The Letter

This post is all about songs that involve the mention of something near and dear to me, in this time of rampant technology. Please note: the author of this post is aware of the irony of using technology to rave about old-fashioned communication.

Who doesn’t love getting personal “snail mail?” Handwritten expressions carry more weight because they mean that you took the time to sit down, relax and invest thought in someone you care about.

My friend, Cathy, writes at least seven of her friends one and sometimes two cards each every week, even when she is under the weather. We’ve decided to celebrate National Letter Writing Day (Monday, November 28, 2011) with a program about postal mail at our work place.

Thinking of mail, of course, I’ve been singing the Box Tops “The Letter” for a matter of days now, when it occurred to me to ask for feedback from my readers. I will leave a few examples here but please feel free to post your own. It is my hope that, before the program, Cathy and I will create a mixed CD of songs relating to the value of postal communication.

Here are a few of my favorites, followed by a list of suggestions. I’d like to see yours.

And off we go:

The Box Tops “The Letter.” This was Alex Chilton’s (God rest his spirit) first debut with his rough and rich vocals.

“Please Read the Letter” Robert Plant and Alison Kraus,

“Letter to Elise” The Cure

“The Letter” Natalie Merchant

Take a Letter Maria R. B. Greaves

Love Letters in the Sand (Patsy Cline or Pat Boone or Gene Austin.)

Sealed with a Kiss The Four Voices

Just a Song Before I Go Crosby Still and Nash

Rock and write on!

“Postally” yours,

Rachael

P.S. By the way, I really, really love The Cure.

Wanna Show You Somethin’ Like….joy inside my heart…

…Seems I (went to see) Temple of the Dog!!!”

It isn’t an accident that my blog got my husband for me.  The brilliant but deceased Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone put together a most amazing lyric to a song I once wrote about on my blog, and when my husband thoughtfully responded to it, that’s when I knew I had to meet him.

1) He took the time to read my blog

2) He carefully and eloquently responded to it

3) The song was “Man of Golden Words” by Mother Love Bone.  I got to hear it, in the fifth row, standing next to him, four and a half years after his fated message.  The subject is also lyrics from the song.

It may take me more than one blog to explain Saturday night.  When I was ten years old and Pearl Jam took my breath away, I discovered Mother Love Bone and the tribute act, Temple of the Dog, too.  In a matter of days, I could sing every word, intone every bass line, sway my head to every guitar riff and kick my foot to every bass drum hit.

Was Eddie at the show like I had wished with all my heart?  No.  Did that change the fact that it was absolutely amazing?  No.  Chris Cornell.  That should be all I have to say.  But it was truly Chris Cornell with Pearl Jam (excluding Eddie.)  And, though fans were surprised and probably dissappointed that Vedder didn’t show for this 10-date-only U.S. tour, Chris was more than amazing to us.  He had us back him on “Hunger Strike.”  He played “Man of Golden Words” by himself with an acoustic, then melodically transitioned into a brief mix of “Comfortably Numb.”  He opened the song up with heartfelt words about what Andy meant to him, and how Andy made him a better songwriter, and how he couldn’t even listen to this song for a very long time after his passing.

They played the entirety of the Temple of the Dog album, and a generous number of tracks from Mother Love Bone’s Apple. They covered Green River and Black Sabbath…they did two encores.  They did not play “Captain Hi-Top” and I bring this up because it has become a hilarious favorite of my husband’s because Andy inquires in a raucous call, “Where’s that chicken gumbo, baby?”  I told him he should shout the question to Chris.

I can’t explain how I felt.  I should have been screaming.  I should have wanted to pass out like Beatlemania…and still, two days later, I feel like it was a dream I had, looking through glass.  I remember feeling a bit detached.  My eyes saw them.  They were five rows away from me.  My ears heard them.  My whole body contorted, gyrated, sang, screamed, pumped fists, “interpretive danced” to the lyrics…and yet, it still feels distant, though not in a bad way.

