The Songs That Made Me – Midlife Mixtape Blog Hop


For someone who is good at reading maps, has a keen sense of direction, and likes to stay on the move, I sure do get lost a lot in my own head. Perhaps, this is why I’ve been writing a bunch but posting less because I need a new compass and pay attention to certain signs. Music is like a neon billboard telling me, “over here, dummy!” My current pop culture addiction is the reality show The Amazing Race, where teams of two travel around the world and eventually win a million dollars. It’s all about teamwork, people skills, and the extreme sport of surviving airports. When my fellow music freak friend Nancy of  Midlife Mixtape asked me to link a post of about ten “songs that made me the person I am” it was like getting an Amazing Race ticket and then I needed to pay attention to my map and partner;  my writing. I’ve revealed a lot about myself over the past 5 years of this blog (My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog turns half a decade next week), through music. Each post is usually a song title and a Tube Of You video accompanies. Selecting only 10 songs was difficult. I didn’t list any songs by my favorite band, The Clash. Despite my love and admiration for female artists, there are no selections from Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco. Liz Phair or Lucinda Williams. Narrowing down only 1 Nirvana, 1 Radiohead, and 1 Verve choice was like picking my favorite daughter. So I chose ones that didn’t ask for money from me, today. This is linked to my friend Nancy’s blog. You will find some pretty kick ass, super smart, audiophiles over there. I implore you to read them all and them slink into a corner ashamed you don’t have our tastes in music. Here are the songs that made me….so far. Billy Joel – My Life and Elton John – Take Me To The Pilot. When I was very young, Billy Joel and Elton John were my classical music. I was born in 1970, so the first 10 years of my life saw the peaks of Billy and Elton’s careers. I lumped these two together because these days, they are joined at their old failing hips in concerts and general consensus thinking. The songs I picked are angry, frustrated pieces of rebellion and acknowledgement that adulthood is grabbing them. As a kid, these guys were like cool Uncles to me. Billy Joel was my first concert in 1982, and My Life was his best song of the night. So Far Away – Carole King. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, the Tapestry album by Carole King is one of the best records ever made. In 1971, a woman writing and producing her own tunes was about as rebellious and controversial as you could get. So Far Away is that song, I, a young kid growing up in suburban Atlanta, Georgia would play to express my alienation of my surroundings and want to leave. It’s singer-songwriter perfection. Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan. Uncle Bob wrote music’s greatest composition and everyone else is playing for second. If you’re a writer and you don’t worship this tune, then you’re not a writer. Dylan made rock and roll literate, pop culture matter, and set the template for what artists should be doing with their talent. “How does it feel, to be without a home, like a complete unknown?” If you can’t relate to that, I can’t help you. It’s six minutes that changed my life the first time I heard it as a little kid and it’s six minutes that changes my life every time I listen to it, now. And all those words, those beautiful damn words. “Ever Fallen In Love With Someone (You Shouldn’t’ve Fallen In Love With)?” The first few relationships I had were unrequited. I was always “the friend”, the one the girl came to bitch about their boyfriend, the guy she treated like a brother or whatever. What punk legends The Buzzcocks did in less than 3 minutes was enter my heart and mind, take out every word I’d ever thought or written down and then chainsaw truth. The opening lines of this song are “You spurn my natural emotions, you make me feel I’m dirt, and I’m hurt and if I start a commotion I run the risk of losing you and that’s worse”. They were dropping the mic a long time before Chris Rock was taking a comedy stage. Don’t tell me punk rock can’t be brilliantly deep. Blank Generation – Richard Hell and the Voidoids. This should have been the rock anthem of all rock anthems but instead it’s an underrated piece of punk history and the ringtone on my phone. Richard Hell was way ahead of his time. As much as I love Kurt Cobain and the other grunge rock superstars of the early 1990s, Hell said it all first, 15 years earlier. This song got me through college and keeps me young today. I’m just now saving up money so I can do this – “I was sayin let me out of here before I was even born.” I may safety-pin my shirt together today just to keep myself on track. High And Dry – Radiohead. Look, they’re my second favorite band after The Clash so every song by Radiohead made me the man I am, today. I picked High and Dry because it makes me happy and sad at the same time. I use it to remember those I’ve lost. I use it to appreciate those I have with me. Mostly, I just use it to hear my innermost thoughts conveyed by Thom Yorke’s gorgeous wail. One – U2. Before they started molesting my iphone, U2 did a lot of things right. I almost listed I Will Follow but One is like a religious hymn to me. It has the single greatest lyric I’ve ever heard, “Have you come here for forgiveness, have you come to raise the dead, have you come here to play Jesus, to the lepers in your head?” I’m a Christian and mentally ill. This song means a lot to me. Strange Currencies – R.E.M. Growing up in Georgia, any R.E.M. song is eligible. Currencies didn’t come along until the neighborhood band from down the road from my house had become international rock stars. But the lyrics, it’s overall feel and message, and the way R.E.M. spoke to the freak in all of us, makes this song special. “You know with love come strange currencies,” is too incredible to ever expound upon. You Know You’re Right – Nirvana. This song wasn’t released until 8 years after Kurt died. But it crystallizes all of the things that made me relate to him and love his band. I listen to it almost every day and use it in many different ways. If anything, it helped me “get over” the 1990s and my youth and grow up a little bit. It also strengthens my resolve when people tell me I’m wrong and I know otherwise. Lucky Man – The Verve. Bittersweet Symphony is the ultimate Verve tune and the album Urban Hymns stays in my car and in my heart every day. But Lucky Man is the song that encapsulates my adulthood and the second life I received when I got remarried expanded my family to 3 daughters. I’m not the most positive person by nature but Lucky Man keeps me grounded and the lyrics are really everything I look forward to each and every day. Here’s the other great posts.

