The Songs That Made Me – Midlife Mixtape Blog Hop

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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. https://youtu.be/h3JFEfdK_Ls https://youtu.be/Fi0xN499IXE 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. https://youtu.be/1GAaWz4X4nU 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. https://youtu.be/syNLBJ_Lq9E “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. https://youtu.be/51OB2YoC4sg 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. https://youtu.be/TP3x-VdOb44 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. https://youtu.be/BciOfJsqh7M 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. https://youtu.be/ftjEcrrf7r0 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. https://youtu.be/XMazs2N1CQ0 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. https://youtu.be/qv96yJYhk3M 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. https://youtu.be/MH6TJU0qWoY Here’s the other great posts.

The Songs That Made Us:

Smacksy

Arnebya

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

Everybody Knows That You’re Insane

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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.

For What It’s Worth

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I’d been staring at my phone for so long I didn’t notice the tear until it had settled at the bottom of the black. Watching a live feed of a split screen, the President spoke to the nation urging calm in the wake of another young unarmed black life gone at the hands of a policeman and the local legal authorities announcing there wasn’t enough evidence to indict, while the town, Ferguson, Missouri, was being pelted with tear gas on one split. It looked like a video from fifty years ago, during the turbulent 1960s, when the Man and the oppressed Man clashed over civil rights. I expected the next video to be The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and for me to watch it while I took up chain-smoking. Then I realized it was now, today, 2014 and at some point, I cried.

No one really talks to each other anymore, hence the phone, this blog, and the media that are sort of social, but not really. It’s a dumping ground for opinion, misguided anger, and a lot of wrong.

Missing from the night, and now the day, is care for each other. It’s called empathy by some, I prefer to call it compassion.

The guy, Darren Wilson, who pulled the trigger, on the unarmed dead teenager, Michael Brown, in the Ferguson case, never mentioned his victim by name, calling him “a demon” and “it” then later releasing a statement never even acknowledging Brown or his family. This is the way the sides have been drawn in debating what happened. Names are replaced by labels and no one even considers what the other is thinking, especially if their skin color is different.

“Do as you’re told and you won’t get hurt” and “It’s about the choices you make” are the lectures given to people hurting as their community burns and they mourn a body left in the street for hours while being referred to as “it”.

I don’t even care about the politics anymore. I just want to know where is the compassion? Do you hit send through a sociopathic hadron collider that breaks down your humanity?

I’m afraid to die. I’m convinced my wife and kids will be trolled by my Facebook friends list like a Westboro Baptist Church picnic celebrating my decaying flesh.

All lives matter. For what it’s worth, nobody’s right, when everybody’s wrong.

Superunknown, A Rant In The Key Of Grunge

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It’s a horrible, morbid, and superunknown thought that I know so many people my age think; maybe Kurt Cobain saw the future and that’s why he took the easy way out. That’s an explanation for the awful situation and unfathomable set of circumstances that make up this dark, cold, and unforgiving world we’re supposed to be running, and by we, I mean middle-aged people born between 1965 and 1980, aka, ridiculously, Generation X.

We were supposed to be better, smarter, more enlightened than our parents and grandparents. Sure, they lived through a Depression, won a World War, navigated the turbulent 1960s and survived the Watergate, energy crisis 1970s. In doing so, they turned their backs to racism, allowed Jim Crow laws, treating women as an underclass and ignoring gay people. They also gave us skyrocketing divorce rates, drug abuse, and exceptional narcissism that turned their kids and grandkids into pill popping misery-filled jerks on which they could blame everything. The problem is, we’re just as bad as they are, maybe worse, because we became like them.

Police and minorities are still in trouble with each other, women are losing rights to their bodies, and while we’re kicking all kinds of righteous civil-rights ass in getting same-sex marriage in 30 states and counting, homophobia is so out of control, it’s infected both houses of Congress and turned our social media accounts into spit-ball contests that treat friendship like those key parties some of our parents attended in 1973 while snorting their coke at discos a few years later.

Screw them, let’s talk about us. Why can’t we get our act together? For those of us who can’t make it through a day without a cocktail of meds and a trip to a CrossFit box just so we don’t go off on some buffoon in line at the big box store we vote for in every election that kills our economy and makes poor people even poorer, then the other lot is acting out against anything that isn’t white, red, white again, and blue.

We were supposed to question authority. Michael Stipe, Henry Rollins, Morrissey, Eddie Vedder and Kurt all told us we could. Yet, too many of us are watching Fox News, listening to Rush Limbaugh and posting right-wing blogs on Facebook with posts filled with so many lies and chockfull of so much racist, bigoted, misogynist and homophobic rhetoric it churns the stomachs of, well, anyone reasonable.

I sat at a table at some Bar-B-Q place in the middle of the Deep South, today, at 44-years-old, the youngest person of 8 diners, and heard 7 others rip the millennial generation or whatever we’re calling my 3 daughters’ age group, as lazy, shiftless and stupid. Have they looked in the mirror lately? Have they seen who they keep voting for? Have they read their Facebook walls? They’re the problem, too.

