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.

Unwrapping A Holiday Classic, The True Story Of Christmas Wrapping


Unwrapping A Holiday Classic, The True Story Of Christmas Wrapping

At some point this Holiday you’ll find yourself in line to pay for your cousin’s gift or driving to that side of the family you only see once a year and that poppy, fun song will come on and you’ll ask questions.

Is this Chrissie Hynde? Does she ever take a breath? Why do they call it Christmas Wrapping, they never mention that in the song? Is she saying Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, I think I want mittens this year?

The answers are; no it’s The Waitresses’ lead singer Patty Donahue, yes, because songwriter Chris Butler let the record label name it, and it’s “I think I’ll miss this one this year”.

But how did a throwaway song on an alternative Christmas album become a classic, so much so, that it’s been covered by artists as diverse as The Spice Girls, The Donnas and the cast of Glee? The true story’s so improbable it makes the song even more endearing.


Avant-garde musician Chris Butler (the guy in the bottom left corner of the above picture) grew up in Akron, Ohio. He attended Kent State University in the early 1970s and was on campus, in the crowd, when National Guardsmen fired on student protesters, killing four and wounding nine. He would come up through the Ohio musical ranks with Chrissie Hynde and Devo. He almost became famous with bands The Numbers and Tin Huey, but they both disbanded by the late 1970s.

By 1981, Butler had moved to New York on the strength of a regional hit song, I Know What Boys Like, which caught the attention of upstart new wave/alternative record label ZE Records. Blondie had gone from New York punk clubs to mainstream success with the disco record Heart of Glass and the rap pioneer song Rapture. New Wave music had replaced punk as the likely way for more artistic groups to break through. Butler knew his final shot at success was in front of him when his bosses came to him in August 1981 and said.

“Write a Christmas song. We’ll release it in 3 months.”

Years later, after his contribution became popular, he remarked.

“A Christmas album? On a hipster label? With a bunch of junkies on it? Eurotrash? Come on. Never happen…..OK, they were not all junkies and Eurotrash. But they were extreme individuals.”


The artists on ZE Records included Material with Nona Hendrix (who was infamous for performing nude), Was Not Was (many years before Walk With A Dinosaur), Suicide (known for songs so dark and depressing they were banned from many venues in the late 1970s), and Butler’s struggling new band, The Waitresses. ZE Records eventual LP, A Christmas Record, is so “out there” that it went out of print several times and the only way The Waitresses’ Christmas Wrapping could be found was through their own Greatest Hits. This made Christmas Wrapping’s climb to the top of people’s Holiday playlists even more improbable

Butler, singer Patty Donahue and the rest of the Waitresses culled guitar riffs, sax solos, piano parts, and melodies involving bells and drums from unrecorded songs, made Christmas Wrapping in less than two days, then went back out on the road in the Fall of 1981 trying to make I Know What Boys Like the tune that made them famous. But when Butler called his girlfriend from a Rochester, New York tour stop in late November her news shocked him.

“Chris, you’re all over the radio! Your song made it!”

Butler swelled with pride and said.

“Great, I knew “Boys” would do it.”

Then the girlfriend responded.

“No, the Christmas one.”

Five minutes and twenty two seconds about a girl living in the big city, wanting nothing to do with Christmas because she’s alone, puts the world’s smallest turkey in the oven but forgets the cranberries and runs to the store where she finds that guy she’s been chasing all year and they both end up spending the Holiday alone, together and wa la – happy ending. It sounds like a Lifetime Network movie my wife watches. But instead, it’s the most relatable Christmas song ever written.

After the initial success of Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses got the attention of former Saturday Night Live writers then producers of the 1982 television show, Square Pegs, writing and performing the theme song. I Know What Boys Like hit MTV in 1982 becoming popular enough to be put on many “Best of The 1980s” compilations. But the group broke up in 1984. Butler and Donahue found success as studio musicians and singers but times got lean until the mid 1990s. That’s when The Spice Girls covered Christmas Wrapping and the royalties started kicking in for Butler.


