Hearts on Fire

Falling in love to Gram Parsons


It was that point in the party where you can’t decide to steal another beer from the fridge of whoever’s house you’re at or just sneak away and drive home drunk.

The other guy in the kitchen looked like he was mulling the same question. We got to talking and settled for the beer option, and talked some more. He was from Baltimore, he told me.

“Baltimore?” I asked. “Hey, have you ever heard the song ‘Streets of Baltimore’ by Gram Parsons?” I’d just met this guy in the kitchen of some party. Dumb question. How would he know that song?

“Yeah,” he said, surprising me. “That’s kind of the story of my life, that song.”

It all came spilling out: he moved to Baltimore, but only because his girlfriend wanted to, just like the guy in the song. Soon as they got there, the girl started spending more nights out on the town, just like in the song. She eventually left him. He moved back here. Big Gram Parsons fan. We clinked our beer cans. I’d been there, too.

My story, I told him, had been “A Song for You.” After all, I’d been the one doing the leaving, left to float adrift in the awkward single life at 25 among other friends who didn’t know who they belonged to. But lately my song had changed. I’d been seeing this girl, and we’d been drinking and slowdancing to “Sin City” almost every night in my small apartment.

He wished me luck. I forget where the party was or how I got home.

When I was hungover, I’d listen to “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning” or “In My Hour of Darkness.” She kept coming around and slowdancing with me. Usually she’d put on happier songs, like “Return of the Grievous Angel,” about trucking, the open country and being in love. We’d sing along, and it sunk in, that love part. We fell hard for each other, staying up late to songs like “The New Soft Shoe” and “Hot Burrito #1,” trying to figure out if they were happy songs, or sad songs, or both.

“Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down,” Gram Parsons sang, “and they all led me straight back home to you.” When we realized we both felt the same way, we got hitched. Small city hall ceremony, a little reception with friends. We had the DJ play “$1,000 Wedding” for us, and we danced and kissed, and that’s how my story turned out.

I still think about that party, and I wonder what happened to the other guy. I hope he’s alright.

Laughing Gravy plays a Gram Parsons tribute show on Friday, Nov. 11, at the Sebastopol Community Center. 390 Morris St., Sebastopol. 7:30pm. $5–$10. 707.823.1511.