with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: music

2018, as interpreted through my Spotify “Top Songs” playlist or “Barry Manilow ain’t never lied to you”

by SweetMidlife

There’s a lot to be said about the year 2018, other than “over.” Some would call it a 365-day-long dumpster fire. The more optimistic among us might say it’s the necessary sink to the bottom to inspire a conscientious climb back to a better world.

As a lifelong journalist who believes that looking at hard cold data – also known as the receipts – is an important gauge of where we were at particular moments in time, because memory is spotty and also we lie to ourselves sometimes to obscure our dumbassness. When Spotify, the popular music streaming platform, compiled a playlist of the songs I listened to the most in 2018, it seemed an intriguing way to chart where I was emotionally during the year. Music, after all, is more than just a collection of notes we like bopping to, although it certainly can be that. The songs I had on repeat, I figured, meant something to me, soothed or riled or tickled something in my chest. And Spotify doesn’t lie – I can try to be cool and current with the Top Hits of NewNextNow or whatever it is, but I’d imagine the average release date of my playlists songs is 1987. Whatever. I ain’t ashamed. Bring on the Anne Murray weepers and get it over with.

“Oh No,” The Commodores: I had this, my favorite melodramatic Lionel Richie-esque weeping-into-power ballad, on a playlist I’d made during a brief dumb dating situation the previous year because it was fun to listen to while I was happy. Once the dumbness abated and I was no longer happy with that person but working towards being happy not being with them, it was fun to belt out in the Palm Beach Post parking lot while procrastinating getting out of the car and going to work already. Sometimes wallowing is healing.

Uptown Girl,” Billy Joel: I am not the biggest Amy Schumer fan. Not by a lot. But her rom-com “Trainwreck” has earned its sweet, cynical way onto my go-to list of movies I put on while writing, because it’s well-written, funny, and features the instant classic comic pairing of Bill Hader and Lebron James. And any film that (SPOILER ALERT!) finds its final romantic reconciliation in a cheerleading routine set to “Uptown Girl” earns my love, because Schumer’s character has previously expressed scorn for both cheerleading AND “Uptown Girl.” But she participates in said routine, set to said song, because the love of her life loves those things and she knows love means sacrifice. I love that song, and I love being reminded of the hope that someone could love me, maybe, that much again.

“Here Comes Your Man,” The Pixies: Part of good parenting is making sure that your kid is exposed to good music, so if one day his taste sucks you can at least be sure it’s not for lack of trying. This here song was on a bank commercial, and my son was attempting to recreate it from his booster seat perch in back of my Prius. So I cued up the song and watched his little eyes light up. “MOMMY!” he squealed. “THAT’S OUR SONG!” Yes, my darling, it is. I win…something.

“Freedom Hymn,” Austin French: I share a Spotify account with the aforementioned kid, who likes to fall asleep to a playlist that is almost entirely composed of Contemporary Christian tunes and Andy Grammar. He’s a spiritual, mellow 5-year-old, I guess. I admit that I don’t listen to this stuff a lot if he’s not in the room, because some of it seems monotonous, but this is one of Brooks’ favorites. I don’t know what he likes about it, but I love the concept of it, that we fight against the wisdom that we know makes us free, if we just surrender to it. Me and God have had an interesting run through this morass of loss I’ve fought through, so remembering that He’s there is a big deal for me. Thanks for the song suggestion, Kid.

“No More Lonely Nights,” Paul McCartney: When Linda McCartney died, I heard a DJ explain that this song was written by Paul about the one night they ever spent apart from the night they got together until the day she died (I think he’d been detained for trying to take hashish through an airport.) I stumbled on this, a favorite of mine since 1984, and I remembered that story and started to cry, because it reminded me of every night I spent apart from my husband in the 5 1/2 years we were married, and the nights forever I’ll have to spend without him. And…it didn’t break me. The more I listened to that song this year, the more I could relish those amazing moments we shared and wish we had more without wanting to curl into a fetal ball and roll into a corner. I just let it be. And yes I’m very clever.

