This evening I got an email from my mother because she’d seen an article in the daily paper about the 30th anniversary of the record store where I was the first full-time employee. Talk about feeling old. I realize I now have a child who is 18 and technically an adult, and those record store days definitely feel like another lifetime, but 30 years is a long time.
I can’t remember what album I must have bought there when they opened but I remember talking with my younger sister before we headed down there on the opening day and deciding that I had to buy something just to encourage them to stay open. And to hopefully put myself in their good graces so I could improve my chances of a landing a job there.
I scanned through the Slicing Up Eyeballs list of the Top 100 Albums of 1989 to jog my memory. I don’t think the fIREHOSE album fROMOHIO was the one I bought that day but I am sure I bought it there in 1989. There are some records on that list which I would have thought were even older than they are. Probably it has to do with whether I associate the album with college and the first half of that year, or just general life, which would be anything mid-June and after. Also MTV still played videos and I had no way of watching them when I was away at college but once I graduated and was back at home, I would stay up and watch 120 Minutes pretty religiously.
The chorus of this song has Ed singing “what the eighties mean to me.” I’m not sure what they mean to me, or if I could even summarize it, but we’re closing in on the end of this anniversary year for many things. I’ll have to give this some thought.
I thought I had written about my resistance playlist before but I can’t find it so I must not have. During the months between the election and the inauguration I tried to keep myself from descending into desperation by working on a playlist to bolster my stamina for the fights ahead. I hadn’t listened to it for quite a long time but today, I couldn’t take listening to NPR on my way to work to hear about how Vlad Jr. was committing treason in Helsinki so I plugged in the phone and fired it up. I’ve just made one substitution and should probably go back and tinker with it since it reflects the state of things before we were in it up to our eyeballs, but it did the trick on my commute. I’m sharing it with you all in this still in-progress format in case you too could use a little shot in the arm. Here you go.*
There’s a lot of talk from some GOP members about how stunned they are about Twitler kissing Putin’s ass and throwing the US intelligence agencies, plus the country as a whole, under the bus. Really? REALLY?! NOW you’re surprised? NOW you’re shocked? NOW it’s dawning on you that you’ve been backing a fascist traitor? NOW? Listen, this has been obvious for years. I was looking back through my entries to try and find that mention of this playlist and I have been talking about this since a year before the election, at least. Maybe longer. What did they think would happen when he said he would have a private meeting with no other Americans in the room? I mean, Jesus Christ, you can’t possibly be that naive.
Talk without action to back it up is cheap. How many of those Senators expressing horror at this shit show are still going to happily approve Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court? Unless they take a fucking stand and defect from the GOP, and do it now, I don’t see how they are not equally complicit. Well, I think they are complicit anyway, some actually so much so that they were alluded to in the indictment of 12 Russians last Friday. I just can’t comprehend the mental gymnastics necessary for them to live with themselves. What a bunch of fucking cowards. If/when the shit hits the fan they’ll be falling all over themselves to say they couldn’t have known. Bullshit. “…Senator, look you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Crickets.
I’ve also seen a number of people wondering why we aren’t all out in the streets. One reply I saw was pointing out that we don’t have job protections and without jobs, we don’t have health insurance. If there is a large enough outpouring so people can’t be penalized, it could work, but everyone is afraid to take that first step or waiting for the trigger. So we settle for planned marches and weekend protests. It makes us feel good for a few hours, the pictures are impressive, but it doesn’t move the needle.
Then I came to think about something my cousin had said that time I went to Germany and we visited Dresden. They used to gather in the evenings at a particular church (which had been left in ruins after the war) and shake their keys. Thousands of people all standing together and making noise. They did it on Monday nights. The wall fell within a matter of weeks. We could do that. All over the country, pick a spot, turn out. Let’s go.
* Sorry if you don’t have Spotify. I will try to make a YouTube version if I get a chance.
Not for the first time I have discovered myself in a video at a Poi show. I like to think I’m a good dancer. The video evidence suggests that may not be true. It doesn’t stop me from dancing, in fact I’m one of the people usually leading the charge. They’ve even created a new ticket category at the venue where Poi has been playing the last few years just for dancing. Only for their show. I checked the whole calendar and none of the other concerts had a dancing/standing ticket. I am pretty sure I have played a role in that.
Just got home from seeing Slowdive and I’m too tired to write anything, really. I had to be up at 5:30 this morning to drive my daughter to her school for a trip and the chill vibe plus bright lights in my face, along with the lack of sleep, made me want to just close my eyes.
Soccer Mommy opened the show. They felt like a cross between Colleen Green and Real Estate.