The real star of Christmas Wrapping was and still is, Donahue. Her “devil may care but I sure as hell don’t” vocals are so perfect, they’ve been impossible to mimic. None of the covers have captured her emotional detachment that allows for the listener to attach themselves to the tune. She died of lung cancer at the age of 40 in 1996, never knowing the vast cultural impact of Christmas Wrapping.

It’s my favorite Christmas song. The real life, gritty lyrics about being too busy for the Holiday came from an intellectual honest place. Butler is a self-described “Scrooge” who just did what his boss wanted but created a world truer than Paul McCartney’s “we’re all having a wonderful Christmas time.” If early 1980s New Wave music and ZE Records’ intentions were about irony, then Christmas Wrapping is their finest achievement.

I’ll take my hot chocolate, socks and underwear presents, and post-Holiday debt just fine as long as Christmas Wrapping is playing.

(an edited version of this piece originally ran on on December 5, 2013.

Superunknown, A Rant In The Key Of Grunge


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 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.

Bittersweet Symphony


Sipping a Diet Coke, eating lukewarm Chinese take out in a two and a half star hotel room in the middle of Massachusetts is how I unceremoniously reached middle-age, 44-years-old, a little over two weeks ago, while taking an inventory of the first half of my life.

Like so much of my time as a “grown-up”, I laughed at the lack of pomp or circumstance of my birthday and searched for the nugget of gratefulness at being alive, at least for another day, month, and hopefully, year.

When my dad was 44, he had a 23-year-old recent college graduate son, to whom he seemed like a very old man, clad in country club golfer attire and perpetually preaching about insurance, getting a good job, and settling down.

As I embrace the dub 4s, I’m just hoping this CrossFit knee injury heals soon, I can find time to write, rock and roll makes a comeback before I think it’s too loud to listen to and my wife and three daughters allow my key to work when I get home at the end of each day.

I’ve been traveling for work, thus why I recognized mid-life a thousand miles from home earlier this month, and not writing as much I usually do.

I like to say I’m on year 8 of my mid-life crisis, but the truth is closer to the fact that my 44 is completely different from my dad’s and I’m slowly getting use to it and will one day be okay with it all.

I’m not the man I thought I’d be. I work only part-time in journalism, writing is more of glorified hobby, and my day job pays the bills and equates to the analogy as an overthinking busybody lighthouse keeper guiding ships along their way through my home, my writing commitments, and whatever friends have decided to stick around, even after knowing the mess that is me.

Over the past year, I’ve been hanging around old high school friends. This is something I never thought would happen. After re-establishing contact with fellow forty-somethings through the media that are social, we reunited, and found how much we viewed our lives differently, but through a common scope.

There are days I feel ancient like after a workout because body maintenance is important but harder than ever, or hanging with my college freshman daughter, or being in line at the grocery store with twenty-somethings who prattle on about staying out all night.

Recently, I was in one of those places and the 1997 alternative music anthem, Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve came on the sound system. I found myself grooving in the aisle with an impromptu five-minute therapy session. It felt amazing and assumed my dad or his friends never did that at my age.

There are things I’m fine with and wish my fellow forties would be as well.

It’s okay I’m not as conservative as my parents and grandparents. My open-mindedness has made me friends and acquaintances that have made my life more interesting.

I don’t think my eight tattoos, all received between the ages of 35 and 42, will make me look stupid later in life. Each one has a story.

I’m glad I sold my golf clubs a few years ago and started blogging. You can do it in your underwear and it costs a lot less than a round of eighteen.

I still hate most country music as much as I did when I was a teenager and this means I’m not giving in. Nothing says you’re getting old than listening to the same music as your parents and grandparents.

The Verve’s Urban Hymns album contains Bittersweet Symphony is a wiser person’s guide. It predicts the future, puts the past in perspective, and soothes the savage that is aging.

“‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life try to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down you know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet yeah”.

I have to end this post because it’s time to get my youngest daughter on the bus and go to work. But do me and many others my age a favor. The next time you see one of us lost in the grooves of Bittersweet Symphony in a store or at a kids’ ballgame, don’t bug us. We’re in a cathartic, profound moment that qualifies as intense psychoanalysis.

That’s forty-four, these days.


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 for your kindles, and in paperback from




Last time:

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.


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.