Gone away: 23 May

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Today would have been my uncle’s birthday – my uncle who died last year in November. As with all losses and the mourning that follows, it has been rough, especially for my mom, his sister. I’ve written various bits about the loss and all the things you lose along with the person (the shared memory, or, as my mom put it the other day, “I was the person who had him in my life the longest of anyone alive” – in a sense this is true. As the older sister, she was there, 1.5 years old, when he came into the world, and with both of their parents gone, she is the only one who was there, and up close, for the rest of his life).

But in losing someone like him, we gain a deeper appreciation for who he was, and more than that, for what he taught without even trying. As I wrote at the time of his death: “the man collected everyone who came into his life, from “stray” people, to new friends, to ex-wives and ex-wives’ future families to new loves and their families and friends” – and this is always the thing about him that stuck with me during his life and now “post-life”. Perhaps because it is the thing I aspire to most. I find that somehow he was able to make it work, but I just encounter the most stubborn and traditional of barriers. I touched on the thought the other day: why are we so territorial and stingy with our love and acceptance?

Sure, I am a dyed-in-the-wool misanthrope, a come-to-life Oscar the Grouch (my hero, my idol), but it’s not actually who I am inside. Like my uncle, I am curious and my capacity for wanting to love people and show them compassion is boundless. When a former partner, who became a close friend, moved on and met the woman he has hitherto spent his life with, I was elated for him, but I lost the friendship because she was too jealous about its continuing to exist. When I got twisted into a mercifully brief emotional vise earlier this year, I swiftly got over the disappointment of it and thought we’d be friends – I tried to at least leave the door open to friendship on his terms but got burned by the partner/ex-partner/who knows now what she is/was because that became a question mark. Those details don’t really matter – I understand why these people got jealous, angry, irritated, upset. I just don’t think they had to – I have at least as much care and compassion for them as for the other party (the ones I actually knew directly). They have no way of knowing this and probably would not care because I guess there’s some intoxication or self-righteousness to be had in directing hatred or frustration toward perceived threats or annoyances. And all I can think is: I am sorry. I don’t think that holding onto hostility – or feeling hostile in any sustained way at all – is a way to live.

That is not to say I never get annoyed or hostile (often reactions to feeling hurt). But these things mend, and I look at situations and people (even virtual strangers) to see the good in all of them, to see what they must have gone through or experienced. If I could, I would be like my uncle and “collect” these people, too, into a distant but extended kind of network of people – like-minded or not, I am sure that if someone I cared about, even remotely or briefly, loved these people, they must be remarkable in some way. I’d venture to guess we all have a lot more in common than not.

Confronting mortality – both one’s own (and one’s own brushes with death) and others (so many losses, some obvious, some hidden) – it has always seemed ludicrous to be so insular and self-absorbed about love and particularly about welcoming and accepting people into your heart. My uncle, may he rest in cycling adventures and untold numbers of over-the-top characters and events on whatever plane he travels now – today, his birthday – and for all eternity, managed to live this challenge and invite others to live in this way too.

He taught by example, sure, but I really wish he were still here to ask him how he did it.

Photo (c) 2006 John/Johnny Grim used under Creative Commons license.

Random Gum: Darling Buds of May 2017

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The Good Goo of Random Gum: Darling Buds of May
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,/And summer’s lease hath all too short a date
Shakespeare, sonnet 18

Whole playlist available on Spotify.

01 Angel Olsen – “Who’s Sorry Now” …Right to the end/Just like a friend/I tried to warn you somehow…

02 Deidre & the Dark – “Which Way”…we can, we can begin again…
“Maybe this time I’ll be in the right place for the wrong time”

03 Darling Buds – “Crystal Clear” …You need a friend someone to say/Get your act together…
A slice of 1990 in sound form

04 Crocodiles – “Groove is in the Heart/California Girls”

05 A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People…”

06 Arab Strap – “The First Big Weekend of 2016”
Sigh, here we go again, Mr Firewall. My heart always lies, cries and dies in Glasgow

07 Slowgold – “Korta sommar”
Surprise, surprise: Sweden; short summer (and this year, long winter… still snowing in May!)

