My terrible day of flying: A complaint letter

So I rambled on an on about this yesterday on Facebook. I’m not First World enough to think this is the worst thing that can happen to someone — but I am alarmed at how quickly customer service has fallen off, especially in the airline industry. I sent this letter to US Airways, the Philadelphia Airport and the mayor of Philly. Any suggestions as to where else I should send?

Yes, I was mad — but more than that, I was exhausted. Imagine if I was in bad health or elderly… how are they treated?

So here goes… what you are about to read is 100 percent factual, as I am terrible at lying.

Aug. 19, 2014

Dear US Airways and American Airlines:

I will preface this note with this – I am an agreeable, hopefully easy-to-get-along with person. I am not a travel newbie, and I don’t expect to be treated like a princess. I am usually quick to come to the defense of airline employees because my family is full of them and I understand that travel customers can be difficult.

That being said – I am absolutely floored with how I was treated on my trip home from Seattle on Sunday, Aug. 17 into Monday, Aug. 18. It was, by far, my most awful day of travel EVER. And I’ve flown a lot, since I was 5.

I was in the mountains with no cell phone service, but occasional WiFi. I checked my American phone app to see that my original flight home, an 11:25 p.m. flight out of SeaTak, had been canceled and replaced with a 12:45 a.m. US Airways flight with a stop in Philly. I had booked this trip in First Class to get some rest – I work at ESPN and work weird hours, so I was hoping to sleep in comfort. My First Class ticket was not to be a bigshot, but to sleep — I paid for a First Class ticket round-trip. I saw that I was booked in coach now – I wasn’t happy, but figured someone would help me out when I got to the airport.

Once I arrived at SeaTak, I checked in at the US Airways desk. A girl named Ana D. checked me in. I tried to explain to her that I was in First and ask her what I should do about that, but she just kept referring me to American Airlines, telling me I was in Coach now and that was that, and not offering any help other than that. Actually, she just kept pointing to the AA desk – not even offering any words of help or encouragement for how I would be repaid for the First Class portion of the trip I purchased. She replied by making me pay for my bags – YES, she made me pay for my bags, which were part of the First Class package I’d already bought. In fact, that had a lot to do with why I finally bought the First Class tickets. I was traveling for my sister’s wedding and had a lot of stuff with me. Ana D. didn’t offer any help, just told me I had to pay if I expected the bags to get back to Hartford. What was I to do? Again, she just pointed to the AA desk. I tried to stop there and ask for help, but the line was so bad, I guess due to problems in the DFW area.

So yeah, I was angry, but I tried to let it go – I knew I’d take care of that once I got home. I boarded my flight and tried to relax in my now exit-row seat in Coach with no reclining seats or neck rests.

The plane sat on the runway for 45 minutes. Something about a baggage handler crashing into a plane and there being a shortage of people to load the plane. OK, fine. But I better make my connection that you guys laid out for me – with nary a spare second.

Of course I didn’t. When I got to the end of the tarmac in Philly, an agent handed me two standby tickets and told me to go try to make the plane. I did not. I ran across three terminals to get there, and when I got to the gate, I asked if I could board. “That plane left five minutes ago,” the agent sneered at me. Almost like she was laughing at me.

I seethed, but went to the gate for my next option, an 11:30 flight to Hartford. This was the only semi-pleasant experience I had that day. The girl working at C 23 was a bit short at first, but I could tell she honestly wanted me to get on the plane. The flight was, of course, oversold. (This has got to stop, by the way – it’s not fair in the least.) Still, this woman, whose name I didn’t get but I wish I could praise, was nice enough to at least push for me to get on. I didn’t get on, but this agent told me about the other options and at least seemed concerned. She was the ONLY person in Philly (besides the Chick-Fil-A guy, who was so nice), who helped me. She small-talked with me, which goes a long way in stressful situations. She rolled me onto the top of the Standby list, which was much appreciated.

So feeling better and a bit hopeful, I had some lunch and proceeded to C17 in Philly, where the 1:30 flight was coming out of. Mind you, by this point, I’ve been up for 28 hours straight, thinking I’d get a nice comfy ride In First. I wait for the agent to come up, and it’s a helpful woman I see in line, but she vanishes, replaced by the coldest agent in the lot, a girl with long braids and an attitude the size of Dallas. She called my name and I came to the desk. She didn’t like where I was standing, and rolled her eyes at me, shouting, “COME AROUND.” I moved a few feet over and she raised her voice again, “COME AROUND.” I mean, we’re talking a few feet here. But since she was in charge, she got to yell at me. I asked her what she wanted me to do, and she said, “You know what? Forget it.” And ripped up my ticket. Yes. You read that right.

I begged and pleaded, telling her I was sorry for saying whatever I’d said to offend her. Her braids obscured her nametag, sorry. She ignored me and gave the seats to someone behind me. Another agent standing near her — I could tell she felt badly but couldn’t do anything about it. She said, “There’s a spot open on the 4:10 flight, I’ll try to get you that one.” The other agent heard her say that and gave that spot to the next person in spite. She was awful.

So, defeated, near tears (I had a sick dog at home who needed me) and exhausted, I went to Customer Service in Gate C25 for help. WHAT A JOKE. A woman named Valerie N. looked pleasant enough, so I opened with my sob story and asked if there was anything I could do to at least have some hope of getting on – maybe through American, elsewhere, something – since I didn’t miss my flight due to my mistake, I expected a little bit of a sympathetic ear.

Valerie talked to me like I was inconveniencing her, and like I was possibly the dumbest human being in the world. She asked me, “So you’re coming here asking how I can help? How do you expect me to help?” and I said, “I was just looking for a little hope, I’ve been up 30 hours.” And she said, “Here’s some hope. You might get on a plane.” I was furious, and tried to put it in words she would understand. I asked again if there were any options and she just rolled her eyes at me again. I asked if she had kids and knew what I was going through – she said to me – “My kids are adults.” And went back to work. I walked away, nearly in tears again, completely blown away by what was going on.

So I went to the gate for the 4:10 flight. By this time, I was completely drained. I waited for the flight, didn’t check in or say anything. The flight was in C31. I witnessed a male agent tell a woman that she was on a flight, but he could take that away from her easily – which he did, and it created quite a stir in the gate. I got on that flight because I smiled and kissed the agents’ behinds.  That’s what troubled me most about the whole day – the feeling that these agents relished holding all the power, enjoyed saying no to customers, and willfully worked against getting anybody home. They got off on making us cry. THAT’s bullying. I’m a tough person – but imagine if someone not used to that had gone through this. They’d be mortified.

It felt a bit like they were the Ticket Agent Soup Nazis – “I don’t like the look on your face. NO FLIGHT FOR YOU.” It’s shameful.

I got on, got home to Connecticut, and was greeted by friendly gate agents – no problems there at all. The flight staff, on the entire day’s flight, was great too. But Philly is a dark, dark place and I’ll never go there again. I’ll also never willingly fly US Airways again, but I know the merger will take care of some of that. Shout-out to the baggage crew too, who got my bags to Hartford, where they were safely waiting for me. A friendly baggage agent smiled and helped me get my bags. I thought New Englanders were supposed to be “The mean ones.” Philly is the city of brotherly love, right?

I have a stack of boarding passes going nowhere that the agents issued, I guess just to get me to shut up.

And I also realize they can’t do anything about the corporate policy of overselling flights – but they could do something about how they treat CUSTOMERS who spent THOUSANDS of dollars to fly on that plane. We are not inconveniences. We pay your salary. We should be treated as such.

