This is the only time we have two back-to-back songs by the same singer on this countdown. It’s not surprisingly that the singer in question is Tori Amos. Yes, I love her; I’ve said time and time again, proudly so. Still, I hope people don’t assume that this countdown is a thinly veiled way for me to set up an all-hail Tori altar. She has more songs on this list than anyone–four songs in total–but they are not ranked as high as you may expect. I think it’s largely due to the fact that Tori has been an album artist for most of her career, and many of her songs work best in the context of the albums that they’re in.
As great as Tori is when she’s in her full-attack-of-the-banshee mode (think “Siren,” “Spark,” “Cornflake Girl”), I love her even more when her heart is breaking, as it clearly is in these two songs. They take different roads to a similar result. “Northern Lad” finds Tori working herself up to a wailing state of hysteria, her high notes at the end sweeping you into her drama and her heartbreak. In contrast, her cover of “Famous Blue Raincoat” is all about restraint, her sadness shown by what she withholds as opposed to what she shows us. Her version is even more subtle and brittle than Leonard Cohen’s original, and as such, it is all that more poignant.
Speaking of sad and poignant, I’ve decided to not renew my contract at my school. It was not an easy decision to make, trust me. I really like the teachers at my school, and I love the kids (despite the occasional, unavoidable kids-driving-me-nuts moment), but after three years, it’s just time, I feel. I told my vice-principal earlier today, and a few minutes after I did, I started tearing up and had to go to the men’s room for a while to get myself back together. I think the stress that built up all week from having to make my decision just sort of broke through after I actually told someone.
The worst part of it all is going to be telling the kids. Fortunately, the semester ends in mid-July, and I’ll be working the school’s vacation English program until the end of August, so I’ve got at least a little time to prepare myself, because I absolutely refuse to cry in front of the kids. I remember seeing my high school English teacher cry in front of us one time (I think her dad was sick), and it absolutely freaked me about (A teacher CRYING???), and I don’t want to do that to my students. So how will I tell them? I’m not sure, but I’ll man up and figure it out.
What will I do once I leave the school at the end of August? Well, I’m definitely coming back to Korea, but I’m planning to go back to L.A. for a few weeks and do as much traveling as I can on a teacher’s budget. The only plan I have of any certainty is that I’ll be in Paris on my birthday (October 3rd), as I’ve booked my ticket for the Tori Amos concert that night. Paris. Tori. A walk afterwards on the Parisian streets, looking up at the Eiffel Tower. Thinking about my life, my future, the Great American Novel that I hope to write one day. I hope the kids will understand. I’ll be thinking about them, too…