“There will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year!”
I can’t believe I haven’t shared something by John Darnielle here before, so for my first post of the new year, there’s no time like the present. When I hit the highway for the 2-plus-hour drive to visit my dad with my boys on New Year’s Day, I asked my phone to open the music app, and then I said, “Play the Mountain Goats.” How appropriate that the first song in the shuffle was “This Year,” a song whose chorus has often been my mantra these days.
At first I thought, well this is a rather dark and foreboding start to 2020, but then I realized that rather than it being an omen of a tough year ahead, it was a reminder of what we’ve already made it through. The song says, fervently, and with ironic humor, “I am gonna make it through this year, if it kills me.” Well, I did and it didn’t—again. So then, with “good things ahead,” listening to the music and “the engine whine,” I began to smile and tap my foot (not the one on the gas pedal, no).
The photograph is of me with my oldest and youngest sons, Micah and Josiah. We were looking for birds and hiking along the early-winter woods at my dad’s farm on New Year’s Day. Jonathan had to work, and so we met up with him and their mother at our favorite pizza place by the university for grub and a couple of pitchers of lager to bring in 2020.
Say what you will about the Mountain Goats, they know how to play, and their lyrics, even when dark, are refreshingly honest. The original video from when the song first came out, fifteen years ago, is a goofy bit of fun that will either bring back good memories or strike you as a tad too emo for modern tastes. There’s a smile-raising version from July of 2019 when front man Darnielle and Stephen Colbert displayed the living definition of joy as Colbert sang along. It’s worth watching.
I love this particular video below because I dig it when a band has a shit ton of instruments going. And you, you listening to it and reading this, please repeat after me: “I made it.”
Yes, you did, didn’t you? We did. Sadly, we didn’t bring all of us along, but we never do. And that’s part of the thing. Listen, as my dear friend Vincent once said to me, “You’re stronger than you know.” Please don’t forget that.