Category Archives: Music

Turkey Time

It’s Turkey Lurkey time! And this is the only day this campy clip truly works. I dare you not to dance at the end of it. {Jingle bells! Jingle bells!!}

Continue reading ...

Stars On Our Shoulders

This one goes out to the unremarkable and the extraordinary. To me and you. 

To the people who go to work without complaint, who force a smile when all they wanted to do was stay in bed. 

To the girl who cries when the lights are out.

To the boy who cries when the lights are on. 

To my friend Ann, who loved Bon Jovi more than anything once upon a time.

To my first girlfriend and my last boyfriend

To the dreamers and the ones who dare.

To the meek and the mighty

To the ones who can’t but try anyway. 

To the guy who mugged me for my International Male coat. 

To the guy who punched the guy who mugged me. 

To the old man who made me dragon hair candy at the top of a Hong Kong tram

To all the guys I’ve loved before.

To the night I stood on the ledge of a building at Brandeis and wondered if seven stories was enough. 

To those who wake up every morning, re-wrap their wounds and go on with their day. 

To the boy who has the courage to wear his saddle shoes every day

To my eleventh-grade English teacher.

To the day after a party, that glorious mess, that sleepy muddled way of making breakfast for the friends that stayed over. 

To the summer when all my brother and I did was swim and pick flowers for Mom

To the times when my Dad tells me he loves me. 

To the night I looked into my husband’s eyes and saw the future. 

To the birthday when I got to visit a beaver

To all of us who get on the roller coaster, throw our arms in the air, open our eyes and scream for glee and glory.

I see you thinking twice
Wish I could read your mind
Move up or out of line
Too late for praying
I know we might lose our breath
We might be scared to death
This chance is like a step
Just got to take it

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
Time flies by, don’t close your eyes
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain’t a merry go round

It’s a roller coaster… It’s a roller coaster

Can’t lie and won’t pretend
I know what’s round the bend
Too late to start again
Won’t take it slower
Let’s slip right off these tracks
We’ll fly or we might crash
Don’t look down, don’t look back
Cause it ain’t over

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
Time flies by, don’t close your eyes
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain’t a merry go round

It’s a roller coaster… It’s a roller coaster.

 

 

Continue reading ...

November Exile By Enya

This is always the chilliest month. True, January and February bring the coldest temperatures and the roughest weather, but by then we’ve had enough time to acclimate ourselves to the freeze. This year especially, the first few days of cold weather will be a shock to the system. We’ve gone soft with the spectacular October we’ve had.

That velvet curtain seems to have come to a swift close, and like some cosmic thermostat, the temperature seems to have been put back to right. It may be appropriate and typical, but that doesn’t ease the jolt that these first few truly fall days has given.

The wet leaves on a sidewalk remind me of walking back to my dorm at Brandeis after dinner. I may have eaten with a friend or two, but somehow I’d end up stopping at the library, or they would head in another direction, and I’d make the last part of the walk by myself. The sun had long since fallen, and the false lights along the way were no match for the darkness. A stand of trees surrounding my dorm rendered the street lamps mostly powerless anyway.

On the darker days, when the world beat me down, when I flailed in desperate attempts to understand the physics involved in mapping out an astronomy project, I’d return to a black and empty dorm room. That first year I lucked out: my roommate had quickly found a girlfriend and spent much of his time with her, so it was basically like living in a single. I cherished the solitude. Still, as I looked out the third floor window of my room, at the pine tree fanning its needles in the faint glow of moonlight, I wondered how long it might be before solitude turned to loneliness. On those evenings, I’d let Enya play in the background while I tucked into bed, waiting for the light of day to make things better.

 

I’LL WAIT THE SIGNS TO COME.

I’LL FIND A WAY

I WILL WAIT THE TIME TO COME.

I’LL FIND A WAY HOME.

MY LIGHT SHALL BE THE MOON AND MY PATH, THE OCEAN.

MY GUIDE THE MORNING STAR AS I SAIL HOME TO YOU.

November always starts in the same desolate fashion.

Yet there is hope. The earliest snowfalls lend magic to the gray forest.

The cold days give way to cozy nights by candlelight and fire.

A promise of holiday enchantment; a winter wonderland waiting to rise.

Continue reading ...

Gourd Have Mercy

‘Tis the season for pumpkins and squash and dried hay and cornstalks as seen in this timely corner of the Anchorage in Ogunquit, Maine. It’s that time of the year when we begin the roasting journey in the kitchen, with winter vegetables and squash, savoring the autumnal flavors and hues. The aromas of sage and rosemary, cinnamon and nutmeg, conspire with the gray smoke trails of extinguished candles and other cozy accoutrements.

Halloween is one day away, and I’m put in the mood by a spell of seasonal songs. Once upon a time my friend Joe and I created some spooky-themed music and lyrics, and next year I’m hoping to return to the process. Until then, a look at what we we’ve already done.

Continue reading ...

Just the Saddest Party Song In The World

It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can sing what we want

It struck me as our train was speeding toward its over-an-hour-late arrival in Albany-Rensselaer at one o’clock in the morning. Suzie was asleep next to me and we had just enjoyed a marvelous day-trip to New York. Most of me was exhausted and supremely spent after departing before the break of day and arriving well after the fall of night. But a small part was not quite ready to stop, a part that didn’t want the carefree Sunday to end. A reminder that once upon a time the one AM hour was just when things started to get good.

Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
‘Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now
If you’re not ready to go home
Can I get a “Hell, no!”? (hell, no)
‘Cause we’re gonna go all night
‘Til we see the sunlight, alright

And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?
Can’t you see it’s we who ’bout that life?
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
Don’t take nothing from nobody
Yeah, yeah

At 42 years of age, I mostly find that those days have passed. A week later and I’m still trying to recover the sleep that was lost. The body doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it once did, the energy no longer replenishes itself instantly, and getting a second wind is a thing of miracles and dreams. When Miley Cyrus sings this strangely melancholy song of non-stop partying, it means something different to me. Hidden among the distorted vocals and modern machinations is a gorgeously sad melody that celebrates and bemoans not wanting the party to end. Defiant all the way into the first light of morning, we keep our hands up in the air, reaching for something that will always remain elusive, grasping for the final feather in the cap of a perfect day. We never seem to realize that by the time we are trying to capture the moment, it has already gone. Sometimes it’s enough to remember, sometimes it’s not.

