In My Time of Dying…

This post might upset some of you…or it might give you hope.  When I read that Chris Cornell closed his final show with Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying,” I was a bit blown away.  It was too much to process.  I thought it would be a long time until I could listen to the song without being overcome with emotion.  

I listened to it about a week later, and really heard the lyrics.  Upon a second listen, I tried to imagine, even in a state of addiction and depression, what that must have been like for him.  When I hear Robert Plant’s enigmatic voice imbibe,

“Jesus, going to make up my dying bed

Meet me, Jesus, meet me

Meet me in the middle of the air

If my wings should fail me, Lord

Please meet me with another pair

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [x2]” (Google Music)

I get chills.  Plant’s voice, like Cornell’s, is soulful and charged with emotion.  I have to take a moment here to say that these musical gods are my incensed religious prophets that hand out my salvation regularly from the pulpit.  They are the voices that redeem me.  He went out on a prayer.

I am not glorifying suicide, or death, please don’t mistake my words here; but I am saying that I found peace in knowing that Chris’s final call in this world was a beautifully artistic one.  My brother said, “Yes, I mourn for his passing; but he’s finally found peace.  Yes, it sucks that he left behind so many loved ones, but he no longer suffers.”  Well, well, well, so he can die easy.  These elements came together in my time of mourning this musical sage, this wonderful counselor in a world of pain and grievances…

Like the great J. Michael Lennon often says of fall, “It is a beautiful death.”  I can apply that to this scenario.  

I cried.  I pushed out anger listening to Badmotorfinger at the gym.  I wept when I heard his sweet voice mourning the passing of his friend and roommate Andy Wood in Temple of the Dog’s “Say Hello to Heaven.”

But what we are left with is a legacy; just about 30 years of artistic brilliance that we can repeat on our turntables, our cassettes, our CDs, our guitars, among our friends, in our cars when we sing/shout along to “Rusty Cage” or “Outshined.”  We can be grateful for that.  We can look and admire that, though he left us, he did it as beautifully as a soul rising up and greeting the gates of Heaven.

Say hello to all of it for us, Chris

Rest in Peace.

Blessings and rock on,
Rachael

See below for video of the last song, and for lyrics, and for ways to help the crushing silence of depression:

https://twloha.com/

https://youtu.be/-yTC6hM3nYw

Lyrics

In my time of dying, I want nobody to mourn

All I want for you to do is take my body home

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [x2]

Jesus, going to make up

Jesus, going to make up my dying bed

Meet me, Jesus, meet me

Meet me in the middle of the air

If my wings should fail me, Lord

Please meet me with another pair

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [x2]

Jesus, going to make up

Somebody, somebody

Jesus going to make up

Jesus going to make you my dying bed

Well, well, well, so I can die easy

Jesus, going to make up

Somebody, somebody

Jesus going to make up

Jesus going to make you my dying bed

Oh, Saint Peter, at the gates of heaven

Won’t you let me in

I never did no harm

I never did no wrong

Oh, Gabriel, let me blow your horn, let me blow your horn

Oh, I never did, did no harm

I’ve only been this young once

I never thought I’d do anybody no wrong

No, not once

Oh, I did somebody some good

Somebody some good

Oh, did somebody some good

I must have did somebody some good

Oh, I believe I did

I see the smiling faces

I know I must have left some traces

And I see them in the streets

And I see them in the field

And I hear them shouting under my feet

And I know it’s got to be real

Oh, Lord, deliver me

All the wrong I’ve done

You can deliver me, Lord

I only wanted to have some fun

Hear the angels marching, hear them marching, hear them marching

Hear them marching, the’ marching

Oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus [x3]

Oh my Jesus, oh my Jesus

It’s pretty good up here

Oh Georgina, oh Georgina, oh Georgina, oh Georgina

Oh I’ll see you again

Oh, don’t you make it my dying, dying, dying

Cough!

That’s gotta be the one, ain’t it?

Come have a listen, then

Oh yes, thank you

 

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Say Hello to Heaven…

“I never wanted to write these words down for you” (Chris Cornell, Temple of the Dog)

 

I know.  You’ve been patiently waiting my pontifications on this past week’s tragic loss of one of the best musicians from my (our) time.  Thank you.  I know you understand.

On Wednesday, May 24th, we lost the prophetic Chris Cornell to a sad suicide.  He finished his concert with a raucous version of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying,” returned to his hotel room, and ended his life by hanging himself in the bathroom.

