In having an actual commute again, I’m listening to more music than I’ve done in a long time. My general inability to read or write while listening to music is something I may have mentioned here before, so I tend not to listen to much of anything except while driving or working out and sometimes while cleaning or cooking. Now, I have at least an hour each day to listen, which means mostly that I put my entire collection of music (which is not very large, admittedly, only something like two thousand songs) on shuffle and let it go. Most days it means a pleasingly varied bump from Dvořák to The Dreadnoughts, Mediæval Bæbes to Melody Gardot. Sometimes, my iPod seems to want to make a point, slipping from the random algorithm to something that feels suspiciously like surreptitious DJing, playing two or three songs from a single artist in a row, settling in on a genre for most of the drive. Friday morning was one such morning, when the device settled in on Flogging Molly for a bit, and I kept coming back to this track, “Rebels of the Sacred Heart.”
It’s been a long time since I listened to Flogging Molly with any singular verve. I thank them for being my introduction to something kind of like Celt-punk, which I continue to love, for being the first live show I attended with a mosh pit, for being a band that traveled in my ears when I went to Edinburgh by myself more than a decade ago. I don’t even have their newest album, though I might have to get it after this post, which has made me miss them.
“Rebels” isn’t even one of my favorite tracks, but on Friday morning, Dave King’s blunt imprecision charmed me. Most of the words have a broad finial of -ah, perhaps best heard in the opening lines, no matter whether it seems to make sense, and there’s not a clean th- to be heard, all of them rounded into d-. Even after the playlist carried on, my mind repeated, ah well—such iz da bread uff an evryday life, with the kind of obsessive return that I couldn’t help but think of Anders in Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain.” The sounds were wonderful and almost silly and from so far away in memory and experience, from a much younger and more naive self, albeit one who was a little more attuned to popular music, who bought albums on their release dates (not the me who missed the last two albums from this band entirely). And those sounds were from right then, that second, when I was also literally thinking of bread, thick, good, brown bread, full of a dozen kinds of seeds and grains, which I’d had for breakfast, which I would also have for lunch. And I was thinking of the expectations of whatever one’s everyday life might be.
For me, on Friday, my everyday life brought me my morning writing, some student conferences, some scholarly reading, and administering the reader review session for the student papers I’ll spend this week grading. I assigned the work to my classes; my only expectation must be that I will also read and comment and return that work. I think also of expectation as it is tinged with hope: that my students will surprise me, again with their care and their insight; that my writing projects will find homes. It is, on the whole, incredibly evryday, incredibly predictable.
I was also thinking about hockey and the expectations therein because on Thursday night, when Pascal Dupuis was struck on the back of the neck by a Kris Letang shot, expectation and fear and all of that came crashing together. Mostly, I was worried. Dupuis was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and no matter his thumbs-up to the crowd on his way out, it was scary. I remember last season when he was taken off the ice with his destroyed knee, and this season how he started, somehow, with every bit of the expected hop in his skates. That made the possible outcomes sadder: how unfair to be injured again after most of a year spent rehabbing another major hurt. Early on Friday morning, though, my concern was mostly about general wellness—there’d been no update at all. Yes, Dupuis had moved his legs. Yes, he lifted his arm. Neither of those things constituted anything like real reassurance.
I don’t think players and fans consider injury “expected”—not major injuries, anyway. The little ones, like bloodied mouths and missing teeth and puck bruises and soreness, fall under some other heading. They’re inevitable, which is not the same as expected. In some ways, those little things are part of the “everyday bread.” Soreness comes of working hard; puck bruises might mean a successfully blocked shot. And those kinds of small hurts are the ones fans celebrate. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, feeling somehow proud of the late October game last season when Dupuis popped two teeth out of his own mouth while sitting on the bench between shifts, and on Saturday night, when Evgeni Malkin laid out to get a stick on the puck carried by a breaking Travis Hamonic.
Thankfully, by lunchtime on Friday, the news was that Dupuis was skating already, well enough to be under consideration for Saturday night’s lineup. On Saturday night, he logged nearly sixteen minutes of solid play against the Islanders. It wasn’t a four-point performance like his work against the Ducks in the Penguins’ opener, but it was really all right for a player who’d been stretchered off the ice forty-eight hours before. What I’d expected from that image wasn’t what I’d received, and I find myself incredibly grateful. More and more, each time I watch a sporting event, I am grateful when nothing catastrophic happens. I willfully forget what I know can happen, so I can celebrate the good that I am seeing: Patric Hornqvist in front of the net, Malkin finding his shot, Pascal Dupuis standing beside Dan Potash between periods on Saturday night, upright, catching his breath, awkwardly accepting well-wishes from his favorite target for jokes.
On Friday, I put bites of cheddar on small chunks of bread, and I read the updates from practice at Consol Energy Center. I played the song again at my desk, and for a little while, I chewed, and I listened, and I was grateful.