1234 Somewhere Street
Oregon City, Oregon 95555
Whom It May Concern:
please find one
library copy of Jill Sobule's "Happy Town" CD, due date 11-21-98.
probably don't remember me, but I'm the crazy lady who checked this CD
out seven times during the summer and fall of 1998. At the
was working at The Knife Factory, just down the street from your
Hilltop branch. I used to spend my weekday lunch hours in
rear of the library, next to the laminating machine, weeping over books
about divorce and alcoholism and HTML; on Saturday mornings I would
ride the #32 from my apartment across town and haunt your music shelves
for hours, before ducking into Lucky's next door to pick
up my Saturday night box of wine. I'd never even
Jill Sobule until I discovered a copy of "Happy Town" in your CD bins.
I checked it out mainly because I thought it looked intriguing ... and
because copying library CDs to cassette was the only way I could
afford to add to my music collection that year ... and because I'd
already checked out everything ELSE
in your library at that
point. (Loved the John Lennon tribute album. Loved Collective Soul,
Sarah Hickman, Jennifer Warnes, the Celtic Christmas stuff. Didn't much
care for John Prine, but at least I gave him a shot.)
Town" swiftly became the background music of my life
year. Sobule's songs of depression, loneliness, revenge, dysfunctional
relationships -- all sung in her thin sweet voice, set to quirky
instrumental arrangements -- spoke to my heart like nothing else that
year. The first time I played the CD, I literally had to stop cooking
my hangover breakfast and plop down in the middle of my kitchen floor
to listen to the words. By the time I got to the last song, I was
weeping freely into my overcooked Breakfast Scramble. I was just so
amazed to hear somebody giving musical voice to all the things I was
feeling at the time. "I'm free!"
she sang exultantly. "It's
just me. I'm FREE!
Nobody but ME!"
(And then, the nearly subliminal subtext: "I'm
free. Help me.")
few months later, when I was struggling through the dark early days of
alcohol withdrawal, "Happy Town"' became the soundtrack of my recovery
effort. Songs that had struck me as amusingly dark and cynical, at the
height of my dysfunction -- 'dark' and 'cynical' being qualities I
worked very hard to cultivate in myself -- now seemed hopeful and wise
don't wanna to get bitter," she
sang. "I don't wanna get
cruel. I don't wanna get old before I have to."
husband likes to tell people that Jill Sobule is responsible for the
two of us getting together. And he's partly right. I signed onto AOL
one night towards the end of that summer -- I'd been listening to
"Happy Town" pretty much non-stop for weeks, at that point -- and I saw
my old cyber pal DRaftervoi lingering at the top of my Buddy List. Even
though we hadn't spoken to each other in months, I immediately fired
off an instant message to him. He was one of three people online who I
considered to be something of a musical expert, and I wanted to ask him
about my new favorite CD. "Jill
Sobule: straight or gay?" I
typed, by way of opener. No greeting. No preamble. No 'Hi how've you
been?' or 'Remember me?' or 'Sorry I haven't acknowledged your
existence for the last twelve months.' He answered me immediately -- "Who's
-- and this led to an interesting discussion about music ... which led
to an interesting discussion about the twists and turns our lives had
taken since last we spoke (him: separated and sober, me: drunk and
divorced) ... which led to an interesting discussion about alcoholism
and recovery and changing your life for the better.
led, some weeks
later, to me packing everything I owned into the back of a rickety
U-Haul and moving to California.
didn't mean to take the Jill Sobule CD with me when I moved out of the
Tree House. Honestly, I didn't. I returned most of the other books and
I still had kicking around -- everything except a battered copy of
"Netscape Navigator for Dummies," which I couldn't find anywhere: I
think I may have thrown it out my third-story window -- but I
think that "Happy Town" just got tossed into the general mishmash of
books and music and photos and life memorabilia crammed into the back
of the U-Haul. David discovered it when we were unpacking me in
California, later that week.
should send this back to the library,"
from the very beginning, he's always made me do stuff I
probably wouldn't have thought to do on my own: eating more fruits and
vegetables, for instance, or watching Jackie Chan movies, or being nice
to earnestly snooty young waitresses who call me "Ma'am" and
automatically serve me Diet Pepsi instead of the Regular Pepsi I
actually ordered. In this instance I agreed with him, though, and I
set "Happy Town"' off to one side, with the intention of mailing it
back to you the very next time we were at the Post Office ...
and then I promptly
forgot all about it for the next five years.
the meantime, I purchased my own copy of the CD almost as soon as I
settled in California. Right away David took me to Berkeley and
introduced me to Amoeba Records, where I picked up a mint condition
copy of "Happy Town" for three bucks (along with a mint condition copy
of the Collective Soul CD, the Jennifer Warnes CD, the John Lennon
tribute and the Sarah Hickman CD).
In the five years since then, "Happy Town" has continued to enjoy heavy
rotation on my personal musical playlist. I'm not sure, but I think it
may even be my favorite album of all time. It certainly fits all
Favorite Album of All Time criteria: it came along at a point in my
life when I needed it most ... it holds up even after repeated
listenings ... AND I am unable to listen to just one song on the album:
I must listen to the whole thing, straight through from beginning
until this past weekend, when my husband and I were digging through the
box of old CDs we've stashed under the computer desk, looking for good
Berkeley bartering material, that we ran across the old library copy of
quietly. And he handed me the CD with a look that clearly said Now's
is your copy of "Happy Town" back, finally. Thank you for
introducing me to my favorite album of all time. My husband packaged it
up for mailing -- he found your address off the Internet -- and I will
be personally handing it to our nice mailman at work, later today. I
think you'll be pleasantly surprised to see that it's still in very
good condition: except for a couple of scratches on the jewel case --
and a teeny-tiny cheap chablis stain on the liner notes -- it is none
the worse for the wear. I am also enclosing five dollars to help
mitigate any outstanding late fees I may have incurred over the past
five years. I realize that at your standard rate of 25 cents per day, I
probably owe you something closer to $456.25. But I'm hoping that
you'll be so impressed with my honesty and my forthrightness and my
integrity and stuff that you'll forgive me for taking so long to send
it back to you, and that you'll waive the rest of the fine, and that
you'll permanently remove my name from your Ten Most Wanted List.
you do ... I promise
I'll keep looking for that copy of "Netscape Navigator for Dummies."
to throw a rock?