Thursday, January 1, 2009

Is this the New Year, or the same old...

Like every blogger on earth, I made the resolution to post every day of the New Year-I give it 'till Sunday, but whatever...
As my oldest daughter and I drove down College Ave on the way to Kroger this evening, we looked out at downtown Decatur, and enjoyed the orange-gold light that coated everything in a liquid gold glow, and I was reminded of my time working as a cashier at the Grill (a fifties-style diner) in Athens, GA.
Ah, the Grill. Truly a legend in a town steeped in traditions, a way station for every disgruntled punk and stoner that ever wandered through that town. Like everyone who ever worked there it was my home and the embodiment of everything evil. I met a lot of wonderful people and not a few worthless shit bags.
My weekday cashier shift started at 5:30-which, to a college student, seemed like early afternoon, but is really more like early evening. The beginning of the night was pretty slow, so I spent a lot of time at the cashier station at the front of the restaurant, looking out the window. And on many evenings the sun would come through the window, bathing the front of the Grill in that particular golden light which always reminds me of California. Something about the black and white retro tile, the pink and blue neon, and the orange highlighted chrome made me sad and nostalgic for California-not the Beverly Hills 90210 or Real Housewives of Orange County California, but Brian Wilson's Beach Boys California-a land of beaches and palm trees and endless summers. As I stood there wistfully absorbing the sunlight, and the jukebox played some classic 50's tune, I honestly felt as if I would get off my shift later and meet my blond, eternally-pony tailed girlfriend at the beach. And we would sit under the palm trees in her liquid-red 1955 Karmann Ghia, listening to the ocean surf-sounds waft in on a balmy, body-temperature breeze. We would talk and laugh and smile and be unhurried in the languid way that only two teenagers in love can be. Somehow, this nostalgia began for me at the Grill years ago, and whenever I see that certain golden evening light those emotions come flooding back.
But, see, here's the thing.
I've only been to California a few times, I never had a girlfriend with a Karmann Ghia, and I only know of the 1950s through songs that tell of an America that was gone by the time my parents were teenagers. How did standing there in that faux-retro diner in Athens, GA in the mid 1990s give me a such an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and longing for something that I never experienced? Is there a word for such a thing?
Although I'm highly sceptical at best, it makes me wonder about past lives. I suppose its possible.(?).
All in all though, not a bad ending to the first day of the New Year.
I mean, it WAS a beautiful evening...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yes, but is it Art?

Unlike most jokers who have half-assed blogs, I refuse to apologise for not updating for the last 2 months.
Truth be told, I'd love to be able to update daily-but spending 9 hours of my day working kinda' eats up all my free time, ya' know?
If any ultra-rich person out there would like to be my benefactor so I can write regularly, just let me know.

So, instead of writing lately I've been using most of my free time to paint. I'm not really sure how good at it I am, but I have learned a lot over the past few months.
Please check out my Etsy site, and let me know what you think.

Hopefully I'll continue my song list soon.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Song #2.

P.J. Harvey-“Oh My Lover”-Dry
I’m not quite clear where I first heard of P.J. Harvey-I think it was a review in Spin or Rolling Stone. At any rate, the review was good enough that I bought the cassette without ever hearing a single note first-something that was quite the norm for me in the days before the internet. On this occasion I was not disappointed. I distinctly remember buying the tape at the mall Camelot Music on my lunch break from the Hallmark store where I worked. After my shift was over I hopped in my car (a beat up 1980 Chevy Citation), put the tape in and heard the opening chords of “Oh My Lover”. I remember flying down the highway hearing this song of despair and desperate longing and thinking, “This woman knows exactly how I feel.” At this time in my life I was a lonely 16 year old, who knew only one thing about love, and it could be summed up in one word-unrequited. I had endured a fair number of high school crushes at this point, none of them amounting to much except me feeling like I would NEVER have a girlfriend. So when P.J. sang, “You can love her, you can love me at the same time”, I couldn’t help but agree. After all, I’d rather have a girl who loved someone else than no girl at all, right? Of course, lacking P.J.s real world experience, what I really identified with was the overall sense of desperation and loneliness she conveys so well in this mournful dirge.
What a gutsy move making this the first song on her first album-so raw and real and open, as opposed to some of the more traditional pop/rock tunes on the rest of the album. From the slow, sludgy beginning to the desperate moan at the end, this tune builds like all scorned lover’s pleas to an unresponsive former love –calm and rational at the beginning, devolving into a frantic and maniacal wail of raw pain by the conversation’s end. I honestly can’t imagine someone capturing this emotion in a more pure form, at least until I perfect that thought-sharing helmet I’ve been working on.
I almost wish that you girls would never have to experience the kind of incurable pain P.J. expresses so eloquently in this song-but I wouldn’t want to rob you of the pleasure. Yes, it hurts with an immensity that makes you wish you were dead, your body physically aches with the sheer sadness, and you can’t imagine how you will ever make it through the next hour, much less the next day. But honestly, having your heart broken and longing for someone you can never have is one of the most pure and real emotions you will ever experience. If this does ever happen to you, my beautiful girls, there is nothing you can do about it but take it one day at a time and know that, this too, shall pass.
And that you are loved.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Beginning.