To my home girls here with the big butt
Shaking it like we at a strip club
Remember only God can judge ya
Forget the haters ’cause somebody loves ya
And everyone in line in the bathroom
Trying to get a line in the bathroom
We all so turnt up here
Getting turned up, yeah, yeah, yeahhh

And so we draw back from getting too serious, as if by keeping things silly and superficial we can tame the ticking of time, roll back the encroaching years, stop the loss and hurt that age and growing older inevitably bring. In ‘The Great Gatsby’, Daisy Buchanan staves off her sorrow by inhabiting a flimsy atmosphere of sheer, ephemeral glamour, lost in her soft cadence of whimsical words. I wonder if that’s the best way to deal with the world. Turn a blind eye. Escape in the fantasy of beauty and riches. Throw off heartache with the turn of a bracelet. Maybe Daisy was onto something. Maybe she knew things that we don’t.

It’s our party we can do what we want to
It’s our house we can love who we want to
It’s our song we can sing if we want to
It’s my mouth I can say what I want to
Say yeah, yeah, yeah, ehh

And we can’t stop, yeah
And we won’t stop, oh
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?
Can’t you see it’s we who ’bout that life?

And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
Don’t take nothing from nobody
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, ehh

Our train trundles onward, speeding us toward the final destination, trying to make up for lost time, whether we want off or not. In the still, dim compartment, young people parade by, former versions of ourselves. They’re just beginning, and in their wide-awake smiles and cheery countenance in the face of a very late train, I can see they have yet to be beaten down by life. It warms the heart. They don’t want to stop just yet either, and they have the energy and expanse of a long future to sustain them.

I just want to reach the soft comfort of my bed, and the moment after a long hot shower when I can sink under the covers and inhabit the only place I want to be at one AM these days.

Continue reading ...

It’s All Coming Back: The Story of a Robe

THERE WERE NIGHTS WHEN THE WIND WAS SO COLD…
THAT MY BODY FROZE IN BED IF I JUST LISTENED TO IT RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOW 
THERE WERE DAYS WHEN THE SUN WAS SO CRUEL 
THAT ALL THE TEARS TURNED TO DUST 
AND I JUST KNEW MY EYES WERE DRYING UP FOREVER
I FINISHED CRYING IN THE INSTANT THAT YOU LEFT 
AND I CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE OR WHEN OR HOW 
AND I BANISHED EVERY MEMORY YOU AND I HAD EVER MADE…

It’s not all that outlandish for a robe to inspire me to like a song. There was a time when I’d do very bad things for the perfect robe. And finding the perfect robe would take many attempts (read: many purchases). It had to be just right – the exact degree of flamboyance, the measured amount of elegance, the slightest hint of decadence. If the robe was right, the rest of my life would fall into place.

It’s not merely the robe – it’s all the connotations that it invokes.

Comfort. Coziness. Safety. Glamour. Luxury. Contentment. Quiet.

The Golden Girls gathered around a cheesecake at the kitchen table.

Norma Desmond descending her staircase in a gorgeously-mad scene of devastated ruin.

Jennifer Tilly’s grating high-pitched squeals in a feathery pink extravaganza, telling of her thrilling, show-stopping numbers in a musical called ‘Leave A Specimen’.

And one of my favorites – the silk robe that Celine Dion wears in her 1996 video for ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’.

THERE WERE THOSE EMPTY THREATS AND HOLLOW LIES
AND WHENEVER YOU TRIED TO HURT ME
I JUST HURT YOU EVEN WORSE AND SO MUCH DEEPER
THERE WERE HOURS THAT JUST WENT ON FOR DAYS
WHEN ALONE AT LAST WE’D COUNT UP ALL THE CHANCES
THAT WERE LOST TO US FOREVER
BUT YOU WERE HISTORY WITH THE SLAMMING OF THE DOOR
AND I MADE MYSELF SO STRONG AGAIN SOMEHOW
AND I NEVER WASTED ANY OF MY TIME ON YOU SINCE THEN

A confession: I was never a big Dion fan. She annoyed the fuck out of me with her Adult Contemporary bullshit. (I still find ‘Because You Loved Me’ to be one of the most joyless exercises in listening that the hearing world has been cursed to endure, and don’t even get me started on ‘The Power of Love’, whose bombast simply wouldn’t stop.) But in the years since I’ve softened on such stuff, and Dion’s so kooky and good-humored about everything (her own over-the-top zaniness included) that I came around. And the robe she wears in this video went a long way toward changing my stance.

WHEN YOU TOUCH ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN YOU HOLD ME LIKE THAT
IT WAS GONE WITH THE WIND
BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME
WHEN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN I SEE YOU LIKE THAT
THEN WE SEE WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
THE FLESH AND THE FANTASIES
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
I CAN BARELY RECALL
BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW

Drama. Intrigue. Devastation. Loss. And that’s all before she starts singing. In the aftermath, she haunts the house where her presumed love once lived, her only companion a robe that billows behind her in desolate beauty. At the time this song was released, I was about to fall in love again – a typical fall practice for me in those days. Everything was imbued with the import and passion of a person in their early twenties. I lived in a fantasy world; it was the only way I knew of to survive.

‘Evita’ was about to come out, and though my heart was pining away for the uninterested, I tried to focus on the Madonna movie, and on the drama of this video. The fantasy of a robe was an easy-to-accomplish escape. Like a heroine who lost her love in a tragic motorcycle crash, doomed to roam the hallways of a windy mansion, I walked from room to room (literally, as there were but two main rooms in the Boston condo) and felt the various fabrics fall and swirl about me.

