An Observation Concerning… Missing Things

“I spend my time, thinking about you, and it’s almost driving me wild”
-John Waite, “Missing You”

I miss things.

I was doing a local magazine feature on teddy bears, pastel mosaics and messages of hope etched in chalk, and spoke to a neighbor of mine whose home best exemplified optimism—a middle-aged woman with the spirit of a free college coed abroad. It was the first time we interacted in the near-decade being part of this community, and she said she missed being able to hug people the most, even strangers like myself.

I’m not sure if I miss hugs, but I miss life.

I’m a homebody by nature—well, now. Tastes change as you get older and phases drift into recollections. I sit at my computer, conjure up thoughts and create sentences to share with people I don’t know, but strangely this pandemic has connected us more. Well, maybe you and someone else, but we know each other because we’re going through the same situation.

We may not like and miss the same things, though.

I love three things that aren’t people (and that list isn’t much longer): Music, sports and writing. Yes, they are generic interests, but within the vagueness we all find our relative love which makes us commonly unique. That doesn’t make sense. Sure it does.

Music has been a good distraction. I’ve started a challenge that no one else has done or cares to attempt—even all those self-proclaimed music lovers who “can’t live” without melody. I’ve decided to make a playlist, on top of other ongoing playlists, that holds the best 100 songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a lot harder than it sounds (no pun intended). In fact, I have a spillover playlist now even though I guess that’s considered cheating. It’s not the best songs the world has ever heard; it’s the best songs that have had a personal impact from lyrical, musical, meaningful and grandiose perspectives from any or all genres and generations. Some, again if they did partake in the challenge, may feel the pressure to put a track on their list because it’s a hit or they’re supposed to like it because everyone else does. For example, I’m a 90s kid, and grunge and post-grunge rock are my favorite genres, but not one of the grunge powerhouses received a spot on my top 100. Charles & Eddie and Savage Garden did, however. It’s not a bad thing when you surprise yourself.

Okay, to avoid any misguided impressions, here’s this song for balance.

I’ve also been able to compose two more piano pieces during this time—and learn one of my top 100 songs: Phildel’s “Qi.” Music is an escape, one that I can’t fully appreciate when I work or study because I pay too much attention to the notes or lyrics or both of whatever track flows in the background. Dave Sheinin, a reporter for the Washington Post, said, “I’ve never been able to listen to music casually. No matter what else I’m doing, the music is where my ears and my mind drift.” His great perspective piece covered his time as a sportswriter trying to write game stories while the loud speakers offered stadium soundtracks. Ah, sports.

Sports have left a void, and the talking heads have resorted to over-analyzing a long-awaited documentary. Sports have been important to me my entire life as a fan and an athlete. This isn’t about being a jock (which is a term that has mislabeled many people, but that’s a separate post); it’s about what it means to a person. Children can’t watch their role models; fans can’t passionately talk about remember-whens, what-ifs and this-is-the-years; we can’t watch the only show that doesn’t have reruns—we have to rely on reruns now; we can’t witness the brilliance of strategy, the intellect that is required to perform at the highest of levels, and the athletic feats that defy physics or ordinariness; stadiums aren’t full of loud and raucous crowds, one of the only sanctuaries in the world where it doesn’t matter what race, sex, generation or political affiliation you are because you’re all there for the same reason; tears of joy and pain can’t be shared in the exact same moment; and significant bonds between cities and athletes, parents and children, friends and partners have been put on pause. Sports are entertaining, but they’re also emotionally important.

Then again, it is about being a jock. I miss that unmatchable form of exercise, the release of emotions and heightened senses, the strengthening of coordination and health, the progression of the mind, the adaptation to aging and performance, and the physicality. Yes, that’s right, I may not miss hugs, but I miss having an opponent pushing me around and I returning the favor. At least I can write about it I guess.

Writing has not come to a halt; it remains a constant, though motivation is scarce. For example, I wanted to post this weeks ago. I’m obsessed with news updates (as any Master of Journalism would be) and they have served as a distraction. However, it may be the looming uncertainty that sidetracks me more. Then again, writing as a career, especially fiction, questions certainty or stability on a daily basis. I’ve been able to complete a new short story, start two new fiction novels and begun researching and outlining the newest Jack Swift installment. Essentially, I’m creating more content that people don’t know exists. Motivation is scare, indeed.

This is a strange time. Hopefully future generations avoid dealing with such calamity and our new relative normal remains.

For now, we can go on missing things and hope they return—or lose our minds, whichever comes first.

An Observation Concerning… A Resurrection of a Revolution (Again)

“There’s something in the, something in the way you were.”
-The Union Underground, “Revolution Man”

I was in an airport restaurant waiting out a sizable layover, inhaling a giant burger which probably wasn’t the best meal choice before becoming scrunched in an uncomfortable middle seat for two-plus hours. A family of four dined at the table next to me, and I took notice to the preteen girl on her phone—not in that way, creep. With disinterest, she sported a Green Day “Dookie” shirt, a black bandanna with printed red roses, and some Chucks on full display resting on the seat and not the ground.

