I’m sitting in a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in a space that once, in my glorious youth, housed one of the best standalone movie theaters in town. It was as close as you could get to all the good stuff in town without going into Waikiki, which most of us who live here generally try to avoid. When the big movies opened on this island, they opened in Waikiki or at one of the two nearby standalones, and this was the better (less storied) theater. Smaller, but not a zoo. I saw Back to the Future in the theater that used to be right where I’m having a glass of iced tea. I work here a lot lately, and my writing partner and I often meet here to go over our work (or just write), and it always makes me a little wistful.
My uncle is visiting for the week, and tonight is the big dinner with the whole family, which is basically my parents, my sister, her two kids, my uncle, and me. We used to be a huge family, but that’s changed with this current generation. Sorry, mom and dad.
My mom made reservations at a hotel restaurant. I generally like hotel restaurants, as overpriced as they usually are, and I’ve been to this one as a chaperone for a school event, and it’s right in the area where I’ve been spending my working hours lately, so that’s convenient. My parents offered to pick me up at home (I live between their house and the hotel) but I reminded them that I usually work in cafes now, so I’d just meet them there.
Doing the Friday 5 this week, or as much as I can get in before I have to head over there.
- What’s a song that reminds you of your parents?
This one’s a challenge because my mother’s from Japan, and while she likes a lot of popular, older American songs, they tend to be of the Perry Como variety, while my father is fonder of the pre-British-Invasion stuff like the Four Seasons and the Fifth Dimension. So a song that reminds me of my mom is “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet” (You know the one: “What is a youth? Impetuous fire! What is a maid? Ice and desire…). A song that always reminds me of my dad is just about anything Fifth Dimension, especially “Age of Aquarius.” A song that reminds me of both is perhaps “Cupid,” a song I once had a lengthy argument with them about, while in the car on a late-night ride home. It was the number one song on pop radio in Hawaii at the time, and I expressed surprise when my dad hummed along with it when it came on the radio. My mom thought I was crazy for insisting it was a new song; I said this had to be a new version of some old song they knew, but they insisted that it was exactly the song they knew. They turned out to be right.
- What’s a song that makes you think of food?
“Eat It” by Weird Al comes to mind, but “That’s Amore” always makes me want to eat pizza.
- What’s a memorable song from a movie soundtrack?
Oh, man. There are so many. But one recent extremely memorable song is REO Speedwagon’s “Live Every Moment,” which plays over the closing credits of Grown Ups 2, which I have reviewed in this space and wasn’t a very good film at all. But it sounded to my ears like a classic REO rocker, and for some reason I’d never heard it! It’s on the same album as “One Lonely Night,” a song I hate. It’s an excellent, excellent choice for the closing credits, one that I think says something about Adam Sandler’s mindset in making the movie. I had a similar experience with Soul Asylum’s “Misery,” which plays over the closing credits of Clerks 2, another movie that’s not very good even though I love Kevin Smith. In fact, the choice of this song to play over those credits is genius, and it helps me see the film as something other than what I think most people see. I plan to write an essay on this someday, so enough on that for now.
- What was your favorite song from 2014?
I have a whole post dedicated to this topic coming up soon, but I’ll spoil the list and say “Invisible” by U2 is easily the best song of the year, but there are a couple of great songs off the new Foo Fighters album totally worth several spins.
- What are your favorite songs for when you’re behind the wheel?
If it’s a long drive, “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band. I’m also fond of “Radar Love” by Golden Earring, “Roll with the Changes” by REO Speedwagon, “Come Sail Away” by Styx, “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits, and almost anything by the Eagles.
Okay. It’s 5:14 and the reservation is for 5:30, so I’d better get going.
Bunch of memes to end the weekend.
