When I was young, every Easter I would beg for a bunny. Since I was allergic to cats and dogs, and rabbits could stay contained in one room, I thought having one would be ideal. My parents thought otherwise.
They showered me with Easter baskets full of Cadbury Mini Eggs (my favorites), magazines with Michael J. Fox on the cover and various token gifts. But never did I receive a bunny. Mom claimed that rabbits smelled, I was most likely allergic to them too, and it would be too devastating when someday said pet passed away.
Though she was right on all counts, that didn’t stop me from wanting one and visiting the rabbit cages at the pet store across the street. I also made a friend of Diamond, a sweet grey bunny that belonged to my 6th grade reading teacher, Miss. V.
Diamond lived in our classroom and we often made a game out of letting her out of her cage. I was one of the trusted few who was allowed to leave the room to retrieve her because I was calm enough to coax her back (I know, me, calm?!)—I took this privilege very seriously and was rewarded tenfold.
Miss. V. sometimes went on vacation and needed students to board Diamond while she was away. Each time she helped try to talk my mom into letting me take her home and each time my mom responded with a resounding “no.” I would get too attached, my Dad (the biggest animal lover of all of us) would relent and get me my own after Diamond left, etc. She never caved.
But Miss V. remained a favorite teacher, and recognized my way-above-level reading and writing skills. She was the first to introduce me to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and the first to encourage me to read forbidden works by the brilliant Judy Blume. Really, she was a hell of a teacher.
Yesterday, in my peripheral vision, I caught a glimpse of something grey in my backyard. It turned out to be the neighbor’s cat who often visits, but for a split second I thought of Diamond. Then I thought, “I wonder whatever happened to Miss V.” So I did what we all do these days: I Googled her.
I first saw an image that I recognized as her staff yearbook photo from my years in middle school. Next, I noticed she had married, as she had another last name tacked on to the end of the one I knew her by. Then, a horrible discovery: Just a few lines down was her obituary.
The vibrant, young, strong teacher who I loved so many years ago had battled several rounds of cancer and lost. She passed away in 2010 in a small Oregon town.
A flood of emotions came over me: disbelief, curiosity, grief and guilt. Why guilt? Because I hadn’t thought about her in over 25 years. Because although I know I was a good student for her, I don’t know if I ever conveyed how much her kindness meant to me during those tough years. I’m not sure she ever knew I succeeded as a writer—or even just as an adult in the work force. Many of my classmates in our low-income neighborhood most certainly did not.
Then I thought about why I was getting so upset about it. Why this cat in my backyard triggered a memory that sent me spiraling back in time and seeking out a ghost from my youth. I’m a firm believer that we’re all here to learn how to be better people, so I knew there was a reason.
This memory reminded me to make sure that the people in my life know how much they mean to me. That because of social media, there’s really no excuse for not reconnecting or staying in touch. That I should make more of an effort to learn more about the people I care about; not just what they do for a living or other things I could find out by looking at their profile pages. That I let them get to know me as much as I hope to know them. It’s not something I’ve always been good at, but I’m making a conscious effort to be better about.
There are a lot of patterns in our lives. Behaviors, careers, romantic partners, financial habits, health — everything has a rhythm.
Unfortunately, not all of them are positive. One such pattern in my life is that of loving people who get breast cancer.
When I was young, my aunt had it (and survived it), then my best friend’s aunt got it (she didn’t survive it), then my hair stylist (survived), my former boss (survived), two of my mom’s friends (one survived; one didn’t) and one of my good friends now is currently battling it.
That’s not counting the dozens of “scares” in my friends and family, where women had a mammogram that showed something that turned out to be nothing (yet scared the heck out of them in the meantime).
Though I’ve never personally had it, I’ve hurt for each of these people in my life (and those close to them who suffered, regardless of the outcome). Breast cancer changes everything.
My dear friend Debbie (the former boss, listed above) fought the good fight and won, emerging strong and determined to help other women who experienced breast cancer at a young age. Even with wonderful support from her family, she quickly learned what it was like to juggle treatments and still manage to run a household.
She founded The Pink Daisy Project to alleviate the financial burden for young women battling breast cancer. I’m proud to be a volunteer for this organization and thrilled that we’ve launched a new campaign that helps drive donations and lets contributors have a little fun on social media in the process.
As you can see in my photo above, I’m sporting a temporary “pink daisy” tattoo. A $2 donation to the cause will get you the same one; all that we ask is that you snap a selfie of yourself wearing yours and use the hashtag #2fortat when you share it out.
