Category Archives: music

“Once I wanted to be the greatest.”

My mom used to have her own business.  She monogrammed names and logos and anything else you wanted onto shirts, flags, baseball hats.  A big chunk of her business came from bowling leagues.  She’d sit down at her sewing machine with a stack of bowling shirts and spools of thread and stitch all the names: Joe, Roger, Barbara.

I’m writing a one-man play right now.  Sometimes when I’m writing I put on music.  Usually it helps distract my mind so that I just focus instead of thinking too hard.  Though sometimes it just distracts me.

Just now I got distracted because a song I didn’t recognize came on by a singer I did recognize.  Then the music video intrigued me.  It features three and a half minutes of middle aged and older women bowling.  They all take it seriously.  They all look so focused.  And then they all react to their performances, in simple but captivatingly honest ways. 

Probably if I saw that video without Cat Power’s voice behind it, it wouldn’t have struck me as much.  But it became so profound-seeming to me when paired with lyrics like this:

Once I wanted to be the greatest
Two fists of solid rock
With brains that could explain
Any feeling

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars of night turned deep to dust

A debate has been going on in the YouTube comments under this video about the meaning of the song and the meaning of the older women bowling. One person writes, “Memories of better days and nights. Each of the women in this video could fill hours and years talking about how good and bad life had been, and for some, still is – okay. Cat Power… She brings me to tears for so much we all dreamed about, and where those dreams end.”

Another user says, “The fact that the bowlers are elderly or not in the greatest of shape doesn’t negate their desire for perfection – a strike. It’s almost graceful and ballerina-like – how they step up and try to the best of their ability to match the perfect form. Watch the attempt, the hoping, and disappointment.”

Of course, then there’s this reaction, from a user named “zestytoaster”:

youre all wrong.

the point of the video is that it’s funny to watch old people bowl

Perhaps you’re right, zestytoaster. Perhaps you’re right.

“I listen to terrible music.”

I’m thinking about music today.  How it’s so powerful.  And how the exact nature of its power is hard to verbalize.  It’s so awe-inspiring–how the innate power of music to move us and stir up emotions and memories in us transcends genres, styles, time periods.

Usually in casual, small-talky situations I dread being asked what kind of music I like, who my favorite band is.  They’re intimate questions, I think.  And the answers are revealing.  Also, I’ve just never come up with concise answers.  It’s a fluid thing, taste in music.  Ten years ago my answers were much different from my answers now.  Just as ten days from now my answers might be very different from whatever I might say today.

I think this is similar to how I am with music:

I listen to terrible music.  At any given moment, if someone listened to my iPod, I’d be mortified… I usually listen to one song over and over again until I resent it, then I move on to another song. –Chris Kelly

In third grade, my school bus driver had a ritual he did almost every bus ride.  And everyone on the bus took part.  He would cue up his cassette player up front, always to the same song–“We Will Rock You” by Queen.

I highly recommend this to all bus drivers.  We were extremely well-behaved grade schoolers.  I think because we didn’t want to compromise being able to stomp our feet and scream lyrics like, “You got blood on yo’ face / You big disgrace / Wavin’ your banner all over the place / We will we will rock you / Singin’ we will we will rock you.”  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like more of a badass than during those sing-along afternoons on Bus 11.

The most appropriate thing to do to end this post would probably be to come clean about my music preferences at this moment in time.  But it’s scary.  It’s like when you’re in a car with a group of people and you start singing along with the radio, then some wise guy asks, “Who sings this?”  And you answer Elton John or whoever it is.  And then the wise guy quips, “Yeah, let’s keep it that way.”

I’d like to go on record saying that I think that’s one of the meanest things a person can do.  Singing is like voicing your soul to the world.  No one should ever be made to feel like the world doesn’t want to hear their soul.

Happy ‘4th of July’, indeed!

There’s a tab at the top of my browser that’s a shortcut for adding a new post on this here blog, and I’m happy to announce that this very post is the inaugural post for which I’ve used that shortcut.  Here’s to many more clicks on the shortcut and in turn many more posts.

In the past year or so I’ve realized my intense love for all things “road”.  I love road movies.  Road books.  Songs about the road.  There was a “This American Life” episode that reaired a few weeks ago, #102–entitled “Roadtrip!”  Ira Glass says at the beginning, after listing a slew of road movies and other road-related pieces of culture, “It is hard for an American to just hit the road without some expectations.”  I’ve experienced this.  I was even asked at one point in the trip, “What?  Did you think it would be like a movie?”  Still, I retain idyllic ideas about the road.  It calls to me.  It inspires me.  It even softens me toward cars–because that’s how I picture myself traveling on the road.  In a car.  Even better, though, are road-related things that involve the most inspiring, the most exciting and perfect form of transportation I can think of–the RV. 

