Part of Me, Part of You

I know a fair number of people don’t like The Eagles, and that’s fair. Taste is subjective, is shaped by a great number of things. I grew up outside of Austin, Texas and later lived near Dallas, and country music and classic rock were the staples of my childhood.

My parents have an extensive record collection. I figured out how to work the turn table when I was three, and there were three albums I liked to play: Jimmy Buffett’s Volcano, Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, and The Eagles’ Greatest Hits 1971–1975. I had loads of Disney records, Strawberry Shortcake, The Smurfs, but I wanted the grown-up stuff.

That Eagles album . . . Of course every kid my age whose parents had it remembers how freaked out they were by the skull on the cover. And I entertained myself by picking out the various vocals, learning the names of who was who and being able to identify them when I heard them.

I wasn’t even five years old when The Eagles broke up, so I wasn’t really aware of them not existing because in my world they did exist through all their songs. As a pre-teen I would identify more with Don Henley, but later I would count Glenn Frey’s Strange Weather as one of my favorite CDs. And his cover of “Wild Mountain Thyme” remains one of the best. I also loved him on Miami Vice and was possibly one of the only people to enjoy South of Sunset. Yes, that one episode.

In 1994, I gleefully attended Hell freezing over. When they also played Memorial Stadium at UT, I didn’t have tickets but was able to listen from the dorm room. And then . . . I stopped listening to The Eagles and moved on to whatever else. I left childhood behind, the things that used to speak to me, and found new sounds that refreshed different parts of my spirit. That’s how it feels anyway. Like listening to the same things over and over had worn down a spot of my soul and I needed to then move on to a different spot else I was going to end up with a hole in myself.

But yesterday Glenn Frey passed away. At the age of 67. Not so much older than my own dad. And I find those songs that I so loved flooding back in. Those spots in me no longer feel worn thin. I’m able to listen again to The Eagles and enjoy them rather than feeling tired of them. It’s only sad it took someone dying to cause that.

Or maybe it isn’t.

Maybe we live in cycles. Maybe we start somewhere, go through a few different things, then come back around. Maybe Yeats was right about the gyre, in which case Mr. Frey’s passing is just a touchpoint on the tightening coil meant to coincide with my coming back to this place in my life.

I dunno. But today I’ll be reloading my iPod with some songs I haven’t listened to in literally years. In my opinion, music needs to make you feel something in order to work properly. After years of The Eagles, the songs had become so common to me that I no longer felt them. But I think there’s no question I’ll feel something now.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 20

19. Put your music player on shuffle and write the first 3 songs that play and what you’re initial thought is

Well, anyone who has read this blog semi-regularly is likely familiar with my playlists from my morning walks. I haven’t had any recently, though, because I’ve been listening to podcasts instead. So without further ado . . .

  1. “Grapefruit Juicy Fruit” by Jimmy Buffett – Oh, this song. Eh, I’m not feeling it right now.
  2. “Wild Honey” by U2 – I like this one. Deserves better weather. (It was raining at the time, and this is a warm and sunny song in my mind.)
  3. “Never Say Never” by The Fray – Mind goes blank. To be fair, this song . . . There’s a verse about “the queen of everything,” and I do usually picture Elizabeth I for some reason. And then I always think to myself, But does that mean Raleigh is singing? What’s happening here? and my mind ends up wandering.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 17

17. A quote you try to live by

Oh, geez. I used to collect whole notebooks full of quotes I liked or found inspiring, and now you want me to choose just one? Um . . .

“All is nothing in moderation.”

It’s a line in a Tabitha’s Secret song (the song is called “Tired”). I’m impatient and ambitious, and I have to remind myself that compromise can be a good thing. That baby steps are required to reach a goal. That I can’t have it all at once.

I also need to be reminded that I can’t eat a whole French silk pie in one sitting. Because I really do love French silk pie.

So, you know, it’s a quote with multiple applications.

Soothing the Savage . . . Whatever

You know how, when you’re on the verge of an emotional breakdown (and I guess I’m assuming everyone has been there at some point in their lives, but if you haven’t, good for you), some songs make you feel better and some you just. can’t. even.? Yeah, that’s where I am at the moment. Feeling very fragile. Which, oddly enough, means I cannot listen to “Fragile” by Sting.

It’s complicated.

