Random Gum – Anti-Valentine Signs – Spring Dump Soundtrack 2014

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As to what I think of the void that is Valentine’s Day

I and Thou
Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia)

Your lips have never kissed me, you’ve never
drunk snow. You melancholy moment, frigid
under these snowdrifts. Let me ask a cruel question –
do you still heat your igloo? I cast a spell on you

and tore your limbs off. And those creases deepening
in what was once a godlike brow, perhaps you’ve even lost
your right to them. You haven’t hurt me more, you haven’t.
Little mummy, aborted flower, the memory of you fades.

Oceans divide us, and you’re jaded. The hard stone
hopeless, smeared with silicate. We shall yet make love,
and I shall grease those beehives yet. My desire has weakened

now, you’ve won, you are indeed a void. And I,
the tree-lined path of countless others, contain your red heart,
gone rigid, too. I have gurgled with happiness only in you.

Valentine Signs – Spring Dump
Random Gum – Winter/Spring 2014

The complete Spotify playlist – where the songs exist (not all are available on Spotify)…

1. Brenton Wood – “Gimme Little Sign” …if you don’t want me/don’t lead me on, girl…
A great way to start. Driving the icy roads of the Swedish 172

2. Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine” …ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone/and she’s always gone too long…
My friend Terra and I used to laugh at this one for the repetitive “I know I know I know I know I know” lyric.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – “My Wife and My Dead Wife” …and I can’t decide which one I love the most/the flesh and blood or the pale, smiling ghost…
This has a bittersweet quality – does one’s long-lost love keep appearing after they’ve passed on? “You know I don’t take sugar”. Somehow makes me think with love of my friend Jared, and his late wife, Hulda. RIP

4. Mojo Nixon – “Elvis is Everywhere”
After writing about people’s tendency to quote Bill Gates (“content is king”) I set the record straight; “Elvis is still the king”.

5. Primal Scream – “Country Girl” …Country girl take my hand/Lead me through this diseased land/I am tired I am weak I am worn/I have stole I have sinned/Oh my soul is unclean/Country girl got to keep on keeping on…
January day in Oslo: mistakes, forgiveness, love. Thanks to Stephen. My Oslo-based Primal Scream connections.

6. The Legendary Pink Dots – “I Love You in Your Tragic Beauty” …You always wore the same dress/always bore the same expression/It’s a loveless world/So what’s the point of looking?…

7. Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” …and one day we will die, and our ashes will fly/from the aeroplane over the sea/but for now we are young/let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see…
Letting go of trying to control things that logic has no hand in. For SD, ZM

8. Cass McCombs – “Sooner Cheat Death than Fool Love”
“I wish I never met you, of that I’m sure, I ain’t any better off than I was before…”

9. Laurie Anderson – “It Tango”
For my dear Jill.

10. Amanda Palmer – “Runs in the Family” …business is business/and business runs in the family…
With love for Roxane.

11. Hot Chocolate – “Every1s a Winner”
Something relentless about the sound of this song that makes it impossible to stop listening. It is an “activity song”, whatever that means.

12. Liz Phair – “Fuck and Run”
Thinking about Lóa, and “Fuck Mattresses Anonymous” (an imaginary AA-like organization)

13. Calvin Harris – “Acceptable in the 80s”
As my brother wondered, what was acceptable in the 80s? Shoulder pads? Cocaine?

14. Tom Tom Club – “Genius of Love”
“All the weekend/Boyfriend was missing/I surely miss him/The way he’d hold me in his warm arms/We went insane when we took cocaine.”

15. Grace Jones – “Pull Up to the Bumper” …just pull up to my bumper baby/drive it in between…
We can blame Grace Jones for the fact that Dolph Lundgren has/had an acting career.

16. Robyn Hitchcock – “Your Head Here” …I walk a thousand miles to be alone…
“Everyone you care about/say you’d never do without/walk away, forsake or doubt/see them fade and flicker out/faces on the phone/Everything that you rely on/tentacles of blood and ??/pillows that you want to cry on/promises that you get by on/Life is all I own…”

17. Pulp– “Pencil Skirt” …when you raise your pencil skirt/like a veil before my eyes…
For Stephen, who knows what a pencil skirt and heels are all about. “Oh it’s turning me on”

18. Lyubov – “Fire” …but forever was a day/and we just ran out of time…

19. Stevie Wonder – “I Don’t Know Why” …I never knew how much love could hurt til I loved you, baby…
“Always treat me like a fool/kick me when I’m down/that’s your rule…”

