Things Can Only Get Better

I’ve been in need of a new set of songs for my commute lately, so I recently bought a CD of 1980s new wave tunes for shits and giggles and one of the tracks turned out to be a tune I probably haven’t heard SINCE the 1980s.  It’s Howard Jones and his 1985 neo-soul classic, “Things Can Only Get Better.”  This track is so good that when I listen to it, I’m almost tempted to believe it.  But as soon as the song’s over, the real world creeps in and I realize that this new wave anthem of youth and idealism was all just a beautiful dream.  (It’s too bad Howard’s hair couldn’t have also been a dream– that shit was for real.)

We’re not scared to lose it all,
security thrown through the wall–
future dreams we have to realize.
A thousand skeptic hands
won’t keep us from the things we plan,
unless we’re clinging to the things we prize.

And do you feel scared?  (I do.)
But I won’t stop and falter.
And if we threw it all away,
things can only get better.

Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)
Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)

Treating today as though it was
the last, the final show–
get to sixty and feel no regret.
It may take a little time– 
a lonely path, an uphill climb.
Success or failure will not alter it.

And do you feel scared? (I do.)
But I won’t stop and falter.
And if we threw it all away,
things can only get better.

Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)
Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)

And do you feel scared? (I do.)
But I won’t stop and falter.
And if we threw it all away,
things can only get better.

Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)
Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)

Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa oh-oh-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)
Whoa whoa whoa-whoa oh-oh-oh
(Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh)
Whoa whoa whoa-oh-oh whoa-whoa whoa-oh-oh

(apologies to Howard Jones)

 

Thought for the Day [commentary on a reblogged post]

Perhaps. But speaking from experience, ten years ago I sure as hell did choose my life and at that moment I was absolutely certain about the choice. Time and traumatic life events have a knack for changing one’s perspective, though, and before that ten years was up I fooled myself into believing that I had settled for the life I had chosen. So I chose another life. Now that it’s actually been ten years, I’ve finally had my epiphany. That’s the problem with epiphanies–they almost always come too late. Joni Mitchell was right– “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” Seriously, there’s something to be said for settling. It’s not necessarily such a bad thing. When you know you’ve got something really good, well, you hold on to it, goddammit–you don’t fool yourself into thinking that you could have something better. People prone to reevaluating their lives in the manner of this quote also run the risk of putting themselves into a state of perpetual motion in pursuit of potentially unattainable happiness. These same folks seem to forget that “a rolling stone gathers no moss” is not a good thing. The only people who should keep on moving are wanted fugitives and Caine from Kung Fu. The rest of us run the risk of finding ourselves rolling downhill not like a stone, but rather like a snowball headed for Hell.

Wonder Of My Worlds

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Ol’ Blue

In an earlier post I wrote about “going back to the beginning,” as Inigo Montoya once did, in the hopes of rediscovering who in the hell I am and also figuring out who I’m supposed to be.  Well, I did exactly that this week when I bought myself a late birthday present:  a forty-year-old typewriter.  Not just any typewriter, mind you– one that’s a spitting image of my dad’s old IBM Selectric, the same model I learned to type on as a kid and that my brother and I affectionately referred to as “Ol’ Blue.”  This is some real return to the womb shit right here, folks.

2015/07/img_9907.jpg“You’re my boy, Blue!”

The fucker weighs about forty pounds (it sure as shit ain’t no Macbook Air) but this Marlin Blue beast is a thing of absolute beauty.  Looks aren’t everything, though– it’s what’s on the inside that counts, by gawd, and I will slap my hand on the Bible and testify that this is perhaps the single greatest piece of machinery ever made by man– it’s the very pinnacle of mechanical perfection.  They just don’t make ’em like this anymore, and with good reason:  technology has rendered these dinosaurs beyond obsolete.  I mean, who in their right mind would actually want to use one of these things?  Nobody.  But what about those of us who aren’t in their right minds?  Well, I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you unequivocally that I wanted this big-ass IBM typewriter like a fat kid wants ice cream.

