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Russell Wangersky: Embracing your physical side

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The light is going now, and I’m upstairs looking at how the maple leaves have come out on all the trees now. And I’m listening to B.B. King singing “I’ll Survive,” the notes climbing and falling on the piano he isn’t playing himself, but one that runs right with him every single inch of the way. And I’m struck again, both by how inherently violent the blues can be and also how deep-rooted all the truly physical pleasures are.

Food, drink, good music, the feel of a warm humid wind on your skin on a summer night. The vice of the visceral.

Stay with me now.

Pork belly, sizzling and hot on cast iron when it comes sweating to the table. Mussels and clams, fresh out of the water and steamed over the coals of an open fire layered with armloads of iodine-laced low-tide seaweed. (I haven’t done that in years, haven’t done that since a beach party below Dan-Dan’s Woods, a place and a concept so convoluted I can’t possibly explain it to you now, but suffice to say it was a mosquito-bitten evening that happened when I was a child with uncles and aunts and cousins, a wonder I will never forget.) The rich first bite of lobster or scallop when there’s still plenty left.

But you know what I mean.

You know the lure of it. You know the taste of it, and if you say you don’t, I know you are lying.

Like the car. Like driving in the car, the radio on loud, the windows down, the smell of the hot barren lands blowing across you in all its complexity. A quarter falls in the cosmic jukebox, and it shoots right into you. A song you haven’t heard in years, a song you can’t even remember hearing before, but something like Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” just about putting you off the road. He’s going down to the river with Mary, and then, “For my 19th birthday, I got a union card and a wedding coat.”

But maybe that’s not your thing.

Maybe it’s Lyle Lovett’s “Simple Song” heading you unerringly towards the ditch.

To each their own.

What I’m saying is that we play at being logical and reasonable and ethical, but we somehow can’t help but like bacon. (That’s an oversimplification. On purpose. If you’re vegan, it isn’t bacon, but it’s something just like that. The thing you want and need and want to not need.) Because we forget. We forget — or try to deny — that we have a purely physical side, and however much it might bring us acres of doubts and fears and regrets, it’s always right there at the core of us, pushing.

My advice: Go out there sometimes and get it. The angel is on your right shoulder, but I’m on your left, I’m dressed in red and I’ve got a pitchfork. Horns on my hat. Hiya.

For a simple reason: You might not be here tomorrow. Have it, the way good ice cream coats your mouth. The way the third hot dog is better than the first. The way Ruth Moody makes “Dancing in the Dark” the song you want to hear when the moon starts to rise, angling up through spruce treetops and mounded clouds and the pillowing wood smoke from an outdoor bonfire.

The light is gone, and B.B. King has gone as well, and now I’m listening to Brandi Carlile and I can hear the traffic flowing outside with the window open and my heart has opened up so wide that the sky wouldn’t fill it.

I don’t even know you and I’m wishing you the best of nights.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 39 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.

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