By that point I had amassed a decent collection in various styles – silk and velvet, beaded and embellished, trimmed with feathers and fringe, tied with tassels and trinkets. They were a comfort, a balm on a troubled and restless heart. Just because I was alone didn’t mean I couldn’t do so in fabulous form. There is an exquisiteness to misery when it’s dressed just so. As the great Diana Vreeland once remarked, “Elegance is refusal.” Refusing to feel was a discipline I learned while draped in the softest silk, idly running my fingers across a faint damask pattern, absent-mindedly dragging a pool of velvet and feathers in my wake. If there was a martini within reaching distance, so much the better. Retreating into a frivolous fantasy was my way of finding warmth on cold October nights. Wrapped in a robe, I indulged in make-believe, and if you think you are fabulous for long enough, sometimes it comes true.

IF YOU FORGIVE ME ALL THIS
IF I FORGIVE YOU ALL THAT
WE FORGIVE AND FORGET
AND IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME
WHEN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN I SEE YOU LIKE THAT
WE SEE JUST WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
THE FLESH AND THE FANTASIES
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
I CAN BARELY RECALL BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW

That fall I floated along the amber-hued floorboards of our Boston condo, robes fluttering behind me in dramatic recreation of this video. Life is more fun when you have to pretend, when the worry and want is for the sake of drama over any real emotional taxation and desire. Pretending was a form of protection – perhaps the ultimate for of protection – and the best way I knew to pretend was to put on a pretty robe, a steely mask, and the nonchalant attitude of aloofness that repelled all sorts of messy feelings.

Continue reading ...

Hunk of the Day: Troye Sivan

As a semi-wise woman once said, I believe the children are our future. Troye Sivan may not be a child anymore, as he graduates into adulthood with this Hunk of the Day crowning, but he is most definitely the future. Not only as an openly-gay musician and actor, but as the new wave of a world where one’s sexuality no longer defines or pigeonholes them. It’s a world of possibility and hope, and no matter how much haters may want us to go back, we never will. Witness the matter-of-fact way in which he incorporates gay characters and storylines into his videos. Thanks to Mr. Sivan for leading the charge, and for making such great music. See his latest ‘There For You’ video below and then head to his website for more magic

Continue reading ...

Memories of the Rose

SOME SAY LOVE, IT IS A RIVER THAT DROWNS THE TENDER REED

SOME SAY LOVE, IT IS A RAZOR THAT LEADS YOUR HEART TO BLEED

SOME SAY LOVE, IT IS A HUNGER, AN ENDLESS ACHING NEED

I SAY LOVE, IT IS A FLOWER AND YOU ITS ONLY SEED.

It was one of the first songs I learned on the piano, and to this day I can still play the opening chords and melody. A hit for Bette Midler before I was old enough to walk, ‘The Rose’ is one of those classics that has endured thanks to its timeless lyrics and beautiful balladry. For me, it conjures memories of my grandmother.

Whenever she’d visit, she would request that I play it for her, and she’d sit and listen in rapt fashion as only a grandmother could. Occasionally, as was her disturbing way, she’d mention that she would like me to play it at her funeral. A macabre and rather unsettling notion for a kid to contemplate, and when she did pass away, years later, I was in no condition to play ‘The Rose’ on the piano even if I wanted to. Still, there was something beautiful to what we shared as she bravely challenged her mortality and I vainly sought to put the idea from my head.

In many ways, my grandmother was a timid woman. Afraid of the world and often afraid of people, especially those she didn’t know, she taught me caution and quiet. She relied on and deferred to my grandfather while he was alive. He died before I was born, so I never saw her interaction with him, and by the time I was old enough to notice such things, she was more of a widow than anyone I’ve met since. I knew that she’d gone to work in a factory during the war, and I knew that such an act wasn’t for the meek or quiet, so I assumed she kept her strength and power hidden away. Of course she never had to show it to us children: as grandmother she doted on and adored us no matter how we might misbehave or push our bedtime back.

IT’S THE HEART AFRAID OF BREAKING THAT NEVER LEARNS TO DANCE

IT’S THE DREAM AFRAID OF WAKING THAT NEVER TAKES THE CHANCE

IT’S THE ONE WHO WON’T BE TAKEN WHO CANNOT LEARN TO GIVE

AND THE SOUL AFRAID OF DYING THAT NEVER LEARNS TO LIVE.

For all her apparent meekness, she still held a certain sparkle and pizzazz, particularly when in comparison to the staid and strict way my parents behaved and expected us to behave. My grandmother was the one who taught me how to make a fashion statement, whether in a string of crystal rosary beads, or a glittering clip-on costume earring. She would wear sequins on her scarf, and carry handbags dripping with beaded tassels. Conservative in almost every other aspect, particularly in the leather-bound chignon that kept her hair ever-pulled away from her face, she showed her spark with her jewelry. I learned the power of a statement piece, and when we got to visit her home in Hoosick Falls I had hours of fun in her jewelry boxes. In that way, my grandmother lived in my imagination.

She would tell my brother and I stories of Greta Garbo, and how she was the greatest star in the world and then simply disappeared. The mystique she described lent her an air of mystery and magic too, and we begged her to trot out those Garbo stories at every bedtime. Try as I might, however, I could never place my grandmother among the youth from a former era. I desperately wanted to picture her laughing and sipping at her favored glass of beer (“with a good head on it” as she used to say), but I couldn’t reconcile the kind elderly woman who tucked us in with someone who would kick her heels up on a table and smile for the camera. Yet I know it happened. I’ve seen the picture.

WHEN THE NIGHT HAS BEEN TOO LONELY AND THE ROAD HAS BEEN TOO LONG

AND YOU THINK THAT LOVE IS ONLY FOR THE LUCKY AND THE STRONG

JUST REMEMBER IN THE WINTER FAR BENEATH THE BITTER SNOW

LIES THE SEED THAT WITH THE SUN’S LOVE IN THE SPRING BECOMES THE ROSE.

