I've always been a sucker for "Auld Lang Syne" -- primarily because of its tune, which seems to dart right to the area of the brain most sensitive to change and prone to effecting tears. But there are also the lyrics: a call to come together made because inevitably we cannot. We'll forget lovers and friends, let alone acquaintances. And losing battles waged anyway -- against time, fate, disease -- are always romantic if not ultimately melancholy.
And then, if you're a pop culture person, each new rendition in a film or at a concert marries one more small memory to the song, so that each time you hear it, it evokes not only your estrangements -- your personal victories and defeats -- but those endured even by affecting fictional characters.
I think of "Cavalcade," the Best Picture of 1933, when the British soldiers ship out to South Africa for The Boer War and they sing the song after boarding their vessel as their loved ones wave and cry below.
And the boy scouts singing it to Jimmy Stewart's Jefferson Smith, just before he departs for Washington, D.C. and his new position as senator in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington."
Of course, I've heard Guy Lombardo ring in the new year that way countless times thanks to YouTube.
But the version I return to every year, the guaranteed tearjerker, is the inimitable, whammy barred instrumental Jimi Hendrix played at the Fillmore East in New York on Dec. 31, 1969. In nine months he'd be gone, though if he had stayed around, I dunno that the guitar would be any less potent for that.
And if you're wondering why I'd want to listen to a song I know will stir me and unsettle me and make me wonder where even the last decade of my short life went, the answer is the same the NY Polar Bears will give you after jumping into the river tomorrow. A shock to the system feels cleansing.
So much of the past year seems worth washing away. But really, after 365 days of just being alive -- in any year -- who couldn't use a good mental mikvah? Which isn't to say i take for granted even for a moment the often-randomly-generated path I've been granted since birth. But everything's relative. So fuck it. More whammy. Whammy with speakers on high, till I'm dancin' a third sad, a third happy and a third furious in my socks.