The two things I liked most about A Secret to a Happy Ending, the ’10 documentary about the Drive-By Truckers, were how the movie was about writing and how I didn’t realize as much until afterward. The filmmaker climbed on stage last night at the Takoma Park Community Center and told us so. And I thought, well, damn. That explained it.
I was running ragged, which, since I usually thought everything was about writing, probably explained it. The week had hit the accelerator Sunday night with the bin Laden news, progressed to a few hundred pages of data analysis on Monday and subsequently hadn’t checked the rear-view more than once or twice. By the end of work yesterday, my brain had a whiff of smoky tread. The week had been a good one, no doubt. Watching the movie, though, I was having trouble putting pieces together. The plot was a collection of stories from the Truckers’ career, sometimes major moments (making Southern Rock Opera as a long-shot to stay alive), sometimes key themes (“the duality of the Southern thing”) and sometimes random angles (an appearance by the man who owns Dangerously Delicious, my beloved pie shop.)
So, for sure, Secret was about writing. To an extent, the movie itself wrote in the same manner as the band. A good Truckers’ album had a mix of straight-forward declaration, admission by description, angled themes, and random excursions. That guy who did that thing — that thing that helped you out of a jam once, that always got the town to whispering or that sent him to jail or, worse, his neighbors’ medicine cabinets, fumbling with the kid-proof caps — he was a Truckers’ song, existing or yet to be written. The movie allowed itself such day-trips.
The upshot of all this angled explanation was restarting my head, not so much as with a kick than as with a shuffle. Friday finally showed up, recent stories coming to mind, rising out of a digital bog, and reactions to conversation feeling real. I was still more than a few songs short of a double-sided Gothic-American concept album, but I could have been a guy in town everyone whispers about, maybe one who throws rocks at the music studio’s windows because he likes letting the sound out.
Ten other cool things about last night: The screening was at Takoma Park’s community center and free because filmmaker Barr Weissman lives there. The crowd applauded when they recognized names in the credits. One of his daughter’s old teachers asked questions in the Q&A afterward. Friend Meghan wanting basically to handcuff Jason Isdell to her kitchen table with a ballpoint, notepad and guitar. Me wanting to ride shotgun regularly in Patterson Hood’s car. Imagining how my life would be different if I talked like Mike Cooley. Learning Hood once did a Darkness on the Edge of Town benefit cover night. Visiting downtown Takoma Park for the first time. Discovering Roscoe’s Pizza, which does a D.O.C. that nears 2Amy’s territory. Finding Hood is a friend of DCist.
And now a little music…
My favorite DBT song (so far), The Righteous Path:
But my favorite lyrics may be Mike Cooley’s Zip City.
“Your daddy is a deacon down at the Salem Church of Christ / And he makes good money as long as Reynolds Wrap keeps everything wrapped up tight / Your mama’s as good a wife and mama as she can be / And your sister’s puttin’ that sweet stuff on everybody in town but me / Your brother was the first-born, got ten fingers and ten toes / And it’s a damn good thing cause he needs all twenty to keep the closet door closed.
“Maybe it’s the twenty-six mile drive from Zip City to Colbert Heights / Keeps my mind clean / Gets me through the night / Maybe you’re just a destination, a place for me to go / A way to keep from having to deal with my seventeen-year-old mind all alone / Keep your drawers on, girl, it ain’t worth the fight / By the time you drop them I’ll be gone / And you’ll be right where they fall the rest of your life.”
Patterson Hood sings My Sweet Annette at a record shop:
Hood sings Mercy Buckets at a friend’s wedding: