Over the threshold of a new year

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Back in October, K and I celebrated my 46th birthday watching Matt Nathanson and Matchbox Twenty perform at the TaxSlayer Center in Moline. Matt opened with the perfect blend of concert, revival, and comedy jam that energized the crowd for Rob Thomas and crew’s last stop on their 20th anniversary tour. The arena went completely black at the same moment a single white spotlight illuminated an empty microphone stand.

Continue reading Over the threshold of a new year

Wanting to know who I am

I walked out of the office tonight to perhaps my least favorite kind of weather. The temperature hovered just above freezing. Sheets of large, heavy raindrops marched through the illumination of street lights, buffeted on an increasingly strong wind. My lack of umbrella was practically inconsequential. This was the kind of weather that comes at you from all angles, mocking protection from above.

 

My path from the front door of my office building to the parking garage can’t be more than a few hundred yards, but by the time I arrived at my truck, my shoulders were hunched, my hair glistening with nearly frozen moisture. I hopped in the driver’s seat, plugged my iPhone into the truck’s stereo system and hit shuffle.

Continue reading Wanting to know who I am

Helping our kids decipher the message

Earlier today, I made a quick trip to Walmart to pick up a few things we needed around the house. The store was reasonably busy for pre-Christmas Saturday, and most people seemed to be in a festive, pleasant mood — from the Salvation Army bell ringer to the handful of guys ogling the flat-screen entertainment nirvana at the back of the store.

After finding each of the items on my short list, I chose the shortest line and queued up behind what appeared to be a grandmother, mother and her elementary age son. The family could have been any of the rural, small town families of the area. The mother had the haggard look of someone who had spent all day with an energetic child. And the boy was clearly not going to wind down any time soon. He jumped around, hands attached to the end and sides of the cart that awaited his family’s checked items. He was making an enormous amount of noise, but his chaos seemed unnoticed by his mother or grandmother. Seems they had become immune.

Continue reading Helping our kids decipher the message

Broken heart boots

Before the holidays I made a quick trip down to Austin to visit a friend and went to the Saxon Pub on a recommendation of a friend of a friend. We had a great time listening to and talking with the band. One of the friends of the band was wearing these cowboy boots that were black and white with red hearts tumbling down the side. For some reason, I really liked them and could only imagine the nights they had seen. So I thought I’d write a little back story to them in the form of a song. (Now I really know nothing about the woman wearing the boots, so this is complete fiction.)

Broken Heart Boots

Past the neon gilded door
Another happy hour unfolds
Wipes a thankless week away
The faces look familiar
Been here many times before

The Regulars holding court
Sing a six-string story
Everyone knows by heart
Girl gets guy, an easy catch
The fishnets snare them every time

See you sitting there
Lighting up the room
That up-to-no-good smile
Blond curls in your eyes
And boots that let us know
Your night’s just begun

But I’ll just take a pass
Not order from the menu
Tempting as you are
I’m wanting something more

Because tonight…

I don’t want to be another of
Your Friday nights gone bad
Behind that black mascara
Your eyes betray a tale
Drowning in that gin and tonic
Hiding from your roots
Just tell me all the stories in
Those broken hearted boots

I know you’re more than
A short skirt and stockings
I want to know what’s
Behind your disguise

So tonight….

I don’t want to be another of
Your Friday nights gone bad
Behind that black mascara
Your eyes betray a tale
Drowning in that gin and tonic
Hiding from your roots
Just tell me all the stories in
Those broken hearted boots

A recurring theme

I wonder if anyone has tried to codify popular music into subject matter categories. It would be a huge undertaking, but certainly an interesting exercise. (I’m not volunteering, by the way.) Near the top of the list would have to be lost love or relationships that didn’t work out. I’d venture to say there are more songs about love gone wrong than lasting relationships. Here are some lyrics I’ve been throwing around in my head for a while about trying to get over one of those relationships that didn’t work out.

Everything Reminds Me of You

Driving down the street today
The trees are raining gold
The brisk of fall surrounds
But fails to make me cold

Reminded by the whirling leaves
That way you made me feel
Lifted up without fear
Simple pleasures so unreal
Can’t help but wander off
Drifting back into our past

Knowing just what we were,
Swore we’d always last

Can’t make it through a day
Without you somewhere in it
Reminders in plain view
Not ready to admit

Your face, eyes, and voice
Everywhere I turn around

So I’m sitting here tonight
To write these five words down

Everything reminds me of you
Yeah, everything reminds me of you

I’ve tried a million things
Nothing I can find
Helps forget you now
Erase you from my mind
Can’t keep our memories
Tied up, locked down
Begging them to leave
They always stay around
Can’t shake that love we had,
So unforgettable

Been gone so long now
Never thought I’d let you go
Missed the chance to make it right,
Trapped in life’s binding chains
If I could just release you from my dreams
Our past would be a pleasant memory

Can’t make it through a day
Without you somewhere in it
Reminders in plain view
Not ready to admit

Your face, eyes, and voice
Everywhere I turn around

So I’m sitting here tonight
To write these five words down

Everything reminds me of you
Yeah, everything reminds me of you
Why does everything remind me of you?

Particle man

As I’m sitting here tonight in the kid’s room, he’s listening to his favorite They Might Be Giants songs as he settles down for sleep. Lately, he’s been a little TMBG-obsessed, but I can think of worse things to be. Earlier this afternoon, I told him to listen to the songs closely because TMBG tends to be “educational” in their songs.