The closest I’ve ever come to experiencing an RV was a rundown camper that was attached to the back of my grandfather’s truck when I was a child.  I heard stories about my parents taking it camping when my oldest brother was a newborn.  By the time I was born, though, everyone had stopped using the old camper.  The family had graduated to something much less exciting and mobile–a tent.  In our town there was a RV dealership that intrigued me and mocked me each time we passed it in the minivan to and from a trip to the grocery store or dance class or most frequently, the dump.  I remember the feeling of complete awe when I realized what those two letters stood for–Recreational Vehicle.  Wow.  A vehicle whose sole purpose is recreation.  On camping trips I’d stare longingly at the RVs.  I’d watch them pull up to the station where they unloaded their sewage.  Even that seemed romantic. 

My favorite part about stranger’s RVs, though, was when they had maps decorating the side.  These maps were the coolest idea in the history of everything because the owners of the RV could attach little magnets in the shape of US states to mark where they’d traveled.  Specifically, where they’d traveled in their RV.  It was like the maps inside of tourist destinations that visitors put colorful thumbtacks in to signify wherever they came from.  Oh, the status of being the visitor to put a thumbtack on some far-off locale–Nepal, Portugal, Madagascar.  What are Nepalese/Portuguese/Madagascarean tourists doing at this ice cream stand on Route 28 in Hyannis, Massachusetts?   

I digress.  Point is, I badly want to travel around in a “dusty old RV.”  I want to “ride shotgun from town to town.”  I want a man as my RV companion who hasn’t shaved in days and is starting to smell.  But it won’t matter because we’ve still got half a tank of gas, a bag of chips in between our seats, and we’re singing along with the radio and “staking a claim on the world we found.”  Basically I want something exactly like this Shooter Jennings song, aptly entitled “4th of July”–

Joe Cocker, I love you.

Career Change!

I’ve been perusing the job sites this afternoon, and I came across two positions that are particularly cool.  One of my dreams is to live on the road for at least a couple months of my life.  This summer isn’t conducive to that, unfortunately, as I have three weddings to attend, but that’s totally fine.  Besides, I’m not really qualified for either of these.

The Big Apple Circus, an internationally recognized, not-for-profit touring circus seeks a Fleet Assistant.

Responsibilities are dependant on experience and skill. Duties include assisting the Fleet Supervisor in maintaining the show vehicles and equipment, basic mechanics, driver’s license required.

This job requires full-time travel with the show. Position provides: salary, housing, all meals, benefits, and tour transportation. Tools and equipment provided.

To apply, email resume to or call Chris @ 917-921-2560

Just think–you could literally run away with the circus!  This next one I guess I could be qualified for, but I’m not sure I have the temperament for:

Private large Motor Yacht based in Jersey City is looking for a friendly, reliable, professional stewardess who can bartend, waitress and keep the yacht clean and tidy. Experience and interest in preparing and presenting food will be very beneficial to the successful candidate.

This is ideally a live aboard position as the yacht travels from Newport RI to Cape May NJ all summer long. Hours are not set but determined by the owner’s use of the yacht.

This is a great opportunity for those looking for a summer of fun and travel along with the opportunity to save their earnings as food and accommodation are provided when living on board.

Inquire at

They even provide a uniform!  Which is one reason I’m not sure I’d be a good fit–I don’t much like khaki.  Or yachts, if I’m really honest with myself.  I want a grungey tour bus compartment to sleep in, not an oak cabin compartment.  And they use the term “stewardess.”  Which makes me think that’s what this rich chauvinist still calls the female flight attendents on his private jet! 

Sigh.  Some people.

I did apply for one job today that I’m really excited about.  And really qualified for, I think.  But times are tough.  The ad was posted at 9:22 this morning, and I’m sure by now, 6:30pm, they’ve already received countless inquiries.  Feel free to do this for me:

“Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd”

Thanks for clarifying that. And thanks Lynyrd Skynyrd for these lyrics:

Oh, take your time. Don’t live too fast.
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman–you’ll find love.
And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Baby, be a simple kind of man.
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold.
All that you need is in your soul.
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try.
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied.

This song was on my mind today. Mostly because I submitted a two week’s notice for one of my jobs. It felt impulsive and liberating. But really I’ve been thinking about doing it for awhile. I’m only there one day a week for one thing. It doesn’t pay all that well. And it doesn’t challenge or stimulate me in the slightest. (A cubicle is involved.)

So, out with the old, in with the new. Which, is this economy, doesn’t mean much. But fuck it. All I need is in my soul.

Frankie Valli and Overweight Women

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were a staple of my childhood, especially between ages 5 and 8. Looking back it seems like they were constantly playing in the car. And my older brothers were constantly complaining about it. About Frankie Valli’s voice in particular.

I didn’t take part in the complaining because his voice didn’t bother me so much as it confused me. I pictured some overweight, homely woman singing when he went really high, and I pictured, well, I guess I pictured someone a lot like Frankie Valli when he sang in his lower register. But that overweight homely woman really, really baffled me! Who was she?! Where did they find someone with such a voice? She was truly an anomaly.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” made me take pause the most. I didn’t know if I was supposed to take the message to heart. And if I was, I wasn’t sure I was capable of ever being a big girl. This song probably had a lot to do with why I pictured an overweight woman–a big girl–as the person behind the voice.

If you do a Google image search for “overweight homely woman”, this map is the second thing that you’ll find:

Big girls don’t cry (they don’t cry)
Big girls don’t cry (that’s just an alibi)