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Notes from a Walkman Junkie: Suicidal Nostalgia

May 21, 2009

By Anne

While listening to The Smiths on a recent road trip, I was struck by a mood that had me feeling either a bit nostalgic or perhaps slightly suicidal. ‘Tis a fine line. One song in particular brought me back to my brief stint as a social worker after college.  I was a residential specialist at a semi-independent living apartment complex for the
mentally ill.  As a residential specialist, I was there to supervise, council, take residents to doctor appointments, and generally keep a look-out for signs of decompensation among the residents.  Most of the residents had a ‘tell’ when things were slipping, mentally speaking.

One woman donned a Marge Simpson-esque (no exaggeration) beehive wig daily.  The state of this wig provided an accurate way to gauge her mental stability. If the wig began to tilt, it was time for an adjustment in her medication…and of course, her wig. She had other subtle tells as well.  For example, I can recall her (and tilting wig)
entering my office where she accused me of taking nips off of her milk of magnesium and asked if I was Peter Pan.

The Smiths reminded me of a specific time when I was transporting a new resident to his first session with his psychiatrist.  This particular resident had a history of severe depression and suicidal behavior.  I was always uneasy about driving residents alone in my car for reasons I doubt that I must explain.  I did try to ease this discomfort by playing music that I knew and loved.  It was however, on this occasion that my selection may not have been the keenest choice.

I was playing a compilation of songs by The Smiths.  I realize that many of their songs are a bit, if you will, doleful, but never was this so apparent as in this twenty minute car ride.  The songs seemed to get progressively worse and very awkward, considering the circumstances.  “Frankly Mr. Shankly” started to play and Morrissey’s velvet-like voice purred, “But sometimes I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill…”  (something I had done more than once).  The true piste de resistance was the final song on the tape, “Asleep”.  It goes a little something like this, ” Sing me to sleep and then leave me alone. Don’t try to wake me in the morning cause I will be gone. Don’t feel bad for me. I want you to know Deep in the cell of my heart I will feel so glad to go.”  This is a song that makes other Smiths’ songs seem downright cheery.

We survived the drive; he did not attempt to do any bodily harm to himself, nor did I implode from extraordinary discomfiture.  Those were stressful days to say the least.  I am truly appreciative of my significantly less stressful current position as a ‘gallerina’.  I must also give props to my present employer for introducing me to the lovely and talented Avett Brothers, a contemporary folk band. They are a brilliant mix of old-time country, bluegrass, rock , pop, and ragtime… a music mutt.  They are also very easy on the

I am attaching a live video to better display their magnificence.  I hope to one day see them perform live.  I shall attach myself to one of their legs and not release.  It will get weird.


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