I had sent an acoustic recording of four songs I’d laid down in my basement on a Tascam 4-track to a radio show called Pittsburgh Rocks (I think) on Magic 97 (if that’s what it was called then). Steve Hanson and Joe Grushecky were the hosts and I remember, as I listened one night, Joe saying something favorable about the writing on the song they were about to play. Then it started and the chord progression was strangely familiar. It was my song! I sprinted up the basement stairs and screamed for my family to come listen. Mass jubilation commenced. I felt like I was walking on air.

A few years later, in 1994, that same feeling of world-dominating euphoria overtook me when the intro to “Better Off Without Me” first came through the airwaves of WYEP. The music director at the time had heard the record and we knew he liked it, so we were all on high alert. But still, nothing prepares you for that moment when the thing that has been so personal and, kind of, cathartic to write and record, is shot out into the world (or, okay, the small portion of Pittsburghers tuned into WYEP at that moment.) It is a total high.

“Better Off Without Me.”

That was the song they chose to play. The lead-off track on our first record.

We had our day in the sun, and it was a good day…

Remembered euphoria aside, it’s a little sad that 26 years later the song still rings true. I sometimes still make myself hard to love begging the question of those trying to – might I be better off without him? Luckily, the drama required to write songs about stuff like this is just another of the illusions I mentioned in my previous essay and, these days, the seeing through is coming a bit more easily.

So are you better off without me?

For today, at least, I say, no.