08 Mount Eerie – “Real Death” …Though you clawed at the cliff you were sliding down/Being swallowed into a silence that’s bottomless and real…
Heartbreaking true story of loss; what remains in mortality’s aftermath. Feeling lucky. Could be a companion piece to the book Grief is the Thing with Feathers

09 Elvis Perkins – “My Kind” …I conjure you/And you produce me/An off-white heir/for my vanity…
Love for Catherine S, who recommended Perkins years ago

10 Troller – “Storm Maker”

11 Leon Bridges – “River”
“Oh, I wanna come near and give you/Every part of me/But there’s blood on my hands/And my lips aren’t clean”

12 Merchandise – “Become What You Are” …But it don’t really matter what I say/You’re just going to twist it anyway…
“No I couldn’t bear the burden/So I threw it all away/I left my home and all my friends behind”

13 The Chills – “Pink Frost”
New Zealand

14 The Ukrainians – “Spivaey solovey
Remembered lovely Ukrainian versions of Smiths songs earlier this year after years of not hearing – had forgotten the whole enterprise and connection with The Wedding Present

15 Yamasuki Singers – “Yokomo”
Something old that sounds new (predating my life at least), from the father of one of the Daft Punk dudes. I can’t get enough – this one is great for driving along winding country roads in the sun

16 Belle & Sebastian – “The Stars of Track and Field” …But when she’s on her back/She had the knowledge/To get her where she wanted…
Oh, yes, endless love affair with Glasgow & Scotland ❤

17 First Aid Kit – “Emmylou” …Oh the bitter winds are coming in/And I’m already missing the summer/Stockholm’s cold but I’ve been told/I was born to endure this kind of weather…
“I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June/If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too/No, I’m not asking much of you/Just sing little darling, sing with me”

18 Laura Gibson – “Not Harmless” …I’ll teach you to cry in a crowded room/I’ll teach you how to talk ’till your teeth come loose…

19 New Fast Automatic Daffodils – “Fishes Eyes”
Oh, the familiar sounds of the high school years. Here’s to long-lost Terra Firma.

20 Niyaz – “Tam e Eshq (Taste of Love)”

21 Sure Sure – “Easy Way”

22 Christopher Owens – “Another Loser Fuck Up” …Sometimes a song is like a photograph:/Everybody wants to figure it out/But you and I will see a different picture/And I don’t need to tell you what it’s about…

23 Gram Parsons – “Return of the Grievous Angel”
Escape from rehab hospital, take ten. For SD

24 Françoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc – “Amours toujours, tendresse, caresses”
One of those carefree-feeling-over-it kinds of songs. Of course, there must be quelque chose French

25 Jeffrey Louis-Reed – “Obamacare
26 William Onyeabor – “Atomic Bomb”
With love for Billy and Travis, two of my favorite people in the world

27 Dolce – “Säg Nåt Vanligt
Because who doesn’t love Swedish?
28 Sam Prekop – “Showrooms”

29 Martha Wainwright – “I Will Internalize …I am wet and weak…
I’ve included this one in a mix years ago but it felt appropriate for now
30 Tele Novella – “Sacramento” …one day you’ll die going into the light/and you’ll find yourself right here/turn the doorknob without fear/you were always coming here/since the day your soul appeared…
Spending frustrating days secluded at home, left to my own devices. Love for J, fellow at-home worker

31 The Beau Brummels – “Laugh, Laugh”
Those times when your breath is taken away, and it hurts, to laugh so hard…

32 Parsley Sound – “Ease Yourself and Glide”

33 Muzsikás – “Eddig Vendig”
Throwback to college-era music obsessions; with love to my Hungarian friends

34 Johnnie Frierson – “Have You Been Good to Yourself”

35 Feist, Jarvis Cocker – “Century” …I fought my feelings and got in the way/Could’ve been easier than a decade of days…
A vaguely PJ Harvey sound going on here but unmistakably Feist-style lyrics

36 Fruit Bats – “Flamingo”
“The last thing I’ll do before I call it quits/Is probably dream just a little bit/But nothing too hard on my sweet fadin’ mind ’cause everything is gonna be just fine”

37 St Francis Hotel – “You’d Gotta Be Alive”

38 Angus & Julia Stone – “A Heartbreak”

39 Rahim AlHaj – “Going Home”
Listened to a moving performance and interview on KEXP and wanted to include

40 Documenta – “Love as a Ghost”
It’s all about the sound

41 The Soundcarriers – “Low Light”

42 Levy – “Rotten Love”

43 Klaus Johann Grobe – “Ein guter Tag” …nein, nein lieber nicht…
Branching out into the Swiss

44 Frankie Reyes – “Alma, Corazón y Vida
45 Can – “Mother Sky”

46 Field Music – “Let’s Write a Book” …Let’s not apologize/Let’s not assume blame…

47 Big Star – “Feel” …You just ain’t been trying/It’s getting very near the end…

48 Fikret Kizilok – “Leylim leylim”
Because Jill always leads to beautiful discoveries. Love to you, dearest!

49 Julia Holter – “So Lillies”

50 The Modern Lovers – “Hospital” …I’ll seek out the places that must have been magic/To your little girl mind/Now as a little girl/You must have been magic…
“I still get jealous of your old boyfriends/In the suburbs sometimes/And when I walk down your street/Probably be tears in my eyes/I can’t stand what you do/Sometimes I can’t stand you/And it makes me think about me/That I’m involved with you/But I’m in love with this power that shows through in your eyes”

