The funniest girl I ever knew
had hair as orange as Halloween
The bluest eyes that saw right through
all the b.s. in everything
She was an artist from the start
and she always sang from the bottom of her heart
And though her road was so long
she finally made her way back home
yeah she finally made her way back home
The loneliest kid I ever saw
owned an old man’s callused hands
sitting barefoot in front of an dime store
in a place some called the promised land
He had hollow sunken eyes
but he was smiling big like he’d won some kinda prize
He was ragged, he was rolling like a stone
in the dirty city streets that he called home
yeah the dirty city streets that he called home
Hobos, tramps and troubadours
don’t ride in boxcars like they did before
Seems like most of my heroes
just ain’t around no more
I know I’m lucky to sing my songs
and if you want to, you can sing along
We’ve been on this road so long
Won’t you help me find my way back home?
Help me find my way back home
– “Home” by Shawn Mullins from songlyrics.com
“Home” is the latest in a long list of songs that have resonated with me very personally. Shawn Mullins is a great singer/songwriter, and this song from his album Honeydew from Vanguard Records is a great example why. I’ve always been impressed by people who can paint pictures in your mind with nothing but their words or music. I realize that music, like books and all forms of art, speak differently to each of us. I like to write about all things that move me, books, movies, wine, and music especially.
I work on the road. I’m a traveling salesman so-to-speak. I pay the bills as a marketing rep in healthcare and travel a pretty large statewide sales territory and beyond. I get road weary quite often, but then again, when I’ve been home too long, I enjoy heading out. Miles have a way of really wearing you down but also a way of teaching you about life and yourself. There isn’t much about my job or my daily life that is as romantic as a troubadour riding a boxcar across America, but I like to think there are some similarities.
Mullins sings as one who’s seen the road. He knows people. He watches them, listens to them, learns from them. I like to think his eyes and mind are open when he describes the “funniest girl” and the “loneliest kid” he’s ever seen.
The orange-haired singer he croons about reminds me of many different free spirits and artistic types I’ve known. It’s pretty typical of those I know to go far from home, whether in body or in spirit. No matter how far any of us go we always carry a piece of home with us, whether we want to or not.
When I hear about the “loneliest kid” sitting in front of the dime store, I can’t help but think of hundreds of kids I saw and met in the Philippines who lived in conditions that we aren’t allowed to subject our dogs to in the U.S. but had huge glowing smiles brightening their dirty faces and ragged clothes. From them we learn that home is not a 3 bedroom brick in the burbs and happiness is not a balance in our checkbook.
“Hobos, tramps, and troubadours don’t ride in boxcars like they did before.” In a strange way that many of us may not ever understand the road is home to all the characters Mullins sings about. This one line marks a bygone era of Americana that many may find hard to imagine. Security is the buzz of the decade, and we have yet to fully realize the price we have paid for even the illusion of it. We share an acute sense of loss that may be conveyed best by our poets.
“Most of my heroes just ain’t around no more.” Times, they are a changing… without a doubt. A huge part of that change and sense of loss is the failure of leadership we’ve seen in every part of our culture. Personally, I never had all that many heroes growing up. I loved movies and toys but never to the point of idolizing or believing in them. If I could say I had one hero in the first 20 years of my life, it would have to be my paternal grandfather. In recent years that man who was larger than life for me has become very human, frail, and flawed. I don’t judge. I love yet I grieve.
Going home then isn’t so much about going back to a place, though pilgrimages have been significant in our lives. Going home is more about going back to something we feel we’ve lost… to something we wish we had. It is an ideal worth believing in, but a trip we realize we can’t take alone. For that reason we’re invited to sing along… to take the trip together.