As she grew older and more feeble, as she lost her senses and her memory, she receded into the childlike innocence of old age. Shrinking into a tiny woman, she moved further and further from those youthful days of boundless energy and bold, shiny bracelets. The hesitancy and shyness that marked the bulk of her adulthood dissipated, and in rare instances she would get a glint in her eye of remembrance and fire. I wondered if she wished she had let loose more, or if she realized she had lived just enough. Whenever I have a moment of doubt before a moment of indulgence, I often think of my grandmother. She would have thrilled at this necklace, she would have run her hands appreciatingly over this scarf, she would have approved of these fancy shoes. She would have gotten dolled up and turned it out, just for a trip to church. She would have put on the pizzazz and sparkled, just for a moment, and she would have smiled like a beneficent queen. I learned that from her too.

Continue reading ...

Hunk of the Day: Matthew Olshefski, the Shirtless Violinist

How could I not feature someone who’s best known as the “Shirtless Violinist” as Hunk of the Day? Meet Matthew Olshefski, who rubs the resin-coated horse’s hair to make sweet music on the tautly-wound strings of a violin. That he does so shirtlessly is his Gypsy-like gimmick, but it only works because he has the talent to back up the beauty and the brawn. Check out his website here for more aural delights. (And no, this is not just some blatant promotional bit of pandering so that he emblazons my name across his chest, but if he sees fit to do so, who am I to refuse?)

Continue reading ...

River of Dreams

It was the early-to-mid-nineties. My Adult-Contemporary side was shining in full-effect. Tina Turner was singing ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ and I was wishing for a relationship to salvage – hell, I just wanted a relationship to begin. Billy Joel was singing about mid-life dreams too, and though I was too young at the time to get all the layers of meaning, I knew the hook of a good pop song, and the universal search for meaning in the middle of the night.

As a teenager, I used to walk at all hours of the night, traipsing through the neighborhoods of Amsterdam and seeking out solace in the comfort of strangers I never saw. I could feel them though. I felt their presence. In the glowing reflections of a television set. The shadows passing through empty rooms. The lamp on the bedside table blinking good-night.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, I GO WALKING IN MY SLEEP

FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF FAITH TO A RIVER SO DEEP

I MUST BE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING, SOMETHING SACRED I LOST

BUT THE RIVER IS WIDE, AND IT’S TOO HARD TO CROSS

All those early fall nights, the sticky and hazy evenings that still sometimes held heat and wetness – through which I passed like thick syrup – wove themselves into a fading ephemeral summer blanket that I would later pick up when the wind turned colder. At the time, when the heat stuck around well past the midnight hour, I walked with the easy freedom of a northeastern summer, in shorts and a shirt-sleeved shirt, padding quietly along the sidewalks and seeking out some kind of connection.

AND EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THE RIVER IS WIDE

I WALK DOWN EVERY EVENING AND I STAND ON THE SHORE

AND TRY TO CROSS TO THE OPPOSITE SIDE

SO I CAN FINALLY FIND WHAT I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR

The memory that accompanies this song must have occurred in my last summer at home, before going away to college. A bundle of nerves and apprehension, thrilling anticipation and vague dread, my heart was a riot. We hold such tumult in every year of our youth, and if we don’t even realize that, so much the better. I was uneasily more aware of such matters than most of my contemporaries. More serious and solemn about life. It made me as popular as it sounds.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, I GO WALKING IN MY SLEEP

FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF FAITH TO A RIVER SO DEEP

I MUST BE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING, SOMETHING SACRED I LOST

BUT THE RIVER IS WIDE, AND IT’S TOO HARD TO CROSS

Thus I walked alone, and while never terribly bothered by it I sometimes wished for more. The sweet late-spring scents of perfumed trees had passed. All that remained was the ripe smell of leathery leaves, decomposing grass, and the heavy dour air that would soon be split by the first cold spell of fall.

I DON’T KNOW WHY I GO WALKING AT NIGHT

BUT NOW I’M TIRED AND I DON’T WANT TO WALK ANYMORE

I HOPE IT DOESN’T TAKE THE REST OF MY LIFE

UNTIL I FIND WHAT IT IS THAT I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR…

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

Continue reading ...

Twin Peaks Revisited

Maybe we all expected too much.

Maybe too much time had passed.

Maybe we were no longer able to be scared or scarred by the murder of Laura Palmer.

For whatever reason, the reboot of ‘Twin Peaks’ never really took off with me. While I appreciate the genius of David Lynch, and the nightmarish images only he can conjure, I felt a profound disappointment in connecting to anything or anyone in this revisit. At first I thought it was just an exercise in self-indulgence, and that it would work itself out after an episode or two, but by the sixth or seventh I still wasn’t finding the magic and melancholy that Lynch so evocatively and expertly portrayed at the dawn of the 1990’s. But in some warped way, that makes sense. We’re in a very different place.

I remember watching the first episode in the fall of that year. It was mesmerizing. Magical. Surreal and seriously disturbing. It was the first television show that I experienced where the silence and stillness and pauses were just as important as the bombast, violence, and beauty. It was wonderfully weird, but nothing was so outlandish and extreme that you couldn’t see glimmers of it in people you knew. It was a slice of cherry pie life, served with a cup of black coffee and backed by the majesty and mystery of the northwest. Over it all loomed the ghostly blue-lipped visage of Laura Palmer, wrapped in ethereal plastic and speckled with dirt. A mist rose from the thunderous Snowqualmie Falls, and in every corner lurked a cloud or a secret. Only one thing could ever break through that: love. It was there in the dreamy music of Angelo Badalamenti, in the lofty wind-chafed reach of the fir trees, in the haunting hoot of a hidden owl. That was missing this time around, and perhaps that’s the point. Lynch has a knack for making the most of what’s missing – the missing ear that launches one of his seminal movies, the missing heads from this current incarnation of ‘Twin Peaks’, the missing space in shots held longer than any other television show on air – and that notion may be what’s at work here.

Continue reading ...

