Don’t leave me, summertime: A forced ode to September

Back in May, my friend Emma and I sat on her front porch and did something very important: We wrote out our summer bucket lists.

That, apparently, was more than three months ago. I am unsure how that happened.

Sept. 1 typically leaves me feeling a little melancholy. I love summer, and not just the obvious things that everyone loves about it. Yes, swimming is delightful, as are a post-9 p.m. sunset, boats, and cooking wiener-shaped meats over a fire. But even that oppressive heat that makes you feel faint–I love it. That rush of thick air that hits you when you slide into a car that has been parked in the sun for eight hours–I love it.

So yeah. I’m bummed today.

Ever the optimist, I’m reminding myself why I shouldn’t be bummed. Here are things I have to look forward to over the coming month:

  • September fashion issues! Those impossibly thick magazines are my favorite of the year.
  • So many wonderful to-dos this month. Seriously, September is going to be the month of No Rest: Next weekend, my husband and I are doing a mini weekend getaway in Michigan.
  • The following weekend, a dear friend I haven’t seen in 3 1/2 years is coming to visit.
  • The next weekend, my parents are visiting for my dad’s 60th birthday.
  • Then October will bring with it an extra long weekend family vacation to DC with my in-laws, another visit with a darling friend, and a murder mystery dinner.

I won’t get much sleep, sure. But it should be a good month and a half for making this soul feel loved.

I’ll conclude with my favoritest end-of-summer song.

The summer’s over. This town is closing. They’re waving people out of the ocean. We have the feeling like we were floating. We never noticed where time was going.

Terrible, no good, very bad tunes to have as your ‘song’ with a romantic other

As a teen (and early 20something), I liked to do what I could to assure my romantic relationships were “real”–that we held hands enough, or talked at each other on the phone enough.

One surefire way to make a relationship legit? Pick out your song, a tune that can always make you think of the other, something romantic and schmoopsy. And if it’s a song that actually has meaning to you, even better.

Looking back at some of my “songs” with exes, it’s really no wonder none of those relationships worked out. What a terrible (albeit, humorous) list of romantical songs. Consider the following examples, if you will. (To protect these poor souls from any embarrassment, I shall substitute their names with Disney characters.)

In chronological order:

  • “On Bended Knee”–This was my song with my first boyfriend. We were 12, and we liked Boyz II Men. The other popular Boyz song of the time? “I’ll Make Love to You.” As sixth graders, we both thought that would be a bit much, so we went with “Knee.” Which is a breakup song. Considering Simba and I dated/broke up/made out/confessed our undying love/moved out of state on on and off and on and off for seven years, it was actually pretty accurate. Sample lyric: “Darlin’, I can’t explain. Where did we lose our way? Girl, it’s driving me insane.” (Boyz II Men: Using “Girl” decades before Ryan Gosling made it cool.) And below: Boyz II Men is still my favoritest, and I still love this song. My darling husband–surprise, it’s not Simba–took me to my first Boyz concert last year. I took video only during “Knee.” It gets shaky at the end when I start screaming when Wanya holds out that delicious note.
  • “Piano Man”–I first asked Geppetto out as a friend. He came with me to prom and then asked me to his spring dance (poor dude went to an all-boys school). I didn’t first look at him romantically until the end of the night at his school’s party, as we danced to “Piano Man.” Sixteen-year-old me had never heard the Billy Joel tune before, which appropriately shocked and appalled Geppetto. So as we danced, he sang it to me. All together now: Aww. It’s got a sweet ass story, but have you heard those lyrics? Not what anyone would call romantic. Sample lyric: And the waitress is practicing politics as the businessmen slowly get stoned. Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.”
  • “We’ve Got Tonight”–The Mad Hatter and I never actually established this as our song. We started to date a few months before college graduation, and he had plans to spend the summer overseas. We knew ours was a romance with a deadline. I didn’t really know anything by Bob Seger other than “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and when The Hatter played this for me one night, it had its appropriate weepy affect. But make no mistake: This is first and foremost a song about a booty call. Sample lyric: I know your plans don’t include me. Still here we are: Both of us lonely, both of us lonely. We’ve got tonight. Who needs tomorrow? We’ve got tonight, babe. Why don’t you stay?”

