where the music matters...

KEXP - Seattle

This is undoubtedly the coolest radio station on the planet. Period. End of discussion.

I am now a card-carrying member. I pledged during their spring membership drive. The DJs read my email on the air. Worldwide audience, folks. I told them why they rock my audio universe, for reasons they already knew. They are remarkably low-key about reigning supreme both on local Seattle airwaves and online.

You will not find a more eclectic mix than on this station... this commercial-free station. It's a public radio station that has operated for over 30 years without corporate interference. This explains why they are the best in the world.

KEXP is cool; people who support public radio are cool; ergo, my coolness is now certifiable.


seven-year itch...

Congratulations to me. I have officially been divorced seven years.

Seven years.

Damn, I have to let that sink in. "Time flies," some say. It felt more like a crawl there for awhile. Still does, sometimes. Can I say that I'm happy now? Happier than I was, say, ten years ago? Yes and no. I have more freedom and less grief. But I also have no pets and live in the South again.

I experienced situations I never imagined and met people I will never forget. I learned more about myself in the last seven years and grew up (dare I say "matured"?) immeasurably. But I find myself in the exact same place as in 1993 when I first contemplated hitching a ride on the marital express to escape my life. The journey has come full-circle; only physical changes are evident. I am older, grayer, and carry the weight of a thousand woes drowned in Ben & Jerry's. Alas, I am also still without the one thing I seek - the complete package of soul mate, a shared fortress of domestic bliss and the rewarding career that I hoped to have established at this age. All things in due time, I suppose.

Am I happy? Not so much. Am I content? Some days more than others. But am I better off?

At least the circumstances that brought me where I am today have illuminated my convictions: I will never again settle for something that does not satisfy me, my immediate needs, or my long-term plans. I have expunged "settle" from my vocabulary.

Thought for the day:
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past." ~ Patrick Henry


of music & men...

It seems my musical world has been shaped by the men I have known. Friends and lovers alike have left indelible marks on my tastes. Earlier this week (perhaps due to that horrible, unavoidable holiday that causes single chicks to run screaming for a Whitman's sampler to avoid taking a swan dive into the pool of memories) I started thinking about songs & singers that remind me of the guys in my past. It was an interesting journey. And yes, it was accompanied by chocolate. :)

Allow me to guide you down a dozen exits on Musical Memory Lane:

1. M. was my 1st serious boyfriend in junior high. He asked me to "go with him" by slipping a coded message into my locker in 7th grade. Its translation required a trip to the library to reference Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" Appendix E. Yep, that guy set the benchmark for the type of guy I would always be a sucker for: literate nerdy romantic types. (Humorous author Chris Moore calls 'em "Beta Males." I am a Beta-male magnet to this day...) M. made me mixed tapes with songs from soundtracks like "Ghostbusters," "Streets of Fire," and "St. Elmo's Fire."

Songs that remind me: "I Can Dream About You" by Dan Hartman; St. Elmo's Fire theme; Pink Floyd

2. C. was my first serious boyfriend in high school. It was a short-lived affair but influential nonetheless. This relationship led to my meeting his cousin and later dating his best friend. The former is still one of the coolest friends (with the best musical taste) I have ever known. He introduced me to Roxy Music, Black Flag, Gene Loves Jezebel, the B-52s, The Cure and 10,000 Maniacs. We were together when INXS ruled the charts and "Less Than Zero" was on the big screen. C. is single-handedly responsible for my attraction to European men (although he wasn't, he certainly had the look) who wear black, play futbol and drive cute little sports cars.

Songs/groups that remind me: "Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles; "Avalon" by Roxy Music; "Right on Track" by The Breakfast Club; the entire "KICK" album by INXS; "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure; "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order; "Life in a Northern Town" by Dream Academy

3. K. is C's cousin who I also met in 9th grade. We were close until he moved away. Then after 15 years, we reconnected online and I discovered that his musical taste is still impeccable. But the one thing that I will always associate with K. and C. (beside their shared passion for the British military in general and SAS in particular) is the prank they played on me in 1986. They prank-called me and anonymously played the chorus of The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me." K. and I loved the same bands then and apparently still do even now. Bizarre.

