Archive for January, 2013

My 13th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , on January 30, 2013 by sethdellinger


“Hard to Imagine” by Pearl Jam

I formed my long-held adoration of Pearl Jam during my most serious drinking years.  They were years filled with mostly sorrow, self-doubt, regret, and love-sickness.  The music and lyrics of Pearl Jam meshed perfectly with this era of my life, and fewer songs left such an impression as “Hard to Imagine”.

I am far from alone in feeling such an intense connection to this song.  It never appeared on an official Pearl Jam album, but is certainly one of their more famous “b-sides”.  Until the mid-2000s, it had only been played live a handful of times, and it became notorious for it’s absence from the band’s live sets as more and more fans expressed their intense emotional connection to the song.  Eventually, around 2007, the band started putting it in setlists to wide acclaim (I knew I’d seen the band too many times when I actually started to feel annoyed by them opening with ‘Hard to Imagine’ again).

What’s interesting about the song is the completely interpretable lyrics.  Sure, Eddie Vedder doesn’t always write the world’s most straight-forward lyrics, but “Hard to Imagine” tells a story that can be viewed from about a hundred angles.  That’s part of what lends itself so well to a wide emotional connection, as well as it’s universal chorus of “Things were different then.  All is different now.  I try to explain…somehow.”  I mean, who doesn’t feel that in your GUT, no matter what you’re going through in life?

Below are the (very short, so read them!) lyrics, and then the studio version of the song, and then the best live version I could find.  I highly encourage everyone to watch and listen to this (everyone!).  I promise—promise!–you will be emotionally affected.

Hard to Imagine
by Pearl Jam

Paint a picture using only grey.
Light your pillow. Lay back. Watch the flames.
I’ll tell a story but no one
would listen that long.

It’s hard to imagine.

Tear into yourself, count days on your arm.
Ah the beating ticking like a bomb.
After having seen all that they saw,
it’s hard to imagine.

Things were different then. All is different now.
I tried to explain, somehow.

Things were different then. All is different now.
I tried to explain. I hope this works somehow.

Why don’t you get mail from me?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 30, 2013 by sethdellinger

I enjoy sending mail.  Yes, physical mail, via the United States Postal Service.  Postcards, letters, little booklets or artsy fartsy projects I make.  It’s mostly pointless, meaningless nonsense, or rambling run-on sentences.  There’s just something I love about people I like or care about receiving something tangible from me, even if I’m not really saying much.  In this era of our culture, when all communication is electronic and all looks alike and is compressed and abbreviated and utilitarian, I get a kick out of harkening back to an older time, and connecting on a different level.

Over the years, I’ve built up a sizeable “mailing list” of freinds and family members who I mail these assorted missives to.  Looking over it, it comprises a fantastic cross-section of my life.  Folks from all eras of my past, as well as my present, and from a fantastic geographic array are represented.  So I ask you, dear reader, why the hell don’t you get mail from me?

It comes sporadically.  Sometimes you might get one piece of mail from me a year, sometimes two things in one week.  It depends very much upon my whimsy.  But if you’re reading this, chances are I wouldn’t mind sending you some thoughts or artistic claptrap occasionally.  You should probably give me your address.

Leave your address in the comments here (you don’t have to register to comment on this blog), or if you’re not comfortable with doing that, send me a Facebook message or e-mail me at, or if you have my cell number you can text it to me.  I mean really, who doesn’t want mail?


My 14th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , , on January 28, 2013 by sethdellinger

“Styrofoam Plates”
by Death Cab For Cutie

There’s a saltwater film on the jar of your ashes;
I threw them to the sea,
but a gust blew them backwards
and now the sting in my eyes—
that you then inflicted—
was par for the course
just as when you were living.

It’s no stretch to say you were not quite a father
but the donor of seeds to a poor single mother
that would raise us alone—
we never saw the money—
that went down your throat
through the hole in your belly.

Thirteen years old in the suburbs of Denver,
standing in line for Thanksgiving dinner
at the Catholic church
(the servers wore crosses
to shield from the sufferance
plaguing the others).
Styrofoam plates, cafeteria tables,
charity reeks of cheap wine and pity
and I’m thinking of you,
I do every year when we count all our blessings
and wonder what we’re doing here.

