for a long time. Until just a few days ago, in fact, when it turned up in a box that had yet to be unpacked from the move last April. I just finished converting it to mp3, and "Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning" still hits me in the gut.

1990. I had spent most of the 80s officially doing nothing. I went to college immediately after high school, a move which, in the fullness of time, I have come to more and more regard as a mistake. I felt completely burned out on school, and my heart was never in it during college. I took courses that I knew I would enjoy and did my best to blow off everything else. Which means I took mostly only music and literature courses; I never had a single math or science course. But then it was over, I was neck-deep in the 80s and spent several years wandering through that wasteland. By 1990 I was ready for something else, and was worn out from having too many female friends who thought I was a "great friend."

So by 1990 I was working four days a week and going to tech school four days a week--only Thursday overlapped. Somewhere during my apparently aimless wanderings back there in the 80s, I had learned how to learn. Something had switched in my brain. I don't know how to explain it, but somewhere back there something changed and my thinking was different from how it had been. Maybe it was the books I had read, maybe it was the music I had listened to, maybe it was the morning glory seeds. All I know is, I came out of that decade very different from how I had entered it.

So when I threw myself into tech school I stayed on top of it. It had that old familiar feeling that I had had before when studying music: not that I was learning something new, but that I was being reminded of something I'd forgotten.

I bought more cassettes than usual around that time, so I'd have something to listen to while driving back and forth between my dad's house and the tech school in San Antonio (at that time it was in a strip mall at Fredricksburg and Gardenia in Balcones Heights). I think I must have heard Cowboy Junkies while listening to KGSR. It's an Austin station, but I had begun listening to it when I was spending a lot of time in San Marcos, and I could still pick it up in Seguin. I had my stereo at my dad's house connected to a TV antenna for better reception, and when I twisted it north I could still get KGSR. They played some Americana type stuff back then, mixed in with more conventional rock.

Listening to this music is like picking up a familiar song on a faint, distant radio station when you're a long way from home. Sad, in a defiant kind of way. Back in 1990, "Tuesday Morning" could have been my theme song. In one way liberating, in another way reminding me of the woman I had never known and--at the time--thought I never would. (My future wife rescued me three years later).

It was hard to listen to this tape all at once, because I listened to tapes while driving and I would tend to get sleepy with this one on. It's best listened to at home, where you can focus on it and let it wash over you.

I never got any of their other albums, but since digitizing this one today, I have read up on them, I think I will have to check out one or two others. If you feel you are ever in the mood to sit quietly and wistfully contemplate "things that don't have to add up to something" over a beer or three, this is your album.

1 comment:

  1. I had the exact same existence in the 80s but not the sense to go to tech school in the 90s!