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The Happy Sad Place, music theory: The Germans have schadenfreude, meaning pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. I'm thinking that at least one of you out there (probably the one who lived in Germany) will be able to create or call up a German term for the Happy Sad Place--a mental place you purposely journey to in order to feel sadness. It is closely related to the mental place you accidentally go to when you have insomnia, wherein your darkest experiences and greatest fears gambol out of their nighttime corners to peel your mind's eye even wider after an hour or so's restlessness.

So there's probably a German word for that, too.

But the Happy Sad Place you go to on purpose, because sometimes feeling sad on purpose is very satisfying. Teenagers know this. So do opera singers.

I went there this morning, I'd slept five or so hours on the couch* the night before, and my heart felt heavy and stupid while I drove to work. I turned on the college radio station just in time to hear the DJ back-announce the last set; he mentioned that he'd played a Richard Thompson song, and I was sorry I'd missed it. So I plugged my iPod into the stereo at the next red light and pressed play on the first of five or so Thompson songs I have in the player.

It was "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," and I had tears in my eyes by the first line of the last verse. When I arrived at work, I pulled out my pocket journal and wrote a list of five songs that can usually be counted on to make me cry (or at least feel like I want to).

They are:

1. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" by Richard Thompson
This is such an amazing story song. I loved it long before I started dating a man whose primary mode of transport is a motorcycle, but I'm can't recall if it made me cry before that.
 
I have never actually seen this movie. The fact that it makes me emotional feels completely random, just like the fact that sound bites of Ronald Reagan's speech at the fall of the Berlin Wall does. I swear I never had a male teacher that I was close enough to that I'd write a song about him; nor have I been to Germany, as indicated by the beginning of this entry.
 
"Oh Comely" by NMH is another doozy. In fact, if I were a more melancholy sort, the band's entire brief and lugubrious catalog would be well-nigh unlistenable for me. But as it is, as much as I love their first album, I can't get past the second song on it ever since my mother died in a hospital in 2001.
 
One of my all-time favorite Waits songs. I really prefer the older, more stripped-down version on Early Songs, but this one on Heart of Saturday Night gooses my ducts, too. It so cool, so true, so sad, and so tough all at the same time.
 
 
It's a Ronettes cover, and the original version has everything you'd expect from Ronnie Spector and her then-husband's Wall of Sound. But the Orton version--both the studio one on Trailer Park and the live one in the video linked above--put a whole new ache on it. I rememebr listening to it more than ten years ago, working on my computer late at night, alone, a little stoned, and just bursting into tears halfway through.

 
*I move to the couch when the wakefulness gets too intense, so as not to bug the fiance.

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