You’re a disgrace to the concept of family.
The priest won’t divulge that fact in his homily
and I’ll stand up and scream
(the mourning remain quiet)
you can deck out a lie in a suit,
but I won’t buy it.
I won’t join the procession that’s speaking their piece,
using five dollar words while praising his integrity.
Just ’cause he’s gone, it doesn’t change that fact:
he was bastard in life, thus a bastard in death!


Past and Present

Posted in Photography with tags , , , , on January 28, 2013 by sethdellinger



My 15th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , , on January 25, 2013 by sethdellinger


“What a Good Boy” by Barenaked Ladies

This song has been with me for a long time, and in many different ways, and few things in this world can affect me quite like it.  I discovered it before I even started drinking alcoholically, at which point in time I gravitated toward the element in the lyrics in which our narrator is addressing a woman who he loves but who he seems to have somewhat lost.  A few years later, at the depths of my addiction (you can read about a time that may well have been “my bottom”, which also mentions this song, right here), I discovered this song again and gravitated toward the element of the song that talks about living a life below expectations, and disappointing people, and being a failure.  Then, years after my sobriety, I discovered it again and was amazed to find it is actually the most succinct, creatively-said criticism of culturally-created, damaging gender roles.  It’s quite extraordinary.


Snow Angels in the High Grass

Posted in Memoir with tags , , on January 21, 2013 by sethdellinger

Once, many moons ago, I spent a week living on the couch of some people I barely knew in a small town I had never spent much time in, with too little money and nothing to slow a march of days that seemed to speed by while also being interminably long.  It was September, and each morning and late afternoon a wind would crawl down from the sloping Appalachians and swirl through the wide valley, sifting and reshaping the clouds.  By early afternoon, the sun would begin to set, the lights of distant truck stops making shadows of the nearby hills.

I spent much of the week walking through the unfamiliar neighboorhood, trying to imagine what it would be like to make a life there, behind that fence, in that shed, down that crumbling walkway.  This wasn’t an unusual pursuit, since at the time I was a stranger to adult life everywhere I went, no matter where I laid my head at night.

I had come to this temporary situation after failing to please the last people I had been staying with, and I had come to those folks after failing to please the people before them.  I was now occupying one corner of a dingy living room in a second story efficiency that smelled like dogs despite there being no dogs.  I followed the kind of schedule only the truly underemployed or severely addicted can devise.  Each morning, I would walk to the corner greasy diner that had become my office.  In the evenings I would wander to the pond on the outskirts of town and read. In the evenings I’d sit in the silent dark and write down individual titles to my sleeping dreams from the night before, scribbling details on the insides of book covers and the backs of ATM receipts.

The days came and went like half-remembered tremors.  It got uncharacteristically warm for a few days.  I laid down in the thigh-high grass in a farmer’s field one afternoon and pretended to make a snow angel, but nothing happened.  I remember the buzzing of the insects, and the precise smell, and the feel of the heat on my face which made my outside feel the opposite of my inside, which was dark, frigid, and dying.

It would be interesting, if someone were to make a movie about my life, if they just made it of this single, listless, seamlessly depressing week, leaving the viewer to wonder what could possibly have come before, and be anxious for what was to come after, and then the credits roll, and they never know.  Just leave them with the image of this drunk, solitary, silent 22-year-old, making snow angels in the high grass.

My 16th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , on January 19, 2013 by sethdellinger

Click here to read an explanation of this list.

Click here to see all previous entries in the list.

…and my 16th favorite song of all-time is:

“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman

To me, few songs simply drip with emotion in the way that “Fast Car” does.  While the narrator’s story is something completely unlike my own, I have no problem imagining my life having taken a similar course.  Chapman’s narrator has lived a difficult life, and she tells of it in straight-forward fashion, but nuances in the lyrics tell of an immense sorrow just below the surface, an aching for relief, an interminable wait for life to come into sharp focus.  A perfectly crafted song.

%d bloggers like this: