Five Songs I Wished I’d Written

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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
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
It’s over
Game over”
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.
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Ask Me Anything

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Well, go ahead. Ask away.
I feel like I mention the subject of family here often, which is unusual because some days my own biological family feels like a foreign country. Not that there are any major rifts, we’re pretty good in the way of remembering birthdays and all the normal family schtick. It’s just, they’re not really my tribe. A foundation I need and depend on, for certain, but I don’t always get them and they rarely get me. So I found other friends to call family and wouldn’t you know, a lot of them have stuck with me. I can’t exactly speak to why, you’d have to ask them, but I think it’s because I treated them as family once I found them. People love to be loved. If I love someone, I will give them anything they need that I can provide.
Finding your family, your collaborators, is often an exercise in balance; strengths with weaknesses, adding your layer of flavor to the group without overpowering or wrecking others’. I’ve been reading this theme into a few movies: CA: The Winter Soldier & the newest Star Trek flicks, to name a few. Now these may be highly specific, scientifically improbable examples when viewed through the lens of our present reality, but regardless the lesson is the same: what wouldn’t we do for our crew/tribe/faction/family? And to take it a step further, have we made them feel comfortable enough to ask for our help?
We can do our best to be observant while participating in any relationship but sometimes we can’t know what’s going on until it’s shared with us. Sometimes we don’t know someone needs help until they ask for it – oh, and this can hurt like hell for both parties. I have been guilty of letting things fester til I thought the stink of it was so strong it could have choked passersby. So why didn’t the objects of my frustration get it? Well, because even the most intuitive of people need clues, guidelines, sign posts, road maps – help. Communication. Mutual expectations. Shit gets awfully difficult to sort out when we withhold information as important as our emotional reactions.
So. If you’re like me and hold on to pain forever, shake it out whenever you can. And if you’re finally sharing something after you’ve let it rot awhile, go easy on the resentment – no one knows how badly they have hurt you when you hide it.
The Lyrics
Sort out this short out
This fatal breakdown
Take whatever I can offer
Hell, I can give much more
Than you ever bargained for
A quarter for the pay phone
The longest silent ride home
The worst kept secret, I’m a liar
A failing metaphor
Whatever was this for
I’ll give I’ll give
You’ll take you’ll take
Until you can’t take it anymore
Ask of me anything, anything
I’ll give you everything, everything
You need a ride or space or time
I need what’s yours and you need mine
Ask me for anything, anything, anything
The best advice yet
As good as it gets
Have you ever heard words so absurd
I’ve said it once before
But I know you’ve done it more
A book to borrow
My heart to swallow
No need to return the favor
No one’s keeping score
Of what number’s this divorce
I’ll give I’ll give
You’ll take you’ll take
Until you can’t take me anymore
Ask of me anything, anything
I’ll give you everything, everything
Grant me reprieve from this crime
I need what’s yours and you need mine
Ask me for anything, anything, anything
Sort out this short out
This fatal breakdown
Take whatever I can offer
I can give much more
Than you ever bargained for
A shoulder to cry on
A stupid offer withdrawn
Name your price I’m here to barter
What do you take me for?
After that pact we swore
Ask of me anything, anything
I’ll give you everything, everything
Only share with me the punch line
I need what’s yours and you need mine
Ask me for anything, anything, anything

Superheroes of 2015

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I am a weird kid, for sure. But nothing makes that more evident than superhero stories – myths, comics, movies, etc… The good ones, even the bad ones, they find a hole in my heart to climb through and settle there for eternity. I am most assuredly one of the stereotypical movie nerds on the internet, combing IMDB for details and fun facts. But the one bandwagon I can’t get on is the widespread critiquing of comic book hero movies for being less than canon, an insult to the fans, blah blah blah. Firstly, I’m not incredibly knowledgeable on a lot of comic canon so I tend to avoid fights I’m not well-equipped for. Of course my Dad collected the old Marvel & DC comics from the 1960s forward and I’m not allowed to touch them…just wait, Dad. If I outlive you, that shit is MINE. So one day with proper training maybe I’ll be an expert level geek.
Secondly, more importantly, whatever I may think of any piece of art, it’s difficult for me to compare it to another piece of art, regardless of the common threads of creation. The X-Men comic franchise versus the Saturday morning cartoon show versus the Bryan Singer movies versus the prequels, etc. etc. They all make me feel different things. So maybe Banshee is Irish in the comics but American in the later movies. Was I entertained by both mediums? HELL YES. To me, that’s all I care about. What did it make me FEEL?
Art is layering. Sometimes it’s revisiting the work you’ve done and improving on it. Sometimes it’s being inspired by another’s existing work. I can’t bring myself to get online and trash anyone’s efforts and attempts at making art or entertainment. I have had too many voices in my ears telling me what I want to do (write lyrics, perform) is frivolous, not worth the trouble, never going to pay the bills. I may be well-employed at a large company making a very decent salary, able to pay bills, buy great food and see the movies I want in theaters, on cable, Netflix, etc. – but I took the job to satisfy a bizarre societal definition of success. I slog away at lots of excel spreadsheets during the day, come home to my guitar and a blank notepad file on my laptop and feel like the real work is just beginning. I’m trying. So is everyone else.
Art like success is so deeply personal. Your definition is going to vary from others and that is more okay than anyone has ever told you. This project I’m chipping away at, on my bad days, feels like one big revision of the same song. But what inspires me is what’s on my mind and what I’m going through. What inspires me is art (and artists) that is authentically honest about its subject matter, regardless if its base is in reality or mythology. People will always make art. Consumers of art will always add their layers and make it their own personal art. I’ve been inspired by movies all my life. I wrote these latest lyrics based on personal experience but the central theme of looking at the same objects or moments together but separately came from The Incredible Hulk (2008). Ed Norton/Bruce Banner staying with Liv Tyler/Betty Ross under the same roof, both lying awake in bed, eyes on the ceiling, maybe making the same wish. Art can come from anywhere or from anyone.
TL;DR, don’t knock fan fiction. It’s someone’s soul in there.
The Lyrics!
Show up, out of touch
I’m fumbling over how to handle
Staying in the same square footage
Again after all these years
This used to happen easily
Falling asleep with you near me
What’s one more overnight
And maybe this will be the place
Maybe this will be the time
To say what I’ve been thinking
Seeming for eternity
Finally let it out of me
But it wasn’t and I wouldn’t
And that’s on me
On me, on me, on me me me
Oh darling, how I wonder
Do we make the same wish on the ceiling
Eyes open wide because we can’t get to sleep
Scribbling furiously all the things I’d tell you
If you’d only leave your room to speak to me
Cast my eyes out the window, watching the sunrise
I’ve been lying on your couch all night
Eyes wide open because I can’t shake this heartache
I better head out before the light hits your eyes
Show up, barely there
I’m fumbling over how to handle
Staying in the same square footage
Again after all these years
One more opportunity
To say just what you’ve meant to me
One last overnight
Maybe this will be the place
Maybe this will be the time
To say what I’ve been thinking
Seeming for eternity
Finally let it out of me
It wasn’t but I did it
And that’s on me
On me, on me, on me me me
Oh darling, how I wondered
If we made the same wish on the ceiling
Eyes open wide because we can’t get to sleep
Scribbling furiously all the things I’d tell you
If you’d only cross the room to speak to me
Cast my eyes out the window, watching the sunrise
I’ve been lying in bed all night
Eyes wide open hoping you’ll crawl in next to me
I’ll stay til you catch your ride
Here we are again
I’m fumbling over how to handle
Occupying the same space for hours
In such a new context
After all the years gone by
Waiting here to see
What’s left of you and me
I’m out of time
I’m out of time
I’m out of time time time
My darling, how I’ve wondered
If we’d only spoke up sooner
Eyes wide open from hindsight bearing down
My throat screaming all the things I’d tell you
If you’d only cross the room to speak to me
Cast my eyes out the window, watching the sunset
Waiting for this day to fade
Eyes wide open for the next sign
I’m still here for you, that’s no surprise
Look me in the eyes
And when we’re next in the same room
Will you let me
Will you let me
Still hold you, hold you, hold you you you

The Art of Asking (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help)

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“You can fix almost anything by authentically communicating.”
Backstory time:
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).

The World at Night

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Dreams seems to exist in their own world for most, but for me it’s difficult to separate them from reality. I dream in 100% living, vivid color. Until I was about 20ish I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the norm. I read somewhere once that the average person reported dreaming in grey scale or muted colors. But in talking to most of my friends (and I keep some odd but beautiful company), they were color-dreamers, too. I wonder how far back these studies go. I have a bizarre theory that this has to do with television, which began in black & white and has now moved on to color and HD, etc., etc. I’d be very curious to study the average dreaming habits of each century’s population since human existence. I could see if my flimsy theory holds true.
Dreams have been the most consistent ‘church’ for me; the closest I’ve come to any significant spiritual experience. I might be too rigid to let those experiences happen in my waking life, I don’t know. I remember in a college philosophy class the professor mentioned that some Buddhist monks denied themselves comfortable sleep. In our assigned response I wrote about how foreign it seemed to deny yourself what was, to me, the only source of purely distilled soul-glimpsing.
There have been times things I’ve dreamed happened, actually happened. Maybe my gift of analysis allowed me to mentally prepare for the most likely outcome. Or maybe I just got lucky. I don’t have a ready explanation. And I’ve been made real by the fact that others saw this as a prophetic gift. But, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, there are moments and interactions that rip the rug out from under you and make it very difficult to trust that anything about you is real. I’ve had to struggle with a few crises of faith in myself – the latest one has been the most difficult because I did it to myself. I dreamed something so real it couldn’t have been a mistake. Except when I shared it, it ruined a significant friendship for me.
Maybe a muse can’t be a friend, too.
The Lyrics
Take one more stone from this foundation
And say our dreams have no significance
All these nights I’ve been alone in my own head
Not touching the future or foreseeing consequence
All these years I’ve held them in such reverance
Because when I tried to recreate the scene
Your reaction seemed equal and opposite
So if I can’t trust what’s in my own head
Does this make me a prophet apologist
Or simply an obstinate optimist
When your dreams are as clear as memories
Can’t you see
It’s easy to mistake them for reality
And if I still ache for you when I wake
It’s not fake
Maybe I’m a flake but cut me a break
Looks like I wished this
A case of one-sidedness
And I never saw it coming
When you’re in sight
It’s fight or flight
So I’ll spend my time with the world at night
Take one more stone from this foundation
And say I am blinded by decades past
Every moment of us that’s etched in my head
Tattooed on my skin, from first to last
Is not enough to make me sorry that I asked
I ripped myself open, I sewed myself shut
I can keep it together when you’re not around
Though every night when it’s time to rest my head
We’ve time traveled once more to this ghost town
And though it seems we’ve torched these walls down
When your dreams are as clear as memories
Can’t you see
It’s easy to mistake them for reality
And if I still ache for you when I wake
It’s not fake
Maybe I’m a snake but cut me a break
Looks like I wished this
A case of one-sidedness
And I never saw it coming
When you’re in sight
It’s fight or flight
So I’ll spend my time with the world at night