The trend among the hipster literati for the last few years has been the procurement of manual typewriters in the hopes of magically transforming themselves into respectable authors.  The motives behind this practice are mostly bullshit– I’d reckon they’re roughly 20% pragmatism, 30% poseur, and 50% faux-nostalgia.  Some have gone so far as to purchase behemoth typewriters the size of cash registers simply because that’s what their favorite author used a century ago.  It’s so strange to me to think about the lengths that some folks will go to in the hopes of emulating their heroes.   I mean, I like to drink Wild Turkey, but I don’t necessarily drink it because Hunter S. Thompson drank it– I drink it because it tastes good, it’s 101 proof, and it gets me really drunk.

image50% alcohol = 50% closer to my goal of getting lit

Given, many writers used portable typewriters back in the day, but “portable” in 1938 means something a whole helluva lot different than it does in 2015.  You can bet your ass that if Ernest Hemingway had access to even a halfway-decent laptop, he would’ve chucked his Underwood Portable into the garbage.  Freeing up fifteen pounds in his luggage would have meant he could have packed more shotgun shells for wherever the hell he was headed.

hemingwayunderwoodPapa Hemingway and his “portable” Underwood

Seriously, though, the hipsters are indeed on to something with the proliferation of old-school typing devices, as I discovered first hand after the purchase of my typewriter, and that is preaching the gospel of “distraction-free writing.”  When it comes to long-form writing, it pays to be unplugged.  I have the hardest time staying on track when I’m trying to write because I keep dicking around on the internet every five minutes.  I don’t think I have Attention Deficit Disorder, but I do seem to display the symptoms every time I try to write something for an extended period of time.  It’s akin to wearing an uncomfortable shirt–you just find yourself restless far too often, and you can’t get a damn thing done because of it.  Well guess what?  There’s no checking your e-mail or playing Words With Friends on your typewriter–it’s just you and your actual words.

But this isn’t the biggest benefit I have reaped from my “new” typewriter.  When it comes to writing, I am my own worst enemy.  I consider myself a better editor than I am a writer, and if I’m trying to write a long-form piece (especially a narrative) I find myself editing and re-composing the words I’ve just written over and over again to the point where I eventually come to the conclusion that what I’ve written “fucking sucks,” and in a fit of despair I will quit writing altogether.  Well, a typewriter obviously doesn’t afford you the same editorial freedoms found on a computer screen– you’re stuck with whatever words you commit to the sheet of paper sitting in front of you.  And while this might sound like a detriment, in my case it’s been a godsend as it has allowed me to just write.  It’s almost like a weight has been lifted in my writing process– I am suddenly unburdened because I’m unable to re-read or edit until the page is completed.  I’ve written more in the last few days than I have in the last long while, in part because of this improvement in my writing process, but also because I had forgotten what it was like to type on such a machine.  Manual typewriters are an absolute bitch to type on because you have to hammer the damn keys to get them to strike, and the keys can WILL get jammed if you go too fast.  Not so with Ol’ Blue– I type upwards of 120 words-per-minute (wpm), and the IBM Selectric can cover 150 wpm with ease.  I cannot begin to describe the joy I feel when I first fire it up and hear that distinctive electric hum come alive, or the tactile pleasure I get out of typing the living hell out of this old machine and the feedback it delivers as I watch it keep up with me.  It may be mechanical, but it really does feel magical– I reckon those hipsters might be right after all.

Right Down the Line

Well, what the hell…

*sigh*

Listening to the late night radio request line and some lady just asked the DJ to play a song that used to mean an awful lot to me, and of course the DJ obliged.  Normally I wouldn’t be posting about this, but oddly enough, the song just so happens to be by Gerry Rafferty, the subject of my last post (“Bioluminescence & Baker Street“), so I figure I am now obligated to post this song as the befitting bookend to the blog post from four days ago. For a brief moment I considered not posting this, but I’ve had a few drinks and at this point I’m like, “Fuckit.”

“Right Down the Line” was the second single from the album City to City and a successful follow-up to the record’s first single, “Baker Street,” reaching #12 on the charts. I would argue that this song is actually better than “Baker Street,” and I believe Mr. Rafferty (and any songwriter worth his salt, for that matter) would back me up on this. Simply put: as far as love songs go, few have been written any better than this one. This song used to hold a happy place in my heart, but that happiness has been replaced with hurt, making the meaning of the song all the more melancholy for me.  But if you happen to be young and in love… well, then, this song’s for you.

You know I need your love– you’ve got that hold over me.
As long as I’ve got your love, you know that I’ll never leave.
When I wanted you to share my life, I had no doubt in my mind.
And it’s been you, woman, right down the line.

