Category Archives: Music

Save us, David Lee Roth! Only YOU can Make America Fun Again.

Lean in, Millenials and the Next Named Generation – I’d like to tell you about a magical period known as “The Mid to Late 80s.”

I’ve been thinking about this glorious time for weeks, but it was really hammered home to me yesterday, when my tiny Connecticut town hit a new low for March – 3 degrees with a negative-teen windchill. And what did my Google Play decide to thrust into its shuffle?

“Goin’ Crazy” by David Lee Roth. A song about quitting your job to run off to tropical locales. A song about joyous hedonism. A song about being warm.

dlrbeach

This is not fair.

When I got over crying, I got inspired. So now I have to share the Good News of Van Halen and David Lee Roth.  Gather ’round!

For the young or uninformed, or shall I say “yoUNgInformed”: David Lee Roth is a retired magician, capable of lightening any mood — that’s his skill. He was sometimes referred to as a “rock star.”

People like DLR and his magician’s assistants/other members of Van Halen are rare nowadays. You see, somewhere in the gothy, nevermind-whatever-I’m too cool for this-90s, we lost track of these people, and they nearly went extinct, we thought.

Turns out, they just went underground. DLR is still very much alive, and you can even see him sing his little songs and incantations on stages sometimes, and often with is former friends in Van Halen, when they’re not in some sort of recovery. (Kidding EVH – I’m proud of you for getting clean!)

So I want to help our yoUNgInformed, who say things like “I wasn’t born when that came out so how could I ever know it” even though they’re the first generation to have lifetime WiFi and Google privileges. That excuse is so tired, I can tell you don’t even believe it. You just weren’t raised right. Let me help.

You, too, can learn to point your browser back to the 80s – back to when MTV ruled the world with these little five-minute masterpieces known as “music videos.” The name itself almost conjures up that crackly, standard-definition plagued TV sound that came out of just two little speakers and no surround sound, much less a Bose soundbar or other high-falutin’ accouterments.

Some of the TVs were still black and white. Did you young’ns know color didn’t exist until the 50s, like AT ALL? Pepperidge Farm remembers…

Yes, there were these little mini-TV programs that used to occupy all our time while we waited for iPhones to be invented and for your brilliance to fill us with so much hope that we finally feel complete! (Just kidding, we’re Gen X. That’ll never happen.)

But among the most notable was David Lee Roth’s magical epoch – roughly 1983 to 1988. It was a time filled with scandal, outrage, old-ass presidents and rich people being paraded about like circus animals that we were supposed to want to be like.

It was a greedy time, and it led to a lot of assholes wandering the earth. But you can’t blame my beautiful Gen X for that one. That was the boomers. We Xers were just trying to find a quiet place to get away from those jerks. Hence our saturation of the world in flannel and emo in our first act as Ruling Generation. Which sort of set the whole fun 80s thing back forever. So yeah, it’s my duty as a proxy from the Fun Killing 90s to inform you of the fun time before it.

Sorry we killed your mojo, DLR. The 90s would like to formally apologize.

Sorry we killed your mojo, DLR. The 90s would like to formally apologize.

In that time, before we’d gone sour on the whole world and lost trust in everyone and everything, we believed rock n’ roll could save our mortal souls. And the Bible didn’t tell us that, but we didn’t care. For the first time, kids had access to SCANDALOUS stuff on TV. Women in bikinis, scrambled satellite feeds where you could almost make out nipples if you stayed on the channel long enough, and music videos.

David Lee Roth’s “California Girls” helped to establish some body shame for me, but it also made me happy. Goddamn. It was just FUN.

Fun for everyone. I watched that video no fewer than 357 times and I still marvel at its greatness. Somehow he made a bunch of beautiful women stand so still that at the end, I believed they weren’t real. Until that woman’s hand moved when DLR took the sunglasses out of it. Don’t act like you don’t remember. I’m remembering this, BTW, without having seen the video in 10 or more years.

But that was just the beginning for DLR. He went on to do the video for “Just a Gigolo,” which still makes me laugh. I quote it all the time and if people get it, I make them swear to be my best friend forever. (The sheepish looks of agreement are worth it.)

I remember this most: “YOU’VE GOT CHARASMA!”

Which leads me to the song that inspired these words: “Goin’ Crazy.” I don’t know if Google Play is trying to make me enjoy winter more or what – but it’s played a TON during The Cold Times. I heard it yesterday morning when my heater was struggling so hard to keep up, the house was still only 62 degrees. I laughed aloud. DLR, you did it again, you brilliant bastard. (Codpiece aside.) (No, not like that.)

“Well, here I’m rollin’ down another sunny highway,

Been in the sun too long.

I’m goin’ coconuts but least I’m goin’ my way,

I’ll prob’bly be here when that sun goes down.

I want to live it up, want to quit my job,

Tell the boss to go to hell.

I ain’t complainin’, you do the best with what you got.

I know you’re laughin’ ’cause it’s easy to tell

I’m goin’ crazy,

Goin’ crazy,

Oo, from the heat…”

Get a load of that shit. It’s easy-peasy perfection. No women-hating, no violence, no threats, no demons, no promises of wealth—just “Hey guys let’s party.”

That’s an attitude we could ALL embrace. And even you Baptists.

I don’t mean let’s all watch Miami Vice and do lines of coke off each other. I just mean – let’s lighten the hell up a bit. Oh, I’m sorry Baptists – let it henceforth be knowneth that youeth should lighteneth the Effith Uppith.

(I was raised a bit Baptist, Episcopalian, Catholic and Evangelical but I also listened to Slayer. Pardon my jokes. I don’t mean them. God said it was cool.)

But it dawned on me yesterday morning that I take myself way too seriously sometimes too. My stressful job, which I’m grateful to have every single day, shouldn’t be treated like medical science. I help make sports TV, not do rocket surgery.

But David Lee Roth, and by extension Van Halen, have been on to something for decades. What started with “Running With the Devil” by VH – a song that sounds ominous but includes a slide whistle – turned into “Unchained” and “Atomic Punk,” then the ubiquitous “Jump,” followed by DLR’s only mopey love song, “I’ll Wait” (which is funny in its own way – such good photography!) and then my favorite, “Panama.” Then the masterpiece, if you ask 80s kids – “Hot for Teacher.”

togo-rothDLR went solo shortly after all that. I remember hating that but loving all the DLR videos. How could you be mad? I mean, until Sammy Hagar came into the picture. But that’s another Van Halen blog that’s been written to death. (He was better than Gary Cherone but I digress.)

From “Goin’ Crazy” EP and then “Eat ‘Em and Smile,” we got “Yankee Rose” (“WELL LEMME ROLL UP TO THE SIDEWALK AND TAKE A LOOK HERE”… WOAH!) and “That’s Life” and DLR’s nearly-flawless version of “Tobacco Road.”

When was the last time an album that wasn’t by They Might Be Giants that FUN?

It’s been a good long minute. And DLR, we could use some of your charm now. You influenced so many bands in the late 80s – Poison, Ratt, all the sappy glam acts – but no one had your… well, CHARASMA. It’s time David Lee Roth comes out of retirement and makes a great solo album, or appoints a successor.

We somehow killed the fun out of the late 80s. Of course it probably had something to do with all that hatred, racism, anti-gay rhetoric, pearl-clutching, hypocrisy, woman-hating, war, poverty, neglect – all that shit. Stuff we’re wading head first into now. We’ve got wiretaps and Russians and presidential chaos – oh my – just like in the 80s. We need a resurgence of “I JUST NEED TO HAVE SOME FUN AND LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH YOU” music. We need DLR.

Come on, DLR. Didn’t you have some kids or something? Get a band back together. Save us, David Lee Roth. You’re our only hope.

Unless you think maybe Eddie Van Halen should do it instead… (See, if I start a band fight, maybe they’ll have a public meltdown and then a very public get-back-together moment that could bring us a new version of “Hot for Teacher” or something… “Hot for Seniors” or something.)

Just, someone please make some good music. Someone, make a musical salve that can chill us all out and make us shut up and listen for a few minutes. Please. I beg of you, in the good name of Van Halen and other bands of their ilk. Save us from ourselves.

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Filed under Fun!, General Nonsense, Music, Personal musings, Politics?, TV

Watching the birds (and wheels): John Lennon’s lessons are alive and well

Ringo may be my favorite Beatle – but only because he’s an underdog, and I always support underdogs.

But let’s be honest here… John is really, truly my favorite.

That’s because I’ve always wanted to be like Mr. Lennon. Our birthdays are a few days (and 30 or so years) apart, and that may have something to do with it.

Lennon’s vision of peace, love, understanding and doing what you want with your life has always emboldened me, made me feel like I wasn’t alone for being this big ol’ sap with a bit of a revolutionary bent and a romantic heart the size of the Harlequin library.

In times like our current political climate, I wish John was here. I wish he could put into beautiful words and music what we’re all going through – and urge us to give peace a chance. Because, let’s face it – that’s what we should be after. We should be encouraging that in all walking facets of life, not just looking for our side to win.

But politics is not why I decided to write today.

It’s another John Lennon song that has my attention today, and it’s helped me get through some stuff in the past:

I feel like I’ve reached this point in my life. As I sit here on a fairly gorgeous fall day in my little mountain town, I’m thoroughly happy watching the birds at my feeder. All different types have made my backyard home, with a few more babies coming each day. Tiny tufted titmice, charming little chickadees, bodacious blue jays, charismatic cardinals and nutty nuthatch (they eat upside down from the feeder and kind of bob-and-weave when they fly. They’re hilarious.) New to the party are the glorious goldfinch (wearing fall brown), brown-headed cowbirds, a Carolina wren who lives in the pocket of a huge maple, and the various and sundry sparrows that dot this canvas. Oh, and of course the ever-present mourning doves, who strut around looking for seed on the ground (I wrote a short song with that exact line in it a few months ago. I’m weird, OK?)

I have other things I should be doing, but I don’t. I agonize over that. That’s a point John makes in this song –

“People say I’m lazy

Dreaming my life away

Well they give me all kinds of advice

Designed to enlighten me

When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall

“Don’t you miss the big time boy, you’re no longer on the ball?”

That passage could be applied to many parts of my life. Don’t you miss the city? Don’t you miss the easy commute? Don’t you miss dating and grocery stores that stay open past 6 p.m.?

Not yet. (Maybe never on the dating, but alas.) But again, I’m still getting used to it, and I find myself wondering WHY I don’t miss those things. Is there something wrong with me? How can such a social person enjoy hermitude so much?

Well, how could John Lennon give everything up for Yoko? How could he walk away from the most famous band of all time?

I’m sure he agonized, just like me, and I’m sure writing “Watching The Wheels” was kind of a protest of that agony. But I know – because he’s a self-doubting, balancing-act Libra – that he did agonize.

I enjoy loud craziness. I enjoy people. But in my home, I could sit for hours just looking out a window, alone, not really thinking about anything at all.

