Music Observations

The Jimi Hendrix Cure For Depression

My love affair with headphones began when I was about eight years old, when my mother lent me her clunky silver Walkman on a long-term loan. The thing was big, made of metal, and had two headphone jacks. At the time, it was state-of-the-art. What I discovered with the Walkman was that it allowed me to tune everyone else (and everyone else’s music) out, and drift into my own little world, where the soundtrack was entirely of my choosing. I borrowed tapes from my mother and father, and eventually I collected a few of my own (some of which I’m not so proud of, like the New Kids On The Block). I could play my tapes as many times as I wanted without anyone becoming sick of what I was listening to, and I could rewind and fast-forward to whatever songs I liked best.

This habit eventually led to the frequent compilation of mix tapes, which were largely taped off the radio at first, and later compiled from CDs that either I or my friends owned. The tapes were mini-soundtracks to my life–collections of songs which made me feel a certain way whenever I listened to them. At first, the tapes were just random collections of songs I liked, but eventually my mix-tape skills advanced to the point that I had certain tapes for certain moods (loud, angry, happy, sad), themed tapes (love, insanity, drugs, drinking, death), and I also made tapes for friends which contained songs that made me think of them, whether because of a memory or because I knew they liked the songs.

As technology has advanced, so has my method–one of the most exciting things about purchasing my first laptop was that it came with a CD burner, so I could make as many mix CDs as I wanted without having to camp out at a friend’s computer for hours with my boxes of CDs, and the double tape-deck boom-box was a thing of the distant past.

And then came the iPod–the ultimate in personal music experiences (aside from, of course, playing music–which I suck at). With a swivel of my thumb, I could change my music with my mood. I could make endless, melancholy playlists that were good for a long contemplative bus ride, or I could make short, upbeat playlists that would last the length of a bike ride or a workout. Whatever the situation, I’d have the appropriate music at my fingertips without lugging around a case of CDs and changing them all the time.

I know I’ve mentioned before how profoundly the death of my iPod has affected me–but I realized the other day while listening briefly to my father’s iPod before returning it to him, that it’s more than a simple desire for musical accompaniment, or the want to drown out others. There are times when I need the music to set me straight.

Most of the music on my father’s iPod comes from my own CD collection. I have not updated its contents since I gave it to him, so what is on it is primarily my Blues collection (my father is the one who got me to love the Blues). I made a playlist for the train ride to the hospital to visit him the other day, and without really thinking about their connection, I chose a selection of the most incredible guitar songs on the iPod. I chose them because they were my favorites out of what was on the ipod–but I didn’t realize that I chose them because I needed them.

The thing is, I love the guitar. I do not play (yet), but I listen–and when I listen, I react. When I was walking to the train, plugged into Dad’s iPod, I found myself unable to stop smiling–not because things were going well in my life (quite the contrary), but because great guitar playing makes me smile. Jimi Hendrix’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” slows me down to a speed in which the world is manageable, and I find my feet moving to the addictive rhythm while my hands and head move along with the bending, fluid lead. With its guitars alone, The Allman Brothers’ extended version of “Whipping Post” makes adequate justification for a single track to be longer than ten minutes. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Blues At Sunrise” makes me think of slow-dancing in a smoky barroom in a small nothing town…

That train ride spent smiling (and illiciting peculiar looks from strangers) was the longest period of time in weeks that I’ve been purely happy–and it was a happiness caused by music, and completely my own. It was the right therapy at the right time. That’s the thing about portable, private music–having the right music available when you need it is like having the right friend around when you need consoling. If you want to wallow, you can listen to The Cure or Matthew Ryan; if you don’t have time to wallow or you’ve wallowed enough, you can listen to Janis, and you can mouth the bluesy words while your body changes its tune from a slow, shuffling loaf to a foot-tapping frenzy of energy. With headphones, music becomes therapy you can take with you–and keep to yourself.

A spontaneous smile is so much more sublime when you know that everyone around you is wondering what the hell you’re smiling about.

Family Health Insomnia People Rant

The Bullheaded Tiger With The Indelible Stripes

There comes a time for most of us when the roles of parent and child are switched, and the children start caring for and watching after their parents. As I am an only child, I knew that this would happen to me–that eventually I’d be the person responsible for my father’s health and welfare. I just didn’t think it would be so soon, and–though I knew it would be hard–I didn’t expect that I’d have to sit by and watch while he made decisions that could put him in serious danger.

My father has end-stage liver disease, and is currently awaiting a transplant. He has been in and out of the hospital since March, and each time has been a terrible scare, because my father’s personal habits are negligent at best, and terribly dangerous at worst–he has had open wounds that have been in danger of becoming infected, and it seems that nothing short of a miracle has prevented an infection.

This past week, he was hospitalized and had surgery to repair the destroyed skin on his abdomen from where a buildup of abdominal fluid paired with an abdominal hernia caused the skin in his belly to rupture multiple times. This has been a gory and messy process, and painful. The surgery was successful, and he recovered from it well, and after a week of sitting prone in a hospital bed, the doctors were ready to release him to a rehabilitation facility today, where he’d have medicine monitoring, constant nursing, food provided, and most importantly physical therapy to help him regain the strength in his legs after having spent a week in bed. Surprisingly, my father agreed initially that a “nursing home” was where he needed to go–he felt that he’d be best cared for by professionals who could be completely vigilant and he’d be much safer than he would be at home, alone.

However, my father is a classic-case Type-A control freak, incapable of accepting the fact that anyone other than him is able to do anything correctly. He left his house last week expecting to go in for a daytime doctor’s visit and was gone for a week. During that week, he fretted constantly about his bills, his cat, the fact that his shop was unlocked, and numerous other minutiae. After he’d agreed to go to the rehab facility, he got it in his head that it was absolutely imperative that he go home for one night to “put things in order.” The things he needed to put in order, from what he told me, were all things that could be handled easily by other people, but every time his not going home was mentioned, he got upset and distraught, and insisted, “You don’t understand, I NEED to put my things in order!”

My father’s medical care is covered by MassHealth, and the rehab facility would have been as well, but if he were to go home for one day, the insurance would not cover his stay at the rehab–they will only cover it if a patient goes directly there from the hospital. He had worked up a plan in his head and become so attached to the idea that it was essential for him to go home, that when the social worker informed him his insurance would not cover the rehab if he went home, he decided to forgo the rehab, not the completely unnecessary visit home. The hospital, having no more reason to hold him there, had no choice but to release him, and I, after numerous appeals that he reconsider, had no choice but to accept his foolish and dangerous decision. When he noticed that I was not happy with his decision, he pleaded with me, “Why can’t you just be happy for me that I’m going home?”

The doctors and social workers are convinced that he’ll be back in the hospital within the week–which would not have been a danger had he gone to the rehab as planned. I will not be able to see him because he lives in the middle of goddamn nowhere, and therefore will not be able to ensure that he’s following the doctor’s orders and, most importantly, maintaining decent hygiene (which I absolutely KNOW he will not do). I suppose I can only hope that the visiting nurses will stress the importance of this to him, but then again, he’s notorious for not listening to anyone’s voice but his own.

I am at a loss. I’m responsible for the life and wellbeing of someone who’s still technically of sound mind, and therefore can legally make asshole decisions that could jeopardize his life. As his friend says, “You can’t wipe the stripes off of the tiger.” But I don’t want to see the tiger die from something that could have so easily been prevented. And I don’t want to go through another week like this one, where he’s cooped up in the hospital, connected to a zillion wires, miserable, and taking it all out on me. Rehab would have been a step forward–this is a giant leap backward. He says he’s fully committed to his recovery, and yet he’s consciously made a decision that puts that recovery in tremendous jeopardy.

I have nothing left in my arsenal. I’ve used everything I had, and I’ve got nothing.

I haven’t exhaled in weeks.

Blather Family Friendship Health Insomnia Observations People Pointless Narcissism Work

The Score

20 Things That Are True–My Week In List Format.

1. The inside of a hospital does not, in fact, smell like “death.” It smells like lysol, bad food, vomit and poo–not mold, dirt and necrosis–therefore, it smells more like “infancy.”

2. Waiting for a donated organ is perhaps the only situation in which it’s actually a good thing to get sicker. Which my father is not doing.

3. Waiting for a donated organ while sitting in a hospital bed and being poked and prodded and forced to eat rubber english muffins is what I imagine purgatory to be like. Watching someone go through this process is only slightly less excruciating than experiencing it.

4. Sometimes the greatest help will come from someone you hadn’t thought to ask (thank you, David).

5. A good cheeseburger and a Guinness can heal a whole lotta hurt (thank you, Phil, David and Michael).

6. Saying “I love you” does not always work to cheer someone up, but it helps.

7. A catheter is a terrible, dangerous and frightening thing.

8. Sometimes the correct answer to “Why me?!” is “marijuana.” This is also an appropriate response to “What the fuck right now?” and “What the hell am I doing here?”

9. It is patently unfair of Mother Nature to suggest that there will be a thunderstorm and not deliver.

10. Cold showers are really, REALLY awful. Even in August.

11. An experienced nurse with a good sense of humor should be paid as much as a surgeon.

12. Pre-season football is a nothing but a reminder to fans of losing baseball teams that there really will be something to watch on ESPN in October.

13. A deafening rock show in a very small room is effective as a temporary cure for depression. This cure is significantly more effective when paired with cheap beer and good company.

14. Michael Vick should have his face bitten off. Someone should inform Mike Tyson that his services are needed, pronto.

15. The notion that the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about is an insidious fallacy.

16. I will never comprehend the inability of certain people to find a triangle which is attached to the pool table.

17. There is a very compassionate medical technician at Tufts New England Medical Center named Jewel, who should be given a hefty raise for saving my sanity at least twice. Someone else should arrange this because bureaucracy makes me want to mutilate strangers, and that development would be counter-productive to Jewel’s initial sanity-preservation.

18. If a store is named “Store 24,” it is not unreasonable to expect that said store be open 24 hours a day.

19. The only tolerable reason for having chapped lips is if you’ve been making out with someone. This is not why my lips are chapped.

20. My father’s Pneumonia, which I didn’t know he had until today, is apparently almost gone.

21. I am incredibly bad at stopping a list once I’ve started it.

22. There is an animal of unknown species and considerable size rooting around in my back yard.

23. I love the number 23.

24. It’s three in the morning, again, and I am going to bed.

Faraway Places Friendship Islands Nostalgia Observations People Pointless Narcissism Travel

My Curiously Small World, Part 247. And Else.

Tonight while I was at work, I happened to notice that a customer looked rather familiar. For a moment, I wondered if he was a smalltime celebrity, but I nixed that idea the moment he spoke–his voice was familiar, too. As I walked away from the table, I immediately realized who it was. I checked the ID that was left for the pool table and sure enough, the last name on the card (which was actually his female companion’s card) was O’Connor, just as I’d suspected. I was then convinced that the familiar-looking guy was, in fact, Mr. Tim O’Connor– my former counselor from the camp I attended for three summers in New Hampshire from 1990 to 1992. Almost sixteen years ago.

I approached the table and posed the inevitable question: “Were you a counselor at Brantwood Camp in New Hampshire in 1992?” As I’d expected, the man gave a sort of stunned smile and confirmed that yes, he had been. “Mr. O’Connor,” I said. He nodded and smiled a bit wider. “I was one of your campers for three years,” I said. I told him my name, and he remembered me, then he introduced me (or should I say re-introduced me) to his wife, who had been a camper and later a counselor while I’d been at the camp. As soon as she said her name, her face became familiar, too. “Wow,” they both said.

We spent a few minutes recounting old memories, and they filled me in on some happenings at the camp (they’re involved in the Alumni Association, which I haven’t managed to join yet, though I should). They showed me a picture of their two sons, who are adorable. We agreed to exchange email addresses before they left, and they said they’d pass on my information to another former counselor who lives in Boston, who I made a failed attempt at contacting last year.

This story would seem incredibly surprising if this sort of thing didn’t happen to me all the time. For example, not more than a month ago, a guy came in at the end of the night and I had the same “I know you” feeling–I asked him, and it turned out that he was the ex-stepson of my former Big Sister from Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and I’d met him while she and his father were in the final stages of planning their wedding. My instinct that time had been “I know he’s someone I know’s older brother…” and sure enough, it was his younger brother Charlie who I spent more time with, because he was closer to my age.

I have run into people I know from the Vineyard in Eugene (OR), Big Sur (CA), at least half a dozen in Monterey (CA), and a dozen or so on the T and in passing here in Boston, and a few more in other places. I ran into a couple I’d met in a bar one evening in Monterey at the San Jose Airport months later. I found out that a former bartender at my current place of employment spent part of her honeymoon hanging out at the bar I used to work at in Monterey–and it was a Sunday night, which meant that I was there, working–she described every person I worked with and a handful of regulars to a tee. The new waitress at my work used to hang out with the group of kids I partied with when I lived in Hyannis, only she hung out with them years later. I’ve seen Monterey friends unexpectedly in Portland and San Francisco. I was once on a plane from Oakland to Boston and was seated in the row across from a girl I went to school with on the island from kindergarten through high school.

About nine years ago, I ran into another former Brantwood camper when I knocked on her dorm room door to ask for a lighter because my high school friend (who my friend Jamie and I were visiting at college) said the girl in that room would be the most likely to have one. I wasn’t as practiced at my “don’t I know you” spiel then as I am now, so I simply rattled off her name and address like an automaton and waited for her to realize who I was (we’d written for a short time after camp ended). Sure enough, she did. We are still in touch. A few years before that, I was working at the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs, and in walked Cathy and Tracy Freel, two sisters I’d raised a bit of hell with at camp my second year (one of them, I can’t remember which, had hidden cigarettes in the cinder block beneath her tent).

I’ve run into a girl named Else, who I met on a bus in New Zealand four years ago, twice–once on Martha’s Vineyard the following summer, and once in Boston last winter.

I don’t know why, but it seems like these random run-ins happen to me exponentially more often than they happen to anyone else. It could be accounted for by the fact that I have an exceptionally good memory for faces and therefore perhaps I tend to recognize people in situations that others would not (9 times out of 10 I’m the one who recognizes them). Perhaps it’s because Vineyarders are well-traveled, myself included.

But how the hell do you account for Else?! That shit just doesn’t happen twice. But I’m sure it will happen again. In a few months or a few years, I will be in New York, or Toronto, or Guatemala, and I will run into Else–again. The last time, we exchanged phone numbers and didn’t call. Maybe next time we’ll become friends.

Blather Fashion Making Fun Of People Observations People Pop Culture Rant

A Random And Unprovoked Attack On Contemporary Fashion

I have been reading a lot of Chuck Klosterman lately. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Klosterman’s writing, he’s a pop culture and music writer (critic, sort of) with a consistent ability to both esteem and make fun of almost everybody, including himself. I have also been doing quite a bit of traveling between Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, and have been routine witness to some of the most ridiculous fashion trends since Hypercolor.

With that in mind, I took the hour-plus I spent on the subway this afternoon to compile a list of some of the most bothersome developments in recent fashion:

    Five Trends That I Loathe.

5. Diaper Bag Chic

What I’m referring to is the cadre of supposedly stylish women who cart around purses (and if they’re traveling, duffel bags) made of brightly-patterned quilted material, the likes of which were, until recently, reserved for the transportation of Pampers, Similac and the occasional Nuk.

These bags are ugly, tacky, functionally useless in the realm of stuff-protection (as far as I know; they could have Kevlar innards for all I know, I’ve never gotten that close), and tend to get grubby rather quickly. And did I mention that they’re ugly?

4. Overly Tanned White Person Skin

We all know that most people, particularly white people like myself, look healthier and more attractive if they’ve got a tan. This is because tan skin hides many blemishes, goes better with more colors of clothing than “pasty” does, and masks the appearance of bodily flaws such as cellulite, wrinkles and spider-veins. It is also because the Vitamin D absorbed from sun exposure makes you actually healthier, bot just apparently so (everything in moderation, though, of course).

As long as I have been alive, it’s been considered attractive to be tan. It seems, however, that recently a number of young American women (and perhaps foreign women as well) have fallen prey to the predominantly Floridian and Las Vegan belief that “tanner is better.” As evidenced by the legions of crocodilian grandmas in Naples, this is not true.

Of course, unlike many of the melanomic grannies, the young girls have been warned by their moms that too much sun is bad, so they’re getting tan without sun. This is unnatural, and results in a sickly orange color that is apparently so prevalent now that cosmetics companies are producing foundation to match it. These girls don’t look sexy, they look like aliens. I wish someone would tell them.