Songs/groups that remind me: "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and "Tea in the Sahara" by The Police; "Don't Change" by INXS; "Fly on the Windscreen" by Depeche Mode; "Skin Trade" by Duran Duran; all songs by Cutting Crew; the album "Substance" by New Order; "I Don't Mind at All" by Bourgeois Tagg; "Wouldn't It Be Good" by Nik Kershaw; "In Too Deep" by Genesis (it was playing in the Gatlinburg, TN McDonald's during winter break when I ate my first Big Mac w/K; funny how you recall times, places and even tastes when you hear a certain tune); "Learning to Fly" by Foo Fighters; new music: Elbow, Mute Math, Royksopp, Muse, Pete Yorn, Brazilian Girls

4. A. was C's best friend who I also dated in 9th grade. (1985 was apparently a good year for me.) He introduced me to R.E.M.; his favorite band then became mine. That romance lasted about a minute & a half, but the musical impact lasted for years. Although, to be honest, I still prefer "old-school" R.E.M. from the mid-80s over their over-produced newer stuff. But hey...to each their own.

Songs that remind me: R.E.M., esp. "Radio Free Europe" and "Driver 8"

5. D. was the boyfriend in 10th/11th grade. We got together on a cruise ship while sailing in the Bahamas on winter break. On the bus ride down to Miami, I sat next to him and shared his Walkman; he was listening to jazz. I had never been exposed to much, and D. introduced me to Satchmo. Then he played Sting's 1st solo album: I was hooked for life - on Sting, that is, not on D. On the bus ride back, we also listened to Crowded House, but I was a Sting fanatic from then on.

Songs/groups that remind me: Sting "The Dream of the Blue Turtles" album; Louis Armstrong "What a Wonderful World"; "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House; "Captain of Her Heart" by Double; "Hot Hot Hot" by Buster Poindexter; "Happy Together" by The Turtles

6. P. was my best guy friend through high school until sophomore year of college. His sister also dated C. and A., thus all of our musical tastes mirrored each other's and melded together. P. introduced me to Depeche Mode, Swing Out Sister, the Sugar Cubes, Julia Fordham, Enya, Everything But the Girl, Breathe, Rick Astley, The Communards, and Johnny Hates Jazz. I should have realized he was gay then, but I was naive and clueless. I'm sure he still has incredible taste but we lost contact with each other several years ago.

Songs/groups that remind me: "Breakout" by Swing Out Sister; "Orinoco Flow" by Enya; "Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Communards; "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley; "Happily Ever After" by Julia Fordham

7. N. was the first guy who made a major impact on me (a slight pun since we met because he happened upon a car wreck where I was injured) but I didn't realize it until much later. After we met in 1988, I reluctantly went out with him. Our shared love of music - esp. of U2 - brought us together. But it wasn't until our paths crossed in 2006 that I realized how completely fantastic he is and how similar our musical tastes still are these 17 years later. We share the same career aspirations, political convictions, even the same brand of beer! He is basically my male counterpart. It's eerie, but in a good way.

Songs/groups that remind me: U2, esp. "Bad," "All I Want Is You" and the entire "Rattle and Hum" soundtrack; Neil Diamond; Dan Fogelberg; Simon & Garfunkel; "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel; "It's Probably Me" by Sting & Eric Clapton; "Calling All Angels" by Jane Siberry; Placebo; Pearl Jam; Josh Joplin Group; Live; Weird Al Yankovic; "Dakota" by Stereophonics; "Laid" by James; "Mad About You" by Sting; "Gideon" by My Morning Jacket"; "Busting Up a Starbucks" by Mike Doughty; "Synchronicity II" by The Police; "Tear in Your Hand" by Tori Amos; "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve; "The Last High" and "We Used to Be Friends" by The Dandy Warhols; "See the World' by Gomez