“Stomp!” The Brothers Johnson: It’s my go-to running song, inspired by its place on a playlist from my favorite step class in 1995 at York, Pa.’s Unique Physique. The teacher timed the “Everybody take it to the top” part for moments when we were up on the bench grooving. And it was glorious. And that bass line is some funky business.

“Brokenhearted Me,” Anne Murray: For some reason, the more I listen to this anthem of well-considered wallowing, the more it sounds like a John Legend song to me. Can’t you hear him hovering over the sad piano, leaning into the lyrics of self-acknowledged inability to move on? Can’t you just imagine him tackling the wide-eyed misery of lines like “A million miracles won’t ever stop the pain?” I can! And I like sitting in my car and imagining John and Anne just wailing and making a cross-generational selection of fans weep? Me too!

“Taking Chances,” Celine Dion and “Ready To Take A Chance Again,” Barry Manilow: You know those BuzzFeed quizzes that ask you what your mantra or theme song is? These two are my mantras for 2018 and 2019 and maybe forever, because they’re what I need to embrace about my life and my career. I used to think of them both romantically, but – and bare with me, because this is a whole mood – I am now at a point in journalism where the industry I still love is imploding even as we try to beat back the shards with new tactics but solid intention. Since July 1993, I have never paid my bills as anything but a newspaper journalist, and never imagined I would, honestly. But the reality is that this may not be available for me forever, and as I begin my journey as an author, while still kicking butt for my paper, I have to be brave enough to imagine what happens one day if things change. Also, I have always worked for someone else. Three of my dearest loves are ladies who run their own businesses, who took a chance, who, as Celine sings, jumped off the edge, never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a hand to hold, or hell to pay. I’m not there yet. But I’m working on it. What do you say?


Peace on Earth, Goodwill on Twitter. Really.

by SweetMidlife

I’m sitting up in bed, two days before Christmas, with a lot to do and little desire, at present, to get from under this dreamy purple blanket and do anything about it. Since my laptop’s right here and writing is actual work I can accomplish without moving very much, I wanted to acknowledge something wonderful that’s happened to me in the last week that’s reaffirmed my belief in the kindness of humanity, even in this weirdly bleak dumpster fire of a national mood.

And it’s Taylor Swift fans on Twitter.

Yes, Twitter, that mythical online realm where civility and grammar go to die and be reanimated as the Wight Walkers from “Game of Thrones” – dead-eyed, focused and now armed with a zombie dragon.

About a year ago, I wrote a post on this very blog in defense of Taylor Swift, a very famous and accomplished person whose music is not my favorite, but whose hustle I admire. She’d Tweeted that 2017 had been a great year, and a writer for a national publication tore her a new one for not “reading the room” that the year had been horrific so many others. As a survivor of some heinous loss who’s had a fruitful ongoing recovery and some real triumphs, I wrote that people needed to let Taylor live, and that it was possible to acknowledge the greater state of suckiness in the world without trashing someone for expressing some damn happiness.

I’d almost forgotten about that post – 2018 has been very busy for me: I shopped and then sold “Black Widow,” a memoir about the first year of my widowhood, continued as a columnist for the Palm Beach Post as daily print journalism takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and continued being a single mom raising a great, energetic little boy. But when someone reTweeted the link to the story, a strange thing happened – well, maybe not strange when you consider the power of a fandom as strong as Taylor Swift’s – it caught on. And suddenly I had all these Swifties in my timeline, thanking me for my kindness. It knocked me over, y’all. I wasn’t a fellow stan, or someone they knew – just someone who acknowledged the right of their fave to have some happiness.

We are in weird days – the government is shut down, the economy may be wobbling and there are sad, depressed lonely people all over this country and this world. Happiness is fleeting in some parts, so when you find it, when something sweet and wonderful happens to you, we need to hold onto it and tell everybody. Twitter has no problems with people “cancelling” other people, calling them out and telling them about themselves. Happiness shouldn’t threaten you. It should be celebrated.

Thank you guys for your kindness. You made a tired journalist mom smile. Now…somebody needs to make me get out of this bed and finish my laundry.


