You are what you listen to…

I have an addictive personality. I’ve known it for a long time. One of my grandfather’s died from alcohol poison before my parents had their first date. I’ve put lots of liquor into my body over the years. When I’m in a bar, which isn’t often, I still like a “George Thorogood trio” on occasion. The person behind the bar never knows what I’m talking about until I say “do you know the song ‘one bourbon, one scotch and one beer’?” They always do…or at least they say they do. My reply, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, is “line ’em up.”

But this isn’t about that type of addiction. I’m not gonna go on about marijuana not being a gateway drug, or how insane our drug laws are either. That is for another day. (But it would be nice if those people who want to be inaugurated on 1/20/17 would have a clue about the failed “war on drugs.”)

This isn’t about alcohol or drug addiction. This is about an addiction that I am proud to have.

I am addicted to music. I can’t play an instrument. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. But I can listen. And I can feel.

You are what you listen to meme

I’ve seen a meme or two online that say “you are the music you listen to…” Most of my Facebook status posts, unless I’m chronicling a trip and/or posting photos, have typically been composed of three components: (1) an “editorial comment”; (2) a copy&paste of some lyrics; and (3) a link to a youtube video of the subject song. Oftentimes I will also write that the song is “on repeat.”

Sometimes I’ll listen to the same song over-and-over-and-over-again. I’ll do the same thing with some albums. I’m not just addicted to music. I get addicted to certain songs. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember, but my addiction does seem to have gotten better since I moved back to Missouri in 2011.

Note: I did NOT say about my addiction “it does seem to have gotten worse.” I’m thinking that this addiction to music in general, and to having songs “on repeat” in particular, has been a very good thing…for me anyway. Maybe not so-much-so for Shelly, or for the people in the apartments surrounding ours. To the latter I say “sorry…not sorry.”

The majority of the songs that I put “on repeat” are ones that have lyrics that say something to me….but not always. Some of the repeated songs are “personal”….i.e. the lyrics really hit home; some are political…some are not even remotely political; some lyrics are “deep”…some are a bit sappy; some are NOT in the least bit personal…i.e., the lyrics have no relationship to my past or present.

If the “you are what you listen to” meme has more than a grain of truth, then my repeat tunes must really say something about who I am. Or maybe not? You tell me.
I listen to lots of music that has been ripped to my laptop, listening on a little set of Logitech speakers. I have a saved setlist called “2015 repeats.” These 25 songs were released in 2015 and are ones that I have had “on repeat.”

In the spirit of “Desert Island Discs” I have picked only 10 of those 25 repeat tunes, and include the name of the tune, the artist, the album, select lyrics, and {comments} which will be set off in those squiggly brackets. At the end of this document, there is a link to each a version of each of these 10 on youtube.
“Things happen” by Dawes; from “All your favorite bands”

“I could go on talking
Or I could stop
Wring out each memory til I get every drop
Sift through the details…

…Let’s make a list of all the things the world has put you through
Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to
I don’t know what else you wanted me to say to you
Things happen
That’s all they ever do..”

{The title of this song is the title of my blog. If this song was NOT one of my repeats, that wouldn’t make much sense, eh? Things happen, but that is song not being here would be ridiculous…}
“I can’t think about it now” by Dawes; from “All your favorite bands”

“All these backward glances putting me in danger
Of forgetting how to turn myself around
It’s just that time just keeps on slipping through my fingers
But I can’t think about it now…”

{That’s the tagline of my blog. Why is this song on my repeat list? I can’t think about that now…duh.}
“Take a picture of this” by Don Henley; from “Cass County”

“The years went rushing by, in the twinkling of an eye, we rolled with the changes.
Our life we knew was gone…
…Yeah that’s a suitcase; yeah that’s a ticket for a plane
There’s no one here to talk to, no reason to remain…
…Take a picture of this, this is me leaving
Take a picture of this, this is me walking away…”

