Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Art of Hitting Rock Bottom

As has become tradition in this space, I'll begin this post like most others by offering an explanation for the lack of regular updates. This time, however, the reasoning is a bit different. I've had the time to write this post and to be honest, I've had a lot of it written in my head or on my nearly filled legal pad I've been using for note-taking while watching Cheers.

Yet, I've been reluctant to write (and finish) this post because the idea of what I want it to be keeps evolving in my mind. At any rate, let's start at the genesis of the idea which is this: Cheers, season 4, episode 2. Frasier Crane, who just one episode ago pulled a piece out on Sam, has now amassed a bar tab topping $500. He's down for having lost Diane, and he's trying his best to be both down and out. He doesn't only want to drink his sadness away, he wants to be seen drinking his sadness away. He wants to be a depressed, pathetic drunk. The goal, he admits to Sam, is to fall from grace and hit rock bottom.

The irony of course is that Frasier's downward spiral at the start of season 4 mirrors Sam's at the start of season 3. (Which I wrote about .) The difference, it seems, is that Mayday's fall from grace was authentic. He fell off the wagon, began boozing and became a horrible bar owner and manager, sleeping with every new waitress he hired and alienating most of his employees and customers in the process. With Frasier, rock bottom isn't so much as the location but as the destination. He wants to get there. And he wants it to be known he's there.

And that's fine. But what Frasier's aiming for here isn't rock bottom -- or at least it's not a real rock bottom. Rather, it's something that feels like rock bottom, feels like the worst emotional pain and torment imaginable. It's that pit of despair, that bout of depression, we all go through in life.

This is the very reason I've had trouble finishing this post-- Frasier's pursuit of rock bottom is so universal Sometimes it lasts a day or two, sometimes it drags on. Sometimes no one else notices, sometimes it seems as if the whole world is aware. The pain, the sorrow (whatever words you want to use, because we all have our own way of verbalizing these times in our lives) is indeed serious, but not as always as severe as we make it out to be.

There's a plethora of examples from movies and TV shows where a character goes off the deep in, so to speak. Yet a clear cut example, and one often quoted amongst my close knit group of BFFs, is Owen Wilson's character in Wedding Crashers:

The above, to me, is similar to Frasier's rock bottom in that depression is real (as may even be the suicidal thoughts), but the person's life and world is otherwise in tact and sound. Obviously being heartbroken from losing a girlfriend/fiance/what-have-you isn't the only way a person hits rock bottom. Death is another, more serious, way. And TV provides us with a perfect example of what I'm speaking of with season 4 of another NBC Thursday night sitcom, Scrubs:

These scenes with JD's brother, Dan, spending his days following his dad's death in a bathtub are no doubt meant to be funny (and they are). But there's a scene of realism to it as well. Anyone who's lost a loved one or even been severely heartbroken by the end of a relationship knows that feeling of wanting to stay in bed for days on end. Or in some cases stay in a bathtub drinking room temp Budweisers.

Sometimes being at rock bottom comes out of hopelessness -- not knowing what to do or where to turn, thus the lying in bed or a bathtub. Other times rock bottom serves as a last stand-- a final attempt to lay it all on the line and win back everything lost. Ironically, Zach Braff provides us with an example of this with the extremely underrated film The Last Kiss:

As you can see in the video above, Zach Braff's character has vowed to not leave the porch of the home he shares with his girlfriend until she takes him back. Interestingly, his girlfriend has hit her own rock bottom, we learn, as she explains the pain she felt when saying goodbye to her dying grandma is the same pain she's feeling in saying goodbye to her relationship. The dialogue in this scene, to me, is just fantastic because it's very, very realistic.

This is another reason I found difficulty in finishing this post because some of these examples are beginning to hit a little too close to home for me. Despite pointing that out, I should say that I'm going to deliberately not get personal here with this post. Granted the whole point of this blog was for me to record and relate my experience of going through every single episode of one of America's beloved sitcoms, and by that goal alone I could easily justify going into my own feelings. But this, like the show Cheers itself, is for everyone to read and share. This space is not a diary, never will be.

Sometimes ending a relationship can feel like mourning the loss of a loved one. That seems crazy and foolish until you experience it for yourself. And there's an added guilt that goes along with those feelings because you hate yourself for going through a mourning that shouldn't be as serious as a real, actual death. But sometimes that's how we function as humans.

And it's from that fragile, sometimes irrational, emotional state that we derive at rock bottom. In Frasier's case, rock bottom is running up a $500 bar tab and beginning the man who may or may not be in direct competition with him for the love his life to hire him as a janitor to repay his debts. In Owen Wilson's case, it's crashing weddings, and funerals, while coming home to a trashed apartment and reading don't kill myself books.

