Attention budding music writers, assuming there are still a few of you left who think getting into shows for free is a fair trade for your health, well-being, a decent paycheck and reasonably normal social life: It's not. It's pretty much the opposite. If you choose to go down that road, like we have, the payoffs get smaller as the physical, mental and social price of this life (and lifestyle) gets steeper. Once you reach your mid-30s, every show you see will be like one of those '50s alarm clocks tick-tick-ticking away the remainder of your mortality. And not only that, it's like a joy-buzzer hardwired to your brain, poking and prodding you and asking you time and again, "Is this really how you want to spend the rest of your life?" No. It's not. But this life is all we've known since we were 19, and damned if we know what else we're even qualified to do. We could go back to covering county commissioner's court for the Jasper News-Boy, we guess, or write a sports column for the Houston Chronicle, which seems to be one of the few journalism jobs where knowing how to read or write is not a prerequisite. We have friends on the daily's entertainment desk, so we're just going to hold our tongues about that hot mess. Suck it up, you might say. Get over it. Enjoy the fact that you have a job that most people in the straight world would claw their closest living relative's eyes out to get. To which we say: Fuck off. Come and get it. When a band comes to town we never thought we'd actually see live, a band that rates up there with the Stones and U2 on our personal playlist, and - through no fault of their own - it's still not enough, it's enough to make you start quoting 10,000 Maniacs. What is the matter here? Don't get us wrong: The Pogues were fantastic. Singer Shane MacGowan was as incomprehensible as we had hoped, and the rest of the band hummed along like a finely tuned Celtic-bluegrass Rolls Royce. We're still hoarse from howling like a banshee at "Streams of Whiskey," "If I Should Fall From Grace With God," "Tuesday Morning" (especially) and the other 15-something songs the Irish rovers played Thursday. We wouldn't have traded places with anyone on the planet for those two hours the Pogues were onstage. Today is a different story. Maybe it's a mark of just how good the show was that we feel so hollowed-out and FTW this morning. It reminds us of how we felt the day after U2 - once you've been to the mountaintop, there's nowhere to go but down. We hope so, because otherwise we're really screwed. See you at the Drive-By Truckers tonight, unless we think of something better to do with our lives in the meantime. We don't need a Magic 8-ball to tell you the outlook is unlikely.