Tipping Over Rocks

As I watch middle age wind its way inevitably towards life’s downward slope, I ponder which part of my soul to put into words.  While we inevitably have some mid-life or existential crisis – though not nearly as grand as Don Draper’s – I never seem to find the words to process those events appropriately.  Instead, I find myself coming back to the common themes of food and literature.  But not today.

As the parking wars of Oakland ended with my career taking a twist, today I’ll travel the musical path and in doing so, perhaps raise a smile, give you a tune and reveal a bit too much.  Let’s find out.  I’ll take “Tipping Over Rocks” for $2000 Alex.

Nearly everyone my age loves Led Zeppelin. What’s not to love?  Bonham’s barely contained rage on drums, Jones’ arrangements and base, Page’s searing, inventive and hypnotic guitar and Plant’s vocals driving home the point.  And that well-worn spot on his jeans.  Yes, I know that you know he dresses left.  I fought embracing Zeppelin them in high school because everyone else did, but it all finally made sense to me around 1979.  I haven’t let go.

If you ask for a list of people’s favorite Led Zeppelin songs, you will inevitably get “Stairway to Heaven”, “Kashmir” or perhaps “Ramble on”.  While I do love “The Immigrant Song”, my favorite track is a little ditty on side 3 of Physical Graffiti, “The Wanton Song”.  Who doesn’t love a song about the rush and immediate need of sex?  I do.  But the song is about the hook.  This is my favorite hook in the music universe, with all apologies to Mike Campbell.  It rocks.  It rages.  And yet it radiates a progression and melody that echoes all the false promises of pop music.  It is meaty and it delivers.  It takes my seed from my shaking frame, and the wheel rolls on.


In the early 70’s no band was more theatrical than Genesis.  My love of the Peter Gabriel era Genesis records is well documented.  I’ve dragged Lambchop to more Musical Box schlong fests than she cares to recall.  And while such staples as “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, “The Musical Box” and “Supper’s Ready” are true favorites, I have a deep, carefully curated, soft spot for “Harold the Barrel”.

Harold is a man depressed, contemplating suicide, being encouraged by reporters and the crowd.  The song offsets the grim situation with a power pop melody and vocals reminiscent of happy children.  It’s a tough song to interpret as it is presented like an opera, but in Peter Gabriel’s singularly spectacular voice.  But without the liner notes showing the various parts, it can be tough to truly grasp the theatrics.  In the midst of such a crisis, Harold’s mother tries to talk him off the window ledge by telling him, “”Your shirt’s all dirty, there’s a man here from the B.B.C.”.  Some things are universal.



And then there is REM.  I first discovered REM with Life’s Rich Pageant.  That’s me, late to the game. But I went back and found the rest.  From 1986 – 1994 REM put out the soundtrack to my ascent into adulthood.  It might have been easy to point to “Texarkana”, “Can’t Get There From Here” or “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.” Instead I’ll point you to “A Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)”.

There is a manic, frantic quality to the song.  At once I want to dance and cry.  The beat grabs me by the collar and forces my attention.  Yet under the reaping wheel, a sadness and strange environment dominates the world around me and despair rises.    Don’t miss the train of woe; Boxcars are pulling a carnival of sorts, Out of town, out of town.


In early 1980, my friend Matt brought over a copy of London Calling.  The Clash was new to my consciousness and while the title track and “Train in Vain” were cool, it really wasn’t till I started college later in the year did I grasp the meaning and might of this band.  Let’s skip the obvious and jump to the meat.  As I’ve aged, when I listen to Strummer and Jones I always yearn for “Stay Free”.

Clearly, the tale of a friend who wound up in prison and then got out bears no relationship to my life.  But time passes and life’s choices often create distance between friends.  Relationships erode and yet, deep down, bonds never really break. I wonder what might have been, filling in an alternate history for my life.   I always tear when Mick sings “But go easy, step lightly, stay free”, my code for what never was, but could have been.

I’m sure your first exposure to the Pretenders was “Brass in Pocket”.  Perhaps you always loved “Back on the Chain Gang.”  I know Lambchop loves “Night In My Veins” and that special something dark and dirty about Chrissie’s nights.  I tend to prefer the darkness in “Up the Neck” and the raw, bleeding emotion of “The Wait.”    One brings the darkness of love gone violently wrong to the sweet melody of a strolling love song, while the other rages with pain dished out and taken.  When I heard the entire debut from the Pretenders, and my view women in rock had changed forever.

Bondage to lust, abuse of facility
Blackmailed emotions confuse the demon and devotee

Oh gonna hurt some, child, child, child, child, child
Gonna hurt some whoa my baby

Music changes us, rewriting our DNA in a way that we can’t comprehend until it’s finished.  The old cliché is that music, generally what we heard in high school  is the soundtrack to our lives.  Instead I find it to be the fabric on which we write our story, the texture to our soul.  And if you listen closely, you’ll hear echoes of my past, here under the rocks.


Fear of Change (or You’ve Gotten Your Civil Rights All Over My Bigotry)

You can tell the presidential election is right around the corner.  And by that I mean 16 months away.  Already we are inundated with candidates, especially from the right, that seem intent on grabbing headlines and mind space.  What I’ve noticed, not that it is new, is the hate and fear mongering that is going on.  It seems to have ratcheted up significantly over the last few years.

Perhaps we should blame Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.  After all, they masterminded W’s presidency and campaigns and solidified the country behind him.  This was done by fueling the fear that Iraq was ready to bomb the US and was funding/hiding/helping terrorists.  Turns out that none that was true.  But being scared, we overlooked the “mistakes in intelligence” (or lies as they might be called – Colin Powell might have quit because of them, as you may recall).  And then fear became a heavy political tool.

So what do we have today?  Fear that our religious freedoms are being taken away.  Where?  I don’t see it.  Marriage for all?  Ok, don’t perform weddings in your church for a same sex couple.  Do you really believe a gay couple, who KNOW you hate their lifestyle and biology, want to force you to do their wedding?  I don’t think so either.  Let’s be totally honest, your religious bigotry is fine in your home and probably in your church or shed or garage or wherever.  But let’s be frank:

Marriage is a legal contract accorded with rights under the constitution and laws of this nation.

Stop fighting it.  If you really believe you must get divorced so that you can protest what the 9 smartest legal minds in country decided, perhaps it is more curious why you haven’t joined a cult.  David Koresh anyone?  The Moonies?  The Manson Family?  Maybe Heaven’s Gate was more your speed; feel free to restart that one.

And let’s not throw down “the Bible”.  Men wrote it.  It’s been edited and modified many more times over the last 1500 years  than you are probably willing to admit  Let’s stop looking at this novel as sacrosanct.  You want to follow it? Great.  But recall it also has several men with multiple wives.  It contradicts itself.  It’s a book.  The only thing it doesn’t have a T. Rex and Woolly Mammoths.  Ever wonder why?  Me too.

That all being said, I believe in your right to believe what you want.  And other than a piece here now and again, I won’t disparage you in public.  After all, over 70% of the US practices some form of Christianity and only 2% of are Jews.  You know us, the cheap ass money lenders leading the illuminati, right?

But you don’t have a problem with other religions do you?  You afford them the same respect as you would like?  You know, that vocal minority waging “the war on Christmas”.  That’s code for “They are attacking Christianity”.   One of the most ridiculous causes I’ve ever heard.  The overwhelming majority sets the rules.  And in case you forgot, there are no famous, renowned or even discussed Jewish Founding Fathers in US lore.  And there is no attack on Christianity.  But there is a lack of patience for intolerance and institutionalized ignorance.  The world is changing.  Civilization is, in a sense, growing up.

That’s why Fox will bring up “THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” every year.  It resonates.  It helps fuel the fear that “their” religion is under attack.  Clearly, Fox spokestool Bill O’Reilly is onto something.  After all, this religious attack is the worst we’ve seen since the holocaust.  No?  I must have been watching the wrong “news” station.  My bad.

What you fear in the night
comes to call in the day anyway
(Duritz, Bryson 1994)

My friend and author Laura Antoniou put it well, “… if you think someone’s religious beliefs trump my civil rights, then you are cordially invited to fuck off.”  I couldn’t agree more.  It is about civil rights.  Not only are we finally righting the wrongs of the South and their war on civil rights for Blacks (150 years in the making mind you) we are also giving everyone civil rights regardless of sexual orientation.  The amount of progress and growth in the last few weeks has been immense.  Or has it?

My favorite whipping boy, the Genius Ted Cruz, thinks that extending those civil rights will hurt the Christian Churches he loves so much.  The Evil Obama IRS is targeting their tax exempt status.  That’s right.  Genius Ted believes that organizations that deny the civil rights of others are to be glorified and guaranteed their tax exempt status.  He is frightened of potential changes brought about by the evil Obama IRS.

In fact, so much so he is also scared for the Jewish Churches.  Yo! Genius!  Jews don’t go to church.  We don’t have churches.  We go to Synagogues and Temples.  Or we go to Shul (an acceptable secondary answer).  I was appalled at his lack of grace and class.  Of course he was talking to Glenn Beck, so my expectations were already quite low.

Let’s ignore the ridiculously large amount of insensitivity toward the Jewish people.  Let’s focus on the fear mongering.  I know I have been concerned over the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status for years.  How else could they afford to pay hush money and settlements to the victims of pedophile priests?  I’m not saying all priests are bad.  Most aren’t and I’m a HUGE fan of Pope Francis.  But since the number of pedophile priests is more than 1, (and honestly it is WAY more than 1) it is too many.

And other religions have their issues as well.  So is creating a worry about tax exempt status important?  Why yes it is.  It allows people to focus on things other than the fact that many organized religions are more concerned with denying others their civil rights and freedoms than they are anything else.  This distracts the conversation.  It’s the political equivalent of yelling “Squirrel!”  It rallies the religious base to ignore what’s really important and move to build a protective wall around their (religious) treasure.  And nothing generates more votes than fear and hate.

For the record, there has not been any targeting of churches’ tax exempt status for this reason yet.  But when the issue was raised in the Supreme Court discussion, it was noted that the continued denial of civil rights could lead to a review of tax exempt status.  That makes sense to me.  If corporations or people deny anyone their civil rights, there is an action taken against them.  Are we to believe that religious entities are above the law?

Yes Virginia, there is freedom of religion in this country, but there is not freedom to break the law.  If your new religion requires human sacrifice and cannibalism should we permit it? (I’m sorry if that hit too close to your beliefs, Scientology.)  Of course not.  The law wasn’t enacted to circumvent religion.  It was enacted to guarantee that all MEN and WOMEN are created equal and allowed the same rights.  Period.  We should not celebrate anyone or anything that believes otherwise.  Next you will tell me Boko Haram kidnapping and killing girls because they dared be educated is allowable.  Stop using religion to shield your small mindedness.  Embrace the golden rule – treat everyone well.  Don’t make exceptions when you don’t or won’t understand others.

In the Dark Ages and other less advanced times, homosexuality and science (!) were considered Satan’s work.  We know that’s not true now.  You can ignore science.  You can dislike the practice of homosexuality.  But we acknowledge the truth of science and we know homosexuality is not a choice.  We are smarter, more educated and more open to the truth of things than we were.  Let’s stop the fear mongering.  Let’s stop the hate speech.  I think it is time for understanding and acceptance.

And you kill what you fear
And you fear what you don’t understand
(Collins, Banks 1980)

Hey Ted!  Boy Genius!  Do you think you could lay off the fear mongering and hate speech? Do you think could work on understanding?  You did go to college, you do have an education.  Keep in mind I will be proposing a Wonderlic Test for politicians.  And why yes, I do think you would score below Vince Young, another famous Texan.  Maybe you could aspire to more?  I don’t think so either.

Down the Rabbit Hole, Musically

Little Vampire Boy stopped by the homestead on a Sunday Night.  As with most LVB conversations it went everywhere and nowhere simulatenously.  At one point while we were discussing wine he said, “you know, ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange‘ was the perfect song for the time.”  For the record, noone mentioned ZZ Top, Blues, Texas or whore houses prior to this.  I looked at him quizzically, looking  clues of where the hell this came from.

“I don’t know the song,” Lambchop said while washing wineglasses.

“Of course you do!  You make me change the channel everytime time it comes on the radio!”  And that is often. She still shook her head in disagreement.

So I decided to sing.  As most of us know, there is a lot of word  slurring  between the hot guitar licks in that song. I didn’t pretend to know all the words.  I just wailed – I mean we had consumed a few bottles by this point.