Also, a shorter walk today because I’m still recovering from walking, like, 10 miles a day in London. Didn’t use the Tube even once.

1. “Hold On Forever” by Rob Thomas*
2. “Selene” by Imagine Dragons
3. “Someday Soon” by Great Big Sea
4. “Presents to Send You” by Jimmy Buffett
5. “Tired” by Tabitha’s Secret
6. “Money Back Guarantee” by Jimmy Buffett
7. “Unkind” by Tabitha’s Secret

Rob’s song is perfectly designed to “make you feel better.” In fact, I’ve been listening to a lot of him, Matchbox Twenty, Train, and Imagine Dragons. Jimmy Buffett also tends to lift spirits. Still, I found myself skipping a lot of songs that I just couldn’t handle, like “29” by Gin Blossoms. God, no. Not right now.

Going to see Richard Marx on Thursday. Not sure how that will go . . .


Sometimes it happens that your perception of a person changes based on a spontaneous moment.

While in grad school, I was an intern at Houghton Mifflin. After I graduated, the internship turned into a job. I worked in textbook production, scheduling rounds of proofs and attending design meetings. (In fact, I worked on the California Reading and California Math books that my kids now use at school!)

Anyway, I worked with a designer named Fred. (I also worked with a designer named Bert, short for Albert. Designer names. Huh.) I liked Fred, though he had a bit of a reputation as being difficult. But he was really good at his job, and I honestly think he maybe was bi-polar too.

In any case, I don’t think Fred had any feelings about me one way or another. There’s a chance he didn’t even know who I was. But one day as I was bringing something somewhere (which was a large part of my job, that and boxing things up to mail), Fred walked over to where I was and he was singing. It was “I Like Life” from Scrooge, which is a movie I grew up watching every Christmas. So Fred came over to where I was standing—it seems I was near the mailboxes—and he was singing, “I like life, life likes me . . .” And without even thinking about it, I sang, “Life and I almost always agree.”

Fred looked at me with this big grin on his face. He didn’t say anything, but I think I’d surprised him. And after that, he was always really nice to me. I learned all about his rescued greyhounds and was there for him the day one of them died. A bond had been formed—just a work bond; we didn’t hang out or anything, but still . . . One moment of honest response from me—a response that, had I thought about it before doing it, I’d have been too embarrassed to go through with it (and the lesson there is to be authentic and not think too hard)—had apparently changed Fred’s perception of me. Enough to let me in a little. Though once I left Houghton Mifflin, we lost touch. Some (many) relationships are only passing, only grounded in the common soil of work or school. Once you transplant, or they do, there is nothing left.

I don’t know what made me think of this today. Though I do still think of Fred whenever I watch Scrooge now!

Anyway, good walk this morning with cooler temps:

1. “Angry” by Matchbox Twenty
2. “Daylight” by Maroon 5
3. “Things You Said” by Rob Thomas
4. “You Won’t Feel a Thing” by The Script
5. “Your Wildest Dreams” by Moody Blues
6. “Please Don’t Ask Me” by Gin Blossoms
7. “Don’t Cross the River” by America

Location, Location, Location

My iPod seems to be aware that I have a lot of travel coming up.

1. “Ventura Highway” by America
2. “Miami” by Counting Crows
3. “Only Game In Town” by America
4. “Presents to Send You” by Jimmy Buffett
5. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston
6. “Love, Come Lighten My Load” by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
7. “California 37” by Train
8. “River of Dreams” by Glenn Frey
9. “Fireflies” by Owl City
10. “Stutter” by Maroon 5
11. “You Know Me” by Rob Thomas
12. “I Can’t Stay” by The Killers
13. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

Messages in Music

Sometimes I feel like the Universe is sending me messages through music. I’ll wake up with a song in my head, one I haven’t heard in ages, and it will feel important for some reason. And then I’ll hear it again when I start my car, or it’ll pop up on my iPod even though I didn’t even know it was there. Other times I’ll be walking and listening to my iPod while I ponder something and a song will come on that seems to answer my internal question. Or I’ll have a friend say, “I was thinking about you,” and I realize it was around the same time I heard a song that reminded me of them.

I realize, of course, it sounds silly. But there’s an inner knowing (at least for me) that convinces me that sometimes a song is a message or an answer of sorts. Not always. Sometimes a song is just a song. But every now and then it’s something more.

