Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mommy, what are they saying

Love the Way You Lie- Eminem ft. Rihanna

There is usually a lot of dancing in our kitchen, especially on breakfast for dinner night. I suspect the kids are grooving with anticipation for the maple syrup induced sugar rush and lack of green vegetables. My excitement is getting to cook with Bill. He makes one tasty omelet while serving up some of his latest voice impressions. It's all good.

So, the hits from the 90's and latest in Indie Rock are exchanged for dance and rap music. Recent staples for our dancing nights are Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" and Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning." These used to be "How Far We've Come" by Matchbox 20 and "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees.  All enjoyable songs, but after repeated listening I am thankful for evolving tastes. My six year old LOVES Eminem's Lose Yourself, so that usually is played along with Eminem's other radio releases.

As I am setting the table, my youngest sits down just as "Love the Way You Lie" comes up. He and I both love Rihanna's chorus. He calls it the Lie song, and breaks into his rapper tough face when it cuts to Eminem. It's all good...until.

"Mommy, what are they saying?"

Sound of needle scratching record and the room getting quiet. Yikes! Parenting moment.

While I enjoy the song, we try to address explicit lyrics by getting radio edits. Problem solved, right? No. The content matters too. I don't want my son thinking putting his fist through the drywall is a healthy way to resolve conflict. So, I sat down next to him and tried to explain to my six year old, who wants to live in an igloo made out of a towel when he grows up, about the complexity of relationships. He had more questions. How my explanations and answers on domestic violence mixed into his brain with the Super Mario Brothers images and thoughts on igloos, I will never know. There are no guarantees. My hope is he emulates his dad in his relationships. No holes in the drywall, but I do expect him to look me in the eyeball.

I wasn't censored as a kid. Music was an area of my life I felt free to discover and explore without restriction. Over-parenting music choice is something I try not to do, even though the first 2 bars of "YMCA" instantly give me a headache.  Music is an exploration of sound and emotion but our connections to each other is what shapes us.

After the questions, I was back at the pancakes. Bill was starting the omlets. My son was doing his ninja dance moves. It was all good.

Warning: Explicit Lyrics in Attached Video

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Poetry with David Gray

"The One I Love" by David Gray

Waiting for an untested pork chop recipe to bake, I was transported in time with Gray's enchanting imagery. This song has always been a favorite for being a simply told haunting love song. For whatever reason, whenever I hear this song I think of a World War II soldier bounding up the shores on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944. I don't think it was a perfect summer's night, but there were the June buds and "bullet's whispering."

My views are simple. Life is about time and those you love. David captures this with a loaded thought of "You're the one I love." In my picture of this story, the solider is struck and dying from the beginning. After fighting and resisting the wound, he is "gonna close my eyes." These final moments he is physically surrounded by the battle but transported by the images of his love.

The chorus I think is special because it takes you from the earthly concerns of the repo man to the afterlife pondering of the heavens and stars.

I can see his pale skin with the words, "Now I'm leaking life faster then I'm leaking blood." And his life ends with the lights of the "bay hotel."

The idea that there wasn't a heaven or hell, only a blissful memory shows how human it is to die. Not up on my Greek mythology, I learned what Elysium was because of this song. (It is a final resting place in the underworld for souls of the heroic and virtuous.) The solider saw him self as human, nothing heroic or evil, just a human. We are the sum of our human experiences and joy is the people we share them with.

The comical part for me is how many of the lyrics I had wrong. I had medics crashing on the shore, and the lights of pride. Once I read the lyrics the message didn't change for me, but the power of it grew. I am in awe at his poetic abilities. It is a much better song with his lyrics.

Thank you, David Gray, for such a moving song.

I wish I had as many beautiful things to say about the pork chops. This recipe will not be a sustainable blissful memory I care to recall in my last moments on this Earth.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rolling Down Glenwood Ave

“Roll to Me” by Del Amitri

With fingers caked in Ricotta cheese, I fumble while trying to jam the cheese and sausage mixture into manicotti noodles without ripping the slimy sticky noodle. Meanwhile, Iron & Wine “Boy with a Coin” gives way to Del Amitri’s “Roll to Me.” All bets are off. I rip the open the noodle; wrap it around the gooey mixture so I can turn up the music. 