So from the dark side of the room (I’m illuminated by the glow of my laptop LCD) comes “Daddy, what’s Particle Man about?” After a moment’s hesitation over whether I should open up that can of worms, I told him that I’ve always thought it’s about science, religion and the universe and how humans are really just small specks that get tossed around by the greater forces. He was OK with that. 🙂

Evidently others have had a different take on the song, but that’s the great thing about music — its openness to interpretation.

Austin in review

Finally an hour or so to recount the weekend happenings.

3am Friday morning
I wake up before my alarm, a normal pattern for me on “big” days. I never get good sleep when something exciting is on the horizon. Hop out of bed energized despite the short (3-4 hours) sleep. I’m out the door to the airport by 4:30am.

5:00-9:30am
After slogging through the ice and snow to the airport, I’m pleased to find my flight still on schedule. Despite the general unease that comes when a plane needs to be deiced before takeoff, the flight is uneventful. Having a whole row to myself, I was able to write a few stanzas of a new song tentatively titled “Controls”….

I thought I knew the perfect plan
A life satisfied and true
A simple path to happiness
Full spectrum minus blue
Plug and play each small part
My storyline on cue

For all those years
Captain Me was in command
Steering life, turn by turn
Wheel firmly in my hands
Watching life unfold for me
Like slowly falling sand

Then you drew away the curtain
Unannounced, to my surprise
With a subtle slight of heart
Broke down that childish guise
Stripped me of the masquerade
Found the hiding man inside

9:30-10:45am

Layover in DFW. After standing in an inordinately long line at the Starbucks kiosk (skim mocha no whip, of course), I decided I could use a little more time on my feet. Standing near the gate, I replaced the humdrum of my surroundings with the sounds of my most recent acquisitions. Backed by lyrical and musical stylings of Ryan Adams, Spoon, Josh Ritter, Avenged Sevenfold, the Eagles, and Ozzy Osbourne, the buzzing mass of travelers acted for me in a series of passing short (and often intriguing) stories.

Jump to 1:00pm (after an uneventful hop from DFW to Austin)

Went for a sample of TexMex at Chuy’s, an establishment best described as eccentricity bordering on insanity. The decor revolved around fish, intertwined with Marvel comics superheroes and holiday decorations. Sensory overload, to say the least. My friend and I both had the chicken enchilada, good but didn’t live up to the “best TexMex in Austin” recommendation.

4:45pm – 6:00pm (after a futile attempt at an afternoon nap)

Went for a hike around Town Lake. Too bad it wasn’t a few weeks earlier, with leaves on the trees, but still picturesque, especially after sunset when the Austin skyline reflects in the water.

6:30-8:30pm

Caught most of the set of The Regulars at the Saxon Pub. Billed as “country rockers to soulful ballads,” I wasn’t sure what to expect as we sat down at a table about 15 feet back from the stage. The band mixed originals and covers with ease, with “You Turn My Light On” the best original and “Chain of Fools” a rousing cover. The musicianship was solid throughout, with the exception of Ron Rameli, who constantly switched instruments (and played most –especially the harmonica — non-descriptly) and appeared aloof in contrast to the down-home folkiness of the rest of the Regulars. Two “irregulars” sat in with the band this night….a female vocalist/bass player with wonderful command of her voice and a sax player that we later learned was one of the best in Texas.

The Regulars play Saxon Pub every Friday night, and the crowd was obviously full of family and friends of the band. An intriguing subplot was the table to our left — populated by three attractive women, one of whom wore fishnet stockings and tumbling heart cowboy boots that screamed “look at me.” They obviously knew the band, but didn’t seem to be “attached” in any formal way. At the end of the set, several band members stopped over to say hello to “boots” and her compatriots. We interjected our accolades for a great performance, and to our surprise, got an invite to go to Matt’s El Rancho for dinner along with George Macias — acoustic guitar, vocalist and songwriter for the Regulars. This was shaping up to be a beautiful night!

9:00-11:00pm

Conversation at Matt’s El Rancho couldn’t have been better. Stories of the band (including a lot of infighting), the Austin music scene, past arrests, religion, and politics were liberally interspersed with a great deal of humor. George was obviously revered in this group, and he held court like a pro. Wasn’t sure how much of his yarn was dyed, but like most songwriters, he could tell a story. Perhaps this was just simple Texas hospitality, but George and his groupies made us feel like old friends — giving us a glimpse into the innner circle of their somewhat turbulent lives.

11:00 pm Friday – 3:00am Saturday

The final four hours of my Austin marathon were spent on and along Sixth Street — the heart of the UT campus nightlife. Several blocks of this main thoroughfare are closed off on weekend nights — transforming into a undulating pit of hedonism. Alcohol and skin flowed liberally among the Gen Z’ers on the last weekend before finals. The scene was one part energizing, one part frightening. One got a sense that the party was one fine line away from transforming into a riot.

We ducked out of the pandemonium for a midnight showing of Master Pancake Theater featuring Home Alone. Think Mystery Science Theater 3000 performed in front of 300 drunk college students. Entertaining, but by the end, all this old man wanted was an appointment with a pillow.

And so concludes my 23 hour Austin immersion. I was ready to go, but will definitely be back.