***I expect a refund or travel voucher for my time and for my lost First Class ticket, and a refund of the $60 I had to spend checking bags that Ana D. charged me. *** But more than that, I expect you to do something about this. I expect BETTER of an airline with the American flag on it. I expect you to fix the problems in Philly by talking to whoever’s hiring these people and telling them to be as rude as possible or not disciplining those who are. It was a disgrace.

And again, I realize you’re going through a merger. That’s a tough situation. But the customers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt. It’s not fair, and obviously, it’s not working.

Please (never heard that yesterday either) let me know if I can help in any way. My email is sarah.hart@espn.com, and my number is 918-630-5376.

Thank you.

Sarah Hart

 

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Why I Love Oklahoma (and a few things I don’t like about it)

I just got back from a week in Oklahoma, my native land, where my people are buried. And though I’m glad to be home, overjoyed to have the job I do and happy where I’m at, I still was a complete wreck on the plane, crying my eyes out watching Tulsa County slip away out of the tiny airplane window. I wore my sunglasses on the plane – I usually make fun of people who do that. But maybe they’re trying to hide their tears too.

It was cloudy, so my view was a bit obstructed. It cleared closer to Texas, and we began our descent into DFW in time for me to see the Red River snaking across the view. “We need rain,” I thought, my one-generation-removed-from-the-farm mind still kicking in.

In a few hours, I would be in New England again. I finally stopped crying once I left DFW on the second leg, but the tears came back on my road back to Bristol from Bradley. I was listening to Oklahoma music – I thought I’d better get all those emotions out now, before I go back to work. I certainly don’t want to cry in front of an NFL Hall of Famer or anything.

But I was thinking a lot on the drive home. About why I’m not in Oklahoma anymore. It’s not permanent, as I know I’ll be back there to retire whenever that is. Or whenever the Thunder want to make me head of communications… whichever comes first. But anyway, I thought of a co-worker of mine at ESPN who flat-out asked me once, “Why do people live in Oklahoma?” This was after a tornado, not just a general condemnation of the Sooner State. As I drove home, I thought of some of the reasons I love it, but also a few why I don’t. So without any further ado…

WHY I LOVE OKLAHOMA…

 It’s NOT:

  1. The heat. I was a few moments into a 90-degree Monday afternoon when I realized I just can’t hack the heat anymore. Fortunately, 99 percent of Oklahoma is cooled to the hilt with the best AC money can buy. But I’m quickly becoming an East Coaster who can’t tolerate anything over 80.
  2. The politics. Seriously, I’m sitting with my friends, many of whom have children, are teachers or just interested in education, and I’m realizing just how bad the schools and government are. Seriously, people, put politics aside – who cares who’s wrong and who’s right? You’re getting lapped by everyone else because you take tax breaks out on kids. This will have long-reaching effects. People won’t want to stay to raise their kids if the schools are the worst in the nation. And the job market isn’t as good as it should be. Oklahoma is an affordable state with natural resources out the ying-yang. If you wreck it now, it’s going to wreak havoc for years and years to come. What happened to the lottery saving education? Where is that money going? Quit trying to marry church and state again and let your kids get smart enough to make their own decisions.
  3. The roads. Yes, we pay high taxes in Connecticut. But our roads – even after 100-plus inches of ice and snow this winter – are in great shape. I got carsick on Oklahoma roads this time. Fix your infrastructure, or it’s all going to come crumbling down someday.

Now on to the good stuff.

 It IS:

  1. The people. Oh my God, it was great to be around people who genuinely seem to care about each other, even if they don’t know each other. I was in Reasor’s in Tahlequah on Saturday and saw so many people saying hi, thank you, excuse me, etc. – Hey, New England: It’s called human kindness. Try it. You’ll like it. Today, back in Bristol, I went to the grocery store and acted like an Oklahoman again. I will NEVER lose that part of myself, I hope. And besides – all my friends are there. I will never forget that. We had a full house in Tahlequah at Arrowhead, to celebrate the life of one of our great friends. I love them all, and realized that I couldn’t lose them if I tried. (And why would I do that? They like me in spite of me!)
  2. The weather (but not the heat). I had missed thunder and lightning so much – I got to hear and see it again. Also, thanks, weather gods, for the absolutely PERFECT Saturday afternoon on the Illinois River in Tahlequah! I also miss that winter lasts about 45 minutes, not six months like Connecticut.
  3. The food. Holy shit, ya’ll. Oklahoma food is just so much better than anything in Connecticut. Taco Bueno is so, so much better than anything they attempt to sell as “Mexican food” up here. It’s funny to see them try up here… but not funny to eat. Blargh. My first stop was Bueno, my last was Rib Crib. I somehow lost weight on vacation, but I think it’s because I was walking a lot.
  4. The accent. Because it makes everyone up here go, “Where  ARE you from?” It’s not Southern, really, and it’s not Texas. It’s Oklahoman, and it’s a thing of beauty.
  5. The music. Woody Guthrie started it. Let’s not let Crazy Wayne Coyne finish it…
  6. The heritage. A little bit of everything we are — mutts, half-Indian or 1/128th Choctaw, whatever you are. We look different than people do on the East Coast. And it’s beautiful. Oklahoma girls and boys are… well, HOT!
  7. The way it makes me feel. Oklahoma, for me, is a state of mind. When I first arrived last week, I walked off the plane and my Inner Oklahoman was fully engaged, like it had been on standby for three years, ready to spring back to life. It’s slower. It’s friendlier. It’s peaceful. And it’s home – always has been, always will be. The bones of my mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and many friends take up residence in Oklahoma dirt. I ran my 1969 Cutlass into the weird wall in the parking lot of the Braum’s on 32nd in Muskogee. I got on stage with Tripping Daisy at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa (and had many, many more great times there, both pre- and post-air conditioning.) I drank to excess for the first time in Park Hill, Oklahoma, in a trailer full of people who would go on to become some of my best friends. I have fallen in and out of love, made and unmade friends, lost family, gained even more family, and found that I had to leave to get where I wanted – all that happened in Oklahoma – 36 of my 39 years were in Green Country. It’s who I am.

I could go on and on like this. And I guess crying every time I leave is going to keep happening, so I had better save some of it for the next trip. I’m going to leave part of myself in Oklahoma every time I go, I guess. But really, I’m already all the way there, and taking part of me to Connecticut every time I leave the Red Dirt State. It’s where I know I’ll end up someday, even if I talk real big about how I’m going to live out my days in San Francisco.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to do anything I want with my life, and moving to New England will help make that possible, thanks to my career and the wonderful company I work for – but I know that, for me, all roads lead to Oklahoma. Despite all that stuff I said above about what I don’t like about Oklahoma, I know I’ll be back. And when I do get back, meet me under that Oklahoma Sky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKTUZ-ig57M&feature=kp

 

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Oklahoma, Tahlequah, Travel, Tulsa, Uncategorized, weather

The Electric Christmas Card: 2013 (Happy Holidays, ya’ll!)

First things first, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope your holiday season is fantastic – and you get everything you want, physically or spiritually! Thanks for reading, for being my friend, and for supporting me and laughing at my lame jokes. Mucho amor, ya’ll.

Here it is, Christmas Day, and I haven’t sent out a single card. I had some written, but just like everything else I can’t get done at a computer, they wallow in the bottom of a tote bag somewhere, unstamped.

I did this last year, so yeah, we’ll call it tradition that I’m going to do an electronic Christmas card to all y’all. And I’m sure all y’all were just holding your collective breafs waiting for this.

So wait no more! Exhale! It’s time for the Electronic Christmas Card, 2013 Version.