But then the chores pile up and I call myself names.

Why?

Because I’m not listening to THIS LINE enough:

“I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go…”

I hereby would like this to serve as an attempt at “letting it go.” I would really rather not brutalize myself for enjoying my life instead of folding clothes. And as a Libra (I don’t know how much I believe in all this stuff, but I am a textbook Libra) I must balance. I must make time for folding clothes or else I will feel like a failure.

But not when there are five birds at the feeder, taking turns eating the high-quality seed I put out for them. Order. Kindness. Patience. All on winged display.

They’re so beautiful. Most of them don’t fight with each other, though I did just watch a male and female cardinal chase each other around. They just exist. I NEED to see this.

We all should. Why am I kicking myself for being lost in a moment?

John wouldn’t let me, that’s for sure.

“People asking questions lost in confusion

Well I tell them there’s no problem

Only solutions

Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind

I tell them there’s no hurry…

I’m just sitting here doing time…”

Doing time. Balancing. Watching the nutty nuthatch scamper upside-down down that same tree where the wren lives. Wondering how he keeps his balance. Wondering where they nest. Hoping I see it someday, but not feeling like a failure if I don’t.

From my little writing/birdwatching nook (some folks call it a dining room, but not me!) I am decompressing. Learning, though in a different way. This is what I came out here for.

I am done agonizing over why I enjoy it.

So back to the beginning – literally. The first verse of the song would have been enough:

“People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing

Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin

When I say that I’m o.k. they look at me kind of strange

Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game…”

 

Thank you, John. I’m no longer riding on the merry-go-round. At least for today. Balance and all…

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Filed under Birds!, Brain Disorders, Connecticut, Music, Relationships, Women

This one goes to 11: Songs that got me through an honest-to-God rough patch

Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I went through a breakup recently. It was the first one in many years, and it was an intense relationship, so I wasn’t prepared for the emotional folly that followed. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well, and, truth be told, I never actually HEARD from my ex – he just sort of disappeared, but left me with the blame. Yay! Nothing like wading into the waters and meeting a cowardly ghost-shark first thing.

No big deal, really – I should be thankful it’s over. And despite his sharkness, I’m not afraid of the water. But it took me a lot longer to get over than I expected. I think it’s mostly because A) I’m a  journalist, and if you leave me with a thousand questions, I almost can’t recover; and B) I’m an ENFP personality type, and leaving one of us in the lurch with no closure or comeuppance is almost life-threatening.

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On a recent hike I took… I’m fine now, I swear. Hiking was also huge in getting over a lot of shite.

Couple that breakup with several rounds of sickness, the death of my stepfather and lots of traveling, and you have kind of a delayed response to “just getting the hell over it.” But the breakup – that was the biggest bee in my bonnet. It hurt. Like hell. Still does. Just less sharp, more dull now. Much easier to tolerate.

And as usual, my friends and family came through for me. As usual, my team of sisters and one brother, my parental units, my BFFs, co-worker BFFs, my cats, my backyard birds and the voice of my mother got me through it. As usual, I chose the wrong person – but hopefully there’s an end to that someday. Lord knows I haven’t been in a big hurry to return to the dating world. Not that I haven’t had offers, but every time I think I want to accept, I just haven’t. Not because I want The Jerk back, but because I don’t want to pick The Jerk again, ya know? “We won’t get fooled again” or something.

Anyway— I am especially thankful for another group of friends who helped me through one of the more awful periods of my life – my musical BFFs. In these last few months, my tastes have been all over the place. I didn’t listen to any love songs at all for the first two months — just hardcore rap, smooth hip-hop and “why don’t you just go ahead and get eaten by a bear” songs. This is a departure for a hardcore optimist like me. I kind of hated it, but I also knew it was necessary.

Some true winners emerged from that dark time, and I want to address them here.

  1. Beast, “Mr. Hurricane.”

I heard this song one morning right after the breakup. I was walking into work, sunglasses on to hide my sleepless eyes, trying to look happy and optimistic. Faking it. Completely and totally faking it – because inside I was so confused, hurt and angry, and wanted to run away from it all. I wanted answers, but my pride (and the voice of my mom from beyond the grave, not to mention all my family/friends) stopped me from calling him to get the answers, which probably wouldn’t have helped my anyway.

I was so overcome by the lyrics, I went back to my car and listened to the song on full volume. I cried. I screamed. Security was NOT called (thankfully). But, just like everyone going through a breakup or new love situation, you think the lyrics are written FOR YOU. It spoke to me. It was a big first step to healing.

“I stopped bein’ the victim

But you weren’t there to see

I never felt bitter

Till you crippled me

I felt like a refugee from the pain

I had to wear that shroud with no shame

Deceit and lies

Were your crying game

I never fell in love so deeply in vain

So I stay a while

Knife in my side

While I slowly died

Defeat from the inside

Now I scream ’til the end of the day

Never again, Mr. Hurricane”

2. Personality Crisis, New York Dolls

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. There was something magical that happened the day this song came on. It was like a life raft. It was music to my hears. (Yes, that was on purpose). Punk music in all its iterations is usually very “fuck you”-centric, and this one is no exception. And since I’m convinced that a personality crisis led to some of homeboy’s issues, it was perfect. I have since listened to this about 3 billion times. One day it’s all I listened to – over and over and over again. Perfection. Yes, I kinda lost my mind there for a bit. I don’t think most people would blame me.

