6 Songs of My Life

My friend Pampi over at Third Eye Fell shared an NPR article entitled Tell Us The 6 Songs of Your Life. I thought it would be a great topic for a blog post but I realize now that it’s not such an easy assignment.  The thing is, I like and have liked all kinds of music depending on my moods at various stages in my life jazz, classical, electronica, blues, trip hop, lounge, alternative, ambient, dark industrial, punk, indie, new wave, rock, Latin, southern rock, soul, folk, show tunes (actually, not so much anymore – but I heard a lot of Broadway musicals on LPs growing up).  I’m pretty moody, I guess.  I could make a list of literally thousands of songs that mean something to me.  I once posted a list of the 21 records of my life, but I’ll not do a top 6 favorites, rather I’ll identify 6 songs that sort of defined me or described a state of mind at a particular stage in my life from childhood to midlife; I almost said from childhood to the Middle Ages.  I’m old, but still alive.  Yes, it’s all very self-indulgent, I know, but I can’t help myself. Enough with the introduction.  Here’s the list:

As a Kid:  Day by Day – from Godspell.  It came out when I was about 10 or so.  My neighbor whose father was a minister played the album for me one day when we were shooting pool.  I think at the time, their church youth group was performing the musical.  The version I link to above is not the original Broadway cast, but a modern one that I think is far superior.  Although a religious song that appealed to youth in ways that hymns could not, I connected to it more as a pop tune with a catchy melody and easy sing along lyrics.  As a kid, I pretty much lived day by day, not thinking too much about the past or future, especially during the summer.

Preteen:  That’s the Way of the World – Earth Wind and Fire.  The song came out when I was in 7th grade before I had developed much of a world view.  Things were the way they were because that’s the way of the world.  I didn’t have the tools to think critically about the world and my place in it.  I wouldn’t develop those tools until after I finished my formal schooling many years later.  As a 12 year old, I had very little agency but did have a vague notion of freedom that had to do with driving a tractor trailer for a living one day.

The Teen Years:  River Man – Nick Drake.  My dad turned me on to this obscure artist, obscure then, much better known posthumously. Drake’s music was dark, and full of raw emotion poetically crafted and delivered with total vulnerability.  The tune really speaks more to my dad’s life than mine and in some ways feels like a portal to his soul, may god rest it.  I’m linking also to a brilliant Brad Mehldau cover of the song.

College:  Phase Dance – The Pat Metheny Group.  I discovered Pat Metheny’s music looking through my sister’s boyfriend’s record collection.   He’s been my favorite artist ever since, Pat Metheny, not my sister’s x boyfriend.  I’ve had the good fortune of seeing Pat play live with his band and in other configurations many times.  The first time I saw the group play was in 1984 at the Student Union at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. I was one of about 100 people sitting near the stage in a metal folding chair.  I had a Minolta SLR and took flashless photos with a high speed Ilford black and white film.  See shot below from the concert.  The song was sort of a signature warm up tune they liked to play very early in a concert.   Phase Dance doesn’t have any lyrics, but the song is full of idea exploration.  Like the song, as a college student, I had  begun exploring various ideas and perspectives and quite a few mysterious isms as I pondered the meaning of life.

Pat Metheny_Fayetteville AR 1984

Post CollegeNovo Amor (New Love) – Gal Costa.  In 1990, I began dating a Chilean woman I would later marry.  She spoke very little English, and I, very little Spanish.  We somehow managed to communicate together through hand gestures, Spanglish and by exchanging notes on napkins.  One of the things we had in common was a love for Brazilian music.  We both had cassette tapes and albums by Gal Costa, Chico Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and others.  At our wedding reception, we featured a Brazilian mix tape.

Mid Life.  The Way Up – Pat Metheny Group.  Pat Metheny is the only artist that I have seen live with each member of my immediate family separately.   My wife and I saw The Way Up tour in 2004 as an anniversary present.  It is a jazz record, but organized into four parts like a symphony.  The work is a masterpiece drawing from many musical influences including the composer Steve Reich.  As  composers, the writing duo of Pat Metheny (guitar) and Lyle Mays (keyboards) are in the same league as Rogers and Hammerstein and Lennon and McCartney.   And Metheny is a national treasure.  The music from The Way Up suite awakens my creative impulses and helps keep my midlife out of crisis.