 Part 1: Aunts Marching

elliottWhile I already had two perfectly acceptable nephews (Jesse and J.T., my sister Lila’s boys) my other sisters took it upon themselves to have more babies and increase the nephew population. Apparently my sisters are incapable of birthing girls, because Natalie, my oldest sister, WANTED a girl and got a boy anyway. I think she’s pretty happy with Elliott regardless. But he is sleeping in a Barbie princess bed.*

 (Key: * = UNTRUE.)

(But seriously, what gives? You can’t pick your baby’s sex nowadays? No flying cars AND only a 50 percent chance of getting what you want? Thanks, Obama!)

Elliott’s pretty great, even though I met him when he was a really-boring three weeks old. I Skyped with him (and Natalie – she just HAD to be there) recently and he appeared much more fun. Natalie didn’t want me to meet him when he was already fun for fear I’d steal him.* I would, too. Natalie says he’s a really good baby, so even I could probably keep him happy, or at the very least, fed.

Anna, my youngest sister, had a boy too, Henry. He’s OK, if you like ridiculously cute babies who love you right back.henry

I don’t know why, but for some reason, Henry really liked me right off the bat – except for the moment he did almost a complete backbend when I was holding him… But otherwise, I think he could tell then, at just under four months, that I’m that aunt who will give him everything he wants. I’ve already got a pony on back-order.

Meanwhile, Lila, the only sister still living in Oklahoma, is very kind and sends me pictures of Jesse and JT even though I never send her pictures of my cats or dog. J.T., her youngest, is having a hard time adjusting to Elliott being the baby. I bet he’ll end up loving his cousin… or maybe they’ll play on opposing professional basketball teams. Elliott will be with the Heat and J.T. with the Thunder… it’ll be epic! (Why yes I do work in sports, TYVM.) Her oldest son, Jesse, is in college (at the unheard of age of 7! Amazing!)* at Bacone in Muskogee. He’s kind of a big deal.

 Part 2: Katydid!

robkateMy middle sister Katy, who lives in Seattle, brought home news on Thanksgiving. Someone wants to marry her! I know! I can’t believe it either! Kidding, she’s fabulous, and her beau/betrothed Robbie is pretty great too. They are getting married in August in Seattle in a swamp or something hippie-dippie like that. And she’s not having a wedding party, which makes me ecstatically happy. I look terrible in every single bridesmaid’s dress ever made. I’m so proud of her, and so happy for both of them. But now I’m officially the old-maid sister.

 Part 3: My Brother the Roommate

My brother, Nick, has lived with me since early January. It’s made life in Connecticut better by a country mile (though I don’t think they say that or even have any nscountry miles here) and I don’t feel like the only weirdo in New England anymore. He graduated with his master’s, didn’t know what to do with his life, and moved to Connecticut. I might have promised him streets paved with gold and water made of wine – I really wanted him to move here. And I’m still glad to have him. He met a great girl who he took to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. She’s still dating him, so I guess she liked our great state. If she didn’t, Nick might have ended it.

We are the biggest Okie-loving people in Connecticut, for sure. We have a full-size Oklahoma flag in the basement. We continually educate people about the Sooner State (no we don’t live in teepees, no we’re not all related to each other, yes there are hills in Oklahoma, yes I’ve met Carrie Underwood/Zach Swon, yes [insert name here] really is from Oklahoma…)  We also spend a great deal of time trying to replicate our home state’s delicious foods. I have become a damn fine biscuit and gravy chef, and I made chicken fried steak a few weeks ago. It wasn’t Hungry Traveler off Highway 40 near Henryetta good, but it cured what ailed me. It’s amazing to me still that you can’t find plum jelly here. And if you want something spicy at a restaurant, it better be Asian or you’d better be packing your own Sriracha.

We also have the NBA League Pass package, which takes me back to when we were kids, watching an NBA game every night. It’s good for my career… or something.

 Part 4: My Phone Autocorrects “Obama” to “Ibaka” and Other Sports Tales

ESPN campus in the fall -- it's really purty.

ESPN campus in the fall — it’s really purty.

Notice that all the love-life updates are about my family? It’s because I’m married to Mickey Mouse. So without further ado, let’s talk shop.

It’s my third Christmas in Connecticut, which is beyond bizarre because it honestly seems like I just got here. Work is all-encompassing, and I don’t mind at all. I love the job still, even though there are times I’m so far-removed from the “real world” that I forget to live in it. I no longer watch any news at all, it seems. I read headlines, AP wires and Bottom Line-style scrollers, but I don’t know what’s going on outside the sports world – at least not in-depth. My phone really does autocorrect our president’s name with the name of the 7-foot center-forward for the Thunder. I’m OK with this.

Regular holidays are work days to me. Having time off means I only check my email 10 times a day, as compared to 100. I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s a blessing to have this job, and this year was exciting. The highlights in news breaks and events:

NBA Draft: Nearly a full week in NEW YORK CITY and I get to go to the draft, serving as an editor? It was a lot – LOT – of work, but it was also an amazing experience. I got to see how live TV happens outside a studio setting. It ain’t easy, folks. The next time you see something weird happen on TV and think everyone’s just out getting stoned or whatever, keep in mind that making television is hard and what you just saw was a tiny crack in the porcelain. It could be so much worse!

mel

Melissa in Greenwich Village

Live TV aside, I got to meet all the top picks in the draft too. Most were gentlemen – Victor Oladipo, the Indiana stud who’s now with the Magic – was a gent in every sense of the word. Our reporter, Andy Katz, was interviewing him when Victor realized I was in the room. He stopped the interview to introduce himself to me and another woman who was there, apologizing for not doing so as soon as he walked in. Right then and there I wished for him to become an All-Star one day. I’m a sucker for a gentleman, especially a really tall one in fantastic clothes.

The trip was great – my wonderful stepmother, Melissa McConnell-Hart, stayed with me most of the week. We went to Little Italy, walked all over Greenwich Village and toured Ground Zero. She traipsed all over NYC while I worked, revisiting her stomping grounds from her early days with American Airlines, when she was based there. It was hotter than hell that week, but we had a great time. I ordered room service like three times. And learned to hail cabs. What a country!

Aaron Hernandez: During the NBA Draft, the Patriots tight end was arrested on homicide charges. Needless to say, that whole thing kinda took over the summer.

Boston Marathon Bombings: It was a dark day, one I felt compelled to work on. It was a very Boston-rich year, with Hernandez and the marathon bombings, then the World Series. I can’t say I’m a fan of Boston sports teams, but I do admire their grit. They take tough situations and use them as fuel. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots ended up winning it all this season too.

Biogenesis: So there was this little steroid sting this year that caused all sorts of chaos in the baseball world, especially with my favorite player, Ryan Braun. He was suspended 65 games for testosterone use. Alex Rodriguez was suspended too but hasn’t yet accepted that. Braun was suspended on the second day of the worst vacation I’ve ever taken (Leon was sprayed by a skunk on the first day, so the rest of it was spent cleaning and pouting) so I just think of it as the dark part of the summer. When A-Rod’s news broke (211 game suspension) I was NOT on vacation, and subsequently worked one of the longest, but more satisfying, days in my career. It’s something I can’t really explain—being a part of the news, watching it unfold, sitting in the control room while it’s happening… it’s just what I always wanted, and I had no idea. Small favors and all that… I’m thankful.

Interesting people I met this year: Besides the whole cast and crew at the NBA Draft, I met a lot of neat people this year.

kenjKen Jeong, from The Hangover and Community fame, was a guest host on SportsCenter this year. He was incredibly gracious, charming and did a really great job on SC.