Do I have a balance on my credit card?  DO I EVER!  Did I buy a lot at the merch table?  Well, I bought a tee, a sticker and my very first ever rock n’ roll hoodie.  (I adore it.)  Did I spent a lot on a hotel, gas, food, etc.?  Yeah.  Do I regret any of it?  Hell no.  Though this meant more to me than to my husband, I am glad he was there.  I’m glad because he used the sentiments, “Words and music/my only tools […] let’s fall in love with music/the driving force of our living/the only international language/divine glory/the expression/the knees bow, the tongue confesses…the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings…” to snare me.  He said he agreed, and that we had how we FELT about music in common for sure.

We vary greatly in many ways, but this we will always share.

When I was ten, I said, “Holy shit, if Soundgarden and Pearl Jam ever went on tour, I’d sell my soul to see them.”  That was nearly 25 years ago.  My expenses are justified in that, my soul is in tact.  One of my life’s biggest dreams has come true.  Now, if only I could get to meet Eddie…

Be well and Rock ON!

Rachael

Visceral

eddie-at-cubs-game

Why the word choice?

vis·cer·al
ˈvis(ə)rəl/
adjective
  1. of or relating to the viscera.
    “the visceral nervous system”
    • relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.
      “the voters’ visceral fear of change”
      synonyms: instinctive, instinctual, gut, deep-down, deep-seated, deep-rooted, inward;

      Well, I was recently looking at a picture of Eddie Vedder at the Cubs game.  That word came to mind.  A friend of mine once said to me, “Hey, I like Pearl Jam, but for me it’s not visceral like it is for you and die-hard fans.”

      Love is visceral.  It really cannot be defined, but it can be expressed.  This visceral love of Eddie Vedder has been inside me for over 25 of my almost 35 years of life.  It’s in my blood, my bones, my memoir…it cannot be separated from my chemistry.  Why?

      Well, I said you really can’t define love.  When a young girl falls in love with a rock star, most people think it’s physical attraction.  I won’t lie–yes, at ten, I fell in love with the gyrating, long-haired, fair-eyed rock god on my old Magnovox.  But his poetic grace, his fierce activism (for the right causes), his passionate lyrics, his healing through music…the very power in his voice–his proof in all his causes through action…all attributes that made this man even more attractive to me.

      Can I explain why my chest wants to explode every time I see a picture of him?  No, and I don’t have to.  Am I a cancer patient with the Make-a-Wish foundation?  Thankfully, no, and blessings and peace to all those who suffer.  But does my heart have one lifelong wish?  Yes.  That wish is to meet him.

      What would I do?  Why am I so hell-bent on doing this before either of us leave the earth?  Because I need to thank him.  I need to connect with his energy. I’d like to have him sign my handmade ukulele (thank you, Lindsey, best friend)…I’d like to have him sign my left forearm with a simple “EV” that I would immediately get tattooed in.

      But sometimes gratitude doesn’t get its chance to shine.  So what do you do?   You pay it forward.  I often think about my own activism in social justice, kindness and appreciation to our veterans, and the way I am with people–even difficult people–are a result not only of my own beautiful soul, but also a result of Eddie who raised me.  The “fatherless” son to the “fatherless” daughter.  The world is interesting like that, isn’t it?

      So, I bought Temple of the Dog tickets in July (that yes, I’m still paying off, with interest now, because of some greedy-ass ticket scalpers).  There’s not even a guarantee that he will be there, though I’m baffled as to why not, if there are only ten shows, PERIOD.  Please, universe.  Let him be in Philly for me, even if I don’t get to meet him.

      Thank you for reading.  Thank you for supporting me and my dreams.

      Be well and rock on,

      Rachael

What do Madonna and Eddie Vedder have in common?

I’m sure they have more than I will discuss, actually.  But to me, they have this in common:  they were both my childhood heroes.  To ones that know me, that will not surprise them.  I was fortunate enough to have a mom who supported my inner performer long before I realized that this inner, artistic being was the driving force of me.

If you’ve read a long, or seen me on Facebook, you can probably say you know about why I am “obsessed” with Eddie Vedder, so I’ll start, instead, with Madonna.  The year was 1988.  I just got the patchouli-laden cassette tape, Like a Prayer, and was already wearing the tape threading down to shreds.  At age seven, I’d seen the video.  I was only aware that she was controversial in the media.  I may not have understood the weight of all the inferences in the video–what I cared about more was this was an amazing woman.  She inspired me.  I knew she was taking heat for doing something radical–and I loved it with every fiber in my being.