“And you’re a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon

Change on into the wolfman, howlin’ at the moon, hooowww

All about that personality crisis you got it while it was hot

But now frustration and heartache is what you got…”

3. Bad Blood, Taylor Swift

Points if you knew Tay-Tay would be on this list… she was made for breakups. I get that now. Immediately after it happened, I had to go to Oklahoma for my stepdad’s funeral. (Of course it all happened at the same time!) So I downloaded a bunch of Taylor that I could listen to on the plane and try to make sense of what the hell had just happened to me. It helped, this song especially. I wanted to have one of those scenes like from a movie – I wanted to get up and sing it to the rest of the passengers, and have them sing the chorus and chant “HE’S AN ASSHOLE (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)… I wanted an audience to feel what I’d been through — me and Taylor – and it was somehow very soothing. I love you, Ms. Swift. Forever. Thank you for writing what we all feel. (And of COURSE “Shake it Off” was listened to on repeat. The whole 1989 album, really – just this one, I feel like I finally GOT, ya know?)

“Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted

Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted

Did you have to hit me, where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe

And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me…”

4. No Chump Love Sucker, Red Hot Chili Peppers

A song of immense pride mixed with a healthy dose of hurt. Written from a male perspective, of course, but just perfect when you’re FURIOUS. I heard this one day and basically trashed my office jumping around, throwing things (like boxes of Kleenex, nothing damaging) and scaring my cats. Looking back, I wish I’d videotaped that. Good times.

“I’m through with your bluefish

I’m through with your gash

I’m through being screwed with

By you and your whack attack

5. Eazy-Duz-It, Eazy-E

This unfortunate time coincided with me watching “Straight Outta Compton,” which was also kind of a rebellion, as he didn’t see the need to watch the movie because “he lived it.” OK. I think you missed the point of biopics and are just attempting to sound like a tough guy, but whatevs.

So after watching the movie, I was like “THIS IS WHAT I NEED.” Angry music that has nothing to do with love. Angry political music. Real people music. It led to my mind being kind of steered back to more important things, and I immersed myself in old-school rap of all sorts afterward.

Who knew Slick Rick, NWA, Public Enemy and the like could be so soothing.

“Rolling through the hood, cold tearing shit up

Stick my head out the window and I say what’s up

To the (omitted) on the corner cold bumping the box

But you know that’s an alibi for slanging the rocks…”

  1. Beyonce, “Sorry.”

This is a more recent addition, and damn I wish I’d heard it sooner. It would have been No. 1 on this list. It could have been so good for me. But I got it a few weeks ago, and it still works. I don’t care if this whole Bey-Jay thing is fake beef or not. It’s powerful, and it’s meaningful, and most people can relate. Most women, for sure. When I listened to the lyrics to this song, I felt BETTER. And I do every time I hear it. Thank you, Beyonce, for being strong. Even if it’s not real. Also, I want to be Serena when I grow up and I so wish I was on this bus with these beautiful women. They look like they’re having fun and I NEED FUN! 🙂

“Middle fingers up, put them hands high

Wave it in his face, tell him, BOY, BYE

Tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up

I ain’t thinking ’bout you…”

  1. Fuel My Fire, The Prodigy

This one has gotten me through a few breakups. This one was no different. Pure bitterness with a great beat. Also an awesome song to take with you on the elliptical machine, when you’re running on pure fury and pain. And yes, L7 wrote it—but this version is better, I think.

“I’ve got a word of thanks

that I’d like to say

for the way that I feel today.

Got stacks, got stacks

stacks of chips on my shoulder

in everything I do cuz I made, I made

I made the mistake … the mistake of trusting you

Yeah, people like you just fuel my fire

Yeah, people like you just do

You liar… You liaaaaar”

  1. For the Time Being, Edie Brickell

After a dressing-down I received at the hands of a friend of the ex – to which I never responded, because it was all lies and bullshit anyway, and why engage? – I heard this randomly. I’ve liked the song since I saw the movie “The Way Way Back.” But it fit the moment well. And still makes me laugh when I hear it. The impassioned response I got was, looking back, pretty hilarious. (But again, I never heard from him, just her.) There’s so much more to this story, but I learned my lesson about blogging unhinged.

“It must be nice to be full of good advice to say

It must be sweet, but I’ll call you if I need it

I’m doing alright for the time,

Fine for the time being

I’ll need professional help if it does get any worse than this

I’ll be out on a ledge if it does get any worse than this

I’m doing alright for the time,

Fine for the time being

You think you know me well

You think you know me well

But you don’t know me at all.”

9. Bulletproof Soul, Sade

Ms. Adu has been a part of my life since I was a wee tot. The album “Love Deluxe” is still in my top 10. This song developed new meaning for me, 25 years or so after I’d first heard it. I was still really hurting and listening to a lot of mopey stuff. This came on one day and it was like that beautiful woman was sitting next to me, patting my hair, singing soft words of encouragement. I love you, Sade, you brilliant badass beauty. And I DID leave like a lion, TYVM!

“You were trigger happy baby

You never warned me let me free

It’s not that complicated

But you’re going to need a bullet proof soul

Think you got it but you got all the trouble you need

I came in like a lamb

But I intend to leave like a lion.”

10. Electric Relaxation, A Tribe Called Quest

Coinciding with this terrible time in my life were the deaths of some of my favorite musicians – David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, and of course, Prince. But Tribe was there for me during all this. Well before the breakup, I’d been on a huge Tribe kick. For the last year or so, it’s been on a regular rotation. The smooth, relaxing beats were medicine to me during the hard times. Dawg’s death just led me to listen to them more. It took my mind off the bitterness and gave it room to explore. It gave my brain a reprieve. And the joy – the pure, simple, melodic joy that is this song – was the best thing for me. I thank Tribe so much for this. Tribe made me chill the fuck out. Tribe led to peace. RIP, Phife.