Lovie Smith, a former University of Tulsa player and coach, was in Bristol shortly after being fired from the Bears. I nearly tackled him (like I did Mike Gundy when he was in Bristol) to talk Oklahoma. He obliged, very happy to talk about his former life in T-Town.

David Koechner, aka Champ Kind from Anchorman: We had to cancel Will Ferrell because of breaking news about Jameis Winston (the Florida State quarterback and Heisman winner). But we still had Champ in-house to make the rounds and shoot some promos for us. He was so nice – and he says he loves going to newsrooms because they all remember his lines from Anchorman!

Part 5: In Closing

A few more bullet points:

  • My group of friends suffered a huge loss this year, with my friend Clark dying unexpectedly right before my NBA Draft trip. Clark and I were planning to go to a Yankees game while I was in town. But he was taken from us so quickly. It nearly dropped me to my knees. I miss him—he was one of those souls who just made the air sweeter, one of those people who never treated anyone like a stranger. I’ve already blogged about him, so I won’t get into details on this Christmas day. It’s too sad. All of us are getting together in Florida in February to memorialize him. There have been a few Big Chill jokes already made… I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a gathering for a sad event.
  • My parents finally came to Connecticut, and we had a great time. Dad, Melissa and I went to the Hill-Stead museum in Farmington, and it was a beautiful, crisp fall day. This autumn was exquisite, and I’m so glad they got to be here for that week. After they left, the temperatures dropped and it snowed.dadmel
  • My brother and I took a trip to Philly because my fabulous boss gave me her tickets to a Brewers-Phillies series. It was a fun drive, except for when we drove home and somehow ended up on the George Washington Bridge in New York City with my brother at the wheel. It was a complete panic situation for both of us, and I felt like Kevin Nealon in “Happy Gilmore,” giving Nick useless advice the whole time he navigated through NYC traffic… looking back, it was kind of hilarious.
  • When I met Elliott, I did so in his hometown of West Palm Beach, where Natalie moved a few years ago. It is the eppy-tome of gorgeous cities.
  • I went to opening day of the NFL season and tailgated to boot! My fantastic friend Fran, a proud Jets season ticket holder, took me to Bucs-Jets. It was glorious – I get why fans are the way they are about the NFL even though it’s not my favorite sport.jets
  • When I was in Dallas for Thanksgiving, I finally got to go to a real NHL game, and with my Canadian hockey-loving bro-in-law and Sharks season-ticket-holding cousin John. Now I’ve been to every type of pro game (except soccer and cricket… and those other non-‘Murican sports – kidding, kidding…)
  • I didn’t get to go to Oklahoma this year, which is a real travesty. But it only fueled my desire to get there next year!

So one more time, Merry Christmas, ya’ll! Let’s talk more next year, OK?

–Sarah

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My long overdue tribute to ‘Downtown’ Clark Brown

Vacation, as a rule, especially in New England, involves going to some sort of shoreline and dipping your toes in some sort of water, be it fresh, salty, moving or still.

I did not do any of these things on my vacation this summer. Last summer’s trip to upstate New York to see my entire Hart family and Troll relatives was so much fun, it only makes sense that this year’s vacation would be a little bit of a letdown. We do the family reunion every other year – makes sense, really, for balance’s sake. Makes you miss it when you don’t have one.

Anyway, I spent this vacation in Bristol, Ct., doing lots of things I needed to do – shopping, cleaning, paying bills, going to the doctor/dentist… and trying to rid my house of the stench of a skunk who crossed my dog’s path on the first day of my vacation.

I kind of had a blah Friday. A doctor’s appointment wasn’t very enlightening, and I was just all-around feeling down. No real reason. When I got up, I realized I had Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” randomly stuck in my head. I didn’t really acknowledge it.

Then on my way to the doctor, I was flipping through the radio stations and lo and behold, one of the “high 80s” stations – you know the ones, the experimental and NPR-ish public stations – was playing a live version of “Bertha.” Weird, I thought, but was so wrapped up in getting to New Haven for my doc visit that I didn’t pay it much mind.

I go to the doctor, leave and head back for a dental appointment in Farmington. Teeth cleaned, I head back to Bristol for home. Again, this time on my mp3 device, Grateful Dead reared its head. It was “Cassidy,” which is my favorite Dead song. I started taking notice then.

clarkfishThe Dead makes me think of a lot of really great people in my life – my cousin John, my old roommate/gay husband Erin, and Clark Brown, may he rest in peace.

We lost Clark in early June to a freak health issue. I was supposed to go to a Yankees game with him later in June. He was there one day, the next gone.

So yesterday, when I heard all the Dead songs, I realized I hadn’t truly dealt with Clark’s sudden death. I like to think of myself as someone who deals with her problems and moves on. But my tendency is to compartmentalize these types of problems into “deal with this later” moments. Clark happened one day, and the next, ESPN laid people off. It was a double whammy and I just kind of pushed it aside.

But emotions have a propensity to need to be expelled. “Cassidy” made that happen. Clark made that happen.

A bit about Clark, who can’t be summed up by a lowly writer like me – Clark was a cool guy. That’s the easy way to put it. Clark was friends with literally everyone who met him. I never heard him disparage another person. He defended those who were being disparaged. If anyone embodied Good Guy ‘til the end, it was Clark.

Clark was both friendly and mysterious at the same time. Not a jaded kind of mystery, but one where you were always surprised by what he knew, the depth of his feelings and understanding, what he’d been through in his life.

He didn’t wear his problems on his sleeve. You had to roll up his sleeves – up to the bicep – to get him to talk about himself.

We had a rainy afternoon in Manhattan a few months back where we talked about his family. I learned things about him I’d never thought to ask. It made me ashamed for not asking him more about himself. I felt selfish.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt selfish around Clark, like I was using him for something and not being a good friend in return. Clark could get you… things. Concert tickets, backstage passes and beyond. One Thanksgiving, when we were all still in our early 20s, I threw a Thanksgiving feast and invited Clark. Oddly enough, it was the first time he’d come to one of my real parties as a guest. He was always invited after that. He came to all our reunions – including one we had in 2011, which was the last time many of my friends saw Clark.

But he’d made so many plans to see us all – he was really close to a lot of us, and we all have this weird arc of Clark friendship. One minute he’d be in Oklahoma visiting Amy Lee at a wedding, the next in Colorado with Gretchen Crowe. He’d tried to convince me to come to a Leon Russell concert in New York, but I was too lazy to go. I regret that.

We all had our Clark experiences. Mine came, surprisingly, in New York City. When I first moved to Connecticut, I was stunned to learn Clark had moved to the area after he’d lived in North Carolina for years after leaving Oklahoma. He met me in NYC for my maiden voyage to the city. I was terrified, but Clark knew his way round and took me anywhere I’d ask to go. We had real Spanish Harlem tacos and real Malaysian food in Chinatown.

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! :)

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! 🙂

The next time I visited, we had Katz’s Deli pastrami. We walked in hot August drizzle all over downtown Manhattan, telling stories and stopping to look into store windows. There was nothing but a platonic friendship between us, and it was so comforting and wonderful to talk to someone who not only sounded like me, but had the same friends as me, had been to many of the same parties as me, etc.

We went to shows, texted and got to be really good friends again. It was just pleasant having him around and so close to me. We’d planned a few outings once the weather warmed up and I was to be in Manhattan for a week in June, so we had some plans in place. Unfortunately, those were not to be. And I felt like I’d lost not only a friend, but someone who was on the same journey as me in a new land.