Every little bit helps, and so does making both women who need help — and those with the power to help them — aware of the Pink Daisy resource.
We want breast cancer to stop trending in the lives of amazing people, but if it doesn’t, let’s confront the trend with help and hope and compassion.
I recently lost a member of my immediate family. It was the first time that’s ever happened to me, and considering my immediate family consists of just four people (including me), it predictably turned my world upside down.
Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, the only way I know to cope is to put some thoughts down on paper (or on the inviting screen of a MacBook Pro, in this case). So here goes.
On Witnessing. I had the fortunate (or unfortunate) luck of being able to sit with my loved one as he passed. At first I was horrified by the suffering he was enduring, then relieved when the nurses “made him comfortable” with his final cocktail of medicines. We felt right about respecting his Do Not Resuscitate wishes, but no part of it was easy. For hours we waited, by his side, as he grew quieter and thankfully, more peaceful. Throughout the day, small signs of normalcy infuriated me. The pleasant cleaning lady mopping the floor under his bed; the large family in the waiting room giggling at the television overhead; the cafeteria staff ringing up our tiny bowls of vegetable soup as if it was just another day at work. Of course, my loved one was oblivious, but I resented the fact that life was going on around us when such despair was imminent. I made several trips to the brightly lit, bubblegum-scented restroom either to cry or try to throw up. I was always too hot or too cold; never in between. The nurses couldn’t have been more wonderful, checking on all of us, ensuring his comfort right up to the very end. I kept watching him, thinking his final breath would be some sort of morbid announcement that he was gone, that it would be noticeable and obvious, but it wasn’t. In fact, he lived on several minutes after he took his final breath — the nurses informed us he still had a pulse. When they returned to check again moments later, one on each side of him to be absolutely sure, they behaved just as the hospital staff on Days of our Lives always does. One said to the other “I’m calling it,” as she looked at the clock and noted the time. And then they hugged us and left us alone for a final goodbye before the nursing supervisor came in to walk us through the next steps. It was nothing short of surreal.
On the Next Steps. Thank God for Six Feet Under. I interviewed Alan Ball once for my podcast years ago, and I know I told him I was a fan of the show, but it can’t be understated how much watching it helped prepare me for my first-ever visit to a funeral home. It happened just as it used to for the fictional Fishers and I’m grateful I knew what to expect. Every interaction was very compassionate, yet matter-of-fact; dark, yet calm. As the associate went to print out paperwork, I absorbed my surroundings, wondering how they chose the odd artwork on the walls. The Kleenex on the table begged for us to break down and at one point while we were alone, we did, but thankfully the meeting took less than an hour, because we knew exactly what the deceased wanted.
On Processing. Different people grieve in different ways. Some people collapse into dramatic sobs; others lash out in unprovoked fits of anger. People like me, however, quietly shrink in disbelief and struggle to form sentences when necessary. All I know is that no matter the reaction, no grieving person should ever be held responsible or accountable for anything they say or do in the weeks following a tragedy.
On Condolences. It’s very nice to let someone who has suffered a loss know that you love them and are there for them. I was incredibly moved by the flowers and cards that arrived once we announced our sad news.
On Condolences, Part 2. One of the things that was hard for us in the early days was the fact that many friends didn’t have my parents’ current address (though I had told folks to message me privately on social media for it). Instead of simply asking me, they went ahead and sent the flowers, etc. to the address where my parents had lived in 2009, so it inconvenienced the people who currently live there, and it made for some logistical juggling for us to retrieve the items. We were grateful for the gesture, but stuff like that isn’t what we wanted to be focusing on while we were still adjusting to the shock. For future reference, if you don’t absolutely know for sure where to send something, please do the bereaved the courtesy of asking.
On The Tradition of Food. One of the most customary things to do for those in mourning is to deliver hot meals. We received everything from creamy soups to grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies the weekend after our tragedy. We appreciated all of it and ate nearly none of it. We just weren’t hungry and couldn’t force our bodies to cooperate. That said, the frozen items are beginning to be thawed out and enjoyed now, so if your heart tells you to prepare food, make it something that can be preserved for later.
