The Skyscraper, Not the Cold, Bitter Wind

Mark Holland, he owned the hostel where I could no longer afford to lodge; with grace, he insisted I stay.


Mark treated my poems like hundred dollar bills; If I read them to him, and listened to his lectures on music, I could stay, and food was on him.


One night, Mark was driving us to an Indian Reservation (I wish could I recall which reservation, and which tribe governed it…) to buy a brand of cigarettes he fell in love with in Montreal- Player’s Light, with the image of a ship sailing on a royal blue ocean, on the top of the cigarette box.


He played a recording of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris singing the song “Love Hurts” from the 1974 album Grievous Angel, in a two-part harmony with an ironic beauty, the kind I saw walking in the parking lot where I work, heading towards my car, at dusk, the wind-chill: 26 degrees Fahrenheit, raining, not drizzling, not pouring, just raining…ah…wow…


When I play it over and over, and think about it, a city lit up at night comes to mind, and an eclipse does too.


The song sent little earthquakes through me as I sobbed, thinking of a girl thousands of miles away, worrying I might never see her again, agreeing, love does hurt.


Mark had a penchant for such songs, with an expensive whiskey taste, burning your tongue,

warming your heart just a touch… however, beware, if you drink more than two shots,

the vocals, and the lyrics– they sting; those silk and cashmere blankets don’t shield you from the pain and the cold, bitter wind.


A month or so after my older brother bought me a plane ticket back to New Jersey, I received a phone call informing me that Mark hung himself.


Did he hear a song like “Love Hurts” in his mind when he did it?


If one of Mark Knopfler’s revered guitar solos played in his mind, instead, could it have spared his life?


He was the one who introduced me to Knopfler, and his opening guitar riff to “Money for Nothing,” while driving through Tampa.


“Wait for it… wait for it…wait for it…”  he said, as if he and the guitar were taking us up a long elevator ride towards some surprise, as a man sings in falsetto, “I want my, I want my MTV…” and then about a minute and a half later, “now!”


Fireworks explode, celebrating a skyscraper of guitar sounds!

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