How my mom helped me like country and rap music, sort of

I don’t like vegetables. I’m a meat and potatoes guy. This 50,000 foot view of my culinary likes and dislikes is a little deceiving. Definitely a lot easier than saying that I’m no doubt a carnivore but occasionally I will eat mushrooms, lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots but I hate brussels sprouts, cooked broccoli, and baked beans have made me physically ill since I was a much smaller human being having to learn how to politely say “no, thank you”  at the neighborhood pot luck. Really the dislikes list would far out swamp the likes list. However, is it really fair to make the blanket statement that I don’t like vegetables? Thanks to my mother, I continued to try different vegetables throughout the years. “Your taste buds will change”, she insisted. I still hate brussels sprouts and cooked broccoli. Baked beans still have a violent effect on most of my senses…wow, the smell alone can make me heave. But now I like humus and grilled asparagus.

Being a young, budding, pretentious  music snob I thought I could make the blanket statement that I liked most anything except rap and country. It was lazy. Lazy just to write off two genres of music because of the limited exposure I allowed myself. I’m glad as an adult that I took my mom’s advice and tried new things. My taste have definitely evolved. I’m not a huge hip hop fan and I would never declare that I’m a fan of country music. I’m just a fan of music. Hip hop artists like Brother Ali, Mos Def, The Roots and Atmosphere have opened up my eyes to how infectious beats behind stories of  the artist’s lives or experiences can be very powerful. Uplifting even. Alt-country artists like Old 97’s, Lucinda Williams, Austin Lucas and more have confirmed for me that I love music played in traditional styles as long as it has heart and emotion. Whinny songs about lost pick up trucks thanks to alcohol induced escapades still have violent effects on most of my senses. Rap music degrading women and celebrating debauchery is still not on my likes list. At the end of the day, I no longer wholesale write off entire categories of music. I take a bite of each artist and make a choice to have another helping or not. I’m just a music fan.


My Top 5 Cover Songs

OK, so I’m stealing from Nick Hornby…who doesn’t make a top 5 list every now and then??? Top five songs to listen to while FURminating the Chi… top five songs while matching socks (Jan, I know what you are thinking. “Matching socks, he just puts two together whether or not they actually match.”)…those are list for another day. Today, it’s my top 5 cover songs.

5. The English Beat-Tears of a Clown

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles did the original. Smokey was definitely a part of my childhood soundtrack. Great memories of my dad grilling on the weekend in the summer while playing catch with me in the backyard. Music always seemed to be a part of that equation and Smokey and the Miracles’ Tears of a Clown or Second that Emotion probably had a spin or two during those days.

About a decade after Smokey’s version, the British band the Beat reinterpreted the classic Motown song. It was around this time that I started making more of my own personal music choices and this was one of the songs that helped bridge between my parent’s music and my own musical journey.

4. Sex Pistols-Stepping Stone

The original is by the Monkees, the made for TV band from the 60’s. The cover is by the Sex Pistols, the band who started a movement in the 70’s with just one studio album.

3. The Postal Service – Against All Odds

2. Dinosaur Jr. – Just Like Heaven

The Cure is my all time favorite group. Definitely one of those safety nets for my adolescence that still holds a soft spot today. With songs like Boys Don’t Cry, Why Can’t I Be You, and In Between Days… it just seems like Robert Smith got me and knew what I was going through then and now. I just liked the mix of the jangly pop mixed with lyrics about fear and self discovery. Seemed to make sense to me.

Dinosaur Jr. came along and picked up the tempo to Just Like Heaven and made it a little grittier. J. Mascis is definitely one of my all time favorite guitar players. Robert Smith apparently liked the cover so much that he said it changed the way the Cure plays the song live.

1. Wall of Voodoo-Ring of Fire

Honorable Mention – Johnny Cash – Hurt

An incredible version of the Nine Inch Nails song. A real example of when someone goes beyond just performing a song but singing their life through another person’s words.

