9/30 my life. a 4 volume set.

The mix tape.

Possibly the best invention to ever come out of the 80’s. And one which i still make regular use of  – even if the tapes of old have now been replaced by shiny silver discs.

As a former D.J. (and by “D.J.”, i mean someone who basically got too drink for free while at work), i am well acquainted with the concept of “mixing” – just not of the beat variety. No, my mixes were what i liked to call “emotional” in nature, in that while they didn’t necessarily slide gracefully from one track to the next – so that the dancers on the floor never knew of the transition – they did serve to “set the mood”. What that mood was at any given moment was all up to me, but most often i tried to keep it pretty light and upbeat. You know, the kind of upbeat that allows for occasional slam dancing. And with my mix tapes, i like to operate in very much the same fashion. Now, could the repetition between my previous use of the “emotional” style while D.J.ing and my mix tapes of today be simply an elaborate excuse for me to avoid purchasing expensive mixing programs? More than likely. But i’m a solid believer that the free option (in this case iTunes) will work just fine – until such time as a nicer free option comes along.

That being said, i hadn’t made a mix tape in quite sometime (around 19 high-school 7ish) until a couple of years back, when some vendor/friends made the ultimate error of letting me know that they had no idea who The Clash was.

Really.

Now, in their defense, they are residents of Missouri, but honestly, i don’t see that as a valid excuse. Actually, i don’t see any excuse as being acceptable to explain away not knowing who The Clash is. So, to set them straight, i promised to send a “mix tape” highlighting new wave and punk rock music – if they enjoyed it, great. If not, then that would be alright as well – at least they would never again suffer the embarrassment of not knowing who The Clash was. I felt bad for them though, because when they said that that would be simply lovely, i’m pretty sure they were expecting a singular mix tape disc. What they ended up with, many years later, was a grand total of 45. Including art work and liner notes.

Really.

Obviously, i branched out from the original idea of focusing on new wave and punk, and “produced” a couple on Ska, one on swing, two on metal, a male and female “crooner” disc each, one of old songs stuck in my head many years later and two on really old (and deplorable) songs my mother used to force us to listen to as a result of a one story house and AM radio. Heck, i even threw in a Christmas disc or two, based on the idea that all the other “series” (as put out by actual labels) always make sure that they include at least one. My personal favorite however, was one titled “The Gayties” (think of bands like Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and Jimmy Somerville and you’ll figure out the disc’s focus). And while my two vendor/friends initiated the mix-plosion, by the end i had upwards of 20 “subscribers” who each received copies as they came out. As with all things however, time went on, my mix mojo slowly ebbed and – considering that i wasn’t getting paid for any of these anyway – i eventually called it quits.

Fast forward a couple of more years, and upon hearing that a friend of mine had decided to have what she called a “CD exchange party”, i found my mix mojo suddenly refilled! Especially since for every disc i put out, another’s mix tape is returned for my listening enjoyment. We’ve had (3) such parties so far (none of which i’ve actually been present at due to the fact that i live in a different state than the rest). And for each one i have tried – and failed – to engineer a mix tape that chronicles my life. i don’t know where the idea came from or why, but i thought it would be cool if i had the ability to tell “my story, in song”. As always with me, a couple of ground rules needed to apply – the songs had to be from the period i was “discussing” (or there about), they had to be related to something about my life, or about “me” (for instance, “Born In The USA” says nothing about me really, but Judas Priest’s “Heading Out To The Highway” does) and most importantly, they needed to mix well. As you can imagine, these three rules continually butted heads and my dream mix tape was never realized.

Until now.

Just recently, i was able to make it all squeak together (well, for the most part), out of a sense of sheer stubborn determination. And sadly, no one will ever be able to hear it. In part because the damned thing came in at four discs long – and i didn’t even start my “story” until the high school years! i also can’t share it because i was a bit surprised (although i shouldn’t have been) to see what the final tracks laid down for the story of me turned out to be. There are a lot more songs like that of Depeche Mode’s “Useless” and The Bolshoi’s “Looking For A Life” than there are those along the lines of Dio’s “Stand Up And Shout” or Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (that’s right, even Aguilera made the mix). The inclusion of “To Hell With Poverty” by Gang Of Four doesn’t shock me, and nor does the presence of “Redemption Song” (i chose the version Wyclef Jean sang at the 9/11 memorial concert, partially to acknowledge possibly the biggest event to ever take place in my children’s lifetime). In fact, i would assume that most people – those who know about music and didn’t come equipped with a silver spoon – would include these 2 ditties in their musical “biography” as well.