8. R. was my biggest mistake but one of my biggest musical influences. We met during my sophomore year in college, just as 80s synth pop was yielding to alt-rock and grunge. His tastes ran the gamut from David Bowie and Tangerine Dream to Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus. He introduced me to a great many bands that I still love. The fact that I loved the music more than him is obvious. Still, I wouldn't be who I am today if not for his influence. Because we were together for so long, we saw a lot of incredible shows together: Sting, INXS, Beck, The Who, Neil Young, etc. He also introduced me to the ambient new-age music on the Windham Hill label. Their annual samplers are a must for atmospheric, relaxing mood music.

Songs/groups that remind me: David Bowie; Bob Marley; "Dominion/Mother Russia" by Sisters of Mercy; Tangerine Dream; Windham Hill Sampler '88 CD; Sinead O'Connor; Peter Murphy; Nirvana; Stone Temple Pilots; Nine Inch Nails; TOOL; Marilyn Manson; "Thinking about You" by Londonbeat

9. S. was one of my favorite college-era guys. By then, the term "boyfriend" had left my vocabulary. He defied the stereotype for radio DJs; he was (and probably still is) hot - he could be Kiefer Sutherland's double, all blond and cocky and muscular and tanned after a stint in the Gulf War. As a DJ, he had access to lots of tunes during the grunge heyday. We had similar tastes but he still introduced me to artists I'd never really gotten into before, including Elvis Costello and Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Songs/groups that remind me: "Someday I Suppose" by Mighty Mighty Bosstones; "Cuts You Up" by Peter Murphy; "The Other Side of Summer" by Elvis Costello; Concrete Blonde's Mexican Moon CD, esp. "Walking in London"; "What's Goin' On" by 4 Non-Blondes; "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers

10. J. was part of my college-era coterie, circa 1992-93. During an after-hours party at his house, he played a CD that is still one of my all-time favorites. J. turned me onto the Cowboy Junkies.

Songs/groups that remind me: "Anniversary Song" by the Cowboy Junkies; the Smithereens

11. B. was my first friend in New England when I lived there after college. B. shaped my tastes in literature, film, music, and more. He introduced me to: Woody Allen movies; the poetry of Billy Collins and Pablo Neruda; the New Yorker and Harper's magazines; A Word A Day email subscription; Powells.com; KEXP radio in Seattle and the authors P.G. Wodehouse, T.C. Boyle, Rick Moody, Tim O'Brien and Haruki Murakama. He made me want to learn more and research everything. He inspired me to go back to school and is still one of the smartest guys I have ever known. Musically, he introduced me to Richard Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and the Flaming Lips and reacquainted me with Bob Mould, whose shows we saw in both Massachusetts and Illinois. In recent years, he opened my ears to Calexico, Feist, and The National. I will never be able to repay this guy for his remarkable influence.

Songs/groups that remind me: Bob Mould/Sugar/Husker Du; Pixies/Frank Black; Leonard Cohen; Ani DiFranco; Liz Phair; Mighty Mighty Bosstones; The Replacements/Paul Westerberg; Wilco's "Summerteeth" CD; Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker; Dinosaur Jr; They Might Be Giants; Rev. Horton Heat; Tuatara; Morphine; Verbow; Magnetic Fields/The 6ths; Mike Doughty/Soul Coughing; "First We Take Manhattan" by R.E.M.; "Natural Thing" by Poi Dog Pondering; "I Love Your Brain" by Frank Black; "Until You Came Along" by Golden Smog; "Matador" by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs; "Iowa" by Dar Williams; "Little Red Book" by Love; "Lookout Mountain" by Drive-By Truckers; "American in Paris" and "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin

12. C. (my emotional Waterloo) is undoubtedly the strongest influence on my life in every possible area. This guy tattooed my heart with marks that a lifetime of therapy can never remove - some good, some bad - but all memorable. C. was the amalgam of every guy in my life prior to the day we met. He had qualities of every one, but his diversity showed in his musical tastes. There are some people you never forget, never recover from, never give up on because their influence is so pervasive that you remain forever hypnotized by their spell...

