In the Meantime…

Y’ever have one of those days/weeks/months (hopefully not years) where it seems there’s an avalanche of life issues that crumble, initiating a landslide of mountainous debris that plows you down and buries you?  Great!  (Well, not really, of course), but it means you understand, or can at least empathize with how I’ve been feeling in the last two weeks of my life.

We’re moving; it’s an experiment.  We’re moving to a beautifully wooded area, into a 24-foot camper and building my husband’s dream house.  Only it’s been torrential downpours reminiscent of the Seattle I have yet to see.  I’ve been “off my meds” for two weeks; the side effects of that were far worse than any way I’ve ever felt in my entire life.  And, lastly, ladies, you will understand:  I’m hormonal.  The kind where you feel like all those repressed Victorian women who wanted to—or did–put stones in their pockets and take a slow walk out into a deep river.

And I’m cleaning and I have back pain issues and I feel like someone blew up one of those giant, bouncy balls that kids can sit on a festivals…and put it in my stomach.  I cry at random.  I yell at my husband.  Being a woman is fun.

But, I have this awesome ghetto set up in my 2002 Toyota Camry:  it’s SiriusXM, and it has my most beloved station, Lithium.  My car isn’t advanced enough for auxiliary connection, so I situate an iPod docking station (that resets itself each time I turn the car off/on).  I use a remote to change the setting because the top buttons of the docking station no longer work.  But it’s glorious.

I don’t need anti-depressants, thank you.  I am taking CBD oil and it has changed my life.  But more importantly than that, I can escape to my 90s safe house.  “Mornings with Madison” on Lithium changes the whole scope of the day.  I love her. #radiomadison I imagine she is what I would have been if I had pursued radio after my college radio days; funny, snarky, and sending out my favorite salvation songs to a campus where no one was listening, except my friends.

I don’t feel so isolated, though sometimes I feel there isn’t an overwhelming population for which 90s Alternative and Grunge is their salvation–there is more than one would suspect, as I have learned in my Seattle Grunge private Facebook group (thank you, Jodi Ross), where I can go without negative haters making stupid comments.  The world needs less negativity.  But in my car, half awake and raging with emotion and stress and fatigue and discontent and delirious laughter and, sometimes, unexpected tears, I know that I am not alone.  It’s like The Church of Madison, and there are plenty like me, doing the same thing, going through similar things, hanging onto our very salvation, and Madison is a conduit for that, the clergywoman, if you will.

(Breath, and a…oh, reach the door…)

This was a super-long introduction to the highlight of my day, but thanks for reading.   Writers, right?  We just want to be heard.  Okay, let’s get to it:

Madison read a mini-letter of gratitude (read: tweet) from a listener who hates her job but expressed that hearing her show was the best part of her morning on the way to said hated job.  And then, she played Spacehog’s “In the Meantime.”  Something about this moment, this choice of song woke me out of my depressive coma and launched me into fumbling for the remote blindly (because of course, I’m driving safely), and cranking the iPod docking station louder than love. The anticipation of the loud “ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooh ooooooh” intro created a child-like excitement within me.  (Yes, I timed out the ooo part so it matches the song, go ahead, you know you want to sing it, or else you already tested me for correctness.)

In my allergy-rasped voice, I belted them out.  Oh, that bass.  That sweet, driving, jumping bass!  That authentic 90s movement.  Delicious to my ears.  And then…after stop-light head nodding and steering-wheel drumming, I turn into the rural high school where I’ve been subbing for bread crumbs whilst I weep over my three degrees at night–I park the car, notice a dude next to me, getting out of his car and looking at me as though my radio is too loud, and he’s either intrigued or annoyed, and I don’t care–I continue, leaving the volume where it is, probably blowing the speakers of a pre-owned iPod docking station…and then, the most beautiful thing happens:  the very Ben Folds-ish piano outro.  That does NOT get interrupted at all, not even one nanosecond, by the DJ.  And life is okay again, and I am okay again, and tears of relief and exhaustion spill down my cheeks as I cut the engine, straighten my explosion of humidity-treated hair, and turn to face the strange, but I am reassured now that I am not alone in this.

In the meantime, turn it up:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDkhl-CgETg

Thank you, music.

Thank you, Madison (#radiomadison)

Thank you, life.

#twola

#mentalhealthawareness

#musictherapy

Be well, and rock on,

Rachael

P.S. Aside from the actual song, there are 10 musical references in this blog.  None of them were intentional; okay, maybe one or two.  But the others?  Just the nature of how music-infused my DNA is.  See if you can find them.  Send me some comments as you do.