The Songs That Made Us:



The Flying Chalupa

Elizabeth McGuire

Elleroy Was Here

Midlife Mixtape

Up Popped a Fox

When Did I Get Like This?

I Miss You When I Blink

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Butterfly Confessions

Good Day, Regular People

Dumb – Lessons Learned From Montage Of Heck



These days, intense emotional reactions followed by brutally honest self-analysis seem to be the only way people know how to tell the truth and in return, you believe in anything they say. Ninety minutes or so into the new documentary about the last famous person I ever related to or cared about, Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, home movie footage shows “the voice of a generation” hold his infant daughter as she’s getting a haircut. At first it seems to be this sweet moment but when the definitely tired, possibly drug-addled, and likely disconnected Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain nods off and his baby begins to cry you realize all is lost.

Four times during the look into the driving force of one of my favorite bands, I turned it off and wept. The visceral way I watched Montage Of Heck speaks to not only the impact of Kurt’s art but also the nasty truths behind his life and death by suicide in April, 1994.

No one was ever there for him and he just gave up.

The top search term for this blog is “Kurt Cobain Sychophant”. There’s no need for me to sell you on the greatness of him as an artist or the deep way I felt related to him as a mentally ill person, and fellow “small, moody, and weird reject”. What Montage Of Heck does is slay every myth about Kurt Cobain and painfully reveal that despite years of red flags and cries for help, Kurt died alone and it seemed to be his destiny from a very early age.

The first half of the film shows his childhood. A lot of time is devoted to his diaries, journals, notebooks, drawings, and personal voice recordings beginning during his pre-teen and teen years.

I took away some stuff, a lot of it I already knew, but given new context, from the documentary.

1) Kurt needed therapy as early as age 9. His parents divorced in the mid 1970s. He acted out as a result, bouncing between equally clueless and selfish mother and father as they embarked on new lives with new spouses and new children. He had almost no family structure between the ages of 11 and 19.

2) Bullying and humiliation drove every single artistic thing he ever did. The next time someone tells you ridicule and boys being boys is just a part of life, show them Montage Of Heck. From his first sexual experience to his first bout of drugs and alcohol to his failures in school, it all stemmed from his inability to deal with peer pressure and relating to kids his own age.