{2011 didn’t play out eactly that way, but other years did…I’ve got the pictures to prove it.}
“Praying for rain” by Don Henley; from “Cass County”

“Some people pray for victory
Some people pray for peace
Some people pray for extra time
Some pray for sweet release
Some pray for health and happiness
For riches and renown
But none of this will matter much
If the waters don’t come down
I’m prayin’ for rain…”

{I’ve had several chances to see The Eagles. I always passed. I’ve never had a chance to see Don Henley solo. I’d never pass on that…}
“When you’re smiling and astride me” by Father John Misty; from “I love you, Honeybear”

“I’ll never try to change you
As if I could, and if I were to, what’s the part that I’d miss most?
When you’re smiling and astride me
I can hardly believe I’ve found you and I’m terrified by that…”

{Shelly and I have shared a smile while this song was playing; and repeating. Sometimes while vertical; sometimes while horizontal.}
“I’m not gonna miss you” by Glenn Campbell; from “I’ll be me”

“You’re the last person I will love
You’re the last face I will recall
And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you…”

{One evening, after visiting my Aunt Billie earlier that day, I saw “I’ll be me” for the first time. It’s a great movie about a great guitar player…and more. I miss my Aunt Billie. I miss being able to laugh with her.}
“Nobody really cares if you go to the party” by Courtney Barnett; from “Sometimes I sit and think, and
sometimes I just sit”

“…I wanna go out but I wanna stay home…”

{Succinct. And this sentiment falls under “things happen.”}
“Late to the party” by Kacey Musgraves; from “Pageant material”

“And who needs a crowd when you’re happy at a party for two?
The world can wait
Cause I’m never late to the party if I’m late to the party with you”

{Nobody really cares if you go to the party. Especially if you have your own. 😉 }
“Biscuits” by Kacey Musgraves; from “Pageant material”

“Mend your own fences and own your own crazy
Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy”

{I developed a taste for biscuits and gravy after leaving Floriduh in 2011, when the only crazy I had to own was just my own. Go figure….}
“Die fun” by Kacey Musgraves; from “Pageant material”

“We can’t do it over
They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older
Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell
We might as well
Cause we don’t know when it’s done
So let’s love hard,
Let’s stay young
Let’s love hard, live fast, die fun..”

{I now have another mantra. I’ve tried to live Alfred E. Neuman’s “what, me worry?” since I was a kid. I’ve been trying to enjoy every bite of every sandwich since I saw Warren Zevon’s last appearance on Letterman on October 30, 2002. Then of course there has always been “Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.” Now I’ll add “love hard, live fast, die fun..”}
That’s the 10 songs released in 2015 that I have listened to the most. If “you are what you listen to,” what does it say about me? (Maybe it says that living in the midwest again has turned me into a bit of country music fan, or at least a Kacey Musgraves fan, and an even bigger Don Henley fan…)

Other artists with 2015 releases that didn’t make the cut of my Top 10, but who were (and still are) on repeat:
Florence and the Machine
Leon Bridges
Mark Knofler (an oldie with a new release)
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats
Van Morrison (ok…so that’s another oldie….but “The Essential Van Morrison” was released in 2015. And there is LOTS of essential music on that double album!!)

Let’s drop the big one….

I saw LOTS of live music in the 1980’s in Portland. I was living a work-hard, play-hard lifestyle. I didn’t get much sleep, and when I did it was fitful. I listened to lots of music, and much of that was on TV watching MTV and then either that pioneering station or VH1, but I never went more than a couple of weeks without seeing live music.

When we moved to Floriduh in 1989 I made a mix tape of single cuts from almost every band that we had seen during the 6+years in PDX, in as close to chronological order as I could remember enjoying each artist’s music. Probably 8 or 10 national acts that we saw did not make the tape.

It was a 120 minute cassette. It took awhile for me to map out the playlist. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wouldn’t be able to get a song from everyone we had seen during the Portland years on the tape, even if I only picked the shortest song by each and every artist no matter how I felt about the particular cut.

