In this time of transition (five weeks living with my in-laws and counting), there are plenty of people and entities that are slowly driving me mad; at the top of that list is the U.S. Postal Service. Despite arranging for mail-forwarding two weeks before our move in April, I am currently receiving mail in three different locations. My student loan statements, credit card bills, and other mail that could affect my credit score are being sent to the Bronxville apartment, so every week, after dropping off Minnow at school, I have to go to my former building and retrieve a shopping bag full of mail that the current residents have left in the lobby for us. Meanwhile, my New Yorker and American Bar Association subscriptions, as well as mailings from organizations such as The Human Rights Campaign and Food for the Poor have found me at my in-laws’ address, confirming my mother-in-law’s suspicions that I am, in fact, more liberal than I let on. And at the new house, our mortgage lender, utility companies, and village have not missed a beat in sending us payment reminders, bills, and tax documents. Welcome to your new home!
This afternoon, as I opened the house for our painter (whom I adore but, let’s face it, is among those slowly driving me mad) I stepped onto a pile of mail that had been pushed through the mail slot on the front door (because, in addition to light switches and central air conditioning, our home lacks a mailbox).
“Well, here’s some mail,” I observed insipidly.
“And there’s this, too,” our painter said, bending to hand me a small brown paper package sitting on the stoop.
I knew what this was, and it had nothing to do with monthly payments! I tore open the paper and, after figuring out how to operate the rental car’s newfangled six-disc CD player, fed the CD into the stereo. The smooth crooning of Josh Ritter poured through the speakers, temporarily melting away my frustrations with the world and everyone in it.
One of my first encounters with Josh Ritter was watching an exclusive video performance of “Southern Pacifica” that he and his wife, Dawn Landes, did for Daily Candy in April 2010. I remember crying the first time I saw it, and I still cry because everything about the video is pure: the music, their young marriage, their vintage Brooklyn kitchen. Now I have a vintage kitchen of my own and it doesn’t seem nearly as hip because it’s not in Brooklyn.
The summer I was pregnant with Minnow, my husband and I saw Josh Ritter perform at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I sang along to every song off the So Runs the World Away album, which was the only album of his I owned at the time, and attentively listened to the rest. It was one of the best, and definitely the longest concert I’ve attended, which would have been awesome if the venue wasn’t standing room only and I hadn’t foolishly worn my Coach platform sandals. I’d never left a concert before the encore until that night.
For three years I have been yearning for Josh Ritter to release a new album, and in March of this year he finally did. The Beast in Its Tracks immediately garnered airtime on public radio, and I once again fell in love with Josh Ritter’s soulful, narrative lyrics. I imagine he had Dawn Landes, from whom he split in 2011, in mind when he wrote “Joy to You Baby”:
There’s pain in whatever
We stumble upon
If I never had met you
You couldn’t have gone
But then I couldn’t have met you
We couldn’t have been
I guess it all adds up
To joy in the end…
Listening to the album in its entirety tonight on the drive back to my in-laws’ from the construction zone that will eventually be our home was the best part of my day, and probably week. Suddenly the fact that the electricians have been working for over two weeks and are still not finished updating our electric, the fact that the painters will be delayed at least a week because they have to wait until the floor guy sands the hardwoods before they put paint on the walls, the fact that the U.S. Postal Service really doesn’t give a damn where we live didn’t seem to matter anymore. In a few short weeks this, too, will be a closed chapter in our family's story. Or as Josh Ritter puts it in his new song, “Hopeful”:
She has been through her own share of hard times as well
And she has learned how to tear out the heaven from hell
Most nights I’m alright, still all rocks roll downhill
But she says I’ll get better, she knows that I will
And she’s hopeful, hopeful for me
Coming out of the dark clouds.