 

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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.

Are you Out of Time?

Day Four of the Ten All-Time Favorites Challenge:

R.E.M.’s Out of Time

This was an album that my brother asked for on cassette the year it came out; neither of us were even ten years old.  I wanted a copy, too, and so it was.  From the time it begins to the time it ends, this album is a pleasurable joyride for the ear drums–starting with the raucous “Radio Song,” and flowing into the big radio hit, “Losing My Religion.”  But consider this:  there are tracks on here, as with most albums, that are complete gems gleaming out of time and sync with the music of it’s era.  “Near Wild Heaven” never got airplay, unless some totally amazing college kid played it on his or her radio DJ slot on public radio somewhere.

Sandwiched between that fourth track of musical jubilance is “End Game,” a mellow tune, perfectly placed between the seemingly happy break-up song, “Near Wild Heaven” and the very well-known “Shiny Happy People.”  Though an overplayed radio hit–this song, much like Chinese leftovers–never gets old.  It was once deemed a song that can inspire happiness on any worst day.  I believe it.  I always close my eyes as I twirl around the living room, imagining I’m in a sunny field of flowers–a field akin to the scenery of the “No Rain” video by Blind Melon.

There is too much to say about the entirety of this album, dark and driving tunes like “Texarkana” and introspective/spoken poetry pieces like “Belong,” keep the record riveting your soul to the very end–and to the rewind you know you’ll partake in.

R.E.M. is still on my “must-see” bucket list of concerts, despite their retirement.  I still have hope that I’m not out of time.

Rock on,

Rachael

P.S.  If you’re wondering, yes, R.E.M. stands for “rapid-eye movement,” that deep state of sleep where one dreams.  The band allegedly chose this blindly by pointing at a random dictionary page!

 

In the…Flesh (and Blood)

Day Three of the Challenge:  Poison’s Flesh and Blood

All-Time/ DAY THREE

Day three of the challenge: Poison’s Flesh and Blood. No, not literally. That would be creepy. It’s hard to define the ten most “favorite,” so sometimes this list verges on “most memorable.” I was 12. Yes, 12, when Mom took me for yet another CD purchase with explicit lyrics. Well, maybe there wasn’t a warning sticker yet, but there certainly was “adult” content. And yet, “Unskinny Bop” was a radio cut, fraught with sexual innuendos, so whatever. I had this adorable African-American friend named Nakesha (does anyone know what happened to her? I miss her laugh), and she was crushing hard on Bret Michaels. Me? Not so much. While I LOVED hair rock, my crushes were all Seattle—brooding, dark and hairy. We were listening to this album in my room, and I remember her loud and hysterical laughter at my analysis of “Unskinny Bop.”

Me: What the hell does that mean, anyway? If you were unskinny, that would mean you were fat, and to bop is to jiggle, and so, does that mean he likes full-figured women?

Nakesha: (Squeal, hand around abdomen, collapsing in theatrical laughter)

Me: (Pretending to jiggle around the room in an awkward, pseudo-sexy dance)

But really. That whole album. I used to put it in my CD Walkman. The opening track always felt like a supernatural night, like you could see UFOs or something. I was heavy into The X-Files and my friend, Susan, and I swore we saw UFOs from time to time.

There’s an untamed badassness to Bret and the Boys that just brings even the nicest of girls to a puddle of purgatory. There’s something about powdered faces and power chords that awakens the soul; and yet, so many people count this “hair-rock” as a “guilty pleasure.” Well, what an appropriate phrase. Men, almost in drag, yet effacing any negative sexual stereotype as the testosterone tickles the synapses.

This is the kind of music your soul just jumps up and down to. It’s no wonder that women sacrifice sweaty tees, spiraling them overhead at overcrowded concert venues…

But I digress. Sometime in my teenhood, I got my wish. I always said it would be amazing to wake up to “Let it Play,” waking to the chorus of a capella voices proclaiming that music must have its place, and entreating those in control of it to “let it play.” Mom got me a stereo with a wake timer that could be programmed to any track of any of the three discs loaded in the dock. I know, it seems archaic now, and I still miss that stereo that my moldy, college basement apartment murdered—but it was a luxury then, for music lovers like me.