2017 was really awful. Taylor Swift personally had a good year. So did I. Fight me.

by SweetMidlife

 

 

 

We were happy in 2017, happier than in 2015. And that’s true.

This is Leslie! In 2015, I lost my husband Scott, making 2015 the worst year in my life so far. It handily beat 2012, the previous title holder and the year my father died. 2012 was also the year that Barack Obama won a second term and the year that my nephew Alex, a human so unspeakably cute that he may not be human (shhh!), was born. So good things happened that year – some wonderful things, but the overall mood, for me, was crappy, because my daddy died. Does that make sense? It was a bad year for me, but that doesn’t negate the good things that happened.

2017, in general, has been a dumpster fire for much of the world. As a newspaper reporter I’m not supposed to get into the political nitty-gritty (hello ethics!) but it’s not political to say that neo-Nazis are bad, murder is bad, racism is bad and not supporting health care for needy kids and old people is evil. 2017 is also the year that Roy Moore, a man who thinks that life was peaches when my ancestors were slaves, got defeated, that monsters like Harvey Weinstein got called out and some heads that needed toppling got toppled. Personally, it was the year that I became vegan, lost 10 pounds, continued to have a great relationship with my mom, who moved in with me to raise my son, got some health stuff under control, celebrated the first anniversary of my child’s adoption, rekindled my relationship with my father-in-law, who got to meet his grandson, and finished my first book.

That  is a good year. It does not negate the dumpster fire, but it does shine a nice light in the distance. Apparently Taylor Swift, a woman of whom I am not a fan but whose success and hard work are undeniable, had a good year, too. She released a hit album. She successfully sued a radio host for groping her, gave strong testimony and took her place in the pantheon of women who said #metoo, when she didn’t have to. She also just had a birthday, and wrote on Instagram that she could not have had a better year. She didn’t say that everything was great. She didn’t say “Screw you people.”

She said she had a good year. And people freaked out on her. They called her tone deaf and privileged. And maybe she is. But she’s also a person who’s made buckets of cash for writing about the crap in her personal life. So y’all gonna drag her when something goes right? She wasn’t talking about y’all. She wasn’t saying everything was awesome. She dared to have a great day. Let her live, OK?

2017 has been the worst for a lot of people that I love, with personal illnesses and scary uncertainty for jobs and livelihoods. The overall scope of this year might be a dumpster fire. But there are victories. There are good days. And if one of those people said “This amazing thing happened to me today” and some stranger said “You’re evil to be happy at all because polar bears are dying” I would fight them. We can be aware and vigilant in this fight against evil. But we can also celebrate the good days. Because we have them. I did. So did Taylor Swift.

Hopefully we will have more of them soon.


Things a mom thinks about at 2:25 a.m., five hours before she’s supposed to work out

by SweetMidlife

bed

Scene of the 2:30-something mind crime.

 

This is Leslie. It is 2:25 a.m. As the great Wanda Sykes once said, women’s brains are so full of tasks and thoughts and things we have to do that we can’t get to sleep because even the minute stuff like not being able to remember the name of a teacher we haven’t seen in 30 years just won’t leave us alone. This is happening to me right now. Here is the dumb, deep and sleep-depriving stuff in my head right now. I wish it was not in my brain, because I would like to go to bed now.

You certainly don’t want them in your head, too. But here you are – I have too much on the brain to be charitable at this point,. You understand, of course. You’re awake, too. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

THINGS I AM THINKING ABOUT AT 2:25 a.m. INSTEAD OF SLEEPING

– “Why am I awake?

– “It has taken me four hours to get through this two-hour finale of ‘Secrets and Lies.’ I wonder if anyone watches this but me, Michael Ealy is fine. I’ve almost grown attached to Juliette Lewis’ character, and she’s kind of awful. i hope they don’t cancel this. They always cancel the shows I get attached to. Dang. Now I’m worried about ‘Blackish.’ Please don’t cancel ‘Blackish,’ Jesus.”

“Jesus doesn’t cancel TV shows, right? He’s busy, right?”