51 The Boomtown Rats – “Banana Republic” …Stab you in the back yeah laughin’ in your face/Glad to see the place again, it’s a pity nothing’s changed…
For Travis, for Angelika – the very few who can join me in loving the Rats

52 Juana Molina – “Cosoco
53 Marvin Gaye – “It’s a Desperate Situation”
Got on a bit of a Marvin Gaye kick; this song fit the frame of mind (can’t shake the sense that certain urges are uncontrollable – the lyrics don’t really apply in the least!). For J

54 J Churcher – “I Remember”

55 Radiohead – “Burn the Witch” …We know where you live…

56 Exploded View – “Orlando”

57 The Jones Girls – “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else”
A reminder of the lovely visit from Travis and Billy and discussions on musical ‘guilty pleasures’

58 The Avalanches – “If I Was a Folkstar”
“And I’d like to see her every day/I know I can’t be gone every weekend/Let’s wake up side by side/Let’s sleep in till we die”. On the road visiting the PoPos (Portugal, Poland, not the police). For R

59 Sam Evian – “Sleep Easy” …chemicals and candy/don’t know what they do to me/but I know I got a song/to come home to…

60 Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians – “Raymond Chandler Evening”
Beloved Hitchcock. “There’s a body on the railing/that I can’t identify/and I’d like to reassure you but/I’m not that kind of guy”

61 The Radio Dept. – “Sloboda Narodu” …When out of patience/Is your constant state of mind…

62 Rose Elinor Dougall – “Colour of Water”

63 The Pastels, Tenniscoats – “Vivid Youth”
Collaboration: Glasgow’s Pastels with Japanese duo Tenniscoats

64 Jeffrey Lewis – “Back to Manhattan”

65 Aztec Camera – “We Could Send Letters” …And now I’ve seen what you can’t understand
/I’d try to lead you but I’d crush your hand…
Classic, brilliant song and more Glasgow-area/Scotland goodness. “So if we weaken, we can call it stress/You’ve got my trust, I’ve got your home address/And now the only chance that we could take/Is the chance that someone else won’t make it all come true”

66 Eleni Mandell – “Someone to Love Like You” …some people never stop trying…

67 The Tornados – “Telstar”

68 Childbirth – “Siri, Open Tinder
I marvel at this title that now makes perfect sense but would once have been nonsensical gibberish. And of course this comes from Seattle…

69 Nathan Fake – “The Sky was Pink”
The pink morning and evening skies on the homestead

70 Rivulets – “Ride On, Molina” …I feel a fever coming on…
J and those horribly feverish days

71 Dear Nora – “The Lonesome Border, Pt 1”
Border life, as usual. “And I know we’re gonna last a long time/But I can’t help but need to live from minute to minute/’Cause now it is said there’s a change/And I sense the change in me”

72 Emma Pollock – “Don’t Make Me Wait” …I’m just the one to mop it up/When someone overflows your cup/Sitting in the shadows till you blame me…
The anthem of this late part of spring… waiting for winter to end, even as we head into summer, always waiting for the next step, the next move. And of course – Glasgow Glasgow Glasgow ❤ “You’ll never ever make it on your own/what makes you think you’ll make it on your own?”

73 Gwenno – “Chwyldro” …Paid, paid anghofio fod dy galon yn y chwyldro…
Because who in her right might would not want to learn Welsh?

74 O – “Deepthroat Love” …But I fear you In an offhand way/Digging the back door/Slamming, my heart in a daze/And you like that/It’s a lot like God/But not close enough…
Mr L… “you got a lot goin’ on, don’t you babe? My deepthroat love…”

75 A Certain Ratio – “The Fox”

76 EZTV – “High Flying Faith” …broken would be better than an answer halfway clear…

77 gobbinjr – “firefly” …we’re only worth what we give back/and i deserve a heart attack…

78 Nap Eyes – “Mixer” …But it’s easy to understand/What it is that makes me feel this way/It’s not so easy to make/All of my problems go away…

79 Happy Meals – “Le Voyage”
Glasgow ❤

80 Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation – “Rushing Through My Mind”
Sverige

81 Marvin Gaye – “All My Life
82 Robyn Hitchcock – “To Turn You On”
Love for J. “I would leave you as you were/If I wanted to/Then I wonder is it fair/Now you’re on your own/Who cares about you/Except me, God help me/When things go wrong/I’d do anything to turn you/Must phone me, you know me/When things go wrong/I’d do anything to turn you on”. Roxy Music cover