But, as the Beatles proclaimed decades before, “Life Goes On.” This is a track that makes you feel just like you’re sitting next to a broken Bret on a colorful Ferris wheel, untouched by the lights and sounds below. Anyone with an aching heart can agree.

Though it was a radio hit, the best track on here is “Something to Believe In.” There’s a beauty in the diversity of hair-rock. When all the power chords take a smoke break, the serious nature slips in. I still can’t hear this song without getting chills or tears, or both. I have always adored church-choir backgrounds—the power behind the front man/woman, especially in a genre that somehow is deliciously “unholy.”

The music is so uplifting, the lyrics so abysmal. They whack you with the truth of Vietnam, homelessness, the imbalance in America’s class system—all with a gorgeous, tinkling piano, and a rising, hair-rock guitar solo. (Shiver.)

I think I could probably talk about this album all day, but it would be better if you’d go and check it out.

Thanks, as always, for listening to my musical musings…after all,It gives me something to believe in…

Rock On,

Rachael

Crash (into a boy’s dream)

Crash into a boy’s dream…

Day Two of the Challenge:

Ah, first love. How appropriate that Dave Matthews Band’s Crash came out at the precipice of my first love. Even when I heard the title track, I was aware that it hinted at a more mature love, but no matter; teenagers grow up faster than time suspects. Initially, this was not on my list of the ten requested—it’s nearly impossible to pick ten, so I picked 12, and we’ll see who makes the “final” cut. Yet, as I listened to Spotify yesterday, “#41” came on, and I was drawn immediately into the swirling sound of an accelerating love in 1997. It was a summer of a trip to Virginia Beach, a car accident, with minimal supervision…it was a summer dreaming of what we’d do and where we’d live when we were married. In the dark morning hours of the Ohio living room, I remember sleepily saying the same thing at the same time to him, “with a white canopy-top bed.” This sent us reeling into euphoric giggles. What are the chances that we both wanted this idiosyncratic item in our future? It must have been meant to be.

Crash was the album we played ad nauseam the next year—yet neither of us was annoyed by it. We were so young, and yet pretending we had the liberties of adulthood. Lost on an Ohio road on a sweltering Friday night in July, we walked past a gas station, pondering the purchase of prophylactics…and, though young and impassioned, were mature enough to know that we couldn’t chance being young parents. Even though we later discovered my infertility. (dammit!).

Yet, it didn’t stop us from being reckless in flesh, in spirit, in mind. Love is reckless—consuming…much like an addiction. Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming novel (no pun intended):

Love can make you feel like you’re climbing out of the most spaced out chapter in a William S. Burroughs novel. How did I get here? Did I put underwear on this morning? Do I even want to wear underwear anymore? Where is my wallet? Even the most focused people leave the door unlocked or forget to zip their pants. Infatuation can feel much the same as this, but real love has a consistency to it that lets you know even when you’re mad, it’ll pass. There’s no doubt that you will still feel the euphoria that surrounds your confusion as to where your undergarments slipped off to. Infatuation knows where your undergarments are, but may slip away as readily as your Fruit of the Looms.

But sometimes, when a strong emotion like love consumes you, you forget to nourish those idiosyncratic desires and dreams you once had.”

This is the fate of that first love. I forgot to nurture the very things that attracted him to me, and more importantly, the elements of my life that made me happy and free—and me.

We were goofy friends in 9th grade. I thought he was kind of immature and yet, there was something about his zany artwork and unusual ability to truly listen to me and my friend, Michelle, that caught my attention. In truth, I’d been distantly pursuing a crush I’d had since 7th grade. But he left that summer for Ohio, and had a dream about me that spun him out of the cyclone and into the firmament below—landing in my life in a new way. So, when I think of the follow-up line to the bold, “and I come into you…” followed by “in a boy’s dream,” it makes one wonder if “Crash” is merely a fantasy he had about something he willed into his life. I briefly wonder if Dave Matthews had the same result with is belle.

I recently discovered that my first love had been divorced, moved around, sold cars, and became a contractor (with big biceps, sigh.) What else do you do with an Art degree? But I wonder sometimes, with the frequency that you stub your toe—if he’s happy. If I truly broke his heart, changed his life forever…if he still has all my love letters—actually handwritten—as I do, his, beneath my record player in my office, in my Dr. Martens box—boots that he, for some reason, deplored.