“I finally finished that assignment for work I should have done before I feel asleep. Win for me? Does procrastination count as a win? Whatever. Taking it. TAKING THIS WIN.”

“I am super hungry. I didn’t eat enough last night,. Didn’t I leave some veggie chili in the bowl? I wonder if it;’s in the fridge. Did I put it in the fridge? I wonder if it’s still good if I didn’t put it in the fridge? Or did I leave it on the counter? It’s got light sour cream on it. Is that real dairy? I wouldn’t get that sick, right?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t eat counter chili.”

“I love ‘The Affair’ even if I don’t like any of these horrible people. They’re awful. But they have great apartments. Great kitchens. I like my kitchen. It has chili on the counter.”

“I really ought to get off the stick and get a hotel for Disney this weekend. I canceled the one I had because I am convinced there is a cheaper one out there. Hotwire is an addiction and I need to get help. But…the…deals! There are deals out there and I shall find them. They are the Precious and I am Black Smeagol.”

“I am still so hungry. If I eat right now I can’t weigh myself this morning because it won’t be the real weight. Then again I had hash browns and bourbon for lunch so I probably tanked that thing already. I should eat.”

“I have to sleep, man. I have to work out at 7:15, and if I don’t leave on time the kid will wake up and I’ll have to take him, too, and that running stroller and him together weigh like 70 pounds and he’s a weight wearing an Afro, At least he holds the phone up so I can hear the Andy Grammar song he’s playing. He’s a little DJ.”

“I need to figure out how to make more money. Like, now. I should read that book my friend Kim had me buy about platforms, that I never read, thus I am sitting here at…what…2:47 a.m. now wondering how to get a platform to make money. She’s always right. And she’s got a platform. I bet she’s not asleep either.”

“Maybe I’ll write on that blog I never write on. That’s a platform.”

‘I wonder if that chili’s still down there.”


I Wish There Was A Show Called “American Do What You Love And Get Paid For It”

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

Leslie and I watch a lot of “American Idol”, and this is the last season, so they are talking a lot about their legacy and how awesome the show is, and want to talk about Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, its’ biggest stars, like all of the time. And I get that. Those ladies are the biggest stars that the show has produced, and the show also heavily touts hit-making alumni Phillip Phillips, Chris Daughtry, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. And that makes sense, because the show is called “American IDOL”, which means that they want to produce people who we literally want to be. But we have short attention spans, so the people who we were all nuts about last month kinda fall away to make space for the next new thing.  I was really happy when a few weeks ago, as part of their “You used to really love this show” extravaganza, the show brought back former contestants to sing duets with current ones. Some were ones who had several radio hits after the show, like Daughtry and Jordin Sparks and Fantasia, and some were ones who have had careers in other venues, like Tony-nominee Constantine Maroulis or Haley Reinhart, who has been featured in a bunch of videos by Postmodern Jukebox where they put pop songs to jazz beats. Watch her, She’s amazing. So I got all excited when the show said that these folks were coming back, because I wanted them to highlight that success doesn’t always look hit records. But no. While the show brought on a big display commemorating all of Daughtry’s platinum-selling accomplishments, what it basically did was have the others talk about what they learned from the show, for the show’s sake. And I get that. Talking about all the amazing things you birthed is awesome. But I think that the show missed a great opportunity to send a heartfelt message that could add to the well-being of the young people of America, which I know isn’t their top priority, as well as really secure their legacy as the springboard for greatness, which is their concern.

And that’s this.

