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A couple of years ago, I wrote a little mini-post about “Why I Love Living in the Future”, I concept I stole in its entirety from fellow geek and blogger Wil Wheaton. (No comparisons intended. Although I feel a bit of a kinship with him, clearly, I’m nowhere near in the same league.)
It struck me again tonight. It’s pretty awesome to live in a time where I can watch on demand video of Michael Symon cooking his lamb Bolognese sauce as I’m taking a break from making my own Spaghetti Bolognese.
I’m sure his was better — and it was definitely more interesting, with the lamb and all — but then, I got to smell the lovely wine while mine was cooking, so it’s a fair trade, I think. At least until a little farther in the future, when Smell-O-Vision finally becomes a reality.
Isn’t it great to still have more future to look forward to?
Day Ten: A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep
Today’s choice wasn’t all that difficult, really, but there was a tiny problem — I don’t think there really is such a thing as a song that makes me fall asleep.
In all fairness, though, it doesn’t really take much for me to fall asleep in the first place. This is by no means a lifelong condition; when I was a baby, getting me to fall asleep was apparently quite the labor-intensive effort. The only thing that worked for my mother was to give up, put me in the car, and drive me around. (For what it’s worth, that’s still pretty effective; I rarely sleep as well even in my own bed as I do in a moving car.) But these days, a quasi-comfortable chair and the opportunity to close my eyes is about all it takes for me to drift off.
That said, I do have a separate playlist on my iPod labeled “Bedtime”. It contains a mixture of quiet songs and acoustic versions of some of my favorites. While I don’t really need it to get to sleep, listening when I go to bed does seem to help me get to a deeper, more restful sleep more quickly.
So, for lack of a song that actually makes me fall asleep, I chose for today the song that I most often use to kick off my “Bedtime” playlist at night: “Glitter in the Air”, by P!nk.
“Glitter in the Air” is unlike most of P!nk’s other songs, even her other slow songs. Although she’s considered a pop artist, most of her music really has more of a driving rock beat, and is clearly meant to be listened to with the volume cranked up. Normally, her songs are ones that I belt out in the car, not music that I would choose for relaxation. Even her quieter songs, like “Who Knew?” aren’t anywhere near what you might call somnolent.
But, again, “Glitter in the Air” is different. It has a quiet, almost dreamy rhythm, accentuated by the fact that the only instruments behind the vocals are piano and a hint of acoustic guitar. Melancholy lyrics, combined with soft, slightly breathy vocals instead of P!nk’s usual all-or-nothing power delivery, create a softness usually absent from her work. The result is a song that provides the perfect backdrop for turning off my overactive brain off and letting myself float away.
Admittedly, it probably makes for an unusual lullaby. But as you might have noticed by now, I’m a fairly unusual girl.
Day Nine: A Song That You Can Dance To
When I was in college, one of my favorite times of the year was when the next semester’s course catalog came out. I loved looking at all the potential classes and sussing out what I needed to take and what I could fit in that actually sounded fun. That is, until my sophomore year, when I realized I finally needed to break down and figure out a phys ed class to take.
Most kids grow up loving recess and gym class. Not so for me. One of the happiest moments of my life was the day I realized that I didn’t have to take gym class past freshman year of high school.
You see, I am an uncoordinated dork.
I’m not sure why I’ve always been so bad at any physical activity. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t see properly until I was nine or so and they finally realized how badly I needed glasses? Whatever the reason, it’s been a lifelong problem. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was eleven. I broke my ankle playing basketball in middle school. I got a stress fracture in my right foot during the six weeks we played tennis in high school P. E. I even managed to nearly dislocate my knee in band — at least it was marching band, and not concert band — and that’s the physical activity I was best at.
So I realized this was a very important choice. I had to have a “physical activity” class of some sort to graduate, but what to take that wouldn’t leave me injured? Sounds simple, but when you have a history of ending up on crutches after taking a shower or stepping off a curb, you have to be careful. And then I found it in the course catalog, shining like a beacon: “Folk and Social Dance”, code for ballroom dancing with a couple hours’ square dance thrown in.