On Unconventional Gifts. Personally, these things helped me most. The pal that sent me a funny clip from one of our mutual favorite shows; the couple that had their young children draw pictures for me; the friend that treated me to a relaxing pedicure; my former colleagues who sent a customized care package complete with chocolate and a bottle of whiskey. All of these things made me feel loved and treasured because I felt like the givers really knew me. They realized that I would need to laugh, feel comfort and allow myself to indulge because I’d been purposely depriving myself of all of those things.
On Survivors’ Guilt. Even though I was several decades younger than my family member who passed, I felt guilty for my healthy body and mind. I didn’t think I had permission to continue enjoying life. I didn’t feel right about reading the lighthearted book I brought with me or going to a movie (always my greatest escape) because I knew he couldn’t do those things anymore. It may not have been rational, but it was real.
On Social Media. I’m thankful for it. Unlike decades past, I didn’t have to make 30 phone calls or sit down and write a dozen letters letting people know of my loved one’s passing — I simply posted it once to a carefully curated list of friends and family on Facebook and let the Internet take it from there. It was a great relief to only have to write those words once.
On Privacy. Despite the fact his obituary was only in a few local newspapers, I still received very personal condolences from acquaintances that never knew of or met the deceased, and barely know me. I couldn’t help but feel awkward about this — their hearts were in the right place (I hope), but somehow it didn’t feel quite right. A message via Twitter would have sufficed if they felt moved to respond. I just took this as a lesson to myself that if I see someone grieving from a distance that I don’t know very well, I will most likely say a silent prayer for them and just give them space.
On Prayer. Whatever your religion or lack thereof, there have been studies done that imply that those who are prayed for (whether they know it or not) are more likely to heal faster from trauma — mental or physical. I can safely say, having been the recipient of a mountain of prayers these past few weeks, that in my case it’s true. The positive energy our family received was almost tangible and I’m certain those moments of calm we would feel, where we realized the sun would again someday shine, were a credit to those who kept us in their thoughts and meditations.
On Messaging. It’s natural to want to be there for someone who you care for in their time of need, and many of my friends and family expressed this via the quickest way they knew to reach me: text message. I can’t say I blame them, for I’ve done the same thing. But what happened was this: every time I would hear the ping of my phone going off, I was right back to my most raw point of grief, no matter what progress I’d made on composure that day. I knew that the instant I read whatever sweet message they’d written, I’d collapse into another puddle of tears. It became so exhausting, I quit responding at some point and turned the phone to vibrate, hiding it under pillows so I wouldn’t even hear the buzz. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my silence.
On Emails. I felt very comforted by emails. The thoughtful, personal messages and offers for help were perfect because I could tend to them whenever I felt strong enough to read them. And I did read and respond to all of them at my own pace, unlike texts, which I felt obligated to answer immediately.
On Breathing. In the fog of grief, it’s sometimes hard to remember to breathe. With everyone hovering around the first few days, I felt very suffocated by the attention. Again, it’s not that I didn’t appreciate the sentiment; it’s just that I wanted some distance while I adjusted to my ‘new normal.’ Perhaps other people are different, but I’m used to solitude so that’s my quickest path to healing.
On Friendship. The saying is true: you really do find out who your friends are in times of trouble. My heart is swollen with love by the amount of people from every stage of my life who have stepped up to support me and my family as we grieve. My high school BFF telling me to call her anytime — day or night —and knowing she meant it, despite the fact she has two young children to look after; my Seattle BFF offering to join me for a hike or whatever I need to make me feel better, though she also has two small children to parent; my ex-boyfriends that reached out though I haven’t spoken with them in months (or years, in one case); the atU2 staff that I’ve considered family for the past decade that sent me lyrics or quotes to accompany the flowers… the list goes on. I’m so incredibly blessed to have such compassionate people in my life.
On Kindness. From my longtime hairstylist who refused to charge me for my haircut to colleagues I’ve only known for a month sending me messages of hope and help, I’ve learned there is a deep well of kindness in human beings. No matter how many horrible things are happening in our individual lives or the greater world, the good really does outweigh the bad.
On the Cost of Death. Insurance doesn’t cover everything. From hospital bills to arrangements for the deceased to obituaries to death certificates to transportation for errands, death is really expensive. I will need to take a break from my social life for a few months, not just to heal mentally, but to recover financially. I hope everyone understands why I’m denying their well-intentioned invites.
On Paying Respects. One of the best ways we felt to pay tribute to my loved one was to request donations for a cause he was passionate about. Since he was always feeding the hungry (whether it be driving meals to families in the inner city around the holidays or taking a hot plate of food to a neighbor less fortunate), we felt it best to honor him by asking for contributions to the Oregon Food Bank. If you’re moved to do so, they (and we) would appreciate the donation.