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100 Foods To Die For (or not) Before You Die (81-100)

Tom Thumb

I took The Food List Challenge and scored 61% having tried 61 of the 100 foods (or drinks) listed. So I’m going through each one, 20 at a time. Here’s the last of 5 installments.

Raw Oysters.  I didn’t like them much growing up in Arkansas.  I’d have eaten them fried, though, without much fuss along with some fried okra and cornbread.  But now that I live on the coast, where the supply is fresh and plentiful, I eat theses delicate sea pearls on the half shell from time to time.

Root Beer Float.  Oh, sure.  I’ve always had a thirst for root beer, don’t know why.  No one else in my family can stand the stuff.  And the float business just elevates it to heavenly status.  I am not a root beer snob.  I’ll drink any brand.  I don’t seek out the small batch micro brewed variety made with cane sugar from a rare sassafras plant found only in the Appalachian Mountains.

S’mores.  A chocolate marshmallow graham cracker sandwich, for those of you who don’t know.  And I can’t imagine too many of you don’t.   But if you don’t, or don’t know or remember how to make one, here’s all you do. Get you a box of Graham crackers.  No, Ritz won’t do.  Place a chocolate square on a graham cracker.  Toast a marshmallow.  Be careful not to set your house on fire.  Place toasted marshmallow on the chocolate.  Add a graham cracker on top of the marshmallow to complete the sandwich.  Press down.  The marshmallow will explode and the goo will melt the chocolate.  You can’t use just any chocolate.  It has to be to the cheap and cloyingly sweet American Hershey milk chocolate bar.  Hipsters, do not use designer, organic, non GMO, pesticide free, fairly traded, 85% dark cocoa infused with chipotle sourced from the Costa Rican rainforest.  I mean, you could, but it wouldn’t be a S’more.  Do it right and it’ll do you right.

Sauerkraut.  I love the stuff especially on a chili dog with mustard.  And in my opinion, sauerkraut is the key to the Reuben sandwich.

Sea Urchin.  No.  The truth is, I’m a little scared of it.

Snail.  If I were a kid and told I had a plate of snails in front of me, I would say, “YUCK!” As an adult, I would respond the same way.  I never have and never will eat snail unless in a survival situation.  Go ahead, say it.  I lack culture.  Fine, I’ll accept that.  Don’t say I don’t know what I’m missing.  I do know – a slimy slug.

Snake.  Snake stew.  Snake soup.  Snake casserole. Snake on the barbie.  Snake on a stick. Snake dog. Snakewurst. Snake and onions.  Snake and Shake.  Nope.  In a survival situation, maybe if it doesn’t kill me first.

Soft Shell Crab.  As I’ve posted before, I’m not a huge fan of the crustacean in general.  I’d rather eat chicken.  But I’ve had crab meat before, and it’s just ok, nothing special.  I prefer it as dip, to be honest, with Fritos.

Som Tam.  Don’t know this one at all.

Spaetzle.  Don’t know this one either.  Sounds German.  Maybe something pretzel like. I truly don’t know what I’m missing.

Spam.  I could write an entire blog post on it.  Let’s just say that I ate Spam on occasion as a young man.  It was easy. Just rip off the lid and presto – instant pork protein…and salt, water, sugar, sodium nitrite and potato starch.  No need to cook, although I sometimes heated it up.  Spam smells a little funky which is probably the main reason I stopped eating it some years ago.

Squirrel.  I know people who squirrel hunt.  I’ve been squirrel hunting a few times myself for sport, but I’m not a good shot.  I’ve never eaten squirrel.

Steak Tartare.  I like my steak rare, but not raw.

Sweet Potato Fries.  I don’t even like sweet potatoes unless they are covered in hot marshmallow cream. I have had beet and truffle parm fries at Grass Fed that in my opinion are infinitely preferable.

Sweetbreads.  Yes.  Portuguese and Irish.  And Honeybuns from vending machines and decadent cinnamon rolls in cafes and those mall joints. Wait, these aren’t sweetbreads?  What? Did you say sweetbreads are made from animal pancreas, and other glands?  Oh, well in that case, I have never feasted on sweetbreads.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not terribly fond of lamb thymus, never have been.  Maybe one day when I visit the Texas state fair, I’ll have one deep fried on a stick with powdered sugar.  Sweet!