I may be mediocre at walking, but as it turns out, even I can dance. After coercing him into signing up with me, I dragged my then-boyfriend (now my dear husband) to the field house for class each Saturday morning. (As I suspected, it paid to bring my own partner; the vast majority of the class was female.) There we learned all kinds of dances — the foxtrot, tango, cha cha, two step, and my favorite: the waltz. The song we waltzed to was “Could I Have This Dance”, by Anne Murray.
That song, as well as the ability to waltz, came in quite handy a couple of years later when it was time for our first dance together at our wedding reception. Swirling around the floor together to that song is one of my few really clear memories of my wedding day, and also one of the best.
I have video of that dance, and I wish I could post it, but I currently only have a VHS copy. Suffice to say that, to my surprise (and even more to my mother’s surprise), we actually did really well. I even let him lead.
Most of the time.
Day Eight: A Song That You Know All the Words To
This one was a completely easy choice. And yes, I’m totally showing off.
To me, it’s sort of like the old “Magic Eye” books — remember the books of pictures, made up of smaller pictures, that made a 3-D image if you focused your eyes just so? The pictures, autostereograms, required you to “diverge” your eyes in order to see the 3-D portion.
Back in the ‘90s, when these became popular, every time we would run across a Magic Eye book, I would pick it up and look; this was mainly to tease my husband, who never could manage to see the three-dimensional image. “It’s a flower… it’s a boat… it’s a penguin!” (It’s really the only thing that having an astigmatism ever really did for me.) When I learned all the words to “One Week”, by the Barenaked Ladies, it served somewhat the same purpose.
“One Week” was the number one song in the fall of 1998. That was the same year I began working as an attorney for the state, and in September, we had staff meeting at a Tennessee state park in the middle of nowhere. Okay, “middle of nowhere” may be a bit extreme, but it was literally as far away as you could get from an interstate in southern Middle Tennessee. You could say I had a long drive to get there.
So, in order to keep myself occupied and awake on the five-or-so-hour drive, I popped my CD into my new car’s player and proceeded to spend a big chunk of the time learning all the words to “One Week”. If you’ve never heard it, it’s a very fast song, with a whole lot of words, and a chorus that never repeats exactly. It also includes a stream-of-consciousness rap section that is very random; it’s not nonsense, exactly, but it doesn’t make just tons of sense, either.
By the time I returned to Knoxville, I had learned the song and could sing along just as fast as the recorded version (even BNL doesn’t sing it quite that fast in concert). And my dear husband never could quite get the hang of it. We would listen in the car, and he would just shake his head at me, roll his eyes, and smile when he couldn’t quite keep up. I tried again recently, and I still pretty much have it. Not a big accomplishment in the grander scheme of things, admittedly, but I’ll take what I can get.
Oh, and please don’t think I’m too mean for teasing my husband that way. I didn’t really learn the song purposely to mess with him. And, I promise you, he has no compunction about whistling in front of me, knowing full well that I’ve never been able to. It all evens out.
Day Seven: A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event
In yesterday’s post, I talked about Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, and how it reminded me of attending their concert at the Mid-South Coliseum. I mentioned different events I attended at the Coliseum: concerts, sports events, ice shows. But there was another event held every year at the Coliseum — each fall the arena hosted a rodeo as part of the Mid-South Fair.
Now, anyone who knows me at all would probably tell you that a rodeo is exactly the sort of event you would never expect to find me at. But when I was little, we went to the Fair each year with the same group of friends, and we often went to the rodeo. I may not have enjoyed it quite as much as the rides, games, and chocolate-covered frozen bananas, but it was definitely part of the experience.
