Once the temperature hits a certain point, as it inevitably is on this mid-July week, you’re really just cooking very slowly, like very patient barbeque. Your juices are releasing, you crisp up in the sun…the simile is more apt than you want to admit. On a day like this probably is, you don’t want to do anything except sit in front of your fan or AC, lounge in a pool, or shower all day, cursing summer for sucking. You definitely should be drinking water. You definitely shouldn’t be drinking alcohol, because you’ll dehydrate.
This song doesn’t care what you should be doing.
“Lost Horizons” is a song about drinking by a band named after the best thing to be drinking. It personifies loneliness, abandonment, desperation. It is, therefore, not necessarily a quintessential summer song, but it is quintessentially of a place where summer heat is a way of life.
When I was 21, I traveled to the west, down the coast, my last stop being the middle of Arizona. What strikes you most about Arizona is the heat, of course. It’s dry, so your hair is amazing, but it’s undeniably hot. You wonder why anyone would live there. That heat, however, makes everything wonderful about Arizona. It is a starkly beautiful state of hardy yet sparse trees against rusty dead land, steep mountains peppered with cacti looking like crucifixes lonely without their criminals, and a few (man-made) lakes which create an even stranger beauty: the pure blue of life painted with that dead red around it. I’ve never seen anything like it since, but I’d love to see it again. When you’ve spent your life by the sea, painting lush beauty in your mind in greens and blues, those burnt dirt tones surprise you. If you have trouble adjusting to the palette, do yourself a favor and do not under any circumstance go out at night. Out in Apache Junction, past Tempe, leaving the house at night meant having zero visibility, looking up meant seeing the universe in all its non-light-polluted enormity, and hearing the manic, turkey-gobble of the coyotes stopped being quite so amusing and became more menacing.
Arizona is also a place I remember for alcoholic reasons. It held the most beautiful outdoor bar I can remember, though of course I have no photos to prove it. It was where I learned that yes, there are people who will consider drinking vodka which has been sitting in a plastic jug outside for days (let us recall the temperature for a moment). And it is where I truly learned the Gin Blossoms.
When in Arizona, one may put in a Gin Blossoms CD (almost assuredly if you’re with an Arizonan at the time) and drive around, because walking is pure nonsense. Perhaps you’ll drive past Mrs. Rita’s tarot parlor, and if you get deep into the catalog, you may understand what “three of four peaks are all I see” means after the week is over, but you also begin to understand the Gin Blossoms themselves. The first chords of this song blare out over the car speakers and settle down over the landscape, into the heat. You didn’t know people wrote soundtracks for landscapes until this second, until the tone of those guitars is resonating through the dust it’s meant to conjure. You may love “Hey Jealousy,” but you don’t feel it. Not until you’ve heard it where it was written. People can write all the “I love LA/NY/wherever” songs they want… there is no music I’ve ever heard that literally captures where it is from better than the Gin Blossoms. Not even drunken Irish punk about sports captures Boston as well. Today, I still cannot put New Miserable Experience on without the entirety of that week pulsing into me.
So it is that, even as much as the song makes me ache, and even as I sit here, dying of heatstroke (I am certain I am), I still, in some part of me, yearn to see the Southwest again.
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