(i feel) There are a lot of good choices included, and they all say something about me – or maybe they speak more to me instead. As noted, they pretty much take you from my time in high school to the me of now. And – as any good drama queen knows – the set ends with a nod towards “The End.” Overall, not my best mix ever, but pretty damned good. And possibly a little too personal. If nothing else, i think that is why this mix will never see the light of day. Which seems a shame, considering how hard i worked on it. But then again, maybe much like my lil blog, this too can be something i created – not to impress or win others over – but rather solely for my own satisfaction. And maybe, if i keep it as a “work in progress” status instead of “releasing” it, i can someday remix it to include far more happy songs than not.

i just hope it doesn’t take 45 discs to do so.

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9/28 random thoughts about angels, dogs & The Doctor

i have a confession to make. i believe in angels, just not the kind that most people think of when bridging the subject.

Nope...

To me, the angels C. S. Lewis envisioned are much more probable than the popular variety. The type that are so far removed from us as we’ll never understand them – nor they us. The type that are so incredibly “other” as we’ll never truly be able to connect. What i mean, i suppose, is this: how could one being, who is thinking that there might be a God ever connect in any meaningful way with a being who not only knows that there is a God, but actually spends quite a bit of time with Him?

And how could we ever become one ourselves? An angel that is. i know that that’s become a popular idea used when describing the death of a loved one, especially when it’s a child. i also see it used quite frequently when a person (in my experience, usually a woman) is trying to describe their inner divinity or express their ability to overcome some hardship (but oddly enough, hardly ever in an effort to show any type of kinship or devotion to God). And i think this is kind of insulting to do so – to both the angels and us. i mean, i love C – adore her in fact (“Yes!  We get it already… move on with it, would ya???”) – but she will no more ever become an angel than my stupid, yet singularly beautiful, dog would have ever had a chance of becoming a human. Make sense? People can be beautiful people – but they can’t be angels as a result – much like dogs can only be man’s best friends precisely because they’re not men.

Not this either...

Here’s the tradeoff – the angels get to actually know that God exists, and they get to serve him. We, on the other hand, don’t know – supposedly – and as a result, get to choose whether we’ll serve or decline. Where that puts us in relationship to each other, i’m not quite sure. But i suppose if i was forced to come up with a (very weak and upside down) analogy, i guess you could say that the angels are very much like older children who know that the whole Santa thing is a scam, while humans are the younger ones who are still in the dark about the whole thing. In short, they know the truth of the matter, and we’re left guessing.

So, do older children take care of their younger siblings? Yes, but not always out of “love” per say, rather simply because “Dad said so”. And again, here is where my opinion of angels probably varies from the norm (but i believe i still have C.S. Lewis on my side, so there!). i’m of the idea that while the angels do help, it’s much more about their aiding God than us. And i don’t think the assistance they give – as an old commerical once proposed – is anything as simple as stopping that car from hitting us by throwing their angelic body in front of it instead (not to get off topic – whatever topic we’re actually on at any rate – but i don’t think their angelic bodies could even fit into our plane of existence, let alone stop a car). So, how do they help? i have no idea, but i’m pretty sure that whatever it is – had they their druthers – they’d much prefer not too. And i’m not being mean in saying that. i’m just thinking that if i were in heaven, i’d sure prefer to stay There than to have to come Here just to help out some former monkees who just never seem to get it right.

