This is the last Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. column.
I’ve been thinking about how to write this one for a year or so, ever since I made the decision to end TM3AM at the close of 2020. Of course, when I decided to draw the curtain, I had no idea the year we would be in for, and no idea how that year would change my perspective on things.
While 2020 has been a never-ending nightmare of isolation and anxiety, it’s also paradoxically drawn me closer to the most important people in my life, and it’s made me even more certain that I want to spend my precious time differently. I’m not the same person I was 12 months ago, and I’m sure what I have to say now will be different from what I imagined I would have to say, back in another lifetime.
This column has been a part of my life for 20 years. Well, I say that, but it’s actually been more like 23 years. I started chronicling my life as an obsessive fan of new music back when I worked for Face Magazine. I’m not absolutely sure where the name came from. It’s a double reference to Simon and Garfunkel and to midnight sales at record stores, which used to take place on Tuesday mornings. But I have no idea why I thought of those things together and came up with Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. All I can tell you is that it’s the best name I have ever thought up for anything.
If you count the Face Magazine incarnation, TM3AM has been written in six states. It was a constant as I moved around the country, searching for my magnetic north. I started the online version of it in Tennessee in 2000, back when dial-up was still a thing and downloading a song on Napster took like 18 hours. (Not that I ever did that.) I started writing it for me, and emailed it out to a few friends. I know people who are still reading this from that initial email list, and I can’t tell you how wonderful that makes me feel.
I wrote this thing once a week, more or less, while working at a weekly newspaper in Indiana, while working at a factory in Maryland, while writing for a daily paper in Illinois, while maintaining my own Patch.com website for the town I still live in, while translating particle physics into English at Fermilab, and now while writing about all kinds of different things at my new place of employment. It has outlasted every relationship I’ve had (and I have had a few while writing it), and it has brought so many new people into my life.
It’s that last one that I am most grateful for. I certainly don’t want to list everyone I’ve met as a result of doing this column, for fear of leaving some people out. But the friendships and relationships it has brought me have meant the world to me, and I hope to keep talking about music with all of you. Even if you just count the conversations and concerts with people I have met through this column, TM3AM has been a net positive in my life.
So why am I ending it? Well, for the same reason I started it, really. I love music, and writing about it each week was detracting from that love. I don’t know how to put it any more plainly. Listening to music is one of the greatest joys of my life, and for the past few years that has been overshadowed by the constant need to have something to say about that music, or to defend my tastes. It’s like I have often said: You should keep doing something only until it isn’t fun anymore. And then you should do it for another couple years just to make sure it isn’t fun, before finally giving it up.
But listen, all that is beside the point. When it’s time to let something go, it’s just time. Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. has been a part of my life for 20 years. I can barely fathom that, honestly. I don’t even have words for how different my life is now than it was 20 years ago, but if I want to remember what I was thinking in just about any given week from those 20 years, I can go back and read it. That’s amazing to me. I’m proud of the fact that I kept at it, that I wrote more than 1,000 of these things, that what started as a writing exercise grew into a significant part of my weekly life.
If you’ve been with this column from the start, I don’t even know how to thank you. That’s not to say that I’m not grateful for everyone who has discovered TM3AM at any point in its history. Even if you only read one of these, I’m thankful. But here at the end, I wanted to say a special thanks to those who have been reading for 20 years. When I think about that, about people making my words a part of their lives for two decades, I confess I get emotional. I’m beyond thankful for that. Like, there isn’t a word for how thankful I am for that.
One person I will name, who has been with me for all of these 20 years, is Mike Ferrier. He designed the website you are reading now, and the one you may have read before that. He’s been a constant source of encouragement, and deserves my most public thanks for everything he has done for TM3AM.
Music continues to be the best. I started this as a way of chronicling what my life was like. How excited I get, still, at new album announcements from my favorite artists. How delighted I am to discover new songsmiths, and to get in on the ground floor of their careers. How engrossed I can still get in an album, blocking out all other sensory information and getting lost in the music. How my experience of music influences the way I see the world, the way I interact with people, the way I approach most everything. I hope, by collecting 20 years of these moments, that I wove a bigger picture of what it’s like to be someone like me. If I’ve helped you understand the obsessive music fan in your life a little better, I consider that my job done.
Even though this column is ending, my love of music will continue, most likely until they put me in the ground. I hope, if our paths have crossed, that I have spoken to your love of music too, and hopefully sparked it in some way. For all the words I have poured into this, I still feel like that love is beyond description, that my desire to explain and share it was an impossible one. Music is beyond us all. We do what we can, but we are stumbling around in the dark, trying to describe the indescribable.
So this is the last Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. column, at least for now. I will still have the login code for this website, and I may pop in here and there when the mood strikes me. I’m still working out new ways to share my love of music with the world, and I’ll make sure to mention those here when they become more concrete. For now, let these 20 years of scribblings stand by themselves. I don’t know what I intended to say in this space, but right now, I feel like there are only two words that matter.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
You’ve been lovely, and it’s been my joy and honor to write for you for the past 20 years. Be good to each other. I will miss you.
One last time, with feeling:
See you in line Tuesday morning.