I read the article Warp and Wolf by David Ramsey on The Paris Review, and I’m very happy I did for two reasons.
First: It’s a beautiful bit of writing about the difficult task of taking care of aging parents. Here are just a few bits of the great writing… (I wanted to share more, but held back because I really want people to read the article.)
“My father has Parkinson’s and my mother has multiple sclerosis; my wife, Grace, and I had moved to Nashville to help out. There are good days and bad days, but the prognosis is uncompromising in its bleak narrative: over time, things will get worse. The arc of one’s own mortal universe bends toward decline.”
Ramsey’s parents were both historians, he says this about them.
“Both trained historians, my parents took an approach to their belongings over the years that preserved rather than purged the primary sources of their own lives. They had a lot of stuff… Copies of the New York Review of Books in the attic dating from the Carter administration, encrusted with roach droppings—right alongside a letter my mother wrote at eighteen, to her own mother, upon arriving at college. Antique chairs in the crawl space. Rat-eaten board games. A lifetime supply of disposable chopsticks. My father’s boyhood violin.”
Second: The article made me aware of Chances With Wolves, and it has taken over my headphones. What is Chances With Wolves? For Ramsey it was the soundtrack to the difficult task of cleaning out his parent’s house.
“The premise, more or less, is that a pair of DJs play strange old records and periodically mix in wolf-howl noises, sound clips, and echo effects. All of their two-hour episodes—now more than 350—are streamable…We filled box after box after box. In my headphones, a marimba cover of “Thriller” and Della Reese vamping through a B-Side. A French folk singer in 1972 spitting out the names of “les prisonniers politiques” and a 1960s Mexican ska band’s Spanish-language version of “Sound of Silence.” Chances with Wolves, episode 331. Sun Ra fades to the whisper of an unreleased Paul Simon song, to a creepy-crawly funk tune by Estonian singer Velly Joonas so exquisitely alien it made me blush, to a James Brown antidrug PSA.”
Ramsey goes on to say…
“We often think of the communal experience of listening to music—a beautiful thing, an experience that viscerally defines what we mean by community in the first place. But more often than not, I find that I listen to music alone. Not just alone, but typically with headphones that guarantee my solitude will not be interrupted. Over time I came to feel that Chances with Wolves was rhythmically aligned with this solitude.”
The takeaway here: (1) Listen to Chances With Wolves, and (2) read the Ramsey article.