Life is a dream where we can't say what we mean. Life is a massage. Life is a demolition. Life is deranged. Maybe life is a song, but you're scared to sing along until the very ending, Patrick Park sings. He makes you wonder, as identity and the willingness to just swim the waters come into play sometimes for people. He makes a strong point for the meek of heart and voice, for those who quiver in the corners, afraid to stand out and be accounted for by the larger world. The idea that there's fear in someone up until the day they die - when it will no longer matter if they're bold or brazen, fiery and outspoken - gives you shivers, because there are any number of people that we all know exactly like that, fractions of shadows, short breaths of whispers.
It's also suggesting that nearly everyone is predisposed to be a livewire, to stand up for themselves and make their voice heard. Park cuts a tall pose, looming over even the fairly tall, but he's also got the individual traits of the man whose idea of a swell time is to head off to Colorado from his current home in Los Angeles, to visit his parents and maybe get snowed completely indoors - to be trapped by barrels and barrels of snow, with nothing left to do but do some deep thinking and write songs.
It's a beautifully romantic idea and one can easily see these times as being the most fertile for dissecting the fickle and scary land that produces people who worry about the wrong things, work themselves to the bone to achieve unimportant benchmarks and those frightened to pipe up and be themselves for once in their damned lives. How safe and toasty must that bedroom enclave that the soft-spoken 35-year-old Park sits in and ruminates be? It must feel that any inch of it - be it ceiling, floor, closet or wall — would be primed for a good, hard sleep, one that you could slump into and not wake up for four or five days and then want nothing more than a heaping plate of waffles and hash browns and new clothes, to differentiate the old person from the new one.
Park's songs are examples of finding the most silent and yet prevailing tragedy of low self-worth and convoluted identity (no real, honest place in the world to call one's own) and trying to straighten those things out with grit and a notion. His delicate songs are those written beneath a canopy of oak leaves, with the sun trying righteously to beat through them, turning that dome all kinds of shades of green, but there's still that snow and that shuttered feeling, of being trapped and a lot is rampaging through his head. It's in that way that James Taylor comes to mind - talking about being a loyal friend and bringing unconditional love in a way that makes you hunger for summer months of carefree frolicking and the winter months of body bundling and earnest discussion with yourself (verbal or mental) about the person you are and the one you want to be - if it's any different. Park does the same things. He gives us the tarted life, the one that we'll sink our teeth into and pucker up over regularly, and gives them to us honey-coated, dripping with a gleam.
*Essay originally published July, 2008