83 Pavo Pavo – “Ran Ran Run” …time is a hole in my waterbed/some kind of cardinal sin/tomorrow might be sleeping in…

84 Joan Shelley – “Here and Whole
85 Arik Einstein – “Prague”
The identified Israeli singer; Prague in mind (Martina ❤, MI) & Brno, too (Anne ❤)

86 Michael Kiwanuka – “Cold Little Heart” …I can’t stand myself…
“I’ve been losing you/one day at a time”. Wouldn’t have known the song were it not for the Big Little Lies miniseries, for which this was the theme – but both well worthwhile. Now I am well and truly terrified of Alexander Skarsgård

87 Charlie Hilton – “100 Million”
“I’m a fountain/you can throw yourself in me”

88 Emmylou Harris – “Tulsa Queen”
Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko recently died in, of all places, Tulsa – and this seemed a good choice

89 Julia Jacklin – “Same Airport”*

90 Cowboy Junkies – “You Will Be Loved Again” …Her cold eyes tell you that you’re not welcome/she tells lies, but you’ll take her back again…
“How can he take you in his arms, and help you to be free, then leave you forgotten?” “Someday you will feel a love so deep, and you’ll find someone not lost in sleep…”

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Not entirely sure what to say because I have resorted to making these mixes with such frequency.

*Considering the ‘same airport, different man’ question – in how many different men and different (and same) airports have I experienced these greetings and departures? Meeting one in Copenhagen airport and later him greeting me at Paris CDG and later at Stockholm Arlanda? Or all the Oslo Oslo and more Oslo. Or arriving and departing Lyon. The endless hours in and out of Minneapolis-St Paul. And let’s not forget the old days of meeting-greeting-bidding adieu at Keflavik. Or the Sea-Tac of another life.

Tips and tricks of how these mixes are built: my favorite songs are usually at the beginning and the end – occasionally one I really like comes in the middle. There are always a few that are not good songs but are reminders of some moments in my life. This time is was a lot about sound – what sounds and transitions made the most sense to me and my ears? What appealed to me most as I walked through the hills or drove late at night through the city, lost in detours avoiding all the endless construction. Music carries you through most of all when you’re lost.

Many people have let me know they no longer have conventional CD players, so I am cutting back on mailing these by post. I also have the entire playlist freely available on Spotify if you want to see it (and you can follow me on Spotify to find all the lists, dating back to 2004). I have not yet found a better alternative where I can put all the lists and tracks that will make it easily accessible for everyone.

Shifting perceptions: “Show some class”

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My feeling that Norway is living eternally in the second half of the 1980s is not going to change, even if all the rest of my perceptions shift constantly. Evidence to prove this: every time I get in my car and drive somewhere, Norwegian radio is playing Michael Jackson. Never the same song, but it’s Michael all the time. And when it’s not Michael, it’s Richard Marx, it’s Bryan Adams, it’s Berlin, it’s Billy Ocean or some other thing I don’t want to hear – in the 80s or now.

As a corollary to this everlasting musical 80s timewarp, I have become known as the harbinger of death because I seem to trip over news of celebrity deaths accidentally (am watching or listening to news almost constantly) or just know about past celeb deaths.

I was in the car the other day, and got immediate proof positive of this 1980s assertion: Jermaine Stewart‘s one-hit wonder, “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off”, blasted from the radio. I listened to the lyrics as if for the first time and could not really figure our why a song like this would exist. And who the bloody hell would drink cherry wine?

My firewall and I spent the whole evening singing it and reveling in the cheesy nostalgia.

But then, being me, I just had to know: what became of Jermaine Stewart? One hit and then gone… well, DEAD is what he is. Apparently he died in 1997 of AIDS-related liver cancer. What? Maybe because he was not really that famous, his death came and went without much fanfare. Or I was just not paying attention.

Whether or not Stewart knew his infection status in 1986 when the song was a hit, knowing this information, I hear the song filtered through that mid-80s terror of AIDS. It is more a safe-sex anthem than anything else (like many songs of the era) but it had never once occurred to me that that song fit such a bill. But listening to it armed with this information, it’s like a completely different song.

But there are new filters and lenses for everything, really. I was listening to Jim Croce the other day, remembering listening to him and looking at an album cover (a close-up of his distinctive face) when I was 4 years old. My mom explained that Croce had died a few years earlier in a plane crash. He was 30. I recall even today what I was thinking when she gave me this background information, “So what? He was old. He did everything he needed to do.” The level of a 4-year-old kid’s reasoning: 30 seemed like a good, full life. Looking at it now, of course, I am taken aback reflecting on his youth, the promising career cut short, the 2-year-old son he left behind.

I admit it. I am feeling nostalgic, contemplative about the shifting filters and perceptions that come with age and time. I am feeling mortal.