For the Sake of the Song

After a long day at the office, I love coming home to find little red Netflix envelopes waiting in my mailbox. Tearing open one of those perfectly-engineered packages is like opening a present, and feels all the more gift-like given what interesting surprise is waiting inside. In the past month, my queue has delivered me a historical drama about Genghis Khan, a forgotten Molly Ringwald tearjerker, a documentary on a rock ‘n’ roll choir made up entirely of senior citizens, and The Sting (featuring the very dashing Robert Redford).

If I can contain my excitement for five minutes before rushing to the television, DVD in hand, it’s the perfect opportunity to drag out a big covered pot and make popcorn the old-fashioned way. I simply heat up a splash of oil, throw in the kernels, and place the lid on tightly (it becomes clear why this is important in, oh, about a minute, when kernels start whizzing around like bullets in the Dutch oven). Even if I only manage to season the stovetop popcorn with a shower of salt, my tastebuds still sing—a reaction that no microwave popcorn could ever produce. And then it’s really showtime.

popcorn kernels

I settled in last night for “Be Here to Love Me,” a documentary on the incredible Texan songwriter Townes Van Zandt. I’d long been fixated on his gorgeous, haunting lyrics, his crackly, honest voice, and his intricate guitar melodies. (My favorite quote about him, from Steve Earle: “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” I can’t say I disagree, and I’m a serious Dylan fan.) The movie detailed heartbreaking stories from his youth, his eventual slide into alcoholism, and the strain on his family and career. And of course what he’s remembered for: that beautiful, hopeless music. (Listen to some of it here.)

Next time I curl up with popcorn, I’ll be watching “Mystic Pizza” as a fun respite from the heaviness. But sometimes you need a reminder that, in a world where paparazzi coverage of Katy Perry constitutes music news, legends still exist — and their stories are inseparable from their songs.