One of my favorite CDs is “August and Everything After” by the Counting Crows released in 1993. It’s full of angst, honesty and the kind of whining I fondly recall from my days at Hebrew school during especially difficult attempts at properly applying tefillin. Lead singer/songwriter Adam Duritz is the spitting image of other guys in my bar mitzvah prep class who had hair that would not support wearing a yarmulke forcing them to make liberal use of bobby pins, which only made them appear more goofy, yet almost pious.
I bring this up because here we are in August—a month when nothing particularly momentous happens, punctuated by the NFL pre-season when success in games that don’t count are a sure harbinger of an utterly disastrous regular season, when they do.
It’s easy to understand why Duritz and the Crows chose August as part of the title of their musically brilliant but lyrically downbeat collection because August represents the transition between the joy of summer and the dread that “everything after” includes like the chill winds of fall, the tedium of raking leaves and the winter freeze. While I personally enjoy the change of seasons I would vote they be distributed thusly: Summer, 6 months; Spring, 2 months; Winter, 6 weeks; Fall, what’s left. I know, I know, some people love fall, the turning of the leaves, the golden sunrises. I’m sure if you asked the Counting Crows they’d explain in their dark logic that Fall is but the threshold into the dark, frigid tundra that is winter, when you lose your boy or girlfriend and you slip on the ice in such a way as to become permanently impotent.
I like a lot of songs on “August and Everything After,” but one that always gets to me is the fabulously pathetic “Raining in Baltimore.” Duritz whines that he “needs” the following: a raincoat, a phone call, a sunburn, a plane ride, a big love, but especially the raincoat which dominates the final lines of the whine: I need a raincoat
I really need a raincoat
I really, really need a raincoat
I really, really, really need a raincoat
I really need a raincoat
When I grew up in New York, if you needed a raincoat you had two choices: The old chain Bonds, or a guy on Broadway with cardboard boxes full of them. Poor old Adam just has to put a little more effort into it. These days, of course, you can easily pick up a raincoat online but you don’t get the cheesy salesman to tell you “ya look like a successful bra merchant in that one!”
As for the sunburn, plane ride, phone call and big love, those are issues for his shrink, or a quick search on Amazon.
Yes, August is perhaps the most dismal month of the year. Hot, featureless, bereft of holidays and hope. The kind of emptiness that I imagine makes Adam Duritz happy and inspires him to write catchy tunes like “Mr. Jones” that belie that fact they are actually paeans to pathetic goals where “we all wanna be big stars.” But August is the perfect month to be pathetic, because honestly, there’s nothing else going on. There’s joy in that….and everything after.