In no particular order, five out of thousands, chosen from the recent rotation (even though many are serious throwbacks), I present the below. What song/book/screenplay do you wish you’d written first?
Matchbox 20 – You Won’t Be Mine
I first heard this in…sophomore year? of high school. I had downloaded it during a LimeWire spree in a pre-requisite computer class that was frankly beneath me. I spent most of my time emailing nonsense to my buddy/brother Ethan who was stuck in another computer class directly across the hall. It was our elegant solution to more efficient programs like AIM being blocked by the school. In between inbox refreshing, LimeWire and the stack of blank CDs I’d bring with me helped pass the time. I’ve always envied piano players. I took a class in junior high but the teacher was a heinous bitch and I learned more just watching my voice teacher play, so I mostly riffed. Maybe I’d be more disciplined nowadays but alas, no regular, solo access to a set of keys. YET!
I wish I had written the piano music, the orchestral arrangement that accompanies and the simple lyrics that so concisely put my feelings on a plate. After I heard it, I sketched a curving sidewalk with piano keys for a curb. I imagined a cityscape behind it and a busking musician with a hat out, but drawing isn’t my strong suit. Another item on the to-learn list.
Amanda Palmer – Leeds United
Ugh. I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished I had Amanda Palmer’s LIFE. I know I’m romanticizing and ignoring the subtleties of being another human but, jealousy. I’m currently attempting to curate a life in which I give no fucks and sing my goddamn heart out, look how I want instead of how I have to for work and be generally fabulous. And I’ve always wanted to belt into one those vintage mics. SOON.
I could point to countless facets of the music and lyrics (setting aside the music video performance that sets my eyes aflame with envy), but mostly I’m devastated I didn’t write,
“That never talking thing you do
Is effective, it’s effective
Your shoulder’s icy colder, oh
Than a death wish, than a death wish”
Modest Mouse – Spitting Venom
Picking just one Modest Mouse song was nearly impossible. I have regular fantasies of starting a MM cover band. At the very least, a cover band that has a metric fuckton of their songs in our repertoire. I have a fab group of ladyfriends who are currently humouring me that they’ll get on this train when I move back to MA. I remain cautiously optimistic, but our music tastes are…different, to put it mildly. I’m fairly certain Brittany weeps at my spotify selection on the daily. I don’t listen to much that was released after 2008. I KNOW, I KNOW. Blame my classic rock father and folksy/pop mother.
I love how hard this band rocks. I love the wordsmith lyrics of every fucking song. I wish I could plant myself inside their heads for a few days. Just camp out in Isaac Brock. Don’t worry, Isaac. I’ll clean up after myself and share my snacks.
“Hold on to what you need
We’ve got a knack for fucked up history
Hold on to what you need
We’ve got a knack for messed up history
Well we went downtown and we sat in the rain
Both looking one direction and waiting for a train of thought over
I didn’t know you kept track I didn’t know there was a score
Well it looks like you’re the winner and I ain’t gonna play no more
Cole Porter – Easy to Love
Oh, Cole. One day I will make my pilgrimage to significant sites of your history and the annual festival. There’s a reason his songs are recorded over and over and over in every different style – his incredible, timeless talent. I am just one of his many admirers. I mean, his vocabulary alone, guys. One day in the afterlife, I am going to sit at his knee and bask. Stephen Fry and Edgar Allan Poe will be there, too, FSM willing.
Counting Crows – Rain King
Adam Duritz has had my heart since forever. One of the only concerts I could ever convince my mom to take me to was Counting Crows. She bought me a sweatshirt in the musical afterglow and I wore. that. shit. OUT. By the end of college that was the rattiest navy sweatshirt you’ve ever seen. I’d even managed to shred the killer thumbholes I’d wiggled in the cuffs. I am actually just now learning this song on my guitar. I can’t account for the hold-up. But when I meet up with Porter & co, deliver me in a black-winged bird – I am the Rain King. Make me a crown of pens and feathers and heather.
“You can fix almost anything by authentically communicating.”
Most of this (very brand new to me) experiment has been a way to fix Something that is Broken. Written words are what I’m good at; certainly moreso than human interaction. I get so nervous about what everyone THINKS of me. All the time. I haven’t a clue where this neurosis started but it often sends me spiraling into the land of self-doubt. I’m slowly learning that this is not an uncommon occurrence. I’ve just finished reading Amanda Palmer‘s “The Art of Asking.” The points that hit home keep wracking up, but the theme that’s worked it way into my soul, that I keep referring to in conversation is
feeling “real.” And, in turn, allowed to ask. That we are (I am) allowed and justified in asking for what we truly need.