Your turn, kids. Any “songs” that simply don’t scream “I’ll love you forever”?

The best love songs: Happy Valentine’s day, and all that jazz

I’m feeling kind of schmoopsy this Valentine’s Day. It’s my and Jeff’s first married one, and we’re going to dinner at the same restaurant we had V-day dinner at four years ago, less than two months after we met.

Granted, the day has never been one to bring me rage or make me roll my eyes. Call it a Hallmark holiday if you like, or a day for single people to feel grumpy — I’ve always found it sweet, even as a single girl. I typically send my friends something little (this year, I actually sent out, like, a dozen-plus cards) and find the sentiment of the day sweet.

So to “celebrate” on Curious Jac, I giving a top list of my favorite love songs. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but each of these has affected me in some way, at some point. (Click on the links to see videos.) In no particular order:

  1. “On Bended Knee.” Oh, my very first “song” with my very first “boyfriend.” We were in sixth grade and loving on Boyz II Men. We were young, but smart enough to realize that the group’s other big hit in 1996, “I’ll Make Love To You,” was a wildly inappropriate song for two 12-year-olds. So we choose the breakup song, which ended up being kind of poignant through all the break up-get back together-break up-get back together years. But the song still makes me smile. (Be sure you  watch the video. That is straight-up Lisa Turtle.) Best line: “You gotta believe in the spirit of love. It’ll heal all things. You won’t hurt anymore.” (And as you sing this, you need to clasp your fists close to your face and get louder with each line so you’re all but shouting by the end.)
  2. “Chasing Cars.” The sentiment is lovely, the idea that happiness is simply spending time together, wasting time, laying together, being in one another’s presence. Best line: “Those three words are said too much. They’re not enough.”
  3. “Careless Whisper.” Do not judge me my George Michael love! The sax line here is perfect, and there is no song on this list I’d rather have a sing along with, at the top of my lungs, no matter who is around. Best line: “There’s no comfort in the truth. Pain is all your find.” (Again, SHOUT that second line.)
  4. “To Make You Feel My Love.” I don’t care what you say, Billy Joel’s version is the best. (Adele’s is a distant second. Garth Brooks doesn’t rank because country.) This was one of my favorite songs in high school, and when Jeff and I were deciding what to use for our first dance song, my mom said, “I can’t believe you won’t use ‘To Make You Feel My Love.” Oh. Duh. I played it for Jeff, he teared up, we had a winner. Best lines: “I’ve known it from the moment that we met. No doubt in my mind where you belong.” “The winds of change are blowing wild and free. You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.”
  5. “Wildflowers.” I never heard this Tom Petty ditty until Jeff put it on a mixed CD for me a few years back. I love a man with a simple guitar line singing sweetly. My first listen made me tear up. Best line: “You belong somewhere you feel free.”
  6. “The Book of Love.” Again, the first time I heard this, tears. I stopped dead in my apartment, dust rag in hand, and just started sobbing like an idiot. Best line: “The book of love is long and boring and written very long ago. It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes and things we’re all too young to know.” Just typing those last seven words gives me chills.
  7. John Mayer breakup songs. There are too many that affected my guts over the years to choose one. And sometimes a breakup song can be so much more poignant than a traditional puppy-dogs-and-butterflies tune. “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You),” “I’m Gonna Find Another You,” “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” “Split-Screen Sadness.” Best line: “So I’ll check the weather wherever you are ’cause I wanna know if you can see the stars tonight. It might be my only right.” (from “Split-Screen Sadness)
  8. “After an Afternoon.” You know, I lied. These aren’t in any order, but this is my No. 1 favorite. Leave it to Jason Mraz to be better than everyone else. Like “Wildflowers,” we have just a man and his guitar. It doesn’t follow a traditional verse-chorus-verse format, which makes it sound more like a love letter. Best line: “Your rich brown eyes, your lips, and your dark hair, elbows, and exposed knees tossing toward your ceiling as we lay in bed.”