“Relax yourself girl, please set-tle down

Stretch out your legs, let me make you bawl

Drive you insane, drive you up the wall

Staring at your dome-piece, very strong

Stronger than pride, stronger than Teflon…”

  1. 28,000 Days, Alicia Keys

I heard this in a commercial or something while I was working the SEC Tournament in Nashville. I fell in love instantaneously. It was like a lifeline. Like Alicia was shouting “HEY STUPID, GET YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER!”

I had a one-day hotel stay at the airport in Orlando after the tournament, then I would meet my Best Good Friend Renae and her son Oliver for our trip to Disney World. This was after a nine-day stretch of SEC tournament basketball and travel… a few weeks after all this mess.

That night, sick as a dog but somehow OK, I felt like myself again for the first time. I was excited about seeing my people, happy with how things had gone at the tournament, and not thinking about Mr. Hurricane. I danced around my hotel room, playing this song on my little iPad speakers, acting it out, flailing, being an idiot. I realized that life is, indeed, too short to just throw it away. I’ll leave that to him. He can be self-destructive as long as he wants. Thank God he didn’t pull me down with him. I swear to God this song fell into my lap at the exact right moment. God works in mysterious ways, huh?

“Back from hell with my angel wings

Ain’t no fear in my voice

Cause I’m making a choice

The devil ain’t no friend of me

And that clock on the wall is telling me

There’s only 28 thousand days

Who would you love? Where would you go?

What would you celebrate?

I’m telling you that life’s too short to just throw it away

So have the time of your life, so have the time of your life…”

And that’s what I intend to do from now on, Ms. Keys. Thank you.

 

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Filed under Family, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Haters, Love, Mom, Movies, Music, Relationships, Travel, TV, Uncategorized, Women

Mom’s song

mom farm

Mom, pregnant with me, in 1974 on my grandparents’ farm in Henryetta, Oklahoma.

There’s so much going on in the world today that is bigger than “my feelings.” So many social injustices, so many fights to fight, so many things I should be doing instead of moping.

But I’ve lost the strength, at least for today. It’s been a disappointing few weeks for me personally, with a lot of changes happening that make me nervous, and my dating life continually in the dumps… I won’t go into that, but suffice it to say, online dating sucks, and I suck at it. And as usual, I pick the absolute worst person possible. Plus, I’m continually saddened by the awful things that people say and do to each other. I want to run away and hide, or as Jenny said to Forrest, “Dear God, make me a bird, so I can fly far, far away from here.” I seriously considered becoming a Mennonite and living in corn country.

When I get in these moods, which thankfully are rare, I tend to drown myself in music, not the Mystic Heated Wine that Jim Morrison loved. I tend to find songs that perfectly quench a thirst I didn’t know I had. I cry. I dance. I cry some more. I write. A lot. Then I feel better.

This particular moodiness cycle is probably on its way out, but presented itself in me today in the form of a stomachache. I worked from home, and have gradually felt better as the day wore on. Being absent from the office when the DeflateGate decision came down was just dumb luck! But I’ve been in the dumps for two whole days now, which isn’t common for me at all.

As usual, a song came along to make me re-evaluate myself. And as usual, the lessons of my mom came through. And as usual, I cried. A lot.

The day I found out my mom had been burned in a fire, I knew she would die. She lived for several months after that, but I knew she’d never be the same, and that she’d die from this. I didn’t know when, but I knew. My grieving has this strange tendency to be early-onset. I don’t know if I’m psychic or what, (haha) but I know when bad shit is going to go down.

I got a call that mom had third-degree burns over about 40 percent of her body. I put the phone down, went to my bedroom, and collapsed. I cried for hours. I cried every bit of myself out on my bedroom floor. I cried more on that day than on the day she actually died.

I did not go to work the next day, of course (though I did go the day she died, but that’s another blog). I was getting ready to head to the hospital the next morning when this song came on – and it’s forever my song TO my mother. It’s forever the song that makes me lose my shit. I only play it when I really, really need it.

Yes, Natalie Merchant’s “Kind and Generous,” which is kind of a love song to all women and all those who do great things, is my song to my mother. When I heard it that day, I sat down on the edge of my tub and cried some more. Again, I knew she would be gone. It was like God played this song for me that day to further cement that knowledge to me, that she would die. And I moved on from fear of her dying to appreciating everything she did for me in no time flat.

Maybe it’s the journalist in me – I process emotions very quickly. It’s how we deal with all the bad shit that’s happening around us so quickly. It’s how, when kindergarten kids are shot in Newtown, we can still go on the air. It’s how, when riots break out in Baltimore during a baseball game — and you worry about the violence, but still understand and empathize with why the riots are happening — you put aside your thoughts and work. It’s how, when a reporter and photog are shot on-air, we can still report about it. Iron-clad at the time, but soft as cotton off-deadline. It spills over into the real world, clearly. Because I was able, throughout the next few months when Mom was in the hospital, to appear strong. It was all an act, of course, but somehow, Natalie Merchant’s voice, her thank-yous, her la-la-las, saved me that day.

Of course, having an older sister who’s as dear to your AS your mom, who’s named Natalie, probably meant something to me too. Plus, my mom loved Natalie Merchant dearly. So it was just a perfect song for a terrible time. And now, 12 years later, it still has the power to straighten my ass right up.

