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Old Chunk Of Coal

Been getting by on song lyrics of late, perhaps in deference to my mother, but also because it’s just what I seem to do in stretches like this. “Old Chunk Of Coal” is Billy Joe Shaver — perhaps the best uncredited songwriter of the last forty years. Not sure what defines good writing, but it’s found in the following:

I’m just an old chunk of coal
But I’m gonna be a diamond some day
I’m gonna grow and glow til I’m so blue-perfect
I’m gonna put a smile on everybody’s face
I’m gonna kneel and pray every day
Lest I should become vain along the way
I’m just an old chunk of coal now, Lord
But I’m gonna be a diamond some day

A hymn to redemption right there and if it all seems free and easy, well good for you. Billy Joe is good buddies with Norm Macdonald and appeared on his short-lived Netflix talk show. Norm noted the use of “chunk” (of coal) as opposed to the more common “lump.” Don’t blink and miss it. Perhaps the difference between knowing and missing God entirely, depending on how you cut your coal.

Up here in Tahoe, one feels closer to these things. At least I do. “Getting away” may be the order of the day, but is increasingly difficult for an old chunk of coal like me. Some recommend going where one has no attachment. But I figure it a personal thing, like lyrics. Sometimes you need to connect to the past in order to let go. I knew a woman who commented on my habit of moving from bed to couch early morning to facilitate sleep. “Trying to get away from yourself” she reckoned. The great Kelly Neese put that in perspective for me with “what a crock of shit.”

Thought I had more than I did .. guess that’s why you keep playing Billy Joe Shaver sometimes. And bringing logs in for the fire to fend off the late-May snow. Some winters last longer than others.

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