3. White Trash Hipster

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I dislike the “hipster” fashion enough that I routinely declare it to be an actual allergy. I believe people should bathe regularly, and I believe that if people have bathed, they should appear clean (sorry, Bumble & Bumble), and not as though they may be harboring Scabies. I think the donning of more than one belt at a time, no matter how cool the belt, is both hideously impractical and, well, stupid-looking. We are humans, after all, not armadilloes. This, along with the leggings-and-miniskirts fad (which went out with Madonna’s cone-tit bra if I’m not mistaken) makes the majority of hipsters appear as though they’ve been dressed by enthusiastic five-year-olds (1). This is not cool, or sexy, regardless of what the girl in the hot-pink skull Keds might tell you (the girl who wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing anything with a skull on it until they became incredibly trendy in 2005).

But what is even less cool, and less sexy, is the recently-championed “white trash” aesthetic.

Trucker hats. “Wife beaters.” Mullets. Flannel shirts with the sleeves ripped off. Big, blocky Converse sneakers with the tongues hanging out. Ripped fishnet stockings and visible neon bras. Drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) or Schlitz beer (2).

Yes, there is a portion of America which does all of these things simply because it doesn’t know better (or is too broke to do anything else, or is unaware that 1987 was twenty years ago). To consciously mock a rather unheralded group of Americans (and Canadians) by dressing like them, often to a ridiculously exaggerated degree, is not clever or ironic. It’s stupid, and it’s rude. And from what I’ve seen in stores, it’s goddamn expensive. Paying $40 in New York for a plastic and polyester hat that you could get for three bucks in Arkansas–that’s about as bright (and cool) as picking up an ice cream cone off the sidewalk and eating it.

2. Urban Camouflage

Traditional “camo” is ugly, and clashes with every color except brown, olive drab “O.D.” green, and black (3). This is because, according to its intended purpose, it’s not supposed to be worn with colors. Camo is intended to be worn while hiding in vegetation with the express purpose of a) killing something before it notices you’re there or b) avoiding being killed by going unnoticed.

With that in mind, I cannot think of a single reason that “Urban Camouflage” was created. Not only does it look ugly, and clash with everything (4), the odds of Urban Camo making you invisible in an urban setting and thereby protecting you are ridiculously slim. I’d say they’re about equal to the odds of the FBI discovering that the Zodiac Killer was a friendly church marm from Kansas (5).

In my opinion, Urban Camo, due to its sheer hideousness, transforms its wearer instantly into a walking target. If you wear it, you’re pretty much asking for someone to shoot you on principle (6).

1. Frye (or other, knockoff brand) Harness Boots

Don’t read me wrong on this one–I love Frye boots. I love them with a passion only Imelda Marcos ever felt for footwear. I have a pair in red-brown, and I wear them as often as weather (7) or activity (8) will permit. When I become rich and shameless, I’ll buy a pair in every color but yellow.

What I don’t love about the harness boot trend is the “trend” part. Some displaced stylist happened upon a hot girl in Fryes on a ranch somewhere in Montana about two years ago, and all of a sudden Lindsay Lohan’s rented a room at the Chateau Marmont (9) to house her collection. “Fashionable” college students are wearing them with miniskirts, leggings and trucker hats while swigging PBR at frat parties. It’s downright sacreligious.

I’ve been wearing harness boots since I was seventeen (10) and worked in a motorcycle shop, right around the time that Paris Hilton was learning how to read (in the eighth grade). I wore them despite the fact that the prevailing fashion idioms at the the time dicatated that my footwear was clunky, mannish and tough.

I liken the appropriation of my beloved boots by “them” to the proliferation of bandwagon Red Sox fans after the Series win in 2004. You can say you’ve always loved them, but I’ll never believe you.