I created an interpretive dance to the song that I dragged my (Mormon!) friend, Samantha, into.  Mom patiently watched as I leapt from the coffee table, came down to one knee and twirled about our otherwise unused den.  I still listen to this album when I vacuum or clean the house…great calorie burner…

I also remember hearing the track that she shares with Prince.  It’s a slow, almost R&B-like duet.  I didn’t know Prince, I didn’t know of his infamy, but I knew that this was something quite special.  Prince radiated sexuality, and I picked up on that, yes, even at age 7.

Loving Madonna as a young girl shaped my feminism, my advocacy for women’s rights, and my own desire to be a female performer.  She inspired me–she told me through her music–to celebrate being female, to celebrate being artistic, and that if people didn’t like it, well, tough shit, frankly, because I have a right to do this.  I love her to this day.

As a teenager, Erotica, came out.  I didn’t ask for it.  I didn’t buy it until much later in life, but I kept my peripheral vision on it.  It seemed that these bold and erotic expressions were okay.  That it was okay to be bold and female and sexual.  Society doesn’t really teach girls to be aware of themselves, or what’s okay and what’s not.  I knew, at 13, that this exploration of art and music and sexuality was okay–well, at least it was for Madonna.

I could go on and on…

I could also go on and on about Eddie.  But I loved him, surprisingly, for the same reasons, in ways.  For example, there was something about him climbing up on a stool during MTV’s Unplugged and scrawling “PROCHOICE” on his forearm that just ignited me.  A man fighting for women’s rights?  A man who would go to conferences to advocate for women’s rights?!  Wow, amazing.  (and sexy, but remember, I was going to marry him and all…)

Eddie shaped my political beliefs.  He may not have given me this rebellious, strong-willed “freedom for everyone” attitude, but he sure did spread it like wildfire. He was my childhood role model.  I didn’t have any male role models, really.  Yes, my beloved grandpa, but he was 1240 miles away.  So Eddie became the stand-in male role model…he shaped my taste in men, my political views, my musical preferences, my poetry…my world.

So, yes, now you know that Eddie and Madonna have at least this in common:  me.

Keep on rockin’ in the (supposedly) free country,

Rachael

The Beauty of Dreams…

There’s a Devin Townsend song called “Grace.”  For those of you unfamiliar with Devin Townsend or “The Devin Townsend Project” or “DTP”, please do yourself a favor and get acquainted!  You will thank me later.  Don’t be put off by the label “metal” or “progressive metal.”  What you will find is a beautifully (heavy) and melodic mix of songs, ranging from introspective quiet/experimental, to whack your steering wheel with your thumbs awesome.

I happen to be wearing a Devin Townsend Project tee in this picture that I’m including.  But what does they have to do with what’s coming next?  Well, my youngest stepson is named after Devin Townsend.  And we’ve had the blessing to meet him twice, both of which times he was so gracious to our family, and totally made our boys happy.

Dreams do come true.  Can you imagine just doing the art you’re born with, and then find out that someone in another country named their son after you?  Pretty amazing, right?  Well, when I met my husband, he had not planned on anymore reproduction.  But he knew that I’ve had a dream since I was a little girl to have a little girl of my own.  So we went to the Penn U hospital fertility clinic about IVF.  We got all the expensive documents.  We chose not to do it.  Even with a vasectomy and my inadequately-sized uterus, they could offer us a surrogate.  But after much thought, I veered toward adoption, only to be horribly dissapointed.

“Why don’t you look into foster care?” I did, on several occasions, only to find out that the ultimate goal of this was to reunite the child with their birth families, no matter how shitty they were.  I could not risk having my heart broken again, and again.  Sadly, I chose to give up this (otherwise seeming) great option.

A time later, I created a gofundme account, and in two weeks, I got about $600.  I still have that, and I am putting away $10-20 of my own meager funding each pay check and as I can.  I realized I need to promote harder.  It will be expensive to adopt otherwise.  After those two weeks, nothing.  I kept going to meetings, researching options, etc.  Friends gave helpful advice.  No one wanted to let me borrow their uterus, alas.  (you can laugh, I’m only half-serious.)