This song is about as short as my freshman year at the College of St. Francis, which only lasted a semester. It also was the soundtrack during my morning commute. Like most morning shows, Eric and Kathy on 101.9 in Chicago had a predictable format, and managed to play this song everyday while I was cruising down Glenwood Avenue. That is right. I was a commuter right out of high school. So instead of roommates and keggers, I was concerned with prime parking spots and daily traffic patterns. My grades were incredible. My work ethic was admirable. My dedication to my major was that of disinterest and completely lacking of any passion. My connection to the school and my peers was nonexistent.

I lacked passion for any course of study. I was entertained by my classes, and even learned a thing or two. But for the most part, I could not see a unified vision for where all of this was going to take me. Because I commuted I couldn't get lost in the college life and stop thinking about it all so deeply.

I was looking at my future with a smudgy and out of focus lens that everyone else had been touching and fiddling with but I hadn’t stepped up and put into focus. Not once did I consider I may be taking all of this way to seriously, which is now something I would tell my 18 year old self. I was trying to be sensible and practical at a time in my life it would have been o.k. to dabble and maybe even go to a kegger. My reality, however, was a 27 minute drive covering the 13.5 miles from my parent’s house to the college, being confronted with these words: 

Look into your heart pretty baby,
Is it aching with some nameless need.
Is there something wrong and you can't put your finger on it
Right then, roll to me 

So, when I rolled back to my home town, I spent all of my time with my boyfriend. He was a commuter at a school even further away. His grades were incredible. His work ethic was admirable. His dedication to chemistry was pure passion.  He proved to me passion is vital, so I married him. He inspired me, and still inspires me to step outside of the commuter rut and into my life. (Wait, did I just hear Billy Ocean.) Now, when I hear this song I realize I first have to turn it up fast because it will be over very quickly. Secondly, it is important to find your own voice. Even if it is in the kitchen covered in manicotti.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Say" by John Mayer

While prepping chicken for the broiler, boiling the rotini and folding sheets, I got caught up in "Say" by John Mayer. This song unnerves me. Could it be the ukulele? (It seems whenever I am making a list of my all time favorites there is a ukulele involved.) I think not. It is the simplicity of a message I struggle with and it is always reassuring when someone else writes a song about it...and sings it in a key that is right in my range.

First, I never say what I need to say. I say a lot but never what needs to be said. I believe if someone had a gun to my head telling me to spill it I would still be overthinking my response and carefully considering the feelings of said gun holder before saying what I would need to say. Now, I have read the articles and seen the interviews. So, I realize this is a personal topic for Mr. Mayer as well.  Which is why I think he is able to summarize the anxiety ridden paradox of words and feelings so well.

The tender spot for me is when I think about my oldest son who is now 7 years old. He says a lot, and he asks a lot of questions but can never quite get to the heart of what troubles him. This song brought me to tears every time I heard it last year it because he was in such a bad place. He was the "one man army fighting with the shadows in his head." We moved him 1000 miles from what was his home with promises of making a new home. It was going to be great! Well, long distance moves are never all great. At age 6 he figured this out the hard way. School wasn't what he expected, the house wasn't what he expected; etc. In his list of complaints and growing anger he could never get to the heart of it. "I am angry you moved me." How I wanted to climb in his 6 year old head and push away all the clutter so he could say it. Of course me wanting to "fix" it doesn't help him say it. It took me learning more about saying things to help him say them too. An interesting side note to this song is it drives my son crazy. "Why does he just keep saying say?"

 A year later, we are content and saying a lot more and trying to fix things much less. Letting the feelings be and the words flow has made all the difference. So, today when the first pluck of the ukulele sounded I sang along feeling closure ...with a heart wide open.