The Misfits-“Astro Zombies”-Collection 1
I know all the various complaints against The Misfits-misogynistic lyrics, the silly make-up, the murder/horror motifs. I say so what. The Misfits embodied the punk spirit. They emerged out of New Jersey (of all places) as one of the greatest American punk acts ever-they made all their own shirts and merchandise, hauled their own equipment, had a lead singer who sounded like a punk Elvis, and made a name for themselves as rock icons when disco was still king. Arguably, no band ever did more with poor production and 3 chords than The Misfits-modern bands with tens of thousands of dollars and the most high tech recording studios still can’t hold a candle to the passion and gritty punk heart The Misfits brought to the stale and heartless music scene of the late seventies.
The Misfits blew my world apart.
A strange and unique young man named Ruhi was in my Economics class early in my first year of high school. He was raised Bahai (unlike 99.9% of my school, which was Christian), wore a long leather trench coat, and assured me I would love The Misfits. I distinctly remember climbing on the bus that cloudy fall day, popping Ruhi’s Misfits tape into my walkman, and hearing the opening chords of “Astro Zombies”-and I was lost forever. The perfect mix of retro and punk, The Misfits sung about topics I could relate to-feeling alien, mistrusting adults, wanting to take vengeance on the people who treated you like shit-with the added bonus of an amazingly simple-yet-rich stripped down style against a vintage 1950’s horror movie backdrop. I embraced their music with the passion only a teenager can muster. I still love The Misfits now just as much as I did then-as I age I often look back at the music I liked and find it silly or not half as good as I remembered. The passion remains to this day, which-in my mind-is the biggest testament to their greatness as a band.
I chose “Astro Zombies” not because it is their best song, but because it embodies all the qualities The Misfits brought to the table-its like a 1950’s love song put through the filter of a nerdy kind raised on too many horror movies who just learned to play his cool uncle’s guitar. Jocks pick on you? Never get the beautiful boy/girl? Feel like life as a teenager sucks? “Exterminate the whole human race!”.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Musical History.

All too often our parents, great as they may be, fail to impart on us one of the most important aspects of life-their humanness. In an attempt to show us the right way to live, they often hide (or outright lie) about their past-they act as if they never skipped school or stayed out too late with a new significant other or even drank a freaking beer. It paints an unrealistic picture of our folks as unfailing gods, and it robs us youngsters of learning from the one thing kids can't have -experience. That's why it is so important for me to impart upon my girls that their Dad was once young, and that I did have a life before them-a life filled with joy and pain, success and (many)failures, love and loss.
I've wanted to write a journal just for my daughters, but I've just never been inspired enough to do it. Then, last night, I participated in a market research survey in which we listened to and rated 600 song snippets-running the gamut from the Ramones to Led Zepplin. That got me thinking-what better way to give a little insight into who I was in my youth than make a mix of some of the greatest songs I grew up with, along with liner notes. So, in the next few days, I'll share with all of you the mix-tape journal I'm making for the girls.
I've never used any online mixes-like Muxtape, but that's probably how I'll post the songs for your listening pleasure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Two Tales.