One of the radio stations that I listen to has a regular feature where they pair up a beer and a song, Brews and Grooves. Sometimes I miss it because I’m already too far out of range by the time it comes on but I was running late this morning and managed to hear it before I got too far away. The dj was talking about how the beer was a nice crossover from the lighter summer beers to the heavier fall beers and it just so happened that I already had some in my fridge at home; Harpoon’s Flannel Friday. To accompany this end of summer/beginning of fall beer, and flannel, he picked a 90s band and a song about summer being gone.
I have to give the dj credit on this one. I usually agree with his assessment of the beers (though my own preferences are a little narrower than his) but now and then I feel like the song choice is not quite as strong a match as it could be. But today and yesterday were unseasonably warm and I was even walking around outside both days in a sleeveless shirt, in November in New England, with the leaves crunching under your feet. Plus, Flannel, 90s. So, yeah. Buffalo Tom’s Summer and Harpoon’s Flannel Friday. I put it to the test this evening and I fully endorse this match.
When the song was over, the dj came back on the air and was talking about how a friend of his from Texas or someplace like that had never heard of Buffalo Tom. He said he hadn’t thought they were just a New England thing, he thought they were more well known across the country, but maybe not. I feel like my opinion is disqualified in this situation because even if I was living in DC when I saw Buffalo Tom, I came from New England.
Anyway, just to round out this nice little flashback Friday vibe, I got out my stub from that Buffalo Tom show at the old 9:30 Club and snapped this picture. Cheers!
From before Twitler took office, I have felt that he would get us all killed. Today we dropped a massive bomb on Afghanistan, apparently, and are making threats to North Korea. So it seemed like maybe I should not keep holding on to my memorial service playlist but that the time is right to share it. After all, if we’re going to have World War III, I may as well make sure this is out there.
However, the caveat is not all of these songs are available online in the versions that I would actually like to use and it varies between Spotify and YouTube which ones had to be substituted. For that reason, I’m running down the list below. I also can’t help the visuals on some of these videos, which is why I prefer an audio only experience for this, but life could be short so I’m over it. YouTube above, Spotify below.
The Great Beyond
1. Angelika Suspended – Poi Dog Pondering (Spotify has the preferred version)
2. Just Breathe – Pearl Jam
3. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out – Cat Stevens (here the YouTube is worth it for the Harold and Maude clips since that’s key to its selection)
4. Belong – R.E.M.
5. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead (Spotify for the studio version, though I like the Scotch Mist version fine, it’s not the “right” one)
6. Treefingers – Radiohead (optional – serves as a transition but could also be cut or used as music while people are milling about before things get started)
7. Blood of Eden – Peter Gabriel (YouTube is the correct version from Until the End of the World)
8. Calling All Angels – Jane Siberry with k.d.lang
9. Heaven – Talking Heads
10. Wendell Gee – R.E.M.
11. Untitled – R.E.M.
12. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – Talking Heads
While there are a lot of songs that you might think I would have on a playlist for my memorial service, this is meant to be something you can actually play for assembled grieving friends and family and not bum people out too much. It shouldn’t make people feel worse. At the same time, sometimes it’s good to cry and let it out. The idea is that this should be in place of any hymns or prayers since I am not religious, though there are some songs that gesture toward that, after all I have a number of church-going family members, including my aunt the nun.
In the days to come I’ll take each one as a separate post with more details but for now I’ll let it speak for itself.
My radio alarm clock went off this morning and, as if by fate, the first few notes of Orange Crush came blaring out. I hadn’t really thought about it before but, man, so appropriate.
But this song amazes me. It came out 30 years ago and yet is every bit as relevant as it was in 1987. In some ways we have come so far since then and I take solace in that. In other ways though, we still have a Congress that propagates confusion, we have never had a less qualified person as president, and cabinet nominees who are eager to destroy the agencies they want to oversee.
I know it sounds melodramatic but I really do feel like we are being occupied. These people are not what this country has been about, they are not representative of the majority of my fellow citizens. I hope against hope that this is the last dying gasp of an old, feeble power structure that we can lay to rest if we are awake and active enough.
I have a feeling that I’m going to be listening to this album a lot in the coming months. The whole thing, but especially the first (Page) side, is great for bolstering your courage to fight the good fight. We are on the right side of history and I will be there to protest and witness. I will do what I can to protect what we have and hold accountable those who would strip away our rights. I am raising my children to be vigilant and to demand truth.
This album and I are 30 years older but the passion and the vision are still the same. Back then it was with the first flush of understanding myself as a political being, now it’s with the sobering resolve to stand up for decency, justice, and equality, no matter the consequences.