Spending a year helping to raise an infant girl to toddlerhood made my yearning stronger.  I went to an adoption meeting in September that made me horribly jaded and disinfranchised with that system.  It seems that this has become a capitalist venture, indeed.  Some private adoption companies even have claim on “stork” babies–ones that are dropped in the baby bin at hospitals, and would have been, otherwise, free.

But my never-failing optimism sprouted up after a long bout of depression.  She’s out there.  Maybe she hasn’t been born yet.  Maybe she’s waiting for me already.  With 0ver $70K in student loan debt and a house to build, I still forge on in my hope.  What do we have, if not hope?

My husband had the opportunity to name both of his sons.  One got the family name, one got named after Devin Townsend.  He wanted to name her “Gretchen Nebraska” after a King’s X song/album.  “Um, no,” I said.  “You had the opportunity to name your children, one after music.  You can have Gretchen as the middle name.”

It only made sense that my whole life mom would call me “Princess Grace” or just “Grace” because as a clumsy, left-handed daydreamer, I can be anything but graceful at times.  I liken myself to a beautiful giraffe…so elegant, so awkward, so graceful, yet jarringly so.  When I met my in-laws, whom I love as though they were a wonderful, adoptive family (they are, indeed that), I discovered that my mother-in-law, Susan Pennington had multiple pseudonyms:  Sue, Susan, Penny, Grace.  Her husband starting calling her Grace because his favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.”

So Grace makes sense, if we indeed get a choice in her name at all.  So, after much thought, I updated my gofundme account, and decided that I would start again.  For someone who has battled clinical depression and infertility issues more than half her life, I have never been able to crush the unfailing optimism that was born into my soul.

Thank you for sharing this moment with me, just by reading this.  Please feel free to share it abundantly.  I can even mail or email or fax you flyers.  Thank you for reading my blog and sharing my thoughts on writing, music, and cats.

Below, see the link and share!  Also, note the lyrics and check out Devin Townsend…

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

Graced by Adoption

We know that it’s only  human.  We know that it’s only love.  Enjoy these appropos lyrics, if you will:

We know that it’s only human
We know that it’s only love
We know that its far too close to home
To see it now

Love all we can before
We learn all we came for
Learn all we can before
The road leads to home

Grace, grace, grace, grace

High road warning
High road warning

Grace, grace, grace, grace (Say no more)

High road warning
High road warning

Laugh, love, live, learn
Laugh, love, live, learn

Eternal I, eternal I, eternal I, I, I

My child tells me
We are the fallen men
My child tells me
We are the fallen men

Laugh, love, live, learn
Laugh, love, live, learn

Oh my god

Grace, grace, grace, grace

Never fear love
(High)
Never fear love
(Road)
Never fear love
(Warning)

Never fear love
(High)
Never fear love
(Road)
Never fear love
(Warning)

We know that it’s only human
We know that it’s only love
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love
Love all we can

I know the way, and you know the way
We all fall down if we fear love

Never fear love
Never fear love
Never fear love
(Warning)

Never fear love
Never fear love
Never fear love
(Warning)

(Devin Townsend Project)

Bated Breath

fifth grade

So it happens.  You max out a credit card to go to a once-in-a-lifetime show.  Your ten-year-old self once vowed that “if this ever happened, I’d sell my soul to go see it,” and now it’s happening.  But it’s bittersweet, because you just found out there is a possibility it won’t be everything you hoped it would be.

When I was ten and fell in love with Pearl Jam, I, of course, discovered Temple of the Dog and Mother Love Bone.  For a 25th anniversary (yes, now I do feel old, thank you) the group, comprised of members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, are hosting a ten-date U.S. tour.  Only I heard, after spending an OBTUSE amount of money for a pair of tickets from a ticket scalper (see my thoughts on that in the previous blog), that Eddie might not be there.