As many times as we went, though I only have one specific memory of the rodeo. I believe it was the year I was five years old, which would have been 1976. When we met up with our friends that night, my mother had dressed me in denim overalls, with a red shirt and red ribbons in my hair. My friends, Tammy and Jill, ages five and four, were dressed the same way — right down to the ribbons in our ponytails. Off we went, arriving at the Fairgrounds only to be shuttled into the nosebleed section of the Coliseum after a mere glimpse of the midway.
And I do mean the nosebleed section. We may not have been all the way on the top row, but we were as far up as you could get next to the press box. We proceeded to drive our parents quite insane, begging to leave and go outside to do the fun stuff. Our agitation was only interrupted, briefly, by the lady who stepped out of the press box about halfway through the show.
What I remember most about the lady was that she had beautiful blond hair and a really sparkly outfit. Also, I remember how nice she was when she stopped and talked to us, telling us how pretty we were. But then she went on downstairs, and I didn’t think any more about it for a few minutes.
Back then, the rodeo always included a mini-concert. To our surprise, when it came time for the musical performance, down there in the spotlight, sitting with her guitar, was that pretty lady that had been so nice to us. Even more exciting, when she started to speak, she mentioned that she was going to sing a song about one of her own childhood memories — and she dedicated it to “the pretty little girls sitting on the top row, with the red ribbons in their hair”!!!
And then, the lady I had been talking to, who I had no idea at the time was Dolly Parton, began to sing “Coat of Many Colors”.
As exciting as it was at the time, of course I had no real appreciation for what was happening when I was five. I certainly had no idea what the song really meant or how it described growing up poor in the Smoky Mountains with nothing but her family’s love to keep her warm and happy.
But all these years, “Coat of Many Colors” has remained special to me. Not just because of the message of the song — that love is worth more than all the money in the world — but also because of the pretty lady that took the time to visit with three little girls and make them feel special, just like her mother made her feel special with that coat so many years ago.
Day Six: A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere
I confess, I was totally going to cop out on this one.
It sounds deceptively simple — how hard could it be to put my finger on a song that reminds me of somewhere? But I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound completely lame to me, especially if I was going to follow my rule of not duplicating artists.
So I created myself a little loophole, and decided that my “place” was going to be my first car. A 1984 blue El Camino, to be exact. Not much for a first car, but it did get me from point A to point B (and usually points C through ZZ, too) during my junior year of high school.
Now, El Caminos are notoriously ugly. Useful for carting stuff around, but unfortunate-looking. The only thing mine had to recommend itself was that it wasn’t one of those with the particularly nasty two-tone paint schemes. It was all one color. And really, it had air conditioning and a working cassette player, so what more could I ask for? (On an ironic note, if you look on eBay, they’re apparently now considered classic cars. Never saw that one coming. This one is a pretty good approximation of mine.)
And use the cassette player we did. My best friend and I rode around in that homely thing blasting all kinds of ‘80s hair band rock. Great White. Cinderella. Poison. But the one cassette that we played the most? So much that I had to buy another copy when I wore down the audio tape so much that it finally snapped? Def Leppard’s classic album Hysteria.
The song it snapped on, because we played it over and over and over? “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”
A funny thing happened when I watched the video, though. All at once it hit me — it’s not a cop-out after all. Because although a car probably doesn’t really count as a “place”, the Mid-South Coliseum certainly does. And on Sunday, February 7, 1988, I was at the Coliseum for Def Leppard’s Hysteria World Tour.
Now, I had been to concerts at the Coliseum before — John Denver (I know. I was six. Shut up.), Rick Springfield (I know. I was 11. Shut up.), Chicago (They’re classic. Shut. Up.). But this was my first all-of-us-out-on-our-own rock concert. And what a spectacular concert it was — loud music, in the round, complete with laser light show and a downright inspiring one-armed drummer.
I’m sure we were up in the nosebleed seats. Seventeen-year-old me couldn’t have possibly been able to afford really good seats, especially on my Shoney’s hostess salary. (Minimum wage in 1988 was $3.35, as it happens.) I also have no idea how we got away with going at all — on a school night no less. I do know that we managed to come out of it safe and completely unscathed. May have had something to do with the fact that we were such dorks that drinking and drugs and all those other scary rock concert things didn’t really occur to us.