One Thing …..
that makes you smile:
that makes you cry:
Expressions of kindness.
that you love to do on the weekends:
that you do for only yourself:
I’m going with swimming at the beach, even though I haven’t done much of that since the end of January.
that you have in your underwear drawer that’s NOT underwear:
Cobwebs. I don’t put my clothes in my dresser anymore; it’s only got clothes in it that I haven’t worn in years, plus a few spiders.
that you do before going to sleep:
Set the alarm.
that you do within the first 15 minutes after waking:
Check my phone for messages and notifications.
that’s in your purse:
I don’t have a purse, but in my backpack there is a phone charger, among a few other things.
that you actually LIKE to clean:
I like washing my hair after a swim.
that you DETEST cleaning:
that other people would find odd about you:
I hate getting food on my hands, so I eat potato chips from the bag in a peculiar way: usually with chopsticks.
that you would buy if I handed you a $100 bill:
Food first, since this has been a Weekend of Extreme Frugality.
that you feel you HAVE to do before you die:
There’s one thing that leaps to mind but I think it’s inappropriate for this space, so I’m going with publish a novel.
I changed my mind. I feel like writing, but the memes don’t really interest me right now, and there isn’t anything on my mind worth jotting down here. Maybe I’ll just type whatever I’m thinking for a few moments.
My former boss gave me Season 1 of The Newsroom for Christmas and I finally got around to watching the first six episodes (of ten). It’s quite good. I’d seen Alison Pill in a few things before, but I had no idea she had this in her. She’s the frenetic center of a great cast, including Jeff Daniels and a surprising Sam Waterson. Looking forward to finishing the season, then watching it again with the commentaries. Then probably getting myself Season 2.
The new Yes album was scheduled to be released July 8, but Wikipedia says July 16, and Amazon says July 22. So darn. I’m really looking forward to it. The last album was great, one of my favorites, and this one’s got a new singer. Sometimes a thing like that is what a band of old guys like Yes needs in order to jolt it into something fresh.
I’ve had the same two Netflix DVDs in my possession since the middle of March. I decided, when I rejoined the service a couple of years ago, that I wasn’t going to stress about getting my money’s worth, because that’s what ruined the experience for me the first time. I don’t want this concept of getting my money’s worth to dictate what I will watch or when I will watch it. Just having access to the service is worth the few bucks per month it costs me, the way you pay for the availability of cable television even when you don’t watch it. Still, four months is kind of ridiculous. I finally just ripped both movies (Tiger Eyes and About Time) to my laptop and I’ll watch them sometime this week (then delete them, of course). Time to get past this stasis and get something new in my mailbox. Satisfaction (with Justine Bateman) and Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence) are up next.
I recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (I read Looking for Alaska a couple of months ago) and look forward to Shailene Woodley in the main character’s role in the film. Green is a good writer, but boy is his style ostentatious. I’m re-reading Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, one of my favorite books, and it is reminding me of what I want to accomplish as a writer. It’s funny, because my writing partner made me read Looking for Alaska, so I made her read Criss Cross. Neither of us likes the other’s book nearly as much as the one we each recommended.
Almost 1:00 in the morning and the laundry is finally done. About to hit the sack. Here’s to a good week.
Sometimes this is how I listen to music: something makes me think of a song. I want to hear the song. If I know it’s in my iTunes, I’ll play it. If something else in that artist’s list looks good, I’ll play that too. More often, I scroll down the artists list and add stuff to the queue (via the wonderful “add to up next” feature). Since the artists list is alphabetized, it often looks like the playlist of an alphabet-themed radio program, the sort new DJs at KTUH often liked to put together. I’d often be in the record library, looking for cool stuff for my program, and another DJ would come in, and I’d say, “Who’s this on the air?” And the other DJ would say, “That’s Keri. It’s her first show. She’s doing an alphabet show.”
One of the personal blogs I most enjoy is by the pseudonymed ThirtyWhat, who jumped into the Friday 5 sometime last year and has been the top of my must-read list ever since. She had the crappiest of years, and as you know, most personal blogs are their best when someone is really going through awful stuff. She’s much happier now, which is of course preferable, even if it means the blogging is not as gripping. It’s okay; she’s a really good writer so it’s all cool.
ThirtyWhat misattributed the lyrics to a Santana song as being by Steve Winwood, the irresistibly singable “I’m Winning.” I had to give it a listen, so into my iTunes I went. Listened to it twice, then to Santana’s “Europa,” which is of course that band’s best song. Then I did the scrolly thing and played some Sara Bareilles, Sarah Jarosz, Savatage, and Scorpions. And then I just stayed there.
