Day 286: Oh Comely

Miles loved Neutral Milk Hotel and the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.  There are a lot of good songs on it.  As I described in an earlier post, Miles introduced me to the band when he was young.  I listened to the album a lot and after many listens, he told me that it was about Anne Frank.  Duh, I thought, after he told me.  Of course.  It is all there, obscured but it’s there.  Anne Frank.  It all made sense to me and I listened to many times more with new ears.

Miles listened to this album the last day he was alive. He listened to it at work at Woodward at the coffee shop.

Day 167: Two-headed Boy

I was in the attic. I got tired because it was hot and I was stooped over boxes full of old things, sorting stuff out, looking for something important. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I found some nice things like some old pictures I had forgotten about. It was nice to find them.

The attic has a particular piney smell. Attics typically are made with the cheaper wood, the kind of wood that you use when you are not worried about what it looks like. All the oak and cherry is on the first floor. The pine is in the attic—the floors and some beams. All attics are the same.

I lay in one of the beds in the attic and closed my eyes. I let myself be in the place. Miles made his little Shangri-La up there. I spent time in our attic back home when I was his age. It was quiet. Nobody went up there. A part of me has always appreciated the stuff that nobody else likes. If you can learn to enjoy a space that nobody else likes, then there is more of it for you. I eat the gristle and fat. I look for the books in the library that haven’t been checked out in a while. I find the places that nobody else finds and I see what is good about it, discover what is rare in it and special, and I can own it as my own. Nobody else wants it, so I can have it all to myself. Treasure is not an absolute quality.

I was in the bed, eyes closed. I felt back in that time and space in my own life, and when I reach that kind of state sometimes, I feel close to Miles. He was so unlike me yet like me in many ways. I think he also liked the things that are harder to like for most people. We valued some of the same things in things. When I reach those psychological states and find myself reminded powerfully of my own youth, I like to think that I am occupying a mental space that Miles also experienced, but which he experienced in its original raw form, not as a recollection. We may come to it from different directions, but when I reach it I feel like I understand something about myself and him that I never knew before.

When I was in the attic, I found this picture. I always liked it because our smiles are so similar. Neither of us knew it at the time the snapshot was taken. When we developed this roll of film and saw our faces with our little smiles, I realized that Miles is like me and of me and I am like him and of him in a lot of ways, little ways and big ways.


Day 11: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

This song means so much to me.

I first heard “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” when Miles introduced me to it.  We got in the car and he hooked up his iPod to the car stereo.  “You have to hear this song,” he told me.  He played “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel. We listened to it two or three times. He told me about the singer, the band, the mystery surrounding them. He loved the song and the album. I put the album on my own iPod and listened to it many times and also became enthralled.

It was an important moment because now Miles was recommending music to me. After years of introducing him to music and listening together, Miles was now showing me what he liked and we were both liking the same things. He was maybe 12 years old.

This song is also important to me because we included the lyrics in the memorial services we held for Miles in Lewisburg and Morgantown. We looked at his LastFM stream after he died, and we learned that he had listened to Neutral Milk Hotel during the day on August 21, his last day alive. He loved the album and this song in particular, so it was fitting that we remember him through the elegiac lyrics of the “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” At the memorial service for family just a few days after Miles died, John Colatch, chaplain for Bucknell University, read the first two verses printed in our programs and everybody joined him in reciting the final verse. We did the same in Morgantown and in the larger public service held in Lewisburg.

It is hard for me to listen to the song today. I have some powerful associations with Miles and that moment of introduction for me, but it also reminds me too much of the time immediately after his death and the pain feels new again.



“What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all around the sun
What a beautiful dream that could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me
Soft and sweet
Let me hold t close and keep it here with me

And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be
In the arms of all I’m keeping here with me


What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
And we meet on a cloud
I’ll be laughing out loud
I’ll be laughing with everyone I see
Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all”