The Coliseum will probably be demolished sometime soon. I understand why; it was already falling apart back when I attended Memphis State Tigers basketball games there during college, and play had to be suspended occasionally to remove fallen ceiling tiles from the floor. Memphis has moved on, through the Memphis Pyramid years and already on to the fabulous FedEx Forum. But it still makes me sad that the place I went to games and concerts and “Sesame Street on Ice” will be gone soon.
At least I’ll have my memories of hearing “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and other great songs there. After all, it still sounds just as good on an iPod in an SUV crossover as it did on a cassette tape in an El Camino.
Day Five: A Song That Reminds You of Someone
Well, it was certainly easy deciding who the “someone” was going to be for Day 5. Much harder to figure out which song, since so many remind me of her.
Sharing music with each other has always been a big part of the time I spend with my little princess and her not-so-little, soon-to-be-a-teenager big brother. Some of my favorite moments with them have been just driving in the car and singing together. And whether we’re singing harmony together* playing Rock Band or singing songs from Glee together in the car, I particularly enjoy hearing the princess’ choices. She’s pretty eclectic for an eight-year-old. (Well, so is her brother, but he’s much more into R&B and rap than I am.)
But it’s hard to pick just one song. “Werewolves of London” makes me think of playing Rock Band together — I can still hear her saying “his hair was perfect?!?!” followed by what can only be described as a cackle. Other Rock Band favorites of hers include “In Bloom” by Nirvana and “Creep” by Radiohead. Or there’s the Glee songs — “Poker Face”, “Firework”, and “Rolling in the Deep”, just to name a few. In fact, I almost picked the Glee cast’s cover of “Beth”, by Kiss, because of how intently we had to discuss the storyline of the song; she wanted to make sure she understood perfectly what was going on.
But it’s not just me sharing my favorite songs with her. She also introduces me to new music, most recently The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”, and “Nothing to Lose”, a collaboration between Bret Michaels and Miley Cyrus. (Yes, you read that last one correctly. They make way more sense together musically than they do on paper.)
But for the song that reminds me of her the most, I chose “Santa Monica”, by Theory of a Deadman.
Why this one in particular? Well, for starters, even though I really liked it, I was surprised to hear her ask her father to play it in the car, apropos of nothing — especially considering she was still just six years old at the time.
For those of you who didn’t take the link, the first lines are:
She fills my bed with gasoline
You think I would’ve noticed
Her mind’s made up, the love is gone
I think someone’s trying to show us a sign
That even if we thought it would last
The moment would pass
My bones will break and my heart will give
Oh, it hurts to live
Talk about old souls — the child is deep, I tell you.
There may be an argument to be made that she wasn’t really old enough to understand the song — or the Nirvana or Radiohead tunes, either. But I’m not so sure. I do know that she understands that Santa Monica is a city in California; she was very excited that I got to visit there last year and wished she could go, too. What I am sure of is that she has always and continues to enjoy darker, harder rock songs. But she doesn’t let that limit her. She also likes upbeat pop songs. And Christian rock. And just about anything she’s ever heard that she can sing along to.
What I think this song really reflects about her is that she’s not afraid to explore different music, or different sides of herself. I think she’s confident in the validity of her own opinions, and her ability to form them independently of what other people think. She knows who she is, and what she likes, even if it seems odd or out of place for her. I admire that she’s figured that part of life out at such a young age.
So if you see me smiling while I’m singing along with the dark and bitter lyrics of “Santa Monica”, now you know why. I’m not completely insane — it just reminds me of her.
*Confession: I sing the lead. Poorly. She sings harmony around me. ‘Cause she’s just that good.