I think he bridged the gap for me between Oklahoma and Connecticut. He – again – was there for me without asking for anything in return.

Clark was more into live music than almost anyone I know. He wasn’t just the guy at the show – he knew the bands. He did work for them. He and I went to see Jane’s Addiction in 2011 and he was passing out information, posters, stickers, etc., to fans because he was working with the record company. He was the king of the odd job – but they were cool odd jobs.

When Clark died, I didn’t believe it for a day or two. I even dreamed that the whole thing was a joke. I woke up hoping I was right. Sadly, I wasn’t.

When Clark died, everyone went to his Facebook page demanding to know what happened.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz's. He was absolutely right about that one.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz’s. He was absolutely right about that one.

Since Clark died, the messages on his Facebook page haven’t stopped. Bands that he’d worked for held memorial concerts, and still do. Tributes sprung up all over the place and I’ve been truly amazed again at his reach – how many people loved him.  It made me realize how many lives he’d touched and continues to touch.

Mine included.

I don’t know if Clark was controlling my radio yesterday or just trying to get me to pay attention. All I know is, after the Bertha and Cassidy incidents, I played the Dead all day and I felt better.

And when I went to bed, I guess I’d accidentally turned on my music player, because just when I was lying down, “Estimated Prophet” started playing through my Galaxy speakers. I couldn’t help but think he was behind that.

Clark, I get the message. Life is to be lived. You lived it, man. You were a wonderful, pure soul and you made your way through this life collecting friends, experiences and memories, not battle scars. You were beautiful. And I hope you are watching us down here telling tales of the great Downtown Clark Brown.

They won’t make another one like you. And not to get cheesy or switch bands midstream, but to borrow from Neil Young, if you were a miner for a heart of gold, Clark’s would’ve been a place where you’d have been rich.

I miss you, buddy. More than I ever expected to – then again, I thought we’d all die at 80. Thanks for showing up in my day yesterday. We will continue to honor you because you deserve it.

Here’s some of the lyrics that made me sure Clark was in my stratosphere yesterday:

Estimated Prophet:
My time coming, any day, don’t worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I’m in no hurry, no
Rainbows and down that highway where ocean breezes blow
My time coming, voices saying they tell me where to go.
 
Cassidy
Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac.
I can tell by the way you smile he’s rolling back.
Come wash the nighttime clean,
Come grow this scorched ground green,
Blow the horn, tap the tambourine
Close the gap of the dark years in between
You and me,
Cassidy…
Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now.
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine.
 
Jack Straw
We used to play for silver, now we play for life;
And ones for sport and ones for blood at the point of a knife.
And now the die is shaken, now the die must fall.
There aint a winner in the game, he don’t go home with all.
Not with all.
 
Attics of My Life
In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.
I have spent my life seeking all thats still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there was no strings to play, you played to me.
In the book of loves own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.
In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.

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Filed under Baseball, Connecticut, Family, Food, Friends, Love, Oklahoma, Sports, Tahlequah, Tulsa

Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives…

I’d like to point out that this is one of those blogs that I thought of the title of first, and I spelled “Mathematicians” correctly the first time through. THAT is PROGRESS.

I’m having one of those “Every song ever written is great” sort of days. Where I could do nothing but sit in a room and listen to music nonstop — I do this at least once a week. Usually it’s happy stuff, or something that’s sparked by a memory, whatever. Today, it’s been maudlin and a bit dreamy-sappy. And I’ve just let it happen. Maybe it’s because my music player is shuffling with the best of them tonight  — I’ve heard a lot of great songs on this holiday Thursday — it’s the Fourth of July, I’m in the ESPN newsroom, and the only thing going on is the rent. And a few baseball games. But meanwhile, I’ve been in a weird place the last few days. Not sure why, perhaps it’s the summertime blues, for which we all know there is no cure.

Regardless, the only thing that has really helped break my malaise has been the occasional moment alone with the headphones on.

Which brings me back to the title. “Tangled Up in Blue” is one of those songs that I always like, but on days like these, I truly, deeply FEEL. Near tears all day long, I’ve tried to figure out why. It’s probably due more to the fact that it’s really hot out and I hate heat, and I’m really tired after the NBA draft, and I’m just kinda whiny with all kinds of first-world problems. Oh, I can add this in too — my favorite baseball team, the Brewers, is playing really badly and my favorite player on said team, Ryan Braun, who I’d like to think will be my betrothed someday, has been on the DL for weeks. Like I said, first-world problems.

Anyway, through my veil of tears, faux, reasonable or otherwise, on my way to work today, I heard “Mother of Pearl” by Roxy Music, which wins the Favorite Song of the Last Two Years award, if that were a real thing. Damn  — if you don’t know that song, listen to it. Research it.  It’s not particularly sad, but it reminds me of leaving Oklahoma… I listened to this about 100 times a day my last few months in Oklahoma.

I got to work, where the sports news was slow, so I went to get a Diet Coke. On my way, I realized it’s been 10 years to the day since I saw my mother. She died on July 11, but July 4 was the last time we saw her at the hospital still alive, though she was barely that then. The week after, we shut off her machines. July 4 was when we had the meeting to decide her fate. And that made me cry in the elevator. I stepped off, stopped by the ladies room, cried some more, came out of the stall, tried to look like I wasn’t crying, and went back to the newsroom. Fortunately there was hardly anyone there.

A good cry in the bathroom at work kind of did the trick for a few hours. I didn’t really feel like talking, so I put on my headphones and immersed myself in my little world of melancholia and subversion. I was not let down– “Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones, “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who, “Stand Beside Me” by Hothouse Flowers, ” “California” by Liz Phair, even “Unsung” by Helmet… all special to me in some silly way or other.

Then the hammer fell: “Southern Cross, ” Crosby, Stills and Nash. My mom’s favorite and also in my top three favorite songs.

I had to turn it off before I created a scene in the newsroom. I got up and talked to some co-workers and now my inner stage play seems to have taken a somewhat happier turn.

I’m not sure what causes these weird moods in me. I like to think it’s something simple, like a vitamin deficiency or hormones. But chances are, I’m just, like I said, tired, cranky and possibly irritated that I’m working on the Fourth of July. But it could be worse… I could be unemployed and not working at a place I’m very happy to work.

In a few days, that’ll make me happy again. For today, apparently I’m wallowing. So bring it on. I’m armed with 25,000-plus songs, a few of which will surely keep me going.

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Filed under Baseball, Brain Disorders, Brewers, Connecticut, ESPN, General Nonsense, Music, Ryan Braun, Sports

Home Sweet Oklahoma On My Mind

My eyes burn. Puffy, waterlogged, red, dripping. And yet I continue to put them through what’s torturing them so – news coverage from my beloved home, torn asunder by another round of carnage from that bitch Mother Nature.

I can’t stop watching the videos and interviews of my beloved Okies as they try to figure out what the hell just happened to them. A minute ago I watched a guy try to explain how he let his horses out of the pasture so they could get ahead of the storm before he found his own shelter. His mud-streaked face was emotionless – that stale, confused pallor of a victim. He was worried about the horses. He hadn’t even stopped to clean off his face.

When I saw it, my chest heaved and I wailed like I was at a funeral. Those are MY people, and MY people are hurt.

You think you had Hell Week in college? I can guarantee you Oklahoma’s Hell Week is a lot more terrifying – it’s usually in the first few weeks of May, when the weather heats up in the Heartland but winter is still coming to a close in Colorado and beyond. That cold air and our hot blast don’t mix, and what comes out of it is a Tasmanian devil of wind, a heat-seeking missile honing in on unsuspecting Okies doing what they do to survive.