“Cut” was accurate. The only tunes that went on the tape were ones that I had on vinyl. That wasn’t restrictive, except in a very few cases.

For example, we saw Adam Ant at the Civic. It was a fun night, but I’ve never owned any of his music. The only song of his that I can name is “Goody Two Shoes.” It wouldn’t have made the 120-minute tape, even if I’d had the album, i.e. every act I saw was not worthy of my tape of concert memories.

Some people who I saw had already stopped releasing vinyl. Thinking about that, i.e. an attempt by the record companies to ditch vinyl, still makes me cranky. But I have to admit that most days I just load up my 5-cd changer and let it play. Firing up the turntable makes me have to flip the record over, or change the record, every 20 or so minutes. Sometimes I’m lazy. Fire me.

So if I didn’t have an artist on vinyl, often because they hadn’t released any, nothing they sang made my “PDX Concerts” mix tape. So there was no Robert Cray, who I saw at small clubs in Corvallis, Eugene and Portland. Sometimes he was with, and sometimes he was without, Curtis Salgado and vice verse. Fun times.

One restriction in pulling together the play list was song length, e.g. I had to struggle with what Dylan tune to include. My two favorites of his, the ones that i’ve had on repeat the most, are “Jokerman” and “It’s alright Ma (I’m only bleeding)” but both those songs are knocking on, or longer than, 7 minutes.

So I went with “Subterranean homesick blues,” a classic at two minutes and twenty-one seconds on vinyl. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…” Love the line, but gotta say that the way some of the winds are blowing in 2016 is pretty frightening…
I still have lots of cassettes, and occasionally I do fire up the deck when I want to hear the original version of a song that is playing in my head and it’s one that I only have on cassette. (Another confession: in this circumstance, what I usually do is just google the tune and check out renditions on youtube. The cassette deck gets less use than the turntable…i still love the sounds that vinyl makes.)

I no longer have the mixtape that I pulled together in 1989. Last time I remember seeing it was in early 2011. The last time I played it would have been the summer of 2010. It was one of several tapes that I played on a boom box in the garage when I had occasion to spend time washing and detailing one of our cars.

I left FL in mid-2011, when the long downward trend of our marriage imploded. When she and I moved to Orygun in 1976 everything we had went cross country in our two VW bug caravan. When I left Floriduh, I went minimalist. Everything I moved back to MO came in my Corolla or was mailed using the USPS….both of those moving experiences are stories for another day.

I didn’t ditch any vinyl or CDs when I packed up in Tampa, but lots of cassettes were jettisoned. Especially any that had a “memory” component, including this particular mix tape.
I’m not sure how accurately I could recreate the playlist of my old 120-minute “PDX Concerts” tape. I’d blame any discrepancies in an attempt to pull together an accurate list on: (1) age; (2) having listened to too much music (i.e. a confusion factor…but can you really listen to too much music??), and; (3) diminished capacity. 😉

I do know that the first song in the tape was one by my favorite singer-songwriter and from the first concert I saw in Portland. At three minutes and seventeen seconds, I opened the mixtape with “Doctor my eyes,” one of his shortest songs. “..People go just where they will, I never noticed them until I got this feeling that it’s later than it seems….”

The last show we saw in Portland, after my transfer to Sarasota was approved but before we moved, was in a small club with a name that escapes me. The place held 800 or so. That night we saw Randy Newman with about a thousand other people. Everybody in the place was sweating. It was an awesome night.

I listened to him right after lunch today. I probably hadn’t played anything by him in 6 weeks. When I heard the song that made the cut, it literally had my head spinning. Thinking about that night in Portland, thinking about making that particular mixtape, thinking about things i’d read earlier today via my Facebook news feeds. Randy Newman also got my wheels turning….

I picked a song of his for the mixtape that had been one of my favorites since it was released, and it just happened to come in at two minutes on the nose when he recorded it on “Sail away,” so it fit the criteria for the tape perfectly.