20. Robyn Hitchcock – “Sixteen Years…Sixteen calendars with nothing in the frame/you said you’d pencil me in/but you don’t know my name…
“You pegged me for a fool/but I’m the one to blame/I played a pretty neat fool for you/but you don’t know my name”

21. The Everly Brothers – “Bye Bye Love” …Bye bye love, bye bye sweet caress, hello emptiness, I feel like I could die…
RIP Phil Everly

22. Gary Walker & the Boogie Kings – “Who Needs You So Bad?”
Bittersweet end of the tv show Treme.

23. Pascal Pinon – “Ekki vanmeta”
Missing Iceland and my friends there. “Hann á heima nær en þú heldur/Ekki vanmeta fjarlægðina”

24. Os Kiezos – “Saudades de Luanda
For Kristie and the inexplicable “saudades

25. Minor Alps – “If I Wanted Trouble” …this growing up it never ends/the same mistakes come back again…
Last days as a tram rider, ending the Gothenburg period. And repeated mistakes!

26. The Bluetones – “Slight Return”
For Stephen.

27. Robyn Hitchcock – “Old Man Weather”
Madly in love with Robyn Hitchcock – as usual, as always, hence the elaborate presence here.

28. John Lennon – “Nobody Told Me”
Reflecting on the fact that the Liverpool airport is named after Lennon.

29. The Smiths – “William, It Was Really Nothing”
For the Smiths-quoting, dirty storyteller. “How can you stay with a fat girl who’ll say, ‘Would you like to marry me? And if you’d like you can buy the ring…?’”

30. Thin Lizzy – “Bad Reputation”

31. Robyn Hitchcock – “Ordinary Millionaire” …I don’t know where you’ve gone from me/I know you don’t belong to me/I only know you’re there…
“I always find a reckoning/always find you beckoning…” A nice song from Hitchcock & brilliant Johnny Marr. “I’ve got no love/’Cause it’s not in my DNA”

32. Mekons – “Sheffield Park
One of the nicer memories of junior high/high school.

33. Terakaft – “Imgharen win ibda”

34. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” …I’ve got a love that keeps me waiting…
For Stephen. “I’m so above you, it is plain to see, but I came to love you anyway…”

35. Girls in Hawaii – “Switzerland”
For Jared and the love for Switzerland.

36. Sam Phillips – “Pretty Time Bomb” …it’s easy to change your name/but hard to change your life…
“Start counting, everybody/it’s gonna blow/Pretty time bomb/You’re a mirror of your time”

37. Big Summer – “Do It Alone

38. Sarah RabDAU – “Self-Employed Assassin…you should have loved me…

39. The Male Choir of Valaam Singing Culture Institute – “Riga Advising Stockholm
I can’t explain the presence of this song. Its sound just overpowers.

40. Cowboy Junkies – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
For Stephen and the sad, longing sound of old country & cover versions that are even sadder than originals

41. Robyn Hitchcock – “Harry’s Song”…Nothing wants you like tomorrow…/Nothing tortures you like how it could have been…
“But I don’t know anything about you/Anymore”. The end of the Gothenburg li(f)e.

42. The The – “My Heart Would Know”
Dug out my old copy of The The’s album of Hank Williams covers – the marriage of two greats.

43. Os Kiezos – “Muxima”

44. Dionne Warwick – “Walk On By”
Song for coming to work on a holiday without knowing it was a holiday (set off all the alarms). Happy new year to me!

45. La Luz – “Easy Baby” …but in the evening/how things change…

46. Tanga – “Eme n’gongo iami”

47. ABBA – “Voulez Vous”
For Gary and the uncomfortable sexuality of the 1970s.

48. Paula Cole – “Feelin’ Love”
Probably the first song S. told me to listen to and I did not do it for weeks afterward; it’s fitting.

49. Peggy Lee – “Waitin’ for the Train to Come In”
All the songs that sound ridiculous – as in, my life can’t begin til my man comes home from the war. Opening the door to my would-be 1950s lifestyle.

50. Elvis Presley – “Love Me” …break my faithful heart, tear it all apart, but love me…
Reminds me of Kevin circa 1996 but no longer makes me sad. Memories of other lifetimes.