‘must been roww, tha’ Texas toww
‘Bout that shack outsi’  legrange

rrrr rrr rrr rr
ruff ruff ruff
Hmmm Hmm Hmm
‘Know what I’m talking ’bout
They got a lot a nice gurrrls.. .HUH!


“I still don’t know the song,” she said as if her case was settled.

“Seriously?”  I was flumoxed.

LVB decided it was time to chime in.  “You’ve nailed it. You were right on key. You have perfect pitch.”

Two things:  I dont’t have perfect pitch. It is well known I need a bucket to carry a tune.   Second, these are the lyrics to the song, even though my interpretation is far closer to the recording than these words read in the King’s English.

Rumour spreadin’ a-’round in that Texas town
’bout that shack outside La Grange
And you know what I’m talkin’ about. 

Just let me know if you wanna go 
To that home out on the range. 
They gotta lotta nice girls ah

Have mercy. 
A pow, pow, pow, pow, a pow. 
A pow, pow, pow. 

Once I got over my shock of the lunancy that someone thought I had good pitch or could carry a tune, my mind went in 100 different directions.  Nah, writing about brothels is too easy.  And so is the curiosity that the only guy without a beard in ZZ Top is Frank Beard.    I’ll even ignore LVB’s amusement and amazement that I DO NOT shave my legs.  My near hairless extremities is a direct contrast the beautiful head of hair I’ve been graced with.

Lyrics, the last frontier.  How many singers mangle the pronounciation of words and leave listeners wondering what the song was really about?  Not everyone can ennounciate like William Shatner.  His voice is clear and strong.  Listen to Rocket Man or Mr. Tambourine Man.  On a similar note, you listen to Leonard Nimoy sing of Bilbo Baggins.  No instead let’s focus on the war crimes of singers that butcher lyrics.

Who can forget John Fogerty looking for a bathroom on the right?

Or Jimi Hendrix appologizing for kissing this guy.

Sometimes its the listener’s ears that mishear the lyrics.  One person I know always heard Radar Love (why hello Golden Earing) as Red Hot Love.  I have always wondered why Jeff Lynne is always asking Bruce not to bring him down?  No clue.  Wrong lyrics

Nope. But my favorite has to be of a more religious nature.  Years ago, 1982 to be precise (or close enough), I was hanging out with an acquaintance from the comic shop.  Yeah, think Stuart from Big Bang Theory.  I wasn’t working there yet.  We were walking to see the fabulous new movie “Swamp Thing” when he starts talking about this new song.  He tells me that “it’s really weird and has some trippy religous allagory.”

Fuck.  I sure hope we are not going to talk abous C.S. Lewis or why my being Jewish was consigning me to a future in hell.  Normally I screen people better than this.  Nope I was wrong.  Whew. Big concilatory sigh.  He just wanted help analyzing the lyrics from that new song “Sweet Jesus the Maitre De.” I about died.  That was the funniest thing I had heard in a long time.  I have no idea how he got to those words. It was so out of let field.  When I finished laughing I explained to him what the song was really called.  If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll tell you later.**  If you get it now, you get extra Stuff and Things points, redeemable for just about nothing.

I have always loved music, but if you are familar with my home here in the interwebs, you knew that.  I try not to pretend that  I know more than I do, especially about music.  I know what I like and have tons of useless, arcane info floating in my hard drive.  That “Whipping Post” starts in 11/4 time or that the theme from “That 70s show” is a Big Star classic (and redone by Cheap Trick).  So much in there. Stuff. And things.

Like that The Tubes album “Remote Control” is and incredible, complete album.  I’d classify it as power pop, a far cry from the over the top theatrics of  “White Punks on Dope.”  I played side one to death for 10 years or so..  A lot that is because Todd Rundgren produced it.  Don’t worry, I’m still saving my prime time for you.

And that everyone should know about the origin of the name Led Zeppelin and The Cry of the Mudshark (urban legend or not.)

And then there are the songs that are lost in translation.  Driving this morning I heard the members of Night Ranger (what the hell, they are local) talking about the meaning of “Sister Christian.”  I’ve heard the story several time that the lyrics were about his sister Christie, but they way he sang it, it sound like Christian.  In Minnesota, a waitress once asked them, in her full local accent, if the song was about “a nun selling drugs to school kids.”  Yah. Sure. Yu Betcha!  Where did that come from?  Of course they afirmed her analysis.  Why crush her dreams as a music critic?

More topical is the revelation I heard (somewhere I don’t recall) about Nine Inch Nails.   Someone claimed that Trent Reznor wrote “Closer” as a priest’s love song to an alterboy.  Seriously?

I want to fuck you like an animal
I want to feel you from the inside
I want to fuck you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to g-d

It could be, but I’m voting urban legend on this one.  You know like when we were kids and we thought Bubbleicious bubble gum was made from spider eggs.  And it was still scarce.  I’m going to go with “closer to g-d” as a metaphor for le petite morte or turning Japanese (you knew that song was about masturbation right? (I still need to write that critical essay) with those orgasmic eyes.

While we can debate what various lyrics mean, sometime times, if you don’t actually look at the lyrics, it can be impossible to tell what’s going on (cue Marving Gaye.)  One of my favorite bands is Genesis ( pre 1980.)   And if you were the typical prog rock fan, you’d be thinking does he prefer the Lamb or Selling England by the  Pound?  It doesn’t matter.  I’d like to discuss my favorite Genesis song. Harold the Barrel.  Many other songs are more beloved – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Musical Box, Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, but few are more theatric.  Harold provides a glimpse into the the theatrics that Peter Gabriel will later infuse into his music.

But you wouldn’t know it from listening.  Harold the Barrel is a powerful and catchy pop tune that is confusing.  One needs to look at the lyrics to see it is really a 2:59 one act play.  While Gabriel uses his various voices to imbue the characters, its not apparently obvious on an initial listen.  But then you read the lyrics — there were NONE on the initial US release — and realize there are 8 separate characters and 2 different choruses.  Such joyful noise.  All in a song about a man about to jump from a ledge to his death.  This predates “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by 5 years.  Who thought Genesis has a suicide song, masquarading as a pop tune in its catalog?

Harold the Barrel

A well-known Bognor restaurant-owner disappeared
early this morning.
Last seen in a mouse-brown overcoat,
suitably camouflaged,
they saw him catch a train.Man-in-the-street:
“Father of three its disgusting””Such a horrible thing to do”
Harold the Barrel cut off his toes and he served them all
for tea
“Can’t go far”, “He can’t go far”.
“Hasn’t got a leg to stand on”
“He can’t go far”.Man-on-the-spot:
I’m standing in a doorway on the main square

tension is mounting
There’s a restless crowd of angry people

“More than we’ve ever seen.

– had to tighten up security”

Over to the scene at the town hall
The Lord Mayor’s ready to speak

Lord Mayor:
“Man of suspicion, you can’t last long, the British Public

is on our side”

British Public:
“Can’t last long”, “You can’t last long”.

“Said you couldn’t trust him, his brother was just the same”
“You can’t last long”.

If I was many miles from here,

I’d be sailing in an open boat on the sea
Instead I’m on this window ledge,
With the whole world below
Up at the window
Look at the window…

“We can help you”

Plod’s Chorus:
“We can help you”

Mr. Plod:
“We’re all your friends, if you come on down
and talk to us son”

You must be joking
Take a running jump

The crowd was getting stronger and our Harold
getting weaker;
Forwards, backwards, swaying side to side
Fearing the very worst
They called his mother to the sight
Upon the ledge beside him
His mother made a last request.

67-yr-old Mrs Barrel:
“Come off the ledge if your father were alive he’d be very,
very, very upset.
“Just can’t jump, you just can’t jump”
“Your shirt’s all dirty, there’s a man here from
the B.B.C.”
“You just can’t jump”

Mr. Plod:
“We can help you”

Plod’s Chorus:
“We can help you”

Mr. Plod:
“We’re all your friends, if you come on down
and talk to us Harry”

You must be joking.
Take a running jump……

Perhaps I just needed a reason to listen to Harold the Barrel today.  I’m still looking for that perfect song with just the right amount of cowebell.  There never really is enough is there? I wonder what lies deeper down the rabbit hole….