Songs/groups that remind me: Tool, esp. "46 & 2" and "Schism"; A Perfect Circle; Rush; Porcupine Tree; Siouxsie and the Banshees, esp. "Face to Face"; Sisters of Mercy; Simple Minds; Jeff Buckley; Collective Soul; Coldplay; Tears for Fears; Yes; Foo Fighters; "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles; "How Soon is Now?" by The Smiths; "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel; "Lessons in Love" by Level 42; "Puttin' on the Ritz" by Taco (he hated that song!); Faith No More; "Asshole" by Denis Leary; "In a Big Country" by Big Country; "Pop Goes the World" by Men Without Hats; Concrete Blonde's Bloodletting CD; Veronica Guerin soundtrack; "I Burn for You" by The Police; "Brand New Day", "Ghost Story" and "Seven Days" by Sting; "Waiting" by The Devlins; "St. Teresa" by Joan Osborn; "Gramarye" and "Prophecy" by Remy Zero; "A Forest" by The Cure; "She Sells Sanctuary" by The Cult; "Concertina" by Tori Amos; "Something Beautiful" by Clem Snide; "Miss Misery" by Elliott Smith; "O Fortuna" (from Carmina Burana - aka "Excalibur" theme) by Carl Orff; "Porcelain" by Moby; "Nearly Lost You" by Screaming Trees; "Three Strange Days" by School of Fish; "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc; "Ready to Go" by Republica; "Flood" by Jars of Clay; "Sleeping with Ghosts" by Placebo; DJ Tiesto's techno remix of "A Clockwork Orange" theme; "Silence" by Delerium / Sarah McLachlan;...all those plus a thousand more that defy listing...

I heard it said once that you can tell who a person is based on who their friends are; in my case, you can tell who I am by the men in my past and present. They are my musical architects. I wouldn't change a thing...


cupid is a blind bastard with bad aim

My thoughts on Valentine's Day: it's a ridiculously commercialized attempt to glorify romance and capitalize on the misery of those who are single, hence the billion-dollar chocolate industry.

No, I'm not bitter.

I got delicious European chocolates --- from my boss.
I got one Valentine's Day card --- from my parents.
I got one phone call --- from my landlord.

Cupid needs to shove his quiver of poisoned arrows until he learns to aim better...


WTF was I thinking?

When will I ever learn to let go of the past? Damn, I'm getting on my own nerves. I hate when people nurse a grudge or a past hurt and seemingly refuse to move on with their lives. And yet, after all these years, I find myself occasionally lulled back into introspection regarding happier times.

I am a hopeless romantic.

And I fucking hate being single on Valentine's Day.

But that's another blog entirely. Yep, it's best not to stir that vile cauldron of angst until the actual "holiday" arrives. With all the pent-up frustration I have seething just below my feigned surface of peace, I could vent for days on the topic of romance and the disillusionment associated therewith.

Back to my rant. I could kick myself for heeding the siren's song of retrospection. Maybe I subconsciously revisit my arsenal of memories to serve as a reminder of why I don't bother getting back in the game. Every time I think it's safe to venture back into the water, I conjure up memories of past sharks who left me emotionally lifeless and bloodied on the shore. Just when I think that it's high time I moved on, I get flashbacks of the carnage from previous "happy times" that ended up being anything but.

Yes, I still have a wee grudge. And I wish I could ditch the damn thing. Oh, I really, really, really do. The past still hangs like a millstone around my neck, preventing me from being free enough - or brave enough - to make another attempt. It's not like the last relationship was ideal, no - far from it. It sucked the life outta me, for sure. But damn, there are times when I would willingly accept it all over again instead of having to spend every waking day alone.