The Madonna Timeline: Song #141 – ‘Body Shop’ – Summer 2000/2015

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

WITH ALL THESE CURVES WE MIGHT NEED TO HAVE THE BRAKES LOOKED AT

SO POP THE HOOD, LET’S SEE WHAT’S GOOD, I NEED A TUNE-UP BAD

MY PRESSURE’S LOW, I’M ON A ROLL, BUT MY TRANSMISSION’S BLOWN

I HEARD A THUMP AND THEN A KNOCK…

I HEAR YOU WORK AT A BODY SHOP, I HEAR YOU WORK AT A BODY SHOP…

At the dawn of a millennium, the car speeds through the midnight hour of a summer’s night. Opening the passenger-side window, I reach my hand into the rush of air, reminded after all that there are molecules floating around us, and when propelled they have force and power and speed. We are on a back road in upstate New York, and Andy is driving us to his house. We only met a few weeks ago, and neither of us is sure where we are headed.

He looks over at me and gives a mischievous smile that I will soon come to love. He steps on the gas pedal and the car rockets forward. (I may have asked if he could get the car to 100 miles per hour, or he may have volunteered the information – either way, he was nearing that goal.) The thrill of a speeding car, the heat of a summer night, and the excitement of a burgeoning romance came together in that one moment. As I dared to hold my hand in the heady onslaught of wind, I watched us clock 100 MPH and felt the exhilaration of it all in one deliciously exhilarating moment.

YOU CAN KEEP IT OVERNIGHT, YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU LIKE

WORKING OVERTIME, WORKING ON THE LINE…

This is one of the Madonna songs that reminds me of my husband, and whenever he goes on one of the WRPI Car Radio marathons I insist that they play it. It’s ‘Body Shop’, from Madonna’s latest album ‘Rebel Heart’. Much as I did with Andy, I loved it the first time I heard it. With all the cynicism and cruelty of our modern-day world, it is the ultimate escape song – a perfect accompaniment to a road trip, or any other car moment for that matter. The automobile double-entendres coming non-stop threaten to derail the proceedings, but the music grounds it in folky simplicity. It’s a unique one in the Madonna canon, both for its topic and its sonics. Along the lines of ‘Cherish’, ‘True Blue’ and ‘X-Static Process’, this is an effervescent bit of pop gorgeousness, a lithe little love song pared down to camp-fire-sing-along sweetness, but Madonna’s casual delivery lends it a surprising twist even this late in her career.

It was used to great effect on her ‘Rebel Heart Tour’, beginning the Rockabilly Romance section of the show and leading into a sweet ukulele-rendition of ‘True Blue’. Only Madonna, and perhaps Herb Ritts, could make a garage into such a sexy scene.

YOU CAN POLISH THE HEADLIGHTS, YOU CAN SMOOTH OUT THE FENDER

YOU CAN START THE IGNITION, WE CAN GO ON A BENDER.

STUCK TO THE SEAT, OUR BODY HEAT, WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH ALL THIS ASS

LET’S SHIFT THE GEARS, GET OUTTA HERE, WE’RE STEPPING ON THE GAS

WE GOTTA BOUNCE, WE’RE GOING FAST, LET’S LET THE SEAT GO BACK

YOU TAKE THE WHEEL, I’LL SIT ON TOP

I HEAR YOU WORK AT A BODY SHOP,

I HEAR YOU WORK AT A BODY SHOP…

As for that night my future husband and I sped down the backroads of upstate New York, I remember it quite well, and the memory always brings a smile to my face. Once, we were young together. Seventeen years later my heart still sings for him.

I WOULD DRIVE TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH FOR YOU

JUMPSTART MY HEART YOU KNOW WHAT YOU GOTTA DO

I WOULD DRIVE TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH FOR YOU

CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO DIE IT’S TRUE…

SONG #141 – ‘Body Shop’ – Summer 2000/2015

Continue reading ...

We Will Be Found

HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE NOBODY WAS THERE?

HAVE YOU EVER FELT FORGOTTEN IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?

HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE YOU COULD DISAPPEAR?

LIKE YOU COULD FALL AND NO ONE WOULD HEAR?

We have arrived, my friends, at the last day of school. It went a little longer than it usually does, but next year we may get out earlier depending on how this goes. This is the final day of new blog posts until September 22, 2017. That is the first day of fall, a fitting time to mark a return to blogging. I’ve never been away from this place for that long, so it will be an experiment for all of us. (I also reserve the right to return without notice at any time, particularly if Madonna releases a new song or that loser in the White House gets booted.) With those unlikely events far out on the horizon, it will probably be September before you hear from me here.

And though I’ll still be on Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook, part of this summer vacation is going to be a slight stepping-away from all the social media nonsense that has evolved to take up so much time. (To be honest, the majority of my FaceBook posts are merely links to blog posts here, as I’ve been sour on their protocol for quite some time.)

Those who need it will always be able to reach me. I don’t have the largest circle of friends in the world, and those I count among that sacred circle aren’t usually wading through the muck of this site. They talk to me and see me and hang out so that such diary-like ramblings are often a rehash of what I’ve already told them. The rest of you, and I think there are a few more than I realize, are welcome to revisit favorite posts or simply enjoy the silence until September. 

WELL LET THAT LONELY FEELING WASH AWAY

MAYBE THERE’S A REASON TO BELIEVE YOU’LL BE OK

CAUSE WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL STRONG ENOUGH TO STAND

YOU CAN REACH, REACH OUT YOUR HAND 

AND OH, SOMEONE WILL COME RUNNING

AND I KNOW THEY’LL TAKE YOU HOME.

There’s nothing very noble about blogging, at least not in the stuff I do here. Once in a while I feel I have touched something universal, something gorgeously true that resonates with more than one person, and suddenly there’s a slight frisson in the dark – a connection or recognition that makes me feel a little less alone. I hope you’ve felt it too. But though this online voice has the potential to reach the outer reaches of the world, I’m aware that it rarely does. More than that, I’m aware that this is a largely one-sided affair, and on this side of the darkness it can get lonely sometimes.

EVEN WHEN THE DARK COMES CRASHING THROUGH

WHEN YOU NEED A FRIEND TO CARRY YOU

AND WHEN YOU’RE BROKEN ON THE GROUND

YOU WILL BE FOUND.

