Saturday, June 8, 2019

"Southern Cross" (Track of the Week)

I am a big believer in the notion that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, at least how the category is usually constructed. We like what we like, and should never feel bad for what we like not being hip enough. I think, however, that one can feel embarrassed. I call such things "sheepish pleasures."

One of my sheepiest pleasures is the song "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Not only are they the avatars of the Boomers turning the 60s into a lifestyle brand, this song comes from the early 80s, well after their hour had passed. Back in the 90s the underrated Request magazine had a "Geezer" category in its reviews section exactly for stuff like this. It was all treated as a kind of joke, the lamest of lame music.

Despite that stigma, I think "Southern Cross" is my favorite CSN song (when you add the Y that's another story.) Age has weathered the group's voices a little, giving their famous harmonies a little something deeper in their sound. It's also not just hippy dippy stuff in the lyrics, either. It's a song about sailing as a metaphor for searching, of hitting some rough seas in your life and getting out of it and being reading to go to new horizons.

I love this theme because it is so transparently about *gulp* middle age. In my youth I disdained this music for that very reason, but now it resonates so clearly with me. I first really started appreciating this song the summer after I moved from Texas to New Jersey to start my new life post-academia. I had survived some stormy oceans and almost got shipwrecked along the way. My new lease on life felt like a miracle.

I was remembering that feeling yesterday on the commuter train ride home. It was the last day of classes for the school year, and I was feeling that usual sense of accomplishment and exhaustion. It's a sublime emotion that I never felt before I set sail from the familiar waters of my academic training into the uncharted seas of teaching high school. A new and better world was revealed to me, as foreign to the old one as the Southern Cross for a sailor who had never crossed the equator before. I'm so glad I made that journey.

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