Share your favorite love songs with me as I raise my wine glass and toast you: Happy Valentine’s day, friend!

‘And if you’re further up the road, can you show me what I still can’t see?’

Take the third line of the last song you heard, make it your post title, and write for a maximum of 15 minutes. GO! ~ The Daily Post

A fitting prompt, as I’ve been thinking about “Paradise Valley,” John Mayer’s new disk, since I got it a few days ago.

This and the previous album, “Born and Raised,” are very much unlike his earlier work. They are bluegrass, simple ditties with gorgeous guitar. While I understood why the critics adored “Born and Raised,” nothing on it quite grabbed me the way I expect my John Mayer to. Now, with “Paradise Valley,” I’m on my … fourth listen? Fifth? I know I love a CD (yes, I still buy CDs, thanks, Target, for still carrying them) when I put it in my car and let it play on a loop for a week or more.

And on an album of delightful music, I think “Dear Marie,” the third song on the disk, touches me most (listen to it here). In it, Mayer sings to his teenage girlfriend, and in his simple way, he touched on the way I think anyone who experienced young love must feel. He compares where he turned out — “Now I wonder what you think when you see me on a magazine” — to where she turned out — “Well I got that dream but you got yourself a family” — and he asks for some advice — the title of this post.

I find the thought an interesting one, though one I’d never agree with. I would never compare my “up the road” with another’s, and even if we did end up on the same road, I would want the scenery to be a surprise. I suppose if I took one of those roads less traveled, like turning into one of my generation’s most popular musicians, I might feel a little differently; I might feel a little curiosity about a summer day in the back yard with a kiddie poll and a mortgage.

And yet, despite their completely different end-games, Mayer’s still doing what we all do with exes: “From time to time, I go looking for your photograph online. Some kind of judge in Ohio’s all I ever find.”

I actually find that line kind of hilarious. Because yes, I’ve Google-stalked some of my exes (oh boo, you have too!) and especially for my teenage love. He happens to have a similar name, one letter off, with a politician in, yes, Ohio (not a county judge, that’d be too creepy). And I’ve wondered … do my exes Google me? Cause if they do, I’m sort of all over the Googles. I wrote professionally for eight years, and a ton of my bylines appear on the search engine. My maiden name is unusual enough that I was certainly the only person with my full name in existence, so the results were all me. (Expect for that lawyer in Kent, Ohio. I have no idea where that came from. I went to school in Kent; I did not practice law there.)

Aaaaand  … time’s up! (Now, tell me about a song that makes you feel all nostalgic and goopy.)

I’m late to the Miley party, but adding my two cents on the gal: Why do you care?

Am I a day late to share my “Miley Cyrus at the VMAs” opinion? Of course. But honestly, the only reason I have an opinion is because of all the insanity I saw on blogs and Facebook yesterday.

After reading all the statuses, blog posts and online content about Miley Cyrus’ performance with Robin Thicke at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards, I figured she must have stripped down nude, pulled down Thicke’s pants and had intercourse with him on stage, climaxing in a way to have made Meg Ryan proud.

Instead, she wore skimpy clothes and gyrated on stage … like any of thousands other backup dancers in countless music videos that MTV used to air once upon a time.

I find the outrage and disgust at the performance bewildering at best and disgusting at worst.

I’m bewildered because Miley is a performer, and performers do crazy shit. It’s in their DNA. About a week or two before the VMAs, I happened to catch the actual music video to “We Can’t Stop,” and the entire time I thought, “Oh my … she’s this generation’s Madonna.” A performer at heart without the belting ability of her contemporaries (Whitney for Madonna, Adele for Miley), these women thrive on shock value and making pop music that is catchy as hell. Why is what Miley did any different from Madonna putting on a wedding dress and humping the stage in the ’80s? Maybe the only difference is that Madonna didn’t have to deal with Facebook.