I know how much I lean on you– only you can see
the changes that I’ve been through have left their mark on me.
You’ve been as constant as the Northern Star–
the brightest light that shines.
It’s been you, woman, right down the line.

I just wanna say this is my way
of telling you everything I could never say before.
Yeah, this is my way of telling you that
every day I’m loving you so much more

‘Cause you believed in me through my darkest night–
put something better inside of me– you brought me into the light.
Threw away all those crazy dreams, I put them all behind.
And it was you, woman, right down the line.

I just wanna say this is my way
of telling you everything I could never say before.
Yeah, this is my way of telling you that
every day I’m loving you so much more.

If I should doubt myself, if I’m losing ground,
I won’t turn to someone else– they’d only let me down.
When I wanted you to share my life, I had no doubt in my mind.
And it’s been you, woman, right down the line.

Bioluminescence & Baker Street

Fun fact:  on this day in 1978, Gerry Rafferty’s album City to City managed to knock off the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from the top of the charts (it had been in the #1 spot for 24 straight weeks), and it was all due to this song.  “Baker Street” was one of my favorite jams when I was a teenager, and I remember wanting to learn how to play the saxophone just so that I could play the iconic sax solo from the track. (That inclination didn’t last very long–learning an instrument is hard fucking work.)  I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve listened to “Baker Street” (easily in the high hundreds, possibly in the thousands), but tonight was the first time I think I actually heard the lyrics.  I’ve noticed that the older I get, the better I become at understanding some things (or so it seems), but that understanding always seems to come too late, and this song is an exemplar of that.  We have a tendency to fool ourselves into optimism sometimes–often we find ourselves looking ahead to something better at the expense of the good things we currently have.  Complacency is underrated, as far as I’m concerned.

2015/07/img_9876-0.jpg

It’s funny cruel how life has a way of playing this particular trick on us–of not allowing us to see some things clearly until after the fact, when it’s too late to do anything about it.  We as humans like to assume things, and then we like to act on those assumptions.  It’s in our nature.  Sometimes we prefer to make choices based on what we want to believe rather than the facts because, well, life’s just more romantic that way.  We pride ourselves in being a rational bunch, but at the end of the day we’re ultimately creatures of faith–we prefer to believe there’s a certain certainty to the images we’ve painted in our subconscious, and we subscribe to those fantasies with whatever lies or bullshit logic we can come up with.  Once we buy into the bullshit, we’re compelled to live with the choices we make because we have no choice but to live with them.  (Well, actually, we do have a choice, but it’s admittedly not a very good one.)

I was thinking about this phenomenon at dusk tonight while I was watching a host of fireflies light up my back yard.  The “trick” life likes to play on us is a lot like the bioluminescence of lightning bugs in that it’s nearly impossible to register the initial flash of a firefly.  You hardly ever see a lightning bug just as it lights up.  You can keep your eyes peeled all evening hoping to spot one, but the fact of the matter is that when you see a flash, by the time your eyes are able to focus on the light it’s usually on it’s way out–just as we begin to see them clearly, they’re gone.  When the fireflies were done with their dance, I turned my eyes upward to catch the twinkling of the night sky and recognized that I was looking at stars that had burned out billions of years ago.

Sorry… got to rambling there.  Here’s the song and lyrics (apologies to Gerry Rafferty):

Winding your way down on Baker Street,
light in your head and dead on your feet,
well another crazy day, you’ll drink the night away
and forget about everything.

This city desert makes you feel so cold–
it’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul,
and it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong
when you thought it held everything.

You used to think that it was so easy–
you used to say that it was so easy,
but you’re tryin’… you’re tryin’ now.
Another year and then you’d be happy–
just one more year and then you’d be happy,
but you’re cryin’… you’re cryin’ now.

Way down the street there’s a light in his place
he opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
and he asks you where you’ve been, you tell him who you’ve seen
and you talk about anything.

He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land–
he’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
and then he’ll settle down in some quiet little town
and forget about everything.

But you know he’ll always keep movin’–
you know he’s never gonna stop movin’,
’cause he’s rollin’… he’s the rollin’ stone.
When you wake up it’s a new mornin’–
the sun is shinin’, it’s a new mornin’,
you’re going… you’re going home.