And since we’ve landed here quite unexpectedly, i might as well also add that while i believe in evolution, i refuse to say that humans were ever anything less than just that. Much like we’ll never be angels, we were also never primates. Oh, we might have looked the part when we first started out, and act the part still, but that doesn’t mean that we were ever anything else besides humans – monkey or otherwise. But there i go digressing again.

i did want to back up though, to a point i made earlier and incorrectly. i had mentioned that whereas the angels had to serve, we were able to choose. This was quite obviously worded wrong, when considering the idea of the “Fallen angels” (another concept i happen to buy into). What i should have actually said is that we both have the choice to serve – but what humans have also been gifted with is the very idea as to whether to believe or not. For the angels there is no choice, they see God. There is no belief, He’s right there. Probably stealing the comfy chair. As always. Humans however, can choose to either see him in that chair or not. We basically have the ability to tell him whether or not he exists. And he gave us this power. Again, as with so many of the ideas in this post, i have no earthly idea as to why he would do that, but there you go. As a human, i have the ability – nix that, the right – to look God square in the face and tell him he doesn’t exist. And then he won’t. For me at any rate. On the plus side, i then get to pretty much do whatever i want. On the minus side, when i die. i really die. And should i live on, i will need to go to the place where God is not. Simply because he doesn’t exist for me. Bummer.

“Wait, what did all that just now have to do with angels?”  Nothing i suppose, but i thought i might as well throw it in there. No need to waste a good pontifical session on only one subject.

Now, i know my family and a great number of friends would be quite upset if i left this topic without ever bridging the subject of the “Weeping Angels” of Dr. Who fame. And to this i must say that while it’s a really cool idea, it really has no merit. Especially when you consider that all they had to do to defeat this variety of angel was to give them a good and proper knocking over. On the other hand, i do sort of feel as if the angels portrayed in the show are somewhat closer to the real thing than we would like to think. They’re much more about “getting the job done” than all that fluffy, feel-good, “white sheet and blond bob” stuff we’d like to envision when we dream of angels. And they’re more about using their glorious power – power they obtain from God – for His good, rather than they are about throwing themselves in front of cars just to “serve us”. In short, much like my stupid, yet singularly beautiful dog, angels “serve” us only because they know that God exists, and while they may not understand it, they know that he loves us. They in turn, love him enough to get past all the reasons not to lend us a hand – and do. But as angels, there’s no way their going to fake being happy about it.

...and i pray to God, not these!

i have one last confession to make. i have always secretly wished i could be visited by an angel. i’ve believed and respected (and been jealous of) certain others who say they have – and while it sounds stupid – for me it would almost be like a sign that i somehow “counted” in some special way. And maybe, for just that reason, i’m also a little scared that someday my wish might come true.

my 100th post

We met at my brothers wedding, in part because he was marrying her sister. i was already married at the time we were introduced, but was to find myself quite suddenly not so by the September that followed.

i was pretty torn up about the whole thing, and based on the friendship that we had grown since then, upon receiving the news of my return to a single life it was her shoulder i decided first to lean upon – simply because i knew that of all the shoulders that were available to me, hers would be the strongest, the most honest and the least judgmental. i was right, and in short order found myself longing to be with her shoulder (and the rest of her as well, obviously) in a much more exclusive fashion.

Six months later we found ourselves living together, working together on the same 3 – 11 shift at the same nursing home and in general, enjoying life together as a “not so much young enough to be truly punk anymore, but old enough to not be too terribly upset by the whole thing” couple. One which owned an army of cats and one stupid, yet singularly beautiful, dog. We also found ourselves in an odd predicament on April 2nd of that year in that we both had the same day off. A rare, if not nonexistent, phenomenon. Upon finally waking (these being the days when we still knew how to sleep in), the conversation went a little something like this:

C: “So, we finally have a day off together – what did you want to do?”

me: “Don’t know. Did you maybe want to get married?”

C: “Sure.”

And with that, we were showered, brushed and on our way to City Hall.

Where we found that after submitting for a marriage license, the state requires that you wait 24 hours before actually being allowed to become wed. Which meant we had to go back the next day to actually do so. And the next day we both had work. So, we woke, got dressed in our finest retro dandys and skipped off to City Hall for the second day in a row.