But you know what? Say what you will about the forty-something (oh my god, she’s fifty-something) with the faux British accent, but she’s one of music’s all-time successful performers. Sure, she introduced us to cone bras and dated Dennis Rodman (who also famously donned a wedding dress for shits and giggles), but she also gave us beautiful ballads like “Take a Bow” and “This Used to be my Playground.” This woman was freaking Evita for God’s sake. Her life was not ruined because she got sexy on stage.

And neither will Miley’s life be ruined.

I’m bewildered because so many people who admittedly didn’t watch the VMAs are judging this girl based on others’ judgments. These folks brag that they had better things to do on Sunday night and couldn’t be bothered with the pop culture showdown on MTV, and that’s fine: I didn’t watch it, either. But I’m also not patting myself on the back for being too high-brow for such low-brow entertainment, boasting that I don’t know what “twerk” means. (I’m looking at you, weird guy I dated in college.)

I find it disgusting that people are so looking down their noses at this girl. She’s 20, for God’s sake. You’re telling me if you had the opportunity to give Robin Thicke a boner when you were 20 (or yesterday), you’d say no? Bitch, please. (The worst thing about Miley’s performance was not her inappropriate dancing movies but that ridiculous tongue. I get it, your tongue can channel Gene Simmons’s. If she’s gonna use it, be rock ‘n’ roll about it, not “It’s my mouth, I can say what I want now” about it.)

The worst bit was the patronizing, condescension I saw on at least one blog: Miley is sick, she needs our help. We know the way, the truth and the light, and she is a lost soul, far off the track of her life. We should not judge her, we should want to hold her hand and show her the error of her ways.

The thoughts in my head this evokes are jumbled. They’re not complete sentences, and they have a lot of four-letter words. Miley Cyrus does not need your help. She’s a 20-year-old performer figuring out the kind of performer and adult she wants to be. She didn’t bring out a pile of coke and Tony Montana it up on stage. She didn’t make out with Thicke, tongues-a-blazing in front of millions (something, ahem, Ms. Madge has done with another pop starlet).

It’s not Miley’s job to be your daughter’s roll model. I balk at the insistence that it is famous people’s duty to be good examples for children of today. That’s insane. If a celebrity chooses to be that roll model, fine. But today’s children’s roll models should be their parents, not former Disney child-stars on stage at the MTV music awards.

Which brings me to the only group of people I think should be allowed to bitch about Miley’s performance: girls currently in high school and college — the girls who grew up with Hannah Montana. Because when I was  young, I loved me some Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Elephant Show. And if, when I was 15 years old, I saw Sharon ass-grinding on the day’s sexy star (who would that have been in 1998? Ricky Martin?), I’d have been like “ZOMG, Sharon, noooooooOOOoOOooo!!!!”

Skinamarinky doo, indeed.

The case for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Yesterday, a friend posted a status on Facebook expressing her disdain for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Now, this is not a big deal. There are plenty of popular musicians I don’t “get” (Journey and U2, I’m looking at you), but for some reason, I kept thinking about this.

And I kept wondering, why on earth am I still thinking about this?

think I’m still thinking about it because I find Macklemore’s music so … joyful. And, yes, important. It’s not just your every day hip hop/pop. It’s more than that.

The first time I heard “Thrift Store” was in the car. I was pulling into my garage, and I waited until the song was over to get out of the car, in part because I was laughing so hard, I didn’t want to stop the moment. I promptly pulled up the video on YouTube and proceeded my giggling. When Jeff got home, I made him watch the video, and even the man who doesn’t care for rap had to admit it was a catchy, fun and frickin’ hilarious song.

