“Rock and Roll”

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One of the things I think is going to happen with this restart is that a lot of songs are going to get fresh takes.  Or at least looked at again with eyes that are a few years older.  Notice I did not say wiser; the paradoxical thing about getting older is that you learn just how much it is you don’t know.  Things that seemed so black and white, so life or death, when you were 20 just aren’t the same when you’re 50.

I first posted on this song back when Lou Reed died six years ago, and I still feel pretty much the same way.  Rock & Roll is home in a way that not many other things are for me.  Music in general is home.  It’s been a sadder home for my the last few years, but it’s still mine.  It’s where the misfits and the weirdos can find each other.  And I’m one of the misfits and weirdos.  I’ve never really been able to conform with expectations and norms. I’m not just a square peg in a round hole; I’m a Lincoln Log in roomful of Legos.  And maybe in some ways that makes my life a little harder, but it makes me a hell of a lot happier than I would have been trying to fit in.

My life was saved by rock and roll.

“The Bitch is Back”

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Hi there.  It’s been a while.  Not quite as long as I thought it had been, but still.

I’m back.

I’ve not been posting for a variety of reasons: caregiving, general laziness, dying pets, dying musicians, political exhaustion, rage, regular trips to Disneyland, reading.  You name it, I’ve been doing it.  I’m also gainfully employed once again.  (I’ll go into that in some near-future post.  I’ll probably go into all of it in future posts; I’m not afraid of oversharing.)  But I committed to this year’s Nano Poblano (go Team Peppers!) and while I’m probably not going to follow the rules Ra set, I will use this committment to bring myself back into the blogging world, which I’ve missed.  It’s a way to get me writing again, which I’ve REALLY missed.  And I can once again harangue people about the music I love more than just about anything else.

Yeah.  The Bitch is indeed back.

You’re welcome.

“Echo”

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I’ve got Tom Petty on the brain.  I’ve got my dad on the brain, too; it’ll be five years since he died in a couple weeks.  I’ve been having weird anxiety dreams lately.  I’m writing poems again, although not as much as I’d like to be.  I’m a little worried about one of the cat’s health.  I’ve had a little wine tonight.  A little too much, maybe.  Or not enough.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a little melancholy.

So this is kind of the perfect song for me right now.  It’s all echoes, jumbled feelings of sadness and grief and happiness and peace and anger bouncing around in my head, back and forth, over and over.  “It’s the same sad echo comin’ down.  It’s the same sad echo all around in my ears.  It’s the same as the same sad echo around here.”  I don’t feel bad or depressed, really.  Just kind of unsettled.  Kind of lost, even though I’m not.  Just one of those funks.

Hail to the King

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It’s been forty years since Elvis Presley shuffled off this mortal coil.  While he’d slipped into pop culture irrelevancy in the last few years of his career, the musical landscape was just as shaken by his death as it had been by the earthquake of his arrival in the 1950s.

But Elvis holds an odd relevancy today.  See, when he started out, Elvis explicitly tried to blend two different musical worlds: Black R&B and white Country & Western.  I know there have been a lot of critics who say he “stole” that music from the blacks, but considering that he was always friends with and surrounded by a vital African-American community in Memphis, then I think it might be a little harsh to say he willfully took from black artists for his own profit.  He used the music he loved and that influenced him to develop his own unique sound.  If people want to lay blame for the magnificent, brilliant black musicians that didn’t get the credit or reap the financial rewards of fame, then blame the music industry; they’re the ones who exploited people.  Elvis just made the sound he heard in his head and heart manifest.

Some people reacted badly to Elvis.  Besides being kind of lewd in some people’s eyes, he was also committing the worst sin any white man from the South could commit: He liked black culture and black people.  He freely associated with them.  He sounded like them.  To these people, Elvis was some kind of traitor.  The people who thought this were what I like to call racists.  This was the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, and Jim Crow was still the rule of law throughout the South (and the rule of custom in so many other places).  Things were changing, and racists didn’t like it.  They didn’t like the idea that their pure white children might go to school with those nasty black folks.  They didn’t think they should have to serve or sell products to people they had decided were subhuman simply because the color of their skin was different.  The racists still held on to the notion that the South would “rise again,” a phrase I’m pretty sure is code for “reinstate slavery and destroy all those dirty n*****s once and for all.”  They were afraid that their “way of life” would be taken from them and they would be forced to treat black people equally.

