When I started making this list, I tried limit it to songs that are really important to me for whatever reason. I wanted to tell the story of my life as soundtrack. However, I ended up with 58 tracks and hadn’t even made it halfway through my life so I had to stop and think again. I suppose the list would be shorter if I were still 21. Alas.
Music has surrounded me for my entire life. My mom had a fantastic record collection and was a big fan of turning it up loud. I have very vivid memories of stomping out of my bedroom in the wee hours of the morning to say “Mommmmmmm turn the stereo down, I’m trying to sleeeeep.” Even now, I will be flipping stations and one of the songs from my childhood will be on and I’m immediately 4 years old again, all chubby cheeks and tousled hair. One such song is Goodbye Stranger from Supertramp. It’s off the wildly successful album Breakfast In America and every time I hear it, I’m about 5 years old, in the backseat of my mom’s gigantic green Thunderbird, and we’re coming home from somewhere. It’s late and I’m trying to sleep, but the radio is turned up so I can’t. I don’t mind.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and MTV is very much a part of my DNA. Before MTV, most people didn’t think music could also be visual, but in many ways it is. I’m not a synesthete, which is kind of a bummer because that sounds like a cool thing to be, but I do “see” music when I’m listening. Sometimes it’s abstract ideas of shapes and color, but other times, I get a really strong vision for a video. MTV’s influence on me cannot be overstated.
Back in 1995, the movie Batman Forever was about to be released and U2 had written a song for the Zooropa sessions a few years prior that would fit in nicely with director Joel Schumacher’s vision for the film. I was still a huge U2 superfan at the time, so I managed to get a hold of an early release and I immediately thought that the video for this track should be animated. LO AND BEHOLD, not two weeks later, the video was released and there it was, in all its comic book glory.
1995 isn’t going to go down as the greatest year of my life, and it’s one I would gladly forget if I could. But however bad things got, there was still music. As Morrissey sings in the song “Rubber Ring: “and don’t forget the songs/ that made you cry/ and the songs that saved your life…” there are more than a few songs that I credit with keeping me here on earth.
Nobody does mopey better than the Smiths and the closest Morrissey ever gets to offing himself is in the song “Asleep.” He says “sing me to sleep/ sing me to sleep/ I’m tired and I/ I want to go to bed/” and later he wails “Don’t try to wake me in the morning/ ’cause I will be gone.” He asks the listener not to feel bad for him because he’s glad to go, and knows there is another world. Well, he thinks so, anyway. The idea that it’s okay to feel like this is like catnip to a moody teenager.
Before I was a moody teenager, I was what they now call a “tween,” and the best thing to happen to tweens in my boring Ohio town was the Friday-night dance party in the Methodist Church fellowship hall. It was called The Belfry, it cost $2 to get in, and it was the literal best thing ever. From 7th through 10th grade, the place was full of sweaty tweenagers dancing and flirting and HAVING DRAMA. It was GLORIOUS. Every time I hear Salt ‘n’ Pepa singing “Push It,” I am immediately transported back to that sweaty church hall, smelling like Love’s Baby Soft and Rave hairspray, dancing with my friends and not caring about anything else in the world. It’s been over two and a half decades since my last appearance at The Belfry, but I still get my dance on when Salt ‘n’ Pepa tell me to.
Lots of teenage romance at The Belfry, but not really any of my own. I was solidly on Team Dork until well into my high school years. But every now and again, there would be a boy or two who didn’t find me scary and we’d date for awhile. I started listening to Rush because of a boy and while he didn’t last, the three dorky guys from Canada have been with me for years now. When my husband and I were first dating, Rush put out a new album and, like a good girlfriend, I went with What’s-His-Name to stand in line at the record store so we could buy it at the midnight release. Then we went to a “pre-ticket” party thing where we had to endure lip-syncing contests, air guitar, air drum, and a room full of dudes dorkier than I’d ever been in order to get tickets. 10th row center was worth it, and even moreso when I turned to What’s-His-Name and said “they’re going to open with Dreamline.” He disagreed and thought they’d open with something off this new album and we bet $50 on it. I’m still waiting to collect my $50.