 

SO LET THE SUN COME STREAMING IN

CAUSE YOU’LL REACH UP AND YOU’LL RISE AGAIN

LIFT YOUR HEAD AND LOOK AROUND

YOU WILL BE FOUND…

When I started this website back in 2003, I did it as a way of chronicling some of my writing and photographs, and as a way of sharing my work with anyone who wanted to see it. It was also a way of connecting with people, even if I didn’t know it then. Up to that point I’d been searching for someone to share a life with, a friend more than anything, really, but some way of connecting, some way to feel less alone. In my youth, before the advent of the internet, there was no way to reach out, and when someone did come along my thirst and hunger for that connection resulted in strange letter-writing behavior that was never taken in quite the almost-innocent manner in which it was intended.

When things in my personal life quieted and calmed, my creative restlessness and artistic temperament demanded an outlet, and I found it to large extent here. I’ve always enjoyed hosting parties – this blog has become an online party of sorts – a small one, to be sure, but one in which everyone is welcome to pull up a chair and partake in whatever manner the reader wishes. I’ve strived to create a space for all that I find pretty and wondrous and enchanting, and other things that challenged or spooked or bothered me. Part diary, part documentary, and part self-exploration in the service of working through all the things I didn’t understand. Part of it has also been for sheer entertainment value. Eye candy. Flower and food porn. Hunks of the Day.

I hope that has been what this blog has become over the years – a space of quiet and contemplation, some silliness and shirtlessness, a place of beauty and exploration, a journey as much mine as it is for anyone who deigned to join in the fun. But I also hope we have forged a connection in these perilous times. When so much of technology seems hell-bent on separating and isolating us as much as it brings us together, we seem to be in danger of losing the basic human need to connect.

THERE’S A PLACE WHERE WE DON’T HAVE TO FEEL UNKNOWN
AND EVERY TIME THAT YOU CALL OUT
YOU’RE A LITTLE LESS ALONE
IF YOU ONLY SAY THE WORD
FROM ACROSS THE SILENCE
YOUR VOICE IS HEARD.

At the very least, to anyone who is reading these words, I feel you. I feel a presence. I feel a connection. And if at times I shout – in the nakedness of my honesty and the bluntness of my heart – it’s because I know that there are more of us that need to be heard.

So let us have a wonderful summer, all that remains of it. Let us refocus on what makes us happy, on what enriches our lives, on what really matters. It’s not what you’re reading on your screen or phone. It’s everything beyond those things. For years I’ve struggled to find some meaning here, to make sense of life, and though I’d like to believe I’m a little closer to that, I understand the secret is in knowing there is no end, no final definitive answer. There is joy in that. Let’s go find it, and meet back here in two months. We will have much to tell.

September’s coming soon

OUT OF THE SHADOWS
THE MORNING IS BREAKING
AND ALL IS NEW, ALL IS NEW
IT’S FILLING UP THE EMPTY
AND SUDDENLY I SEE THAT
ALL IS NEW, ALL IS NEW
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Continue reading ...

Almost Waving Good-bye Through This Window

Go on. Touch it.

Don’t be afraid.

Tap it. Tap the glass.

Knock on the portal in front of you.

Does the light bend at your finger? Do you make a mark in the dust? Do you feel the warmth?

No. I can’t either. I feel only the cold computer screen.

Is anybody there?

Is anybody…

I’VE LEARNED TO SLAM ON THE BRAKE
BEFORE I EVEN TURN THE KEY
BEFORE I MAKE THE MISTAKE
BEFORE I LEAD WITH THE WORST OF ME

GIVE THEM NO REASON TO STARE
NO SLIPPING UP IF YOU SLIP AWAY
SO I GOT NOTHING TO SHARE
NO, I GOT NOTHING TO SAY

STEP OUT, STEP OUT OF THE SUN
IF YOU KEEP GETTING BURNED
STEP OUT, STEP OUT OF THE SUN
BECAUSE YOU’VE LEARNED, BECAUSE YOU’VE LEARNED…

I cannot feel you here. If there was a body, if there was another person, it would not be this cold. Life – real life – is never so sterile, never so silent. That’s why I seek out the quiet, as unnatural and unnerving as it may be for some. The music of life is too much sometimes. All that noise, all that talk, all the words – it all adds up to a mess of nothing.

ON THE OUTSIDE, ALWAYS LOOKING IN
WILL I EVER BE MORE THAN I’VE ALWAYS BEEN?
‘CAUSE I’M TAP, TAP, TAPPING ON THE GLASS
I’M WAVING THROUGH A WINDOW
I TRY TO SPEAK, BUT NOBODY CAN HEAR
SO I WAIT AROUND FOR AN ANSWER TO APPEAR
WHILE I’M WATCH, WATCH, WATCHING PEOPLE PASS
I’M WAVING THROUGH A WINDOW, OH
CAN ANYBODY SEE, IS ANYBODY WAVING BACK AT ME?

WE START WITH STARS IN OUR EYES
WE START BELIEVING THAT WE BELONG
BUT EVERY SUN DOESN’T RISE
AND NO ONE TELLS YOU WHERE YOU WENT WRONG…

Here I sit, writing after midnight ticks past, waiting for revelation, waiting for redemption. I pound the keys and nothing happens. There is no reaction. There is nobody here. I pound harder. My heart beats faster. I pummel the screen and try to break through. I am trying to reach you. I am trying to be heard. Like those dreams where you try so hard to scream but no sound comes out, I feel helpless and small. There is panic in this space. There is desperation. There is loneliness. I wasn’t quite ready to reveal that, but there it is. The truth laid out in the silence.

WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
WHEN YOU’RE FALLING IN A FOREST AND THERE’S NOBODY AROUND
DO YOU EVER REALLY CRASH, OR EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
DID I EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
DID I EVEN MAKE A SOUND?
IT’S LIKE I NEVER MADE A SOUND
WILL I EVER MAKE A SOUND?

