I was in class five years ago today, Scott Sundby's Criminal Law. I first heard the news when I stepped outside for a coffee refill and a cigarette. There was a buzz in the hallway, but no one seemed to have anything definite to say on the TV and I went back to class. I went to two more classes that day; the towers fell during Doug Rendleman's Civil Procedure and Brad Wendell let us vote on whether we wanted to have our Torts class or not (I honestly don't remember what the outcome was - if we had class, I'm quite sure no one was paying much attention). After all that, I watched a lot of TV and talked a lot of nonsense with a lot of other people talking nonsense. My law school gathered around the TV. I cried more than once. I laughed when I heard that the Wachovia building in Roanoke, VA was evacuated. I laughed when I heard the Lexington locals discuss how VMI (Virginia Miltary Institute - in no way connected with the actual military - was a likely target). Later that night, Matt called me and gave me the story from the New York POV.
I didn't buy 'Love and Theft' that day; I bought it a week or so later, at President Bush's urging, my little way of fighting terror. Five years later, it has seeped into my existence and become one of my favorite records. I like to play it in the car loud. I listened to it both mornings as I drove to take the Virginia bar exam. Now that I live in DC, it has become my soundtrack when I get in the car and drive west into my beloved Shenandoah.
I'm writing this in dialogue to Herschel. I'm writing this to say that, while I am aware of the release date of that particular work of art, never in five years have I heard echoes of that horrible day when I listen to it. And I would like to say that I am really happy about that; it would make me so sad if those songs took on that kind of baggage.
Context is a funny thing and it is essential to education and understanding. But being able to remove context is an incredible gift; it is innocence incarnate. It is a joy to be able to see the trees and forget the forest, so that Bob Dylan need not be contaminated by 9-11, so that the Shenandoah Mountains not be contaminated by the emotional breakdown that occured while I lived there, so that Johnny Cash and Ray Charles cannot be touched by one-dimensional bio-pics and endless Starbucks marketing, so that true religious feeling remains untouched by an insincere Southern Baptist upbringing, so that the haiku of Basho cannot be ruined by ninth grade English teachers attempts to get you count syllables, so that the fun and hard work of the 2004 campaign is not tainted by the disappointing results, so that Monet is not ruined by the flood of calendars and dorm room posters, so that the U.S. Constitution is not dimmed by the crrent misreadings and abuses of it, so that the flight of a snow white owl at night is not marred by the realization of what is getting hunted and killed and eaten, so that I can listen to 'Blood on the Tracks' every time my heart breaks and still know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my heartbreak is not the fault of 'Blood on the Tracks.'