As wonderful as it must be to be a mega-superstar, there is something to be said for being able to make a living doing what you love, even if it’s on a more modest level, and this is what “American Idol” has done for many of its former contestants, like Taylor Hicks and Kris Allen, who aren’t burning up the charts currently (although both each have had hits), but have used their time on the show to have, well, careers in music. As in people pay them to sing. As in they don’t have to have second jobs. Because enough people want to hear them that they can live pretty nice lifestyles doing exactly what they love to do. I am not hating on Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, because those ladies have earned the careers that they have. I admire them. But obviously, everybody can’t be at that level and sustain it, and it is bothersome that we chew people up and get over them so quickly, that in the public’s perception, if you aren’t selling out stadiums, you must be living in your mama’s basement cooking grilled cheese on a hot plate. There is a lot of space in between there, and “Idol” alums occupy every rung of that, with many of those folks occupying the higher rungs of that ladder, which means that they earn a living singing, and they appreciate the platform that they were afforded. Most working musicians, especially the ones who were gigging before their “Idol” days, recognize that a place in this show can make you in a big way, but that it can also be a springboard into playing bigger venues and having your own bus instead of taking the Greyhound. Leslie interviewed Phillip Phillips the year that he won the show, and he told her something that has stuck with me. He said that at first, he didn’t have his eye on the title of American Idol, which he went on to win. No, his initial goal was to make the Top 10, because those performers get to go on tour, and he knew that he would have a job for the summer. Don’t miss that. One of the biggest stars to come out of the show’s later years knew that having a well-paid job touring around was a huge blessing, because it offered you the visibility to work that into something more.

Most "Idol" alumsdon't have to play music in their mom's basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

Most “Idol” alumsdon’t have to play music in their mom’s basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

And many “Idol” contestants have done that, including the ones I mentioned above, as well as Allison Iraheta, who made it to the #4 spot the year that Adam Lambert and Kris Allen were on. She has her own band called Halo Circus, and also sings backup vocals on “Idol”. And I know that some people look at that and say, “You sing back-up? That must be a letdown. Too bad you aren’t famous.” But she has a job. Singing. And although she likes singing her own music, I am sure, her time on the show has given her a highly visible regular gig, one which many singers would love to have. That is an accomplishment. I am an actor, and the periods of my life where I was only acting were brilliant. I was never famous, but I was able to eat doing what I adored. And shoot, that is everything. That’s a good lesson for everybody, because if only famous people are successful, that means that there is no room for anyone else, which means that everyone else is unworthy, which I refuse to accept. Excelling is awesome, and making lots of money is, I am sure, a wonderful thing, but also living the dream of being JUST a performer is up there. And I honestly think that if “Idol” bragged on the careers that their less-famous alumni went on to, it would make the show look better in the long run, because they would be able to define what success looks like. But since they, and we, are so hung up on “Idol”-dom, they missed a chance to say that they produce people in the big leagues, meaning that they produced people with careers. In music. And to me, that is brag-worthy.

 


Today’s best thing: The “Love” channel on Sirius XM, and the sweet, sweet sap of it all

by SweetMidlife

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After 20 years of car ownership, mostly as a single woman, I had my first experience of having someone else pick my car out for me, which I liked. This is not a statement on feminism or anything. My husband and I share expenses, but it happened to be my turn for a car, and this one was in his name, so while I was inside talking to the people, Scott went outside and chose between the two cars we’d test-driven, for three reasons: One, because he wanted to do something nice for me as a gift of sorts; two, because it was a cute little Kia Soul like all the cool hamsters drive, and he liked the idea of me driving a car with my red ‘fro against a seat that had the word “Soul” repeatedly printed on it. I feel like a commercial for some hip product that would never have me on the commercial.

And three: Because of the already-installed Sirius XM satellite radio. I never had it before, except in select rental cars and whenever my dad wasn’t looking and I got to drive his Honda CR-V. But it’s amazing, because not only can you listen to the newer music of the day, if you so choose, you can also just pretend it’s still 1987, or 1977 or 1998 (Backstreet’s back, all right!) by sticking to the decade specific station of your choice. OR you can pretend that the world is a giant American Top 40 Long-Distance Dedication and just park on Channel 17, also called “Love.”

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“Love” reminds me of the light rock stations of my teens and 20s, where the rest of the world was into Duran Duran or Prince, but that one station was doubling down on England Dan and John Ford Coley and Bread. Lots of Bread. Enough to make you want to cry and go check on singer David Gates, because that dude was depressed. But it was glorious – I loved studying to those stations in college, because they were background enough not to be distracting but had lyrics stirring enough to keep me awake. Songs about finding your beloved’s diary and reading it thinking you were finding out how much she loved you and then realizing she wasn’t writing about you? That sticks with you.