I listened to it today – something I don’t do often, as I don’t want to be a miserable heap – and now, I think I’ll be OK.

So to you, Ms. Merchant – I want to thank you, thank you – thank you, thank you – thank you, thank you – I want to thank you for your song. I want to thank you for your generosity.

But mostly, I want to thank my mom. I miss you, of course. Thank you for still influencing me beyond the grave. Thank you for still being a touchstone in my heart when I know I need to buck up and deal. Thank you for reminding me, through your pithy phrases I’ve memorized, when someone needs “a good ol’ fashioned lettin’ alone” or that I “can get glad in the same pants I got mad in.” Thank you mama. You are the reason I’m here, quite literally and figuratively. I love you.

“Kind and Generous”

You’ve been so kind and generous
I don’t know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I’m in debt to you
For your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you’ve done

You know I’m bound…
I’m bound to thank you for it

You’ve been so kind and generous
I don’t know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I’m in debt to you
And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you’ve done

You know I’m bound…
I’m bound to thank you for it

I want to thank you
For so many gifts
You gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you

I want to thank you
For your generosity
The love and the honesty
That you gave me

I want to thank you
Show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you

I want to…

Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you

 

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Filed under ESPN, Family, Mom, Music, Women

Teach Your Children Well: Our history is important too!

THIS, friends, is Michael Jordan. ALL HAIL THE GREATEST.

THIS, friends, is Michael Jordan. ALL HAIL THE GREATEST.

The first thing I read this morning was a tweet about a fourth-grade class getting a visit from a grizzled sports reporter who covered Michael Jordan in his heyday. The kids had no idea who he was talking about, but the teacher proffered “He’s the guy who makes Air Jordans.” Everyone got it then.

While I can be accused of being a serial nostalgist, it’s ludicrous that this is happening. I don’t often get fired up and opinionated enough to blog about this, but COME ON people. We’ve got to do a better job of teaching our kids about our lives, our world, our mark on this generation. We’ve had some pretty awesome moments in pop culture, history, sports and more. It’s on us to encourage our kids to know more than what’s right in front of them.

I think it’s important because, right now, a lot of kids don’t seem to know their own parents’ history, much less what came before that – the Civil Rights Movement, women’s liberation, the holocaust, the suffrage, slavery, the Trail of Tears – it’s our job to teach them what we, and our ancestors, learned from each of those horrible things. It’s our job to teach these kids that there’s more to life than shoes – shoes inspired by a man who brought magic and majesty to a game. They’re just shoes. What led to them is what kids should know about.

Why are kids so fascinated by commercialism? Why is money, and the crap it can buy you, No. 1 in the minds of a lot of kids? Where are the artists? Where are the music lovers who, like me, hung on their parents’ every word on the subject? “Tell me about the Beatles,” I’d ask my mom. “I didn’t like them,” she’d say. “They were too popular.” (Yes, my mom was a hipster.) But I wanted to know about the 60s, and 70s, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith – I asked my parents and they told me. Then they forced me (haha – not really) to listen to their music. I learned so much from songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield – songs that wrapped history in with the vibe of the time. Songs that made me want to live through that era, that gave me the willies, that mystified me. “White Rabbit” had the same effect on me – as did so many others.

How can you not look at this picture and want to know more? Grace Jones embodied cool. And I bet a lot of kids have never heard of her.

How can you not look at this picture and NOT want to know more? Grace Jones embodied cool. And I bet a lot of kids have never heard of her.

My dad bought me and my sisters each a copy of “Who’s Next” when we were kids. It’s one of his favorite albums, and now mine. My mother forced me to listen to Leon Russell and now he’s my hero. My little sister Anna knew every word (and had developed a dance) to “Closer to My Home” by Grand Funk Railroad when she was 3. All of us, along with my other siblings, learned pop culture through our parents, and it’s made us appreciative of their generation.

Someone – parents, teachers, communities – has to teach them about the past. They have to learn they aren’t the first people to inhabit this earth. They have to learn about their parents’ struggles and fights and rebellions and love lives. We have to show them why we were once cool! It makes parents relatable. It makes generations closer. My dad and I talk music a lot. He still inspires me.

There’s too much stuff out there now. We have to help our kids navigate the past, as well as the future. We have to give them an understanding of the past.

But this isn’t a new problem. A few months ago, Kanye West announced he’d be pairing with Paul McCartney for songs. Kids on Twitter went crazy saying this Paul McCartney dude was going to “blow up” when exposed to Kanye’s audience.

PAUL EFFING MCCARTNEY. The one who was more popular than Jesus fewer than 50 years ago. The one who, along with some other dude Kanye couldn’t make famous, have written some of the most well-known songs of my generation. How can they not be known by this one?

We can’t let our culture – our pre-cell phone and Internet culture – not impress the next generation. And I’m not saying they can’t be anything without us – but we should inspire them. We should guide them. We shouldn’t try to emulate them – we should try to help them.

Pop culture is spoken-word history. Songs, shows, movies, etc., are a sketchbook of our lives, and reflect what we’ve been through. Our kids need to know what we’re all about.

Don’t distance yourselves from that. Remember, you were cool once. Tell your kids about your past. They’ll love the stories. Play them some music, and tell them a story about when you first heard that song. My dad told me when I was a kid about listening to “Abraxas” by Santana as a teenager – what it felt like, the freedom he felt, what he was experiencing at the time, and how, when he hears it now, he’s back in that time. It made me listen to it, and I get it. I see my dad as a human being, someone who’s experienced things in his life – someone who had a life before me.

