On March 26 of 2003, me and my wife got in the car and started driving to St. Luke’s Hospital in the medical center in Houston. She was in labor with our son. Or more accurately her water broke and he was coming out one way or another. The Interpol CD had been in the CD player of our Jetta for a while. The song that was on when I started the car was PDA and we put it on repeat until we were on the way home from the hospital 3 days later.
There has been so much water under and over the bridge in nearly 6 years since. As humans, me and my wife have always had a black mark on our foreheads. Nothing has come easily in either of our lives. Sometimes this is the case to this day. When you are a child, there are things that can happen that virtually hardwire your brain to have a certain response to certain situations. Hopefully, that hard wiring is an optimistic and compassionate response to even the worst situations. In our case, the hard wiring creates a dramatically tight and stressful situation in the best case scenario. Thank the stars we are way too stubborn to give up. We’ll do almost anything to work out whatever is going on for our son.
Our son is a magical gift in our lives. And as the soundtrack for his birth, this song sends me back to my first eye contact with him. For the 20 hours that followed our arriving at the hospital, I had PDA in my head. And all that optimism in the chorus – “Sleep tight, grim rite, we have 200 couches where you can… Sleep tonight…” – was with me as I greeted our newest human. We have been waiting for you. Any couch, any bed. We had to put him under a blue lamp for a while to treat his jaundice, and we talked about how it was the light from our planet. He just needed it to make the transition. I tell him whenever we hear this song that it is his birth song. “I KNOW DAD!” He gets sick of hearing me say it.
The verses of PDA sound like someone making fun of me and my wife when we fight. Like I can see a video of us arguing and whoever is speaking, their voice comes out as Paul Banks’ voice. First her, “You are the only person who’s completely certain there’s nothing here to be into. That is all that you do.” Then me, “You are a past sinner, the last winner, and everything we’ve come to makes you you.” You can mix and match these. It makes sense either way. Neither of us is making sense and that’s sort of the point.
We don’t do this nearly as much as the years pass and we slowly get about the work of rewiring our heads. It takes a lot of patience and compassion. Something that we had in short supply 10 years ago, but something we have a lot more of now. I feel bad for our son sometimes. He didn’t sign on for our lame attempts at getting better over time. Then sometimes I think we are the perfect parents for him. We err and then we try again. That’s in the end the most important part. Keep showing up. Admit when you are wrong. Apologize. Try better next time. Sometimes I believe we are the gifts to him that he has been to us. I guess I’ll leave the final analysis for him when he grows up.
It’s sort of absurd to try. And that’s what I hear in this song. “Sleep tight.” “200 couches.” We are our own absurdity. We should just get up every morning and put on clown suits and pull on each other’s noses. But with as much as has passed, there is still a genuine love and affection. I wouldn’t come to this planet and put on my clown suit with anyone else.
“Yours is the only version of my desertion that I could ever subscribe to.”
I love that driving raw simplicity in the music. Makes me want to pogo. A song is irrelevant without the meaning the listener gives it. I know this song has nothing to do with me or the situation I described, but it lends itself to my narrative just as well. These are the pieces we drag along with us. These magical audio events that keep time to the passing years and remind us of things that have nothing at all to do with the music. Just other planets. Other lives. Other times. Lending order to the absurdity of our memories. What do I know? What do you know? At least we are from the same planet.
“Sleep tight, grim rite, we have 200 couches where you can… Sleep tonight…”