If I hear one more person bitch about rock and roll being dead, I’m going to make a citizen’s arrest, impound their CD collection, and expose their country music contraband. Florida-Georgia Line, the Nickelback of contemporary not really country music has the number one album this week. Have you heard them? They’re what you get when your high school friends’ media that are social accounts learn how to play guitar and crap out worthless things that are sort of not really songs.

It’s all our fault.

Are you reading this “friends?” Of course you’re not. It’s not on InforWars or Obamasucks.com or downloaded from Sean Hannity or Paul Finebaum’s radio shows.

How bad are things? I walked through my living room last night and two “stars” of the 1990s music era, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and Gavin Rossdale of Bush were on a reality show for singers giving career advice. Yeah, Kurt knew. It wasn’t just the drugs and depression, it was the future.

It’s how we react to injustice and then refuse to get along with those who disagree with us that makes us so terrible. A cop maybe, possibly, kills a black man and we run to our grandparents and find out what Fox News said is wrong with America then vomit the word “liberals” like my golden retriever rejecting that week old cereal bar he found under the couch. Then you don’t care that one of your best friend’s is a black, I mean liberal guy.

Kurt, forgive us, whereever you are. We failed you. Nothing we do Smells Like Teen Spirit, it’s all just Superunknown, like that other Seattle band whose singer ended up doing a James Bond theme.

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, I’m A SMITH

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If you hang around blogging long enough you become one of “those people”, that don’t write. It’s been a while and I have plenty of excuses but lack the energy to list them. I used to make fun of people who didn’t blog every day or every other day, then I turned into one. What happened to me? Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, I lost a fight to someone bigger and tougher than me, real life.

I miss it, I promise. The prompts, like my own creation, 100 Word Song, the tight-knit community of like-minds and same publish button-pushers. Then my oldest daughter went to college, I started traveling for work, the other website I started ten months ago needed attention I couldn’t give, and my own mental illness started running my game by its rules.

Wait, those are excuses. It must have been the burrito I had for lunch that gave me the strength.

I’m struggling, with a lot of things. For now, I’m still working on the sequel of The Ballad Of Helene Troy, called Woman Of Troy. I hope to release it by the end of the year. Silas and Olive will be made into a novella, too, to be released soon.

I wrote two pieces, one serious, one humorous, about my life with mental illness, bi-polar disorder, and the things that surround it for my a new book coming out around March 2015 called SMITH – Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor.

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Since I was a teenager I wanted to be a Smith, and now I am, maybe not Johnny Marr or Morrissey but a new kind of SMITH. I’ll keep you updated on when the book comes out in the spring. Here is our the website

My focus for this space needs to return on what I love to do, fiction writing and posts about myself and the four women of whom I live. I need to say thank you to the dozen or so people who have inquired as to what the heck I’m doing with my writing life. Things are still busy at Lefty http://www.leftypop.com, please go there.

The notebooks are full, my mind is active, and characters are being developed. I just need to start hitting publish more often.

One of the changes I’ve made in my life that’s affected my writing is we cut our cable television off. Now, I’m watching my handful of favorite shows through HULU, NETFLIX, and whatever streaming services there are over my phone. This has allowed for more time to scribe.

I’m here, and I’ll be more, here, soon. Maybe, even tomorrow. I apologize for turning into one of “those people” that you view their blog and it says the last post was a date requiring an “s” to be added to the word “week”.

Since I’m a SMITH, I should play The Smiths. They just got nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Cartoon

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Last time: https://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/heaven-knows/

I needed something to stop the tears after leaving my daughter at college and the rock song of her generation blaring from a nearby dorm made me feel even older, so stopped at the red light and tapped my iPhone music library. The opening lyric, “now everybody’s looking after me,
If I’m dragging by some coat tail“, in front of twangy late 1980s college rock guitar brought on a 26-year-old memory I didn’t realize was there.

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Dude, like really, could you give us a minute! She’s upset!”

I surveyed the uncomfortable situation and didn’t know what to do. With two minutes before my 10th ever freshman DJ shift at the student radio station, I was being ordered out of the studio so some guy I didn’t know could console a crying girl I did know. The room was small, dark, and suffocating with more than two people inside. I tried to please two masters, my radio gig duty and their wishes to be rid of me. I decided to cue up my first record on the turntable next to the girl so I leaned into the thin, pale sophomore named Jule. I suspected her name it was Julie or maybe Julianne and she was reinventing herself like the rest of us social rejects at college. Those were the types that inhabited the University of Alabama student radio station, WVUA, in the fall of 1988.

“Why do you keep doing this to us? Leave us alone for five f**king minutes, a**hole!”

I thought I was a melodramatic bad actor but this guy blew me off the stage. The  vinyl record was ready with needle on groove, all that had to be done was push a button and the world would hear staion approved college rock for the top of the hour of 1am.

