30 June 2006

Note to Self

No matter how scintillating the conversation ... no matter how cute the waiter's Argentinian accent ... no matter how long it's been since you had a great girl's night out (and, dammit, you deserve one) ... do not, please God, do not say yes to a fifth margarita swirl.

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27 June 2006

Desert Island Discs: The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown

Got an e-mail today from Simeon, one of my five favorite non-DNA-sharing folks (and twice the music freak I am). And I’ve let him down. Back in March, I published my version of Desert Island Discs.

Not sure what I’m talking about? On BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs, celebrities select eight songs they’d want with them on a deserted island, those eight songs they couldn’t live without.

Being a right proper Brit, Simeon admonished me for not playing the game correctly. I hate disappointing Simeon. He demanded that I try again, and this time I’m to follow the rules. As he said, “If I could narrow mine down I'm sure you could.” I can’t back down from a challenge. Or disappoint Simeon for one more day.

I worked on the list all day (when I should have been writing sizzling newsletter copy on the new evaluation form or developing a communication campaign on the binder recycling program; damn, my job is exciting). And it was agonizing. Excruciating. Just plain wrong. How can I leave off Zevon or The B-52’s … Elvis Costello or Bowie … the Stones or Beck? A life without Sam Phillips or Oasis, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” or “Thirteen” is merely an existence, a post-apocalypic hell that only Philip K. Dick could dream up. But I persevered.

My Desert Island Discs. Simeon, I hope you’re proud of me.

  • R.E.M.: “Turn You Inside-out”
  • Jeff Buckley: “So Real”
  • Al Green: “Love and Happiness”
  • Nina Simone: “Feeling Good”
  • The Replacements (featuring Peter Buck): “I Will Dare”
  • Prince: “My Name Is Prince”
  • Rufus Wainwright: “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk”
  • Nanci Griffith: “Morning Song for Sally”

Now you have to do it. List your DIDs in my comment box … post them on your blog … or e-mail them to me.

And could someone please include “Radio Free Europe,” in case we’re stuck on the same island?

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The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed

Let It Bleed is, hands down, the best damn Stones album ever. [Kollett, you gonna argue with that?] Well, OK, there’s Sticky Fingers … and Exile on Main Street … but Let It Bleed has always been my favorite. It’s sexy, it’s raw, it’s rock and blues and honky tonk. The album was released in December 1969 — smack dab in the middle of the Stones’ heyday. It’s also Brian Jones’ last album; he played on two or three tracks before he drowned. Mick Taylor [Kollett, are your toes curling?] joined the Stones on this album, playing on two tracks.

Let It Bleed trivia: Many think the title is a play on The Beatles' Let It Be, but it isn't. Keith coined the phrase during a recording session. Mick fiddled with a drum track for hours, and Keith had to play along on the acoustic guitar, until his fingers bled.

Track 1: “Gimme Shelter”
Has there ever been a better song to kick off an album? It simply, to revert to my 1970s self, kicks f*cking ass. And shivers your spine when Merry Clayton comes in. Ms. Clayton’s backing vocals are, quite possibly, my favorite ever in a rock song.

Track 2: “Love in Vain”
Great cover of the Robert Johnson classic. Of course, Mick and Keith tried to steal the songwriting credits … but that’s what the Glimmer Twins do. (And didn’t Led Zeppelin try the same thing? Good thing the devil took Mr. Johnson early.) The guitar is perfect, sad, heartbreaking. That’s Ry Cooder on mandolin.

Track 3: “Country Honk”
Keith was hanging out with Gram Parsons during this time, and you hear that beautiful Georgian’s influence in “Country Honk.” Gram arranged the song, and in return got to record “Wild Horses” with the Flying Burrito Brothers.

Track 4: “Live with Me”
OK, it’s a stupid, silly song. But sometimes we need our rock to be stupid … especially if it rocks. And this one fits the bill. Love the way the bass starts it off, love Keith's and Mick Taylor's guitar. And nobody could work a sax and piano into a rock song better than the Stones. That’s Leon Russell and Nicky Hopkins on piano — and, of course, Bobby Keys on the saxophone solo (this is Bobby’s first appearance on a Stones record).

Track 5: “Let It Bleed”
Another great honky tonk tune. If you can listen to this song and your shoulders don’t start the dance, the foot doesn’t start the tap, well, my friend, you may not have a soul.

Track 6: “Midnight Rambler”
Trippy, psychedelic, cool ... and about the Boston Strangler.

Track 7: “You Got the Silver”
Keith Richard’s first solo. Great blues tune.

Track 8: “Monkey Man”
This is my favorite album track … and I should be embarrassed (but I'm not) to admit what made me listen again. There was an episode of “21 Jump Street” where Johnny Depp’s character [let’s all take a moment to reflect on that perfect specimen of male flesh] goes undercover in a Fame-type school, and his band plays “Monkey Man"; Johnny played guitar, his first imitation of Keef. This track is often scoffed by rock critics, but I love it. Each musician gets a spotlight. And, damn, the rhythm is perfect. I. Simply. Must. Dance. Wildy. Every time I hear it. Ron Wood has said this is his favorite song to play live, and I agree; it’s one of my favorite Beth/Buck/Richards on-stage fantasies.

Track 9: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
Best damn use of a song in a movie ever. [For you youngsters who read The Cup, that would be the funeral scene in The Big Chill.] The song is perfect, we all love it, so there’s really nothing else for me to say.

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Maybe All You Need Is a Good Cry

to get the world in motion again. I wrote last week's Nick Drake post for myself — to remember that, during The Lonely Year, I thought my chances were up, but great adventures were just around the corner.

An exciting, scary opportunity has popped up — one that could change my life. Nothing yet to report, but the next few months could be interesting. And thank God for imaginary friends.


25 June 2006

A View from the Porch

It finally started raining around 10:30 last night. The grumble of the thunderstorm drew me out to the porch, and that’s pretty much where I’ve spent the last 24 hours. My rocking chair, my laptop, my cats, a good book, and a great thunderstorm. [Crikey; am I turning into Celestine Sibley?]

My chubby little toes and I enjoy the rainstorm from the porch

I have a great little porch. It’s set into the building, so my neighbors can’t see me when I’m out here. I look out onto trees, so there’s nothing but green in front of me. Nobody else has been on their porches or patios this weekend, so I've had the back to myself. I turned off the music early this afternoon so that I could enjoy the rattle of rain and the silence of Sunday. It’s barely drizzling now. The birds are back to singing, and I’ve spent the last 20 minutes watching a lizard slither around the ground. Everything’s so green, so quiet. Hard to believe I’m just a mile or so from Peachtree.

[Good Lord, I am turning into Celestine Sibley, aren’t I?]

Maggie’s view from the porch

I came out this morning with my friend Walter’s latest novel. I love spending a Sunday reading a book from cover to cover. Today's book — Feet of Clay, published under his pen name Ruth Birmingham — is a good, quick-read murder mystery set in Georgia. Walter writes a strong female character, but he may get a lecture on perpetuating the overtly racist Southern gentleman stereotype. Still recommend it, though, if you’re a mystery fan.

Shameless plug: If you’re in Atlanta, pick up Feet of Clay or any number of titles at Chapter 11 Books, a good local chain that’s coming back from, well, chapter 11. (Perry, I would have linked the book to y’all, but you don’t have separate URLs for individual titles.) If you’re not in Atlanta, you can order online and support an independently owned bookstore.

Otto’s view from the porch

I had a meltdown and long cry with my best friend today. There’s a lot going on that has left me scared and lonely and heartbroken, and I just couldn’t keep it bottled up any longer. I tend to let people think that life is great and sunny and fun and full of music … when instead I want to cry and scream and have someone listen to me. I’m truly blessed to have that beautiful friend, who tells me she’s happy that I’m crying and feeling sorry for myself. My façade doesn’t fool her, but she knows me well enough to be patient for the occasional meltdown. I can’t say I feel any less sad or scared, but I know I’m deeply loved. As she says, change is scary — but good will come from it. At least I have a good porch.

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23 June 2006

Time to Toot My Horn

Today’s luncheon was a smash success, the social event of the utility season. The theme and décor elicited oooohs and ahhhhs … the creative brilliance of my PowerPoint presentation and soundtrack were applauded … and the message was delivered and received well. (Modest one, aren't I? Deal with it.)

The accolades didn’t stop there, dear readers. At the end of the program, I was (surprisingly, but deservedly) awarded our excellence award … because I’m just that damn fabulous. It’s one of those management honors that matters only within the halls of your organization … but I felt like the homecoming queen for a brief moment. Even our (damn handsome Southern gentleman of a) CEO came by later to personally congratulate me on my big win and fabulous party. The glass piece will look good next to my 2004 Quality Award … once I get my desk cleaned off.

The Excellence Award
By Georgia-renown glassblower (and fellow CHS grad)
Thom Lillie

Now I'm headed home to sleep off (and drink away) the last six months.

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What a Difference a Day Makes

The luncheon is less than seven hours away ... my imaginary friend made me laugh a lot ... I got the best compliment I've had in months ... and, well, I sang all day yesterday ... so the mood is much lighter today. I don't have time to write a deep, thoughtful post, so here's R.E.M. to entertain you while I play hostess. I'll be back with a Beth-and-Renae story tonight or tomorrow.

R.E.M.: "Lotus". Wonderfully pretentious, arty Michael dancing around, and some good shots of Mr. Buck. This song always reminds me of Kansas City ...

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22 June 2006

Music Really Does Soothe the Savage Beast

Long line at Starbucks this morning, but they’re playing R&B, so I don’t mind waiting. Aretha is singing “Respect,” and my left foot is tapping out the beat. My leg gets into it, then my hips. My shoulders are dancing as I start (quietly) singing along.

Place my order as The Jackson 5’s “ABC” begins. I dance-walk to the order pick-up table, and start singing, tapping, and dancing in place. A college girl walks up: “I’m singing, too. May I join you?” So, we sing and sway and entertain the bux for a couple of minutes.

I arrive at the office a littler less grumpy, with a soulful bounce in my step.

Now it’s lunchtime. Walk down to the building cafeteria to grab a sandwich. “Lady Marmalade” starts, as do I. The toe-tapping, the shoulder dancing, the singing. My New Orleans-bred CEO is in front of me, and he joins in.

I am a walking Ellen Degeneres commercial. But my mood’s a helluva lot better. I’m a deep one, aren’t I?

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… But Not Mine

At the beginning of her glorious cover of “Gloria,” Patti Smith growls “Jesus died for somebody’s sins … but not mine.” That sums up my mood this week, kids. Even a Peter Buck blog search hasn’t helped. Mind if I bitch for a few lines?

I’m playing party planner this month. We have a huge luncheon for our division on Friday — full of theme and tie-ins and messages and the Introduction of Our Charter (feel free to salute) — and I’m in charge. I’m the creative, the project manager. I’m damn good at it. But. I. Hate. It. With a passion. Hate, hate, hate it. Concepting the big idea is fun … but the execution phase blows. It has been a month of interruptions and decisions: white cloth napkins, or black? square plates, or round? this photo, or that one? two-color or three-color logo? roasted potatoes, or garlic mashed potatoes? At least I got to put together the soundtrack for the luncheon; that I enjoyed. The stress of the final days is overwhelming … and I don’t do overwhelmed very well.

But, Cup of Coffey, you might ask, when do you have time to do your actual work? Well, between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., my friends — which is why you’ve seen posts at all sorts of ungodly hours of the night. So maybe the sleep deprivation is contributing to my grumpy state.

The professional isn’t the only dark cloud this week. The personal is stormy, too. Judgmentals passing their judgments instead of letting me talk. Being told I shouldn’t be swinging on this playground, or merry-go-rounding on that one. Do they really think I'm too much of a ditz to make my own decisions?

And I can’t go to Renae’s opening in Reston on Friday … because I’m hosting a stupid corporate luncheon. Son of a

Off to crank up Patti’s “Gloria” for the eighth time and dance out the frustrations.

BTW, if you’ve never heard Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker’s duet of “Gloria,” contact me. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

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20 June 2006

Cup of Coffey Hits the Cs!

Today is my 100th day of blogging — and this is my 100th post! (Hold your applause until the end, please.) It has been an interesting adventure for my OCD, online-addicted soul.

The Facts

  • 7,900+ hits across six continents. I seem to be most popular on the coasts, including the coast of southern England (Simeon?). Picking up steam, though, in the Midwest and, interestingly, Malaysia.
  • More than 400 of you have viewed my profile (and a couple of you have had some interesting comments about my photo).
  • Surprisingly, there have been few R.E.M.-centric posts, and just 25 mentions of my boys. But don't fret; look for my paean to Peter Buck later this summer. (Sorry about the Keef obsession in early May, dear readers, but I was worried. Still am.)
  • Last week's Beck post was linked on Stereogum.com (thanks for letting me know, Robert)! I'm one step closer to realizing my dream of becoming a pompous music writer.

The Not-so-obvious Facts

I started A Cup of Coffey as a writing exercise. I’m a copywriter in the corporate world, but my fantasy is to move to the literary side of the written page. Since I began on March 13, my creative juices are flowing again … I’ve begun work on two short stories … and the on-the-job writing is livelier.

I originally thought my blog would be read by Paul and Dan and Jeremy (a.k.a. the Bookstar boys, who reconnected with each other via my comment boxes), and not many others. But many of my friends and family are reading it, and I’ve reconnected with folks who had faded from my life (welcome back, Dayle!). I’ve also met (if “met” can be stretched to include reading their words and exclude knowing what their facial features look like) some (very) interesting people through my blog or theirs. I even inspired my cousin to start her own blog (you go, Marni!); I just wish some more of you would start blogging (Kathy, your stories and the boys’ adventures would make a great read).

It’s been wonderful to have a forum through which I can obsess about bands and tunes, and not drive Dan crazy with the spouting of musical minutiae. I’ve even been introduced to new artists, thanks to other bloggers (Scrivener, I think you’ve introduced me to the most, so you're like a superhero in my world).

My bookshelves are expanding, too, thanks to your recommendations. (Garner's Modern American Usage came today, Professor Bastard, so I’ll let you know what I think next week.)

The most entertaining result of my first 100 days is my friends’ newfound fame. Now, when I say “my friends in Connecticut,” folks reply, “you mean Renae and Greg.” Who knows? In another year, they could have their own reality show on MTV: "Grown-ups on the Oasis Trail."

Anyway … it’s been a helluva lot of fun. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading A Cup of Coffey as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. And look for me in your comment boxes.

UPDATE: My blog evolved from my long-running e-mail conversation with Paul, which has been going strong since 1997. I neglected to give him props for his encouragement. He bugged me for two years to start blogging, and never complained when I didn't participate last year in our I Hate Leno blog. He walked me through (well, e-mailed me through, to be exact) the early stage — so, thanks, Paulie!

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Nick Drake: Way to Blue

Most of 1994 and early 1995 was My Lonely Year. I had been laid off from yet another job, and was (barely) living off freelance work and the bookstore paycheck. Some of my favorite friends moved to other cities. Except for the Bookstar boys, I didn’t have many friends in town or much interaction with those who were left. I was depressed and lost. I did very little, other than work and read and worry that my life wouldn’t restart.

For my birthday that year, I decided to slip away for a weekend in the mountains. Now, if you know me or have read my blog long enough, you know that I believe in weeklong celebrations and adulation and constant attention (and the occasional parade) in the days leading up to and following March 25. But not that year. I was sad and depressed, and just wanted to escape my reality for a few days.

On my way out of town, I stopped to pick up new music for the drive. Joe had been raving about Way to Blue, so I bought a copy without a listen. And I fell in love by the third guitar strum in “Cello Song.” I didn’t listen to anything else as I drove around those mountain roads. It was the perfect soundtrack for that quiet weekend — melancholic, beautiful, simple. The album sounds like spring to me. Whenever I hear it, I can feel the crisp early spring air on my bare arms, see the bright greens and deep blues of the trees and sky, smell the rebirth of the earth. That weekend — and Way to Blue — brought peace to my soul, and my life changed in many ways soon after.

Within a month, I had all of Nick Drake's albums. But I always pull out Way to Blue for road trips. It’s a good sampler of his music. Nick Drake recorded between 1969 and 1972, but his songs still sound fresh. If you like singer-songwriters and great acoustic guitar — or songs for your blue, dismal days — you simply must pick up a copy this week. You’ll thank me later, I hope in my comment box.

About Nick Drake

You may not be familiar with Nick Drake, but you’ve heard his music. “Pink Moon” was used in a Volkswagen ad a few years ago — the one where the kids drive up to a party on a beautiful night, look at the sky and each other, then take off to drive into the darkness. You’ve heard him on many movie soundtracks, including Garden State and The Royal Tenenbaums, The Lake House and The Good Girl. His songs have been covered by many artists, including Lucinda Williams (“Which Will”), Robyn Hitchcock (“Pink Moon”), Beck (“Pink Moon” and “Which Will”), The Walkabouts ("Cello Song"), Kelly willis ("Time Has Told Me"), and Elton John (he recorded several Drake tunes for an early demo).

Nick Drake didn’t receive much attention for his music. He suffered from clinical depression, and he died at 26 — maybe a suicide, maybe an accidental overdose. But for a few years, he created music that was as beautiful and fragile as he was.

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18 June 2006

Happy Father's Day, OM

I tried to write a post about my dad and what he meant to me … but it was too hard, too painful, especially since this is our first Father's Day without him. Instead, here are photos of OM as a father and grandfather. OM loved nothing more than being with his family. I hope these photos give you an idea of what a great and loving father he was.

I love you and I miss you, OM.

OM and me, 1959

Mama, me, and OM, January 1960

OM, me, and Mama, March 1960

Mama (pregnant with Paige) and OM, February 1960

Paige, Mama, OM, and me
Photo for a Coca-Cola campaign, 1962

OM, Buck, and me at the beach, 1966

Some of these photos were given to us by my cousin Gina and her family, who gave us an album of family photos at OM's memorial service. I'd never seen many of the photos, and others brought back great memories. It's one of the most thoughtful and treasured gifts our family has ever received.

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OM: The 1970s

My high school graduation,
with Grandmother and OM, June 1977

Christmas 1977

Christmas 1978

Grandmother's birthday party, June 1979

Christmas 1979

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OM: The 1980s

Mama, OM, and me, June 1983

Paris, May 1984

Lauren and OM, 1987

Lauren helps OM blow out his birthday candles

OM and Lauren, 1989 or 1990

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OM: The 1990s

Christmas 1990

San Francisco, December 1994

Paige, Mama, and OM, Portland, New Year's Eve 1994
Dinner, then Luciano Pavarotti concert

Matthew and OM playing cards at my place, 1999

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OM: The 2000s

OM with his heroes, London, June 2001

Thanksgiving 2003

Matthew and OM, Christmas Eve 2003

Christmas 2003

OM, you were the best father and grandfather a family could ever ask for. We miss you like crazy.

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17 June 2006

Sleep, Precious Sleep

Last night was the first night I’ve slept more than four hours in two weeks. I have occasional bouts of insomnia — usually when I’m in high-stress mode or a heartache state — and I’ve been in both the last couple of weeks. I’ve been semi-zombied, prone to tears and incoherence and apologies and quasi-rage. Today is the first time in days I’ve felt like me. And so I can’t get myself out of the bed (my sister’s bed, to be precise). I’ve been awake for three hours, but I keep crawling under the covers. Sister has a laptop, so I’ve been able to surf and download and write and read and work without leaving the bedroom. Maybe I need a laptop of my own …

One good thing came out of the sleepless nights. I’ve been writing. Two short stories. Not sure what I’m going to do with them — maybe start a new blog and post them, maybe trash them by July — but I was happily surprised to discover that I can write something other than newsletter articles or HR announcements.

In other ramblings …

House-sitting for the sister and brother-in-law this weekend. It’s like a mini-vacation. I get to enjoy the quiet of the ‘burbs (their yard backs up to a horse pasture) and dog ownership. The dog and I have been inseparable since I got here last night. Luckily, he’s of the slug variety, so he’s enjoying the bed lounging as much as I am. I’d love a dog of my own, but my lifestyle doesn’t allow it. Plus, I’m really more of a cat person, as Maggie and Otto will attest.

Has anyone heard Grant Lee Phillips’ cover of “The Killing Moon”? It’s supposedly on his new album of cover tunes, which comes out June 27. Grant Lee Phillips could sing just about anything and it would be beautiful. Wish he was my village troubadour.

Speaking of Grant Lee Phillips, if you’ve never read The Haiku Year, check it out. Seven friends — including Phillips and Michael Stipe — spent a year keeping in touch via haiku, and their work is published in the book and on a Web site. It’s a great writing exercise since you have just 17 syllables to convey a thought or feeling. Some friends and I haiku’ed it via e-mail a few years back. I loved it; they got bored and stopped. I won the haiku contest in the fourth grade, though, so maybe I had an unfair advantage.

Is anyone really listening to Ann Coulter and agreeing with all the crap she says?

Dinner tonight with Holly and Randy, which should be a good time. And Dave Chappelle tomorrow night.

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16 June 2006

Who knew that I love puppets?

So, how was Beck last night? In a word: phenomenal. In many words: cool, groovy, fun, fantastic, trippy.

If my sleep-deprived mind remembers correctly, Beck kicked off the show with "Black Tambourine." He performed songs from every album, including “Loser,” “Devil’s Haircut,” and “Girl.” The band was tight, but I found it hard at times to hear Beck’s voice, especially if he was talking (the Tabernacle isn’t the greatest acoustically). He didn’t perform my favorite — his cover of “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes,” from the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack — I read that he started it at the Athens show the night before, but the crowd was too drunk and rowdy, so he stopped.

The best part of the show was the puppets. The puppeteers behind Team America: World Police were on stage the entire time, doing a real-time puppet performance of the show, which was broadcast on the screen (the Puppetron) behind the band. I know — it sounds goofy — but it was so damn cool, so much fun. Each puppet was dressed just like his band’s counterpart — down to the bassist’s fabulously huge ‘fro and loud striped suit — and did exactly what its human counterpart was doing on stage at that moment. Beck’s puppet was adorable, with Beck’s longer, shaggy hair, white shirt and vest, and hat. It was very Being John Malkovich. Here are some photos I got from "Beck"*:

The Puppeteered Beck and Band

One guy in Beck’s band has the best job in the world: He dances. That’s it — well, he did bang a tambourine once or twice, and did hit the drums once. He’s dressed like a science teacher and he dances around the stage (you can see him in the YouTube video I included in yesterday’s post). And it’s not choreographed Justin Timberlake-like dancing; it’s fun dancing. [This could be the job for you, Professor Bastard.]

Beck and His Puppet

Beck did a great acoustic set mid-show, starting with the heartbreakingly beautiful “Lost Cause” and ending with the amazing “The Golden Age.” As he played this set, the rest of the band set up a table on stage and had supper; so did the puppets … except for the acoustic-strumming Beck puppet, of course.

Before the encore, they played a video of the puppets cruising around Atlanta — even hitting The Varsity. [Grant: There was a robot puppet in the video; maybe your daughter knows more than she’s telling us.]

He ended the show with “Where It’s At,” sliding into “E-Pro.” The entire place was dancing and gyrating and singing … except for the three guys standing behind me, who carried on some inane conversation.

Just one complaint: No dancing from Beck. He’s a great dancer, and I was really looking forward to seeing him cut a rug, but he played guitar and sang the entire time. I guess his footwork may have taken away from the puppets.

The show ended at 11 p.m. on the dot; I guess the puppets are unionized.

So I was 19 again for a couple of hours ... but I turned back into the older pumpkin-with-a-job-and-responsibilities at midnight, as the young ones bolted from my Beetle for post-show partying.

BTW, check out Beck’s site; one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

*Have you stumbled across these Live Journal blogs where people pretend to be Beck, or Michael Stipe, or some other famous person, and they write daily posts as if they’re Beck, or Michael Stipe, or some famous person? These folks need lives, people — their own damn lives.

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15 June 2006

Where I'm At

We're going to see BECK at the Tabernacle tonight. Lots of singing and dancing tonight ... and hoarseness and creaking around tomorrow.

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14 June 2006

Happy 40th to Us!

Forty years ago this month (it weirds me out just typing it) I met one of the great loves of my life. Our family was moving into our new home in Vinings, and a neighbor came by with her little girl. That little girl, dear readers, is well known to you: Renae, my oldest, dearest friend.

Renae and I were destined for friendship. My mama went to high school with her mama, and her maternal grandmother grew up with my maternal grandfather. When we were kids, we used to tell people that we talked to each other through our mom’s bellybuttons when they were in school.

Holly, Renae, and Me
Broad Street, Downtown Athens
Renae’s Birthday, December 1983

We were wonderfully weird and nerdy when we were kids. I say “wonderfully” because we stayed kids as long as we could. We played in the creek and had great adventures and let our imaginations go wild. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we’re such creative souls today.

When we grew older, we spent most of our time walking around and around and around the block, talking and laughing and dreaming. But I have this problem. If I’m on your left side, I slowly drift toward you, eventually bumping into your left shoulder. I’m OK if I’m on your right side. And yet I always had to walk on her left side. How Renae can stand straight after years of shoulder collisions is beyond me.

We drifted apart a little in junior high and high school. We’d hang out some, but not as much as when we were kids. Later on, we’d see each other at Georgia State and do things on occasion (such as that drunken and disastrous “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with Holly). We reconnected during the spring of 1983.

Renae has brought a lot to my life. She opened up the world of art to me — from the Paul Klee poster hanging in her family’s home when we were kids, to art books and art discussions, to museums and galleries. Without Renae, I’d probably be stuck on Van Gogh (in 1984, Renae forbade me from buying yet another Van Gogh book — I had three — and I followed the rules) and would have missed out on so many artists I now love.

We’ve seen each other through loves and heartbreaks, career highs and lows, weddings and deaths. We’ve encouraged and pushed, advised and commiserated, bitched and moaned. I adore Renae, and look forward to another forty years with her.

To this day, my friendship with Renae is one of the most valuable things in my life. I’ll share some of our stories during the next few weeks as we celebrate our 40th.

*Holly: Our celebration comes in September 2008.

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13 June 2006

Movie Review: The Break-up

I had the day off yesterday. I was in a crappy mood, I was tired of wallowing, I was ready for mindless escapism. So I did one of my favorite single-person things: an afternoon movie by myself. I love single matinees; it has that class-cutting thrill since it’s office hours, and there’s guilty pleasure in being alone in the dark, absorbed in a movie, and nobody knows where you are. My battered soul needed a romantic comedy, and The Break-up was playing nearby.

I’d never been to my neighborhood theater. What an assault on the senses. The main floor is a neoned, booming game room, filled with teens banging and slamming and joy-sticking. There's even a gong that some kid kept banging. Near the entrance is a video dance machine, with tiles that light up to show you where to move your feet. I watched this kid dance nonstop for several minutes. He danced hard and determined, but without any joy or a sense of fun. He just looked strange and a little sad.

Got my popcorn and went into the empty theater. Sat in the center of one of the back rows, leg-up with my ankles balanced on the chair in front of me. The popcorn was just OK, but they had cherry ICEEs, so I was a happy camper. About five minutes before the previews began, in walked a big-haired housewife and her surly teenaged daughter. And where do they sit? Smack-dab in front of me. WTF? There are three empty rows behind me, twenty empty rows in front of me … and Beehive Barb plops down in front of me. I wanted to kick her in the back of her Aqua-Netted head, point out all the empty chairs with my big toe, and explain that I was in a seriously crabby mood so it would behoove her to move … but, instead, I harrumphed and moved down one seat. They sat in complete silence, chomping popcorn — until the movie began, of course, when they suddenly had to chat for the first five minutes. Inside, I was Nicholas Cage in the shower scene in Valley Girl — pretending to shoot them, silently screaming at them, wishing them extreme harm. Sometimes I forget that I love people.

I let the anger go once they quit chatting and I got into the movie. The Break-up was better than I expected (I wasn't expecting a lot), and I got a quick tear-roll out of it (the point of romantic comedies, for my male readers). I love Vince Vaughn, and Jennifer Aniston’s pretty good in it. I most enjoyed Vince Vaughn’s scenes with the supporting actors, especially Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, and Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from The Christmas Story; it’s a bit disconcerting to see him grown up). And I loved their condo. The Break-up isn't Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but it's good for a rainy afternoon matinee or as a rental this fall.


Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella & Louis

Having a young mother who was raised by her grandparents, we grew up listening to both sides of the pop music world — The Beatles and Frank Sinatra. Mom had one Sinatra album I particularly loved, with “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Stars Fell on Alabama” on it. It was the perfect album for quiet mornings and late evenings. When I started my own record collection, I spent years looking for a copy of that Sinatra disc, but never found one.

I was flipping through the record section of Peachtree Salvage one afternoon in 1981, and found Ella & Louis (on vinyl, of course) for $2. I knew who Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong were, but had never really listened to their recordings. It had “Stars Fell on Alabama” and “Moonlight in Vermont,” so I knew it couldn’t be bad.

And that was the best $2 I’ve ever spent. From the moment I listened to the album when I got home that afternoon, Ella & Louis has been on my top-ten list.

Recorded in 1957, Ella and Louis are accompanied by the Oscar Peterson Trio and Buddy Rich on drums — and moments of brilliance when Louis plays the trumpet. The best of the standards are here: “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” … “A Foggy Day” … “The Nearness of You” … “Can’t We Be Friends” … “Let’s Call the Whole Thing off” … “Stomping at the Savoy” … and “Cheek to Cheek,” among others. I tried to narrow it down to three favorites, but I couldn’t.

What makes Ella & Louis so special? Everyone who’s any-singing-one has covered these tunes, after all. What sets it apart is the sheer genius of those two voices together. You’re probably thinking they wouldn’t work together. But, good God, they do. Ella’s voice is angelic, amazing, alive, and Louis’ is full of soul and swing. Their voices complement each other like a great couple complements each other — her perfect voice and his gruff one, her scat and his Satchmo, their perfectly timed back-and-forths. You can tell they had a great time singing together.

Ella & Louis is flirty, vibrant, fun. Every time I listen to the album, I want to dance and sing, and sip champagne under a full moon.

I was twice lucky to see Ella Fitzgerald perform live: once at Chastain Park, with Oscar Peterson accompanying her (and the amphitheater wasn’t even sold out!), and once from the fifth row of the Fox Theater. Her voice was near perfection even in her sixties.

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12 June 2006

Happy Anniversary, Mama and OM

Today would have been Mama and OM’s 48th wedding anniversary. I don’t think there are many men who loved and adored a woman as much as OM loved Mama.

OM and Mama dancing to “Billy Jean”
at Buck and Leigh Ann’s wedding (June 15, 1985

They rented a cabin near Gatlinburg to celebrate last year’s anniversary. They had a great time that weekend — driving around the mountains, enjoying the view from the deck, just hanging out. OM took Mama out to dinner, and was tickled that he could eat just about anything he wanted — including two trips to the salad bar. He loved salad bars.

Mama and OM, Thanksgiving 2004

OM’s health began deteriorating right after they got back, and he passed away two months later. I’m glad they had one last great travel weekend.

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11 June 2006

This Weekend's Mix Tape

So, I’m single again. And this time it’s the last time for that one. I’m sad and lonely and heartbroken and scared and a little lost — but the inner circle closed ranks and got me through the heartache weekend. Damn, I’m lucky to have such a great group of friends, even though they're a far-flung group.

However, I must wallow for another day or two; we so rarely get a good excuse to swoon and soak up the self-pity. To keep that drama alive, what does every blubbery breakup need to thrive? Why, the heartbreak mix tape, of course.

Here’s what I’ve been listening and singing and crying to this weekend:

  • Bonnie Raitt: Cry Like a Rainstorm (gets the most play and singalongs)
  • Beck: Lost Cause
  • Nanci Griffith: Morning Song for Sally
  • Warren Zevon: Accidentally Like a Martyr
  • Joan Armatrading: The Weakness in Me
  • Sheryl Crow: My Favorite Mistake
  • The Beatles: You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
  • R.E.M.: Near Wild Heaven
  • Neil Young: Philadelphia (because I cry every damn time I hear it)
  • Jeff Buckley: Last Goodbye
  • Sinéad O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U
  • George Jones: He Stopped Loving Her Today
  • Lucinda Williams: Abandoned
  • Gregg Allman: These Days
  • Angie Stone: Wish I Didn’t Miss You
  • Tower of Power: So Very Hard to Go
  • k.d. lang: So in Love
  • Badly Drawn Boy: A Minor Incident
  • The Fifth Dimension: One Less Bell to Answer (he loves The Fifth Dimension)
  • Guy Clark: Dublin Blues
  • Gram Parson: Cry One More Time
  • Lyle Lovett: Nobody Knows Me
  • Richard Buckner: Ariel Ramirez
  • Shelby Lynne: Leavin’
  • Kelis: Caught out There (yeah, I’m a little pissed, too)
  • Nick Drake: Time of No Reply
  • Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes: The Love I Lost
  • Andy Williams: Can’t Get Used to Losing You (as well as English Beat's and Chad & Jeremy's versions)
  • Reba McEntire: You Lie
  • The Carpenters: Superstar
  • Joss Stone: The Chokin' Kind
  • James Taylor: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
  • Warren Zevon: Keep Me in Your Heart
  • Rufus Wainwright: April Fools (because I must dance when it's playing … and I need that)

Did I miss any good tearjerkers? I’ll be back to R.E.M. and Sonic Youth by Wednesday, and the Beck show is Thursday — so you have a couple of days to submit your heartbreakin’ suggestions.

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09 June 2006

Fascinating Pain

I was at the grocery store Monday night, picking up cat food. My favorite grapes — the little round green ones, available only in early June and early December — are in season, so I pop over to produce to grab a bunch. My new two-inch wedge sandals found the only grape on the floor … my feet flew out from under me … and I slammed face-first onto the produce floor. Fancy Feast cans and jars of roasted red peppers rolled in every direction. I ended with a flourish, skidding about two feet across the floor. Judges gave it a 9.2.

[Sadly, this is not an unusual occurrence in my life; I get in a good face-first body slam two or three times a year. Maybe one of these days I’ll learn to slow down and live up to my middle name.]

Anyway, it’s now Friday. I bruised the bones in my knee and lower leg, so there’s not a lot of puce and green to my skin, but it still hurts like the dickens. Every time I get down on my knees (I am, after all, a good Southern Baptist girl), I'm hit with an intense, sharp pain.

But here’s the cool part. When I touch my knee here:

I feel the pain here:

Neat, huh? Now, most people would have gone to the doctor to make sure there’s no damage to the knee. Well, who wants to be most people? I’m too fascinated by the roving flash of pain to let it go. I spend my days touching the numb spot, flinching yet weirdly enjoying the pain radiating elsewhere. And I keep showing people. I demonstrated it for my boss. My coworkers. Dan. The cats. Anyone who catches me doing it. Because I can’t. Stop. Doing it. Maybe there’s a sect of self-flagellating Southern Baptist monks I can join. One that doesn’t use snakes, of course.

Oh, my middle name? Grace.

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Movie Review: Cars

Dan and I went to a sneak preview of Cars, the new Pixar flick, last night. Darling movie. Visually, it’s amazing, beautiful, wonderfully colorful, and alive. The story’s cute, and the voice talents are perfectly matched to the characters. You parents and NASCAR fans will love it — but you don’t have to love Little Dale or have kids to enjoy it. My office buddy, Joseph, took his kids to the preview, too, and they loved it.

We got out of the preview around 9:30, so Dan and I decided to grab a late supper. We first popped into Borders so that I could pick up some books on my You-Must-Read-These-Before-I-Take-You-Seriously-as-an-Aspiring-Writer reading list mandated by the online professor, so we didn’t start hitting restaurants until a little before 10:00 p.m. And every damn joint in the ‘burbs closes at 10:00! The kind girls at Longhorn let us in (probably crushing on Dan), so we did get food and much-needed cocktails. But, sheesh; we’re a big city these days. Cobb County needs to live a little.

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08 June 2006

I No Longer Have Favorites

The date 6.06.06 was a bad one for my laptop; the hard drive fried. My crack IT guy, Arcelious, was able to rescue many of my files — but I forgot to ask him to grab my Favorites folder, with all the blogs I've bookmarked. And I miss wasting valuable work hours reading your posts!

So ... if you know I visit your blog, would you mind adding your URL in this comment box? I've started going through recent comments to pull the URLs, so don't worry if you've commented in the last couple of weeks.

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07 June 2006

Bloggin' Cousins

This page has been considerably nostalgic of late, thanks to birthdays and album reviews, so it’s time to jump back to present day. Don’t want y’all to think I’m stuck in the ‘80s.

My cousin and I had dinner tonight. A nice, lazy, conversationally rambling dinner. The best kind when you’re getting to know someone … and it’s pitiful that you have to get to know your cousin.

Marni’s eight years younger than me, so we weren’t very close growing up (eight years is a big generation gap when you’re a kid). I always thought she was so cute — she was the baby of the family, the only blonde, and she was always smiling. (Somewhere, Marni, there’s a cute photo of six-month-old you sitting in my lap; I’ll see if I can find it this weekend.) Anyway, our dads’ family isn’t all that close, so we’d see each other every few years — a sin when you consider that we all live in the Atlanta area.

Marni and I started getting together for the occasional dinner a couple of years ago, and found that we’re very much alike. We’re both creative and have creative jobs. We love writing and playing in PowerPoint. We’re fanatical about music and books. We love pop culture, and want to take over Pop Candy together. We’re easygoing, funny, maybe too kind at times. And we’re a helluva good time.

And then I started this blog. Marni got hooked reading mine, and soon started her own. As she said in her first post (and, yes, it is shameless how loudly I’m tootin' that horn right now): I am so excited to have my own blog! My cousin, Beth, has one called Cup-of-Coffey and I want to be just like her when I grow up — so I decided to copy her and start my own!

I like to think I’m her blog’s biggest fan. We’ve had fun reading our blogs and getting to know each other a little more each day. As she said tonight, she feels as if she knows all of my friends because she reads about y’all on these pages.

Marni has changed her life over the last couple of years, taking control of a major obstacle that was holding her back. And she succeeded. I’m quite proud of her and in awe. She looks so pretty and happy and full of life these days.I decided to add a link to her blog in this post (she’s already on the blogroll), so that you, dear readers, can also get to know my little cousin. I skipped across the Blogger pond to get her URL … and read this. After a few sniffles, I found it funny that we’d written the same post.

But, Marni, I hate to break it to you: I have absolutely no idea which “Rudolph” song you’re referring to. You’ll have to sing it at next month’s supper.

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Making a “Splash”

I saw “Splash” 22 years ago tonight … well, the first part, anyway.

It was a warm summer evening. We sat at a patio table in front of the theater, maybe having a cocktail. He brought me a rose; I still have it. Entertaining chatter, light flirting. He’d been working up to it for months, but had yet to make his move.

A long-ago hurt came up, and tears rolled down my face. He put his hand over mine, a gesture to comfort me. But it woke up my emotions. I leaned in. Kissed him. With everything I had. And, boy, did he give back.

The movie started. We were sitting on the back row. Necking like teenagers. Left about 30 minutes into the film. It wasn’t the time for a movie.

There’s this wonderful park nearby. A public pool was visible from the street, but hidden in the trees was a lodge and picnic tables. We kissed and whispered and played and … well, my aunts and uncles read this blog, so let’s just say it was a beautiful moment under the stars.

Funny that he remembers more of the details than I do. But I remember that the night was perfect … and so were we, for a while.

We later saw “Splash” all the way through. I loved it; Tom Hanks was simply darling in it.

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06 June 2006

R.E.M.: Murmur

When I wrote last week about my seminal album, I should have mentioned that Murmur is a very close second to Sgt. Pepper’s.

I’ve been aware of R.E.M. since around 1981, when I worked at WRAS, Georgia State University’s radio station. R.E.M. opened up for a lot of acts we saw at 688 and the Agora Ballroom. And I was familiar with the “Radio Free Europe”/”Sitting Still” Hibtone single since it was a playlist staple. I thought they were a pretty good local band, but I wasn’t yet in love with them. Not even Chronic Town hooked me at the time; I was still into British New Wave — Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Nick Lowe, in particular.

And then Murmur was released in April 1983, starting a love affair that hasn’t wavered or disappointed in 23 years. That album connected with me like no other album had in years or has since. Listening to it still fills me with complete joy. I can’t describe what it does for me. There isn’t a song on the album I don’t like. Michael’s voice, Peter’s guitar, Mike’s musical brilliance, Bill’s beat. It’s such a Southern album. It was something new. I’m sounding like a pretentious college newspaper record reviewer, aren’t I? Damn, I wish I could come up with the words to describe what I feel when I listen to Murmur. I just want to jump up and dance that Athens dance and spin and forget about everything else but the happiness and youthfulness I feel.

But maybe it was the timing. The summer of 1983 was one of the best summers of my life, my last summer as a kid. OK, I was 24, but it was my last summer of complete freedom and no responsibilities. Renae and I had started hanging out again, after I freaked out about Holly and Randy getting married that summer. Renae was living in a cool apartment at The Belvedere, in Pershing Point. For a brief moment, that triangle at Peachtree and West Peachtree was our city’s Village, with funky neighbors and little galleries everywhere. I went over there nearly every night after work and spent most of my weekends there. We’d put on a record, sit on her balcony, drink lots of jug wine, sing and dance, spy on a particularly weird neighbor, and enjoy the summer. Or we were at Fellini’s for a slice and a flirt with Clay and Nelson. And Murmur was usually playing.

It was at Renae’s where I met Simeon, who was such a large part of my life for so many years (and is still one of my very favorite people I’ve ever known). Simeon was a music nut like me — probably more than me — and we were obsessed with R.E.M. We listened to Murmur and Chronic Town all the time. We started hanging out with Shawn, a guy who went to high school with Renae and me (and whose heart I had to stomp when he was a freshman) and worked with Simeon at Sam Flax (which was around the corner from Renae’s at the time). The four of us went dancing, saw movies, looked at art books, hung out. Every time I listen to Murmur, I’m transported back to that summer and that neighborhood.

Simeon and I went to see R.E.M. together that August at, of all places, the parking lot at Six Flags. My boys performed on a stage that looked like a flatbed trailer; I seem to remember their parents were seated on the stage. Simeon and I danced the entire show; most people just stood around. Simeon correctly predicted that those idiots wouldn’t move until they heard “Radio Free Europe.” He was right — everyone jumped up and danced as soon as it started — so Sim refused to dance to show his disgust. He stood completely still in the middle of the crowd … although his foot was a-tapping. I loved him for that. It was a waste, too, because I adored the way Simeon slammed his legs when he danced to “Radio Free Europe.” I danced, of course; I have no scruples when it comes to dancing along with Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe.

We next saw R.E.M. in October, when they performed a free concert on UGA's Legion Field (now a parking deck between the freshman dorms). The band played “So. Central Rain” for the first time; the Letterman appearance was three days later. I loved the Legion Field shows — crisp fall weather, the freedom of dancing in the field, getting in trouble for flirting with cute young boys. Damn, it was fun.

I have this great memory of driving in Athens with Renae the following spring. The sunroof was open, “Sitting Still” was playing, and we were singing at the top of our lungs — completely different words. It was such a silly, happy moment. I love mumbling Michael; the beauty of singing along with him was nobody could say you were singing the wrong words.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, I still love R.E.M. as much as I did that summer. I’ve seen them perform more than 20 times. I’ve bought every album the day it came out, or (beginning with “Automatic for the People”) at midnight the night before in Athens at the band’s release party. I’ve been a proud fan club member for years. I’ve read most of their interviews, watched every video, defended them to those who were dismissive of their brilliance. Michael eye-flirted with me in the mid-1980s and flirted with my beau in the mid-1990s. Peter’s given me the “hi” eye numerous times, and uttered many a "how's it going?" as he walked by. I once told Mike Mills how much his music means to me, and pissed off his girlfriend another time because he kept checking me out. And Bill Berry ... well, he had the best damn arms in Athens.

So, this isn’t a record review; it's ramblings of the memories that Murmur brings me. But isn’t that what a great album is supposed to do?

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05 June 2006

Brush with Greatness: Prince Albert II of Monaco

Since Prince Albert and his dalliances are in the press again, I thought I’d share my moment in the royal sun.

I worked for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games from 1991 to 1993. A couple of times a year, members of the International Olympic Committee came to town to check our progress and to hold board meetings. Prince Albert, an active IOC member, was finally coming to Atlanta for the winter meeting. The ACOG girls were going crazy, each hoping she’d be spotted and whisked away to the castle, just like Grace Kelley. My cubicle was near the door separating the reception area from the office area, so all the blondes were hanging out at my desk, hoping to “stumble” upon the prince. Albert was around, but he pretty much ignored them.

The giggling and loitering were driving me nuts, so I slipped away and went down the back hall to the powder room. And I ran into the prince and his entourage. Knowing that he had avoided fraternizing with the chicks, I gave him a brief smile and kept going. But he stopped me, introduced himself, and asked how I was. I was thrilled! The brunette trumped the blondes with one of the most eligible bachelors in the world!

After our short yet meaningful exchange, I went to the powder room, stopping in front of the mirror to gaze upon the visage that caught a prince's eye. And then I saw why the prince chose me for a chat — I had a frickin’ hot chocolate moustache across my upper lip, from corner to corner. I then realized I probably got Prince Albert’s attention because he was charmed by the “mentally challenged” chick working for the committee.

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03 June 2006

June Playlist

Those new songs in heavy rotation, in order of obsession:

Sonic Youth: “Incinerate”
OMG, this an amazing song! It's my favorite at the moment. Every time I hear it I want to get up and dance and spin with my arms straight out. Thurston’s voice, the guitar, the melody are fan-damn-tastic. I just got an advance copy of the new album, Rather Ripped, but I haven’t quit listening to “Incinerate” long enough to listen to the rest of the album. This is the song I listen to nine time straight before moving on to the next tune.

Gnarls Barkley: “Crazy”
Who doesn’t love this song? Added plus: They’re Georgia boys.

The Raconteurs: “Steady as She Goes”
Good beat; my pop song for spring 2006. Jack White’s guitar adds to the cool.

The Flaming Lips: “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
I love The Flaming Lips. Like Sonic Youth, they’re folks my age who can still get it done — and still be cool doing it. This new song is pretty catchy. Still kicking myself for missing their free show last month at Centennial Olympic Park.

Gomez: “How We Operate”
One of the new UK bands. I really like the album; this title track is my favorite. Great vocals; cool instruments.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Way Out”
Wish I was a cool rock chick …

Michael Stipe feat. Chris Martin: “In the Sun”
I have yet to tire of this song, or the entire EP, for that matter. Still gets me in the gut. And it’s simply the most beautiful song released this year.

Cat Power: “The Greatest”
Cat has the coolest voice of anyone recording today. The title track to the latest album is haunting yet melodic. Thanks, Greg, for turning me on to Cat Power; did you know she’s an Atlanta girl?

Gnarls Barkley: “Gone Daddy Gone”

Great cover of the Violent Femmes’ tune. I always preferred this to “Blister in the Sun,” and I like what Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo have done with it.

The Minus Five: “Cigs, Coffee, Booze”
Nice alt-country sound from my buddies Mr. Buck and Mr. McCaughey, with a good pedal steel guitar. How can you not love a song with the refrain “All you really need / Cigarettes, coffee, and booze.”

Djay featuring Shug: “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”
I just saw Hustle & Flow, so I’m a little late on the “Pimp” bandwagon. Great hook, great beat — and, damn, that woman can sing.

Little Willies: “Roll on”
Norah Jones does country. “Roll on” is this season’s morning song for me, best listened to early Saturday morning while drinking a cup of coffee on my deck. I recommend the entire album.

The Fray: “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
It’s getting a lot of airplay right now, so I might be sick of it in a month, but right now I really like it. It appeals to my lonely, romantic side.

What are you listening to?


02 June 2006

Rainy Night in Georgia

Friday night. Out on the deck, toasting the rain with a crisp white wine, staring into the trees, using as little brain power as possible. Been out here since I got home from work (my deck’s covered; I haven’t been sitting in the rain, silly). The evening began with a loud, booming thunderstorm (we do thunder well down here in Georgia). That soon gave way to light, steady rain — enough to cool the night and freshen the air. The sound and smell of rain, the damp breeze — relaxing, calming, cleansing — my Zen moment. Even took a short walk in the mist (OK, so maybe I am dumb enough to go out in the rain, but it was wonderful).

Maybe I’d like living in Seattle.

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