Every three or four years I become re-obsessed with the Tom Waits song “Broken Bicycles.” It made no impression on me when I first heard it during the movie it was written for, “One from the Heart,” (boring!). But later on a transatlantic flight one of the featured albums was that soundtrack and I must have listened to the song five times in a row. I’ve done the same thing a few times since and did it again yesterday: the foggy middle of the night feel of the melody, the conversational vocal (in my mind as close as Tom got to Frank Sinatra, in feel if not quality), and especially the devastating last few lines, when you find out what this guy musing about broken bicycles laid out on his lawn like skeletons really has on his mind:
The seasons can turn on dime
Somehow I forget every time
These things you’ve given me, they always will stay
They’re broken, but I’ll never throw them away…
Here in Boston the season turned on a dime last night: yesterday it was seventy degrees and this morning it’s barely scratching forty. Winter is in the air and the clocks turn back tomorrow and those first few days when it turns dark at 4 and you’re still sitting at a desk in an office are always depressing. “Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast,” Bob Dylan said and the changing seasons and approaching holidays and “Broken Bicycles” made me think of that line again and about how I almost used it as my quote in my high school yearbook. I’m glad I didn’t, so pretentious and what did I know about time at 18? A little, I guess.
Some other things that changing seasons and “Broken Bicycles” made me think about: a short film a girl on my hall in college made of her parents lipsyncing to the “Fiddler on the Roof” song “Turnaround.” Cringe-y but I remember also finding myself a little choked up. What did I know about time at 21? Enough, apparently. Also that Donald Hall poem about how men at forty learn to close softly the doors to rooms they know they won’t be coming back to. That didn’t kick in for me until later but I definitely feel myself doing it these days, a pause for a few last lingering looks, though not always sadly.
When one door closes, another door opens. Or, as I saw on tea towel while trying to start my Christmas shopping the other day, when one door closes, talk shit about it. Seasons change and so do we. You’d think I’d be used to it by now but hey, what do I know about time anyway?