Insane in the membrane…?

I can’t imagine any other family tradition being as rewarding as my family’s musical dialogue. I hate texting, for the most part. However, when I receive a song lyric I must complete from Mom mid-day, it always guarantees a smile. Many of our in-person communication is much like that. Though my brother and I don’t commune nearly as often as we should, when the conversation involves music we can jabber for hours. Take this morning for instance. I called Mom’s cell but my brother picked up: “Are you insane?! It’s 8:30.” (insert small adult chuckle here.)

Me: “Insane in the membrane…”

Jeremy: “Insane in the motherf&*$ing brain!”

Me: “Wasn’t it just ‘insane in the brain’?”

Jeremy: “No, dude, in the middle part he goes ‘INSANE IN THE MOTHERF*&KIN’ BRAIN!’ Cypress Hill. (sings a verse.) See? You ask me if I know that song? Shit, I remember the whole thing.”

Me: “What year?”

Jeremy: “1996.” I wasn’t sure if it was 94 or 96, but I thought he was right, so I agreed. (It was actually 1993, Black Sunday.)

From there, we continued mini-series conversation we’d been having this week about Alice in Chains.

Me: “Dirt is such a brilliant album, y’know? And I can’t figure out why I like it so much. I was driving down the road the other day listening to that beautiful, lilting instrumental on Jar of Flies “Whale and Wasp” and I wondered, ‘Is this what heroin sounds like?’ I’ll never know and I don’t want to, but even so. I know a lot of his music was about the pain of addiction. Why do I like it so much?”

Jeremy: “Because it’s about strife and strife is universal.”

Me: “That’s it! Yes.”

Jeremy: “Dirt was solely about heroin […] Dude, what the hell was Facelift? Man, I need that album again.”

Me: “Sea of Sorrow is on that. Wicked bass line.”

And so on. It’s hard to convey the excitement that happens, but it always does. My brother has this Tool dance, too, that I wish you could see. It has the rhythm of a skilled drummer but the recklessness of a fan. In short, it’s endearing and hilarious.

I don’t know what made the joy of music my family’s backbone and it doesn’t really matter. It could have been The Supremes’ Baby Love on 45 that Mom bought with her paper route money. For Jeremy and me, it was most certainly the SUB*POP scene, before we even worried about acne and dating.

So I ask of you: what is a musical family tradition your family participates in?

Be well and cherish music together,




You could celebrate a birthday with a multitude of songs. I particularly like

because of Mom. Each year, Mom will call me up and go, “You say it’s your birthday! Bahn nah nah nah nah nah nah nunt. Happy birthday to ya! Bahn nah nah nah nah nah nah nunt.”

In this tech age, I’ve taken to posting that video on my friends’ Facebook pages on their special day. Birthdays should be celebrated. They should be special. People gripe and groan about aging when they should be celebrating the days they do have. I have even heard my peers bemoan 30. 30. Really? If you stop to think about it, that’s a good age. You’re beyond all that unsettled strife of adolescence and maybe college and job searching. You’re more grounded perhaps. You might even have been lucky enough to meet that excellent someone and have beautiful babies already. Or you might be reveling in your detachment and independence (I am neither.) Nevertheless, I’m glad to be in this moment.

That’s what birthdays should do. Stop the clock and focus on blessings. One of my blessings turns 30 today, on St. Patrick’s Day. My best friend, Lindsey, shares a birthday with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Happy birthday to both of you.

It would be pretty amazing if, one day, Lindsey could meet Billy. I always imagined that I’d become acquaintances with him through the music world and surprise her with a dinner where she could meet him. I was fortunate enough to meet him in 2003. It was bittersweet, though, because I didn’t get to share the experience with Lindsey. We’d shared a love of the Smashing Pumpkins for almost ten years at that point.

As you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day–my hope is that you will be safe and make wise decisions–celebrate your blessings. Luck does exist, but blessings are by far sweeter avenues for joy.

Be well and rock on,



You know you have them.  You wear a certain concert tee on a certain day.  You have (at least) one song for each friend that you have that will always remind you of them.  Sharing music with friends is imperative, even if they grow tired of your incessant documenting and ululating about the subject.  The saying goes that a good friend will sing the words (of your life) back to you when you’ve forgotten them.  

I’d like to dedicate this post to my childhood best friend, Susan Brown.  Pearl Jam celebrated their 20th anniversary last year.  It’s hard to believe that was two of my three decades ago, and I’ve been a fan since the start.  A local (to Blacksburgians, that is) brewery, The Cellar, had a few limited edition Pearl Jam Twenty golden Belgian ale bottles up for grabs.  Susan scored one for me, and it came in the mail just in time.  I’d been going through a difficult spell lately, once again questioning everything, esp. my creative future.

The brew was called “Faithfull” in honor of the band’s anniversary and also a reference to the song “Faithfull” (Track 2, from Yield, 1998.)  Naturally, I procured this album, turned it on, opened the ale and raised my glass.

I toasted Susan, thinking of the anecdote she put in my card about “and the first mix tape you made me had ‘Better Man’  on it.”  I don’t even remember how long ago that was except for that a) it really was a cassette tape mix b) it had to be somewhere abouts 1994 because that’s when Vitalogy broke.  But it got me thinking that there are things that will forever remind us what the core of our soul is.  One of them is the friends you shared those things and songs with.  Another is the songs that will always be a reflection, a reminder, of who you will always be, no matter how you change.

For me, you already know, that is music.  More specifically, Pearl Jam.  I was hesitant to commit this to public view (it was a decent sized ale bottle after all) but I will say it here:  I’ve been compiling a collection of Eddie and Pearl Jam writings from my memoir that I intend to send to the band.  I also have a great idea (which I will not disclose in public view) that I plan to propose to Pearl Jam. I’ve been meaning to complete this project and now I’m more motivated to see it through. 

Are these dreams big?  Yes.  But you know, just yesterday, a friend of mine inquired, “Is life worth living if you’re not dreaming big?”  

As I raised my glass in an empty kitchen, the sun burned the horizon a London Broil pink.  We lose touch with friends for…stupid reasons, sometimes for no reason at all.  I suggest you raise your tea, coffee, that vinyl record you were on your way to play, in homage to that best friend that shared music with you.

Thank you, Susan.

Be well, rock on, and cherish music,




P.S. Because Susan is to blame for my love of Led Zeppelin, “Over the Hills and Far Away” will always remind me of her, among thousands of other songs.