Of Sunsets and Sentimentality

IMG_1874another spectacular sunset for a less than spectacular day

There’s nothing quite like a magnificent sunset to calm a man’s senses and allow him to put things into perspective for a few moments in an otherwise listless and godforsaken day.  We had a remarkable sunset last night in the Ozarks, and again tonight, and I felt like sharing my shitty iPhone pics on this blog.  It rained damn near all day yesterday (a miserable downpour worthy of building an ark), but as the sun began to sink over the horizon, the rain ceased and the sky opened up just enough to put on one hell of a show.  It was a much needed show, too.

Anymore, most of my days are spent mired in despondency and regret to a debilitating degree.  Fortunately, I’ve been busy enough at work as of late to keep my mind off of unpleasant things (idle hands and all that), but as soon as I return home and am left to my own devices, the loneliness becomes too unbearable to ignore.  I keep waiting for circumstances to change and for things to get better, or at the very least to become more palatable, but they never do.  Which is why it’s so important for someone such as myself to take the time to appreciate something as simple and powerful as a beautiful sunset.  Sometimes a sunset makes all the difference.

IMG_1887tonight’s sunset, as seen from a nursing home parking lot

For far too long now I’ve been telling myself that things could always be worse, and I’m tired of using that thought as a crutch.  Speaking of crutches, I visited my mother in the nursing home tonight, and while I was walking down the hallway of the home I witnessed an old man in a wheelchair camped out at the twenty-five cent candy machines with a cup full of quarters as if he were an old lady playing the slots.  Both of his legs were gone, likely long-since lost to diabetes.  And yet there he was, eating fistfulls of Skittles at a time.  One must have priorities, I reckoned, and I suddenly remembered my paternal grandfather, who was diabetic.  For the life of him, despite his diabetes, he couldn’t give up his favorite candy– those cheap gummy orange slices.

orangeslicesmy grandfather’s kryptonite

I loved those crappy candies when I was a kid, and I’ve always associated them with the memory of my grandfather.  He shot himself around this time some thirty years ago, which is crazy to think about.  When I wrote a post about the concept of deathdays a while back, I forgot to include that it was my grandfather who actually introduced that concept to my father.  And the older I get, the more I recognize the significance of this concept.  To every thing (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time to every purpose under heaven.  [apologies to Pete Seeger and the Byrds]

The Stars Look Very Different Today


Rock legend and pop-music icon David Bowie died on Sunday after an eighteen-month battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.

Although I’ve never really been a fan of glam rock, I’ve always felt a bit of a kinship with Ziggy Stardust. I considered myself something of an “alien” growing up– an outcast or a misfit who could never quite belong because I was just a little too smart and strange for my own good. Plus, I was born with dichromatic eyes, and people used to tell me I have “David Bowie eyes,” so I once had that going for me, too. But I hadn’t heard that comparison in a long while, as we’re living in an age where most people’s reference point for David Bowie is a Jimmy Fallon impression.

In an odd bit of prophecy, I heard the song “Heroes” this weekend, but it wasn’t Bowie’s version. Rather, it was a live recording from a long-since lost Blondie CD I found while cleaning out my car. Even odder is the fact that this live recording was from a concert held at the Hammersmith Odeon exactly thirty-six years ago today (January 12, 1980). I had forgotten how good the track was, and I must have played it four or five times in a row. One of the reasons this live track is so good is because joining Blondie onstage for that show was one Robert Fripp, the “pitched feedback” experimental guitar pioneer who just so happened to be the studio guitarist on the original record written by David Bowie and Brian Eno, and one could easily argue that Fripp deserves just as much credit as Bowie or Eno for giving the song its unique sound.

frippenobowieFripp, Eno, and Bowie being badasses in the studio

But what really makes “Heroes” such a good song is simply that it’s such a powerful piece of music.  The bittersweet lyrics tell the story of two young lovers and their doomed romance, and the beautiful music takes the lyrics to a whole other level.  With its hauntingly hopeful melody and musical progression, it’s almost an anthem of sorts– an uplifting and optimistic anthem to impossible and impermanent love.

I would argue that this is Bowie’s best song, but not only would you have to listen to his entire catalog to be able to debate the validity of my argument, you would also have to listen to his recording of this particular song, which I am not sharing with you today.  Rather, I am choosing to share Blondie’s live recording which is almost as old as I am because this is my blog and I can do whatever the hell I please with it. But do yourself a favor and listen to Bowie’s original, too.

R.I.P., space oddity– you will be missed.

I, I will be king,
and you, you will be queen–
though nothing will drive them away,
we can beat them, just for one day–
we can be heroes, just for one day.

And you, you can be mean,
and I, I’ll drink all the time,
’cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact–
yes we’re lovers, and that is that.

Though nothing will keep us together,
we could steal time, just for one day–
we can be heroes, forever and ever.
What do you say?

I, I wish you could swim
like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim,
though nothing, nothing will keep us together,
we can beat them, forever and ever.
Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day.

I, I will be king,
and you, you will be queen–
though nothing will drive them away,
we can be heroes, just for one day…
we can be us, just for one day…

I, I remember, (I remember)
standing, by the wall, (by the wall)
and the guns, shot above our heads, (over our heads)
and we kissed, as though nothing could fall, (nothing could fall)
and the shame, was on the other side–
oh, we can beat them, forever and ever,
then we could be heroes, just for one day.

We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
Just for one day
We can be heroes

End of the Line

Finally finished one of my favorite television shows tonight.  The final season of Parks and Rec originally aired during a really tough period in my life, and I neglected to watch it at the time.  Well, I managed to catch up on the final season over the last week, and tonight I got choked up watching the last episode.  It wasn’t a particularly good episode, but the writers successfully tugged at the heartstrings of all the longtime viewers whilst wrapping up the lives of the characters we’d come to love (including my personal favorite, Ron Swanson– arguably one of the greatest television characters of all time, up there with Archie Bunker and Homer Simpson).

parksrecfinaleThe gang on the set of the show’s finale

It’s an incredibly cathartic experience to come to the end of the line of a long-running show you’ve grown to love, as it’s truly a bittersweet moment when you invest years of your life following a narrative and suddenly that narrative is no more.  In a pleasant surprise, the series ended on a musical note I hadn’t heard in quite some time:  the song “End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys.  The Wilburys hold a special place in my heart, as each and every band member (Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison… hell, even Ringo Starr) was a musical hero of mine in my youth.  Given, with the collective talent of the band, one might argue that they should have produced far better music than they did.  But they weren’t out to make revolutionary recordings– rather, each of the band’s members (some of the best singer/songwriters of all time) had already done that, and now they were simply being honest and trying to have some fun.  And I can’t say that I blame them.

Please to enjoy this simple but poignant song, “End of the Line.”

Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze–
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please–
Well it’s all right, doing the best you can–
Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand.

You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring (at the end of the line)
Waiting for someone to tell you everything (at the end of the line)
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring (at the end of the line)
Maybe a diamond ring

Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong–
Well it’s all right, sometimes you gotta be strong–
Well it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay–
Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgment Day.

Maybe somewhere down the road aways (at the end of the line)
You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days (at the end of the line)
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays (at the end of the line)
Purple haze

Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove–
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love–
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine–
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line.

Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive (at the end of the line)
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive (at the end of the line)
It don’t matter if you’re by my side (at the end of the line)
I’m satisfied

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray–
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say–
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live–
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive.

Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze–
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please–
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine–
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line.