** It was “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” by The Eurythmics

Our Own Worst Enemy

It has been a tough few weeks in the office.  There is so much going on and so little getting done.  Our internal customers are unhappy, feeding back their displeasure to their management and it cycles up the food chain.  My coworkers are blissfully unaware of how things are going because their view of reality is skewed.  My role?  I use carrots and experience to try to help herd the cats in a positive direction, making incremental improvements in many significant directions.  Mostly I’m successful.

Lately, it has harder and harder to effect change.  I was trying to lead a coworker towards the realization that not planning is tantamount to failing – you never know if you are on track or not.  Let’s be honest, you can only be so lucky for long and he was in denial that he wasn’t lucky.  Our manager had to skip out on a weekly meeting, one in which we had agreed to do a one page project overview (which, yes, I had built) for each of our 5-10 projects for the first quarter. It would be a step forward in our planning process for the year, something that had not been done in the past.

I realized early on that most of these projects would get done in the first half of the year, let alone the first quarter, which was when they were nearly all planned.  We have a habit of letting things sit for 6-12 months before we start.  The spreadsheet I set up for planning looks intimidating, but you could do a swag on a project and have a baseline plan in 20 minutes if you are slow.  5 minutes if you are fast.  Not too much to ask of anyone over a week.

I have to tell you, one of my coworkers has the motto, “I hate meetings; they keep me from getting work done.”  In a small department, communication, coordination and cooperation can make all the difference between success and working in a cesspool.  Needless to say this guy fails on all three C’s as far as I am concerned.  Of course 2 key users love him, so it doesn’t matter that he fails the 150.  He actually suggested the managers sit in a room one afternoon for 3 hours with no disruptions so they would do their spreadsheets in peace.  Seriously?

Back to my meeting, as I lead the meeting, the coworker with the most projects (and the highest level of dissatisfaction) wanted to go over his projects first.    As he read them off and told me a binary yes/no  on a specific spending topic that was not on the agenda, I gently steered the topic to the issue of the planning documents.  He looked at me and curtly said he didn’t do them.  Nor did anyone else except me.  I tried to take the time and explain why it was important.  They reiterated that they didn’t do them.  They were too busy.

Again, I tried to illuminate the value of doing them, beyond the commitment made to our boss to have them done.  One would think that singular reason would be enough.  Who specifically ignores what they tell their boss they will have done by a very specific time? Clearly my coworkers do.  As I started to discuss the benefits (like being able to manage internal customer expectations) I was cut off again.  “I didn’t do them. I’ve told you that.  Move on.”  There was a bark to the message.

Wow.  Can you imagine saying to your father, “Why, yes I did not mow the lawn like I promised.  You heard me. Move on.”  I guess I should tell you that I spend a great deal of time, helping this co-worker get over his disorganization issues.  I cover up a lot of flaws.  Lately, as he has not wanted my help, the flaws are more than glaring.

This is not the first time he’s barked at me in a demeaning, insulting manner. Early in our planning process, he saw the opportunity to grab a “glory assignment” and didn’t want to let it get away.  He was asked when this project would complete, and he got on his soapbox about how wonderful it was and all the benefits to the company and customers and how he would ….  I gently interrupted after about 6 minutes (he doesn’t take breaths) and pointed out that the project would complete sometime in 2013, even though it would start in November 2012.  I saw our boss smile, getting the answer he wanted.

You didn’t think it ended there did you?

There was a 5 minute rant on how I didn’t know everything and I’m not as smart as I think I am.  Well, I did know the question asked was not the question being answered.  I did know the answer to the question and tried to help.  Of course he looked bad and it was cringe-worthy.  Almost straight out of The Office, but sad, not funny.  An no, he’s really not done anything in the intervening months on this project.

There have been many straws and the camel’s back has long been broken.  I won’t do anything I shouldn’t, but I can see there are villagers with picks and rakes and torches at the gate.  I’m not locking it nor am I opening it.  Most of the villagers smile when they pass me.  Many of them ask for my help.

These days I lead a 15 minute standup meeting each morning, meant to give status and encourage communication laterally and upward in our department.  When the lead actor of the preceding scene is there (for that is not a given, though you would think 9:30 am would be easy for most adults) he always tries to take things over.  Ok he doesn’t try, he does.  He doesn’t see his boss’ smile tighten to a small frown or his coworkers look down.  He doesn’t see that our communication meeting, designed to raise issues and educate is not the place to discuss and solve minutiae.  It is to recognize that there is an issue or problem to discuss and schedule time for the right people to meet.  Later.