3) His slacker image and anti-fame reputation were lies. Even though he had trouble keeping a job pre-Nirvana, when his girlfriend Tracy would go to work, he’d strum guitars for hours while watching television and write or draw in his notebooks all day. This was part of his “10,000 hours” of practice. Also, he was more ambitious than given credit because he knew the names and addresses of almost every independent record label in existence during the late 1980s before convincing Sub Pop to release Nirvana’s first album in 1989.

4) Drugs were in his life early and he used them for different reasons than “rock star lifestyle”. He did heroin for the first time in the mid 1980s, years before he was famous and or married Courtney Love. He wrote about drugs as early as 1984. A still mysterious stomach ailment led to him using opiates. Like a cancer patient using pot for pain, he used narcotics to stave off serious abdominal pain well before he ever released a record.

5) Courtney Love didn’t kill him any more than Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles. Giving Courtney credit for anything about Kurt’s death is feeding the teeming narcissist what she wants, attention. The two of them were quite screwed up before they met. While Kurt’s drug use escalated after their marriage, it was tied more into his mental illness and his failure to deal with his life than anything to do with his choice of spouse. Kurt was alone, no one helped him, not once.

For die-hards like me, there wasn’t a lot of new information, but filmmaker Brett Morgen animated Kurt’s journals and audio recordings to present everything in a clear, creative but very disturbing fashion. Montage of Heck is brilliantly made. It’s worth the two hours of time but it’s a chore to watch if you care anything about Kurt and or Nirvana. It took days for me to just get a hold of my own emotions.

As a father, the scenes of Kurt with then baby Francis are hard to watch. If anything, Montage of Heck humanizes him even more and gets rid a lot of the rock star bull crap that never belonged with his legacy. I think the biggest lesson I learned from Montage of Heck was that Kurt Cobain ended up the way he should have, because of his lack of family cohesiveness and his own failures. That lesson is hard to accept, but it gets me beyond fandom and makes me realize that adulthood, maturity, or whatever this is I’m going through at forty-something years old is okay after all. Kurt Cobain decided it wasn’t and his being gone is just dumb.

Rolling Stone Cold Crazy


rollingtsonetrash Photo Michelle Jesipaz

Most of my days I can barely remember my kids’ names or what I ate for breakfast but reading about the journalism fiasco involving Rolling Stone magazine and a retracted gang rape story involving a University of Virginia fraternity a twenty-three-year-old memory waved over me and the details reminded of what I believe in to my core.

In early 1992, I was working as a news reporter and producer for two Tuscaloosa radio stations. I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree in Communications and starting my third year as a working journalist. A friend of a friend told me about a failed drug test of a University of Alabama (where I was enrolled) athlete and it’s alleged cover-up by the school’s powerful athletic forces. My editor, a fellow reporter, and one of my station’s ombudsmen help me fact check and vet the sources. Three days later I had everything for a blockbuster presentation that would have “made me” in the business at the young age of twenty-one. All I needed was one of the sources to go on record and the actual dirty drug test. At the eleventh hour my star whistleblower got cold feet and my story was sunk. We had to kill it because the standards of the day dictated so and no one even thought about going forward.

What makes Rolling Stone’s admission that their reporters and editors didn’t fact check their tale or investigate their main source, an alleged sexual assault victim, so egregious is that in less than a generation, this is even possible. The usual hand-wringing from media-haters make it sound like Rolling Stone’s yellow journalism is common.

It is not.

Seriously, put your faces close to the screen and get what I’m trying to convey to you.

It is not common. Rolling Stone’s bad journalism is not usual.

For over 15 years, on a full and or part-time basis, I’ve worked around the media as reporter, producer, copy writer, blogger, web site owner, or freelance writer. I promise you what I went through in 1992 is the way journalism works and most people in the business are sickened by what’s happened with Rolling Stone. I never once saw someone fake a story or run with something they knew wasn’t true.

