We’re never gonna stop this train


Back when I was commuting to College Park for school, the only thing getting me through long, terrible, traffic-riddled drives was the soothing sound of John Mayer.

Though his antics in recent years may have colored him in the public’s eye, perhaps, John will always be my main man. I can’t remember my young adult years without thinking of “Clarity,” “Bigger Than My Body,” “Something’s Missing,” “No Such Thing.” As John grew and released more sophisticated, blues-inspired tunes, so did I. My early years at Borders were marked by the release of “Continuum,” the 2006 album that served as a definitive change in his sound, and it became the soundtrack to my college days.

Sometimes I have these moments — crystal, perfect — that fill up the soul. Soothe me. Comfort me. Remind me that, no matter how disjointed and afraid I may feel some days, I’m on the right path . . . and everything is going to be just fine.

I often have John to thank.

Some of my best thinking gets done in the car. Despite all the chaos in the D.C. area, I usually find cruising around to be pretty relaxing. I don’t mind being alone — especially with music or books along for the ride. When the weather is nice? Windows down, hand in the wind. Just going.

Last night I’d just finished an audiobook and was digging around for something to listen to when I rediscovered “Where The Light Is,” John’s two-disc live album from 2008. “Stop This Train” began to play. The simple guitar intro took me immediately back to the spring of my senior year of college — the time when I realized, in a few short months, I’d be done with school forever and officially “an adult.”

I didn’t have a job lined up. Didn’t have a post-graduation plan. Was still living at home and already pondering ways to end another relationship, which pained and scared me — because at the time, he was my absolute best friend. Though far from being my great love, it’s always hard saying goodbye.

I remember driving on the Beltway on a warm spring day, the sun filtering through my cracked windows with “Continuum” on repeat. Graduation was probably weeks away, based on the knot in my stomach, and I was taking the exit that would lead me back home. Happiness and freedom should have been sitting right in my passenger seat, soothing me, but I’m nothing if not a worrier. I just remember feeling scared.

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

The words — the words. They hit me like a brick wall.

Oh once in a while, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
And they’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you won’t miss a thing
Until you cry . . . when you’re driving away
In the dark

How did John slip inside the darkest corner of my heart and pluck out every scared thing I was feeling? I can’t listen to that song without thinking of that day . . . which is exactly what happened last night.

And then I realized: I got through it.

My fears about getting a job, leaving home, making new friends, finding someone to love who would love me just as much . . . entering “adulthood.” All of that. It hasn’t been easy and it’s certainly not over, but I did many of the things I was once so afraid to do. They came to pass, and I’m still standing.

Indebted. But that’s okay, too.

I drove slowly to the new house, the one stacked sky-high with boxes. Breathed in the muggy air. Watched the fireflies twinkling in the trees.

It’s the most unshackled I’ve felt in months.

Burn up in your atmosphere

I love listening to John Mayer albums — but I adore going to John Mayer concerts. Everything I love about John’s music is absolutely amplified by the live experience — the piercing guitar solos, the smooth voice, the emotional outbursts, the random ad-libbing. And the snippets and random verses he adds to classic songs.

A case in point would be a live version of “Home Life” from an import album I have — which is really random, I know. But it’s those seemingly strange, patchwork verses placed almost in addendum to the actual songs that I really love the most, I think.

“In Your Atmosphere” is another classic example of this — these emotional, thought-provoking bits and pieces he adds into his songs when playing live, usually at the very beginning or the very end. The final piece of this song is enough to fillet my tender little heart! And I mean that sincerely. I don’t know how to phrase it in a way that isn’t ridiculously cliche, other than to say that I really feel like I “get him.”

“Wherever I go, whatever I do, I wonder where I am in my relationship to you . . .”

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I’ve always liked the name ‘Ben’

I stumbled across a ridiculously awesome website called Wordle — where, basically, you enter a block of text and the gadget creates a visual diagram of your most frequently used words. So I took my latest novel, the one I’m constantly querying, and figured out that I love, in no particular order, the words “okay,” “eyes,” “hand” and “just.” And Ben, too. My main male character gets a lot of love in this book.

It’s really interesting to see how often I really use random, seemingly insignificant words like “something,” “really” and “around.” I’m kind of obsessed with this thing.

Here’s one I did for “Stop This Train”:

And one for “Still,” one of my favorite songs by Matt Nathanson:

Anddddd, last for tonight (before I’m up until 3 a.m. creating Wordles and getting no sleep at all), Coldplay’s “Warning Sign”:

We’ll never stop this train

Leaves starting to turn by the office, Oct. 2007

Leaves starting to turn by the office, Oct. 2007

In addition to being ridiculous good looking, John Mayer is quite the musician, guitarist — and writer. It’s pretty rare that I listen to one of his songs and don’t really feel something, however momentary. Most of his music hits me straight in the gut, honestly, and I find myself thinking about snippets of songs constantly without even realizing it.

All this thinking about fall brought me to tons of JM’s lyrics, most notably my favorite song of all time: “Stop This Train.” I don’t know what reminds me of the fall persay — he doesn’t explicitly say anything about autumn. I guess “driving away in the dark”? I don’t know. It just seems sort of lonely, retrospective and sad — a song I would listen to while driving home from College Park. Somehow I always feel nostalgic while driving.

Regardless of the sadness of some of the tunes (or because of it?), I love him. His sophomore album “Heavier Things” was one of the first purchases I made with my own money from my first job. I had it on repeat my freshman year of college as I cruised around Southern Maryland, trying to figure out where I was going and what I was doing and if I was making the right decisions about so many — oh, so many — things.

I’m still that 18-year-old kid driving around listening to John Mayer, it’s just that now I have the added five years of experiences to ponder and add to the mix of chaos.

My view of John Mayer in D.C., July 25, 2007

My view of John Mayer in D.C., July 25, 2007

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