The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.
When you get married, you get a ton of unsolicited advice about the wedding. This is no different than every Tom, Dick & Quasimodo giving you tips you didn’t ask for when it comes to choosing a college, what to do when you graduate, and (ugh, holy fucking shit) when you’re about to have your first kid. Most of it, of course, sucks. You didn’t ask for it, and many people are abjectly stupid.
The one piece of wedding advice I give, particularly to grooms, relates to how you enter the room and what you do once you’re standing up there. First, walk yourself down that aisle. Don’t come through the weird side door delivery entrance like you see a lot of grooms do and be the professional wrestling equivalent of “standing in the ring to my left.” Make a real entrance and walk yourself down that aisle. Second, once you’re up there, drink in the room. Seriously, take as much time as you possibly can and take a good, sharp mental photo of the people in your audience. This is a collection of people who will never, ever be in the same room together again. They have no earthly business being in this room together on this day at this time… except for the two of you standing front and center. That’s cool as hell.
We had 147 people at our wedding. Looking at photos later and seeing people from different pockets and vignettes of my 28 years on this earth dancing, waiting in line behind each other for cocktails, and appearing in previously unfathomable combinations was like witnessing my own epic personal comic book crossover event. What’s funny is that none of those photos are nearly as good as the one I took in my head while standing there waiting for Kristin to come down the aisle.
My other piece of wedding advice is more general, and also generally impossible. It’s: Do whatever the fuck you want, and if your family or whoever doesn’t like it, then fuck ‘em. It’s your day, do what makes you happy. Like I said, generally impossible, but there it is. Did we achieve this ourselves? Sort of, but ultimately no.
Two days before we got married, The Office aired two-part episode “Niagara” that saw Jim and Pam finally tie the knot. Great episode. And fitting because the whole reason we chose “Middle of Nowhere” by Hot Hot Heat as our music to walk back down the aisle to at the completion of the ceremony was actually Office-related.
I’ve now spent an inordinate amount of time searching for this video, and it seems to no longer exist. Basically, in the early days of YouTube, some Office superfan made a tribute video to the show using only clips from the first two seasons and used this song as the backing track. This thing was GREAT. Whoever it was nailed the emotional beats of the show and reconstructed the entire emotional arc of Jim and Pam in a short four minutes. I watched this video probably 25 times and was blown away by how good the cuts were not only technically, but in matching the flow of the song with the emotional high and low points of the characters on the show. We fell in love with that song as a result, it found its way onto multiple playlists, and unofficially became “our song.”
Up to that point, the closest Kristin and I had to “our song” was “Turnaround” by Denver punk band A Void. We saw them play The Starlight one night in Fort Collins, and it was sort of our first official date. We drank Rolling Rocks with the band at the bar, and then rocked out to their set. That song doesn’t seem to exist online either, and while I still love it, thematically it’s not a great “our song” kinda deal. It’s about a breakdown in communication between two people and the narrator’s cathartic frustration. Not great, Bob. A Void, of course, was mentioned when I wrote about The Frickashinas.
Mental health struggles are lonely. You end up trapped inside your own head and either you’re frantically looking for the exit, or have decided to say “fuck it” and just sit down and give up in your own self-constructed prison. Even in a crowd of people, you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, maybe screaming inside a soundproof booth. The quickest way to find your way back is to have a tether – a rope connected to someone, something, anything – that you can yank on and either claw your way back on your own, or have whoever is on that other end of the rope start pulling too and rescue you when you’d abandoned hope.
You didn’t have to do it, but you did it to say
That you didn’t have to do it, but you would anyway
To give you something to go on
Before I go off
Back to the middle of nowhere
That’s the chorus. That’s also the role we play for each other. I’m insecure about many things in my life, but never my marriage. She’s my rock. She’s my favorite. She’s somehow a great business associate, a terrific parent, a phenomenal lover, a wonderful friend, and an island of sanity all at the same time. My hope and belief is that she’d say the same thing about me. Because we’re both prone to incredibly brutal self-talk that can spiral us into the throes of a mental health crisis, we find ourselves tethered to each other never letting the other get too far astray when we go off to the middle of nowhere.
We’re bound to each other both in the romantic metaphorical sense, and, thanks to getting married, the legal one, too. So, once that ceremony is official, why not boogey back down the aisle to this delightful indie rock song from Hot Hot Heat? That’s exactly what we did.
This has been our song ever since. And my love for it is only surpassed by one song…
Up next: Number 1.