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The Banjo Song

This song is by Mark Kozelek and appears on the album Mark Kozelek (2018).

This is my banjo song for when the night, it is long
This is my banjo song for when my heart is longing for you
These are my bedside books for when I cannot sleep
Sing a sad song for me, Hotel 3 and John Connelly's He
Here are my comfort films for when my eyes get to tired to read
Coming to America, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Casino
Jaws, Trading Places, The Shining, and Benji
This is my collection of old clocks, their presence comforts me
I collected them from all around the world, their styles vary
Grandfather clocks to mantle clocks to alarm clocks to banjo-style clocks
My favorite is the pastel blue banjo clock that I bought in Tennessee
This is my banjo song, there is nothing wrong with having a banjo song
To comfort you when everything is feeling all wrong

I was walking down Canal Street minding my own
When a derelict kid walked by me and said, "You should try smiling more"
The town was so ghost town-y and hardly anybody was out
I went to Mother's, there was no line
Because New Year's was over and the tourists had left town
And I stopped by Starbucks and asked a girl in front of me ordering a latte
"Why do you think it's so quiet out?"
She said, "I think it's because of the Saints game"
I said, "I don't follow football" and she said, "Yeah, I'm the same"
And those were my social interactions of the day
And then from my peaceful living room
I looked out the Garden District view and listened to this piece of music
Thinking, "Does this next part need words, too?"

I don't understand the game of football but they keep showing peoples' faces
On the news with expressions that look like they just found out
A nuclear missile had been launched and the world's going to be annihilated
Or their puppy just got hit by a car
Or they came home to their houses up in flame
But all that happened was the Saints lost a game
I know it's a shame, I know it's a shame, I know it's a shame
But New Orleans has so much to be proud of, I have to say
Louie Armstrong, Fats Domino, and the chicory coffee and beignets
And the Hotel Monteleone and Lake Pontchartrain
And Aaron Neville and Kermit Ruffins and gumbo and crawfish étoufée
And Phil Anselmo and Lil Wayne

This is my banjo song, though there's no banjo in this song at all
In fact, the guitar in this song is a nylon-string guitar made by Yamaha

The days leading up to Christmas were very surreal for me
I was in Buffalo and I remember playing a show there once
And going through to see
Niagara Falls a few times when I was a kid
I hadn't spent that much time in Buffalo
And to me, Buffalo was an interesting mix
And maybe Cleveland and maybe Toronto, which would make sense
I think that Buffalo is somewhere between Toronto and Cleveland, Ohio
And there are black people there like in Cleveland and that makes me comfortable
Not like in Missoula, Montana where it's just white
As a Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie
And the houses and the neighborhoods have a cozy glow
And some have crystal-shaped windows
And the cars along the roads are covered in snow
And I jumped up on a gate that I saw in an alley
Near the studio where I was working
And I was taking a photo, a very Christmas-y view of an apartment building

A guy pulled up slow in an SUV and rolled his passenger seat window down
And said, "Sir, can I help you with anything?"
I said, "Thank you but I'm just taking photos for a friend who has never seen snow"
He said, "Yeah, how's that?"
I said, "Well, she doesn't travel a lot and she lives in San Francisco"
He said, "Well, what are you doing here in Buffalo?"
I said, "Well, I'm working across the street at the Goo Goo Dolls' studio"
He said, "Ah yeah, the Goo Goo Dolls' studio
I did some renovation work in there years ago"
I said, "Yeah, it's really kept up really nice, it's totally beautiful"
He said, "You really got to try such-and-such-place, they got the best Buffalo wings"
I said, "I leave tomorrow and my clothes already smell like Buffalo wings
But I appreciate the suggestion, but my stomach is Buffalo winged out
But I'll be sure to try the place you mentioned next time I'm in town"
I jumped down from the gate and I said
"Sir, I gotta go, Buffalo's really nice and I enjoyed this pleasantry
But where I'm heading tomorrow
You'd never pull up slow on someone like you just did
In an SUV in an alley, and roll down your window and talk to a stranger
When someone is doing something fairly suspicious looking"
He said, "Yeah, why is that?"
I said, "Because some people aren't so nice in this world
And where I'm going, you can end up with a bullet in your neck"
He looked at me startled and I could tell he thought
"Jesus, that conversation was nice, I didn't expect it to end like that"
Then I put my camera in my pocket and I walked carefully across the icy street

Before I left, Nathan got a stomach bug that knocked him on his ass
He's the most resilient person I've ever met and I've never seen him that sick
He said, "Mark, I don't know what's wrong with me, I've never felt this sick before"
And he was clenching his ribs
I said, "Well let's get the fuck out of here then, I'm too feeling like complete shit"
My back is killing me and I've slept maybe three hours a night for the last week
It's December 22nd, it's midnight, so let's give ourselves a break
Nathan's kids' birthday is soon, December 24th
Our friend Aaron's birthday is also soon, December 24th
And I love it when friends' birthdays fall on holidays
Because it makes it so easy to remember them

Carol and I went to Ponchatoula today, antique shopping
I loved looking at the swamps between New Orleans and Ponchatoula
But sometimes I think about how bad it would suck
To live in the swamps if you were an abused kid, just stuck there in the swamps
Not knowing there's other things out there in the planet
I'm not trying to suggest that kids growing up in the swamps are abused
I'm just saying the thought crossed my mind
Dark thoughts cross everybody's minds, depending on their life experiences
I mean I don't have to tell you about Ponchatoula and its reputation
The first season of True Detective is based on
Things that happened there, if I'm not mistaken
There's a town between New Orleans and Ponchatoula called Manchac
There's a house you see there from the bridge that crosses over the water
That makes me think of the dueling banjos scene in Deliverance


Written by:

Mark Kozelek

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