Friday, May 10, 2013

Elvis Costello "Good Year For The Roses"

I played this song last week when I heard that George Jones had passed away.

Not growing up with country music here in the Northeast, I had no awareness of Jones’ music.  This Elvis cover was my introduction.

The song was part of a story of mine.

Back when I fancied the idea of writing short stories as a way to understand and explore my life, I wrote this story about how I had split with a girlfriend, had moved out, but was having trouble moving on.

In the story (as it happened in real life), as I’m moving out, she gives me a set of 5 coffee cups.  She had mail ordered a set of 6 cups but when one of the cups arrived broken, they sent her a full set as a replacement.  She gave me the incomplete set, and that’s all I really took from the relationship as I left.

In the story, I’ve left behind “The Best Of Elvis Costello.”  But I like to listen to "Good Year For The Roses" on her birthday/when feeling melodramatic:

“Or the lip print on the half filled cup of coffee that you bought but didn’t drink.  But at least you thought you wanted it, but that’s so much more than I can say for me.”

The story goes jumps forward in time to vignettes with various new girlfriends where, in each scene, a coffee cup breaks.  The story ends with me contemplating the fate of the last coffee cup, hopeful that when it does break, it will mean I am finally over the original girl.

So last week I played Elvis Costello’s version of “Good Year For The Roses,” and I thought about the girl and the story and young love and how sad I was in those years.  And I thought about the story, and something struck me funny.

In the story, I left behind “The Best Of Elvis Costello.”  I wrote that into the story, because I loved “Good Year For The Roses,” and because the lyric worked with the coffee cup plot device.

But in reality, I didn’t lose that record in the relationship.

No, in reality, I was always bummed that I had left behind my copy of “A Decade Of Steely Dan.”

So why the wistfulness at hearing Elvis Costello, if that part of the story was complete fiction?

I’d spent a long time writing this story.  Worked on it for months on end.  Told it and retold it and revised it and reshaped it.  To the point that the story was how I explained my feelings, with more clarity than the facts could have.

The story became the reality.

It's not what happened, but it best explained what happened to me.

And for a moment, I felt kind of like a songwriter.

The narrator of "Good Year For The Roses" (made famous by George Jones, but written by Jerry Chestnut) probably did get his heart broken by a woman.  But did he really see a lip print on a half-filled cup of coffee?  Probably not.  But that's what it felt like, to have his heart broken.  And maybe, forever more, if he saw a half-filled cup of coffee, discarded, he thought of his heart-ache, whether the original image was real or not.

So it makes some sense that I would listen to "Good Year For The Roses" and feel what I felt, even if it isn't attached to my actual story.

It makes more sense than feeling sad about "Peg."

Hear the song on Youtube.

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