I am losing my SHIT, listening over and over to this song by John K. Samson called "Letter in Icelandic from the Ninette San". I wanna write a better page about this but for now until I have time to get this sorted properly here's basically my stream of consciousness about it. Please listen to the song if you wanna know wtf I'm on about.

At first it's like "ok, idk who this guy is talking to, or about, but that's fine." and then the first bang hits you

and it's halloween
skinny ghosts dress like cowboys and rest
at the railing by my door
on their way from the children's ward

the pauses here are so heavy and leave you on the edge of your seat, then when you finally hear the lines all you are left with are questions. the first time I heard it, I didn't even register that the "skinny ghosts" are dressed up for halloween, mistakenly picturing ghost costumes. they rest on the railing, skinny and possibly tired? and then oh. from the children's ward. of course, this is written from a sanatorium. ok but who's the writer? I first thought it might've been a doctor or something

but you don't have time to really think about it before you're already hearing about the halloween party.

bev monroe and his pembina valley boys play at the party
and I practice my english on nurses "oh that's a nice name"
and they may ask for mine but the burns on my back from the x-rays
say I shouldn't show anyone anything ever again"

GOD. DAMN. not pauses this time but kind of a stream of consciousness. you can just picture the writer of the letter at the party, smile of the conversation up to this point just running away from his face as he's asked for his name. from what I understand, people would travel around doing x-rays on folks to check for TB, and then ship them off to a sanatorium right away if they found it. of course the tech back then was likely to come with some side effects like burns, and it's so evocative to think of the physical scars as an analogue to the traumatic experience of going through that, and understandably never wanting to be that vulnerable again.

it's at this point that I thought "ok I really need to listen to this thing properly" and fell headfirst into a spiral of just relistening to it and marveling at John K. Samson's incredible skill at not only writing powerful lyrics but also tying it together with a memorable tune and a pacing that just feeds you every detail right as you need it.

I highly recommend giving the song a listen and reading about the inspiration behind the song straight from the horse's mouth, in a Q&A done with John K. Samson back in 2012, which I'll quote below:

So, back in the 1920s and 30s, there used to be a tuberculosis van that would head out from the Ninette Sanatorium and tour towns and take x-rays of citizens, and if you were found to have TB you would often be shipped off on the train to Ninette Manitoba and you wouldn't know how long you'd be there or if you'd even survive. And at the same time I was studying this town of Riverton Manitoba where there are all these Icelandic immigrants, which is where my family is from. It's the biggest Icelandic population outside of Iceland. So I invented this fiction about these two brothers whose father has died and they're taking care of their mother—they saved up enough money to buy a boat—and they're fishing on Lake Winnipeg, and the older brother gets tuberculosis and is shipped off to Ninette and the younger brother is left there to take care of the family and the business. That's not what he wants to do with his life, so he writes kind of complaining letters to his older brother in the San saying this isn't what I want to do. And the dying brother finally writes back and says "well, you're just going to have to forget about me and forget about the family and get on with your life and go."