We were married in what turned out to be a much nicer ceremony than either of us were expecting, and we then returned home. Each of us took a couple of quick pics of the other holding our new certificate, her with our stupid yet beautiful dog. Me, standing next to an oversized wooden cutout of a police officer we had in our living room, lovingly named “Officer Krumpke”  (poor old Krumpke has long since been relegated to our basement – a turn of events i’m still none to pleased about). We then removed our dandy’s, put on our uniforms – and just never you mind if anything happened in between those two tasks – and shuffled our way off to work.

And, when asked casually by coworkers what it was that we had done with our day up until that point, we made an effort to be equally as casual in letting them know that we two were now one.

It wasn’t until Easter that we told our families, but there was a reason for that.

Primarily, we wanted to get married in our own way and for us alone. And with both her family and mine, the only way to accomplish that was to keep them in the dark about the whole thing, until it was far too late for them to do anything about screwing it up. And we chose Easter simply because there’s not a Roman Catholic alive who would dare be upset about being kept in the dark about something, if told about it on the day of Christ’s resurrection. Well, none besides one of C’s aunts and my mom – both of which were upset that we didn’t get married in a church (apparently, years back there must have been some sort of scuffle between Jesus and the security at City Hall and as a result, he is no longer allowed in, thus leaving civil unions unblessed). Regardless, their “upsettedness” blew over relatively quickly, and life – while beginning anew – returned to normal.

Now, i know that almost everyone who has ever gotten married has a wonderful tale to tell, and while this might not be the best you ever hear, it is C’s and mine, and i love telling it. So much so, that i decided to use it as my 100th post. To those of you who have read up to this point in the post, i hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as i enjoyed sharing it. And to those of you who have been reading up to this point the Lil Blog i’ve started, my sincere thanks for your doing so =)

9/21 Dear Jesus

Howdy Jesus,

i know, it’s been awhile. Sorry ’bout that. Shall we pretend that i’m here to “just chat” for a bit first, or should we jump right to the “i need you to do something for me again” part instead?

Soooo,

i have a very dear friend whom i’ve never actually met (in the olden days, we would have been called “pen pals” – and i like the sound of that very much – even if our pen-palling is of the social networking type, it does add an air of nostalgic class to the whole thing) who is going through a very hard time right now. Due in part to the distance that lies between us, all i can offer her during this time are long-distance hugs, words of encouragement and advice and, of course, my prayers.

Now you know as well as i that long-distance hugs – those of the ((((hugs)))) variety – can be sent en mass, 30 an hour on the hour, and not a single one of them will ever actually embrace the recipient. Never mind the fact that the more often they’re sent, the less authentic they seem to be.

Words are of course just that, and there is not a single one – either of encouragement or advice – that will ever be usable as the kind of hard currency that is normally needed to “pay the bills, dahlin’.”

And prayers, well i suppose they might mean more if my pen pal wasn’t an atheist. To her, i imagine my saying something along the lines of “you’ll be in my prayers” would be somewhat akin to me sending her (((Jesus hugs))).

(((Jesus Hugs!)))

And while you might recommend that i also send along pictures of cats hanging from laundry cords – their bodies ready to crush the phrase “Hang in there kitten!”, should the strength of their paws fail them – i’ve already been forewarned as to the ineffectiveness of this type of “don’t worry, be happy” approach…

So there it is. Short and (not so) sweet. Powerless once again, yet for whatever it’s worth, prayerful still. i only hope you’ll do me a solid and agree to be my “Silent Partner” in helping her out. Thanks, and of course…

(((hugs)))

9/19 why i like The Clash

i know, it should have been The Ramones. They seem to be the natural choice for so many others at any rate. But for me, it was The Clash. Always has been and most likely always will be. If you came up to me (after living for more than thirty and some odd years in a bomb shelter or cave of some sort i suppose) and asked, “what is punk?” i would most likely first shake my head slowly in disbelief. Then i would hand you a copy of “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” and tell you to start there.

best punk album ever?

Mind you, The Clash wasn’t my first experience with this thing called “punk rock”. And they weren’t my second either. In fact, had a high school friend not accidentally given me a mixed tape containing both the Sex Pistols and Generation X, instead of whatever heavy metal bands i had actually requested, i might have never “found” The Clash at all. Needless to say, i’m glad my friend screwed up.