“Love” is just like those stations, but without the commercials. It’s amazing the stuff they come up with – in 48 hours I heard both the Rita Coolidge and Boz Scaggs versions of “We’re All Alone,” which made me happier than it should. Yesterday they played 4PM’s version of “Sukiyaki,” and an Air Supply song I can’t even remember because I was too excited to be hearing Air Supply on the radio in 2015.

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I have never been cool, so I don’t care what anyone thinks of me gushing over possible 24/7 access to Barry Manilow and Anne Murray. Its what I like. And it’s not just me, because there’s a whole station appropriate for spontaneous hand-holding at lights, or crying, in the case of Josh Groban’s “To Where You Are.” Your car is your fortress, and my kid and my husband have learned not to touch the radio if I’m driving. I’ll listen to other stuff, but Love is my default.

LOVE SHOULD ALWAYS BE YOUR DEFAULT.

 


So then there was that time I ruined “The Little Mermaid” for my friend

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

Mickey and his friends have told some good stories. And some are about compromising your dreams for a dude.

Mickey and his friends have told some good stories. And some are about compromising your dreams for a dude.

I swear I am not that person.

I am not that awful pop culture ruiner who lives to horn their buzz-kill way into conversations they aren’t sometimes even in, lying in wait to hear others discuss their entertainment loves, the things they hold dear, and then crap all over those dear things because they are evil. Nonetheless, yesterday I innocently but completely ruined “The Little Mermaid,” a favorite movie of my friend Carol, not because I was trying to, but because I couldn’t shut my trap.

I was right about what I said. But now I feel bad about saying it.

Here’s what went down: Somehow, Carol and I, who sit near each other at work, started talking about Idina Menzel, of whom Carol is a huge fan and whom she saw in concert with her daughter. We laughed about how at her upcoming show, 80 percent of the audience won’t know her as the Tony-winning Broadway legend but as the voice of Queen Elsa from “Frozen,” because that movie’s so over-the-top popular with the young kiddies that they’re practically a cult now. And then we laughed about how “Let It Go,” the cult theme song, isn’t even all that good a song, and how we liked “Frozen” OK but didn’t love, love it. (Stand down, “Frozen” fans. I am not the enemy.) And for that second we were so connected and chill.

And then Carol said “Well, my favorite Disney movie is actually ‘The Little Mermaid,'” to which I should have responded “Really? That’s so great! What great music!” because those are things I believe, without mentioning the thing I most believe, which is that “The Little Mermaid” is a movie with great music and a heroine who actually gives up her voice – HER VOICE – for a chance at meeting a guy she’d never actually spoken to when he was conscious. She gave up her voice for love. She had no voice. I don’t know what to say here. But her voice though.

I should not have maybe said that last part, or at least as emphatically as I did. But I did, and I saw Carol’s eyes kinda widen and try to figure out whether she should laugh, cry or smack me.

“You overthought it, girl. You’re getting too deep and you ruined my thing,” she said. “You’re evil.”

I started apologizing because I was not trying to be that person, or blow her mind or change it or do anything to her mind. I was just frothing at the mouth about a thing that has been a thing for me for a while, and which, again, I am right about, because it is exactly the wrong message to send to girls that giving up the most treasured part of yourself like Ariel did. She was young and sheltered and felt sure that this burst of wonder and curiousity she felt for Prince Eric, who she saved from a shipwreck, combined with the fantasy importance she’d already built up about the people on land who understand and don’t reprimand their daughters, was worth not only her beautiful singing voice, but her ability to speak at all. She also got a painful mystical tail-ectomy to form legs she had to learn to walk on, meaning she could never go home to the sea and travel freely in her natural state. Of course, when kids see it they might just hear the wonderful songs, or the silly fish and crabs and stuff, or thrill to the adventure.