So with the above in mind, and because Christmas is just around the corner, let me end this post with my suggestions for a playlist to which you can listen to while sitting in a bathtub, be it drinking in a disgusting, lukewarm pool of water or fully clothed in an argyle sweater.

Coldplay - "The Scientist"

Warning: Coldplay's going to show up on this list a lot. I can't help it, so many of their songs are brilliantly depressing. That's why Zach Braff chose their song "Warning Song" for the aforementioned scene in The Last Kiss.

Here with "Scientist," the lyrics are just as emotionally charged and vivid. Plus when I was a freshman in college, I thought the video was the greatest thing ever made.

Best/most depressing line: "No one ever said it would be this hard. / Oh, take me back to the start."

Dave Matthews - "Stay or Leave"

In 2003, Dave Matthews released his first and only solo album with this song being one of the highlights. Of the many live versions hanging around YouTube, I went with the Live at Radio City version because it features some great acoustic guitar work by Tim Reynolds.

Best/most depressing line: "Remember we used to dance and everyone wanted to be you and me... I want to be, too."

Adele - "Someone Like You"

Obviously the go-to hanging-on-by-a-thread/rock bottom song of the moment.

Best/most depressing line: "I hoped that you'd see my face and be reminded that, for me, it isn't over."

The Verve - "The Drugs Don't Work"

A fantastic song by a fantastic band. 1997's Urban Hymns is one of the greatest albums ever and this song is one of the reasons why.

Best/most depressing line: "I hope you're thinking of me as you lay down on your side because the drugs don't work, they just make you worse, but I know I'll see your face again."

Travis - "Writing To Reach You"

Speaking of all time great albums, 2000's The Man Who by Travis deserves to be mentioned. Just yesterday, I cited this as one of the greatest sophomore albums by a band ever. This song is one of the reasons why.

Best/most depressing line: "It's good to know that you are home for Christmas. It's good to know that you are doing well. It's good to know that you are no longer hurting. It's good to know I'm feeling not so well."

Coldplay - "Violet Hill"

Another great, depressing song from Coldplay. Rather than post all the others that could go on this playlist, I'll just list a few of them: "What If?", "Trouble", Lost?", and "X & Y."

Best/most depressing line: "If you loved me, why'd you let me go?"

Counting Crows - "A Long December"

A fitting song for sitting in your bathtub while wearing you're best argyle, yet it's a good (depressing) song to listen to any time of the year.

Best/most depressing line: "I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower / Makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her."

Young The Giant - "Cough Syrup"

A newer band that I've recently gotten into. This is definitely one of their best songs and goes along well with the others. I mean, how couldn't it, the song begins with the line "Life's too short to even care at all..."

Best/most depressing line: "If I could find a way to see this straight, I'd run to some fortune that I should have found by now."

Audioslave - "Like A Stone"

A great band who, much like The Verve, created a lot of fantastic music in only a few short years. But of course Chris Cornell, as he's wont to do, had to let his ego get in the way and ruin everything...

Best/most depressing line: "I confess I was lost in the pages / of a book, full of death / reading I would die alone."

Stereophonics - "Since I Told You It's Over"

Truth be told, I somehow forgot about this sing when I first published this post last night. And I'm kicking myself for that because if there was ever a song that perfectly sums out the emotions one feels when hitting rock bottom, it is this.

Best/most depressing line: "You can't tell me this now, it's too far down the line / that you're never, ever gonna get over me."

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Brendan's Death Song"

The first time I heard this song, I listened to it three times in a row. The lyrics are beautiful and touching while Chad Smith's drum work is phenomenal. A great song for any playlist, but it certainly fits here.

Best/most depressing line: "Like I said you know I'm almost dead, I'm almost gone. And when the drummer drums, he's gonna play my song to carry me along."

U2 - "One"

Far and away the greatest rock bottom song ever. It baffles me that, to this day, some people have chosen this for a wedding song! It's not a love song, far from it. But what it is is, well, brilliant.

Best/most depressing line: "And I can't be holding on to what you've got when all you've got his hurt."

1 comment:

  1. I made it through(most of) this playlist, Brandon-- I skipped the ones I'm super familiar with already. I must say it was no small feat for an ADD person! IE: Most of these are 5:00 loong, Ha. However, it was very gratifying to discover/listen to some bands I've never heard of, or, in a few of the cases, finally put the name of the band to the song!

    This is a wonderfully well written blog entry and compilation of songs, Nice job!!