Sunday, May 19 and Monday, May 20 are now in the record books, going along with May 3, 1999 (also in Moore) and May 22, 2011, in Joplin, which is practically Oklahoma.

And though I’ve been through thousands of tornado watches and warnings, and call my local TV meteorologists by their first names like they’re family, I never get used to the chaos and carnage that follow. I usually look forward to storm season because the beauty and majesty of a lightning-filled thunderstorm is unparalleled. You get used to tornado sirens, when to ignore them and when to take them seriously. You get used to your shows being interrupted by weather warnings a few months out of the year. You get used to your satellite dish being the best indicator of how close the storm really is.

That being said, I’ll never, ever get used to not being there when something bad like this happens. As I’ve said before, all Oklahomans are part or all Indian, and part meteorologist. (That doesn’t go away when you leave, either. People here are amazed at my ability to predict the weather.)

I’m just under 1,300 miles away from my home, and it might as well have hit my house in Bristol, Ct. I feel guilty for not being there. I actually considered asking for emergency vacation so I could go home just to be there. I don’t know why – I don’t know what I’d do. So I just donated money – I have some of that to spare, more than time, really – and I watched, prayed, hoped and answered emails from concerned ESPN-ers who asked about my friends and family. Thankfully, as far as I can tell, everyone I know is safe and sound. I heard from my sister near Okmulgee (Preston), cousins in the OKC area, friends, and from college and high school classmates – one had a nephew missing who thankfully was found this evening.

Can you imagine being a child and being away from your parents during something like that? Walking aimlessly afterward, wondering when or if they’d be found? Same goes for pets. I joked with my brother tonight that Leon, if he’d been in the storm, would probably have barked at the rescue workers unless they had hot dogs. That dog is crazy for hot dogs.

My brother feels guilty too. He’s more recently removed from Oklahoma, and was just there a few weeks ago. We talked about how the storm season seemed delayed this year – the first week of May is notorious – and hoped that maybe this year wouldn’t be too bad.

But again we’re reminded of how small we are– how fragile the structures we confidently build on top of the earth, sure they’ll be there tomorrow, are. We dare Mother Nature with our power lines and vaulted ceilings, and thumb our noses at her when we build them right back after she’s done tearing them up. That’s Oklahoma. It’s what we signed up for.

The other day, I was talking to one of the producers who is in charge of Baseball Tonight on ESPN, commenting on how the Cardinals’ Pete Kozma is a Tulsan. He said, “You’re just all about Oklahoma, aren’t you?” And I said, “We’re all like this. We’re just really proud of our state.” And it’s true. We stick up for each other, and even if we leave the nest, we tell everyone how great the nest was. I’ll never stop calling Oklahoma home, and everyone I meet out her finds out pretty quick where I’m from. I may not live there again for a while, but you can bet your bottom dollar it’s where I’ll spend my last days – and it’s where they’ll plant my body. (Hopefully that won’t be for a long time!)

I love you, Oklahoma, as much now as when I left. We don’t always agree on politics, but neither do me and my dad and I think he’s the best man walking this earth.

We will heal, because we have to. We will heal because we’ll all be pulling for the same team. With the rest of the country behind us, we’ll heal even faster. And remember, it’ll be football season soon – something to look forward to. We all know how that both heals and simultaneously rips us apart with a kindred form of Bedlam (but in a good way…)

Remember the Thunder motto: Rise Together. Like there was ever a doubt.

Love you, Sooner State, Home of the Red People – or more simply, HOME.

And before I get back to CNN, here’s some words of wisdom from our patron saint, Woody Guthrie:

Oklahoma Hills

Many a month has come and gone
Since I wandered from my home
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.
Many a page of life has turned,
Many a lesson I have learned;
Well, I feel like in those hills I still belong.

‘Way down yonder in the Indian Nation
Ridin’ my pony on the reservation,
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.
Now, ‘way down yonder in the Indian Nation,
A cowboy’s life is my occupation,
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.

But as I sit here today,
Many miles I am away
From a place I rode my pony through the draw,
While the oak and blackjack trees
Kiss the playful prairie breeze,
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.

Now as I turn life a page
To the land of the great Osage
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born,
While the black oil it rolls and flows
And the snow-white cotton grows
In those Oklahoma hills where I was born.

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Filed under Oklahoma, weather

Part 4: Hart Songs, The Revolutionary and The Sexy

Yeah, so the next part took some time to post. But I hope it’s worth the wait. I’d like to tell you I was out on adventures and that why I didn’t just post all this, but truthfully, I was just watching  lot of sports. And subsequently being very sad about sports. Still, Thunder Up, etc., Enjoy The Social Commentary and The Sexy, the final chapter of my emo blog series.

THE SOCIAL COMMENTARY

“Romeo Had Juliette,” Lou Reed

In what is a sort of love sonnet and social criticism of New York, Lou Reed’s album – aptly named “New York” – is a snapshot of a seedy side of the city, one that gets all the glamour headlines but whose dark side is ultimately more interesting and celebrated… there are several songs on this album that reflect the pre-9/11 New York, pre-Guiliani, pre-cleanup phase. It’s gorgeous… so much dirt and grime, shots and crime, all wrapped in a hairnet and spat out by one of the coolest people on the planet, Lou Reed. This song is revolutionary to me in a lot of ways because it’s a big Fuck You to The Man, but at its roots it’s  a love song… but just one that makes you want to fight.

I can’t pick out just one verse, so here they all are:

Caught between the twisted stars
the plotted lines the faulty map
that brought Columbus to New York
Betwixt between the East and West
he calls on her wearing a leather vest
the earth squeals and shudders to a halt
A diamond crucifix in his ear
is used to help ward off the fear
that he has left his soul in someone’s rented car
Inside his pants he hides a mop
to clean the mess that he has dropped
into the life of lithesome Juliette Bell
 
And Romeo wanted Juliette
and Juliette wanted Romeo
And Romeo wanted Juliette
and Juliette wanted Romeo
 
Romeo Rodriguez squares
his shoulders and curses Jesus
runs a comb through his black pony-tail
He’s thinking of his lonely room
the sink that by his bed gives off a stink
then smells her perfume in his eyes
And her voice was like a bell
 
Outside the street were steaming the crack
dealers were dreaming
of an Uzi someone had just scored
I betcha I could hit that light
with my one good arm behind my back
says little Joey Diaz
Brother give me another tote
those downtown hoods are no damn good
those Italians need a lesson to be taught
This cop who died in Harlem
you think they’d get the warnin’
I was dancing when his brains run out on the street
 
And Romeo had Juliette
and Juliette had her Romeo
And Romeo had Juliette
and Juliette had her Romeo
 
I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag
with Latin written on it that says
“it’s hard to give a shit these days”
Manhattan’s sinking like a rock
into the filthy Hudson what a shock
they wrote a book about it
they said it was like ancient Rome
 
The perfume burned his eyes
holding tightly to her thighs
And something flickered for a minute
and then it vanished and was gone
 

Black Gold,” Soul Asylum

This is not one of Soul Asylum’s hits, though they did have a video for it. And believe it or not, SA had a lot of good song before that horrible “Runaway Train” song that played relentlessly throughout most of the early 90s. For Pete’s sake – Dave Pirner is mentioned in a Liz Phair song, so you know they have to have some sort of coolness about them. “Black Gold” is a song that has a lot of meanings depending on who’s listening. Pirner said it was anti-war, Black Gold in this case meaning oil, but I take it differently. I love when a song can transcend it original meaning. The lyrics remind me of Muskogee, Oklahoma, where I grew up and experienced first-hand what racial violence can do to a town. So much hatred, so many fights and riots, so much stupid fear. I left Muskogee because of that shit.