{One more post before I go…}

Continue reading ...

The Madonna Timeline: Song #140 – ‘Express Yourself’ – Summer 1989, and ever since

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

COME ON GIRLS!

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE?

CAUSE I GOT SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT IT

AND IT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS…

The time is right now.

The moment is at hand.

In a world where a madman runs the most powerful nation on earth, the only thing left to do is resist.

We can no longer rely upon the Democrats or the Republicans to put our country first.

It will be up to We the People to save America.

It’s what our Founding Fathers did, and it’s up to us to preserve our legacy and define our future.

In a makeshift protest gathering to that very end, Madonna recently performed an acoustic version of one of her most iconic anthems – ‘Express Yourself’ – and almost thirty years after its inception the words ring with just as much import and power as they did back then.

It was the Women’s March, and what had happened to bring it about had left many of us, including Madonna, feeling helpless and concerned. She knew that we had just given our country over to the tiny hands and inept care of a traitor. She went on to say a few disparaging remarks about our illegitimate President and his increasingly shady and lying White House. But underneath it all was her perennial message of self-empowerment, shaded with a newly-realized reliance on all of us working together for something better.

“Can you hear me? Are you ready to shake up the world? Welcome to the revolution of love. To the rebellion, to our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny. Where not just women are in danger, but all marginalized people. It took this horrific moment of darkness to wake us the fuck up. It seems as though we all slipped into a false sense of comfort, that justice would prevail and that good would prevail in the end. Well, good did not win this election. But good will win in the end. So what today means is that we are far from the end. Today marks the beginning; the beginning of our story. The revolution starts here.”

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

The power of a good pop song lies in its ability to endure. To inspire copycats. To become a rallying cry for whatever emotion or event is on hand. Madonna channeled the greatness of this country’s most enduring freedom, and expressed her disdain for our current Clown-in-Chief in her own way. It’s been her way of life for the last three decades.

This is one of the Top 5 Madonna songs of all time in my humble estimation, joining the elite of the elite such as ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘Vogue’, and my personal fave ‘Drowned World/Substitute For Love’. It is Madonna’s greatest clarion call to emotional arms, a defiant anthem for self-empowerment, and a celebration of the love that we all deserve to so demand.

YOU DON’T NEED DIAMOND RINGS OR 18 KARAT GOLD

FANCY CARS THAT GO VERY FAST, YOU KNOW THEY NEVER LAST, NO, NO

WHAT YOU NEED IS A BIG STRONG HAND TO LIFT YOU TO YOUR HIGHER GROUND

MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A QUEEN ON A THRONE, MAKE HIM LOVE YOU TIL YOU CAN’T CALM DOWN. 

Summer 2012: The last time Madonna performed this song in a proper way was on her anger-fueled ‘MDNA Tour’ – it was the first ray of light in that dark night of majesty. Following a demon-filled hell-set of flames and fury, she suddenly appeared as a cheerleader, pom-poms and all, with a flying marching band above her head. As cartoon images of working women appeared behind her, she sang out her signature hit and seamlessly slipped into a bit of Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ in the slyest shading of shade. Using the controversial rip-off as a way of reinventing her own song was genius; tacking on a bit of ‘She’s Not Me’ was the icing on an icy cake. Look it up, indeed.

I’d not really listened to the song in a while, but given this new context it fit into the proceedings quite well, coming as it did on the tour that supported her divorce-laden MDNA album. (Interesting to note that the original ‘Express Yourself’ was from her first divorce album, ‘Like A Prayer’.) It was clear that after all this time, Madonna’s main credo was still to be found in this 1989 classic, perhaps her most glaring antidote to the ‘Material Girl’ manifesto that had previously defined her early career.

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

Summer 2004: Madonna made ‘Express Yourself’ a military exercise in arms during the ‘American Life’ segment of 2004’s Reinvention Tour. Barking orders to her troop of gun-slinging gentlemen, she switched out the intro to ‘Come on boys, do you believe in love?’ and the gay guys saluted in screams and sing-a-longs. I was glad to see her resurrect the song from a too-long dry-spell, and it definitely deserved to be on one of Madonna’s more hit-heavy tours.

I have a distinct memory of strutting down the streets of Manhattan after this concert. Suzie and I had just parted ways at the subway stop, and with a sense of inspiration and empowerment I walked in the direction of my hotel. An insignificant moment: a moment alone in the city, feeling like I was on top of the world. I didn’t realize how young I still was. We never realize how young we are. On that night, the metropolis sparkled in hazy summer form, and the loneliness that sometimes accompanies a walk in New York had dissipated like the summer storm that struck right before the concert. In many ways I was still just a boy who believed in love, and at that high of a moment I wanted to sing about it too.

LONG-STEM ROSES ARE THE WAY TO YOUR HEART BUT HE NEEDS TO START WITH YOUR HEAD

SATIN SHEETS ARE VERY ROMANTIC, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN BED?

YOU DESERVE THE BEST IN LIFE, SO IF THE TIME ISN’T RIGHT THEN MOVE ON

SECOND-BEST IS NEVER ENOUGH, YOU’LL DO MUCH BETTER BABY ON YOUR OWN.

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

Fall 1993: “I’m gonna take you to a place you’ve never been before!” We go back in time further, to a moment when the world was a circus and Madonna was on her Girlie Show tour. I was in-between girlfriends. (Told you the world was a circus.) Madonna’s place in it was shifting too. Following the tumultuous ‘Sex’ book release and ‘Erotica’ album, she had been shaken off her pedestal by a fickle atmosphere that had been waiting for such a stumble since the ‘Like A Virgin‘ days. We have never been shy about our blood-thirst that way. The insanity of being Madonna came through on that tour, and in ‘Express Yourself’ it found disco glory and dance release. She descended from a giant disco ball, a future peek at ‘Future Lovers‘, then brought back the first of many disco infernos in a blonde afro wig, platform shoes and glammed-up sparkle. She was a showgirl no matter what, and at all costs.

