“Anything But Mine” Scooter Carusoe and Kenny Chesney

Like Peter Pan, Scooter Carusoe isn't a real boy. But he feels the salt-tinged pang of a moment lost to the wind and the night and the perfection that is memory if you don't mess with it. Kenny Chesney has always represented the essence of the truth of young fresh-faced America -- it is first love, first kisses, first yearnings, first conquests, first heartaches; and in his hands, it is ardent, deep, sweet, savory, unspoiled. For a young man who is a mirror, Kenny Chesney is remarkable in his ability to maintain an innocence and the distance to be a universal truth. He is Everyboy -- feeling every emotion, every nuance, every truth for the first time -- and in that, he shares from an emotional center that's far deeper than even the songs that have built him a franchise. Given the profound nature of discovery, that's saying something. And with "Anything But Mine," a track from what will no doubt be his biggest album in a career of big albums, he has found a way to scrape the need all the way back to blood and bone and sinew. It is desire laid bare, the notion of loss and want merged like bodies in a tangle of human communion, reaching for something holy and delivering and indelible and exquisite. Perfect. On so many levels. A picture painted to where you're in the shadows, watching two young lovers finding each other against the strings of white lights that dot any midway worth its skee ball games and ferris wheels, sensing the two hearts beating against rib cages that ache to get locked in the other. A melody that pulls you out from the shore, out past the breakers and the bobbing buoy lights to keep sailors from the jagged rocks that protect the beach with its melancholy and throbbing pledge of something that is yet to be understood. Add a vocal that's cracked at the edges like weathered paint, creaking like a fence that's seen it all three times over, strong with the want and gentle with the knowing that it will be satisfied from a place ensconced in essence that defies language. If Kenny Chesney is the squint of looking into the sun across the horizon, it is always bigger things that he has been seeking. But bigger isn't always grander, sometimes it is truer, it is softer, it is kinder, it is the unassailable beauty of love for its own sake. And in "Anything But Mine" -- even with it's admission "she laughs when I tell her I love her cause we both know it isn't true…," which singer, subject and listener know may well be the greatest lie EVER told -- this is where the simplicity of desire and need and yearning melt down into a pool of what everyone is looking for. Kenny Chesney didn't write "Anything But Mine," the most perfect song Bruce Springsteen didn't get his paws on. It is a moment torn from a seaside breezeway and boardwalk, a little faded and world-weary -- renewed by the promise of human connection unfolding, electric with hope and joy and the euphoria of the innocence that is love taking root. These are the moments where against what was and what knows, two hearts tiptoe out to the threshold and then fall into each other's deepest pockets, delighted in the smothering emotions that allow them to fly. Bruce Springsteen understood that it's the moments anyone can inhabit that are the most eloquent, the connections that bind us together -- even when it's hard or plain or just ordinary -- that define something important within each of us. To Bruce Springsteen, the common was the truest currency; the basic was where the truth was. And when he wrote songs celebrating those things, we all felt somehow more -- basking in the dignity and heroism that elevates us as we live lives that're unseen. Because even if we're never the object of a network special, a hit single or a major sporting feat, we are. The being is enough. The only thing that makes us more is our idealized reflection in another's eyes. Which isn't the gilded thrill of fame, but the recognition that in our flawed reality we are beautiful to another person -- flaws and all, we are everything in their world. In that moment, the universe opens and we are whole in ways we couldn't have imagined before that circle of two came together. People are flawed. Venal. Petty. Missing all kinds of attributes. There is no way to eradicate the little snags and shortcomings that make us, well, human. And if we spend our lives chasing the perfect other, we shall spend our lives chasing shadows on the beach, ghosts of never were, specters of can never happen and promises that are merely self-projected mockeries. A recent conversation with a dear friend who'd finally bagged the checklist -- gorgeous, smart, accomplished, good job, seemingly into him -- proved the point. It is not about the perfect person, but the person who is perfect for you. Because it is when two people with good hearts and simpatico souls come together, they become more. Whatever the quibbling points might be, they are erased in the recognition that this other person fills in their gaps, helps them through the stumbling places. Their spirit is such that, it gives them wings when the night is cold or the doubts are ravines. And they want to reach out, carry the other over the rough spots, reassure in the faltering places. We are nowhere near ideal. And our idealized notions are tricks and cruel jokes on ourselves. The best that we can hope for is finding that person who makes us more. Which is just what Scooter Carusoe -- a figment in his own rite -- served up. He knows that Mary, a girl who carries her shoes "because she likes to feel the sand under her feet," offers acceptance of the moments, the man, the memories. This is a girl with wide open heart, a true soul and a deep longing. In the singer, she sees someone who sees her -- and so she gives herself wholly. It is a scary thing -- giving so much, as a local band plays and two sweaty bodies cling to each other like driftwood in the ocean, the only hope for survival the recognition of one's true self in the other's eyes. It is also the only option. For once you know, you can't not know. They say that this knowledge is a trap. That love is an obligation. That the inevitable is a cul de sac, which will return you to knowing wiser, though slightly more bruised. That is certainly the cynic’s course. It is logic personified. It is also a slow death. I am not a brave girl. I have a bold heart -- and I midwife dreams for a living. I will stand up to or for, take a punch, knock down someone who's out of line, though would absolutely prefer to kill'em with kindness. You walk the wires of conflicting agendas in the name of passion for a living, you learn to dodge bullets, dance faster, exhale slowly. I can -- as Ginger Rogers is so famous for - dance backwards in high heels. But when the night is descending, there is an echo that can't be stopped. You can build a dreamhouse, but what if no one can meet the price? What if no one understands the profundity of what's before him or her? Not that it was done as a show… no merely a commitment to the life that was given, the talents that defined what was possible. You look into the night. You consider the stars. You pull your sweater closer. You shake your head, as you turn and head back into the house. And you pine for that moment when you find yourself tilting a little bit forward -- captivated by what you see looking back at you. Potential clients all get the same warning: Look into my eyes and make sure you fall in love with what you see, because what you see reflected back at you is what I'm going to sell to people. As I believe you to be, as this mirror that is my soul sees you, that is how you will be explained… and if you are not comfortable with that, then you will never be comfortable here. What greater gift: to be seen as your best, most golden self. To have that moment when all the possibilities are laid out before you… when the shortcomings just are, but they're obscured by every good and gracious aspect of whom you are. It is the thing we all require, the notion we fear admitting -- even to ourselves -- for fear of imploding on vanity, impaling ourselves on ego or descending into the realm of parody. For as much as we want to believe, it takes an independent jury… okay, just one true heart that we can put our faith in to deliver us from the avarice of the soul. Arrogance disguised as "self-confidence." Ego. Conceit. Delusion. It ultimately is more about doubt, imperfections, futility. Until… Like happily ever after, the person who truly loves us, loves us faults and all. They understand. They cherish. They believe. They believe in us when we can't. Anything is plenty. And we don't have enough we can give them. If Courtney Love once served up a "Go on, take everything, take everything/I want you to…" as an enraged, taunting defiance of servitude; in the hands of transformative love, it's the least we can give -- and the most we can get. We race to share, to offer, to console, to listen, to revel. There isn't enough within that moment to quell the pounding of the heart, the racing of the pulse, the rush of the blood through our bodies or the heat that is creeping through our skin. We are consumed -- and it is a simple, almost unnoticed thing that is pulling us under, burning us whole. It is everything worth surrendering to -- and the joyous death of whatever fears we had is in and of itself a reason for loving. There's a winsome twinge when Chesney sings, capturing the picture -- trying to get his legs under him as he balances against the tide of his emotions and the overwhelming reality of the moment. This is a song of wanting to be enough, of recognizing what the stakes are, what the cost is, trying to create a reality where you can cope, even as you scramble to slurp up every last bit of intoxication that is this girl, this night, this feeling. It is the kind of moment where there is no fear, only urgency. With a quiet guitar figure that circles and repeats, brushes on a high hat, some organ pads, this is a track that moves from the ground up, holding back against what the boy is willing to reveal. This is high stakes poker cast against what to many would be the mundane -- a way to kill the fetid evening - but it is in the interaction that everything changes. Everything changes. We are more. They are more. It is more. Love makes the world -- and the carnival games go round. Local bands churn out the hits and classics, laughter and cheap beer setting the tone. Hair falls across one's eyes; the other's hands sweep it back. We are fearless because we are safe. The risk is calculated. We already know the outcome -- right down to the notion that "In the morning, I'm leaving/ Making my way back to Cleveland/ So tonight I hope that I'll do just fine… I don't see how you could ever be/ Anything but mine…" If it is merely a summer romance, it has given both people a notion of what is possible. And again, once