***

Then, I think on the first time I tried Ben & Jerry’s. A senior skip-day with my best friend, Susan. I chose “Chunky Monkey” because it had a DMB reference. Her flavor was way better. Banana ice cream? Not really my thing. We blared “Proudest Monkey” as we sat in my ‘86 Jetta, the color of a banana-flavored dessert, feeling rebellious that we had declared ourselves done with school, though it was only two months before graduation. I was lost and depressed; thinking I’d made a huge mistake dumping my first love.

***

And jump to the present. I didn’t know, yesterday, that I’d choose this album in my “Top Ten of All-Time” until I heard “#41.” Spotify on a Smartphone filtered through a giant “Block Rocker” Bluetooth speaker in the living room. I found myself leaping up from the kitchen table and running the short distance to my living room to sway and dance with my eyes closed, the way I used to do to Counting Crows in my tiny bedroom. The bedroom where I lost my virginity—a magical and mundane moment in the life of Rachael.

Do you love me?” I’d ask at the end of every cordless phone conversation in 10th grade. “Yes.” I had to ask him so that his rigid stepmom wouldn’t tease him. I knew he did. And I, him. Because those that you love, you never stop loving. They become the treasured tunes that stand at attention on your overflowing CD rack. They are the ones you take out and revisit, and smile.

Rock on,

Rachael

All-Time (1 of 10)

Recently, I was challenged via my awesome brother (in-law) via Facebook to post one of my all-time favorite albums each day for ten days. WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT IT. That was the harder caveat than actually choosing them. I made a couple of rules:

1) I’d blog about each one of them, because I cannot NOT talk about music.

2) I wouldn’t think too hard, just channel some of my very favorites of all-time. These are the ones I have probably played so much they have wear and tear on the booklets, the cases, the actual CDs.

3) I wouldn’t agonize over any I may have forgotten, or would have chosen “instead of.”

4) I’d write about each one and why it was prolific for me.

So, here goes:

Day One: Counting Crows August and Everything After

I happened to choose this one first. I put it in my car and found it very appropriate that it was a grey, cold and rainy day here in NEPA (Northeastern PA). Seems that Adam Duritz has recurring themes in that album, and others, of rain, grey, Maria, fog, mist, and melancholy. I found myself BLARING my own voice against the speakers in my car as I cruised down I-81 North.

But it all started when “’Round Here” came out. A first radio release in 1994. I ran to the mall (not literally, more like asked Mom to drive me because I was only 12), to purchase this the day it came out. I struggled with depression as an adolescent, not having proper treatment for it later, except for the very addiction that still keeps me alive today—music.

I still want to hire an artist to do a watercolor or oil painting of “Perfect Blue Buildings” highlighting the blue buildings beside the green apple sea…I wanna get me a little, oblivion, baby…try to keep myself away from myself and me.

It’s been said that Duritz suffers from manic-depressive disorder. Somehow, without realizing that back then, I just knew that he and the other Crows were helping me cope with mine. I remember floating in our above ground pool (the prized possession of my youth), listening to this as my brother listened and tapped out the drum beats perfectly. I floated by the tree that shadowed the pool and imagined I was in the green apple sea. Yeah, Adam, I want to get me a little oblivion, too. And I understand what you mean when you are trying to restrain yourself from yourself. That is a concept I think most artists and sufferers of depression (or both) totally get.

“Rain King” was another favorite. I used to dance around my small room until my legs hurt. And then there’s “A Murder of One.” Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….deep breath. If you don’t know, a group of crows is referred to as a “murder of crows.” Interesting how death seemed to hang on the wingspan of this animal that gets a bad rep, right? I always appreciated how that one title indicated loneliness. And even then I didn’t realize I was a great writer…

There’s a part in the middle where I would be dancing and do an interpretive dance which fanned out into a jubilant jump-and-twirl around the two feet wide and six-foot long space by my window, behind my bed. “CHAN-CHAN-CHANGE!!!” I would howl with Duritz as I undulated across my bedroom floor. That song itself felt like a rebirth, and still does, every time I hear it. It is the last track on the album, and a reward for solemn slots like, “Sullivan Street,” and “Raining in Baltimore.”

While it’s true that their first four albums strike my fancy way more than the latter ones, those earlier masterpieces will always help me, guide me, and be a raft on my green apple seas…

Thanks for reading.

Rock on,

Rachael

Mother, My Love Bone is stuck!