But then they’ll learn that the title character, admittedly misguidedly, traded her voice for a guy. No…not even a guy. The chance to get a guy. And then the evil witch her she traded it to stole it, tried to pass herself off as the lady who’d saved the prince, and then tried to kill them both. As you do. I have thought this for 25 years, but Carol had not, so I took her out of a place where she could just enjoy a thing and into a reality where she could never look at the movie she loved the same again.

I felt awful.

“Do you feel awful? I don’t think you feel awful enough.”

But I do. I really do.

By the time I left the office and she had literally walked me to the stairwell to tell me again that I was an evil thing stealer, Carol smiled and told me that when she spoke to her awesome college-aged daughter next, she was going to ask her if she ever thought about Ariel’s sacrifice and what that actually meant, because even though I had messed with her head – “Mind blown!” – I had given her something think about.

“You’re still evil, though.”

Yeah. I know.

Her voice, though.


RIP BB King: That time he helped put closure on my worst relationship ever

by SweetMidlife

bb king

 

Leslie here.

It’s kind of fitting that my husband, who is cool and nice and sweet and generally seems to like me most of the time, was the one to wake me up just now and tell me about the sad passing of B.B. King, blues pioneer, showman, diabetes awareness spokesman and namesake of a chain that sells the world’s best fried pickles. And that’s because although I’ll always remember him as all those things, he will also always be the guy who’s concert marked the bittersweet coda of the worst relationship I ever had.

I will not bore you with the details – let’s just say that I was younger, dumber and desperate to mean something to someone in a guy-girl situation, and this man was wrong, wrong, wrong for me, like big blinding billboard so bright you can’t sleep at night WRONG WRONG WRONG. But he liked me OK, and so that was close enough. Until it wasn’t.

There is a line from a Patti Griffin song that goes “Ain’t no talking to this man, he’s been trying to tell me so,” and indeed he did all the time. He used to break up with me all the time, sometimes to be cruel but mostly because he knew something I couldn’t see, that we were WRONG WRONG WRONG and toxic and incompatible and blech. This is the guy who was so wrong for me that one of my best friends used to make me take him to dinner every time I got back to together with that guy because “When you get sick of paying for my food you will stop going back to that guy.”

So after a lot of really gross breakups over maybe 8 months, dotted with too few oasis-like moments of happiness, or whatever fake carbon copy of happiness I’d settled for, it finally ended, to the and delight and relief of my friends, my daddy and my wallet, because I was getting sick of buying that one buddy dinner all the time. I think it started with him offering to help me move and not showing up, and then offering to come over for dinner that night and me sitting on the steps with the cordless (yes, a landline!) for an hour watching the car lights that weren’t his pass by until I knew I was just a cliche from an ’80s movie and went inside. Fortunately, I did not then sit in the freezing cold in my furniture-less living room in front of a giant and unexplained painting of Billy Idol’s head, because that would be weird.

And then I went to his apartment and begged him to talk to me and he wouldn’t even walk me to the door and I said “You’d walk a hooker to the door if only to make sure she didn’t steal anything, so I’m never coming back” and he was like “Don’t believe it,” and I was like “If I ever start to I will remember this moment you made me feel like less than a hooker and stop myself” and then Carly Simon started singing about running rivers and the new Jerusalem in my head and that was that.

That was, until I don’t know how long later…a couple months maybe…of judiciously avoiding each other at work, and he came over to my desk and said “Streeter, you wanna go see B.B. King with me?” And it was clear for both of us that this was not a date – I got the feeling I was his last resort, like he bought them for someone else and he couldn’t find anyone else to go. The show was in Philadelphia, about two hours away and I had a moment of panic – this was a person who made me feel as low as anyone ever has, with my permission, and I was a crazy psycho toxic person to him as well, and what would we talk about?

But then I thought about being an adult, and I remember looking at him across the newsroom and trying to conjure any attraction, any gasp of that craziness that used to make me throw all common sense and self-preservation to the winds, and…nothing. Maybe this is what being grown-up looked liked. I felt I had put it all behind me, but going to this show with him and getting through it without incident would be a nice coda. So I said yes, sure, and it was really casual, and we were both overly emphatic on the platonic nature of the event. It was so long ago I can’t remember a lot of it, but I know we had dinner, and there was a conversation in the car – I think sitting outside the restaurant? – in which somebody said “So we’re cool, right?” and the other one said “Yes” and there were apologies and nods and some brief wave of relief and the understanding that it would not be quite so weird for the rest of the evening, because we still had a whole concert and a ride home to get through.