you know, you can't not know. Once you've experienced the purity of true love, you know it is attainable -- if only you'll let go of the side of the pool, immerse yourself in another's gaze and best intentions instead of always holding back and waiting for the other person to lead. The vulnerability being wielded here -- the velvet club to bludgeon the baby seal to love -- opens up a whole new realm of possibility for these songs. This is the real deal, where the rubber meets the road and the deeper, darker, richer, more satisfying love exists. If you've ever been hurt badly, betrayed by a callous soul, this can be a tough order to swallow. But if you don't, you resign yourself to a life of slow suffocation -- understanding what it can be, unable to get to the place you yearn to make your stand. Nothing feels as sweet or as right as that moment when you see yourself reflected in the eyes of someone who sees you as you are. That sense of totally okay, utterly cherished will take your breath away, make you weak in the knees, sweep you away to places you hadn't imagined. Faith and trust. They exist within all of us. If we can't believe that, we can believe in this song. In Mary and the boy who's transfixed by whatever he sees… The young man who confesses, "There's a summer drawing to a close tonight/ And there's so much I yearn to do you…" in a naked way that says "here I am, take me as I am… give me whatever you have… let me be the most me that you see…" It's an act of blind submission. But it is also an act of strength. To be able to just put it out there, to know that the admission will be fielded is bravery personified -- reaching out with the belief that other person will reach back. Though if you lead with your heart, who but the most shortsighted or self-absorbed wouldn't respond? If the summer is dying, there is nothing left to lose. Except the loneliness. The moments that will haunt you. For who wants to live, alone in a room somewhere, turning over images, Polaroid’s of what was like so many lost soldiers or good fairies that circle around your head like a crown of roses and thorns? Who wants a kingdom of what was when there is so much to hang onto? Brave, yes. But what's the real risk? Compared to letting perfection pass? Timing is nothing. Geography negotiable. The human heart knows no maps. Cleveland, wherever. Long distance, highways, airplanes -- there are bridges to physical separation. Close your eyes. Let go. Let it come. Let it wash over you. Let it take you places you didn't dare dream of. And smile; always smile at how much, how good, how strong it can feel. There is an "oooooh-ooooooo" before the final chorus that speaks far more than language. In that soul-baring utterance, there's a feral need -- something far below the cognizant, something that would not be stuffed down or denied. This is a truth that is bigger than two people, two hearts, one summer… it is an actualization with a backbeat. If there is a separation coming, with the sorrow of what is being temporarily denied, there is also a sense of a connection that will last long past snow or miles or minutes. To underscore the point, the song dies out… as the echo of your heart resounds between your ears, a transistor radio echo seems to well up. It is a sound from long ago, pulling things -- emotions, pictures, people -- from deep inside you. As the surf is implied, the tears threaten to well up for that one boy or girl who shall always haunt you, who set a unicornish ideal to haunt you until you can finally surrender wholly again, Chesney's voice comes up dryer than kindling in the desert. It Is brittle, like an old black and white photo or a flower pressed between the pages of a yearbook or Bible, and it reminds you that the passage of time without any blood or sweat takes its toll. It is a siren's song across time and place… a clarion call for what was, what should be, what cannot be relinquished. Indeed, what should never be surrendered. These are the moments that make us more -- standing naked before the universe, love in our veins, night at our feet, infinity before us. My life has been a parade of exits, of leaving, of the next place, next gig, next right-on, whatever. A dear friend once wrote, "You don't take prisoners when you live on the run/ And this town it can finish anything you've begun…," which is a valiant but cruel truth. One day, you wake up, sweep out the bits of the summer and look into the briskness of autumn -- and then you know, as surely as you've known anything in your entire life, you've been had. Run, then, quickly. Capture what is true. Hold it close. It is all you have. As Bob Seger offered at the end of his seminal song of lost youth, innocence and young love, "Woke last night to the sound of thunder/ How far off I sat and wondered/ Started humming a song from 1962/ Ain't it funny how when you just ain't got as much to lose/ Ain't funny how the night moves… with autumn closing in." It was an elegy that shouldn't have been. For Kenny Chesney, it is a song that is not quite over yet. It can go either way. It is an act of will. It is an act of rebellion against the fear and the darkness and the doubts that go bump in the night. Helen Keller said, "It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness…" For Scooter Carusoe and Kenny Chesney who opens an artery of emotion in the name of a lost moment, this is his eternal flame.
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