I guess some people just need something to bitch about. OK, I could keep venting, but I have entirely too much studying left to do and very little time left to do it. The whole point of this blog was to purge the dissatisfaction from my mind. It hasn't worked. What it has done is suck up about an hour of the time I should have spent half-assing my way through a piece of British literature that cannot hold my attention this evening. Seriously. How do normal college students get their assignments done and party 24/7? Damn, I am getting old. Maybe that's what is really upsetting me. Nah...first step is admitting the problem. Aging is no problem, right? So I don't need the 12 steps. I'll just stay in grey-haired denial. Yeah...that always works. ;)



Super Tuesday


(and because John Edwards withdrew.) :(


doing my part...

So many people use the Gandhi quote about "being the change you wish to see" that it seems to have lost all significance. Honestly, being the change and inspiring others to change are two equally Sisyphean tasks. But every little bit helps, right?

In light of all this political campaign jargon, I have given much thought to my own actions. What can I do that will improve life - my own, my neighbors & friends, as well as the lives of future generations? What legacy am I leaving? And more importantly, how can I expect others to do their part if they don't see me doing all I can to improve the world and its inhabitants?

Maybe I don't do enough. Maybe it's enough for one person. Time will tell. But at least I am taking an active approach, which beats nothing at all.

Here's what I do:
  • RECYCLE: not just blue bags containing carefully sorted paper and plastics; I save every Sam Adams beer bottle and all other glass, too. (If only the city would accept glass for curbside recycling; it would save me a monthly trip to the recycle center.) Recycling is the #1 reason why I only have to take out my trash once a month: very little is wasted.
  • REDUCE: I reduce my consumption of energy (multiple layers, fuzzy socks, better insulation, energy-efficient light bulbs in every socket, 1 load of laundry per week, etc.) and my electric bills are lower. I keep the thermostat set to 67 in the winter and ~80 in the summer. I also limit the amount of driving whenever possible. This lowers my carbon footprint somewhat. It's too bad I still battle my lifelong lead foot...
  • REUSE: I do not use plastic bags at the grocery story; I bring my own cloth totes. When I shop anywhere besides Greenlife (where bringing your own bag earns you a discount!) or The Fresh Market, people look at me like I'm crazy - especially the clerks when I say, "no bags, please, I brought my own." I might as well be speaking Greek to them. But who cares? Fewer plastic bags has to make a tiny difference. I have stopped buying water in plastic bottles; I wash & reuse the ones I have. I also reuse all of the plastic containers when I buy food. Instead of storing leftovers or small quantities of food in zip-top bags, I reuse the plastic deli containers. I also stopped using paper towels, paper plates, plastic utensils, plastic cups & paper coffee filters several years ago. My weakness is not always taking my travel coffee mug when I'm in a cafe, but at least I offset the waste of a paper cup by recycling it with my other paper items.
  • DONATE: I give away as much as I can, whether it's food from my pantry to those who are hungry and clothing & other unused items in my garage to people in need. I would give more money, but I hardly have enough for my own bills sometimes. (I would love to have enough disposable cash to be a secret philanthropist. Imagine being able to anonymously help someone when you overhear their financial troubles. I would love to pay a struggling single mother's utility bills for a year so she could spend her money on her children. Or buy office supplies for teacher's classrooms so they wouldn't have to spend their own money. Or imagine how cool it would be to secretly pay off someone's mortgage just because you could? Oh, the things I would do with unlimited funds...the world would be a better place if everyone thought and acted that way!)
  • ANIMATE: OK, so this has nothing to do with improving the environment but everything to do with improvement the collective temperament of those around me. I try to make people laugh and smile. I like to enliven stressful situations, whether with a witty retort or a quiet ear. Sometimes people just need somebody who listens and then makes them laugh. I try to be that person. God knows I need that in my own life. Surely other people agree.

Sure, these are all trivial compared to dedicated environmentalists who protest and boycott and lead globe-trekking expeditions to save endangered species and forests. The thing is not to do more than everyone else - just do more than you have done in the past. Every year, do more. Then get more people to take more action. Action multiplied is the secret to success. That grassroots approach is timeless, and it's what this planet in peril needs most.

That's my two cents' worth on activism...for now...