How Simple

Anna Maria Island is a nine-mile-long landmass on Florida’s gulf coast, just south of St. Petersburg, west of Bradenton, and is a place that won’t exist when the oceans have swallowed all known coastlines. It is a place of constant recovery, lashed by hurricanes that don’t swirl up the east coast, don’t die off in the Caribbean, but detour and then park in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was on Anna Maria for my annual birding expedition—the blogs were alight this fall with news of Blue Herons, so many overpopulating the island that there was no room in the trees. Nests were everywhere

in convertibles left open overnight

attic crawl spaces

range hoods in restaurants serving grouper sandwiches

and in the back of my rented golf cart, a vehicle modified to reach 45 mph on the island’s main thoroughfare.

I drove through the afternoon, stopping for iced tea, stopping for a burger, stopping when I thought I had lost one of the herons at my back, but always he returned with a stick or a twig in his beak, landing softly near his partner and handing off his find. The nest in the back of the cart grew bigger, more formed, and the birds were still there when I returned to the rental center just before sunset.

“How Simple” by Hop Along is off the band’s forthcoming record Bark Your Head Off, Dog, out April 6.

Long Trips Are Good For Me

Everything was beautiful and exciting there in the lush weeping grid of the cemetery. The parchment paper folded into my jacket creased and crunched with my steps. I thumbed the bits of charcoal in my jeans front pocket.

When I found the mossy tombstone—my quarry: the name—I knelt and began my ritual prayer of forgiveness. Though I play at the edges of unknowing, truly I know our part is not knowing.

Cicadas sang low to high from the surrounding willows. A thick, moistened silence followed. I placed the parchment on the gravestone and scraped the charcoal across, catching the relief of the epitaph, the range of a passed life. I took my time etching the tombstone’s skull, its eyes bold Xes, filigreed wings stretched out below the name of the dead.


I sat in the walking path between gravesites and ate my lunch, a cucumber sandwich and a thermos of sweet tea. I folded the parchment back into my jacket and set off toward the mausoleums.

Walter Martin’s latest album is Reminisce Bar & Grill. The first song on this Tiny Desk set is “I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour.” It twists the call & response trope to fun effect. Check it out!

[Photo by tup wanders]

Don’t You Realize Our Bodies Could Fall Apart At Any Second

My first question was, “About how deep do I submerge myself? To my neck, what about my knees? Should I keep my arms free?”

“Your choice,” said the attendant. He shook a soiled towel until the sand came off and it was nearly white again. He dropped it into a hamper filled with dusty linens.

I stepped into the pool of black sand. This was a consenting quicksand, a dark bath that warmed me beneath and throughout. I thought I would be more scared—I thought of the horse in that one movie from my childhood, the horse that sinks—but a calm found me as the attendants patted down more sand, weighing down my chest, my arms, my knees.

When we were younger and at the beach, my sister and I buried my dad up to his neck in the sand. Katherine sculpted a mermaid’s tail near Dad’s legs and I carved two sandy boobs at his chest. “Please don’t give me breasts,” he said. “That’s not appropriate.”

When it was time for me to leave the sand bath, the same attendant from before ushered me to the mineral springs. The dark volcanic sediment—ash, almost—that minutes earlier was forcing me downwards into an underground serenity, washed clean off. I received a blue robe embroidered with Japanese characters. “What does this one mean?” I pointed.

Onsen,” said the attendant. “It’s our logo. It means ‘spa.'”

Car Seat Headrest’s “Twin Fantasy” released (or re-released) last week. It sounds incredible. More here.

[Photo by Bruno Vanbesien]

Farewell, Transmission

Once a month I drive the hour south to meet with my therapist, a warm, open, no-bullshit clinical psychologist whose help has earned her top billing on the acknowledgments page should I ever finish my first novel.

Last week I drove during a whiteknuckle icestorm and my odometer ticked over to 250,000 miles. I couldn’t celebrate it, not with a perfunctory woo-hoo or fist pump. I couldn’t open the window and course my hand with and against the drafts. I couldn’t slap the top of the cab and holler, couldn’t honk my horn, couldn’t even mutter a sotto voce my dude to the engine.

By the time I parked, my car looked like a frozen bullet. It looked like a futurist painting, an angular temporal fascist thing. I was late for my session because I was knocking muddy ice from under the wheelbase, one of my life’s truest pleasures.

My first car is my security question to all of my online accounts so I won’t describe it for you here. But my second car is this car, my current car, a 2003 Toyota Matrix in black. I smooched my high school girlfriend in this car, at the beach, which is where you smooch when you’re growing up on Cape Cod and exploring each other in the depths of winter. Once, during the worst snowstorm of the year, I got lost on the way home from the annual battle of the bands and ended up in a snowbank in the principal’s driveway.

This Matrix is still with me after 15 years. I have dreamt about its end in the same way I have about my own: under my terms and control. I will drive it off a pier, or ram it through a thousand lawn signs during an election year, or career it over a thawing lake in April and wait for the crack, the sploosh, the sink, and the final chill.

When the day comes, there’ll be no one able to console me. My 2003 black Matrix, which I’ve never named because I’m not a fucking weirdo, will most likely go peacefully. It will refuse to start. It won’t be a cold day. It won’t be a particularly hot day, either. It’ll just be a day when it happens, no oddity in the weather or major event in the news. I won’t remember the day my car died when it did. It was, or will be, an unremarkable weekday, like the rest of them, like they’ve always been.

After ten minutes of unproductive revving, I’ll bow my head and then call NPR and ask if they’d like to pick it up as a donation. “When you strip it for parts,” I’ll say, “please know that it was a fine vehicle, that as a conveyance it did its thankless job with honor. I’ll take a tote bag if you have one.”

The next month, my therapist will ask, “What do you want to talk about this week?”

“My new car,” I’ll say. “A Japanese-made hatchback, like the last one. May it outlive me like my children.”

Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee recently covered and recorded “Farewell Transmission” by Songs: Ohia. Proceeds from any purchase of this song go to MusicCares, a charity from the Recording Academy that provides help to musicians in need.