By Dr. Jonathan Millen
Associate Dean, Liberal Arts
I have had a strange 24 hours. Last night I was at Carnegie Hall to see a Ryan Adams concert; this morning I was getting a root canal. Better yet, it was my second Ryan Adams show in a week (he was in Philly last Friday night). And, yup, it also was my second root canal during the same stretch of time. So it should come as no surprise that I have been thinking a lot about both (though prior to this blog, I could not have imagined mentioning Ryan Adams and a root canal in the same sentence. And now I’ve done it twice in one paragraph).
I once argued that no two things could be incomparable because any attempt to show that they are, requires that they be compared. Right? So with that in mind, let’s compare Ryan Adams (hereafter RA) to a root canal.
I never will forget the first time I became aware of RA’s music. To minimize distractions while grading papers, I often play music that I don’t know and a friend recently had given me a copy of Gold that I had not yet heard so into the CD player it went. And bang! It was like I was smacked upside the head with a two-by-four. Not really, but by the fifth track, The Rescue Blues, I was hooked. It was fresh, edgy, energetic, and beautiful; all 16 tracks (I did not learn until later that there was a deluxe double album version with 5 more great tunes!). I have not stopped listening to his music since that day.
Nor will I forget when my dentist first suggested a procedure to put a crown on a decaying tooth. That was almost two years ago. And I’ll never forget her warning: Let’s do this now and we might be able to prevent a root canal. Hmmm.
In addition to the two shows this week, I have seen RA live at least 10 other times. The venues have included the Electric Factory, TLA, World Café Live (all in Philly), The Starland Ballroom (NJ), The Bowery Ballroom, Town Hall, and world famous Apollo Theater (all in NYC).
I have been going to the same dentist in Yardley, PA for close to 20 years.
After Gold, I went back to RA’s earlier CDs (Heartbreaker and his work with Whiskeytown) and then moved on to Demolition, Love Is Hell and everything since then. His newest, Ashes & Fire, is an absolute gem.
After my first crown, I spent a lot of time thinking about the crap I ate as a kid. Serves me right. My teeth have been rotten ever since. The newest root canal was the absolute worst.
I think I’ll stop the comparison now. It’s not fair to RA. But between the Ryan Adams concerts and root canals I have been able to appreciate things with a renewed sense of clarity. And with the holiday season upon us, I found myself feeling pretty darn good. As I sat in the balcony of Carnegie Hall, I was thankful for having discovered a musician whose art continues to move me beyond words. And as I sat in the dentist’s chair (humming RA songs to myself) I was thankful for, well, Novocain.