Tom Yum.  No.  Don’t know this one.  I did once buy a 24 pack of Bud and a bag of Cheez Doodles at a Tom Thumb in Florida.  Yum!

Umiboshi.  What is that?

Venison.  Not the meat for me.

Wasabi Peas.  I don’t like my peas spicy.

Zucchini Flower.  I don’t eat venison, Tom Yum, sweetbreads or flowers.  I don’t.

100 Foods To Die For (or not) Before You Die (61-80)

I took The Food List Challenge and scored 61% having tried 61 of the 100 foods (or drinks) listed.  So I’m going through each one, 20 at a time.  Here’s the 4th of 5 planned installments.

Moon Pie.  I liked them as a kid and still do eat these disks of gooey marshmallow goodness every now and then.  I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but have a soft spot for graham crackers and marshmallows.  Once upon a time, I regularly lunched on peanut butter and fluff.  And really, is there anything better than a charred marshmallow around a campfire?  Ok, so you just came up with a dozen things better.  The banana moon pie is the one for me and a RC cola of course.  Do they even bottle Royal Crown anymore? It actually wasn’t a very good cola, but was a little better than Shasta.

Morel Mushroom.  I am not a big fan of the mushroom.  There’s something about its texture that reminds me of organ meat which I’ve never been too fond of to be honest.  There’s something about fungus too that is a bit off putting.  But the morel, well, it’s a special one, to be sure, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had one.  I don’t know where I had one first or when I had one last – it’s been some time now – but it was as an appetizer, stuffed with something served at a fundraiser I once attended.

 Nettle Tea.  The only tea I drink would be iced with a lemon wedge.

Octopus.  I just don’t like it.  It’s chewy and the tentacles freak me out a little.  Like mushrooms and squid, it kind of has that organ meat texture to it and I just can’t stomach it.  I can’t.  I sampled pulpo, as it’s called in Spanish, for the first time some years ago in Chile (the country, not the pepper) and have not had any since.

Okra.  Love it fried with tomato relish.  Nothing better.  Slightly slimey, but oh soh good.  I like pickled okra too.  My granny used to pickle them and store the jars in her root cellar.  Great alternative snack.

Oxtail Soup.  Nope.

Paella.  I have the seafood variety from time to time but don’t care for it much.  The truth is, I’d rather just have rice and beans with a little hot sauce.

Paneer.  Oh yes.  I especially like Saag Paneer, a cooked spinach (saag) dish with freshly made cubed and fried Indian cheese (paneer).

Pastrami on Rye.  Sure, why not.  The best one I ever had was at Artie’s on Broadway and 82nd in NYC.  By the way, the Reuben there is to die for – a delicious artery clogger.

Pavlova.  ? The only thing close to Pavlova that rings a bell is Pavlov’s dog, who I only know classically.

Phaal.  I may have sampled a phaal dish at an Indian restaurant before, but I’m not too familiar with it.  I’m sure it was good, though.

Philly Cheese Steak.  I used to make them as a cook at Farrell’s Ice-Cream Parlour and Restaurant when I was a teenager.  I had one in Philly halfheartedly prepared that tasted flat.  I was hugely disappointed.

Pho.  Yes please.

Pineapple and Cottage Cheese.  Keep these two as far apart as possible.  They are horrible teammates and bring out the worst qualities in each other.  It’s a pity really because they are brilliant as individuals.  If only they could learn to collaborate.

Pistachio Ice-Cream.  It’s ok, but doesn’t belong on the list and knows it.  When announced it had made the food challenge list, Pistacio Ice-Cream demanded to know whether Rocky Road and Pink Bubblegum had been similarly honored.  When told no, it melted in protest.

Po Boy.  A school lunch option in grade school that always looked better than it tasted.

Pocky.  I’ll be honest – I have no idea what this is and am pretty sure I don’t want to know.

Polenta.  Put it this way, I’d rather have grits.

Prickly Pear.  No thank you.  I have my hands full with the prickly and temperamental pineapple.

Rabbit Stew.  I declined the dish in Venezuela when I had the opportunity and in the process insulted the host, which was not my intention.  I grew up with Bugs Bunny and guess I felt a certain loyalty to the Brooklyn hare.