The Sex Pistols were offensive, brash and loud, and unlike any heavy metal band i had previously heard in that they quite frankly didn’t give a damn. It came through with every lyric and every poorly played note. Honestly, i loved their bravado far more than their music, and it was only the unsettling twinge coming from deep in my gut – telling me that i might have had just stumbled upon what i would someday end up calling “tribe” – that kept me intrigued. That being said, it did end up taking me years to truly enjoy The Pistols, and other than the fact that they pretty much gave a “face” to punk, i still don’t have much use for them.

Side B of my mix tape had the somewhat more talented Generation X, fronted by a then unknown Billy Idol. While still punk in brashness and snotty attitude, these kids sounded much more put-together musically. Almost like they were trying hard to sound bad. You could also “hear” that they very much dressed the “Rock Star” part because, well, they very much wanted to be Rock Stars. Just in their own way. And of the four, at least one was successful for a spell. Another was just almost with his little project called Sigue Sigue Sputnik (if you’ve never heard of them, skip it – it’s way too late to check them out now since everything they originated has been re-originated by others at later dates, just more successfully). But i digress. In fact, if digression was an invoice-able service, i would be rather wealthy at this point of my blogging career. But again, i find myself digressing even in my digression. So, moving on. All said, Generation X was good – real good. But much like the Pistols, for me they were missing the mark. What the mark i was hoping they would hit was exactly, i had no idea, but miss it they did. As such, the search for “the band” that could really trip my newly found punk rock trigger continued.

Whoever first told me about the Clash, i’m not sure. No, wait, actually i am. It was well before i even received the eye-opening, ear-popping tape noted above. i first heard of them from both my classmates and advertisers when they opened for The Who on their infamous farewell tour. The first one. At the time i was listening to – well, i’m not sure as to what i actually was listening to at the time. Haven’t the faintest idea now. But i did know that The Clash was no band for me – for the obvious reason that they couldn’t be any sort of good if they didn’t play the type of music (and i really do wish i could figure out what that was now…) that i was involved with at the time. The second time i heard of them, i can’t remember who told me or why. But i do remember that the first disc (of the vinyl variety) i bought to test them out was “Combat Rock“. i won’t tell you i had any sort of “instant audio orgasm” upon first hearing it, because i didn’t. It was OK. Strong A side, but a weird B. Gladly, my impression of the first side won out, because my next purchase was to put the first and last nail in my Clash coffin. That’s right, next up i bought “Sandinista!“. No, no, no, my next purchase was “London Calling” of course. And like everyone else on the planet who has ever heard it (with open ears at any rate), my Clash fandom was solidified. So much so, that i eventually did go out and buy even “Sandinista!“, and after many listens grew to finally understand, and later enjoy, its musical depths as well.

And i believe that’s why i love the Clash so much – it’s because they were Solid. Good. Difficult. In short, i believe they respected their craft, their audience – and music in general – enough as to not make it easy to “get” the first time ’round. In addition, they refused to cut corners in their music or lyrics, and they used both to raise awareness instead of just press. They sang about things that mattered, things that needed changing. Just the other day i was explaining to my youngest what it meant when Joe sang “let me tell you ’bout your blood, bamboo kid – it ain’t Coca Cola, it’s rice…”. Genius in effectively comparing two totally different cultures that once, collided just long enough to start an entirely “new breed” to the human race. A breed that is shunned by both sides of its ancestry. A breed that found a champion in a little punk band from London, U.K. known as The Clash.

As i mentioned before, i know that it should have been the Ramones, but their 2 minute tracks of blister and volume simply serve to bore and annoy me after not too long. With The Clash, i can listen again and again. i know it should have been The Ramones in that without them, you wouldn’t even have The Clash. But in all honesty, without The Clash, we might not have punk rock music at all.

For while the Ramones may have given punk the sound and the fury – and The Pistols gave it the look and the attitude – it took The Clash to provide it with it’s intelligence and it’s Soul, and it has survived thirty and some odd years as a result.

And that is why i like The Clash. Now, why do you?

9/9 little old stories

And out of the corner of my eye, the little old man appears. Oh, fine. He’s not exactly what you would think of as “little”, but it does help to set the whole tone, so just work with me here, OK?