“Give Me the Morning, Give Me the Afternoon, the Night”

It seems like I’ve spent so much time, particularly the past couple of years, wishing super-sized, Costco’s bulk-like purchasing quantities of individual days away. I can’t count the number of times on a Monday I’ve wished for the weekend to come or for January to be here or fill-in-the-blank to arrive. Although I’m racing towards days to be celebrated, I’m forgetting to celebrate each day that I’m lucky enough to experience. Even in their most basic incarnations, each day can be unique, complete with a beginning, middle and end.

I’ve been living for the destination for so much of my life… waiting to graduate from high school… waiting to graduate from college… waiting to get married…waiting for that one big job. But, so much of my life is made up of the journey. The planning and waiting and longing are all included in the journey. I need to take time and enjoy the in-betweens, those moments in-between the milestone destinations, the moments when I meet new friends that will be around for a lifetime or experience an inside joke that will be repeated and laughed at for years. The in-betweens present our greatest opportunities to learn and grow. I think the little moments are really the glue that holds it all together.

Now, I’m greatly honored to be the father of an amazing little girl who in 7 plus months has  grown up way to fast. Like everything else, I can’t wait for her to say her first words or be old enough to walk through a pumpkin patch and tell me why this particular pumpkin has to be on our front porch. In all reality though, sometimes I do want the world to stop. I want the morning, the afternoon and the night. I don’t want to skip any of the here and now moments. I want to be present and participating not solely  planning.

Well, with that said, here’s the song that spurred all of this. Here is Belle & Sebastian’s “I Want the World to Stop”.

“Up to my knees now, do I wait? Do I dive?”

So many amazing things have happened in my life when I least expected them and in ways that maybe I didn’t expect, like meeting the love of my life at a movie theater selling popcorn. That event for me really seems like the beginning . It is incredible to me how random life can seem, but when you look back and take stock, it really is a well written story. Now, my wife and I  are ready for the next chapter. We have met an amazing young woman who has chosen us to parent her child through open adoption. We have longed to be parents for quite some time.  It has not been an easy road to get here… many prayerful hours asking for the reality of our world to match the reality in our hearts.

As I’m on the threshold of being a father, it seems like a great time to re-discover Frightened Rabbit’s “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”.

I can’t say it was really boredom that brought me here, but I definitely needed direction and focus to get me in the right frame of mind to feel like I could be the type of father I want to be. I have lofty goals. And I’m afraid to fail. I want to be the type of father that is loving and nurturing while helping our little one write her story. I want her to know how much she is loved and how many people love her.  I want her to know that she is loved unconditionally by her mother by birth and her mother and father by adoption. I want her to feel like she can always take the plunge and swim until she can’t see land with confidence that I will always be here for her when she is in need. I think my biggest fear is also my greatest hope… what if she doesn’t need me???

And now I’m on the threshold. I’ve been dipping my toe into the thought of this for years and as the song says “Oh how it hardens and it numbs. And the rest of me (was) a version of man built to collapse into crumbs”. I’m ready to shake the fears of getting it wrong. What parent has not made missteps along the way? I’m ready to make mistakes because it means I’m in the game, I’m living the life I’ve been called to live. I’m no longer sitting on the bench waiting for my at-bat but afraid to swing at a curve ball. No longer being a bag of sand.

“Up to my knees now, do I wait? Do I dive?
The sea has seen my like before though it’s my first
And perhaps last time.
Let’s call me a baptist, call this the drowning of the past
She’s there on the shoreline
Throwing stones at my back”

I’m ready to dive in and swim until I can’t see land… I’m ready for the next chapter, the next adventure. I’m blessed to have an amazing partner to take this on with me, who has always been my “water wings”. I’m blessed that an incredible young woman has considered me to be a father after prayerful consideration. Most of all I’m blessed by a God that never gives up on me.

I can’t wait for our little one’s first swim lesson.  Faith and love will keep us all afloat.