In May 2021, husband Pete and I will have been together for 25 years. Twenty-five! That’s a very long time. During such a long relationship, you expect things to evolve and change and to be 100% honest, the last 5 or so years have been our best ever. Though we’ve always been best friends, through adversity, we have grown an intense emotional appreciation of each other that we never really had before. It’s wonderful and I’m grateful every day for him and the fact that we stumbled upon each other in a prehistoric chatroom way back in 1996.
All that said, a feature of the evolution of our relationship I never expected to draw us as close as it did was the process of buying our first home together in the summer of 2019. On the scale of first-time homebuyers, we were on the older end of the spectrum. We’d been putting it off for YEARS. A combination of factors, including not wanting to commit to property ownership in Columbus, the challenge of the DC real estate market, our inability to save a decent amount of money, the housing market crash of 2007, and our general fear that something catastrophic would happen as soon as we bought made this step a very low priority. I kind of felt that the *dream of owning one’s own home* was for capitalist saps and it probably wasn’t for us.
Then, Halloween Jack came into our lives. He had a well-documented fraught relationship with poor little Betty and made our one-bedroom apartment just shy of 800 square feet seem way too small for us from my perspective. Pete had been craving more space for years, ideally a work room of his own. Then my dear grandmother passed and left us enough money to think that the whole enterprise was possible. We connected with a friend’s realtor who was willing to hold our hands and stroke our heads throughout the whole process and we were on our way.
Throughout our relationship, Pete has generally let me make most of the lifestyle decisions for us. I have often begged him for more input but honestly, he’s never wanted to put the energy towards it. Which is kind of convenient because if one of us literally has no opinion, there are no arguments. The process of looking for a home, however, was one in which he took an active part. It was really romantic. We’d go into each place, full of hopes and possibilities, discuss what we saw that day in bed before falling asleep. Talked about sweet simple stuff like furniture and where we’d put things. When both of us landed on the 3rd floor corner unit of that funny little building on Lamont Street in Parkview, we figured it must be the place.
The very first thing I selected for our new home was a welcome mat. I don’t know why I had this compulsion, but for whatever reason I thought it was really important that we had a welcome mat as soon as we closed. I’d been interested in getting one that looked like a cassette tape that had a personalized handwritten label but “The Electric Grandmother” exceeded the character limit, so I passed on that and kept looking. I stumbled upon what eventually became our doormat which bears the words “THIS MUST BE THE PLACE” on Etsy and the song became the theme to our new home.
The thing about “This Must Be the Place” is that it’s one of a handful of songs that actually reflects David Byrne’s personal experience. It’s not the detached, third-person, socially-critical work he usually comes up with (which is also great), but it’s the rare, deeply personal Talking Heads song. The person who inspired this love song for the ages is none other than actress, artist, and costume designer, Adelle Lutz. If you’re like me and are extremely pop cultured, but not quite as sophisticated in knowledge of higher art, you probably know her best as Beryl, one of Delia’s artsy friends in the 1988 major motion picture, Beetlejuice. I was hoping she was also responsible for costume design for Beetlejuice so that I could give her credit for Catherine O’Hara’s glove-hat, but I cannot.
Lutz and Byrne were together from 1982 until 2004 and knowing almost nothing about her, I can only assume that she deserves an award for bravery and endurance for sticking it out that long. I cannot imagine the CHORE it must be to be married to David Byrne. That aside, I love that he managed to keep that relationship together for so long because “This Must Be the Place” is an iconic testament to life-long love.
It appears on the Heads’ 1983 album Speaking in Tongues, which is my favorite Talking Heads album. Talking Heads’ other appearance on this list, “Girlfriend is Better” at #49, is also on Speaking in Tongues. I think there’s a small but devoted cult of us who prefer it to their two most lauded albums, Remain in Light and Fear of Music. Funny because Tongues was their first album released after they gave very-involved producer Brian Eno the old heave-ho for being too volatile a collaborator with Byrne. I love Brian Eno. His solo work is amazing and his production work with David Bowie is some of Bowie’s best work. The result of his and Talking Heads’ parting of ways however, to my ear, is a lighter, groovier, more fun version of the band and I’m very much here for it.
But “This Must Be the Place” endures as a perennial favorite of theirs. Nobody doesn’t like this song. Musically, it’s so gentle and sweet, it almost begs for you to miss it, but you can’t. I think my favorite part may even be the lengthy intro, which coming in at almost a minute, is most indicative of the unassuming quality of this beautiful little song. The synth work throughout I think contributes most to the light and sweet sensibility; it almost reminds you of a pan flute. As mentioned in my post about “Girlfriend Is Better,” more than about any other band, I make a point to notice Tina Weymouth’s bass lines because they’re so good and create such an important rice pilaf to the guitar and vocals they’re laid on. “This Must Be the Place” is no exception. It’s as always groovy and drives the song despite its very gentle overall approach.
Lyrically? I can’t. I just can’t. Knowing what we know about David Byrne, his hedging: “I feel numb, born with a weak heart; I guess I must be having fun” and “Home is where I want to be; But I guess I'm already there” make total sense in the context of a gushy love song from him. I’ve always hated the term “settling down,” but that’s what this song is. Finding another person you love so much who loves you equally, the thought of not seeing them everyday is painful. The concept of “home” in this sense is twofold--you live with your chosen partner because you want to be with them as much as possible and being with them is where you’re meant to be. It’s home to be with this other person.
I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with an anxiety disorder and in the last year or so, it has gotten worse. As with a lot of mental health challenges, it’s complicated but really comes down to a crippling fear of death. It gets so bad that sometimes I get passing thoughts about getting rid of all of my stuff so that if I die suddenly, Pete won’t have to go through them and the pain of having to manage it. Or like, if he does something nice for me, I’ll not be able to enjoy it completely because it’s tinged with the sadness that in all likelihood, one of us will have to live without the other for a time. This all sounds absolutely nuts and it’s all trauma speaking, but the struggle, as they say is real. As a result, the lines from “This Must Be the Place” that I feel at my core are:
I'm just an animal looking for a home and
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me 'til my heart stops
Love me 'til I'm dead
I can barely sing along with that part without breaking down. It’s so perfect and so personal. Kills me: a perfect love song.