This evening we went to my daughter’s chorus concert. The group she is in and the orchestra performed this song together and I am sure I was not the only one in the high school auditorium who had these scenes running through their mind.
A Room With a View is largely responsible for my fascination with British period films, Merchant Ivory productions, and a longing for Italy that five years of Latin classes never managed to spark. I actually went to graduate school with hopes of killing two birds with one stone; have the study abroad experience I didn’t have in college because I’d been too busy trying to transfer, and put myself on a path to working, somehow, with making film adaptations from books. This movie was going to be my thesis.
Ever since I first saw the film, and I can’t even remember now when that first was, I believed that all I needed to be able to start living the life I was meant to live, was to travel to somewhere as beautiful as the places so many movies I loved had been filmed. I was sure that if I could throw open my double window like Lucy Honeychurch and see the splendors of Florence all around me, my George Emerson would appear in a field of waist high wildflowers, just like that. And if that was too far-fetched, well, there was no shortage of other films to choose from as inspiration. Enchanted April, Howard’s End, all the Jane Austen film adaptations, everything Kenneth Branagh did, it’s a long list.
My first attempt at this was my first European trip in 1994. I’d quit my job and had this plan of settling in Prague and doing something to support myself. It didn’t matter what, I was just going to live in this beautiful city and things would click into place. I did have contacts and I’d done a lot of research, but after only two weeks I knew it wasn’t going to work out. I continued on to Austria, spending close to a week in Salzburg so I could see every inch of the place that had been burned into my brain from years of watching The Sound of Music. I returned to Washington D.C. from Vienna and figured I just needed to recalibrate this plan. Prague was beautiful but it was still shaking off the Cold War in a lot of ways and I was probably too young and uncertain about myself to have really made a go of things.
I wound up back in Maine by the summer of 1994. Always intending to leave before the snow flies, I was still there for winter, and the two after that. There’s nothing like a Maine winter to make you wish for sun-kissed foreign vistas. I spent a lot of money at the video store borrowing more and more films to transport myself to someplace else. Even soggy British countrysides were an improvement. That dream of the perfect place and the perfect life was still there. I felt like I needed a more realistic goal though, and that’s how the graduate school idea took hold.
“Oh, but dreams have a knack of just not coming true.” I finally made it to graduate school, in the middle of nowhere in mid-west Wales, and the professor who taught a course about film adaptations was on sabbatical for the year. Foiled again.
Two weeks ago at this time I was driving my daughter home from a show in New York. A couple of YouTubers from England that she follows were performing at the Beacon Theatre. I bought a single ticket for her to go and figured I could amuse myself for a couple of hours in Manhattan while she was at the show. She didn’t mind going alone and I didn’t see any harm in her sitting by herself. I’d let her go to a similar event closer to home last summer and it had worked out fine so I preferred to save the money and not have to sit through the show myself. She had a great time, I met up with my cousin for dinner and wandered around New York on a gorgeous evening, we were home by midnight – a success.
The next day at school she proudly wore the sweatshirt she’d bought at the show and told her friends all about it. One of them remarked, “I can’t believe your mom let you go to a show, in New York, on a school night!” She just laughed and said, “You don’t know my mom. She is always going down to New York for shows so it would be pretty hypocritical of her to say I couldn’t go.” She is only 14 and I’m her parent so when she asked about the show I could have easily found good reasons to say no, but it’s true that I have no qualms about driving down to New York, or several other places, to go to a show. Even on a school night. I place a lot of value on live performances and being there in person, to soak it all in. If I can make these memories happen for her, I’m happy to do it.
Later that week I took myself down to see Frightened Rabbit. I’d been looking forward to the show ever since tickets went on sale. Not only was it closer to home than the last two shows I’d been to (Boston and New York) but I’ve been wanting to check out this venue for a while. It’s been open for about a year and I’d heard only great things about it. I’ll definitely be back, which is what Scott Hutchison said at the end of the night too.
I keep looking for concerts that I think I could bring my daughter along to and that she might actually enjoy. There’s one at the end of the month that I have my eye on but I’m not sure she’s sold on the idea. The older she gets the broader her musical tastes have become but she’s still greatly influenced by her friends. Going to see a band she doesn’t know doesn’t sound hugely appealing and she’d prefer to spend her time listening to her own music than something I suggest.
I have friends who have taken a really active role in shaping what their kids listen to but I have had more of a hands-off attitude. Sure, I’d love it if she liked all of my bands but I think it’s important for her to find her own way and create her own path. After all, it was my siblings, much more so than my parents, who prepped me for all the music I would discover on my own and the very act of digging in and finding my music, is something that I have always felt, as the fifth of six kids, helped me forge my identity.