When the Scorpions’ Blackout album came out, I was just making the switch from top 40 AM pop radio to FM rock, as I have documented in this space a few times. The local rock station played a LOT of songs from that album, and I bought it the next year and listened to it until I could sing along with the whole album. It’s probably one of the finest albums of its genres; I’d put it up there with Pyromania and that’s about it. From beginning to end, it is just endlessly listenable. The Scorpions’ proclivity for slower songs puts it a notch below Pyromania (I don’t like slow songs in this genre nearly as much as fast songs), but a slow Scorpions song is almost always ten times better than a slow Def Leppard song (exception: “Foolin'”), and you can’t even compare the soloing. I keep forgetting what a musically skilled band the Scorpions is.
I’ve had that album stuck on repeat for a few days, and am listening to it right now. It’s been thirty-two years since the album’s release and boy do I feel old.
I met with my writing partner yesterday and got very little done. I am behind on my paid writing and that’s making it hard to think of anything else. So the first draft of my novel is still not quite done. I’ll finish it sometime this week. Meanwhile, articles on work-life balance and team-building need to get done!
I’ve been silent lately mostly because I have so much to say and don’t think I ever have enough time to get it all down. And that’s a self-defeating approach because the longer I wait, the more I’ve got to say, and the more time I need. I’ve decided just to get a little down every day until I think I’m caught up. What follows was begun almost a week ago; I’m going to just wrap that up and go into whatever the next thing is that leaps to the forefront.
I should say, for the benefit of real-life friends who might happen to be reading this, that what I’m about to scribble in this space is not a complaint. And it’s not about you.
This time of year is stressful for just about everyone, for students especially, but for their teachers as well, and even for those of us who have nothing to do with academia. It’s the closing of a year, and closing time is always hectic. It’s a season of obligation, and obligation can be stressful, even when we submit to it willingly and with love.
Gift-giving is a financial stress; there’s almost no way around that. It can also be a relational stress. Then, of course, are the stresses that come with the whole family togetherness thing. I love my family dearly, but getting together with it can be majorly stressful.
Despite it all, I love the season, and I love the gift-giving, and I even love most of the familial togetherness. I like the parties, and the lights, and goodwill toward men.
But man: the whole social aspect of it is the real stress, which I can say now that my career has allowed me (usually) to spend the kind of money that satisfies my gift-giving preferences. I realize I’m super-super blessed to be more stressed by the (mostly free) getting together with loved ones than by the financial burden of gift-giving (‘though believe me: it’s not entirely stress-free), but the full awareness of that blessing doesn’t subtract from the toll it exacts, which is significant.
I had two friends visiting from the mainland last week, two friends I would have spent as much time with as possible. If either had been available every day for two weeks, that’s what I would have wanted to spend. In this case, it was one evening with one friend and two evenings with the other. Then I had a writers group meeting. And then a NaNoWriMo Thank-God-It’s-Over get-together, and a social send-off for one of my bosses, and there’s something else in there that I’m forgetting.
That’s a lot of socializing, and boy is it a drain on my energy.
I’ve just deleted three paragraphs’ worth of expounding on why it seems easier to socialize with people I barely know than with people who know me very well. I felt like I was reasoning myself in circles and could no longer figure out what I was trying to get at. Perhaps another time.
The main point is this, though: The extra time spent socializing at this time of year means even more alone time required than usual, and time seems to be in such short supply in months beginning with D. It is perhaps another reason January is so much the better month for me.
I am determined not to wait forever this year to compile my best-of-2013 music selections. I don’t know why I always (always!) drag it out into the new year. It annoys me that I do this. So I’m setting a deadline of this coming Friday. I am writing four lists: an overall best-of, a best-of metal, a best-of non-metal, and a best tracks. The best tracks thing is just about done; I’ve been pretty good about keeping track all year of the songs that really did something for me. Albums are just harder to keep straight, partially because they require so much more time to listen to, but also because there’s more to remember about each one. Ask me about Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and I’ll have ten things to say about the one track. Ask me about The National’s <i>Trouble Will Find Me</i>, and without some time to give the album another spot-listen, the best I can come back with is something like: it’s overall a better album than <i>High Violet</i> but doesn’t have lyrical highlights for you to hang onto. Which isn’t enough, really, to base my year-end thoughts upon.
