Sunday, August 21, 2016

First Dance: Susan And Arron, Margie And Drew

With my anniversary coming up, my thoughts have turned to love.  Let's all go back to day one; let's look at the songs that sent your marriages off.  Let's look at your first dances.
My sister Susan's first dance with her new husband Arron was "L-O-V-E" by Nat "King" Cole.

They selected the song because they wanted to show off their ballroom dancing skills; but if they had to do it all over again, they wouldn't select this song again (though she's not sure what she would choose).   She writes quite simply and powerfully:
"Life and growth involve eternal transformations.  That's the beauty of life.  These eternal transformations also affect our relationships."
 No truer words have been emailed.

My friends Margie and Drew danced to "Near You" by Boz Scaggs.

Margie and Drew lived together in Maui before they were married, and they listened to this CD a lot. "Near You" had particular resonance; but it was also not "interminably slow and sappy".  The newlyweds were happy to be moving around, not just swaying in each other's embrace.  (Not that that's anything wrong with that LOLz.)

When Margie hears "Near You" today, she feels "happiness, love, warm and gooey" all at once, and she'd not select a different song if given a chance.  She also shared a great story related to the song that is too good to not share:
"The embarrassing story that goes with it is that I had inscribed on the inside of Drew's wedding band, "Just to be Near You." I thought that having a line from our song would be the perfect thing.  Unfortunately, if you listen to the song, you will realize that that line is never actually spoken in it. Drew was very sweet and tactful when he brought that to my attention.  So now that heartfelt inscription has a whole other layer of ridiculousness to it, which I think is an ongoing theme in our happy marriage. It's also signified by the Gurgling Cod water pitcher our friends gave us as a wedding gift. It's beautiful and functional and makes a ridiculous gurgling sound when you use it, which they suggested could remind us to keep a sense of humor as we go through life together.  Great advice." 
This is one of the things I love about Margie - she's honest to a fault.  She didn't have to share that tidbit, but she did and it's a great story!  Anyway, Margie says that they listen to the song now and again, mostly when their in the kitchen making dinner.  They don't overplay it, so she and Drew still love the song (and each other).

A little off the topic of first dances, she also threw this in the email:
"Incidentally, and not that you asked, but the other great advice we got that day was (1) to be each other's pit crew, and (2) to live everywhere we live like we'll live there forever - don't be hesitant to put down roots and get involved right away. Of course we haven't moved from the first place we did it, but it still served us well when we came to Bloomington."
It seems to be working for Margie and Drew, so it's definitely worth sharing.

First Dance: Joan and Terry

With my anniversary coming up, my thoughts have turned to love.  Let's all go back to day one; let's look at the songs that sent your marriages off.  Let's look at your first dances.
My sister Joan and her husband Terry's first dance was "Hero" by David Crosby with Phil Collins:

Terry wrote to me about it.  He thinks the song was more his choice than Joan's; and that it still "tugs at his heart".  He also remembers being swept up in the moment of that first dance, but Joan maybe not as much.  Joan is not crazy about being the center of attention, so she waved other dancers to the floor perhaps a bit sooner than her new husband would've liked - someone cut in to dance with Joan before the moment could come to it's natural completion.  If he had the opportunity to do it all over again and select a different song for the first dance, Terry wouldn't change anything.  He says that a lot of great tunes have come out since they got married, but rightly points out "that was the music we listened to when our relationship developed.  You just can't change that."

Terry also mentioned another anecdote related to wedding music.  He writes:
I remember meeting with the DJ before the wedding and giving him the music we wanted to listen to during the reception.  I specifically requested "Try And Love Again" and "Pretty Maids All In A Row" by the Eagles off their "Hotel California" album.  What we got was "Hotel California"* which is an iconic classic, but hardly a wedding song.  I was having too much fun to let it ruin my day, but it still nags me to this day.
I feel you, dog.  But at least it wasn't "Best of My Love".  Don't get me wrong:  that's probably my favorite Eagles song.  But a song about trying - and failing - at love is the audio equivalent to that foreboding wedding scene from "The Deer Hunter".

*-In searching for the studio version of that tune on You Tube, I was mostly running into videos that had been taken down for copyright or some shit.  So I linked to the great version used in "The Big Lebowski".  

First Dance

My 14th wedding anniversary is bearing down on me.  When August 31st rolls around, whatever is going on in my life at the time, I tend to feel humbled and grateful at the life that Mary Beth and I have made together so far.  This life - this family - we've eked out together is the one thing that I am proudest of in this world.  It is a life that is never stagnant, it is always changing.  But when our wedding anniversary comes around, so too does "The Fourteenth of February".  Some biological clock inside me puts the song in my head with more frequency in August; and the song takes me to the roots of our love in a very urgent, very vivid way. And just like the first time I heard "The Fourteenth Of February", I stop what I'm doing and feel peace.

Speaking only for myself, part of the appeal of having "The Fourteenth Of February" as a first dance is that it is a waltz.  Besides having a weakness for many songs in 3/4 time (as "Fourteenth" is), I thought I could fake a waltz on the dance floor with all my friends and family watching.  (Turns out I can't.)  So there was, I admit, a practical reason for selecting that song as our first dance.  But ultimately, the emotional rush I get from the tune is a big reason I love that song to this day.

I found myself wondering if others I know still feel something when they think of their first dance together.  I reached out to some friends and family, and the next few entries will highlight their responses.  I bet you'll enjoy reading them as much as I do.

Below, you can hear the man himself reading the lyrics of "The Fourteenth Of February" as well as providing some context for the song itself.  Dig it.

