Death and Leaving: At Best, the Same Thing

Listening to the new Hold Steady record just now, I was knocked out by a line from the opening track, “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You.” Craig Finn is talking about a group of skinheads trying to get themselves organized (of course he is) when he sings, “Most of them are dead, and some don’t even live here anymore.” I love that “even” in there, like the idea of leaving a place is actually WORSE than dying.

This is something we’ve half-joked about at my job forever, where you work so closely with people for so many hours a day that it starts to feel a little bit like they’re your family. But then when they eventually leave for some other job or whatever, you know you’ll probably never talk to them again, which, in a real family, would probably only happen in the event that someone actually died.

I’ve always been drawn to friendships like that — ones that are based on an intensely shared interest like work or records or beer or something. You know that if that thing goes away for some reason, there’s no salvaging the relationship. The idea that a commonality as mundane and incidental as where you happen to be from can serve that same function is one of my longest standing fascinations.