You can’t really dance to Rush. I’ve tried. I don’t have any real dance moves anyway – most of the time I look like I’m about to fall down. It’s fine. Anyway, after we all outgrew The Belfry, we found another place that did “Alternative Night” on Wednesdays in the summertime. My friends and I would get all goth-ed out in our ripped tights and babydoll dresses and scary boots and we’d go pogo and mosh and stomp around to the likes of The Clash, Joy Division, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Jane’s Addiction. Our parents didn’t get it, but then again, they weren’t meant to. We were free, man.
Eventually, I grew up, What’s-His-Name and I got married, and we did all kinds of adult-type things like buy cars and a house and have a kid. I still don’t think I’m ready for parenthood, but she’s ten years old now, so by the time I’m ready for her, she’ll be in college. When she was tiny, and didn’t speak English, she would spend hours screeching at me for being an inadequate human. To calm her down, I’d sing Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 jam, “Crazy.” Whether it was the song itself or my incredibly terrible singing, she would calm down and put me lower on the priority kill list that I know she has stashed somewhere.
I’m getting older now, and my hearing is starting to go at an alarming rate. I’ve worn hearing aids for the last ten years and I HATE THEM but the alternative is almost total deafness, which is not the most super-fun thing in the world. The upside is that I appreciate bass players a lot more than I used to, and speaker technology has improved quite a bit so I can turn it up as loud as I need to. People complain, but I don’t care. If it’s too loud, you’re too old.
This is in no way an exhaustive musical biography. A complete list would be pages and pages long, each song with a story or a smile to go with it. Someday, I’ll write my life story and book technology will probably be advanced enough that I can attach a soundtrack to it so you can listen along with me as we go. Until then, I have over 30,000 tracks in my iTunes library. These are just a few of them.
My hearing loss was probably inevitable, since the myriad doctors I’ve seen about this issue can’t seem to find any trauma or other physical explanation for why I cannot hear well. My current medical team seems to think that it’s neurological, and if that’s the case, then there’s not really anything I can do. I can wear hearing aids, but that’s about it.
And the hearing aids are not exactly the best solution. It’s not that they don’t do anything, but that they don’t do enough. Nothing I do will ever be “enough,” and that makes me angry because I used to be able to hear, so I remember what things sound like. In short, I know what I’m missing.
Hearing aids are an imperfect solution. The technology is improving all the time, but the fact remains that in order to function somewhat normally, I need to have tiny machines stuck into my head at all times. In some countries, I can be classified as a Cyborg, which is kind of fun.
Because they are machines, they can break down. My current set is currently “in the shop” because one side died and the other side was protesting something. I dropped them off at the doctor’s office yesterday and probably won’t get them back for a week or more.
I can’t hear.
I can hear SOME things. Loud noises, obviously, but unless What’s-His-Name is enunciating carefully (and… he does not ever do this), I can’t understand what he’s saying to me when he’s sitting four feet away. I have to ask Jillian to repeat herself all the time. If I’m watching TV, I can’t multi-task like I usually do because I miss all the words instead of just some of them. Closed-captioning only helps when you’re looking at it, after all. The radio in my car is turned up VERY LOUD, and I’m afraid I’ll blow the shitty, 10-year-old speakers in an effort to just hear music at a “normal” volume.
Right now, there is no such thing as background noise. For people who deal with a lot of sounds every day, not having background noise sounds like a great thing, right? It’s not. It’s unnatural and oppressive. All my other senses are on high alert to compensate for this missing one. Not having background noise, which our brains use as a way to orient ourselves in the world, is stressful. I have to be hyper-aware of my surroundings and THAT SHIT IS EXHAUSTING.