Since the early days of PTA Mob Mentality went mainstream with Tipper Gore’s founding of the Parental Advisory in 1985, mothers and fathers everywhere have found irrational things to get angry about.
There were the spelling bee protests of 2010, which argued for the phonetic spellings of words; the same year, a school district in Ohio banned their high school teachers from showing historically valuable films like Schindler’s List after parents protested their violence; and then just last month, some Texas moms and dads successfully pressured the school their kids attend to stop letting them read 7 notable books because they had subject matter that made them uncomfortable.
Yesterday, after a Change.org petition started by a Florida mother reached upward of 9,000 signatures, toy giant Toys “R” Us removed a series of action figures based on the popular show Breaking Bad from their shelves. An excerpt from her petition stated, “While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters.”
The chain’s initial response had been to continue carrying the product because it was only made available in their section that is for customers aged 15 and older, but perhaps fearing bad PR on the cusp of the holiday shopping season, they deemed the risk too large to stand their ground and flip-flopped, cowardly adhering to the noise.
This is ridiculous.
First, because from a completely corporate standpoint, these dolls had the potential to be a top seller for the chain. Though Breaking Bad ended last year, its prequel spinoff Better Call Saul is slated to debut in February, which has kept the characters front of mind for many fans. Plus, the publicity surrounding the petition made many aware of the toys who may not otherwise have known about them. Even the show’s star, Bryan Cranston, poked fun at the controversy with a hilarious tweet directed at the Florida mom.
Second, because it’s nothing short of hypocritical to pull one type of item from shelves for what it represents and then leave the others available for purchase.
Specifically, Toys “R” Us proudly offers the video game Grand Theft Auto, which has a “Mature” rating and features a content description that reads, “Enter the lives of three very different criminals, Michael, Franklin and Trevor, as they risk everything in a series of daring and dangerous heists that could set them up for life.” Warnings include: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol.
In the action figures category, they also sell a variety of G.I. Joe products, some that contain words such as “ambush” and “attack” in their titles.
Are you seeing my point here?
Though I would never be interested in violent video games or war toys, I certainly think Toys “R” Us has every right to sell them, just as I think they should have continued offering the Breaking Bad toys for those of us who have a sense of humor. In essence, this Florida mom has not removed any potential danger from children’s lives by causing this stir; she’s simply created an expensive collectors’ item that is now in much higher demand.
At the end of the day, if parents are worried about what types of toys their child is playing with (or, gasp, seeing on a store shelf), they should become more present in their lives.
I traveled to New York last week, and was blessed to be able to take time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero.
The grounds are simple and beautiful: Two reflecting pools; a list of names representing the lives that were lost; and greenery and trees that quietly remind us of nature’s comeback. This is in the shadow of the new Freedom Tower, a majestic skyscraper that glistens in the New York sun.
Amidst all of this peace, though, there is an undeniable vibe of despair.
I actually wasn’t sure how to get to the memorial from where I began Friday morning in SoHo, so I began walking in the direction of the Freedom Tower, which I caught glimpses of as I made my way down the narrow streets.
I had a good morning — I’d just acted like a silly fangirl at the temporary Central Perk that has been constructed in honor of the 20th anniversary of the show Friends. I snapped photos, talked with other fans, sipped free coffee and sat on the original couch from the set. That night I had plans to have dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in over two years. My mood was nothing short of jovial.
But the closer I got to the site of the tragedy, the more nauseous I began to feel. Without glancing up or looking at street signs, I knew exactly when I had arrived at Ground Zero from the sick feeling I got, which was like an energy physically pulling the joy from my body.
A little dizzy and a lot haunted, I began to survey they area. The construction currently going on gave me flashbacks of the hundreds of news reports I watched of workers looking for survivors amidst the horrible smoldering pile of death and debris. The well-dressed business people making their way to and from lunch sent me into a memory of office workers that day in their professional attire, running in horror from their soon-to-be-former workplace. The visitors openly weeping at the reflecting pools reminded me that some tragedies will never truly end.
I walked from the memorial across the street to a beautiful little park along the marina and took a breath of fresh air before returning to the space where I had to purchase a museum ticket. I needed the break.
When I decided I would run out of time to go in unless I returned, I quietly stood in line, listening to the British accents behind me and the French speaking friends in front of me. I thought about how lovely it was that they cared enough to visit.