I’m sure Randy Newman wouldn’t let any candidate use the song at a rally. Some of the folks running probably wouldn’t even realize that “Political Science” is satire. Sadly, many of the people voting for some of them this primary season not only wouldn’t realize the satire, they’d encourage a president to do what the song says.

The American Taliban is frightening.


A guy’s gotta dream…

For many years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen: “I wanta die like Leroy Nichols.”

And then I have to explain who he was, and how he died. Leroy died the way that almost everyone wants to go…before they become just a memory. Or worse, a drooling doofus. People wanta die quickly, and with very little pain. That’s no surprise, eh?

I’ve told lots of people about Leroy’s death. I don’t know how many I’ve told…probably over 100 folks. Nobody has a story to tell just like Leroy’s, but lots of people knew someone who died suddenly.

I don’t know how long ago I started talking with others about the way he died. These were typically upbeat, and not in the least bit morbid, conversations. Really.

I’m not even sure how long ago his heart failed him. I’m sure it was at least 10, or maybe even 15, years ago. He did it the right way though.
The version in mind for me varies a bit from Leroy’s, but first the background.

Who was Leroy? He was the brother of two of my aunts by marriage. He had two sisters, Doris and Charlotte. My Mom had brothers named Sterl and Joe. Sterl married Doris; Joe married Charlotte; i.e. my Mom’s brothers married Leroy’s sisters.

I had other connections to Leroy. He taught high school math at Farmington HS. My brother and sister graduated from there and I student taught in the math department a very long time ago. Unfortunately, for eight weeks I was assigned to a control freak named Mr. Ragland. I’m sure it would have been a much better experience (for me and for the kids in the classes) if Leroy had been my mentor. He was a good teacher, far better than the ragman.

He also attended a church for awhile that my Dad started. I was married in that little Baptist church, but I only lived in that town a short time during its existence. I doubt that Leroy and I were there at the same service a dozen times.
How did he die? Stopped at the first traffic light in town, waiting for the light to change. The light turned green and Leroy was turning white.

My version varies from his and is driven by wherever I’m living. The primary difference is where I’d like to be when my heart stops, but it is always in a car and at an intersection. A busy intersection.

My current fantasy takes place at the corner of South Campbell and Republic Road. Friday at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I’m the third car back, stopped at the light after watching a couple of cretins go through on red…

The car stereo is cranked up to something a bit raucous. Maybe it’s Kings of Leon singing “Revelry.” (Somehow it seems fitting that I should be listening to some preacher’s kids rocking on when the time comes….)

The traffic light changes. The cars in front and beside me take off. My little Corolla is frozen in place with Caleb Followill belting out “So the time we shared it was precious to me, All the while I was dreaming of revelry, Dreaming of revelry….”

The cars behind me start honking. Springfield is the buckle of the bible belt but that doesn’t keep the Baptists following me from spewing hate and screaming profanities as they miss the light because my foreign car has them blocked.

People are honking and screaming about my rock-and-roll, and about my corolla not rolling. They are pissed off.

Finally someone gets out of their car and comes up to mine. The CD is on to another KOL song: “I just wanted to know if I could go home, Been rambling in day after day, And everyone says I don’t know. So don’t knock it…”

But the angry people at the busy intersection aren’t paying any attention to the music whatsoever. They’re mad as they approach my car. “Why the hell aren’t you moving that piece of crap?!? You hippies and your loud music!!”

As soon as they get to my car their emotions go from anger to guilt. I’m already turning gray. I’m a goner. Slam, bam, dead.

“I was screaming and cussing the poor old fella, and he was dying right there in front of me. Oh, that poor, poor man…”
It’s perfect.

People pissed off, then feeling awful. It makes me laugh to think about it. Literally. (Will I be laughing afterwards? That’s a thought or two for another time…)

A quick, painless death. No lingering illness. No huge outlay for healthcare month after month after month. No family and friends watching me wither and die. And on top of it I get to jerk some people’s chains, play with their emotions…and give them a story of their own. Perfect.