Which is how we found ourselves yesterday at a big chain store (after first checking out my local record store and another independent record store, at my insistence) so that my daughter could buy her first record.* It’s her own money and again, far be it from me to tell her she can’t or shouldn’t spend it on a record. Yes! Please! Buy a record! A double album, even! I wish it hadn’t been Twenty One Pilots and I feel bad that it came from a big corporation’s outlet rather than the guy down the street but I still felt it was a worthwhile purchase. For one thing, buy the music and support the musicians you love so they can keep making music! If I teach her nothing else in this whole musical journey, let it be that. Then the added bonus of having the lyrics sheet and the liner notes to pore over while you listen. New records these days usually come with a digital download too so you can still take your music with you wherever you go.
As she peeled off the shrinkwrap and took one of the records out I did intervene and tell her the proper way to handle the vinyl and to be especially careful when putting it back in the gatefold cover to make sure to have the open side of the inner sleeve at the top so that the record won’t roll out while you’re looking at the inside, and always keep your hands over the opening because otherwise it will crash to the floor and break and you will cry. Why yes, I was speaking from personal experience. Fittingly, my first record was also a double album. Embarrassingly, it was the Grease soundtrack. Give me a break, I was in sixth grade! As I stood in the living room where the stereo was, looking at all of the pictures from the movie, out rolled my brand new record and before I could react it had hit the wooden floor and snapped into several large, black, pointy pieces. Kind of like trying to remove snow from the roof or hood of your car with a shovel, you only make that mistake once.
Our house is very old and creaky and the turntable should only be used when no one is walking around. I had suggested she might just listen to the digital download yesterday and wait to give the record a spin until she got home from school today. I forgot to show her how it all worked though. She called me at my office, having already removed the record I’d left on it (though not following my strict instructions about putting it away properly, ack!) and had hers on but sound wasn’t coming through the speakers. I spent way more time than I thought it would take to walk her through this old fashioned technology. First push the button on the receiver (what’s that?) that says phono (huh?!?). Then find the switch on the turntable that says cue to raise the needle, move it above the edge of the record, close the lid, move the switch back the other way to lower the needle, ta-da! It’s a slow start, but I feel like she’ll get there. If I can do it, so can she.
* She has CDs and other stuff she’s bought on iTunes but this is her first LP.
Today I got a notification from Bandsintown that Belly had added some more dates on their recently announced tour. When the word got out that they had reunited and would play a few shows, I remembered seeing a ticket for Belly at the old 9:30 Club the last time I looked through my old stubs. For the life of me I couldn’t remember the show though. I did spend a ton of time at the 9:30 Club back on F Street and I’m sure I saw a lot of bands I don’t remember but I felt like I should remember this show more. I tried looking on Setlist.fm but that didn’t help. I pulled out the envelope where I have the stubs and looked again.
Upon closer inspection I realized this wasn’t a stub, it was the whole, unripped ticket. It was also still smooth and flat, not showing the tell-tale signs of a stub that had been shoved in my pocket and suffered the effects of one of Washington D.C.’s sweatiest and smelliest establishments. I stood there turning the ticket over in my hands trying to remember if they had cancelled or I had blown it off, though neither felt likely. Then it hit me. The date. This show was about a week after one of my three housemates had been shot in the head, after parking her car on our street. At first it seemed like a random drive-by but just before the Belly show, another woman was shot about a block away. Things were incredibly stressful and the only consistent part of the attacks in the pattern that police pieced together was that the gunman went after people walking alone. I typically went to these shows by myself and there was no way I was up for it. We had my housemate’s dad staying with us while she recovered (she did recover, thankfully, though she lost an eye from the gun shot) and we would come home from work in groups, go inside and stay there until morning. I liked Belly, but not enough to risk being the next victim of a madman.
I’ve just finished a novel, Every Anxious Wave*, in which time travel to concerts of the early 1990s plays a big part. In the past year or so, there seem to be a lot of bands that broke up in the 90s getting back together and going on tour. My interest in going to any of those shows was directly related to whether or not I’d seen them back in the day. If I had (the Replacements, Ride) then I preferred to have those old shows stand as the definitive memory of what their live concerts were like. Things are different now. It could still be great but it is different, there’s no way around it.
But I missed the Belly show. I could look at this new tour as a do-over. So far all the venues are a little too far away, and they’ve been selling out ridiculously fast, but I’ll keep an eye on it. Maybe reunion shows are as close to time travel as we’ll get.
*I have more thoughts on the topic after reading this book but they’re still scattered so perhaps that’s a post of its own.