My timed entrance was over an hour from when I bought the ticket, so I walked as far away from the site as I could to get the vibe off of me, bought and wrote some postcards to friends, and people watched.
When I returned, about 20 minutes before I was due to be admitted, I unfortunately got in line just ahead of one of the most obnoxious children I have ever encountered.
She was a skinny, brown-haired, freckle-faced brat that I would suppose was in the neighborhood of 12 years old. She was with her father and another female family member (but it couldn’t have been mom, because any mom would have told her to shut up).
In her high-pitched voice, she proceeded to loudly complain about the fact she was standing in “another” line and though our tickets were stamped for 1:30, we would surely not be out of there until 5:00. This whining drew looks from the people in front of me and the people behind them, and everyone to our left and right, English-speaking or otherwise.
Due to a complete lack of self-awareness, the girl continued.
Next on her list was verbally scripting a show, starring her and her dad (who was coaching her along and laughing with her). I forget what the plot was intended to be, but several times I heard her joke and giggle about being killed, killing, dying, etc.
People became uncomfortable, the looks shot in her direction were scathing and at one point I turned around and made direct eye contact with a look that screamed “please shut the fuck up.” None of this even phased her. She kept going, getting louder and louder with her stupid story.
By the time I had rehearsed the lecture I was going to deliver to her and her father about how inappropriate her behavior was at such a sacred site, it was our turn to go in, so I bit my tongue and got as far away from them as possible once I was inside.
I heard a couple with an indistinguishable accent speaking in hushed tones about how out of control the behavior of American children is, and I’m certain they were referencing her.
Of course kids get antsy as they sightsee with their parents. I get that. And I cut some slack to the toddlers, but adolescents???
I remember being less than thrilled about being dragged from one art museum to another when I was seven and we lived in Greece, but I never would have dreamed about joking and carrying on about an inappropriate subject matter outside any memorial or place of solemn reflection. And if I had, my parents would have quickly silenced me.
We were standing upon hallowed ground at the 9/11 Museum, an area where so many lost their lives and their loved ones grieved for them. I was witnessing our American history with people who had no connection to the site and people who were a part of it that day. The level of grief on display varied from silent acknowledgement to outright sobs of pain. It is still September, after all.
The girl (and her dad) should be horribly ashamed of her behavior and should serve as a lesson to the rest of us: To truly honor the victims of this horrible act, behave with reverence in the presence of their lost souls.
And if the site doesn’t mean anything to you, please don’t waste anyone’s time by visiting.
It has come to my attention that you (perhaps members of the Millennial generation) were baffled by the gift bestowed upon you on Tuesday. That when you saw a free full-length album magically appear in your purchased items list, you stared at it long and hard, but the name “U2" didn’t ring a bell.
This troubles me, kids. More than you know.
So I’m here to catch you up. To fill your brain with knowledge that should have arrived alongside you the day you were born. To broaden your horizons and (pun intended) rock your world.
It all started in the 1970s in a beautiful city called Dublin, Ireland. There were four boys who lived on the north side of town named Paul, David, Adam and Larry. They all went to a high school called Mt. Temple, where they had a bulletin board for the students to post notes to one another. One day, Larry decided he wanted to start a band, so he posted a note on said bulletin board and a bunch of neighborhood kids showed up at his house for an audition/rehearsal.
Paul, who went by “Bono”, David, who went by “The Edge” and Adam all made the cut in addition to a few other kids at first. They went by the name “Feedback,” and then “The Hype,” but by the time they arrived on the name that stuck, “U2,” those three boys, and Larry, were the only members left.
They practiced really hard and played a lot of gigs, and two years later, they won a talent show in Limerick. That victory resulted in a demo session, which eventually led to a record deal.
They knew they really hit the big time in 1987 when Time Magazine put them on the cover. Their #1 hit, “With or Without You” would become a staple in pop culture for decades to come, appearing on Friends,etc.
In the 1990s, they revolutionized the concert landscape with their ground-breaking ZooTV tour.
After September 11th, they performed at the Super Bowl and remembered the victims of the tragedy with a moving tribute, displaying a scroll of their names. They also continued their Elevation tour in the wake of the attacks despite much uncertainty over the safety of crowds (many other acts canceled).
In fact, Bono’s humanitarian work landed him another Time Magazinecover in 2002. He was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And he was Knighted in 2007.