Have you ever heard a story so poignant you made it your own?
Well, I'll never claim that these tales are mine, but they have had such resonance in my life over the last few years that I'll probably remember them long after Alzheimer's has claimed all the actual memories I have of my life.

So, here we go...

Let me preface this first story by telling you of my obsession with Hawaii. Years ago, I began to read about Tiki culture through the Book of Tiki. After reading the first page I was lost forever. Hawaii, or my imagined version of it, would forever become my Elysian Fields.
So, when I learned that a person I worked with lived there I wanted to hear his opinion on Hawaii.
I asked him about it one day, and this was his answer(paraphrased, except for the first sentence, as I remember it):
"I hated it. The trade winds blow all the time. One of my favorite things in life is to sit in a field and paint and I could never do it because it was too windy. No, I hated Hawaii."
Now, I realize that my idea of Hawaii is based on stuff I have read or seen on T.V. However, I do know that, even without children, the 1400 dollar air fair just to get there would keep me from ever being able to visit. Let alone live there.
I mean really?
You hated it?
I've seen plenty of awesome artists who lived in Hawaii who overcame the windiness and made artwork and loved where they lived.
I'll let you, dear reader, take what you will from that story. But it just showed me that whether you live in Columbus Ohio or Valhalla you can always find something wrong with your life situation if YOU are not happy.

Tale number two is by my oh so handsome friend who lived in Savannah Georgia for a time. Now, Savannah is well known for its penchant for Southern Gothic and outlandish characters. My friend knew a older gentleman who would regularly dress as a vampire and lurk around certain areas of town. Yes, a Broadway-worthy costume-like something you would see in Interview With a Vampire, only really creepy beacuse the dude would be sitting in the back corner of your favorite bar ha\ving a drink and scoping out his victims.
During Saint Patrick's Day, Savannah becomes a huge party, the streets filled with drunken frat boys from miles around, with River Street being the center of the "Girls Gone Wild" style partying. My friend was walking through said party, when he noticed the Vampire sitting on a rooftop surveying the festivities below (in full-on Victorian Era vampire garb, mind you). My friend approached the Vampire and exchanged pleasantries.
After a few minutes of silence the Vampire surveyed the drunken masses writhing and pulsating below and remarked, "People are very odd."
Amen brother.

So these are my two acquired stories which have stuck with me and influence my life on a daily basis.
The point being, really, is that the best and worst people you will encounter in life have something to teach you.
You just have to ask.
And listen.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This Just In...

I am an overly-zealous NPR listener. I listen to my local NPR station from 6 A.M. to 4 P.M. every day. I won't link to Atlanta's NPR station WABE because they suck(a topic for another day perhaps). As much as I enjoy NPR, and all news in general, I sometimes get a little sick of the same old same old. Do we, as NPR listeners, really benefit from hearing a ten minute segment on the latest bombings/killings/fanaticism in Lebanon?
Instead of spending all that time and money to report on topics that have been revisited ad nauseam, why not just record a short message and change the names and places.
So here, dear reader, is the world news in a nutshell-for the last and the next 2000 or so years.

The Middle East-The Jews hate everyone. The other Middle-Easterners hate the Jews and each other (Sunni and Shia Muslims, etc.). They will kill each other on a daily basis just like they have been doing for the past 4000 years.

Africa-We are at exactly the same level of development that we were about 400,000 years ago. Except now we have guns.

Asia-We have a a shit-load of people and therefore have no regard for life-human or otherwise. However, we do make cheap VCRs which you will continue to buy no matter how inhumane we are to our citizens and workers.

Central/South America-Viva the three D's-Drug Lords, Despots, and Donations from the U.S.A. to keep the first 2 in power.

The United States-A bunch of nice folks screwed over for the past 200+ years by a slow, inefficient, and abusive government.

So there it is.
Am I oversimplifying? Being snide and flippant? Voicing a typical nihilistic Gen-X viewpoint?
Unfortunately, no.
Thankfully, rock and roll still rules.
And so do I.