I haven’t picked out a planner yet; hoping to do that Saturday. Work has been kind of busy this week, in a way that’s hard to define. Or identify. Or even really confirm.
So the pre-dawn writing and coffee experiment went surprisingly well Monday. I banged out about 770 words in forty-five minutes. It was encouraging. But then after I got all excited, I somehow turned the volume on my alarm all the way down and overslept Tuesday, not getting up out of bed until just after five. Still managed to swim, though.
Wednesday and Thursday I got back on track, with about 1100 words Wednesday and then another 700 today. I’m playing around with young adult fantasy. I’ve got some good characters I like working with and have no idea where the story’s going, which to me feels like a good formula at least for verbiage.
It seems that the premiere episode of Lucky 7 received the lowest rating for a drama series debut in the history of ABC. Which is too bad because of the new shows I’ve seen so far, it’s the only one I really like. Its days are almost certainly numbered, but I think I’ll try to hang in there and perhaps convert the masses.
Last week, the founding bassist in Adam Again died, making him the second member of that group to die. Gene Eugene, whose name I have mentioned here a few times, died thirteen years ago. It’s hard to think about, the way this super, super, super important group doesn’t even exist anymore. I like a lot of music, and I like a lot of musicians, but there are a small number of bands I cannot imagine surviving my youth without, and Adam Again is one of them. It makes me sad in a way that goes beyond the demise of two musicians who made such a huge difference in my life. There’s something in there about my own getting old, something that’s been fluttering around on the fringe of my consciousness for the past couple of years, and I’m not ready to deal with it yet. I have a feeling that Paul Valadez’s death is a signal that I’m going to have to deal with it soon.
Meanwhile, one of those other bands who got me through my college years, The Choir, just launched a Kickstarter campaign with a live online concert during which the band took some questions from viewers and even responded to requests. Not MY request, but still. Some things die. Some things continue. And I keep getting up in the morning and greeting the sunrise from my spot in the Pacific Ocean, struggling to add a day or two to the end of my life because surviving is maybe the one thing I understand in this swirling mystery. The morning swims, the pre-dawn coffee and writing, the dying of musicians, the canceling of TV shows, the launching of new artistic projects by other musicians who still have something to say to me: these are all the same subject, in case that escaped you.
The earth is hard,
The treasure fine.
Yes, I am aware that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not a 20th-Century work. I realized I must have misunderstood the list right after posting that last entry. Too many of the canonized novels written in English weren’t on it, and they all had in common that they were pre-20th-Century. I wonder if Gatsby would make my own top 20 if I were only considering 20th-Century work.
For the past year, I’ve been using my space here in a manner I never intended. For reasons I still won’t go into (I guess I can no longer say “can’t go into…”), I have intentionally avoided the usual details of my life here. Around mid-February, that looked like it was about to change, and that’s the state things have been in since: about to change. I’ve been in a weird (‘though not altogether unpleasant) state of limbo in a couple of areas of my life. While that’s not as bad as it could be (or in fact as bad as it’s been), in some ways it’s more stressful, this feeling of being on the verge, for an extended time, of a major change. It’s literally been an it-can-happen-any-moment situation for five months. Unable to make commitments to certain things or to make long-term plans, or even to tend to certain everyday situations because of what might happen tomorrow or the day after gets tiring after five months. It’s been a real test.
One of the stresses is that I cannot really afford a crisis, and as we all know, crisis is always right around the corner, and it never comes at a good time.
My car refusing to go forward just a few driveways from my house could have happened at a much worse time and in much worse circumstances, but whatever. I’m going to deal with it. A long-delayed and much-needed paycheck is coming tomorrow, and although I’m still going to have to wait for the funds to become available (my credit union, which has always been the epitome of customer-pleasing, recently changed one policy that has made my life much, much more difficult than it need be, something I could fix with one piece of paper if only my on-the-verge status would resolve itself in my favor), probably until after the weekend, the car is in a pretty safe place, and I may only have to deal with bus-riding for one or two work days, sandwiched around a weekend.