Today as I went for my walk, the songs seemed important. I’m not entirely sure why, but . . . Maybe I’ll figure it out later.

1. “Downfall” by Matchbox Twenty
2. “I Can’t Let You Go” by Matchbox Twenty
3. “Give a Little More” by Maroon 5
4. “I Wish You Would” by Train
5. “Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood)” by Counting Crows
6. “Something to Believe In” by Parachute
7. “You Found Me” by The Fray
8. “Treat Her Like a Lady” by Jimmy Buffett

Yeah, okay, the last one seems weird after all the others. But the tune and the sentiment . . . I don’t know. It counterbalanced all the neediness in the previous songs. From the questionable offer in “Downfall” to the demands of Maroon 5 and the desire for rescue voiced in “You Found Me” (full circle from “Downfall” perhaps), we then come to Buffett’s ode. He’s singing about the ocean, of course, but at least he understands respect is required. The exchange in “Treat Her Like a Lady” is far fairer than in “Downfall.” And the whole playlist smacked of supplication in one form or another.

In my Classics classes, I recall learning about supplication, how Thetis knelt at Zeus’ throne and put a hand under his chin and clasped his knee. I don’t know what I equate this with these songs, but I do. There’s a sense of begging involved, but it’s that respect in “Treat Her Like a Lady” that brings it all together in the end.

You can see why I’m a writer. My mind takes a handful of seemingly random things, knits them together, and extrapolates wildly. When people ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?” (though I’ll admit I’ve never once been asked that), this is the real answer. We snatch a bunch of pieces out of various cloths and stitch them together into weird patterns. Sometimes people admire them. Sometimes we’re told they’re ugly. Well, there’s no pleasing everyone. One size does not fit all.

I don’t know where I’m going with all this. Blame the fact I’m on a lot of cold meds at the moment. I’m physically pretty exhausted, but my brain needs exercise, and this is what it has come up with. Think it might be time to go read . . .

Welcome to September

And with the return of school comes the return of my daily walks, which means I can go back to boring you with my playlists. Seriously though, I’ll only post the ones that seem significant in some way. Like this one from yesterday, which was bizarrely dark.

1. “Dear Joan” by Tabitha’s Secret
2. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
3. “It Ends Tonight” by All-American Rejects
4. “Impossible” by Anberlin
5. “Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5
6. “I Can’t Let You Go” by Matchbox Twenty

It was a short walk, but if you know any of these songs . . . I mean, even though “Impossible” and “Harder to Breathe” are upbeat in tempo, they’re dark in content.

“Dear Joan,” btw, is a hauntingly beautiful ballad about abuse. Yay?

And then we get the stalker anthem by The Police and the clingy plea by Matchbox Twenty.

Hmm. What is my iPod trying to say? Maybe it just really missed my company over the summer?

I’m starting slowly with the walks, building myself back up. For one thing, it’s still pretty hot here. For another, I haven’t been walking that much. And the final straw: my oldest brought home a cold from school the first week and I have, of course, caught it. Ugh.

In other news, just finished a draft of a story and sent that off to my critique group. And am working on a screenplay I’ve been commissioned to write. Good things happening, despite my iPod’s dark mood and my stuffy nose.

The Great Unknown

I’ll admit I had my doubts. I wasn’t wowed by “Trust You,” was moderately more pleased with “Hold On Forever,” and by the time he was giving out “I Think We’d Feel Good Together,” I was already suffering fatigue and thinking, Geez, I’ll just wait for the album. Which came out today. And still I hesitated, but curiosity and my love for Rob won out, and I “completed the album” on iTunes.

And . . . I really like it.

Okay, well, I took it with me on a walk. And I haven’t had a nice solo walk in a while, so my general pleasure at being able to get a walk in might have colored my feelings about the music. But still. When heard cohesively, The Great Unknown is pretty catchy. There’s a lot to dance to, if you like that kind of thing. Club mixes, anyone?

My problem with “Trust You” had been that it didn’t really sound like Rob to me, and there are songs on this album where I was definitely thinking, “Reminds me of Jason Mraz” and “Oh, how American Authors,” but at least vocally it sounded like Rob. And I like Jason Mraz and American Authors. ::shrug:: Anyway, “Trust You” has grown on me over time.