As I made my way through the circus of my life, trying to make sense of my sexuality, trying to make everyone happy, trying to figure out how best to navigate the world of relationships and messy romances, I wanted to scream. When the world threatened to overwhelm like that, I found strange solace and release in that silly Girlie Show performance. She threw her hands up at the end of it, dancing with abandon on the end of the catwalk as longtime companions Niki Harris and Donna DeLory twirled behind her. “Cause you know they always do! (Every time!)”

AND WHEN YOU’RE GONE HE MIGHT REGRET IT

THINK ABOUT THE LOVE HE ONCE HAD

TRY TO CARRY ON BUT HE JUST WON’T GET IT

HE’LL BE BACK ON HIS KNEES, SO PLEASE…

It was too soon to ask, ‘Have I said too much?’ and at various points in our lives we said more than we should have. When taken to an extreme, expressing yourself is bound to get you in trouble. For all the times I felt my heart break, there were one or two others I had broken along the way. I didn’t see that then. It was better to be bold and brash and bitter, to banish the love before it stood a chance of turning to hate. There’s no denying that Madonna stomped on a few hearts along her rocky romantic journey. Taking that as license to do the same, I turned any hurt I had into rage.

I walked to the beat of the bridge of this song, gleefully imagining the regret those who passed me by would one day feel, stamping out all my anger and disappointment onto the sidewalks, defying anyone to get in my way, staring out at the world with a vicious and potent gaze of fierce vehemence, of battle-worn heartbreak, of the kind of madness that comes only from being denied love. Love was a battlefield and this was my battle cry.

DON’T GO FOR SECOND BEST BABY, PUT YOUR LOVE TO THE TEST

YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW, YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE HIM EXPRESS HOW HE FEELS

AND MAYBE THEN YOU’LL KNOW YOUR LOVE IS REAL.

Summer 1990: The Blond Ambition Tour.

A sweaty mass of oiled-up shirtless men.

The spinning cogs of a rainy metropolis.

A gold-chained monocle.

A pin-striped suit.

Jean-Paul Gaultier’s cone bra.

She opened the legendary Blond Ambition Tour with ‘Express Yourself’ – an extension of the original video for the song, brought to thrilling life with her soon-to-be-iconic back-up dancers. It would be captured for posterity in ‘Truth or Dare’, and like any good gay-guy-in-training, I promptly learned every choreographed step of the performance, and even found a monocle to make it legit down to the accessories. My stage-fright and shyness and social anxiety would never allow me to get very far, but behind the door of my bedroom – where “no one else can see” – I never tired of dancing there all by myself. Maybe one day I’d dance with someone else, but if the lesson of this song was anything, it was that I might be happy dancing alone. I might have to be.

{A fascinating side-note: the origins of that Blond Ambition performance actually run back to the MTV Video Music Awards in the fall of 1989. It was there where she first grabbed her crotch and, less-acknowledged, introduced a bit of voguing into the mix.}

Summer 1989: The follow-up to the ‘Like A Prayer’ single is released, along with the video.

The silky chartreuse dress.

The muscular dirty men.

The teasing lingerie peep-show.

The cat and the milk.

The monocle and the chains.

It was classic Madonna. All the elements that she would play with over the years were on full-display, all the kinks and giggles, the winks and nods, the tease and please. Above all else, it was a piece of pop art, the very best sort of video the medium could provide. With a few deft images, she pulled the gaze of men, women, and all of us in-between, marrying those Metropolis-fueled fantasies to a song and instantly creating a pop culture anthem that we’d be discussing decades later.

The original video was directed by David Fincher (who would later go on to direct ‘Vogue’ and the cinematic ‘Bad Girl’ along with an impressive body of films). It called out to my growing gay lexicon, resonating with something deep within me, something I could not name or categorize, but that I understood in a way that I’d never understand football or spitting or beer.

This was a world filled with beautiful men, commanding women, and an art-deco atmosphere that favored freedom above all else. The freedom to live, the freedom to love, the freedom to express yourself. It was a world captured by Herb Ritts, drawn by Keith Haring, and choreographed by Vincent Paterson. Informed by visionary gay sensibilities and the shirtless male models whose job it was to support and strut behind her, Madonna has always been at her best when surrounded by great gay men and women. Yet rather than emasculating those around her, it made everyone a little more powerful. Far from chaining herself, Madonna had found the ultimate freedom. “A lot of people don’t say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” For all those reasons, ‘Express Yourself’ was and remains a monumental signature song for Madonna – mantra and lifestyle and credo in one.

A kaleidoscope of memories is the gift of many a classic Madonna song, and the memory of ‘Express Yourself’ that may mean more to me than anything was made in the summer of its release. It is my first memory of the song. My brother and I were in the family station wagon, on one of the last vacations of our youth, heading to Cape Cod. Already we were growing apart – my brother and I, and all of my family from me, it seemed. Yet we stayed together that trip. I made a bet with my brother that Mo Vaughn, a famous baseball player at the time, was in this song. He knew the song, and knew that Vaughn wasn’t in it anywhere, so he challenged me and took the bait. I waited and sang/talked my way through the part in which he appeared: “So if the time isn’t right, then Mo Vaughn!” He cracked up laughing. There was, and there is, no happier moment than cracking my brother’s exhausted veneer of dealing with my zaniness and making him genuinely bust up laughing.

The wind rushed through the windows in that fourteenth August of my life, the splendid sea-scented wilderness of the Cape washed over us, and the sun drenched the inside of the station wagon. We were enjoying the final days of a summer and a childhood that would be gone too soon. Madonna had unwittingly charted of course for my adult life. No longer would I be a shy scared child, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that the sun was warm. My brother and I were laughing in the backseat of the station wagon. The rest of the season stretched out, school felt a far way off, and the funk-fortified groove of a Madonna song made my world happy for a little while longer.

“WITHOUT THE HEART,

THERE CAN BE

NO UNDERSTANDING

BETWEEN THE HAND

AND THE MIND.”

SONG #140 – ‘Express Yourself’ – Summer 1989, and ever since

Continue reading ...