That incident from my college days was one of maybe a dozen stories that were dashed because of poor sourcing, lack of evidence or just not enough to run with. You dropped the chase, kept the names on your rolodex, then moved on to the next thing. The majority of reporters do this, most journalism works this way.

For all the sayers of nay out there who will tell you we are in a downward spiral concerning media, I counter with, oh shut up and pay attention.

Sure, opinion and arguing and bloggers who want click bait make the most noise but the maximum amount of information is well-researched, impeccably written, and gorgeously presented but because we want eye-candy gratification we don’t talk about it as much as the other.

Rolling Stone lowered themselves but journalism is fine. It’s still be practiced but you have to have the want to and the need to go find it. Everything else is stone cold crazy.

T.V. Party




As I approach my 45th year on this planet, it occurred to me that my longest relationship was also my most dysfunctional. So when I ended it, or I guess I should say changed it, last fall, I never realized how much my life would be better. For over 44 years it raised me, made me laugh, cry, cheer, and provided me with more entertainment than my mind can even remember. Then I decided it was hurting me, so I said enough was enough and cut the cord to the direct cable television line coming into my house.

I wouldn’t say I was addicted to the tube of boob but I was negatively influenced. During the government shutdown in 2013, after countless hours of cable news and political programming, my wife woke me from a violent nightmare and said “that’s it, you have to stop watching that crap.” My three daughters created stand up comedy acts and satirical skits imitating me screaming at the small screen when the New York Jets, Alabama Crimson Tide or Atlanta Falcons lost another football game. I can’t even bring myself to talk about what I did when LOST ran that ridiculous series finale a few years ago.

On October 1st, 2014, approaching six months ago, we decided to get rid of our live cable feed and depend solely on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon (Prime) to watch recorded shows. This means live sporting events, news programs, and basic cable no longer happen. Not only do we; me, my wife, and three daughters, aged 19, 11 and 10, not watch t.v. like our parents or grandparents did, but we don’t even view it like the majority of people our age. It’s changed our family dynamic.

It seems like everyone complains about technology and so many are convinced society went to hell in knockoff handbag 30 years ago when MTV showed Madonna’s bottom in a wedding dress. I can’t name anyone who hasn’t whined about people being addicted to their “smart” phones and the ability to ruin someone’s existence with a naked picture in less than a second. But I contend the way we’ve watched regular television is every bit an issue and that even means Andy Griffith Show reruns on TV Land, which I can no longer view.

Since cutting cable, my family is tighter, more conversational, and kinder. Sure, we “binge-watch”, which wasn’t even a term until like a year ago, shows on the networks we still have in the home. But we watch together, hit pause or stop when someone wants to talk, make a meal or do an old bit about me screaming at the Jets’ Mark Sanchez throwing a pick six against the Patriots in ” the old days” when we had cable.

Tossing the main line has turned us into a bunch that hangs out together. My girls don’t lock themselves in their rooms to watch their tvs or phones. My wife and I only view television together, although Netflix adultery is a thing, I’m less inclined to commit it because I’ll reveal my indiscretion over social media because I still have a problem with that. There’s less complaining about people staring at their phones and computers.

I was all for cutting cable because it dropped our entertainment budget by over sixty percent. I don’t miss sports or politics or live news because the internet, the media that are social, phone apps and online newspapers provide me with what I need, but I want it all less than I did before and I usually only view them while I’m in the same room with my wife and kids while they watch some show on the services we kept.

Television used to be the event where I separated myself from my family to escape, Now, tv has turned into a party, where all the attendees are focused on each other, unless something cool is happening on Twitter.

Everybody Knows That You’re Insane



Ten years is a long time to do anything, but in terms of writing online, it deserves to be considered an eternity. I sat in bed last night listening to a blonde on my floor to my left, my golden retriever, and a blonde in bed next to me to my right, coo themselves into beautiful slumber while realizing an anniversary was happening. Sometime this week, this month, a decade ago, I began writing on the internet.