Day Four: A Song That Makes You Sad
Okay, so I know I’m over-thinking things as usual, but once again, this prompt gave me some pause. I mean, clearly, I know a ton of sad songs — it’s not like I’ve been living under a rock. And it’s not like music doesn’t move me; I mean, I used to tear up at AT&T long distance commercials. Back when there used to be such a thing. And, you know, back when you had no alternative to actually watching commercials.
But I really don’t think sad songs necessarily make me sad. More often, a sad song can be cathartic; even if I get emotional listening to a sad song, it doesn’t have to leave me feeling down.
So I set aside several choices — things that came to mind at first included more recent pop songs, like “If I Die Young”, by The Band Perry, and “F***ing Perfect”, by P!nk. And while I unabashedly love those tunes, pop songs though they may be, that just seemed too easy. I wanted a choice that truly haunted me, for reasons deeper than being manipulated by sad lyrics.
And finally, it came to me. “Hurt”, by Johnny Cash.
The original version of “Hurt”, by Nine Inch Nails, is a great song about loss, depression, and regret. But as hauntingly performed by The Man in Black, it is simply transcendent.
Johnny Cash was terribly ill and nearing the end of his life when he released the fantastic album American IV: The Man Comes Around in November 2002. He had been suffering from misdiagnosed complications of diabetes for years. After losing the love of his life, June Carter Cash, in May 2003, he lost his own battle the next September, at the age of 73.
It is obvious from listening to the album, and to “Hurt” in particular, that Cash was looking back, examining his life and his regrets. This is also evidenced in the video, as it contrasts earlier years with the end of his life. I dare anyone to listen to Cash singing “What have I become, my sweetest friend?/Everyone I know goes away in the end…” and not feel every ounce of pain and regret in his heart right along with him.
The result is a song that serves as a eulogy to Cash; while an obvious example of his greatness, it’s also a monument to the loss of a departed genius and to his own personal heartache.
The entirety of American IV is worth a listen, as are the other albums in the series. I’m particularly fond of “Personal Jesus”, Cash’s cover of the Depeche Mode hit, which was released as the B-side to “Hurt”. (Yes, kids, “B-side”. I know. Go ask your parents what that is.) But as amazing as the album is, nothing on it touches the level of emotion that “Hurt” evokes.
It may make you sad, but it’s a sadness worth experiencing.
Day Three: A Song That Makes You Happy
Strangely, I’ve had a lot of trouble with this one. I mean, I love music, and pretty much all of it makes me happy. But what really brings a smile to my face? I mean, every time I listen to it, no matter what kind of mood I’m in?
One thing helped me narrow it down — while it’s not technically a rule of the Challenge, I have set myself the task of not repeating artists if at all possible. (You didn’t think I started this without planning all 30 days in advance, did you? Have you met me?) This not only kept the list from getting boring (to me, anyway), it’s also helped me choose. If I really want to use a song by band A for day 15, I can eliminate all their songs when picking for day, say… three. And that helped immensely for this one.
In fact, I picked today’s song largely because I realized I hadn’t chosen anything by one of my favorite singers — Lyle Lovett.
I enjoy pretty much anything he sings, but the first song of his I remember hearing is still my favorite: “Here I Am”, from the album “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band”. (Make sure you’re listening with good speakers — otherwise the audio is a little quiet.)
If you’ve listened to his music much, you know that “quirky” doesn’t even begin to cover it. His music is all Texas country, but still manages to run the gamut from classic to love songs to ballads to funny. Musically, “Here I Am” carries the ‘40s flavor of his Large Band music. But the lyrics also makes me laugh, as it alternates spoken words snippets with Lyle singing the chorus. It’s kind of a mash-up of a poem and a song.
As an added bonus, I’ve been lucky enough to hear him sing “Here I Am” live on two different occasions. It’s even better in person.
But just give it a listen. I mean, how can you not smile listening to a song that begins, “Hello…? I’m the guy who sits next to you and reads the newspaper over your shoulder” and includes a list of stream-of-thought metaphors as proof that “we were made for each other”? I dare you to try.