. . .
He’s probably not going to read this, but I blame Jay. Not for me getting sick, but for where I was when it first dawned upon me that I must have caught food poisoning.
It was September 2004, the second night of our first visit to New York City and Rox & I were at Jay and Emily’s apartment in Brooklyn, having just had a lovely dinner — not the meal that got me sick, nope, I’m pretty sure that was an undercooked burger I’d eaten at a dubious-looking joint during lunch — and just as we were going to ready to head back to our hotel in mid-town Manhattan, Jay asked me if I’d heard Tift Merritt’s Tambourine.
I hadn’t, so he said he’d rip me a copy of it. But of course, back then, copying CDs basically were done in real time, adding 45 minutes to our visit. By which time, I was not feeling well. In fact, before we even got on the Tube — that’s what they call it in New York, right? — I knew I wasn’t feeling right. But we decided to power through, and because we didn’t know New York City well enough to know where to get off in order for me to, um, you know, I was in terrible shape, looking exactly like someone you don’t want to set next to when you’re riding the subway.
It was, honestly, one of the shittiest experiences of my life, and the whole time I was trying not to, well, explode in public, I kept thinking, goddamn it, I shouldn’t have waited to get a copy of that fucking album!! We made it back to the hotel, and to quote one of the most formative books of my childhood, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, will draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.
That said, Jay was right: Tambourine was a pretty fantastic record, featuring ringers like Lone Justice’s Don Heffington on the drums and as the lead guitarist, one Mike Campbell, who was spot-on on tracks like “Write My Ticket,” “Shadow in The Way” and especially “Write My Ticket,” as his understated leads underscored Merritt’s extraordinarily clear vocals and splendid melody line on a chorus about someone who decided she had enough of where she was and just wanted to go home.
I got to get back in the arms of a man who loves me
I got to get back to the people who have always been proud of me
Take me back, I was wrong
Write my ticket home
Also helping out were the backing vocal trio Neal Casal, Gary Louris and Maria McKee, the latter two from the Jayhawks and Lone Justice, providing spot-on harmonies throughout that chorus, making “Write My Ticket” an utterly memorable song.
Merritt has continued to record, of course, and my favorite album of hers outside of Tambourine is 2012’s Traveling Alone.
And that remains the only time in my life I’ve ever got food poisoning.
“Write My Ticket”
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