Teach your children well. Crosby, Stills and Nash taught us that. Now go play that song for your kids! And then play them some Led Zeppelin. Hearing “Stairway to Heaven” on my dad’s sound system at full volume when I was about 8 changed my life. There was a bustle in my hedgerow, and I was alarmed at first. But I realize now it was a spring clean for the May queen. A spring clean in which my parents planted the seeds to whom I would become. And as I wind on down the road, I am ever thankful.

Teach your children well. They need us too.

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Filed under Childhood, Family, General Nonsense, Movies, Music, NBA, Sports, TV

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

My mom, me and Nick in Branson at

My mom, me and Nick in Branson at “Hound Dog Nellie’s,” another inside joke.

My little brother is one of my best friends. I heard “No Rain” by Blind Melon first thing this morning, and I’m reminded of our wonderful friendship.

I’ve known he was one of my best friends since 1990, when he stopped annoying the shit out of me and started being a cool little dude who I could drag with me anywhere I went. He became my sidekick.

He’s 30 now, and to this day, we still get along great. He’s lived with me on and off many times through the years, and moved to Connecticut a year after I did. It’s been the biggest blessing I could have – someone who looks and sounds like me, and knows my history, knows my pain, knows what makes me laugh, right here in my new home,1,500 miles away from our real home.

We’ve been through terrible things together, including the death of our mother. We have so many stupid inside jokes — a lot of them came from driving back and forth to Wichita when Mom was in the hospital.  I would not have made it through that without him. I felt like I had to be there for him, and I know he felt the same.

He’s one of the first people I called when I got the job at ESPN, and he knows everything about me. And he still likes me! Now that he’s up here, he’s finding a new part of himself – the outdoorsman who appreciates life, beauty and conservation (and good Vermont beer!) He and I recreate Oklahoma in the kitchen, making biscuits and gravy, Mexican food and other things we like that people up here don’t get. How could I get too homesick when I’ve got one of my favorite parts of Oklahoma living with me?

He’s gone this weekend, and I miss him. He’s free to do whatever he wants in his life, but when he decides to leave my nest, it’s going to be hard for me to adjust.

He’s grown into this great man who can do anything, just like his dad and my mom. I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have four wonderful sisters and one awesome brother, but I don’t take it for granted. Ever. (I hope.) He pushes me to do things. He saves me from myself. He believes that, yes, someday, I’ll get married, and that someone will like me enough to actually spend their life with me! 🙂 Of course I believe the same about him. But he’s much better at relationships than I am – he’s been in a steady relationship for two years now up here in New England, and the only thing I do is work. We have different priorities, but he makes me think about mine.

I remember the day Nick and I started being “friends” instead of “siblings.” He was 5, and I was “babysitting” him at our house in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I had just learned to drive and we were both sick and tired of sitting at home. He was a very picky eater then, which is hilarious now because he would eat anything you throw at him… but I dragged him to Hamlin’s East in Muskogee and forced him to try foods he wouldn’t normally. He loved it. And we laughed our heads off. I started picking him up from school. I loved that – I felt so grown-up when I would leave Muskogee High and stop by Creek Elementary to pick up the little dude. I’d force him to listen to tapes in the car, then he started actually liking the songs I played him. I made him mix tapes. I warped his precious little mind.

But I have this one moment in our childhoods that I cherish. I don’t really know why, but it’s one of my happiest memories of our time together, and my life.

We were in the gameroom of our house. He was maybe 8, and I had just completed my first year of college at Northeastern State in Tahlequah. I stayed with him over the summer, my last summer at home. We were, of course, watching MTV, and I think 120 Minutes or a show like that was on. I heard the beginnings of “No Rain” by Blind Melon, then saw the Bee Girl on stage. Now, I should mention that I deeply identify with the Bee Girl. I was a bit of a weirdo/unpopular girl, kind of a misfit, and I’d even had a bee costume I wore for Halloween as a kid. I had just started meeting my core group of friends, who were Bee People too. I’d just started feeling accepted, and just started realizing I wasn’t a complete freak. That video hit me square in the gut. It still makes me cry happy tears.

My mom never encouraged us to be like anyone else. And there was something about that song – at that time – me being 18 or so and “finding myself” and the friends and family I’d have for the rest of my life. Every day felt like a rose opening. Every day, it opened a bit more, and I felt something new and exciting, something awe-inspiring about growing up and just living. And my brother — little and cute and curly-headed – was always there with me, never judging me or trying to emulate me, but just being my brother and friend.

So on that day, in the gameroom, we watched the video. When it was over, I looked at Nick and said, “Hey, you wanna go get that CD?” Of course, these were the days before Internet radio, Spotify and the like – you actually had to haul off and buy the damn CD, with his two-foot long plastic case around it.

I was working at McDonald’s then and not making a lot of money. So in typical Sarah fashion, I blew what cash I had on music. I drove like a woman possessed to Hastings, with him in the car, and bought the first Blind Melon CD and drove home. At that time, Mom was working crazy hours as a nurse, and Nick’s dad, Pat, wasn’t home yet. So I’d started dinner when I got home. I brought my little jambox into the kitchen, put on the CD, and hit play. We danced in the kitchen to “No Rain” on repeat. It is, to this day, one of my very favorite songs.