On Friday evening, my husband and I solemnly inserted my original Temple of the Dog CD into his car CD player…and just listened…in homage, in honor, as a memorial.  I felt a terrible winding in my chest…a noose of sadness, squeezing the air from my already asthmatic lungs.

I’m sure I forgot that Chris wrote Temple of the Dog almost entirely by himself.  He was Andy Wood’s roommate.  He was a rock god; there was, and never will be again, anyone to take his place.  “Say Hello” in particular, brought on such emotion that I had to crack the car window and breathe in the early spring air deeply.

Earlier, I’d been driving by myself and I just opened the communication line between this world and the next thing…and I told Cornell how I felt.  I thanked him for everything.  I told him I’d miss him dreadfully.  I didn’t ask him why.  I understand clinical depression; I don’t understand, thankfully, addiction and alcoholism.  I imagined that great line in “In My Time of Dying” where Plant rasps, “OH MY JESUS!” and talks about Jesus meeting him in the sky to give him wings.  I knew, that while we mourn, Chris is, at last, at peace.

But this world will never be the same without him, his amazing voice, his plethora of talents.

Reach down, Chris.  Reach down and pick the crowd up.

We love you.

Respectfully rocking for you,

Rachael

Visceral

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

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

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

Steeple guide me to my heart and home…

When I was 14, I got the “Zero” tee to tell all the world that I loved the Smashing Pumpkins.  It helped me befriend a fellow “Pumpkin Head” as we called ourselves.  I remember when “Thirty-Three” came out.  I remember thinking, “Gee, Billy, I wonder what 33 feels like.  Will I understand this song even more then?  Will it ring true with me moreso then than now?”  The other night, I felt melancholy (reference intended) and I just couldn’t shake it.  As I folded laundry feeling listless, I plugged in the Smashing Pumpkins 1991-2000 video collection (I did finally get the DVD version).

Suddenly, I was 14 again, taking the bus with my best friend to the used record store in Blacksburg and saving up for electric guitars.  I watched Billy with long, curly hair and decided, though I like long hair on men, he was more attractive with a short cut, and even more handsome bald.  That aside, I watched as D’arcy inspired me to play the bass, James made me discover an attraction to Asian men, and mourned as Jimmy was temporarily gone due to drug addiction.  I laughed at them painting an ice cream truck, singing a song that sounds happy but was, in fact, written at a time where Billy was very suicidal.

I thought of an old friend who met Billy with me.  I wondered how she was doing and why people who share such an immense bond lose touch.  I sat, with unfolded socks in my lap as I watched Thirty-three in its entirety…and I cried.  Here I am, the age I always said was a “Smashing Pumpkins age” reflecting on my youth.  “Misspent youth, fakin’ up a rampage…” and I realized that life goes on.  Thanks, Lennon-McCartney.  Maybe it was something about the lingering winter in the Northeast this year.  Maybe it was the fact that it snowed heavily on the first day of spring, after a terribly abusive winter.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m clinically depressed, or that that certain old friend’s birthday was on hand.

Either way, I watched the gorgeous, artfully-done video (all done with camera film in still frames) with a sort of undescribable melancholy.  I know that those days are a product of my insanely good long-term memory.  I know that I certainly wouldn’t want to be a lamenting Rachael, waiting for the true love of her life…wading through her own demon rivers of self-denial and emotional hardship…

It made me want to reach out and hug all those I’ve ever known.  Except for that wicked girl I’ve forgiven, of course, who not only hurt me, but worse, hurt my friends, with her words.  But enough of that.

There was a time in life where Pumpkin fans would just look at one another and say, “You like them too?” and it was as though you’d reunited with a friend you’d had from long ago.  Perhaps that is what made me melancholy.  Maybe I’ve been disconnected from a fan base that helps me thrive.  I miss Julie’s laugh, this hearty “hah hah hah” when she’s delighted.  It made me miss the way Amy would emit, “FUCK MY LIFE!” but with laughter when something silly happened.  I remember running for the Two Town Trolley with Lindsey decades before she became a half-marathon runner (I’m proud of you, lady).

I remember cherishing the “Just Say Maybe” SP shirt with the red star on it that I stole from my brother.  (Thanks, Jeremy.)

