This – me talking about some of my favorite songs and why I love them – will probably become a semi-recurring feature of the blog, but we’ll see how it goes.

I had intended to embed some video for this song, but youtube has failed me, so I’m just posting the lyrics instead (after the jump):

Mary Gauthier, “Drag Queens in Limousines”

I hated high school, I prayed it would end.
The jocks and their girls, it was their world, I didn’t fit in.
Mama said, “Baby, it’s the best school that money can buy,
Hold your head up, be strong, c’mon Mary, try.”

I stole mama’s car on a Sunday and left home for good,
Moved in with my friends in the city, in a bad neighborhood.
Charles was a dancer, he loved the ballet,
And Kimmy sold pot and read Kerouac and Hemingway.

Drag queens in limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
All took me in

Charly and I flipped burgers to cover the rent
And Bourbons at happy hour for 35 cents
One day before work we got drunk and danced in the rain
They fired us both,
They said, “Don’t ya’ll come back here again.”

Drag queens in limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
All took me in

My dad went to college, and he worked for the state
He never quit nothing and he wanted me to graduate.
My brother and sister both play in the marching band
They tell me they miss me, but I know they don’t understand.
Sometimes you got do, what you gotta do
And hope that the people you love, will catch up with you.

Yea drag queens in limousines
Nuns in blue jeans
Dreamers with big dreams
Poets and AWOL marines
Actors and bar flyies
Writers with dark eyes
Drunks that philosophize

A big part of the reason I like this song so much is that, despite the fact that I never knew any drag queens and I didn’t drop out of high school, it really puts me in mind of my college years, in all the best ways. There was a lot of crazy ass shit that went on in those years, and I certainly wouldn’t wish to do it all again. But at the same time, there was this sense of openness, of possibility. Coming from a small(ish) town, I didn’t really have much concept of what the world could be. I knew there was a lot more out there, but I had no idea just how much I didn’t know. And so I crash landed in Berkeley at 18, wide-eyed with wonder. And while my own experience wasn’t quite as bohemian as what this song lays out, I knew my fair share of punks and homeless kids, drug dealers and aspiring writers, enough for me to see my own world in this lyrical one.

For me, this song is all about that first wild taste of freedom, which is something you can never really get back. When I was younger, I used to be so skeptical that anyone could think those late teen years (especially any that overlapped high school) could be “the best years of their lives.” I understand that feeling better now, that desire to be poised right on the precipice of your life with nothing but potential. There’s no baggage yet, no disappointments.

There’s also that element of sadness here, of learning to be yourself even when that doesn’t fit very well with the people you love. It’s something that I still struggle with. Although I love my family, many of my encounters with them lead me to wondering why I can’t just be more like them, why I can’t want the kinds of things they did, why I have to be the one who is different. There’s no an easy answer to these questions, if in fact there are answers at all, it’s just something you have to keep working at, something you learn to live with.

Of course, you still couldn’t pay me to be 18 again. There are days I am flat appalled at the memory of my youthful stupidity. But it’s nice to look back on it with the rose colored glasses of a song, on occasion.