I’m not sure why I love that memory. It felt like a moment of freedom, independence and just having fun with the people I love. Nick has never, and will never, judge me. Hopefully that works both ways. I was such a self-conscious kid, and Nick was the same way. We felt like we had to act a certain way, and couldn’t really goof off or anything, lest we get in trouble or make a “scene.” Not sure where that came from, but that day in the kitchen, we danced like idiots and sang and danced some more. We realized we had each other’s back – subconsciously of course, as I wasn’t as introspective then as I am now.

My brother is one of my best friends. I don’t want to ever think about living a day without him.

When Nick was little, our mom told me, “I wish I could be more like Nick.” She was right. He’s just a great little dude, and I’m lucky to have him. Thanks for being you, Buster Thurperson. And I miss you, Shannon Hoon. And Mom.

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Friends, General Nonsense, Music, Oklahoma

My ‘Seven Bridges Road’ weekend

‘Sometimes, there’s a part of me…
has to turn from here and go’ 

It was a dark time in my life on all fronts – love, friends, money, comfort – all of it seemingly gone. It was 2008-2010. Those years blend together for me as the worst of my life.

I lost friends, had no money, hadn’t found my strength yet – my job was tiring and thankless, my future dark and agonizing. I was a few years removed from my mother’s death, and still not OK with it (probably never will be). Friends I’d had for more than 20 years were falling by the wayside. Everyone I knew was getting married or in committed relationships, including my roommate, who moved out amid all this. He owed me tons of money, money I desperately needed to keep my house from being foreclosed on and my car from getting repossessed. I often wrote one check on payday to Reasor’s, the big grocery store chain in Oklahoma, writing the check as much over for cash as they’d allow. That way, I had food and a little bit of cash for whatever. I’d pay my bills after that, and usually, my money for those next two weeks would be gone.

I didn’t have money for going out much. Fortunately, I had a cool job that let me go to concerts for free sometimes. Or I’d get tickets to something through the newspaper or friends. Looking back, I got by on the kindness of strangers many times.

Near the beginning of my dark period, a messy relationship had ended, much to my angst and chagrin, and I just kind of gave up on everything. It’s like I went into hibernation for three years, only emerging to go to work or a Drillers baseball game (tickets were around $6 – good, cheap entertainment and usually cheap beer too… there was healing at those games too, but that’s another blog.)

But one weekend, after feeling like all I wanted to do was run away and join a band of itinerant welders, I had a bit of free cash and some credit left on plastic. So I rented a small travel-trailer in Tahlequah, my exodus spot for the last 25 years. I went alone and told no one I was going except my brother, who still lived in Tahlequah, should I need reinforcements or a bear-trapper. I made a CD, packed a notebook and books, and drove to Tahlequah for a secluded weekend – it was pre-summer, so no one was at the lodge where I stayed. I was hopeless, which was a new feeling for me.

But then I drove to Tahlequah.

I’m not going to say it was like some elixir that magically cured what ailed me. That took time. But that day – that trip down Highway 10, a sacred place in my heart – will stay with me forever. Now I know it was a trip filled with magic, one I reflect back on often.

That CD I’d burned was full of wistful, melodic masterpieces to make me think. I didn’t even know at that time what those songs would become in my heart – a lot of Jimmy Buffett, Beck, Jackie Wilson and one surprise song that I still believe has healing powers: “Seven Bridges Road” by the Eagles.

As I topped a big hill along Highway 10, the CD player in my Corolla ticked to that song. (I’m not a huge Eagles fan, but had realized I liked that song and included it on that mix for some reason.) It starts slowly: “There are stars in the southern sky…southward as you go.” Then that speedy acoustic guitar kicks in, and then Don Henley starts singing.

The money line for me is “Sometimes there’s a part of me… has to turn from here and go… Running like a child from these warm stars, down the Seven Bridges Road.”

That line played as I crested a final hill before Arrowhead Resort in Cherokee County. And it felt like God was patting me on the back. It felt like all the forces in the world were saying, “Welcome to the country. We’ve been waiting for you. Leave your sorrows on the shore and don’t bother to pick them up when you leave.”

That weekend, I listened to that song about 300 times. I stayed in my little travel-trailer and wrote hot garbage that I wouldn’t try to publish even if it meant $1 million guaranteed. (I hate my emo-laden writing. I feel like a wuss after I read it.) I cried, ate a lot, wallowed, rectified, rationalized, drank a lot, slept a lot – and listened to a ton of music, all looking for meaning.

I got over my pain and suffering on that Sunday. I left my BS on the shore, where it belonged. I returned to work on Monday, not completely healed, but wrung out. I felt stripped down, but ready to start building again.

It was the hardest three years of my life. And 2011 wasn’t that great either, but it was the year I finally got angry enough at my situation to look for something else. It was the year ESPN hired me and I loaded up the truck and moved to Bristol-eeeee…

But every time I hear that song now, like I did first thing this morning, I’m back in my Toyota, cresting that hill, listening to “Seven Bridges Road” like it was going to save my life.

I think, in a way, it did.

It will always be a favorite song. And that weekend, though I spent it alone and sad, was a time of great independence and healing – condensed to one weekend, of course. I don’t know why I need to go to the hills when my heart is lonely, but that Julie Andrews was on to something.

I’ve got other places here in Connecticut that fill the void of my nirvana in Cherokee County. The Farmington Trails are glorious, and even paved so I can ride my bike. But nothing can top that weekend in the boggy banks of the pre-summer Illinois River. I think my weekend alone was the beginning of my fearlessness period, one I hope I never exit.

Oh, and one more thing – I still hate “Hotel California.”

 

 

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Filed under Love, Music, Oklahoma, Relationships, Tahlequah, Travel