Two boys on a playground
Tryin’ to push each other down
See the crowd gather ’round
Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowdBlack gold in a white plight
Won’t you fill up the tank, let’s go for a ride
I don’t care ’bout no wheelchair
I’ve got so much left to do with my life

Moving backwards through time
Never learn, never mind
That side’s yours, this side’s mine
Brother you ain’t my kind

You’re a black soldier, white fight
Won’t you fill up the tank, let’s go for a ride
Sure like to feel some pride
But this place just makes me feel sad inside

Mother, do you know where your kids are tonight?

Keeps the kids off the streets
Gives ’em something to do, something to eat
This spot was a playground
This flat land used to be a town

Black gold in a white plight
Won’t you fill up the tank, let’s go for a ride
Sure like to feel some pride
But this place just makes me feel sad inside

Black gold in a white plight
Won’t you fill up the tank, let’s go for a ride
I don’t care ’bout no wheelchair
I’ve got so much left to do with my life.”

 

Gets me every time – sadness for my hometown, revolutionary “We can make this world better” feelings, my civil rights gene… all activated and on high alert.

THE SEXY

To remain somewhat modest, I won’t go into a lot of detail here. These are the … ummm… loin-stirrers? Now I’m embarrassed. But you get it.

“Slow and Easy,” Whitesnake

There is not a sexier sound in the world than David Coverdale saying “To the Bone.”

“Nasty Girl,” Vanity

Before she went uber-Christian, Vanity wrote a dirty lil’ ditty that is just … good n’ sexy.

“Naughty Girl,” Beyonce

… And Beyonce, uber-sexy just singing “Happy Birthday,” countered Vanity with a modern version.

Love Interruption,” Jack White

Jack White, he of the tortured sexiness, nails it (wow) in this one. He makes the list with a lot of other songs (“Ball and a Biscuit,” “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” ) but this one is just pure sexiness. And I’m not sure why I find him so attractive. I think it’s his talent.

“All Night Thing,” Temple of the Dog

I had some impure thoughts about Chris Cornell. Then someone told me I looked like him. That kinda broke my mind.

“Say Goodbye,” Dave Matthews

Listen to the lyrics of this song. And if you haven’t lived this moment, you don’t get it. If you have, you want to call up that person and demand a repeat performance. Sheesh.

“Love Trilogy,” Red Hot Chili Peppers

I loathe new RHCP. LOATHE it. But their first three-ish albums were just great, and this little sexy gem is off “Uplift Mofo Party Plan.” The meter of the song is why it’s sexy – and the lyrics, of course – but the – ahem – climax – of the song really explain its meaning.

“The Right Thing,” Simply Red

I had no idea this song was so perverse until I read the lyrics. I’ve always loved it, but wow – it’s kinda dirty. In a good way.

OK, that’s it, until I have another day of emo or crazy emotion. Thanks for reading, and share what y0ur emotional songs are with me and why. That shit fascinates me.

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Hart Songs: Part 3, Soul-Stirring

I vowed yesterday — no more sadness. So here we go, no sad tears, only thoughtful reflections (I don’t mean to sound like a crazy new-age hippie. I eat meat and go to Target and love shopping and technology, so you know that ain’t me.) But because I’m a writer first, I’m always extrapolating concepts from songs, TV, movies, everyday conversation, looking for meaning, even when it’s not there. OK, a lot of when it’s not there. It’s a strange kind of narcissism, I guess, to try to insert yourself into everything. But alas, I can’t do anything about it but accept it. And say thanks for the songs that really GRAB me. There are many — a lot of which I can’t explain, like the entire Tripping Daisy album “I Am An Elastic Firecracker.” But here are three that come to mind…

Oh, and to recap, this is part 3 of a blog series about songs that elicit emotion. Blah blah blah.

THE SOUL-STIRRING

 “This Is It (Your Soul), Hothouse Flowers

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjw5x2_this-is-it-your-soul_music

I don’t think the auto-play thing on here is gonna work. Click it. It’s worth it.

This is one of those songs I missed in the 90s, and probably wouldn’t have appreciated either way, because the message is more mature, more for the world-weary life traveler. I, like all of y’all, have had a tough time here or there, and that’s what’s made me who I am now. I’m finally – FINALLY – understanding what the hell life is about, and it’s not about worry, fear and strife, not about making yourself anything it’s not meant to be. One night a few months ago I was downloading music – Echo and the Bunnymen, I think – and Hothouse Flowers was suggested. I remembered hearing about them back in the day, so I sampled one of the songs, and somehow found this one. From the first verse, I was inspired. This song is pure magic, and it’s pure genius too. And not to go all softy-Sarah-Feelgood on you, but it’s good for your soul to listen to this kind of stuff every now and then. It’s not cheesy. It’s just … happy.

 You’ve been disturbed from your sleep
You’ve been laid down on the floor
You’ve been looking around for your family
Now your body’s tired and sore
Well there’s rest that’s in the water
And there’s an answer on the streets
And if you take the time to listen
There’s a chance you will meet
Your soul
This is it… This is your soul”
 “And they’re talking at you not with you
And you’re bored with what’s around
And you’ve tried all the quacks, all the doctors and all you really need
And all you really need is a healing sound
 But just listen to the waters
Find the answer on the street
Because now it’s time to listen, now it’s time to meet
Your soul, now this is it
It’s time to meet your soul
Your crying soul
This is your soul
Set free your soul”
 

 Southern Cross,” Crosby, Still and Nash

Not only does this have the dubious honor of making my emotional list, it’s my all-time favorite song – I think. It’s about sailing. It’s about love. It’s about breakups. It’s about love of music. It’s about ME. Every lyric of this song is beautiful, and I got back and forth as to what my favorite is. I think the perennial favorite is this:

 “So we cheated and we lied
And we tested
And we never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.
You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about loving you.
At the Southern Cross.”

 So much majesty. Damn I love this song. It was among  my mother’s favorites too. Back in the day when I still had a clock radio, this song would often be on the station I set the radio to, 103.3 in Tulsa. Those mornings, I would roll over in bed and just absorb the song. It probably doesn’t hurt that I have a romantic notion of living on a boat someday…

 

 Rain King,” Counting Crows

While a great deal of CC’s songs could end up on the Sad Song List (“High Life” and “Sullivan Street” come to mind), this song is just downright uplifting. It makes me want to run really fast down a hill, flailing my arms. To me, it’s a reminder to, you know, live your life to the fullest and shit.

 “When I think of heaven (Deliver me in a black-winged bird)
I think of dying Lay me down in a field of flame and heather
Render up my body into the burning heart of God in the belly of a black-winged bird
Don’t try to bleed me
I’ve been here before and I deserve a little more
 I belong in the service of the Queen
I belong anywhere but in between
She’s been dying
I been drinking and I am the Rain King.”
 

 OK, tomorrow we’ll deal with social commentary songs — the revolution-starters…

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Hart Songs: Part 2, The Sad

As I said, the sad songs say so much… Here’s part 2, and I promise the next parts won’t be gut-wrenching like this one (0r maybe that’s just me.) To recap, I had an emo day the other day that prompted me to think about all the songs that always elicit an emotional response. So here goes, Part 2.

