Last night I got to spend some time with my friend Sam. We hadn't hung out, just the two of us, for a while - maybe not since June was born, if I really think about it. Sometime in the next month, Sam will become a dad. We've somehow been friends for nearly a decade. When I got in his car last night, he had R.E.M.'s Out of Time in the CD player, and I don't know if he chose it because he knew I would appreciate it, but I did. "Texarkana" was on. We got stuck in traffic, because it was rush hour in Seattle, but it was okay, because we were talking about being kids listening to R.E.M., Automatic for the People especially, and all the Big Feelings we were just starting to know then, feelings set to the soundtrack of Michael Stipe's voice. I remember being thirteen, or maybe fourteen, dancing alone in my bathroom to "Sitting Still," in the rental house we lived in that year, between the house on Westchester and the house on Elmhurst. I was once fifteen years old, lying on my bedroom floor in a black t-shirt and a pair of too-big men's pants that I bought at a thrift store for fifty cents, listening to "Find the River" and sobbing, absolutely sobbing, without knowing why. I didn't like "Everybody Hurts," but for the most part, when I listen to Automatic for the People, I get a sense that I'm witnessing a person at the height of his power, the height of his art, the same feeling I get when I watch Stevie Nicks sing the demo version of "Wild Heart." I'd never really thought of R.E.M. as a band I particularly loved, but I've now spent all morning now listening to them, Murmur to "Oh My Heart," and it's been the best morning I can remember.