1. I forgot to mention the neon-yellow “pumps,” which further solidify this theory.
2. Doing this because of poverty is entirely different than doing it for fashion.
3. Debatable. Despite the proliferation of this combo among metalhead circles, I still think it looks awful. I’ve sported it before, I should know.
4. I’m also convinced that Camo, in all its variations, makes everyone look fatter. Even Mary-Kate Olsen and Kate Moss.
5. Which is to say it’s possible, but I’d say the smarter money would be on Britney Spears going to college. Ever.
6. This is also true of anything in the color “chartreuse.”
7. Frye boots in 80 degree weather is as stupid as Ugg Boots with miniskirts, a trend which is so idiotic that it’s not worthy of a full paragraph of ranting.
8. I’d rather have my toenails ripped out than waitress in Fryes ever again.
9. Somewhat reputable sources have claimed that Lohan keeps a room at the Marmont for her clothing.
10. Just so you don’t get the mistaken idea that I am in any way fashionable, I still own a pair of Corcoran military jump boots that are held together with a mish-mash of hockey tape and duct tape, and I love them. I have also been told, on numerous occasions and even by my own father, that I dress like a 14 year old boy, and we all know that most 14 year old boys are as dumb as garden gnomes.

Blather Family Friendship Health People Pointless Narcissism Think

A Sad Little Group Of Buoys

I once described being motherless as “like a buoy cut loose and floating, directionless, belonging to no one.” This is, I suppose, the best way to describe the way I’ve been feeling lately. There is only so much stress and nervousness the body and mind can process before it goes, “Fuck it,” and you end up wearing a slack face and saying “uh-huh” a lot.

 I took a few days this week, as I did last week, to visit the Island Of Misfit Toys in hopes of raising my spirits, or at least relaxing a bit. And, as happened last week, I got a phone call from my dad the day after I got here, saying that he was being admitted to the hospital again. I suppose it’s the up-and-down that’s wearing me out; it seems the good days, the days where Dad says, “I feel better,” or “it’s been a nice day, the weather’s good,” are always followed by something not so good. I’m hoping that this surgery is the exception–I don’t know how much more up and down Dad can handle either.

 This time around on the Rock, a couple of my friends have been pretty depressed, too–and that’s hard for a number of reasons. You can’t expect a depressed person to cheer you up, and if you’re depressed, you can’t do much for them–so you end up as we did: a sad little group of slack-faced buoys, sitting stoned together in the same room and not talking much. It’s a little more comforting than being alone, I guess.

 I feel like every downswing has to have its upswing, and for the sake of my father, and my friends, and myself, I hope our upswing is coming. I also hope I cry soon, because I absolutely need it–and I actually found myself envious of my one friend, who says he’s been crying all week. A good, cathartic cry can go a long way.

 Really, I just want to see the happy twinkle in my Dad’s Santa Claus-blue eyes again. I miss the person he was not so long ago–the energetic, talkative, stubborn genius that I’ve known all my life. I know he misses that person too, and I hope we get him back real soon.

 I’m done blathering. I’ve run out of things to say. The muscles in my face are starting to atrophy from disuse. Oh, bother.


I’m An Atheist

But I’m asking you all to pray (or cross your fingers or think good thoughts) for my Dad. He’s going in for surgery tomorrow morning. It is a minor surgery which is low risk, but there is a certain degree of risk in the following days–I’m confident he will pull through it ok, but he can use all the good juju he can get. He’s had a hard few months, and I’m looking forward to seeing the spirit back in his eyes–after this surgery, and ultimately, after the liver transplant which is to come in the near future.  So cross your fingers for Daddy, and for me.



Blather Music Pointless Narcissism Rant

The Laboriousness of Ipodlessness

For as long as I can remember, I have been a musically eclectic person. I know that “eclectic” is a word that’s hideously overused when people describe their musical tastes, as in “I’m eclectic. I like The Strokes and The Vines, but I also like Gnarls Barkley and Sublime.” This is not what I mean when I refer to my own musical tastes as “eclectic.” I suppose “all over the place” would be just as accurate: I like rock, folk-rock, rap, reggae, funk, techno, hip-hop, metal, goth, industrial, Celtic, Bhangra, indie-rock (though I’m very picky within this genre, as a lot of indie rockers tend toward undeserved pretension), jazz, classical, country, and of course my first love, the blues. I have not gone through music “phases” so much as I have layered new music I like on top of the old music I liked, without ever having stopped liking what I started with (1). This is evidenced by the fact that I still have every Guns N’ Roses album ever released.