THE SAD

To Make You Feel My Love,”
written by Bob Dylan, but Garth Brooks’ version

One weekend in Weleetka, Oklahoma, when my mom was still alive and had just bought Garth’s complete collection on CD, she forced me to stand with her in the laundry room and listen to the words to this song. “This is how I feel about you and Nick (my brother)” she told me. I’m crying just thinking about this… It’s a love song, but the fact that my mom thought of her children when she heard it makes it so much more special to me, and since her death, sad. My mom always told me she’d die young. She was right. But she left me with a lifetime of memories, and I never doubted her love.

 “I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.
 I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawlin’ down the avenue
No, there’s nothin’ that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love.
 There ain’t nothing that I wouldn’t do.
Go to the ends of the earth for you.
Make you happy; make your dreams come true.
To make you feel my love.”

 Garth’s version is the one I like best, because of that moment. Doesn’t take away the fact that the greatest songwriter in history wrote it. Thanks, Bob, once again for the lyrics, and thanks, Garth, for the moment.

 “You’re the Reason God Make Oklahoma,”
David Frizzell and Shelly West

It’s pretty obvious why this song would make me sad, if you know me just a little bit. It made me love Oklahoma and tear up even when I lived there. Alas, I had to leave to stake out my fortunes elsewhere. But it’s where my home and heart remains, where my people are buried, and where I will probably be buried too. I heard this song during an hourlong stint in Dallas traffic when I was in my mid-20s and living in the DFW area. I was back in Oklahoma within a month.

The fact that the song centers on the best part of Oklahoma is probably not on purpose, but Northeastern Oklahoma gets all the love — with good reason. From the opening guitar, I’m a puddle.

This Woman’s Work,” Kate Bush

This is the song that I heard the morning after my emo night, prompting this blog series. It is a relatively new entry in the Make Sarah Cry files. Geez that woman can sing. When you know that the song was written for the movie “She’s Having a Baby,” and is used in the scene where Kevin Bacon is learning that his wife and child are in danger during childbirth, it pulls those ol’ heartstrings but good. Maxwell also did a version, but Kate’s sweet, innocent voice adds the drama.

 “Pray God you can cope.
I stand outside this woman’s work,
This woman’s world.
Ooh, it’s hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.
 
I know you’ve got a little life in you yet.
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left.
I know you’ve got a little life in you yet.
I know you’ve got a lot of strength left.
 I should be crying, but I just can’t let it go.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking
 Of all the things I should’ve said,
That I never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
Though we never did.
All the things I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.
 Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away.”

 Waaaaah.

And let’s go for a happier subject, shall we?

 

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Filed under General Nonsense, Music, Oklahoma, Relationships, Women

Hart Songs, Part 1 (Love)

I had a bit of an emo day yesterday – not the type where I felt sorry for myself, just a bit darker than I usually am. Not sure where this came from, but it kind of crept up on me and before I knew it, I was listening to Modest Mouse and not talking to anyone. I had a tummy ache too. Maybe the two are exclusive.

I woke up today all better, but with a strong desire to clean the house. The lazy person who lives inside me wanted me to lie on the couch. I balanced both urges, hence this blog post, inspired by a rare day of moodiness (I like to think I’m happy all the time. Perhaps I’m fooling myself – I don’t care.) Then I turned on my music and the first song out of the chute was one that had I heard it last night, I might’ve gone all Ophelia. (Just being dramatic… promise.)

So I gotz to thinkin’ – what songs always – ALWAYS – elicit some sort of reaction from me, be it crying (usually as I’m a big giant sap), revolutionary moments, anger… what have you. The list is pretty long, but here are some highlights and reasons.

NOTE — I started writing. And dude, I just wrote and wrote. So I’ll break it up into a series. In no particular order.

THE LOVE SONGS

Sure, it’s the most-addressed topic in the world, and everyone’s got their favorites. Here are a few of my most sentimental ones. I should also preface this list the fact that I’m just a hopeless, weirdo romantic whose idea of love is best summed between Doc Holliday and Kate the Prostitute in “Tombstone.” So perhaps I have weird taste I love songs.

“Watch Closely Now,” Kris Kristofferson

If you haven’t seen the Barbra Streisand-KK version of “A Star is Born,” You don’t know what you’re missing. It’s superb. And this song falls very near the top of the all-time favorite list too. It’s a growly, sexy rock song that is a more raw version of the love song.

 “Watch closely now
You’ll observe a curious exchange of energy
Are you a figment of my imagination
Or I one of yours?
 Watch closely now – are you watching me now?
Your eyes are like fingers
They’re touching my body and arousing my soul
Ridin’ the passion arisin’ inside me
How high can I go?
You’re comin’ with me girl
I’m gonna show you how
When it’s scary, don’t look down
 Watch closely now – are you watching me now?
I see the hunger arise in your eyes and it’s a-urging me on
Higher and harder and faster and farther
Than I’ve ever gone
You’re comin’ closer lady
Don’t ya leave me now
We’re gonna make it
Don’t look down
 Watch closely now – are you watching me now?
I’m the master magician, who’s setting you free
From the lies you’ve been told
When they’re breaking your back
Bring your last straw to me
I turn straw into gold
I’m gonna need you later
When you’re not around
But I can take it
Don’t look down
 Watch closely now
Are you watching me now?…”
 

“La Vie En Rose,” Edith Piaf and/or Louis Armstrong

I get it. Paris is romantic. I’ve never been. I’m still waiting, because I want it to be like this. Did I mention I’m incurable?

  

“Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak, angels sing from above
Everyday words seem to turn
Into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose
 

“I Love You, Always Forever,” Donna Lewis

I admit to liking some cheesy music, some not-so-cool, proves-I’m-not-a-hipster stuff, and this is probably the quintessential song for that assertion. But dammit if it’s not a beautiful love song that I hope to better understand someday, as true love has managed to evade me lo these many years.

“You’ve got the most unbelievable blue eyes I’ve ever seen
You’ve got me almost melting away
As we lay there under blue sky with pure white stars
Exotic sweetness a magical time”

Ah, it’s sticky sweet, but it affects me. Can’t do anything about that. Just have to let it envelope me… and gush like a sissy.

Love Is Alive,” The Judds

The idea of love over a simple everyday breakfast table is just so charming and alluring. This is the Judds at their absolute finest.

Love ain’t a candle
It doesn’t burn for one night
And need the dark to shine
Love is alive
And love ain’t just a word
In every dictionary
With no where defined
Love is a man and he’s mine
Love is alive and at breakfast table
Every day of the week
Love is alive and it grows every day and night
Even in our sleep
Love is alive and it’s made a happy woman out of me
Oh, love is alive and here by me
 

“Time and Tide,” Basia

Once upon a time, I thought I’d found The One, stupidly, and this song was sort of my anthem then, and when that relationship fizzled, I kind of started hating the song. I haven’t been “In Love” since then (quotes intended, as who knows if I was really in love then) but I can listen to this song again and realize why I liked it to begin with. My mom, who was married five times and was an incurable romantic, loved this song. I don’t know who it reminded her of. One of the mysteries she died with.

 “It’s hard for me to stop my heart
Love never knows when the time is right
I don’t want to hurt anybody but
Can’t help loving you
I never felt like this before
I know this is passion worth waiting for
Let life take its course
That’s the only thing for us to do
We’ve got time, oh baby
There’s no rush gonna be a better day for us
Hang on and I will wait for you
Our love will always stay as good as new”

… and the Old Faithfuls

“Indian Summer,” The Doors

“If I Needed You,” Townes Van Zandt

“Visions of Johanna,” Bob Dylan

Up next, the sad songs… because they say so much.

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