“You always were selfish, little miss attention-getter. You’ve never thought about anybody but yourself.”
When I was a kid, I was exuberant. A chatterbox. Annoying as fuck to some, most assuredly, but I was blissfully unaware because I was too busy being ME. There is a moment I can point to where that started to decelerate and being me started to hurt. I couldn’t have been more than 7. I told a friend something I believed to be true and she told me I was bragging. I’d never heard that word. She explained in a very authoritative, grown-up voice that bragging was making up stories to make yourself feel more interesting. I felt absolutely shattered. I was made up. I wasn’t really interesting, I was a faker of some kind.
And yes, I can look at this now and think it was a passing comment and who gives a fuck. It was over 20 years ago. But so much of my heart broke then it’s difficult to dust off and move on. Then again I’ve been known to tear up at heart-warming advertisements, so maybe I’m a softie (and that’s allowed).
I think the most painful bit about not feeling real is that, hand-in-hand, it came with the belief that asking for what I wanted was selfish and totally unjustified, undeserved. I could pluck out so many memories in which this was silently reinforced. Suffice it to say, I felt that I was special, different somehow when I was young, and then choo-choo, here come countless stops on the train to correct that. You’re just like everyone else. Why do you have to act so weird and different?
This is still a sore spot. I’m inching towards 30. My graduating class just had its 10 year reunion. I made a wish list on Amazon for family gift-giving convenience and my mother made fun of some jewelry I picked out. And there I am, a kid again, not allowed to ask for what I want. Family can be the most qualified and well-equipped to cut you to the core – sometimes by talking or not talking.
To travel back to the point, The Thing I broke, I did by talking. I’ve been living with being that family member who cuts, however well-intentioned at the time. But I’m not being allowed to fix it directly and maybe it won’t ever mend. At this point it’s out of my hands, making me feel frenzied and out of control. The theory goes all Muppets fall into one of two categories: order & chaos. Order is the straight man in the comedy routine, stalwart, rule-oriented. Chaos is energy, joy, blithe ignorance or willful disregard of the rules. I am an Order Muppet (who stares longingly at the seemingly happier Chaos crowd) for days, so feeling this out of control sucks. It SUCKS. That’s the risk you take interacting with the other Muppets (read: humans). You can ask for what you need. The answer may be no. You can ask to rebuild the burned bridge and your offer could be declined. Then? I guess all that’s left to move on is to communicate authentically – with yourself.
“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house. “What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend. “It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.” “Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend. The farmer deliberates on this and replies: “Doesn’t hurt enough yet.” “
It would be easy to express regret – there are many days that I do. But then it also brought me here. It made me hurt enough to move off the nail and start working on rebuilding my own bridge. Because I also have days where, despite any mistakes, missteps or regrets, I am reassured by the universe that I have a place and it’s right where I’m at: a moving target that stays glued to my feet. Getting up off the nail, having felt pain that finally hurt enough to get me moving again, it made me WRITE again. And sing. And play my guitar. I had stopped all of those things. I had been so depressed and self-loathing that my favorite things felt like a childish, selfish waste of time because who was I to think I was good enough to try? But now I know it’s allowed. Right or wrong, my words are valid because I’m a human emoter. I’m REAL. And of course, because love is real, too, there’s always the hope that nothing’s ever lost forever. Maybe The Thing will heal and I’ll get back my long lost sister.
“Let’s go to Vegas Let’s get a karaoke back room I’ll never find it I wanna shout into the vacuum:
That nothing’s ever lost forever It’s just caught inside the cushions of your couch And when you find it You’ll have such a nice surprise Nothing’s ever lost forever It’s just hiding in the recess of your mind And when you need it It will come to you at night Oh!” –Lost
So. No lyrics from me with this one, but I’ll leave you with the words that give me a giant hug of ‘everything’s going to be ok, you’re ok and you’re ALLOWED’ and hope it helps you, too. Read Amanda’s book. Learn to take the donuts.
“So play your favorite cover songs, especially if the words are wrong! ‘Cause even if your grades are bad, it doesn’t mean you’re failing! Do your homework with a fork! And eat your Froot Loops in the dark! And bring your flask of Jack to work! And play your ukelele!” – The Ukulele Anthem
**Bold indicates quotes/excerpts from The Book (buy it somewhere. trust me).