Misty Mountain Hop

Listening to Runaway, acoustic, under a hilltop oak tree as the sun liquifies into the Pacific. Cody and Aaron with their heads bent over their cheap guitars, furiously raking the strings. Mike, lips pursed and brow furrowed, slapping his four-string bass as hard as he can in order to be heard. Cody occasionally looks up, slack-jawed, at Mike’s playing, his blue eyes blankly staring into the rhythm, his large forehead bobbing slightly. Aaron never looks up. His eyes, widened as if in terror, like two ice-blue planets, never leave the strings of his guitar, tracking up and down the neck with intensely focused fury.

Later, Aaron corners me. On top of a hill, surrounded by nothing but grass and trees, he corners me. This is something Aaron excels at.

“Don’t say anything, just listen to me,” he says, getting his face right in mine, fist up to my chest.

This is usually how it starts. At this point I have nowhere to retreat.

“Give me your top four Done. songs, no particular order,” he demands, as if my very manhood is in question. Then he quickly takes a step back, hands up, palms forward, as if to suggest that I have a choice, that I don’t have to answer. “I mean, obviously Runaway, but what about the rest?” he adds.

Aaron wrote Runaway after reading an article in the paper about a former marine who killed himself in prison, awaiting trial. The band had been jamming out the song for at least a month and not even Mike or Cody knew what it was about. I came by the garage one night and he had just told them. They played the song for me and then they told me the story. This marine had killed a young Iraqi girl’s entire family then raped her to death in her own home. The song is written as a warning to her, as if Aaron’s driving rhythm could tear a rift through time and space, allowing her to hear his lyrics and escape death.

“Of course Runaway is up there,” I reply, working myself up to his challenge. “And Done, of course. Creamsicle… Yub Nub.”

“Really?” he asks, his face contorted in fake disbelief, “Yub Nub?” As if this was some kind of eccentric choice made merely to test him.

“Absolutely,” I say, “and of course,” I pause dramatically, “Reason Why.”

“Yeah! Got to have one of the classic hits on the list,” he replies, grabbing my shoulders and shaking me. Then he moves off, satisfied for now.

I first heard Reason Why at least a decade ago, played by the earliest iteration of the band. But songs evolve just like bands do. Now, the song is an instrumental: its lyrics having been dropped for some likely arbitrary reason when the guys decided to remake the band in a new image.

That image is Done. Done with all the things that slow you down and make you weak. Done with all the periphery distractions. Done.