When I went to Chiang Mai in January 2005, I was ready to give Jack the cold shoulder. We'd been friends for eighteen months, though you could count on your fingers the number of weeks we'd actually been in the same city. But I was angry with him. In the last six months, he'd gone from emailing me regularly and semi-flirtatiously to emailing me not at all, and as I had been secretly in love with him, this stung. I didn't want to mess with it any more.
On our second day in Chiang Mai - we were staying at the YMCA and taking intensive grad classes - we both ended up in Derek's room to play cards. "I brought you some cds," Jack said, and handed me two discs, plus track lists he had just printed at the internet cafe down the road. We played them on Derek's computer as the card game started. Jack had followed Nick Hornby's rules, and kicked it off with a song that blew my mind ("Crab, Clam, Cockle, Cowrie" by Joanna Newsom). Then he cooled it down with Jason Molina's Songs: Ohia.
Needless to say, things thawed between us pretty quickly.
When I listen to this song, I'm always transported back to Southeast Asia, to bus rides to the coast and across the border, to long stretches of rice field, to riding in the open back of a truck because the bus never showed, to food poisoning from roadside cafes, to silent beaches and dinner caught fresh from the sea. I'm always transported back to the heartache and doubt that followed me through that year, the loneliness that finally began to abate.
Jason Molina died Saturday, March 16 of organ failure due to alcohol consumption. He was 39.
I guess I just wanted to say that I'll always be thankful for his songs, for his willingness to fight against the darkness, for the way that one song spoke to me in my darkness. He was maybe the first person to make me consider the fact that my wanderlust was an attempt to solve the problem of loneliness.
You'll never hear me talk about one day getting out
Why put a new address on the same old loneliness?
He allowed me say to God what I was really thinking as I processed what had happened with my students the year before.
If Heaven's really coming back
I hope it has a heart attack
When they see how dangerous it is for guys like that
He reminded me, like Rich Mullins, that sin has complicated life, and that in this broken world, we're all mostly just trying
to be simple again.
To be like children, to receive the kingdom. I hope now he has.