Paul Weekly E-mail

Weekly E-mail: Angels in the Snow

April 8, 2024

I found a new favorite song last week. Well, “found” is not quite the correct verb. I didn’t find it, because I wasn’t looking for it. It’s more accurate to say that I was presented with a new favorite song last week. I had been listening to Midwest emo legends The Get Up Kids on Spotify; specifically, songs from their 1999 album Something to Write Home About. These are songs I’ve heard for over twenty years, making them three- to four-minute time machines. But what happens when the song ends?

The twin elements of continuous play and algorithmic playlist creation fused together, generating a moment of discovery. You see, whatever it is that Spotify has under its hood can make a million connections between listening habits and musical catalogs. It knows that thousands of millennial men who wear Chuck Taylors while feeling everything so damn deeply love a particular style of music. So, on this day, it tells me, “Hey Paul, check this out. You’re gonna love it.” That’s how I first heard “Winter-Owned” by Sunday’s Best.

I hesitate to attempt a description of this song, because I can’t separate my emotional response from a musical analysis. And what’s the point in trying? I just found this song and am still trying to listen to its heartbeat. Why should I cut it open to see how it works? I remind myself that you have the capacity to pull the track up on Spotify, to listen to it on your own time.

A day after first hearing “Winter-Owned,” I was at work for our abbreviated final day in the office. Our office is open for three and a half hours each Friday, and we are spending our time on this day cleaning our space. The director has made a list of the tasks we should complete: washing the front windows, cleaning out the fridge, rearranging the workshop room. Once one person volunteers for a task, the rest of the team follows suit. I wait until most things are taken. This is my usual approach, since I know that I can handle any kind of cleaning activity. And so, I am given the responsibility of cleaning out the back closet.

Closet is not the right word here. Imagine a junk drawer, but with a volume of 288 cubic feet. This is a room where we’ve thrown boxes of old workbooks, seasonal pillows, empty jugs of water and used-up printer toner. Donated dress clothes hang on multiple garment racks while donated work clothes suffocate in bags on the floor. A fucking mess – and I get to decide what this room becomes. This is the kind of project that nourishes my soul. There’s just enough autonomy that I feel in control of something, but I’m also aware that this is a communal space. It needs to be useful for anyone who comes back here. And a few teammates do, asking me if I need help. It feels good to say, “Thanks so much! I’m doing pretty good – I should be done soon.” I share so much energy and love during the week; these few Friday hours are mine. I’m recharged, proud of every small accomplishment. Stacking the bottles to open up floor space, packing the bags of clothes into a box. All the while, Poised to Break by Sunday’s Best plays from my small and sufficient phone speaker.

Technology is a tool. I am not controlled by it. Skyler told me once, “Let the saw do the work.” A different service project, over a decade ago, when I was a 22 year old AmeriCorps member. I think of him as I look around this space. The songs play, my spirits brighten, a closet becomes organized.


Would you like to receive these Weekly E-mails in your inbox? Send me a message:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *