mental health, movies, music, musings, Song parodies

Suicide is not painless, particularly for those left behind… (partial repost)

When I was a child, the old sitcom M*A*S*H was still airing on television. I remember the instrumental version of the show’s theme song, which was titled “Suicide Is Painless”. The song’s lyrics went:

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say

Suicide is painless (suicide)
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
“Is it to be or not to be?”
And I replied, “Oh, why ask me?”

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

And you can do the same thing
If you please

The story goes that this song was written for the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, and in the film, the song was sung by The Ron Hicklin Singers. The song’s composer is Johnny Mandel, and the film’s director, Robert Altman, wanted it to be the “stupidest song ever written.” Altman, then in his mid 40s, attempted to come up with “stupid” lyrics, but found that he couldn’t come up with any that were “stupid enough”. So he asked his then 14 year old son, Mike, to write the words to the song, which Mike was able to do in just a few minutes. The funny thing is, Altman only earned about $70,000 for directing the movie, but his son has reportedly made over $1 million for co-writing the “stupidest” song ever written. Absurd, isn’t it?

In May 2018, when I was still posting on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife, I used the melody for “Suicide Is Painless” for my own lyrics. I renamed the song “Parenthood is Pricey”, which was inspired by the 2018 era sad news that births are declining in the United States, mainly because it’s EXPENSIVE to raise children today. Below are the words I wrote. I also recorded the song on SingSnap.

My early 20s
I could see
Visions of my life to be.
The costs that were laid out for me
I realized what I can’t be…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
And the job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remains empty.

The game of life 
is full of chance.
So much is left to circumstance.
There’s so much that is up to fate.
So childbirth, I’ll procrastinate.

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remained empty.

Painful student loans
will last…
It doesn’t hurt ’til time
has passed.
By then, too many years have gone
For me to take parenthood on…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is so empty.

A brave reporter once asked me
“Why haven’t you made a mini me?
 Don’t you want your own family?”
And I replied
“How can it be?”

Cuz parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is still empty.

And my friends are mostly
doing the same thing…

I remember the urge to make the parody popped into my head randomly. It was a flicker of inspiration that I decided to feed, after I wrote a blog post about reasons why people aren’t having so many kids these days. Of course, in 2018, we had no idea of the epic shitshow that awaited us in 2020, 2021, and 2022. I had written a lengthy and revelatory post about why Bill and I never sought reproductive assistance when it became apparent that his vasectomy reversal wasn’t going to be enough to make us parents. When I was still fertile, we were broke. We aren’t broke anymore, but I just turned 50 and pregnancy would probably either kill me or make me sick, if by some miracle it could even happen. And now, I don’t want kids anymore, because of the epic shitshow I mentioned. So maybe we were lucky things worked out how they did.

I’m not sure if the birth rate is still declining. That’s not really the point of this post. I just remembered the song, and how I rewrote the lyrics. I used to enjoy making song parodies, writing fiction, and engaging in other creative pursuits. But thanks to a former blog follower who mocked my efforts, I’ve lost a lot of the desire to do the funny, creative stuff I used to love doing. It’s like there’s a block there, because I really just want to get through this life with as few altercations as possible.

Ironically enough, that person is now dead, because she committed suicide. I don’t know why she took that action, and I don’t rejoice in her decision, especially since I have seen evidence that many people who were left behind are now hurting. She had two children who have now lost their mother forever, and will always have to deal with that huge loss for the rest of their lives. It will affect other people, too. People they’ve not even met yet, who will have to shoulder the baggage that came from that tragic decision. Suicide is definitely not painless for those who are left in the wake of it. I suspect it isn’t painless for the people who do it, either, even when it’s done quickly and violently.

A few months ago, I wrote about how several people in Bill’s and my world had made the choice to kill themselves. We weren’t particularly close to any of them– they were mainly just people on the peripheries of our lives. Still, we were affected by the fact that they made that choice and it was publicized. There’s always this sense of shock and wonder when someone takes their own life. What made them do it? What was the final straw that pushed them to make that decision? Bill was so shaken by it, he even searched Google for links about it while he was at work. That decision was discovered by the IT guys at his job, and he ended up getting a talking to by his boss, who was concerned that Bill might be contemplating suicide. See how suicide has ripple effects, even toward people who aren’t involved? The three people who ended their lives by suicide affected us enough to talk about it and search for information on the Internet. And then other people– completely uninvolved– felt compelled to talk to us about it, in case we were thinking of doing it ourselves.

A couple of days ago, I learned that yet another person in my sphere took their own life. Apparently, this person decided to exit life on their own terms because of a chronic illness that was causing them a lot of pain and disability. I looked at their most recent posts on social media, and realize that in the days before their exit, there weren’t really any obvious hints of what was coming. A couple of memes are there– they seem prescient now, but wouldn’t have seemed like that at the time they were posted. And now, there are so many tributes to this person about what a wonderful, kind, caring, awesome person they were, and how much they are already missed. I wonder how many of them said that before the suicide happened. I wonder what the point of saying it now is, although I know that many people believe in life after death, and assume that perhaps the person is looking down from Heaven… or maybe up from Hell? I don’t know.

My husband had a near death experience when he was a teenager. I know not everyone believes in those, but I have read enough books about people who have been clinically dead and came “back” from the beyond that I think there might be something to them. I think the experience changed Bill on many levels. Even if what he experienced was nothing but a massive discharge of endorphins as life briefly ebbed away from him, it still gives me comfort. A few months ago, an Epinions friend passed away from cancer, and I remember one of her last posts was that we shouldn’t fear dying. She said that it doesn’t hurt… you just slip away. But what if your death is unnatural? What if you weren’t meant to die? Is suicide that painless? Maybe after it happens, it’s painless. No one’s “home” anymore. It’s not painless for the people who remain in their Earthly existences. A lot of them are left with endless questions, guilt, and grief, as they try to make sense of what may seem senseless to them.

We really are all affected by each other. I used to love to write things that were “creative”. I lost the urge to write creative stuff after that huge mess caused by a woman who shamed me for doing it. That woman is now dead, because she decided to exit life on her own terms. I’m still left the aftereffects of her last words to me. They were her last words, because I blocked her from contacting me a few years before she died. Maybe all isn’t lost, though. That flicker could come back to life, as if it experienced a near death experience or resurrection.

The other day, when I was in the shower, thinking about the whole abortion debate, I had another flicker of inspiration as an idea for a satire piece came into my head. For a moment, I was excited about it. I thought maybe I’d sit down and write something. I wouldn’t be doing it for anything but satisfying my own urges to write and express myself in an interesting way. But then the doubt came back, put there by someone who couldn’t simply leave me alone, and I pushed it out of my head. Still, it was a flicker of inspiration… and maybe it’s time I got back down to business. Because I really do believe that expression can be one way to avoid committing suicide. Even if it’s just expressing oneself to someone who cares and might offer another perspective… one that offers a different reality that the person whose mind is muddied with thoughts of suicide can’t consider at the time.

And now, I am going to repost the article I wrote that birthed the song parody I wrote above. This was written on May 18, 2018, and I’m going to leave it “as/is”. Maybe the flicker will come back again.

My fat ass itches… (I’m sure this is one of the posts I wrote that the former “spy” disapproved of.)

Today’s blog post comes courtesy of my old buddy, Ken Turetzky, who wrote and sang a hilarious song of the same name.  I “met” Ken online about ten years ago, when I wrote a review of a compilation album done by comedian/musician Red Peters.  I discovered Red Peters when Bill and I went to a karaoke night at Fort Belvoir’s Officers’ Club and the hosts played Peters’ infamous “Closing Song” to finish the evening.  I thought it was hilarious, so I bought Peters’ two available albums and became a fan. 

Years later, Red Peters got into promoting other comedic musicians.  Turetzky’s hit song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was among the songs on Peters’ compilation, which I purchased the last time we were living in Germany.  To this day, I can’t listen to some songs on that album and not have idyllic memories of our first Germany tour.  Anyway, Turetzky happened to find my Epinions review and engaged me in the comments section.  Now we’re Facebook friends.

“Her Shit Don’t Stink”… I always dedicate this to Ex.
Ken shows off his blues chops.

This morning, as I was waking up, I read a news article about how the U.S. Fertility Rate Fell to a Record Low for the Second Straight Year.  Actually, the title of this article is misleading.  It’s not that Americans are infertile.  It’s that they aren’t having as many babies.  Frankly, I think that’s a good thing.  Our country is well and truly fucked right now and plenty of people are having trouble simply supporting themselves.  The Trump administration seems to be doing its level best to erase any protections for American citizens.  The whole country appears to be in a shambles.  So I don’t blame young people for not wanting to reproduce right now.  Besides, we’ve got PLENTY of people as it is.

But seriously, though.  Think about what young people are up against.  Young people today are leaving college saddled with massive student loans.  Student loans can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.  And well paying jobs, which would make use of those hard won degrees, are in short supply.  Now… one doesn’t necessarily have to go to college in order to make a good living.  Some people are able to learn trades or are gifted athletes or musicians.  Some people luck into money or are born into wealth.  But, for a lot of people, college is the gateway to a decent career.  There are a lot of jobs that require a degree and, in America, it’s expensive to get a degree.  So lots of young folks start off their best fertility years ladened with debt.  That makes it a lot less appealing for young people to make babies.

I will be turning 46 next month and by September, I expect to have my student loans completely paid.  I will be accomplishing this goal about nine years ahead of schedule.  When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing, especially since Bill and I started our marriage completely broke.  That “broke” period lasted about five years, as Bill recovered from financial disasters wrought in his first marriage and paid massive child support.  It finally turned around when Bill went to Iraq and started earning combat pay.  I used the extra money to get rid of some debt and start paying ahead on my student loans.  I started by paying an extra $20 a month and snowballed it for years.  

For awhile, I got letters from my student loan service letting me know the extra money wasn’t necessary.  Like hell it wasn’t.  When I consolidated my loans, I owed $57,000 and that was before the interest.  Of course, I have three degrees.  However, I don’t currently use my college degrees to make a big paycheck.  Life did not go in a direction where that would have been possible for me.  I happened to marry a kind, generous man who was willing to help me.  Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been.  Plenty of young people are now leaving college with as much debt as I once had, and they only have one degree.

When you have to pay a lot of money for your student loans and your job isn’t necessarily secure, it might make you think twice about buying a home.  It might make you think twice about getting married or having children.  And then, once you have those children, you have to worry about all of the things that come from having them… not the least of which is how much it costs.  Kids are expensive.  Even if your child is healthy, they cost a lot of money.  If your child isn’t healthy, then there are other expenses to consider.  

And then, as you have your kids– maybe when you’re in your thirties, prime earning years– your parents might start having medical issues.  In my case, I was blessed with healthy, independent folks.  My dad had full medical coverage courtesy of being a retired Air Force officer.  My mom is very healthy and independent and has a good head for money.  So she’s doing fine.  Bill’s dad and stepmother, likewise, seem to be doing okay.  Bill’s mom needs help, but Bill is lucky enough to make good money right now.  At any point, that reality could change and screw things up.  If your parents aren’t healthy and can’t afford to take care of themselves, then you might be tasked with helping them.  And that takes money.  Sure, you can tell your parents to bugger off if you’re really selfish or sociopathic, but most people aren’t like that.

So… I can see why a lot of younger folks are holding off on having children.  Those who wait until they have money might have a harder time reproducing.  Fertility declines as a person ages.  Yes, there are women out there who can get pregnant naturally when they are in their mid 40s.  Women who decide to wait for their kids until they’ve become settled in their careers might find themselves pondering spending thousands on fertility treatments.  Some might decide to go to another country for cheaper fertility treatments.  If anything goes wrong, though, their health insurance probably won’t pay for anything related to care they received out of the country.  That’s if they can afford to have health insurance in the first place.    

I have no idea how fertile I am, since our fertility issues were probably caused by Bill’s vasectomy and subsequent reversal.  I never bothered to get thoroughly checked out because when I was in my 30s, we were still broke.  Any kind of fertility treatment would have cost money we didn’t have, even if we could have gotten that treatment at a substantial discount, thanks to the military.  I didn’t want to stay broke, so I focused on getting rid of debt instead of having children.  

I was also influenced by a woman I met while living at Fort Belvoir.  Like me, she had trouble conceiving.  She got fertility treatments and eventually had a son.  Sadly, he was born with multiple devastating birth defects.  He needed round the clock care.  She went from being a wife in a comfortable financial situation with two dogs, to a woman who spent all of her time trying to take care of her very medically fragile baby boy.  I remember very clearly when she warned me that if I had fertility treatments, I could end up in the situation she was in.  She seemed bitter about it.  I have to admit that I had a lot of empathy for her.  All she wanted was to simply be a mother.  She was lucky, though, in that she had access to military healthcare and housing.  Still, caring for her baby meant she needed extra help.  And that also costs serious money.

These are just a few reasons why women aren’t having babies.  I haven’t even touched on the fact that a lot of men who might be decent fathers are scared of commitment.  Frankly, I can’t blame them for that.  If a marriage fails, and many of them do, it can cost a lot of money.  Men, more often often than women, wind up being on the hook for child support for years.  It happened to Bill.  It was a long stretch of being nearly broke while working his ass off, while his first wife denied him access to his daughters, and his second wife struggled to find work.  Trust me, it’s not fun, although Bill and I were lucky enough to be able to survive and thrive.  Not everyone is as lucky as we’ve been.

I also didn’t even get into people who are involved in religions that demand a lot of tithing.  When I met Bill, he was still a Mormon and obliged to give ten percent of his gross income to the church.  That was so he could be “temple worthy”… which meant he was allowed to wear the special underwear and enter the temple and participate in culty religious ordinances that were either very bizarre or very boring.  Again, ten percent of one’s income, especially when the income isn’t quite enough, is a lot of money.  It tends to discourage reproduction, even as church leaders are encouraging it.

Anyway, I posted the article by The New York Times on my Facebook page and it immediately attracted comments.  A few comments came from my old online comedian friend, Ken Turetzky.  I remembered his silly song, “My Fat Ass Itches” and its bluesy hooks.  I suggested to Ken that maybe he ought to write a blues song inspired by the article I posted.  But, you know what?  Maybe I’ll do it myself.  I have all day.  I have no job.  I have no other purpose other than to comment on the news.  And, by some miracle, I managed to get to middle age without defaulting on any loans.  But I have no descendants or dependents… and when I die, the mold will be broken.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  

Yeah… I’ll think about it.  If I come up with a blues song, maybe I’ll post it later (see above).  If I don’t come up with one or otherwise get distracted, I’ll just write another meaningless blog post about the state of life today.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, relationships

“To have good friends, you must BE a good friend…”

When I was a junior at Longwood College (now Longwood University), I had a really nice roommate named Angie. I went through many roommates when I was in college– I think seven, in all. Angie and I got along the best; she was a very considerate person. I remember telling her I was really glad we were such good friends. And I remember that Angie said, “To have good friends, you must BE a good friend.” I was honored that she ever thought of me in that way, although I think that a lot of bad people wind up with good people in their lives.

I wish I could report that Angie and I are still in touch, but she sort of dropped off the face of the earth at some point around 2007. I don’t think she ever bothered with social media, which makes her smarter than a lot of people, including yours truly. I sometimes think about her and wonder how she is. I hope she’s doing well. I’m thinking of Angie this morning as I ponder something I saw on Ex’s Twitter feed this morning.

Although I think that in a perfect world, Angie’s quote would work well, I know for a fact that a lot of good people are super attractive to narcissists. Because many good people are more empathic than other people are, a lot of really selfish, mean-spirited, exploitative people do end up with good people in their spheres. Since empathic people are so concerned about the welfare of others, they wind up trapped in toxic relationships with narcissists. Even when a good person recognizes that they are being victimized by someone with nefarious intentions, they often still get trapped in situations in which no one can win.

Narcissists are experts at DARVO– that is Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. When they get called out for doing something shitty, they frequently gaslight their victims. Most narcissists, especially ones as old as Ex is, are very practiced at turning around an accusation so that the person being wronged and having the courage to speak up, ends up being the one who is demonized.

A couple of days ago, I posted about how narcissists will take revenge on those who hold them accountable. I wrote about how I think that the Sussexes may try to get even with the British Royal Family by becoming estranged and withholding access to the young Sussex children. That may or may not happen– as the British Royal Family is pretty powerful. However, I have also seen this dynamic happen in less famous and powerful families. One parent in a narcissistic family system feels entitled to weaponize the children and keep them from the other parent, or the opposing parent’s extended family. This is a means of temporarily maintaining control.

Of course, that happened to Bill, and when he tried to confront Ex about it, she accused him of being a terrible person who horribly abused her and their children. The reality is, he simply couldn’t take Ex’s abuse anymore. He didn’t want to live in poverty, do low-paid, second and third shift assembly line work in factories, and have his life completely controlled by a woman whose personality seemed to change by the hour. He didn’t want to deal with a woman who treated him like a sexual predator, when he couldn’t be further from being an abuser. In fact, the opposite was true. Most of all, he didn’t want to be married to someone who didn’t love and accept him for who he is. Ex wanted someone else, and she was constantly trying to get Bill to change who he was to suit her whims. Even when he did something different, Ex wasn’t satisfied. She would accuse him of trying to be cool, or something like that. Above all, her shit never stinks. It’s always someone else’s fault when something isn’t right.

My old friend, Ken Turetzky, has a great song about the “her shit don’t stink” phenomenon.

So, as you can see, Ex isn’t a good friend. And, it appears that she doesn’t have any good friends, either. This was what she lamented about on Twitter today.

It IS sad… and she’s right that she doesn’t trust people. But aside from that, in order to have good friends, you have to BE a good friend.

To be a good friend, you have to have good intentions. You can’t look at people and determine their worth only in terms of what they can do for you, or how they might influence other people. A quality friendship is based on mutual respect and admiration, honesty, and genuine regard and concern. There must be give and take, fairness, and consideration for the other person. I know for a fact, Ex isn’t a good friend. She doesn’t have consideration for other people. She is good enough at FAKING concern, but only toward people who don’t know her. Those who do get into her “inner circle” are eventually abused. And when they’ve had enough abuse and try to back away from the relationship, she accuses THEM of being abusive.

Unfortunately, if a person has been trapped in an abusive system like that long enough, their thinking can get distorted and they can experience “trauma bonding”. That is, the victim can attach to their abuser, not because the abuser is good to them, but because they are chasing the “high” of the good times, and they think they either “deserve” the abuse, or they can’t live without the abuser. Narcissistic abusers can be very charismatic and charming, and they can be convincing as they make the case that they’re victims. They are also very good at being threatening and foreboding. A narcissist won’t hesitate to tell a victim that if they leave the relationship, they’ll be left with nothing.

When I first met Bill, he made many alarming statements about his relationship with Ex. She had him believing that he was dangerous, and that he’d profoundly harmed her. He believed that the divorce was his fault, and he was sure that I would see the situation in the same way Ex presented it. But the more I got to know him, the more I realized that he is not an abuser at all. He’s an empath, and a very good friend to those who will allow him to be a friend. Although we do have occasional spats, they’re usually caused because he doesn’t want to be assertive and explicitly define his needs, not because he’s a mean, abusive person. And now that Bill talks to his daughter, we can see that he never was the whole problem. Ex treats her children– who are in her inner circle, at least for a time– just as badly as she treats her husbands. And I’m sure that if she ever has had a friend who got close, that friend was treated similarly badly. Ex keeps her relationships superficial for good reason. Because beneath the surface, it’s really ugly.

Hell, I have even experienced trauma bonding myself. A few years ago, I actually was against moving out of the house we rented from a very high-conflict landlady, because I worried that the next landlord could be even worse than she was. At least I knew what to expect from her, right? Of course, now I know that my thinking was skewed by four years of psychofuckery, and dealing with this very intrusive, manipulative, and controlling person whose dealings with us were dishonest and exploitative. Our current landlord is nowhere near as disrespectful and unfair as she was. Yes, we pay much more rent, but it’s totally worth it, because it’s a much nicer house, and we get to maintain our dignity and privacy. But I still marvel at how I had initially balked at moving because I was scared. That’s a form of trauma bonding.

The same “trauma bonding” dynamic happens in abusive friendships, marriages, employment, and romantic relationships. Narcissistic abusers can’t risk letting anyone get close, because then they will see the mess that lurks under the facade. It would be one thing if Ex was open to allowing someone to help her clean up the mess, but she can’t do that. She doesn’t trust anyone, and is fixated on a false reality that she’s created, because reality, to her, is simply too painful to acknowledge.

Likewise, now, when I look back on the four year period in which we rented a home from a high-conflict landlady, I realize that just like Ex, our former landlady was very focused on the external. Every project she undertook was about curb appeal and surface image. She never did anything, at least while we were living there, that would improve the actual experience of living in that house. We weren’t important, because we were already in the “inner circle”, and ripe for abuse. She wanted to attract new victims for when we were discarded. So all upgrading projects that were done while we were living in that house were done for cosmetic appeal or the landlady’s convenience. Moreover, it didn’t matter to her if we were inconvenienced as she completed these projects. I did read that after we left, and before she got new tenants, she updated a few things in the house– probably using the money that she illegally tried to rip off from us. But I’m sure those upgrades were minimal and mostly cosmetic. I doubt, for instance, that she bothered to put in a modern toilet that didn’t backup all the time. Instead, she got a new dishwasher. Dishwashers are great, but toilets are essential, and I think that having a toilet that doesn’t take two or three flushes to clear would be better than having a spiffy new dishwasher.

So anyway, I don’t think that Ex is a good friend, even on a casual basis. She isn’t capable of being a good friend, because she is much too fixated on herself. She’s not a good partner or a good parent, either, for the same reason. She was never able to psychologically mature beyond early adolescence. It’s really sad, actually. I would almost feel sorry for her, except that I know she has hurt people I love. Aside from that, I actually think that it’s rare to have a lot of extremely true friends who are very loyal. Those types of relationships are very special, and they have to be nurtured. That’s why I tend to hang out with dogs. 😉

Noyzi is a pretty good friend.
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humor, music

Catching the “musical flu” and spreading it around…

My friend Ken Turetzky, pumping his own gas…

I should preface this by saying that Ken and I are only the most casual of Facebook friends. I have never met him in person, although he did reach out to me about twelve years ago, when I wrote a review of musical comedian Red Peters’ album, Best of Red Peters Comedy Hour, Volume 1. Ken’s song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was featured on that compilation. It reminded me of Bill’s ex wife, who was at that time, pushing a false narrative that her shit didn’t stink. Anyone with their eyes open and nose unstuffed knew the truth, though, and those who weren’t aware would soon become aware as they came of age.

Years later, I care a lot less about Ex than I used to… Bill’s daughters are now grown women and we’re no longer subsidizing Ex’s household to the tune of $30,600 annually. However, we have become aware that for all of Ex’s gas pumping, she was mostly full of hot stinky air. Enough said about that, although there’s a lot I would really like to write. I won’t, though. Not in this post, anyway. Instead, I want to write about something totally unrelated– except I wish I could have helped spread the musical flu to Bill’s daughters.

Yesterday, my sister sent me a private message, asking if I subscribe to Apple Music. I wrote back that I don’t, mainly because I prefer to own my music rather than renting it. Also, I read some disturbing accounts of Apple Music overriding people’s private music collections. I have some rare stuff that I managed to get from Napster back in the day. Those were the days of dialup, so you know I spent a long time downloading those things. I don’t want to lose them by allowing Apple Music to invade my machine. I would imagine that Apple Music has fixed this issue, but I still prefer to buy rather than rent, particularly when it comes to music. I have so many tracks that it would probably take a year to listen to everything, anyway.

My sister, on the other hand, does use Apple Music. She wrote that she heard a song by the jazz player, Michael Franks. She hadn’t really liked him much, but got hooked on this song that came on Apple Music. I told her that I have a similar problem. I’m the kind of person who remembers really obscure songs from many years ago and tries to find out who did them. Sometimes, it takes years. I got tickled by my sister’s comments about Michael Franks, because it turns out that one of his songs was a track I obsessively “hunted down”.

I was first introduced to Michael Franks’ banal style back in the year 2003. Bill and I hadn’t been married a year. We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in a cheap apartment, because that was what we could afford. We decided to go to the Army Birthday Ball. I needed a formal dress for it, so I drove to a mall in Northern Virginia to go shopping. It was probably Springfield Mall, which is where I used to go shopping when I was 6 or 7 years old.

Eureka!

I was in a department store trying on dresses, and this song by Michael Franks came on. I didn’t know who Michael Franks was, of course. I just remember the song and its monotonous, mind numbing chorus, “Don’t touch that phone.” repeated by female singers over and over again. I don’t even remember liking the song that much. I just remembered the chorus. It stuck in my head for years. I had no idea the name of the song or who sang it, but I relentlessly searched until, finally, I found it. And even though I didn’t love the song, I ended up downloading the album.

My sister and I kept chatting and it occurred to me that she has really had an enormous impact on my musical tastes. It’s almost like she was carrying a kind of “musical flu” bug. Although she is not the sister closest to me in age, I shared a room with her when I was a little kid. I was exposed to a lot of what she liked. My sister famously introduced me to the magic of Kate Bush. She also introduced me to James Taylor, The Police, and Dead Can Dance… as well as the hilarious stylings of Ami Arena, who can’t sing, but is funny as hell.

One of my favorite songs by Kate Bush. I was introduced to her when my sister bought Bush’s 1982 album, The Dreaming, when I was about ten years old. Years later, I bought the album myself, and have since bought it a couple more times.

Back in the early 90s, when I worked as a summer camp as the cook, I had a week off mid summer. My sister invited me to visit for a few days. While I was visiting her in Northern Virginia, she took me to Ellicott City, Maryland. We went shopping, and she introduced me to the band, Dead Can Dance. I remembered one song in particular and liked it, but it was about sixteen years later that I finally broke down and bought the album it came from. It’s still awesome music, even though the album is probably 30 years old by now.

This song stuck in my head for years until I finally bought the album. It’s still a great track… it doesn’t age.

During that same trip, I was exposed to Amy Arena and her sarcastic and very funny brand of music. Amy Arena can’t sing, but she’s witty and snarky and I enjoyed her very much. My sister played Amy’s album and we shared a laugh over the irreverent lyrics. Years later, I bought her CD, too…

She’s a certain king of gap toothed woman… I’m a gap toothed woman, too.

Then my sister told me that both Dead Can Dance and Amy Arena were introduced to her by a guy she used to date– a German dude by the name of Bernd, who played in a band that did live music at a restaurant where my sister used to wait tables. That restaurant, name of Whitey’s, is now long defunct. But for years, it was a great place in Arlington for live music, beer, and junk food. And the funniest part of all is that back in the 90s, when I had to get a food handler’s card to work in food service in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had to watch movies about food safety. One was made by the public health bureau in Virginia and they had actually filmed at Whitey’s. I immediately knew it was Whitey’s, because that place had a big sign that read “EAT”. It was unmistakable.

Both charming songs that you should learn…

When my sister told me about Bernd introducing her to that music, it occurred to me that Bernd had influenced me, too, even though I never met him. Although my sister hasn’t seen Bernd in years, he passed along the musical flu to her, which she then passed to me.

And I have influenced Bill, by sharing the music with him. I have also shared stuff with people on the Internet whom I don’t know. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about Rush Limbaugh’s death. In that post, I shared a video by the awesome band, Folk Uke, fronted by Willie Nelson’s daughter, Amy, and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter, Cathy. The video was of Folk Uke singing “Shit Makes the Flowers Grow”. I discovered Folk Uke when I lived in Georgia and I had downloaded Willie Nelson’s “children’s” album (quoted, because Willie gave up on the children’s part of that album about halfway through). Amy was featured heavily on that album and I liked her, so I went searching on YouTube for more of her music… and I found Folk Uke. Now, I am a devoted fan…

I used Willie Nelson’s version of “Rainbow Connection” for MacGregor’s memorial video. This song was on Willie’s “children’s” album, which featured his daughter, Amy, half of Folk Uke! I don’t know why, but there’s something about Willie’s take on “Rainbow Connection” that touches me.

When I met Bill, he was pretty limited in his musical tastes. He liked industrial, progressive music, and shunned anything vaguely country. But I think he had the idea that country music was nothing but the pink sequined pop stuff his ex wife listens to… He had not been exposed to bluegrass or classic country music, or outlaw country. It wasn’t long before I had him turned on to people like the Infamous Stringdusters…

I actually discovered them while watching a morning show in Murfressboro, Tennessee. Ever heard a U2 song done quite like this?

And then, thanks to my constant ear to YouTube, I found the likes of Todd Snider and Paul Thorn, both awesome musicians who are entertaining, talented, and fun…

Story of my life… or at least it was when I was at Longwood.
Damn, I want to see him play. If you have a raunchy sense of humor, listen to this.

Last summer, I was on Facebook, and Keb’ Mo’ shared a track that he was listening to. He had played on guitarist’s Lee Ritenour’s compilation album, 6 String Theory. I looked at the album and quickly downloaded it. Then, noticing that there was a cover of Sting’s song, “Shape of My Heart”, I alerted my friend Andrew. I think he was skeptical at first, but then he decided to check it out. Sure enough, I had guessed right that Andrew would like the cover– he’s a big Sting fan, like I am. But this was a great cover done by other people.

Thanks to Keb’ Mo’, I found Lee Ritenour and a new take on Sting.

Speaking of Keb’ Mo’. I’ve been trying to see him play live for years. I have tickets that were supposed to be used on November 16th, 2020. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and the show has been rescheduled three times at this writing. I think it might go on in September, if enough people get COVID-19 vaccines. I was introduced by Keb’ Mo’ by Martha Stewart, of all people. I bought an album she made for new parents. It had really lovely pop music that would appeal to babies and grownups alike, and Keb’ Mo’s song, “Infinite Eyes”, was on it. I liked it fine, recalling that I had heard Keb’ Mo’ on a Lyle Lovett cover of “Til It Shines”, a Bob Seger cover, and liked him then, too. Then one day, when we still lived in Fairfax, Virginia, Bill and I were having lunch at Austin Grill. They were playing some really great music over their sound system, and I heard Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice. He was singing “Folsom Prison Blues”, a song originally by Johnny Cash. I loved it, so Bill and I went to a Border’s to see if I could find the album there– it was still the era of CDs, after all.

Well, I didn’t find Keb’ Mo’s cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” until many years later, but on that day, I came home with, like, three of his CDs. And I quickly became a big fan of his music. Now, one of my favorite songs by Keb’ Mo’ is this song…

I love this song… it’s like Bill and me. He gladly indulges my musical obsession. But it’s just one of my favorites by Keb’ Mo’.
This song is more like the reality of my life… 😉 Especially the line about the dog shitting on the floor.

I could do this all day. In fact, thanks to COVID-19, I’ve got little else to do… although I will admit that the above video makes me want to practice guitar. This post does have a point, though. I don’t know how it is for other people, but I tend to catch musical influences like the flu. I hear something, like it, buy it, and use it to find other stuff I love. And then I spread my musical flu to everybody else… even people I don’t know. Just like people I don’t know spread it to me.

I caught Robert Randolph & The Family Band from Eric Clapton. They opened for him at a concert Bill and I attended, and were a hell of a lot better than Clapton was.

And finally… as I sign off, here’s a plug for my alma mater. This morning, I donated $550 to the music department, not because I was a music major, but because the music department at Longwood University literally changed my life. And I really enjoyed this concert, featuring one of my former professors, Dr. Charles Kinzer. His wife is also a professor at Longwood. She used to be my accompanist, and now she teaches piano. This morning, as I watched the jazz concert, it occurred to me that these folks have also spread the “musical flu”, and still do– even 27 years after I graduated.

Anyway… I long for the days of live music again. I love to discover new stuff and spread it around. Bonus points if the music is also funny. And now, it’s time to play with my guitar. Maybe someday, I’ll play it for public consumption, and spread even more musical flu. At least it’s a kind of infection that doesn’t kill anyone.

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