And just because I love the song so damn much, enjoy it also in its demo form - not as good as the final product, but it's always fun to hear the glimmers of greatness in demos:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Off Topic: Grilling Tips From The Grill Master

Note:  we recently bought a pretty bad ass grill.  It's something that I kept putting off; but now that we have it, I'm not sure why.  We love it.  I emailed some of my siblings for some grilling recipes and tips, and this is what my brother Paul sent back.  I have reformatted his response to make it read more like the Ten Commandments. Because Thou shalt not burn your meat again.

Paul says:
Hey guys.  I'm in the suspended reality we call the lake cottage right now.
I fancy myself a pretty mean charcoal griller.  Getting ready to fire up the Weber right now, in fact.

  1. I always use two zone heat: charcoal on one side, water pan on the other.  Cook over the water pan, lid on.
  2. Buy a decent thermometer.  Always go by temperature, not myths.
  3. Finish on the hot side [of the grill], lid off.
  4. Remember [your food] will continue to cook 5 to 10 mins after you pull it off the grill.
  5. Don't worry about flipping [your food] too much.  No such thing.
  6. And make sure you have a drink.
This all seems like really sound advice to me.  If you're reading this and you've sampled Paul's food from the grill, what do you think?  Does it live up to the hype?  Leave your impressions in the comments section.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Employee Of The Month

It's not a secret that Christmas music is used by stores to sell more stuff to you during the biggest retail time of year.  Most adults are aware of this; and frankly, it probably works even though we're cognizant of the subtle manipulation.  Despite a somewhat cynical outlook on capitalism, consumerism, commercialism and a buncha other "isms", I pretty sure it works on me.  I love Christmas music and when I hear it, it usually puts me in a great mood.  When I'm in a good mood, I spend more money.  That's how it works.

I know I'm not as conscious of music in stores at any other time of year, but why wouldn't retail music work all year round?  It does work - that's why they do it.  Sometimes it works even if it's shitty music.  I remember one time being with my older sisters Joan and Susan in a Meijer in Lansing, Michigan at midnight, hearing a Muzak version of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall".  It should have annoyed me because it was so sanitized, smoothed of rough edges, defanged, and so on - it was just plain horrible.  Instead, it amused me.  It made me laugh.  It put me in a good mood.  I didn't have any money; but if I did, maybe I would've bought that jumbo bag of Twizzlers for the movie night we were planning.

Now a days, it's more common to walk into a store that's streaming music from Pandora.  To my knowledge, playlists are not specifically curated to make you spend more money, but the spirit is still there.  Maybe you'll linger a bit longer to finish listening to a favorite tune - is that "Beyond The Sea" I hear?  Maybe in those lingering moments, you'll go ahead and pony up for a new pocket knife even though you've already got two.  Maybe you'll put back the beer you had planned on purchasing for something a little nicer - hell, you're in a good mood, right?  You deserve it.  You only live once.

All of this is just a preamble to point you to a great article article at Chart Attack about a guy who curated 56 cassettes worth of Kmart in-store music.  There's a lot to listen to here.  So far, my favorite is still the October 1989 playlist embedded in the article.  Wow - did Kmart really sound like that in 1989?  I knew it was cheesy in the '80s, but wow.  I thought it was a nice touch, by the way, that the guy who collected/digitized this "music" included the leader tape sound before the music actually started. You know - that bit of tape hiss you hear before the songs start.  That took me right back to my boombox days.  Anyway, lose yourself in this awesomeness.  It is very entertaining.  But first, have a loved one lock up your credit cards.  You don't want to impulsively fire up a web browser and end up with a buncha cheaply made Chinese crap you didn't need anyway.

MAJOR hat tip to Jen for the Chart Attack article - thanks!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Vacation (Again) Sukkas! [UPDATED]

Well, it's that time of year where I post a couple of videos and gloat about getting ready to hit the open road to northern Michigan for vacation.  For reasons I've already covered, this year is going to be even more awesome than usual.  I've stocked up on comics, had still more reading material (this and this, if you care) shipped ahead; all that's left is some light cleaning and packing.  Life feels like it's moving in the right direction at the moment, so I'm going to savor it on the dock under the hot sun with an ice-cold beer.  Until next time, y'all stay safe and keep in touch.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Bird Man Of Indiana University

I don't know if the story is true about the Bird Man at I.U., but I have heard several other students talking about it.  He supposedly stood on the roof of his dorm and yelled out some stupid bird call as a signal for a panty raid.  I heard he was expelled from school for doing this, but I don't know where he is supposed to be now.  He's probably in Washington!  
- excerpt from "Hoosier Folk Legends", compiled by Ronald L. Baker
I recently met Mary as we were volunteering for a very worthwhile cause.  As we began collecting giant bags of lost and found items at McNutt Residence Center, and our casual conversation turned to campus legends and lore.  Eventually, the topic of the Bird Man came up.  Although I've only ever taken one class at IU, I had heard of the legend due to Baker's excellent collection of "Hoosier Folk Legends" (a cherished book since I received it for Christmas in 7th grade - thanks, mom!  Best campfire book ever!)  As it turns out out, Mary was a resident at McNutt in the 1960s and has heard the Bird Man live and in person!  It's always kind of exciting to me when a legend turns out to be true.  Mary forwarded me this article from Life magazine wherein the Bird Man is mentioned.  Better still, she sent along an interview from a radio show on the campus radio station.  This discussion with the Bird Man is from 1966.  The interview was broadcasted from Foster Residence Hall, and the Bird Man - whose identity remains secret to this day as far as I know - affects an accent to hide is identity.  Best of all, there is a recording of the Bird Man doing his thing (listen all the way to the end to hear other examples of it).  It is absolutely eerie.

The Bird Man was expelled from Indiana University, but his legend lives on.  Great stuff - thanks for passing along, Mary!