So they fought back by beating sit-in participants.  By turning fire hoses and police dogs on Civil Rights marchers.  By lynching and shooting both black and white activists who committed sins like registering black citizens to vote.  They didn’t call themselves racist.  They didn’t even call themselves white supremacists for the most part.  They called themselves good, honest, hardworking, Christian Americans.  They really truly believed God was on their side.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It should.  Because it’s still going on today, some sixty-odd years after the Civil Rights Movement began in earnest and Elvis Aron Presley burst onto the scene.  What happened a few days ago in Virginia, before, during, and after a so-called “Unite the Right” rally was pretty much the same thing.  These neo-Nazis, these white pride adherents, these alt-right followers–whatever the fuck they’re calling themselves–were as sickening as the racists back then were.  They carried torches, for crying out loud!*  All they needed was a couple of white hoods and a giant cross to burn, and we would’ve gone back in time a few decades.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  And because of the Cheeto masquerading as president, these imbeciles think it’s okay to come back out of the woodwork and show their pathetic faces.  They think it’s okay to intimidate and beat counter protesters.  They think it’s okay (and it actually is okay in a lot of places) to carry assault weapons to a supposedly peaceful protest.  With all the racist, xenophobic rhetoric coming from the Cheeto, these racists think they can do whatever they want to anyone they think is an inferior because the idiot they voted for says it is.  He refuses to call them out largely because he agrees with them.  They are essentially his unpaid army of thugs.

Now I support the right to free speech.  That means I also support the right of these racist fucks to say what they want.  It’s a hard, bitter pill, but I will swallow it because they do have the right to speak their minds and express their opinions.  I hate what they have to say, but I will defend to the death their right to say it.  But they surrender any Constitutional right to free speech the second they start carrying weapons and torches.  They give up any and all First Amendment protections when they assault anyone who dares to disagree with them.  They deserve to be arrested and prosecuted when they do things like drive their cars into a crowd of pedestrians and counter protesters.  These so-called people, these useless piles of flesh and bones, are the living breathing definition of terrorism.  They always were, going back generations upon generations, and they should be treated as such.

Like the racists who resisted both Civil Rights and Elvis, these terrorist neo-Nazis are scared because they think they’re losing something when other groups, primarily the groups that they hate, gain something.  They see society changing and progressing, and they see it as an assault on their power.  It is.  And it isn’t going to stop.  As more and more marginalized people gain greater and greater rights, the social order these terrorists want to see will continue to die out.

I’ve gotten a bit farther away from Elvis than I thought I would, but I think that’s kind of a testament to his power.  He brought musical styles together and created something magical.  Today, no one even really thinks about how revolutionary his sound was.  Imagine what would happen if we could finally, FINALLY, stop dividing ourselves by the colors of our skins and unify.  Think of what we could accomplish if we actually stopped treating each other differently because we look or speak or pray or vote differently.  Then the real revolution would finally begin.

 

*Okay, they were tiki torches, but that would’ve only leant the scent of citronella to the cross burning.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”

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A recent post describes my relatively reasonable fear of death (“reasonable” being the key word here; I have lots of other far less reasonable fears).  What I didn’t really get into was my obsession with it.  For the last year and half, from the second I saw news of David Bowie’s death to hearing of Gregg Allman’s passing just a few days ago, I have been compulsively worried that musicians I like are going to suddenly drop dead.  (I really should’ve known 2016 was going to suck in terms of pop culture passings when New Year’s Day that year brought the news that Natalie Cole had died the night before.  That’s never a good way to start off a year.)  I check the news multiple times a day, just in case.  I imagine how I might feel if [insert name of iconic musician here] passed.  I wonder idly about which songs I should use for my obituary post, and how many posts commemorating that person there ought to be; depending on their fame, influence, and place in my heart it could be a lot.  Right now, I’m just a tiny bit worried that my even musing about this topic will bring some kind of karmic retribution down on whichever poor bastard happens to be next on the Universe’s hit list.

I am aware that this is not entirely healthy.

I wish I could be as sanguine about death as this song.  I wish I could be accepting of it as the Buddha says.  It’s natural and inevitable; we are transitory beings, blah, blah, blah.  “Seasons don’t fear the reaper, nor do the wind, the sun, or the rain.  We can be like they are.”  Blah, blah, blah.  It might be a natural transition, but it’s still a pretty fucking scary one.  The final great unknown.  I hate not knowing things.  I also hate not having control over things, and death is one of the many, many things entirely outside my control.

Of course, I have a lot of recent personal experience with death.  It’s been four years since Daddy shuffled off the mortal coil.  Mom’s illness has once again raised the specter in my house.  My cousin the roadie recently got just a little bit too close to death when the Manchester Arena was bombed right after the Ariana Grande concert (he was on the crew, who were all safe).  Other family members have passed recently.  Cats have passed recently.  I know I’m getting older and so is everyone I love; I just wish I wasn’t so anxious about it all.  My worried little hamster wheel of a brain has been working overtime on this one.

One death that hit me unexpectedly hard was the recent passing of Robert M. Pirsig.  Who the hell was that, you ask?  Just the man who wrote the Book That Changed My Life, aka Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Sure, I hadn’t known he was even still alive, which is one of the things that made his death so unexpected.  But as I read the obituary in the paper, I felt gutted.  For a few minutes, I felt like I did when my dad passed.  It was that painful.  I celebrated his life by rereading Zen again, which made me feel a little better.

I think maybe I’d feel even a little bit better if I knew that there was some sort of personification of death who came to collect you when it was time.  Not Robert Redford in that episode of The Twilight Zone (“Nothing in the Dark”; you can find it on YouTube).  I’d much prefer the Death from Terry Pratchett’s books.  He’s very matter of fact, but still quite compassionate.  Plus, he has a sense of humor and rides a horse named Binky.  What’s not to love?