So things could certainly be worse, and I’m not really complaining yet. I’m sort of expecting it to get slightly worse when certain uncertainties reveal themselves (the cost of the repairs among them), but for now I think I’m mostly okay. The recent canceling of one of my favorite bus routes didn’t affect me too much because shortly after it happened, I attained my new wheels. And one of the adjustments the bus company made to atone for the canceling of that route was to extend the alternate (less pleasant) route all the way to where I’m currently working, so it’s a one-bus deal, even though it’s a rather long and unpleasant route. I’m actually considering transferring to another route mid-way, just to get on a better bus, but at least for this one day, I think I’ll try and live with the one-bus drive (shudder) through Waikiki.
I’m up too late, since it’s now past midnight and I’m hoping to hop on a much-too-early bus at 4:45. It’ll get me to work about three hours earlier than I need to be there, but heck. Catching a bus arriving there at a more decent hour means dealing with more commuters, and if I can avoid people AND traffic by getting up earlier, I’ll do it. I’ll grab a few winks at my desk before anyone comes in.
Here comes the Friday 5, which I complete this week because the questions were inspired by hearing an old Fleetwood Mac song that brought back a flood of memories. I’m too young (Yay! I seldom get to start a sentence with that phrase!) for that to be the music of my high-school years; I was six when the Fleetwood Mac album came out, but I got pretty seriously into them around tenth and eleventh grade, more than a decade later.
- What song, album, or artist, disliked by you in high school, now sounds pretty good?
There are two quick choices here: Debbie Gibson and Prince. To be fair, I never disliked Debbie the musician; I just didn’t care for her poppy girlness. I appreciated that she wrote all of her songs (she’s the Taylor Swift of the 80s!), but rocker me couldn’t get into the tunes. Now I groove to the early Debbie stuff and love it. And Prince? Geez, forget about all the stupid, psycho pretentiousness. Have you ever heard Around the World in a Day on a really good stereo, at very loud volumes? I have. It was like the scales fell from my eyes (or ears) and suddenly Prince made a lot more sense to me.
- What specific high-school memory do you have of discovering some song, album, or artist you considered old?
This happened a lot when I hit the switch on my stereo and moved my entire life from AM top-40 radio to FM rock in eighth grade. The move (which I may have related in this space some time ago) was prompted by my love of Styx. The FM rock station had the new Styx album (Kilroy was Here) and was playing it in advance of the album’s release, so I turned all my attention to that station and never looked back. This meant hearing a LOT of really great music for the first time as a musically retarded thirteen-year-old. Zep, Sabbath, the Eagles, Steve Miller, and a hundred other artists I’d never been decently exposed to suddenly consumed me, but it was the first time I heard “Come Sail Away” (1977) by Styx that I really remember. I’d known enough to think of Styx as a rock band, but not like this! It had to be Styx; there was no mistaking that Dennis DeYoung vocal. But it rocked like crazy in a way I would come to love, with all instruments going full-throttle and still playing together. I got to school the next morning, and asked my friend Derek if he’d ever heard the Styx song that went “Come say away; come sail away with me…” and he told me the correct title, and told me what album it was on. Other bands I’d grow to love that year (Yes, Rush, REO) did it better, but to my young ears, Styx did it first.
- What song or album best serves as the soundtrack for your senior year of high school? (bonus challenge: answer this question with a different song or album for each year of high school!)
I’m going for the bonus challenge on this one, and extending it down to seventh grade.
Grade 7: “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Styx’s Paradise Theater was still the soundtrack to my entire life that year, but all the songs from that album remind me of sixth grade, not seventh, so I’m going with this song because it was one of the songs I could bust out singing between classes and my classmates (some of them) would join me. It’s one of a small handful of songs I remember that year really appealing to just about all of us. I think “Destroyer” by the Kinks was another, and it’s one of the few 45s I remember buying that year, but I remember an overwhelming sense of universal love for the Joan Jett song.
Grade 8: The entire Kilroy was Here album by Styx. The anticipation of that album, documented above, changed the course of my music life forever. Forget just the music for a second: in addition to opening my ears to a whole new universe of artists, it pretty much gave me my primary social group for the next couple of years, the guys I’d go to my first concert with, the guys I hung out with on the front steps every morning before school. A decent alternate choice would be Def Leppard’s Pyromania album, but there’s really no question on this one. It’s Kilroy.
