“There’s more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source, closer I am to fine.”
A child of the 80s (thanks neon headbands and spandex!), a young woman of the 90s, (‘sup flannel and that fedora that only Blossom could pull off), the Indigo Girls were a revolution and a revelation. Two women, two LESBIAN women (which is how we all saw their sexuality, brandished in feverish neon letters above their heads in videos and in thought bubbles of our own conversation) singing about life, love, politics, and relationships from their unique perspective, which, did I happen to mention was a LESBIAN one? This was pre-it gets better, pre-marriage equality, pre-Ellen, pre-more-than-one-token-gay-character-on-a-very-special-episode-of-a-popular-sitcom. So it was pretty glorious and daring and brave to hear Amy and Emily singing, I would like the record to show, not just well, but pretty damn outstanding. Auto-tune? What are you, from the future? Get back in your flying car and get out of here with that sci-fi talk.
“Closer to Fine” was a fist-bumping anthem in the vein of Taylor Swift’s “Shake If Off,” but less about boys and “haters” and more about the courage it takes to admit that the compass and map just aren’t working for you and that’s really okay. It was one of those “message” songs without being message-y. “Closer to Fine” celebrated the path less traveled while simultaneously sticking it to the big voices with a stake in keeping that path paved and well-lit. Today that seems far from radical. People are traveling all kinds of roads of their own paving, stepping, tramping, and making. And they’re doing it without anyone’s permission but their own, which is a glorious thing. Not all of us were that fierce in 1989. And some of us are still a little leery about stepping off the train tracks. What if this new road leads somewhere terrible? What if it doesn’t?
Because playing choose your own adventure, walking that crooked line can be pretty awesome. And hard. And messy. And lonely. Amy and Emily left those things out of the song. Something to do with rhythm and flow, I suppose, something about: “I went to the doctor and he told me it was going to be bleak for a little while and I’d probably want to throw in the towel, but really I should hang tough and stick it out because, you know, it’s the journey not the destination,” not really having the same catchy, throw your hands up and testify kind of feel to it, right?
I feel like I’m thwaking through the underbrush these days, forging a lane and wondering…wondering…
The only sure thing I know is the imprint each foot leaves, and I have to be okay with that because life, right? But it is hard to trust those steps sometimes; it is hard when guideposts seem spaced apart erratically—every three miles, now every twenty miles, now every six feet—and you start to forget a little bit about why you jumped the rails in the first place. It is hard when you don’t encounter another fellow traveler for far too long and you start wondering…wondering…
Did I make a mistake?
Did I listen to the wrong voice?
Will this be okay?
Will it be worth it?
Am I nuts?
Then I think about this song.
This nostalgic hit that still makes an appearance on mix cds and “clean the bathroom” playlists.
I remember that back in the day when it first came on the radio, and for a good long while as it climbed the charts, I would crank that bad Larry up as far as my cheap speakers would allow, and I would screech with all my lung power: “AND THE LESS I SEEK MY SOURCE….CLOSER I AM TO FIIINNNNNNDDDD!”
I really thought those were the words.
And does it really matter?
It works both ways.
The mark of a true classic: even when you butcher the words, the meaning is still poignant. Can I get an Amen for the goddamn genius of those lyrical lesbians?
The further I go into the woods of my own making the better chance I’ll have of finding what I’m looking for or it finding me. I have no idea why this is true, only that I know deep in my weary bones that it is, and on lot’s of days it’s that bit of Faith, the equal parts painful and comforting pebble in my shoe, that keeps me moving forward despite the temptation to double back to places that are familiar, comforting, but ultimately not where I belong, ultimately not where I’m meant to be found or fine.