Made ya look.  Now, you were probably drawn to the three most important words in that title.  Mother. Love. Bone.  Good.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  Somehow, amid a February spell of depression (or a clinical depression management flare up?), I dutifully picked Mother Love Bone’s Apple from my “special CD shelf.”  I moved my all-time favorites to a shelf of their own.  This shelf is comprised of the mixed tapes (CDs) my husband made for me, all my Pearl Jam albums and sundry recordings, Mother Love Bone’s works, Eddie’s solo stuff, and Smashing Pumpkins’s box set.  Also, two copies of Singles soundtrack.  Yes, two.  I found that, after one play-through, I couldn’t remove it from my car’s CD deck.  No, it wasn’t LITERALLY stuck, but my hands were unable, or unwilling, to eject it from it’s warm place in CD land, located somewhere behind my dashboard.  I must have listened to it for three days straight.  (How’s that for an Easter occurrence?)

I went to teach my creative writing workshop.  A woman, older than I am, read a piece where two of her characters in a club were shouting back and forth during a show:

Character One:”Man, Pearl Jam’s where it’s at!”

Character Two:  “Nah, you’re fulla fuckin’ bullshit, man!  Everyone knows it was all about Mother Love Bone, man!”

Of course, my insides and my smile broadened.  After my workshop, I called my brother.  I never brought up what I had been listening to, until after he recounted talking to a much older, nerdier coworker about music.  “Yeah, dude, I love Pearl Jam,” Jeremy agreed with him.

The dude he was talking to:  “Yeah, but Mother Love Bone?  Holy crap.”

Jeremy, to me, “I know, right?  If Andy had lived…he would have been the most prolific, insanely rocking musician of our time, I think.”

Me, “I love you.”  Well, I didn’t say that immediately, but I know it’s true, whenever I talk to anyone about the music that not only moves me, but saves me.  I feel my chest expand under the press of a February fog of allergies, depression, and shitty weather.  I feel my soul stretch out, smile, and take off for a 5K.

And this is how I feel when Mother!  My Love Bone is stuck.  In fact, as I was playing “car” with my favorite three-year-old (not mine, but I get visitation rights! i.e. I’m her part-time nanny), she picked the album by happenstance, after a week of me listening to it non-stop.  I had put it back, but she picked it up, and in her cute, toddler treble said, “I wan’…THIS ONE!”  Okay.  Truth.  Her favorite color is purple.  As you may know, the album is heavily imbued with the color, and variations of the shade.

Hence, I put the CD back into my player and there it has stayed for another two-and-a-half listens.  I know that I have articulated many times how alive music makes me feel (Pearl Jam pun welcome).  But I realized many important things this week; rather, I re-realized them.

Going down the road, cruise control, spring-like weather gracing me, I turned the volume up high.  Way higher than I usually do. I could probably sing this album BACKWARDS in perfect pitch.  But I’d rather do what I normally do–which is “car dance.”  Car dancing is when your body can’t help but move in some way to the music you hear.  Sometimes, there’s steering wheel drumming.  Sometimes, there’s what I call interpretive hand-dancing.  This is where I act out the lyrics with my hand, looking to passing cars as though I’m having an emphatic conversation.  And I am.  I converse with my musicians the very same as I would converse with my best friend.  I am happy.  I am free.  I am funny.  I often yell, “Preach it!”  “Tell me more!”  “Sing it, Andy.”  Or “That’s damn right!”  “I’m listening, man, and I know you know that!”

Yeah, I’m still alive.  And I’ve found the very thing that, no, doesn’t “cure” depression, but heals insides of me I ignored.  And that is proper treatment of clinical depression.  Just this week, I posted on Facebook about how one shouldn’t, “be the backup vocalist when you were meant to sing lead.”  This was for myself.  I’m done with the background.  I belong up front. I deserve to be heard.  I shouldn’t be afraid to be heard.  Andy helps me.  What is it about his legacy that makes me feel this way?

The way I car-dance with Mother Love Bone.  (Giving credit to the whole unit, as it should be.)  But I think of Andy’s energy and love and passion for music.  He WAS the music.  He had fears and anxieties just like me, just like the rest of us, but music was his salve, his “cure,” his artistic debt to himself.  He lets me out.  He frees my trapped artist.  And there are never any adequate words to express my gratitude.  “Words and music are my only tools”…and I will use them, Andy, just like you did.  I will use them well.  I would say I wish you could see the legacy you left behind, but I know you do.  And that alone makes me smile contentedly.

See you in the Temple of the Dog, man.

Peace, love, and music.

Rachael

P.S. This post was composed while I was spinning Apple on my turntable.