Grade 9: Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man was released in August right before the start of my ninth-grade year. I bought it on cassette a few months later, in October or November. In January of that school year (this would be 1984), right after I turned fifteen, I got my first paying job at the Aiea Public Library. This meant no more rides home in the family carpool. I was getting on a bus right after the last bell every day and riding to Aiea to put books on shelves, and then getting on a late bus home to Waipahu after closing. An Innocent Man was the album I listened to most on those long bus rides (and longer bus waits), and those songs always take me back to that year. I can still sing every word of every song on that album, in order. I did that job from January to June, and memories of that job are inextricably tied to memories of that album.
Grade 10: There is no contest here. On June 4, 1984, right after the end of my ninth-grade year, I stood in line at Tower, a special line where they were selling only one album: Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.. I bought it on cassette, and pretty much listened to it non-stop throughout that summer and through most of grade 10. There’s a darned good chance that if I had to pick one album to stand for all of high school, it would be this one. I simply cannot believe that in a year, this album is going to be thirty freaking years old. I think I’m about to cry simply because I am so old. I was fifteen, which I think may be the magic year for everyone. There’s probably an album for everyone when they’re fifteen that stands for their whole high-school lives. This is mine.
Grade 11: This is more difficult to write about than I thought it would be, but I was in amorous pursuit of Lisa, a grade younger than me, throughout tenth grade, and despite interference from some of my best friends (two of whom were in that group of rockers I spent a sentence praising a few paragraphs ago) and a few non-friends, by the last quarter of tenth grade, it was pretty clear we were going to be together, something that officially happened that summer between my sophomore and junior years. So my eleventh-grade memories are mostly memories of this first relationship, which lasted until the first week of summer after my junior year. I was a sap for love songs that year, and there were two that sort of stuck as our songs: “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog and “Faithfully” by Journey, even though the lyrics don’t really have any relation to our lives. It was just the song that was playing the first time we danced. I’m thinking I have to say it was “Faithfully” for the soundtrack of that year, but boy do I wish I could say it was something cooler. Of stuff from that year, John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow and Amy Grant’s Unguarded were in pretty heavy play on my Walkman. If I had to pick an album from that year, it would probably be Amy. Especially since that was such an important album for R, something we were all very aware of that year.
Grade 12: Lisa dumped me the summer before my senior year, and that was a rough year. Romantically, my interests were all over the place, including still hoping to get back with Lisa. I went to a Journey concert (on their Raised on Radio tour) that was missing two-fifths of the band I loved (American Idol’s Randy Jackson was the bass player), but I disliked the album they’d just done and so I can’t pick that. I was having enormous trouble getting along with my Dad for the first part of the year and was having pretty much a miserable year from August through December. Then I don’t know what happened, but things thawed out (or cooled down) between my Dad and me right after the new year, and I started doing better in school (too little, too late, alas!) and although my heart hadn’t really settled on anyone, my girl-FRIEND relationships were really good, and my guy-friend relationships were good too. By the end of the school year, I’d discovered Bruce Hornsby’s debut album and that’s a mile-marker album for me, but for me, that was really closer to the end. I think for the first half of the year (the troubled half), I’ll go with a two-sided C-90 cassette with Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet on one side and Stryper’s To Hell with the Devil on the other. For the second half of my senior year, the good half, I don’t think there can really anything other than U2’s The Joshua Tree, released that March and immediately a classic.
- What’s a song, album, or artist from your high-school years you loved then (and might still love) but have great difficulty listening to now, and what’s the reason?
Certain songs from Amy Grant’s Unguarded remind me too much of R, and they can be tough to listen to. “Sharayah” and “Love of Another Kind” come to mind. They’re not as hard to listen to now as they were a couple of years ago, but boy is it bittersweet to hear them.
- What song, album, or artist from your high-school years, seemingly forgotten nowadays, do you still listen to with fondness?
You never hear those .38 Special songs from their Tour de Force album on the radio anymore, at least not around here. That’s such a great album. Others that come to mind: “New Gal Now” by Honeymoon Suite, “Say What You Will” by Fastway, the whole Next Position Please album by Cheap Trick, and “Turn Up the Radio” by Autograph.