51. Patsy Cline – “Crazy”
For SD my Glaswegian firewall

52. Cowboy Junkies – “Mariner’s Song” …The last of man’s great unchained beasts lies/lapping at my door/I would give it what it wants, but I do know,/it would just ask for more…
For Mark and all the things we could not be. “In the storm you are my/destination, in the port you are my storm/But I would weather you my love, if you would be my guide,/if you would be my stars in the sky tonight”. I am no one’s port in a storm.

Catching a fall: “How could you not have known?”

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I recently watched the TV show Broadchurch. (Great show by the way.) It struck me that when the main cop lady asked spitefully, early on in the show, “How could you not have known or seen?” when meeting the ex-wife of a criminal, it stuck with me. Clearly this judgmental moment would come back to haunt and foreshadowed some plot twist.

It also foreshadowed recent steps in my own life, though not in a negative way. It is truer to say that I came very close to self-sabotaging something because of my own fear. It was only after taking this little tumble that I saw everything clearly – it was like a trigger. In the past I have wanted to know where things stand, so I have intentionally forced the issue or forced someone’s hand. But in this case it was backwards. I could not see what was right in front of my face – at least not clearly – until I put myself, unintentionally, into an awkward position that required me to communicate about things that make me uncomfortable. I can look at myself and ask, “How could you not have known or seen?” – about myself.

Sooner Cheat Death than Fool Love” – Cass McCombs

It is only too late if you are dead

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“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
― Doris Lessing

Nobel laureate Doris Lessing and creative pioneer Lou Reed both died recently. I think of this Lessing quote and the way Reed lived his life – unapologetically, his own way – and continue to realize the value of doing whatever it is you want to, are meant to, dream of doing – right now – regardless of whether the circumstances are ideal. (They never are, really. Meaning they always are. Any time is as good as any other.) We can make excuses forever – excuses will stop us in our tracks, hold us back, but all that happens is a life of regret about the things we never dared to try. That’s not to say I have always been completely faithful to the idea of jumping when the urge struck.  I am as cautious and fearful as anyone else – just about different things.

People tell me all the time that they wanted to do X or Y but that “now it’s too late” – followed by a litany of other reasons why. “I’m too old.” “It will take too long.” “I am working all day.” “It’s too far away.” “I am not smart enough.” But this idea that just because something was not done and completed at a specific point in time, like it is now out of reach forever, is complete bullshit. Nothing is too late. It is only too late if you are dead.

That is not to say it (whatever “it” is) won’t be the most difficult thing you ever did or tried to do. Even if you give this nebulous “it” your all, there is no guarantee of success. Obviously if you are 45 and think you can compete in the Olympics against 20-year-old athletes, maybe you are deluded – but does that mean you should not strive for that goal anyway just to push yourself to see how far you can go, even if you don’t compete in the Olympics? This is an extreme example. Most of us are not setting our sights on such accomplishments. Most of us are wishing for a new job, a promotion, a different educational experience, a move abroad, learning a language… and none of these things is anywhere near impossible.

It is a story I have told and written about before but choose to repeat to make a point. Around the time I had decided to move to Iceland, I found myself sometimes racked with doubt. I did not really have a plan – was I making a big mistake? As the day of my move drew nearer, though, I grew surer that I would hate myself if I did not at least try. One afternoon, I ran into a man (a former colleague with whom both my dad and I had worked when we were colleagues) I had known. I knew, via my dad, that this man had recently been diagnosed with fairly advanced cancer for which there were very few treatment options. When I had seen this many only a matter of months earlier, he had been vibrant and alive, and suddenly here he was before me, a shell of his former physical self. In that moment, it struck me vividly – he had talked almost daily at the office about his retirement countdown, looking forward to sailing around the world (his big retirement plan). Everything hinged on this magic number, magic day, “When I retire…”. Now he was not even going to make it to retirement. That encounter cemented my decision for me – it is not possible to live in this “I will do X when…” way. Yes, sometimes real, tangible circumstances delay our plans, but for the most part, when you have your moment, as frightening as it is, what is more frightening than not taking the risk? What is the alternative? Everything is a risk, and life continually postponed and planned out is not living. A more “convenient time” and “the right moment” may not come to pass.

This year, having seen so much loss, especially in very unexpected places, it hit home for me again. Plans, to some extent, mock us. When confronted by loss, even the loss of people in the periphery with whom we are not directly close, it can shock us and create emotional turmoil by stirring up so much self-reflection that normal daily life does not provoke. It reminds us both to hold on to what we have and let go of limitations simultaneously.

All-or-nothing nature, mistakes and poetry: Oat fudge bars

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