I have never been on the porch that John Prine sings about in “My Mexican Home,” but I feel like I could tell you about it. How it smells in the rain and how I’d get splinters when I’d walk on it barefoot. That fan in the window has a cracked nob. When you set it all the way to three, it rattles and squeaks like a honeymoon couple.
This is what happens with a John Prine song. It works its way into your head until it feels like your own memory.
“In writing, there is always a right word,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “and every other than that is wrong.” If the right word can open a doorway to galaxies, Prine was a Buck Rogers.
For me, John Prine first started delivering these memories in 1991. My college girlfriend had been a waitress in a Tennessee club where he played. She had a bootleg cassette tape. It interfered with my education. If I put it on while I studied, I couldn’t study, because I kept listening to the words.
Did he really just rhyme Appalachia and Greyhound station? And then suddenly I was in the galaxy of that gray stone building, all alone.
He wrote about what was there, but also what wasn’t there. Have you ever asked someone a question, only to have them give you too many answers? All those answers convey more than they actually say: “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain / Actually everything is just about the same.”