[Today: Standing at the crossroads...]
‘Tis the season for college graduations, and all these kids fluttering around Berkeley in their caps and gowns have me thinking back to my own graduation so many seasons ago. Graduation is a time of hugs and smiles and photos, and after five years at the University Of Oregon, I was more than ready to move on. But once the buzz of getting my degree in Journalism wore off, I found myself in Pioneer Square in Portland with the classified ads in my hands and the phrase “What the !@#$ do I do now?” on my lips. That was my crossroads moment, when I truly passed from the comfort and purpose of college into a real world of personnel directors and second interviews.
Unfortunately, I had graduated into one of the worst economies in recent memory. I had no idea that my first “real” job related to my degree was more than 18 months and 100 interviews away, nor could I have guessed that I would eventually flee Portland to live with my mom and step-dad while sorting out my fledgling career. While interviewing around, I worked at The Gap seasonally (shudder), laid tar roofing for the local school district (dirty job, good tan), and poured beer for the minor league baseball team (as awesome as it sounds, and then some). Needless to say, this wasn’t how I’d drawn things up in my head. But down that zig-zagging path I met some cool people, drank some good beer and heard some excellent music.
The one album that has come to stand for my entire post-graduation odyssey is Morphine’s Cure For Pain. By substituting saxophone for guitar in the typical rock band configuration, Morphine hatched an original sound that suited my new circumstances. Part smokey cool and part dreamy melancholy, these songs are anchored in an unfortunate present, with one wary eye on a better future. “Someday there’ll be a cure for pain/That’s the day I’ll throw my drugs away” croons Morphine’s ill-fated frontman Mark Sandman on the title track. By the sound of the rest of the album, he wasn’t really planning on tossing those stimulants – songs like ‘Head With Wings’ ‘Mary Won’t You Call My Name?’ and ‘Candy’ are barely-concealed drug references, and even these are steeped in moody boredom. Cure For Pain is the aural equivalent of staring into that last empty glass at 2am and wondering where you’re headed, before climbing down off the barstool and floating away to a better place.
Listen: Cure For Pain
Listen: In Spite Of Me