There’s really nothing I can do but live with it, no pun intended.  When Pirsig passed, I told myself I had to sit with that grief for a few minutes and I did. I know when the next person or pet I love moves on, I’ll cry and sit with that grief, too.  I have to.  As John Donne said, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Nobody said the bell couldn’t be a cowbell.

Who Am I?–Replacements Edition

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Some time ago, I posted the first in an irregular series of songs I think describe me, or at least the me I think I am anyway.  Here’s another one.  I’ve made my adoration of the Replacements well known; I’ve stated that I think Paul Westerberg is the true voice of my generation.  So it makes perfect sense that I would see myself in his songs.

I consider myself a creative, artistic person.  I also know I don’t fit into the box labeled “middle class female” very well.  I’m an oddball.  I like being alone, and I abhor most of the things the majority of people claim to enjoy (physical activity, cilantro, and the smell of vanilla candles are just a few examples).  I didn’t get married or have children.  I went to college for an education, not a degree.  I don’t drive.  If I was rich I’d be allowed to be eccentric, but since I’m not rich I’m just a weirdo.  A misfit.

Which makes the Replacements’ “Achin’ to Be” an ideal song for me.  Of course, it’s also the ideal song for every creative, artistic misfit girl out there.  And while I do see myself in that song, if I’m totally honest, I think I live more in the world of “Merry Go Round.”

It’s not just that the title features a homophone of my name, although I freely admit to being drawn to songs with my name in them.  There’s just more of me in the feeling and tone of this song.  It’s the chorus that really gets me:  “Merry go round in dreams.  Writes them down, it seems that when she sleeps she’s free.  Merry go round in dreams.”  I do feel free in my dreams; I imagine most people do.  And I write down dreams, just like I write down random thoughts and song lyrics and ideas.  I try to turn all of it into poems and stories–not always successfully but I try.  There’s also an edge to this song that “Achin’ to Be” doesn’t have.  That song is more melancholy.  “Merry Go Round” is kind of pissed off.  Kind of like me.  I’m angry.  A lot.  And you can hear that in this song.  You can also here an isolation, like the characters of the song aren’t just lonely, they are genuinely left out.  I’ve felt left out most of my life.  I’m not just a misfit; I’m an outsider.  People forget about me.  People don’t tell me things on a regular basis.  I’m not physically invisible, but I might as well be.  Some of that is my own doing, some of it isn’t.  And I can feel the pain of being excluded in this song.  But I also feel the empowerment of defiance here.  Sure, these characters are left out.  But they decided that if the rest of the world can’t be bothered to see them, then the rest of the world can go jump in a lake.  “But the trouble doll hears your heart pound, and your feet they say goodbye to the ground.”  There is something to be said for marching to the beat of your own accordion.  While I sometimes get frustrated and feel lonely, I don’t feel dishonest.  That’s important to me.  And it’s one of the reasons why I love this song so much.

Who Am I?

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There are always a few different lists going around Facebook at any given moment designed to tell people who you are, what kind of person you are based on a handful of questions.  Sometimes these things are thematic–like using only one word, or basing each answer on a consecutive letter of the alphabet, etc.  I never take part in these things.  It’s not that I’m all that closed off, although I can be.  It’s not even that the questions are mostly irrelevant, although they often are.  I just don’t think these things would really tell you who I am.

I think of myself as a private person, but given that I blog and am on FB, I’m not so sure that’s true anymore.  I also like to think I have a pretty tight rein on my emotions, but if I’m being honest that is probably the biggest lie I’ve ever told myself.  I have about as much self-control over my emotions as your average three-year-old.  But I hate losing control of my feelings in public, so I guess that’s something.  I do have trouble letting people in; intimacy and I are not exactly on speaking terms.  I’m opinionated and I like to blast my opinions and thoughts (educated or otherwise) out there for the world to see.  It’s actually something of a defense mechanism, though.  I know that distracting people with my opinions on politics, etc. will get them to think they know who I am and stop asking about me.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I will occasionally be posting songs I really relate to, that I can see myself in.  There’s the me I project, and the me I see in my mind’s eye.  The latter is the person these songs will let you all see, too.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I guess all that stuff really is in the eye of the beholder.  My eye beholds this.

You ever get the sense that you’re waiting for something to happen?  The feeling that there is something else in this world that is meant for you, but you have no idea what it is or how to articulate it?  Not greatness or a great romance, necessarily.  Just something. . . different.  That’s me.  That’s this song for me.  I know there’s something out there but I haven’t found it yet.  Maybe I never will.  I’ve tried to define it in so many different ways but I can’t quite.  It’s a search for peace and contentment, something that will finally allow me shut my brain off and let the anxiety and worry disappear.  I also know by now that I’m probably never going to find whatever it is outside of myself.  It won’t stop me from looking.  But in the meantime, I have Jackson Browne to help me at least put a name to it.  I’m a Hold Out.