“Thrift Store” playing at my wedding is one of my favorite memories from the day. I can see my sister-in-law’s face as she sang every word; I can see the best man’s wife doing her “gangsta dirrrty” face as she danced; I can see my aunts dancing together, and cousins and more friends — all people who had never met and will likely never meet again, loving life.

Later in the night, when “Can’t Hold Us” came on, the same thing happened. This memory involves the maid of honor with her eyes closed, dancing all by herself in a little bubble of glee. A few weeks later, at said maid of honor’s sister’s wedding, the bride played the song and dedicated it to her nephew. It’s his favorite song, and it makes his little body boogie like a baby beast.

Sure, “Same Love” doesn’t fall in the same joyful, happy category as the first two ditties. Instead, it’s important. It represents something huge, a shift in rap and hip hop toward acceptance when it tends to veer toward anger and sex. “Same Love” is what “Born this Way” tried to be, but failed in part because of some weird insistence that it was too Madonna-like. “Same Love” is simple. It’s not meant to be danced to. It’s not meant to be a sing-along. It’s meant to convey a message, and it does so beautifully. By the time the chorus kicks in, I’m choked up, every time. Musically, I find it the standout of Macklemore’s three songs.  The style is more of spoken-word poetry than rap, and it’s lovely, and so perfect for the music and the message. (I just watched the video for the first time. What chilling, really brilliant storytelling.)

For a musician to be able to take us from stealing stuff from a thrift shop to conveying a real, timely, important message in three songs is the stuff good stuff is made of. Will Macklemore and Ryan Lewis still be making music in 10 years? I have no idea. But today, in 2013, I’m trying to think of a current song that made me as happy as “Thrift Shop,” and one that matters as much as “Same Love.” I can’t do it. The music just might be some of the best stuff out there right now.

Currently: Somerset, Boyz, Cory, MasterChef

Shamelessly stealing this from Just A Normal Mom (thanks, Ally!!)

Currently I’m:

READING Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage.” Yes, still. Leave me alone, this thing is more than 650 pages!! But I still love it. I discovered Maugham on our honeymoon. Our resort was very eco friendly and didn’t even have a radio in the room, let alone a TV or wifi — but it DID have a mini library, including a collection of Maugham’s short stories and shorter novels.

Naturally, I had to read a book from the honeymoon library, and I discovered that I really dig Maugham. (I am always excited to discover I like an older writer — I tend to loathe the formality in those sorts of books.) When we got back from the honeymoon, I chose to read “Of Human Bondage” for the very lame reason of, it was the book of his I’d heard of.

It’s a fascinating read. I love the main character, Phillip. It has my most loathed villain in novel history, topping even “Under the Dome’s” Big Jim. I love the life lessons Phillip learns, from his (non)belief in God, his view of what makes a “good” painting, the importance of friendship, the meaning of life. At less than 100 pages left, I hope to finish this weekend … and then promptly read something like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the fourth or fifth time).

LISTENING TO ’90s music and realizing I really dislike boy bands (except Boyz II Men, they’re still my fav).

Holy crap, look what exists.

THINKING ABOUT Cory Monteith, Trayvon Martin and that Rolling Stone cover. Many lives lost much too soon.

WATCHING summertime shows: So You Think You Can Dance and MasterChef. I don’t have a favorite dancer yet, but I don’t see how Jessie can’t win MasterChef. And I reeeeally can’t wait until Natasha gets kicked off the show. She red-flagged herself for me in the earliest episodes by talking about how gorgeous she is. It was so braggy it made her immediately unattractive. She comes across as a really nasty person. (I haven’t seen last night’s episode yet, so if they kick Natasha off … don’t tell me yet!!)

LOVING this weather. After the rainiest summer ever, we’ve moved into its dredges — humid, heavy air that thinks it’s 90 degrees but feels in the triple digits. Frankly, I love it. I loath being cold (unless I’m sleeping under many, many blankets) and I like the feeling of the air on my skin. The pressure is pleasing. Also, again … I loath being cold.