The show was great, but long. I tend to fall asleep around 9, no matter what’s going on – friends call me Narcoleslie – and after Bobby “Blue” Bland’s set, and then BB, I remember nodding off, and the guy elbowing me during “The Thrill Is Gone” and saying “You are missing this and you better wake up.” So many years later, it seems to have been that he knew this was our final thing, and he had taken a gamble that we could do this as adults and not be insane and I was ruining the closure by falling asleep. I remember how impressed I was with King, because at that point he was already elderly, sitting down a lot. But he talked, and he laughed, and when he held Lucille and closed his eyes and wailed, I felt a jolt of genius and inspiration that kept me awake.

Until the ride home, where I nodded off probably immediately after the seat belt clicked. I remember the guy nudging me awake, parked across from my house, the one whose steps he’d left me sitting on like an idiot, and saying, jokingly but quite emphatically, “Alright, get out,” because he wanted to make sure that this was not our old dance, that we were not gonna kiss or hug or have some sort of anything that was anything other than a goodbye. The girly inth of me that watches too many movies was, even then, a little taken aback because that girly part likes being kissed goodnight, but the other parts of me wrestled the girly part to the ground and slapped her around and bound her in the corner until we could all get out of the car.

That was the last time we did anything just the two of us – months later we were part of a group that went to see a band in Baltimore, an hour away, and we talked about the girl he’d fallen in love with across the country, who he moved away to marry, and I talked about whatever loser I was losering with at the moment. And it was even more final, but more relaxed, and happy and goofy and something like friendship. It was a huge relief to me, a huge sigh, a thing to put behind me, which is weird because I didn’t usually deal with things that well.

That was it. But it wouldn’t have happened without B.B. King. Thanks for helping me act like a grown-up.


Lynne Reviews “Pop Goes Lullaby 4” by Jammy Jams, Kid Music That Won’t Make You Want To Punch Yourself

by SweetMidlife


Hi! Lynne here!

I have a 2 year-old, and thus spend a lot of time watching and listening to things aimed at my kid. Some of it is very good, while some of it makes me want to tell my son that my computer is broken so we don’t have to listen to one more horrible, horrible song that sounds like it was sung by elves on drugs. I don’t even know what that means, but it’s bad.

 

This is why I was excited when we got a chance to listen to kid music that promised to not make me sad.  Jammy Jams is a company that produces lullaby music that relaxes and prepares your little ones for bedtime but also entertains parents, because the songs are lullaby versions of popular songs that grown-ups know. And they have collections for all kinds of tastes, including soothing takes on hip-hop and rock. The CD I got to hear is “Pop Goes Lullaby 4”, the latest in Jammy Jams’ low-key tribute to current popular music. AND I LIKED IT. The songs are played on xylophones, marimbas, and other instruments that give them a breezy, happy tropical feel, so while your baby is being taken to La-La Land, you feel like you are being taken to Key West. And I could use a trip to Key West. This volume features lullaby versions of recent hits by Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor, Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, among others.  Having “Shake It Off” played while I was rocking my kid made me smile because I love that song, and also because he was being asked to shake off the awake-ness. See, it all works!

Now, this is where I admit that upon first glance, I only knew half of the songs covered on this album, and that is because at 43, I am not the average age of a mom of a toddler. This means that I am not as familiar with some current chart-toppers, but that is another cool thing that this CD did for me: it made me go back and listen to the original versions, and introduced me to some really great music that I didn’t know (I preferred the Pop Goes Lullaby versions to some of that, actually). So, if you are looking for good music that will really aid you in putting your kids to bed, but will also make you happy at the same time because it’s based on good music that you like too, check it out (you can listen to samples and buy the CD here, as well as on Amazon and iTunes. Seriously, you and your kids, but also you, will really enjoy it.


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