Only one person got cranky when I told him my fatalistic fantasy, which only recently got more specific regarding the music playing. Every-time I’ve told it, including telling it to Leroy’s sisters (my two aunts), it’s always been me in the car, with the sound system cranked up on a Friday afternoon at a busy intersection in the town where I was getting my mail.

This perpetually angry man’s reply to my death dream: “Nobody gets to decide how they’re going to die!!” As usual, facts escape and don’t matter to this guy. Someone commits suicide every 13 minutes in the US. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the country. Over 40,000 people a year in America decide how they’re going to die; over half of them using a gun.

While I’ve been sharing this fantasy with people for years I honestly have never thought about death all that much. But a recent rare hospital stay because of pulmonary embolisms of unknown origin does make one think a bit.

What I think is this. It came too early for Leroy. And Leroy got lucky.


Trifecta Tuesday: 2/9/16

Yesterday was a True Trifecta: (1) a life event; (2) a first time tune; and, (3) a song “on repeat.”

Back when I was working guy, I remember that there were these things called “life events” from an HR perspective. And probably all of us have seen a “life stress test” or two. Their separate lists have some things in common: marriage, divorce, birth, death.

Tuesday’s Life Event was the most joyous item from the above list: the birth of Shelly’s sixth grandchild. Eric, her youngest, and his partner Ashton became parents of a baby girl early yesterday afternoon. Jacob will be one heckuva big brother to Emilia Rose. This little angel is an adorable addition to a wonderful, young family.Emelia Rose

Shelly and Jacob, who both played hooky on Tuesday, headed to the hospital mid-afternoon to see Emilia and her proud parents. I stayed behind…two is company, three’s a crowd…and put on a couple of CDs that I had just checked out from the library. I’m not doing very well with a couple of my “pledges” for 2016 (exercise?! Yuck….), but I am doing very well at one of them: listening to new (to me) CDs.

I was in the process of sending Jib Jab cards to Eric and Ashton, when a song off a new CD caught my attention. I had never listened to any of the songs on Kacey Musgraves’ “Pageant Material” so they were all new to me. I was listening while I jib-jabbed, but it wasn’t until the 9th cut that I really Heard.

I have no idea how my memory is gonna perform in the future, but if it’s anything at all like it is now, epsecially when it comes to First Time Tunes, I expect to remember everything about this latest FTT. It’ll be helped by having this document. I can always re-read this….assuming I don’t forget that this piece even exists. 😉

As with most of my FTTs, it was the lyrics that caught my attention. Specifically it was this line: “…Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell…”

I stopped what I was doing and listened to the rest of “Die fun.”

The last line of the song is “We can’t do it over.”

When I heard that, I replied out loud (to an empty apartment): “This…is one thing that I can do over!”

I pressed the repeat button on my CD changer.

I stood in front of our glass sliding doors, with the sun beating down, gazing at the courtyard…and thinking about life and life events.

Repeat. Then another time. And again.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who puts songs, or at times an entire album, on repeat. Over the years I’ve had a looooong list of songs (and albums) that I listen to over-and-over-and-over-again.

The majority of the songs that I put “on repeat” are ones that have lyrics that say something to me…

I imagine that sometimes it gets on people’s nerves when I put a song “on repeat.” And I’m sure it can be annoying if i’m singing along. Too bad. By about the 10th time that I had listened to “Die Fun” yesterday, I still hadn’t had enough. I subjected Shelly to “Die fun” when she got home. Fortunately, she is very tolerant of most of my behaviors…and is more aware of my “on repeat” songs than anyone.

For an incorrigible adolescent like me, the beginning of my my new FTT is perfect: “Do we really have to grow up, if we never do then so what?”

So is this line: “They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older…”

Compared to the alternative, getting’ older is a great gig. But that does NOT mean that I have to grow up! Being “an adult” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be….