It’s a rocky sea these days.  I keep waiting for something to happen.  It will. I can read the tea leaves of corporate politics pretty well.  It is one of my skills.

Walking to work this morning I was listening to IPhone and “The Chamber of 32 Doors” came on.  I’m sure a few of you know the story of Rael, who wasn’t quite real, and his quest to get home.  If not, check out the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway – Genesis 1974.  Anyway, they say she rides on pale horse, but I think I hear a train.  Wait; Wrong song.  One of the repeated themes of this song is:

I need someone to believe in, someone to trust

Clearly I work with people that have lost my trust.  I have lost my faith in some of them.  Like Rael, I try different things and go through different doors trying to reach my goal. Rael gets nowhere, always winding up where he started..

Back inside, this chamber of so many doors
I’ve nowhere, nowhere to hide
I’d give you all of my dreams, if you’d help me
Find a door that doesn’t lead me back again
Take me away

Unlike Rael, I hope this works out better for me.  I don’t want to be a Eunuch.

Is there a moral in all of this?  Of course there is. When your boss asks you to do something, you should do it.  He signs your paycheck.  And if you think it doesn’t matter when continually fall short of your commitments, you’d be wrong also.  And know who is helping you and who isn’t.  If you don’t value them, you won’t have their help indefinitely.  Some work is part of the job.  Some goes above and beyond.  If you don’t want the later, you are fool.

Yeah, this shit gets old fast.

From the Platform to the Couch

Every morning workday morning as I stand on the platform and wait for the train, I perform a small, but significant ritual.  I reach into my left pocket and pull out my smart phone.  That statement in and of itself speaks to how my world has changed and that I recognized it.  Then I reach into my murse and pull out my headphones.  These day’s I use the yellow ones – I like how they fit my ears, but they are probably the least awesome pair have.  The jack slides in the top and I push the icon for the music to play.  I’m no longer another commuter with 200 others on a platform.  I’m in my own music booth, feeling the melodies, rhythms and emotions of any random 1 of the 1200 songs I have preloaded.

Each song brings with it its own set of emotions.  Sometimes, a stray tear finds my eye.  I have an emotional connection to many songs; “Dance Away” by Roxy Music always takes me back to my first real break up and I always sing “More Today Than Yesterday” by the Spiral Staircase to Lambchop.  Today my inner queen wanted to dance while I listened to the Tubes remake of Major Lance’s “The Monkey Time.”  In the 80s, The Tubes should have been bigger as dance band.  Maybe there were. I was a bit too cool for that in college. What is a blog if not for my Midnight Confessions?

What is always amazing to me is that my love of music was not learned.  I never played an instrument.  My parents did not particularly love music; the stereo console was more for looks than functionality.  My parents are young, contemporaries of the Fab Four.  One of my favorite party games is to ask my mother to name the Beatles.  She struggles for Ringo and then gives up.  I pull that out every 2 or 3 years to make my brother laugh.

My father was not better musically.  He had a copy of “Cheap Thrills” (Big Brother and Holding Company, but most of you are probably thinking Janis Joplin) and “Born on the Bayou” (The pride of El Cerrito, Creedence Clearwater Revival), probably because someone at work said he should get them.  I don’t recall my ever hearing my father play those albums, though I’m sure he did twice, just to justify the purchases.  I’m sure he identifies “Proud Mary” with CCR, but I am positive if I mention Big Brother and the Holding Company he won’t know what I’m talking about.  Nor will he think twice about the iconic R. Crumb cover of that album.  I knew all my album art backward and forward.  Yes, my dorm room was covered in Roger Dean art.

As I think back, I recall getting a cube of a clock radio when I was young.  I had it through high school, but I must have gotten it in 2nd or 3rd grade.  I remember listening to it at night, setting the sleep time for the full 60 minutes and listening to the local pop station.  Yeah, I really wasn’t that cool for a 4th grader.  But my growing up was probably a bit different from most of my peers.  My parents were young and ambitious and while we were undoubtedly loved, I don’t think any of us look back and think of them as nurturing.  Dad had a temper to be avoided and mom was always busy with charities or cleaning the house.  We had a black and white TV and it was not be our babysitter. I think we also watched what Dad wanted, but I could be wrong. I learned to enjoy reading.