Before I walked out, I turned to Jule and placed my hand on her shoulder. We’d hung out for a few minutes at a time during station meetings. She was from suburban Atlanta, Georgia like me, but a town about an hour away. I muttered over my shoulder as I reached the door.

“Hang in there, I hope you’re okay.”

The guy started to scream at me again.

“Get the fu…..”

Jule placed one hand over his mouth and pointed to the door with the other. When he pushed away from her and stayed in his chair, she growled, low and intentional.

“The music comes first, here. It’s his shift, you leave and don’t call me, again.”

He got up, threw the rickety black office chair back into the radio console with his butt, then glared at me. He elbowed my chest like a rebounding basketball power forward and cursed into the hallway. I looked at the clock in the studio then at Jule. She wiped her eyes, rubbed her hands on her dirty jeans, then asked.

“What are you starting your show with?”

Her lips trembled. I wanted to ask her what happened. Instead, I just answered.

“Soul Asylum, Cartoon, it’s my favorite song right now, well, you know, until tomorrow.”

She laughed and leaned back in her chair as I pushed the button.

Like my teenager, I had a different life one month into my college career. I owe her a huge thanks for instant recall.

What I Like About You

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In two weeks I turn 44-years-old and what scares me the most is I still have little to no self-esteem. You would think after more than half my life gone I’d have accumulated some cockiness about my resume. Nope.

A couple of months ago, I visited a new psychiatrist. She was a very nice Indian-American lady who exuded warmth, kindness and positivity. Either she was a fantastic actress or the perfect person for her chosen profession. She made me feel safe, welcome, and relatively okay, for a crazy person.

One of the things she told me was I was too hard on myself and didn’t give myself enough credit for the good stuff I’d done and my positive attributes. She gave me homework that of course I didn’t do, until today.

“Go home and write 5 things you like about yourself and say them aloud to the mirror.”

My first thought was, lady, you’re lovely, but I’m a writer, isn’t that enough narcissism for one person. Then I realized I was paying her for the hour, so eventually I obliged.

It was difficult. Five things about me? Really? I’m a mess. Okay, but note, I wrote out like seven, then realized that two of them were sarcastic lies so the five you’ll read are absolutely it. I don’t recommend any of you do this, because I know most of you will whine about paring your list from 37 to a top five and then I’ll have to hate you.

5) My taste and knowledge of music is pretty stellar. I can’t remember my kids’ names but I can recite Lou Reed lyrics from the Transformer album. I always forget at least two things on my wife’s grocery list but I know more about 1970s punk and glam rock and 1990s grunge and alternative music than the average dude or dudette. People ask me for playlists all the time, tag me in their Facebook posts about music stuff, and if one more person argues with me about the merits of Diamond David Lee Roth Van Halen versus Sammy Hagar Van Halen I’m going to curse them to choke on brown M&Ms. If you don’t get that reference, we can’t be friends.

4) I don’t drink coffee or play the lottery. This means I’m the perfect person to be in line with at a convenience store. You don’t have to worry about me bickering over the quality of the cappuccino mix or taking 14 extra minutes selecting scratch off tickets.

3) I’m reliable. I hated this about me until about five years ago. I’ve moved over 30 people by either owning or tracking down a truck, dollies, and boxes. I’ve bailed over 10 people out of jail. I’ve never failed to pick someone up from the airport, school, or work when they needed a ride. You ask me to be somewhere, I’m 97.3 percent of the time punctual and proud to do it, publically. Privately, I’m probably making fun of you and making snide remarks. Seriously, I’m that dude you’re supposed to call because it’s the right thing to do.

2) I can write. I’m not saying I’m Hemingway or Palahniuk or even Franzen but I think I know what I’m doing. Time and deadlines are hard to meet sometimes because of real life but I know my way around sentence structure and storytelling. My editing sucks, but I have people for that. I think I know what I’m doing as a writer compared to most.

1) I’m a good parent. I didn’t say I was a great one because that’s crazy talk. I know my 3 daughters love me, mostly behind my back, but with one in college and two others at the tops of their classes, I haven’t screwed them up or nullified the fantastic work of their mother. There’s a lot of love in our house and all 3 of my girls are smart, beautiful, and can tell a good joke.

What are your good attributes? Please, limit them to five. I’m very fragile, emotionally. You start showing off with more than that, and the next 47 posts will be dark dystopian tales of woe that will make you want to punch yourself in the face, too.

Here’s The Romantics.

http://youtu.be/Rqnw5IfbZOU

I wrote two books. They got good reviews. The third one, a sequel to the first, Woman Of Troy, is on the way, very soon.

The Ballad of Helene Troy, an underdog story about a female musician in New York City, and Soul To Body, about an ex-1990s guitar player trying to raise his teenage daughter after the death of his wife, her mother, are available, digitally, on Amazon.com for your kindles, and in paperback from Lulu.com

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