Not being able to hear is exhausting all the time. From explaining it to people I’ve just met, to having all my other senses going to 11, to dealing with the incredibly insensitive people trying to be funny… it’s tiring. And hard. And I hate it.
But let’s talk a minute about the “funny” ones, shall we? The most common reaction I get when I explain to people that I cannot hear well and would like for them to speak up is “What?”
“Aw, c’mon, I was making a joke.”
Really? If I told you I were epileptic, would you fall on the floor and flail around to be funny? No? Then why is it okay to say “…WHAT?” when I tell you I’m hearing-impaired? How is that okay? How?
And… it happens A LOT. A very lot. A lot a lot. It baffles me, every time. It’s exhausting and one of the main reasons why there are some people out there… well, I just don’t bother.
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It would have been better if I’d been born with this impairment, because then it would have been my version of normal. But I know what I’m missing out on and that’s a very real source of anger and sadness for me. The fancy new hearing aids I got last year help quite a bit, but a week without them is going to be hard.
The weather was extremely pleasant yesterday, so I turned off the air-conditioning (the rant I have about that is a post for another time) and opened up the front windows. One of the windows was being a bit stubborn, so I took the screen out and gave it a push. As I did that, I stepped in a puddle of sorts that had formed on the floor.
The dogs were acting like jerks so I thought maybe one of them had finally gotten angry enough to pee on the floor. That would have been incredibly out-of-character for both of them, however. I got a paper towel and wiped it up. It didn't appear to be pee (I smelled it), or anything but water, so I chalked it up to the random oddness of the universe and went over to fold laundry.
Carl loooooooves laundry. It's his 2nd-favorite thing, after sleeping. He likes to help, by sitting on whatever pile I'm about to fold and shedding on everything in the world. I tend to sit on the couch and use the ottoman as my folding table. Carl was wandering around my folding enterprise and I noticed there were drops of water or something on the ottoman.
I immediately looked up at the light fixtures on the ceiling, since we'd had some leakage issues there over the winter, but it hadn't rained in a couple of days and there aren't any water pipes running through that bit of ceiling, so it couldn't be dripping from there. I spent a couple of minutes completely stumped until I looked at Carl and noticed he was drooling.
Well, not so much drooling as "becoming a fountain." I've never seen a cat drool quite like that!! It was rather alarming, so I broke the First Rule and went over to the Google. A search for "my cat is drooling" led me to WebMD (of all things) that said, as it always does, the cat drooling could be a sign of anything from "your cat is a jerk" to "your cat's liver has failed."
CAN'T HAVE THAT.
I called the vet instead and they suggested I bring him in so they could have a look at him. I managed to get him in the crate all right and by the time we got to the vet, he was drenched. The doctor did an exam and decided to keep him for awhile so they could do fun things like x-rays and bloodwork. She explained to me what they were going to do but all I could hear was "$$$, $$$ $$$$$$, $$$$$$$, $$." Ugh. Poor cat.
It turns out that he's got SOMETHING blocking his small intestines, which was making him nauseated, which is what caused the drool. The x-rays weren't very clear as to what it might be. Could be food, poop, a piece of something something something something, or something. SIGH. Rather than have them keep him overnight or transfer him to a different vet where they could do ultrasound or similar, I elected to bring him home. He's currently on a very bland diet, and I'm hoping he will poop at some point today so I can get on with my life and not have to consider taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay for his treatment.
One of the major problems with publishing under my own name is that I feel the need to censor myself. That's not the best thing, but it is good in many ways. Mostly because some of the more heinous thoughts I have about things/people don't see the [public] light of day. I have a cadre of cronies who are privy to those particular thoughts, and they are the best friends/audience a girl could ask for. It's very important for a writer (me) who attempts comedy (…uh, sure. That's what that is) to have a place where she can just let it go and be as inappropriate and terrible as it is possible for one human to be.