It’s a bizarre “celebration” involving MySpace, a crumbling marriage to someone else and crippling loneliness. I can’t even tell you why I typed the first few words into cyber space (does anyone even use that term anymore?) but I think it was because I was looking for a connection.

The wheels had begun to turn that later became the machine of divorce, loss and a new way to become the writer I’d wanted to be for years but delayed out of fear and obligation.

I started a music blog to talk about the music I loved, the music I hated and the music I wanted to discover. That led to new friendships and a way out or in, I’m not real sure which, that later led to a completely different life. I eventually revealed a lot about who I was and wanted to be.

That blog lasted almost over a year, became a casualty of my broken firstmarriage, then I started another a year after that. This all snowballed, slowly, into what is now my existence as a published author of two books and active media that are social accounts that have seen me to travel and get my thoughts out to tens or hundreds or thousands, or well, more than a couple of people a day.

During my 25-year high school reunion two years ago, a long-time friend who knew me when, asked me a question that I couldn’t answer with a straight face.

What’s it all done for you?

I think I told her it had connected to me to like-minded people who’ve made me smarter, given me many laughs and taught me things I’d otherwise never known. That all may be true, but the harder perhaps colder truth, is the past 10 years have shown me that love is not inside a computer but in the hearts of people who are honest especially those I can touch.

I’ve been struggling in year ten of this adventure to the center of the screen. I haven’t become as successful as I thought I would be sharing my ideas. I’ve sold just enough books to say I’ve sold some books. I’ve garnered just enough fame on other sites to say I’m the guy to wrote that thing that ticked off some people. I’ve typed just enough to be able to shout “present” when the internet Gods, if there are still any left, do a roll call.

In other words, writing online is just like life. Moderating your expectations and counting your blessings will classify you as a survivor.

This blog turns five-years-old in a couple of months. It was inspired by the biggest change in my life over the past ten years, my second marriage. Shortly after we married in 2008, my wife said “you should blog all the time but do it right”. I don’t know if I accomplished the “right” part but having a place to show my general insanity has been cathartic and I’ve met some amazing fellow whack jobs while becoming a better person for my wife, kids and myself.

One of the first things I ever wrote online, back in 2005, was a CD review of the then new Queen Of The Stone Age disc, Lullabies To Paralyze. I gave it a B, I think, and it only took like maybe seven comments before someone called me an idiot preceded by an obscene action verb. Oh, internet, you’re so, well, whatever. I think they were right, it deserved a B+.

Here’s to 10 insane years.

Bull In The Heather


If you truly love music, you remember the moments when a song or an album changed your life. One of these pronounced occurrences happened to me in August 1988, two weeks before I turned 18, when I played the vinyl record of Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth on the college radio station turntable at the University of Alabama where I attended college and it transformed me. They became one of my favorite bands overnight.

Until then, my rock influences had been mostly commercial, mainstream acts like the Allman Brothers, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen or whatever hair band was big at the time like Motley Crue or Def Leppard. Sonic Youth was the opposite of these groups, check that, they were anti-them.

Atonal, loud, mixed-up, bizarre, poetic, literate and weird in a good way, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation took me to a place I neither recognized not understood, for years. I found the band’s videos on MTV’s 120 minutes and became addicted. The front man was Thurston Moore, a six-foot six shaggy-haired proud uber-geek who thumped his guitar. But the center of the experience was bass player Kim Gordon.

Tall, androgynous, talented, and aloof, she was like David Bowie but female and so interesting you couldn’t stop watching or listening. Unlike other women in bands, I didn’t fantasize about Kim Gordon, she was older, 17-years my senior, she was more like the killer big sister or fantastically cool aunt you just wanted to hang out with, learn about music from, and become enthralled by her stories.

For two and a half decades, this was how I imagined Kim Gordon. She was married to Moore, their union was rock’s greatest success story, starting in 1984 and lasting until 2011, broken up, shockingly so by his infidelity. My parents are still married after forty-five years so this is how it seemed if my folks did break up. No more Thurston and Kim, and as a result, no more Sonic Youth. It was devastating.

