Song #29 // Lisa Hannigan, “Snow” [At Swim]

Really nothing to see here, but this is a scrap of something that hangs around my desktop (although I see now that I could have chucked it months ago.) It was apparently a start to something that never went anywhere:

Where I’m from, the outskirts of Detroit, manufacturing didn’t just provide us with jobs, it kept us local. With such a powerful force of economic gravity, there was no reason (or hope?) to leave. And though outsiders look at our city’s downfall as spiraling from the 1960s on, what many don’t realize is that the automobile industry kept us in its good graces well into the late 1990s. By that time I was heading off to college at the nearby University of Michigan, while the bulk of my classmates stayed home. While I waited for life to happen on campus, they were driving new F150s and buying homes in the same neighborhoods as their parents. At the time, there was little doubt about who was making the more immediately smart decision.

It was far from a land of opportunity: by the time I reached junior high I had passed through three elementary schools, each one shuttered as teachers were pinkslipped after the steel workers were pinkslipped. Maritime and railroad trade halted as our region’s lifeblood slowed on area roads. But in the waning days of the 20th century, the jobs were still there.

I moved. First out of Detroit’s orbit, and then across state lines to Indiana, New York, and California. When I came back as a visitor a decade later I was suddenly alone. Both the landscape and the population had moved on. Once and local hangouts—Big Boy’s, Denny’s, near nameless bars on Fort St.—were no more. And my classmates had escaped to jobs of service and security: moving out of state to become store managers, restaurant workers, and border patrolmen.

Even though I had struggled to define myself and find success in those years, I had always hoped that I was exceptional. A prodigal son and a permanent sense of place. But I’ve come to realize in my reflection of empty storefronts that I was no exception. I left, but I was merely early. I left, and I was alone. But back in the place that I called home, no one remained, and as I returned to my life in progress in California and later Texas, I grew older (like we all do) and realized more acutely how alone I truly was.

Much like her songs, Lisa Hannigan releases sneak up on you. And though I haven’t spent much time with this one, this song in particular jumped out instantly like a soundtrack to nature that was always there among the hush and crunch of January.

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