There is, of course, music I don’t like–but I cannot discount the entirety of any particular genre with the sole exception of disco. I despise most “contemporary pop” in its current incarnation. I believe there needs to be much more old-school musicianship involved in the making of music (like writing songs, and playing instruments) than mainstream pop currently contains. More than that, I simply find the sound of most contemporary pop completely boring. Similarly, I am not a fan of “new metal” or “new country.” Perhaps it’s because I just don’t think I’d have anything to talk about with the people who make it. That said, I do like Nelly Furtado and Shakira (though I prefer the latter in Spanish), I’ve banged my head to a Korn song or two, and I know all the words to most of the songs on Shania Twain’s first album. Within genres I do like, there are also artists I despise–for example, I cannot stand Sublime, though I like Ska (or whatever genre it is that they fit into), and I like rap, including gangsta rap, but if I hear “This Is Why I’m Hot” one more time I’m gonna throw whatever apparatus it’s coming out of through a window.

Like most people who truly like music, what I want to listen to depends on my mood, and despite the fact that my moods don’t swing as often as most people’s, my music moods do. This is what’s so fantastic about the iPod: it’s made the old staple for musically diverse personalities–the mix tape–a labor-intensive and unnecessary thing of the past (this is good, as I don’t think I’ve actually seen a blank tape since 2001). In short, as I’ve said before, I love my iPod. Not only does it hold way more music than a mix tape (or a trunk full of mix tapes) ever could, but it’s possible to change the music fifty times in a minute without ever rewinding, fast-forwarding, or removing anything.

The unfortunate thing, however, is that I cruelly drowned my iPod in soap two weeks ago, and have been living in a desperate withdrawal state ever since. The good thing about my obsessive love of music is that it’s led me to preserve my music collection in its original CD format, which means that though I’ve lost the medium through which to play everything that was in the old Pod, I haven’t lost the music itself. I tend not to download music because I’d rather pay an extra few bucks and have the artwork and the case so that I can look at the rack and see exactly what I’ve got. Call me old-fashioned (or neurotic–my CDs are alphabetized).

And I do have a stereo in my room. Which means that as long as I’m at home, I can listen to whatever I would have listened to on my iPod were it not incredibly dead. Only the process is much, much slower, and requires a hell of a lot more labor. If I were, for example, listening to Fugazi and all of a sudden wanted to listen instead to Atmosphere (a segway which happens more often than one might expect), I’d have to go over to the rack, pick out the Atmosphere CD, open the player, take out the Fugazi, put in the Atmosphere, close the tray, hit play, put the Fugazi CD back in its case, walk over to the CD rack and put it back in alphabetical order–because, as I said, I’m neurotic. That’s entirely too much work to achieve what a little piece of genius can get done with a swivel of my thumb.

And I can’t take the damn stereo with me. Anywhere. Which means when I’m on the train, I actually have to acknowledge that there are other people on the train, which I never want to do. I enjoy the train only if I’m tuned out enough to pretend that I’m all alone, and even a good book can’t get me tuned out the way a good Pantera song can.

In a few weeks, perhaps even this week, I will buy a new iPod. Not because I technically need one, and certainly not because I can afford one, but because if I can reach in my bag and immediately be connected to the simple but brilliant bass lines of Joe Lally, then change my mind and decide I’d rather hear Axl Rose whining at top volume about whatever it is that Axl whined about in 1987, then change my mind again and decide that I’d rather listen to the thirty minute extended live version of Whipping Post (which can only be achieved in full if one is either stoned or not paying attention to what’s playing), it will make me a little less crazy.

And we all want me less crazy.

(1) The exceptions to this rule are New Kids On The Block, who I liked for approximately a month in 1986, before I discovered Guns N’ Roses, and Alanis Morrissette, whose use of the word “fuck” in her most popular song duped me when I was fifteen into believing that her music was more than just self-absorbed whining over loud guitar riffs.

Animals Health Insomnia Pointless Narcissism Rant

They Call Me “Sweet Feet.”

I have fifteen mosquito bites–on my feet. I was sitting on the porch, absent-mindedly smoking a cigarette and praying for thunder, when an army of miniscule insects apparently decided to feast on my foots. All at once. By the time I noticed the first itch, it was too late to go get socks, as both of my feet were already polka-dotted with little hideously itchy bumps. I’m going to have to fill my socks with Hydrocortizone before I go to bed if I want to get any sleep at all.

The up side is that if I ever need to torture someone, I’ve got a new and creative method to deploy…