When I heard Kim Gordon interviewed on NPR recently and learned of her memoir, Girl In A Band, I almost didn’t get it. My daydream nation of how Kim was couldn’t be touched. Then I mentioned to my wife that the book was out, and before I could explain to her I was scared to read it, she ordered it over her phone.


Girl In A Band is part history textbook of the alternative music genre of the 1980s and 1990s (my favorite kind and time in music), part travel guide to the art scenes of Los Angeles and New York, and part personal account of how a self-made artistic giant accomplished it all.

Kim Gordon’s writing voice is just like her musical style in Sonic Youth and brand as a visual artist and journalist. There’s an interesting distance, almost Lou Reed-like, combined with heart-breaking personal narrative of a mentally ill brother, unexpected but fulfilling life as a mother to a now 20-year-old daughter (only a year older than my own) and a rock and roll marriage that fell apart in the most banal way, ever. Music books or I should say, books about music people, are best when they are equally revealing as they are mysterious. Kim Gordon pulls this dynamic off, flawlessly.

Sonic Youth changed popular music from the underground without ever compromising their integrity. In Girl In A Band, you learn it was because of their artistic phenomenon bass player who kept it all from becoming normal.

Handle With Care



I’m not one of those people who believes the world’s going to hell in a hand basket but if there’s one thing that’s different about now, than before is how people act based on their advertising. The woman who fortified my trust in humanity and my religion, Christianity, seemed straight out of central casting from a black and white movie in the 1940s. Her show of kindness and follow through on how she presented herself were so spectacular, it taught me a lot about myself.

Other than my job, house, and gym the place I spend most of my time is the grocery store. My wife and I maintain an equal partnership and one of my duties to keep the family dynamic strong is hitting the local market three to four times a week.

With a new bed delivered, moving out the old one, renting a truck and helping my wife putting everything together my day was already overwhelming. I had my list all 2015’d, in a note on my phone. I stumbled into the store knowing I’d forget something, because it’s what I do.

Attention defective as I am, I still people watch. The older woman who moseyed behind me as I checked out was small in stature, impeccably dressed in a gray dress, her white and black hair as close to a bouffant as this era would allow. She was at least my parents’ age, mid sixties, and proud to be so.

I counted my items, checked my phone, and realized I’d forgotten the penne pasta, the key ingredient for what my wife was making. Sensing my demise, I sighed, apologized to the clerk, and turned to the lady. That’s when I noticed the silver cross around her neck and the religious symbols on her coupon book.

“Ma’am, I’m so very sorry. I forgot something, do you….”

Before I could finish, she smiled, revealing a crooked toothed grin, and replied.

“Honey, me waiting a few minutes is nothing compared to the trouble you’ll get into if you go home without whatever you forgot. Just, go.”

I’ve been struggling with my Faith, not in my belief that Jesus Christ died for my sins and I need to live my life according to his teachings, seeking salvation at each turn, but my Faith in others, especially fellow “Christians”. Being a lefty or progressive Christian who makes part of his living writing online has been trying the past few years. Politics aside, because they don’t pertain here, I’ve watched my fellow believers disappoint and anger me, mostly with how they treat others. I’ve found myself more short-tempered, increasingly cynical, and losing hope that those who profess one thing about themselves rarely reveal it to be true.

I ran to the pasta aisle, snatched a box then showed some sweat when I jogged back to the lady, the teenaged boy clerk, and the rest of my order. She smiled again and remarked.

“We barely knew you were gone.”

Fluorescent light caught her cross and I was frozen for a few seconds at how perfect the moment became. I paid and thanked the woman for her profound kindness.

The times are rare that people who present themselves a certain way deliver on their promise, but when it happens, it’s fantastic. I can’t wait for it to happen again, because that’s what I’m praying every day. I hope I can follow her example.