Taillights Fade in to Darkness

taillights fade

Four years ago I surfed my way on to a eulogy of sorts for Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mike Penner. I grew up reading the Times while I chomped on my cereal before school every morning. I remember Penner, Mike Downey, the best-ever Jim Murray and his page two replacement Alan Malamud.In a 2007 Times column, Penner announced to the world that he was a transsexual.  He returned from a vacation as Christine Daniels until March of 2008. In October of that year, he returned to using Mike Penner as his byline. He never explained the change. Penner killed himself November 27, 2009 after he ran a hose from his car’s exhaust pipe into the car while it ran in the underground garage of his apartment building.

Penner’s friend, Kevin Bronson of buzzbands.la, wrote beautifully about his friend and former colleague two days after Penner’s death.

Bronson’s ending haunted me.

Penner would smile knowingly whenever I effused over the years about the staying power of that Buffalo Tom selection from 1992. “Taillights Fade,” the Boston trio’s epic anthem of anguish and isolation, embodied that vague sense we had of the inevitability of sadness — but with a cathartic roar that made us hungry to embrace the next moment. When they lower me into the ground, I remember telling Mike Penner with a wink at my own mortality, this is the song I want them to play.

The liner notes to “KPEN 1992″ captured the song in six words: “A suicide note set to guitar.”

I opened another tab in my web browser, fired up You Tube (I’ve embedded the song at the bottom of the post), and listened to Taillights Fade as I re-read the column. And I wept. A lot. The song tore at my guts. I was a mess.

A few days ago Taillights Fade popped up on my Pandora custom station. As I went to thumbs-up the song as a favorite, my eyes set on the lyrics. This is me, I thought.

Sister, can you hear me now
The ringing in your ears
I’m down on the ground
My luck’s been dry for years

I’m lost in the dark
And I feel like a dinosaur
Broken face and broken hands
I’m a broken man

I’ve hit the wall, I’m about to fall
But I’m closing in on it
I feel so weak on a losing streak
Watch my taillights fade to black

I read a thing about this girl
She was a hermit in her world
Her story was much like mine
She could be my valentine

And although we’ve never met
I won’t forget her yet
She cut herself off from her past
Now she’s alone at last

I feel so sick, lost love’s last licks
But I’m closing down on it
I feel so weak on a losing streak
Watch my taillights fade to black

Lost my life in cheap wine
Now it’s quiet time
Cappy dick nor Jesus Christ
Could not help my fate

But I’m underneath a gun
I’m singing about my past
Had myself a wonderful thing
But I could not make it last

I’ve hit the wall, I’m about to fall
But I’m closing in on it
I feel so small, underneath it all
Watch my taillights fade to black

Watch my taillights fade
Watch my taillights fade
Watch my taillights fade

In grief recovery people say you don’t move on from losing your loved one, you move forward. After Christmas I stopped moving forward, and slid backwards. I fell to the ground, too tired to get up. My luck’s gone dry and I’m on a losing streak. I’m a broken man. F it all, I thought. F. It. All.

My luck’s gone dry. I’m a broken man. Lost in the dark. Down on the ground. I feel so weak, on a losing streak.

And I feel alone. This has changed everything. The way I relate to people. The way people relate to me. Broken relationships. Apathy. The fake smiles. I feel myself pulling away. Anguished and isolated.

I wanted to write a post and update you all, since I went about three months silent. This song does that for me. These feelings, these thoughts. It’s why I haven’t updated this site until Jax’s birthday. I’ve been too tired, too overwhelmed and would rather just pull away. I’m not going to sugar-coat anything, it’s been pretty dark. I’ve felt extreme hopelessness. The anger has returned. And I don’t want to feel better. I just want to stew in my shit.

Had myself a wonderful thing. But I could not make it last. 

I’m sorry, Jax. I’m so sorry.

15 thoughts on “Taillights Fade in to Darkness

  1. I’m glad you wrote, it’s therapeutic. Your feelings are normal but holding it all in will kill you. When you write it it takes away some of the power and gives some of the pain to us to carry for you. And we will.

  2. Hold on bro. You are NOT alone. All of us who have lost our precious children visit this place and it is SHIT and its not fair, and its f*cking soul destroying. Just hold on. I don’t pray, I cant believe… but I send you all the love I can from one broken screwed up heart to another.

  3. Sorry you’re in the pit. I have nothing to say that wouldn’t be lame, ineffective & just goddamn stupid but I wanted you to know I love you. You matter.

  4. It’s not your fault.
    There are those of us who truly want to walk with you and Kris in your pain . . . we just don’t always know how. Thank you for your honesty and for writing today. I love you and you are important to me. Give yourself some credit for waking up each day and moving through each day.

  5. Seth…I hear in your words that to simply wake up and live through a single day is so incredibly painful. You must be so tired. I hope for you.

  6. My heart is breaking for you……I too feel that nothing I can say or do will make any of this better for you…..If there was some way to share the sorrow or physically pour some of your pain,anguish into myself, i would be willing….you do matter

  7. You’ve (once again) put my feelings into words. It is dark and shitty and I don’t want to be near anyone…I am with you. That’s all I can say.

  8. I just came out from “stewing in my shit” myself. Six years and I still cannot express to Kennedy how sorry I am. I’ll never even get close. Fist pumps to you for your bravery in writing things I am too scared to let anyone know. “The fake smiles. I feel myself pulling away. Anguished and isolated.”

  9. Seth. I’m glad that we had a chance to meet today. I do know how you feel. I’ve been in ‘that’ place. I’m not so sure if I’m ‘out’ of ‘that’ place or if I see it with different eyes now. Some people (and kids) believe that our children chose us as their parents. The lessons, the joy, the support, the LIFE that you gave Jax is exactly what he wanted. No, it wasn’t the sum total of the gifts and life that we want to give our children, but it was a life that you never want to forget… That you want people to know and celebrate. You’re a powerful man, with a powerful gift. Jax sounds like an amazing kid and he chose YOU! Too many of us have the honor of raising Angels, not enough of us actually take the time to reflect on how incredibly special you’d have to be to raise one. Whatever and however you need support… Let’s connect.

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