At least my wife thinks my son thinks he did. Must be something to do with the line “His wife told his kids he was crazy”.
But my son denied harboring any such idea, saying that I was being a bit pretentious to think the song is about me.
But the song perfectly captures the angst and ennui and desperation of the average post-modern middle-aged American man. Which is remarkable, because Mayer’s not middle-aged or average. Mayer is a treasure. He’s a virtuoso guitarist and a lyrical genius. I consider it my great good fortune that my journey through space-time happened to have overlapped his (he’s about fifteen years my junior). And I probably would never have come to appreciate Mayer had I not had a son with exquisitely good taste in music. I sort of quit following music by the time I hit thirty, only to get reenergized when my kids got to be teenagers. I don’t know if my knowing Mayer has been worth all the heartache and pain that my son’s short life has endured (through his two bone marrow transplants), but knowing Mayer has certainly helped make things tolerable, I know for me, and I’m pretty sure for my son. Thank-you, Mr. Mayer. And thank-you, son.
Here’s the lyrics to the song, which aren’t quite as powerful without the music, but almost. If you’ve not yet heard Mayer’s new album, Born and Raised, which contains the song, I can’t recommend it too highly. It is a phenomenal piece of work by an artistic genius in his creative prime.
Walt Grace, desperately hating his whole place,Dreamed to discover a new space,And buried himself alive,Inside his basement, tongue on the side of his face meant,He’s working away on displacement,And what it would take to survive.Cos when you’re done with this world,You know the next is up to you.And his wife told his kids he was crazy,And his friends said he’d fail if he tried,But with a will to work hard,And a library card,He took a homemade, fan-blade, one-man submarine ride.That morning, the sea was mad and I mean it,Waves as big as he’d seen it,Deep in his dreams at home.From dry land, He rolled it over to wet sand,Closed the hatch up with one hand,And peddled off alone.Cos when you’re done with this world,You know the next is up to you.And for once in his life it was quiet,As he learned how to turn in the tide,And the sky was a flare,When he came up for air,In his homemade, fan-blade, one-man submarine ride.One evening,When weeks had passed since his leaving,The call she’d planned on receiving,Finally made it home.She accepted,The news she’d never expected,The operator connected,A call from Tokyo.Cos when you’re done with this world,You know the next is up to you.Now his friends,Bring him up when they’re drinking,At the bar with his name on the side,And they smile when they can,As they speak of a man,Who took a homemade, fan-blade, one-man submarine ride
Desperately hating his whole place? Dreamed to discover a new space? Yeah, I’m there, I don’t care what you say son.
But the best line is “for once in his life it was quiet”. Even my two teenagers got that it meant he was finally at peace. It was quiet inside the submarine, to be sure, but it was more importantly, quiet in his head.
Like Walt Grace, I’m almost done with this world. My kids are almost done with me. The next one, literally will be up to me; though for the song, the line surely has some theological connotations, or at least is an allusion to ideas of eternity in mainstream theologies.
I need to get busy on my own homemade, fan-blade, one-man submarine. I need a conveyance to take me to the next world. Funny thing, I think the only time things are ever quiet is along the journey, at least until the final destination, the final peace. All the intermediate destinations are noisy. There is peace in movement.