Also, while I’d sort of cringed at a live video of “I Think We’d Feel Good Together” (studio acoustics often suck, so I’ll handily blame that), the album version is better. It would have to be. I can’t imagine anything worse.

The upshot is, there wasn’t any song I felt the urge to skip. I always listen to the whole album a few times before deciding which songs I can live without, but I can usually tell right away if there’s one I’m not going to want on my permanent playlist. That hasn’t happened [yet]. Yes, even “Trust You” will stay on my iPod.

Nice work again, Mr. Tumnus Thomas.

A History of Rob Thomas Concerts

I’m trying to remember all the times I’ve seen RT (with or without Matchbox Twenty) play. I know the first time was in 2000 out at Amherst College. It was in a gymnasium, SRO, but we were able to get pretty close to the stage. Matchbox Twenty was touring for Mad Season at the time, and they were my favorite band—I’d never felt as strongly about a band as I did for them at the time—so (embarrassing as it is), I stood there with tears running down my face, I was so happy to see them. Later I was moved enough to post on a message board (my name was “yukitouya” at the time because I was into animé) that it was for me what seeing The Beatles was like for my mother.

Well, live a little longer and you get a different perspective on life, but I still do love Rob and the boys. In 2003 I would see them again for the More Than You Think You Are tour. That time they were at the Fleet Center (now TD Garden). Sugar Ray opened, IIRC, and it was clear the band had more of a budget as there was more flash and bang in the show. But weirdly, I find that doesn’t suit them as much.

In 2004 I started a blog called “Letters to Rob” in which, over the course of a year, I wrote open letters to Rob and his bandmates. (Though the site is no more, a PDF version is under my Bibliography under Books.) It got picked up by the Atlantic message boards and stands as my little slice of fangirldom. Rob would come out with Something To Be, and I would end up seeing him both at the Avalon on Lansdowne Street (now gone) and at a charity show at the China Club in NYC.

I think, after that, the next time I saw Matchbox Twenty was at a Mix Fest or something of that sort. This would have been when the Exile on Mainstream EP was released.

Then Rob again, solo, in 2009 in Boston for the Cradlesong show. I ended up sitting next to his son and his son’s friend. And we saw him play at Mohegan Sun towards the end of 2011. And a couple years ago I took my own son to see Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox Twenty at the Concord, CA show.

Finally, last night we saw Rob on his Great Unknown tour at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. Another great show.

So what does that come to? Nine total? I’ve seen Rob more than any other artist. Even if I count the solo shows (5), or the Matchbox Twenty shows (4) separately, it comes to more than any other. Well, I think the MB20 shows tie Train, which I’ve also seen 4 times now.

I’m not sure why I’m posting this retrospective except maybe as a means to ground myself. I was wondering the other day about the trajectory of fandom and at what point (if ever) people “grow out of” or at least begin to mature . . . Which isn’t to say they don’t still like things, but they have more perspective, maybe, or are more discerning, or “gush” less . . . What keeps a person coming back versus the point at which they walk away from a band or a TV show . . . I guess it depends on the purpose these things serve in a person’s life. When a show or artist fills a kind of emotional or psychological need in a person, plugs a perceived hole in them, the person may become fanatical. But if (a) the show or artist ceases to plug the hole, or (b) the hole closes or the need is otherwise filled, then the grip loosens.

Or maybe the hole changes shape. I still enjoy Rob and Matchbox Twenty, and their music still speaks to me on some levels, though not the way it did when I was in college. And some of their songs also take me back to other times, bring back memories. That’s another kind of service these things provide: milestones and markers of who we used to be.

I don’t know if I have a point here. It’s more a musing. I studied fan psychology as an undergrad, and so these things continue to interest me. Of course, one isn’t required to have a reason for liking something. And one isn’t required to defend themselves for liking (or not liking). But it is amazing how strongly people feel about these things—what they like and don’t like. There’s no right answer, no one fit for everyone, yet we still love to argue and debate the merits and lack thereof of what we love and hate and why. Internet message boards overflow with just such arguments.

I outgrew The X-Files at some point (though I’ll still check out the reboot), and I don’t enjoy Doctor Who that much any more, but I do still love Rob and Matchbox Twenty. I take a lot of flak for that, but whatever. Sometimes there really is no accounting for what we enjoy. It is what it is.