I was never the most popular kid, but I was also not the weird kid, ostracized by others. By extension, while I often played with the kids in the neighborhood, I also found myself alone in my room, with my books. I read quite a bit and the backdrop was always music, never silence.  Music became part of my environment and 40 years later, I couldn’t be happier about it.  After my bar mitzvah, I added a small stereo to my room, thanks to my grandparents.  This allowed me the freedom to buy my own music – or more accurately have others buy it for me – and define my own tastes, far beyond the reaches of pop and bubblegum.  I think that junior high defined most of us.  I made new friends, my world expanded beyond the square half mile I lived in and I like what I saw.  I embraced these changes.

One of the first bands I grew to love was Genesis and by extension Peter Gabriel.  I didn’t discover them until after Peter Gabriel left the band, but nevertheless, I spent countless hours listening to “The Return of Giant Hogweed,” “The Musical Box,” “Supper’s Ready” and other jaunts into to fantasy and escape.  It should come as no surprise that I saw both Genesis and Peter Gabriel several times once I learned to drive.  I have great memories of those shows, but I haven’t wanted to see Genesis since they went pop and I haven’t seen Peter Gabriel since 88 or so.

Several months ago Lambchop announced that she’d never seen Peter Gabriel and she’d like to see him.  Seeing no reason to deny this wish — I mean I had made her seen UK and Marillion among others — I bought tickets and the seeing was scheduled for the large and anything but intimate Shark Tank in San Jose.  The first 2 times I had seen him at been at the San Jose Civic (1980) and The Greek Theater in Berkeley (1983) both fairly intimate (especially where I sat.)

Peter Gabriel’s first 3 albums are all entitled “Peter Gabriel.”  It makes it hard to keep them straight, but we fans manage. The third album (often called Melt), one of my favorites, is filled with songs about alienation (“Not One of Us” and “Intruder”), introspection (“Lead a Normal Life”)  and politics (“Biko” and “Games without Frontiers”.)  Delightful, no?

No Self Control” is about anxiety, introspection and an inability to solve ones issues.  Did we call it OCD then?

I know I’m gone too far
Much too far I gone this time
And I don’t want to think what I’ve done
I don’t know how to stop
No, I don’t know how to stop

Musically, it moves quickly and the song is urgent, pleading and self-aware.  There is no mistaking this as anything but straight ahead rock and roll, though I believe it was a bit boundary pushing for the time.  He recognizes his problems and won’t give into them.  The song is a metaphorical cleansing scream as he tries to figure out how to not give into his issues. Its powerful and bordering on anthemic.

Music, like people, changes over time.  I used to think of it as static, but music is organic; it grows and changes if you let it.  The Grateful Dead embody this philosophy.  We have all seen singing competitions on TV where one of the judges tells the contestant that they’ve brought nothing to the song.  Sometimes an artist brings new life to a song, with that one wrinkle that changes everything.  I saw that when we saw Peter Gabriel.

The original “No Self Control” was a rallying cry for change; an internal attempt to reboot.  32 years later, Peter Gabriel is no longer 30, his perspective has changed.  The song I heard that night was not purely rock and roll; it had been give what I perceived to be a jazz beat and rhythm.  The vocals were no long pleading, searching for solutions.  Sad, mournful resignation reigned over a devastated life.  There was no mistaking the change in perspective and meaning.

You know I hate to hurt you
I hate to see your pain
But I don’t know how to stop
No, I don’t know how to stop

The implied fist pounding for change was gone in this version.  This was not the apology it was meant to be in 1980.  It was despair.  It was powerful and hit me in the gut.  As I looked around the audience I’m not sure everyone got it.  This was reinforced later when the crowded cheered in the middle of another powerful song, not knowing there was a break and texture change at the emotional climax. It was so off it was wrong.

We get older; we are no longer what we were or have gotten to where wanted to be.  There comes a time where we need to accept what is and what we failed to achieve. It is easy to forget what we wanted long ago, the dreams and ambitions of youth.  I’m not going to be 30 again, but that does not mean I have to let go everything I believed in. It is still important to have dreams and goals; they’ve morphed but I still have them.  If this was intended as a wake-up call for the audience, I hope it worked, but the cynic in me doubts it.