(Record scratches.)  How?  Why?  What the hell?  Eddie was invited into this tribute band to honor the life of former Mother Love Bone frontman, Andrew Wood, who passed from a heroin overdose, after remaining “clean” for sometime.  The members of Mother Love Bone disbanded, and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament met Mike McCready and discovered Eddie Vedder and wham!  Pearl Jam.  At the time, Matt Cameron was Soundgarden’s drummer, but now makes a perfect puzzle piece place in the group.

I bought said tickets (that I’m now paying interest on) with the full intention of bringing my ukulele to get signed, should that happen.  (Please God and Universe, align just right.)  Now, I hear that he may or may not be at certain shows.  Listen, Eddie, I have never spoken an ill word against you, nor will I ever, but I have to know…please, will you be at the Tower Theatre show on Saturday, November 5th? Please will you sign my ukulele, my arm, my soul?  May I get a picture of you, as chubby as I’ve become, to commemorate my life’s BIGGEST dream coming true?

Did you know that when I was ten I had a stained glass music note inscribed with Andy’s name on it, and another one, a heart with roses, that read: Eddie and Rachael Forever?  Come on, I was ten, cut me a break.  But please be there.  I don’t see how you could NOT be.  You sing on three of the songs, at least!  You are an integral part of that project!  And now there’s talk of a second release?!  Why would you not take part, 25 years later?  Plus, it’s only ten shows.  Ten shows upon which millons of fans were disappointed, because, once again, Ticketmaster sucks, and we waited, with breath bated, only to find out that no, we never had a chance.  Before the page could even open, all tickets were sold out.  We wasted a sick day from work to be horribly dissappointed.  Down-trodden, we turned to eBay and, instead of paying our student loans, we racked up “cashback bonuses” on our credit cards because of the ticket scalpers.

So, please.  Please be there.  Everyone who waited, breath bated, counted on this.  We can’t find a better man.

Respectfully in debt,

Rachael

Dear Ticket Scalpers…

FUCK YOU ALL.  I’m kind…I try not to be profane on my sites, especially since I want to write professionally about music.  I had a college professor once tell my class, “Profanity is not bad, it is the excessive use of it that makes the word meaningless.”  So, I vow to only leave my opener profane.  My living room heard enough of the profane, hilarious sentiments just moments ago…

I’d attach a screen shot of eBay to explain what I’m talking about, but why?  Tickets that have NOT even gone ON SALE yet are being sold for upwards of $1.199…some as much as $3,447/pair.  I have an idea, why don’t I open my chest up with a butter knife and FedEx my still-beating heart to you, you modern-day, human-sized, soul-sucking parasites.

Have you ever loved a band so much that your heart ached?  So much that hearing them gave you wrinkles on your eyes and nose from hearing the sounds?  Has it ever been so visceral to you that your whole body responds to the living energy in your speakers?  That is magnified at a concert, nosebleed seats or otherwise.

Well, there won’t be any nosebleeds for me.  Unfortunately, this was a once in a lifetime concert event.  I never thought it could happen.  I never thought I’d see the day.  It was highly unlikely, in all circumstances.  My twelve-year-old self said, “Man, I’d sell my soul to see that happen.”  Well, it’s happening without me, in select cities around the world.

The achingly beautiful tribute to Andy Wood, frontman to Mother Love Bone, womb to Pearl Jam…gorgeous melding of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden…Temple of the Dog is touring in select cities around the U.S.  Some lucky fan club members (of which the fan club I am a part, not so much the former adjective) were drawn in a ticket lottery.  The rest of us waited eagerly to realize that even before we had the chance, credit card poised in hand, day taken off from work–desperately praying and counting down to that moment…the chance was never there to be discussed.  Tickets were not on sale, no.  There wasn’t even an opportunity for them.

Nor is there now, unless we bow to your disgusting fees, preying on our life savings, our student loan money, the very essence of our souls…as a Unitarian Universalist, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human (and animal) life.  You are a challenge to that, my foes.  How can I respect someone who preys of the hopes and dreams of the music-obsessed?  Would you sell cancer medicine on the black market, too?

That same professor continued, “You see, the beauty in using profanity is that when you use it passionately and sparingly, that’s when it really means something.”  I really mean it.

Blessings to all the ones who have been let down.  Keep on rockin’ even in a corporate greedy whore society,

Rachael