Message Received

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Broke the writer’s block, BAM. Helps when you actually let yourself take that much-needed step back to put shit into perspective. Also effective – considering the endless possibilities in addition to the default worst case scenario. The former brought to you by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Chalking the latter up to dear Brittany, best friend extraordinaire. Thank FSM for that bitch.

So. The way I usually write is incredibly undisciplined. Most of my favorite ideas come in snippets during thought-free moments when I just stop. freaking. out. and consider things from a logical, outside view. Reassure myself that I’m human, not crazy. Then sorting out how to say what needs saying seems less daunting. But these moments have been few and far between til recently so I sometimes I only get a line at a time. I write them on my iPhone notes apps and save them for later. First line of this song I wrote? Message received.

I’ve picked at this off and on for a couple weeks. Finally made myself polish it up and post it because damnit, it’s been months.

Message Received

What have I done
I’ve such regret
It replays and relays from one corner to the next
How could I forget?
And where are you
How could you leave me
Dangling and angling for a simple cup of coffee
A weeping willow tree
I scream, I’m out of sound just aching to go back
Maybe I can reset our train on this old track
When I reach out
You shut me down
This stalemate leaves me hanging and I’m wondering how,
Where to run to now?
When I reach out
You shut me down
My brain stays stuck here but the gears they spin around
On the self-same ground
And yes, I chose to lift this weight from my chest
Only to see it now lashed to my neck
But how could you, knowing me like you do
Let my mind run wild, witholding every clue?
Message received
What have I done
And what’s it for
I can’t just use my foot to stop a closing door
No, I’ll risk more
Oh, where are you
Where’s my relief
From trudging along so many stages of grief
Let this be brief
I’m still as a china doll bracing to shatter
Maybe if I don’t move I’ll stay put together
When I reach out
You shut me down
This stalemate leaves me hanging and I’m wondering how,
Where to run to now?
When I reach out
You shut me down
My brain stays stuck here but the gears still spinning around
On the self-same ground
And more than not knowing the true crime
The worst is not knowing it was the last time
You don’t know the world you take me to
What is family if not you?
Message received

Where the Road Ends

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This one is so old I had to dig it off an angelfire site. You heard me. I taught myself HTML and thought that frames were the coolest fucking thing. I was trying to be as awesome as my best friend, Brittany (spoiler alert: not possible. too awesome). Just as a tangent, bitch is impressive. She plays piano and sax, sometimes practicing clarinet until she feels bad for her neighbors. We are both singers and embarrassingly used to do karaoke at our old campground for tips. That one time. We each earned enough for a 20oz soda, so we must’ve done something right.
The song came about in high school when a friend emailed a bunch of us an invite to a party (possibly birthday, can’t remember why but didn’t/couldn’t? go.). He attached an MS Paint map of his neighborhood as directions with a big arrow to his house. Sitting at my computer looking it over, I popped open a word doc and spat this out. It actually does have a tune in my head – I attached a rough version, special delivery from Sound Recorder. You’ll get the gist.
The Lyrics!
Now I can see this, we’re at an end
I know it now, I’ll never see you again
And you’ll show up with all your trends
Map in hand, point out where the road bends
And where the road ends
You can tell, you know this well
You can jazz it up but it won’t sell
It’s just your shell
And I will give you time to fill that space
Wherever you go, wherever you are, yet in that place
In that time and in that day
You’re driving alone, the only way
You empty it out to your only friend
And everyone will follow you to where the road ends
Where the road ends, oh I can see it all
Love and hate, trip and fall
What is love, what is love without a soul
To hold you down, to keep you here ’til you grow old
Oh, I can see it all, we’re at an end
I know it now, I’ll never see you again
And you’ll show up with all your trends that are your friends
Map in hand, point out where the road bends
And where the road ends