Just say maybe.  Maybe it’s time to reunite with my musical mon amies.  In case you’d like to pontificate on this beautiful sentiment from my past, here it is:

Blessings and rock on,

Rachael

An album to “Fall” for…

There are many great fall albums. This time of year is one of my absolute delights. Cool, crisp mornings (where I don’t have to scrape the car windows, of course)…the anticipation of wearing my 20 eyelet Docs in either black or brown, depending on my outfit…and my playlist. Playlist, to me, means the jumble of actual compact discs that line my office or my car. Yes, I do listen to Pandora and Spotify…and, more importantly, the record player my grandfather gave me. I could upgrade. I do want one of those lovely record your vinyl to CD and cassette-dealies, too. But there is a beauty in listening to my vinyl on the same record player my grandpa listened to his Beethoven or Daniel O’ Donnell or the Irish Tenors.
Currently, as I planned for one of my four college courses that I’m teaching this term (along with a part-time library job) I needed music. Here was a little self-conversation I had, as I picked up my Mumford & Sons Sigh No More vinyl I got from my husband last Christmas. “Yes, I like you, Mumford, but…not this morning. Fall. Hmm…aha!” I plucked Pearl Jam’s Vs. on vinyl…(go ahead, say it, it’s a fun alliteration. All unusually lettered alliterations are fun to say: versus on vinyl)…and put it on the turntable.
Why this album? Well, you know I’m an ENORMOUS FAN of the band. But this particular album reminds me of the Halloween where I realized I was too old for trick-or-treating and too young to take any little kid down quiet streets of the calm little neighborhood where I grew up. Mom was working two jobs to support us and Jeremy was always getting into some madness. But that night, he was there with me. I wanted to pass out candy to the little kids so I kept the porch light on, but didn’t dress up. I was a little depressed because I was not quite 12 years old and feeling the weight of young adulthood staring at me with zombie eyes.
Pearl Jam’s Vs. had been out approximately 11 days, so I brought my boombox to the living room and Jeremy and turned it on. At the beginning of the evening, a nearby neighborhood prankster came by—Aaron—and Jeremy gave him all the candy in the bowl and slammed the door and turned the porch light off. We kept the living room light off and sat in the corner listening to Vs.
I think I cried. Aaron was intimidating but had so many problems. He ended up imprisoned (I think it was drugs) and hung himself in his cell. That was half a decade after that night. I couldn’t tell if Jeremy was his friend or was afraid of him, but you never did know with Aaron. He was the type of kid who hocked “luggies” on the bus floor and then (sorry) inhaled them back up just to gross out the kids on the bus (it worked.)
I’m quite sure I cried, come to think of it. How was Aaron, age 14, trick-or-treating, if I couldn’t? I’m sure I could’ve but it didn’t seem fair with all the other little kids out there. And now Aaron made off with all our candy. Jeremy comforted me by sitting next to me (even though I was pissed off at him) and listening to Vs. “W.M.A.” creeped me out that night—it would have been the last song on side A—but by the time “Indifference” came on I knew, without knowing, that I was depressed. My absent father had once said to me, “I feel no love for her, no hate for her—only indifference.” He was referring to his 3rd wife (the one after my Mom) who was certifiably insane and had made threats to his—and our lives.
Hearing my fab five roll out “Daughter” and “Indifference” made a big difference to me. “Daughter” for one, helped me cope with an absent father. “Don’t call me daughter—not fit to—the picture kept will remind me…” and “how much difference does it make?” All this beautiful rhetoric with a fall backdrop of genius musical accompaniment soothed my angst. When I felt angsty, I could always just belt, “Drop the Leash! DROP THE LEASH!!! Get outta my (lucky) FUCKIN’ FACE!” I always thought he said the latter, or maybe I just wanted him to. So that’s what I sang along with him.
But this album isn’t all melancholy. The band delivers a message about gun control with “Glorified G” and makes the listener smile through the pain with “Dissident” because who can resist Eddie’s crooning to happy guitars, “he couldn’t hold on…he folded…a dissident is here…”
If you don’t own it, get it. My other recommendations are:
Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon
Radiohead’s Pablo Honey
Stone Temple Pilot’s Core
Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine
Hole’s Live Through This
And, if you are a fan or can tolerate Oasis, What’s the Story, Morning Glory? (I say that only because people either love or hate them. I like some of their music, but hi, you’re not the Beatles, okay?)
Until next time, I’ll see you in my “Rearviewmirror.”  http://youtu.be/U6lCVgE6xnM
Blessed be and rock on,
Rachael
P.S. Thanks for listening.