I don't trust people who don't ever express the horrible things. We all have horrible thoughts, and anyone who says they don't is a fucking liar and you should never trust anything they say, ever. EVERYONE has horrible thoughts sometimes. My horrible thoughts are generally far more terrible than the average bear's, but we all think them. Most people choose not to share such things, but I am not most people. However, I have found myself reluctant to share ANYTHING out of fear that it will be miscontrued and read out of context or… whatever the hell.
This lesson, this idea that I need to um, tone it down a bit, is one that I learned the hard way. Looking back, I'm all "uh, duh," but when the shit initially hit the fan, I was, to paraphrase Rhett Butler, not sorry I got caught, but very very sorry I was being punished for it. And I deserved it. Most of it, anyway. There were (and still are) some repercussions from the Great Blog Explosion of 2008 that actually had nothing to do with me and everything to do with other people, but we're all still dealing with it.
Yes, five years later.
Yes, I'm being slightly oblique. If you know the story, you likely have seen my entire presentation on it, complete with interpretive dance. If you don't know the story, the short version is this: I am an asshole with a big mouth and some people don't like that but none of the people involved ever said anything to me directly. Instead, they chose to involve a whole bunch of unrelated people in this drama that went on for years and years and is now slowly starting to heal, maybe. So. I made my peace with all of it ages ago, and I've moved past the point where I need to address any of it (my own personal statute of limitations on dealing with personal drama came and went, twice). So that's all fine. I have plenty of other things to write about (not that you'd be able to tell from this site. Oops).
Anyway, I have been thinking about starting a new, anonymous-ish blog where I can complain about stuff (with all the proper pseudonyms and altered details to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the stupid) but this is the interwebses, and nothing stays anonymous for long. There is an itch that needs to be scratched, though. I keep finding myself in ridiculous situations.
I have some parenting rants that I need to write about. The problem is, OF COURSE someone who knows me will read it and OF COURSE they will think I am talking about them. I probably AM talking about them, actually, but for the most part, the parents I know are all doing a kick-ass job and I don't want to have to preface every post with "I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU, PERSONALLY (yes, I am)."
We'll see if I can make that work in a way that is satisfactory to me. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I am attempting to write fiction. You can say the most outrageous things and get away with it if people understand that it's fiction. So that's an option that I am exploring.
I write all the time. I am just way too picky about what sees the light of day and I need to stop being like that.
I finally got over myself and started working with a swimming coach. I *can* swim, but I’m incredibly inefficient in the pool and need to fix that. Now I have a coach helping me and after just one hour, I have made huge gains. I swam today and I can already see improvement in my stamina, so yay for that.
The goal is to swim at least three days a week and get comfortable enough that I can maaaaybe join the Masters program in a few months. We shall see.
I still have a bit of a mental block about running. I do a lot of walking and I know that I am able to run and I’m not likely to break my foot again, but I just can’t seem to get past the fear! Maybe once the weather improves I will give it a shot but until then… I walk. Ugh.
After 5 weeks of physical therapy, I am not exactly cured. Instead, I have tools and options to manage my knee pain, which I will likely always have. I have pain-free days, which are magical, but since it’s arthritis up in there, it’s not going away anytime soon, or at all.
Which means: no running. My PT said he reallyreallyREALLY does not recommend running, since that will hurt and cause further damage to my poor knees. Walking, biking, elliptical… all that stuff is fine, but running would be too much.
And that’s a bummer. It means I need to rejigger my Ironman goal – I might yet be able to finish one, but I don’t think it’s going to happen before I turn 40. Perhaps I can push it back to 50, which gives me 13 years to train.
Stranger things have happened, though. As I work on my weight loss and keep up with my physical therapy exercises and weight training, my knees might be able to withstand some running. If I could run/walk a marathon in a reasonable time, I might be able to give a triathlon a shot. I could try, anyway.
I’m being good and doing what I’m supposed to do but not running. 80 pounds from now, we’ll re-assess.