The refrain to this song says it all: “…We don’t know when it’s done, So let’s love hard, Let’s stay young, Let’s love hard, live fast, die fun…”

There are lots of things that “we can’t do over.” But for now I can put this song on repeat, I can smile at the thought of Emelia Rose, I can get warm standing in front of the plate glass windows, I can think about life and life events, and I can love hard, live fast and die fun.


The folks at Hallmark have missed out on this one. Thank goodness.

There are several “Hallmark holidays” e.g., Grandparents Day, Sweetest Day, and Boss’s Day…“holidays” that exist primarily for commercial purposes, rather than in recognition of a traditional or historical event.

And then then is the “holiday” that I fell for a long, long time ago….something called “half-birthdays.”

If a nonmateralistic person like me can be scammed into observing a manufactured holiday, then it seems like Hallmark missed out on a potential market. Maybe I fell for it because I was a smitten softie, who might have had an ulterior motive or two for playing along? No matter…it is one of my favorite “holidays.”

It was late January. I had been dating my wife-to-be for only a couple of weeks. I was living in Cape Giradeau, in college at SEMO. Paula was living in Farmington. I called her to confirm our date for Saturday, Feb 2nd. We were on.

But then she asked “what are you going to give me to celebrate?” I was puzzled. Celebrate? For what? It was still a couple of weeks until Valentine’s Day.

I took a shot at what I thought must have been the reason for a gift in celebration: “Since when did people start getting presents on Groundhog Day?”

[Note: Groundhog Day was adopted in 1887. Hallmark Cards was founded in 1910. i.e., it is NOT a “Hallmark holiday.”]

“No, not that…silly. It’s my half-birthday!!” (She was an excitable girl…and I do have a fondness for the type.)

“Your what? Half-birthday?? You’re kidding, right?”

“No. My family always celebrated half-birthdays? You didn’t?” (Sounding incredulous…and empathetic for me and my deficient upbringing.)

“I never heard of such a thing. You’re teasing aren’t you?”

“I am not teasing!! Well, how old did you say you were when you were 6-and-a-half?”

“I said I was six. And I said that I was 6 until I had my seventh birthday.”

“I’m sorry. My family was so much fun. Never-mind about it though… What are we gonna do for fun this weekend?”
Well, needless to say, on that Saturday I took her a card and some flowers and some candy. (Ulterior motives, doncha know?) And ever since that time, we have celebrated “half birthdays.” There weren’t presents. But there was always a card, and something sweet….maybe a cake or pie, maybe a giant cookie, or maybe some candy.

In fact, there still is. I don’t send cards via snail mail, and I don’t send sweets, but Paula and both our kids (they all live in Floriduh) will get a “Happy half-birthday” text from me. And Shelly will get a card, and something sweet, as she did less than a month ago.

Half birthday card

I admit it….I love this “half-birthday” stuff. I really love it, whether it’s mine on March 13 or Shelly’s….or one of my kids. I think it’s great when I get “happy half-birthday” messages or cards.
But I said it started as a scam, right? And was it ever!!

Long story short: I met my wife through her sister, Sharon. I had known her and her husband Tom for several years, had played lots of basketball with him, and had gone to the state tournament in Columbia with them a few times. I knew that Sharon came from a Catholic family, and assumed that she had several siblings…but I knew nothing about her family. And as much as I liked Sharon, I didn’t expect her to have a sister that I would find attractive.

Anyway, about a month after Groundhog Day, after my first-ever “half-birthday” celebration, I bumped into Sharon and Tom at a ball game. During a break in the action I said, “that half-birthday holiday that your family observes is pretty unusual.”

“Huh? What? I never heard of “half-birthdays.” Whatever are you talking about?”

Sharon had never heard of such a thing!? I had been duped.

Paula had scammed me. And I’m glad I fell for it, and that I continue to observe half-birthdays. Feel free to adopt it yourself. But please don’t let the people in KC know about it…