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Johnny Cash

Getting ready for a roadtrip north, I start to gather up an armful of cd's knowing I can't take them all.

There are lots of hard choices to make, like wanting to read just one poem while looking at a bookshelf full of poetry books written by poets you love to read.

I'm going north in the big silver car, driving up Hwy. 5, the music has to fit the drive, the scenery, what I'm thinking and feeling and what I might be thinking and feeling as I drive--that's the hard part. Iris DeMent for sure, Brahms complete string quartets (the boxed 5-cd set on Deutsche Grammophon, impossible to lose), Gene Ammons, Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man," something mid-Dylan, whatever that is, and Johnny Cash.

When I listen to Johnny Cash now I hear how much of my life has been spent going down instead of up, or up instead of down. How much time I've spent with what I didn't know, and thought I had to know, and didn't need to know after all. As screwed up as he was at the beginning of his life, he was letting himself settle into some sort of peace at the end. You can hear in the songs he sang then that he was listening very carefully to what his heart was telling him, there's no filter, no balm, no rollicking guitar chords, only interior landscape making the sound of a man who trusts that he'll go to sleep with some kind of peace.

When I listen to Johnny Cash, it's like I too am becoming great.

Johnny Cash was on a permanent road trip, and I'm going with him.

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