Now, where was i? Oh yes, the little old man appears. And honestly, i don’t think i would have ever noticed him except for a couple of items. One, he was walking down a very busy street in a shuffle, and as a result i immediately became very protective of him. Secondly, he was wearing obscenely large headphones. The type that young people wear to look cool, and that old people wear simply to hear. The third thing that struck me though, is the reason i’m writing this. The third thing was his face. Its expression seemed to say that he was aching to tell his story. To someone. Anyone. And combined with the slouch and the scuffling feet, it didn’t appear that he had a soul in this world to convey it to. Least of all me as i sped by – protectively of course. To say i wanted to hug this little old man and to hear his tale is somewhat of an understatement, and somewhat naive. i mean, after all, he could be a total jerk. His “story” might actually be much more of a nightmare than a fairy tale – or more of a washout than an adventure. He might have been a man of great promise, or a person of no import. And i’ll never know which.

And then it dawned on me – as i passed him by only to go under the interstate shortly thereafter, noting the sea of headlights that met with me while doing so – there are millions of stories aching to be told. Simply billions here and now, never mind the past. And of these, most never will be. Not on a grand scale at any rate. Of all the gazillion stories that have ever been lived, only a very select few will ever be given the credit they’re due. And i am of the opinion, that most are due some sort of credit. Some sort of praise. At least some sort of remembrance. Are old faded photographs enough? Pictures that are held in the hands of descendants who say “umm, i believe that was…” while repeatedly turning it ’round, in the hopes that someone had the good sense – since the time that they had first picked the picture up – to write the names of the people contained within? i’m pretty sure not. i’m pretty sure in fact, that our stories should be worth a whole lot more. Especially by those who wouldn’t even have a story of their own, had we not had ours first.

The second man that caught my attention did so well before he normally would have in another time and place. And it wasn’t even the blatantly false nature of his oversized misshapen wig that did so. No, it was the way he randomly stuck his arm high into the air much like a marionette – as if waving to no one in particular – while purposefully striding down the street. A little younger than the first man, this man’s face was somewhat of a blur to me. At the time, i didn’t even realize it, but i do now. And i think this is why. i believe it’s my nature to “not stare” whenever i see someone who is odd – well – odd to me. Maybe he really was just randomly waving at people, but i think not. And in thinking so, my mind determined that there was something quite obviously wrong with him (n addition to the wig attack currently plaguing him of course…), and as such, i felt i mustn’t gawk. So, while in the first man i found myself wanting to hear his tale, for the second man, i decided to write (at least a part of) his story for him. And doing so, i felt comfortable in simply letting him leave my mind and memory altogether.

My question is – of the two, which shall i end up being? And by that i mean, which am i? Or will i be something different from these altogether? While in my youth, i pined to be “one of the select few”, i’ve grown out of that particular delusion. For the most part. And of faded photographs, i’m pretty sure i’ll try to get my name on every last one that contains the likeness of me, prior to my final departure. Simply so that my descendants can at least tap the picture knowingly, while repeating the name scrawled across the backside. But when they do, will it be followed by questioning glances and a shrug, or will it be followed by several short memories, a laugh or two and a feeling of longing for return? In short, will my story be retold fondly? Will my story live on?

i suppose for a while at least, it will. And i suppose that as time goes on, and generations fade into generations, and the photos fade even further, the instances of this occurring will slowly come to a halt. i mean, nothing lasts forever, right? Or does it? i honestly don’t know. What i do know is that if i want my story to be told fondly, i had better make it a damned good one. One where the main character learns from their mistakes, grows in the process and is victorious at the end. A story where the main character has (mostly) a positive impact on those who surround him, and leaves more people smiling than he does frowning. And a tale where the main character stands up for his beliefs, respects those who feel differently than he and defends everyones right to believe exactly as they feel regardless.

And i suppose, had i wanted to say all of the above a bit more succinctly and to the point, i might have simply said, in short, a story worth repeating.

And should it be retold, i need to make extra special sure that at no point can the narrator snigger as they say of me, “and oh, if you could’ve only seen that damned oversized misshapen wig that plagued his head…”

i think i’m safe.