Meg Hutchinson

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in March 2010

by Bob Edwards

Some weeks ago I had a rare day on which no interviews were booked.  A day like that is perfect for wading into the mountain of music cd’s that accumulate on my desk.  I give each artist two songs.  If the second song doesn’t grab me, the cd goes to the reject pile. On this day, the reject pile was climbing pretty high.    Then I tried The Living Side, by Meg Hutchinson. Meg got me with the first words of the first track titled Hard to Change: “Train whistling home in the dark—-Christmas lights up in the trailer park.” With those very spare words I have both audio and visual cues.   She went on like that—-supplying multi-dimensional images in a song about class and economic justice. I didn’t need the second song to decide we were going to have her on the show, but after that first, I longed to hear them all.   None of them disappointed me.   My favorite is called Gatekeeper and it’s dedicated to Kevin Briggs, a motorcycle patrolman with the Marin County, California police department. Meg had read about Briggs in a 2003 New Yorker story about the Golden Gate Bridge as a final destination for people who want to end their lives.   Briggs intervened when people looked like they were about to jump off the bridge. His technique was to ask two questions to which he already knew the answers. “How do you feel?”    “What are your plans for tomorrow?” When told there no plans, Briggs would say, “Well let’s make some—and if they don’t work out, you can always come back here.” Briggs said he’d been successful all 200 times he’d done this.   A guy like that deserves a song—and Gatekeeper is a gem.

Click here to read the New Yorker article about Kevin Briggs.

Click here to learn more about Kevin Briggs and his work since retiring from the California Highway Patrol.