It’s no secret that the ’90s are back. Television and movie reboots, showy merchandising and horrible fashion have consumed the trendy public. The latter is something I’m having trouble grasping; ’90s fashion wasn’t necessarily a trend, but rather a statement of carelessness. Work boots were scuffed, but not from labor, jeans were baggy and ripped and not purchased as such, shirts were stretched and tattered, and flannel was considered all-season attire. Showering was optional, hair was mangy and long and being on time and tidy were mere suggestions. It was gross, yet people desperately attempt to recreate the look in the modern era.

Trends are trends so there will always be a validation of why a certain era repeats itself, but living in the ’90s, and being just old enough to process the aura of the time, I believe it’s not necessarily a decade that people should purposely emulate. Why do you want to look homeless and act depressed? Those are two real issues people deal with.

Queue the music scene. Grunge music had a certain influence on the minds of young adults, and though I still love the style today, it truly shaped a confused generation. The obsession with self-loathing created a flock of unmotivated troubled youths and it was fantastic in a bittersweet way, but also something that should have stayed in the decade. I was a preteen when Kurt Cobain died and I had a Nirvana poster; I wasn’t a preteen wearing a shirt of an album that was made years before I was even a thought or unplanned accident in my parents’ minds. It’s okay to expand your musical horizons, but don’t lay claim to a scene you weren’t even alive during, or too young to even process. I love the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, but the ’90s and ’00s are what I relate to and support like one of my disappointing sports franchises. Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m beginning to experience what past generations have.

Old person phrase in three, two, one: “Kids these days just don’t get it!”

This is how all generations act though: we grasp onto things from the past because they’re still relevant and always will be—especially music. I personally believe that attitude derived from music repeats itself every three decades. Let’s assess (keep in mind that all decades and generations had a little of everything so don’t get all fussy; it’s just that some styles were a little more dominant depending on the listener):

  • ’60s & ’90s: Rock music that preached peace and love through revolution and disrespect for authority during troubled times.
  • ’70s & ’00s: The rise of disco and dance from bell bottoms to boy bands to groovy funk and soul and pop stars, and from punk and glam rock to bubblegum beats and scremo.
  • ’80s & ’10s: Synthesizers, extreme catchiness, experimental pop sounds and ridiculous hair and colorful garb—just a whole lot of crazy and weird going on essentially, but it worked and still does.

So in a way, we’re due for another musical revolution in rock music. Has our current love for the ’90s predicted such a trend? I hope so from a musical standpoint. Much of my writing has subtle—and obvious—musical undertones. Many tracks have had an impact on my life and that will be apparent in my upcoming novel, “Forgotten Kids,” set to release in the fourth quarter of this year.

There are over 200 musical references in the work, and 44 of said references were direct lyrics to set the scene and tone of the narrator. However, and writers please note the following if you haven’t dealt with song permissions, I was forced to reword the lyrics.

Here’s why: My publisher suggested that I go about getting permissions for each lyric used. After talks with Universal and Sony—most songs are controlled by those two industry titans—I was directed to Hal Leonard, the world’s largest music publisher. They asked for $300 a song which was non-negotiable (even though I tried). For all you math fans, that would come out to $13,200 for lyric usage.

There are three issues I have with this, though I do understand why the charge is in place: First, the novel will not make that much money unless this post is shared a billion times along with marketing techniques going exactly right (which they never do). Second, the combined lyrics make up just 1.25% of the entire book, so who’s to say that the songs sell the book rather than the book selling the songs; and though I love all these tracks, because of the era when most were produced, I could find another song that holds the same meaning without altering the tone of the narration, the character’s personality or the overall plot. Third, the excuse of intellectual property.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa; intellectual property is important, you jerk!”

I agree. Why wouldn’t I agree? I have intellectual property (well, property at the least) out there as well, but it’s one thing to say it greatly matters and another to act upon the reasoning behind the claim. I spoke with an artist’s representative who informed me that the use of their lyrics was not approved; Hal Leonard said they were for $300 a pop. I respected the artist’s (the intellectual proprietor) request.  Also, I spoke to the lead singer of a band who gave me permission to use their lyrics at no charge because they were the primary songwriter; Hal Leonard said I still had to pay $300. After I updated the band (the intellectual proprietor) on the music publisher’s decision, they simple asked, “Who the hell is Hal Leonard?” It doesn’t seem like intellectual property is taken that seriously—the system is broken.

Music is not, however. There will always be more fantastic lyrics, rhythms and solos, but we need to evolve instead of regress. If you remember, I was irritated by slow covers that seem to still be infesting commercials and airwaves, and I’m getting worried that new artists are struggling for exposure, and it may be due to over-saturation, a dwindling attention span and a lack of generational uniqueness. An author friend of mine talked about this with his 21-year-old son recently; his son couldn’t depict something wonderful from his own time, and that’s why there’s a trend to delve deep into other generations’ gifts.

With that being said, there’s plenty of talent and greatness out there. We’re on the verge of a new decade; let’s see what it has to offer. Keep listening, for troubled times have a way of bringing the best out of music.