But back to the music — the band has scored some impressive awards in their time. They’ve won more Grammys than any other rock band (22, and counting); they’ve earned 15 Meteor Ireland Awards; won two Golden Globes and been nominated for two Oscars. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, too.
Anyway, when they’re not making music or saving the world or winning awards, they’re spending time with their families. They’re all Dads. And The Edge is even a Grandfather.
They’re good men, with good intentions and a passion for their collective day job.
So: The next time you see U2's music pop up, instead of giving it a puzzled look or Tweeting nonsense about spam, give it a listen.
Last week I saw a documentary that rocked my world. It was called Alive Inside, and it shared the true stories of elderly patients in nursing homes (some suffering from dementia, schizophrenia and other ailments) who were awakened from their dormant states by music.
I’ve always thought that music had the power to get to parts of our soul that regular words couldn’t reach, but it was nice to be validated by famed neurologist Oliver Sacks, who explains in the film why that is true.
The magic of seeing these individuals burst with life after just a few notes of songs that they once had a connection to made me remember hearing stories of coma patients waking after hearing songs that meant something to them. And then it dawned on me: would my friends and family know what to play for me if I was in a horrible accident that resulted in a coma; or if I live to be 100 and become unresponsive, will my nephews’ children or grandchildren know what to play to revive me?
I spoke about this with my mother the next day and she said she’d probably respond best to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” because she danced to it incessantly in her youth. It brings nothing but good memories for her (many of which she began spilling out to me that very moment) so she’s sure she’d recognize it.
She guessed right that songs by U2 and The Beatles would be my strongest triggers, but we both agreed that we should make lists that represent different parts of our lives if the unthinkable should happen. So, that’s just what I did.
Here’s a key to unlock the reasoning behind my playlist titled “A Coma,” presented in chronological order, from birth to present. I chose songs that I still have a visceral reaction to when I hear them, no matter what the context. It’s a solid list that I plan on adding to as the years go by.
Let’s hope you never have to use it.
Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles is my first music memory. When buying my first Beatles cassette, I chose Revolver, and my sister and I listened to it start to finish, over and over. I could not have been more than 6 years old. She taught me how to sing melodies with this song (me taking the high parts as she sang the lower ones). I developed such a clear vision of Eleanor in my mind’s eye, I can still see her when I hear this haunting, tragic, beautiful tune. Cue the violins.
On One One by Cheap Trick is the title track of a great album by a great band that my sister and her friends listened to ad nauseam when they were in high school. Because I did my best to tag along, I also became a fan and developed a mad crush on lead singer Robin Zander. I love them (and him) to this day.
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues by Elton John represents the first time I ever remember yelling at my mother. MTV was a few years old and VCRs were not yet in every household (including ours), so if you missed a video when it came on, chances were you may not see it again for a few days. I heard the first notes of this song playing on the TV no one was watching and ran into the living room to see it. My mom had been calling for me to clean something up or help her in the kitchen and I shushed her, which she did not appreciate, so she marched over to the TV and turned it off. I got so angry I shouted at her as tears welled up in my eyes. “I’m gonna miss it! Dang it, mom! Turn it back on!!!” Being that I was just 8 years old at the time, she looked at me with a mixture of horror and amazement and told me to calm down. By the time I convinced her to turn it back on and promised to do whatever she wanted me to do immediately after, it was over. I held a grudge. And she began to understand what music meant to me.
Hair — The Original Broadway Cast Recording represents one of the first plays I ever remember seeing my sister in, at her (our) high school. She had to bring home a cassette tape and play back the songs to learn them, and since we shared a room, I learned them too. I was glued to the musical and energized by the actors, fantasizing that I’d play Sheila someday. I didn’t really have the desire to act, but I could sing, so I figured I could pull it off. I still dream of seeing the production on Broadway.
The Seventh Stranger by Duran Duran features Simon’s voice hitting some very low, sexy notes. I’ve been in lust with Simon for many years, and this song is one that stayed with me long after childhood, even becoming the basis for my first screenplay. I play it mostly on rainy Sundays.
Back to the Future by Alan Silvestri reminds me of my favorite childhood movie, and it’s the film to this day I’ve seen more than any other (at last count it was something like 122 times, no joke). It was the first movie I saw more than once in the theater (movies were a luxury, after all) and my warmest memory of it was when we went to see it for a third time on my 10th birthday. It was my mom, my grandma, me and a friend, and we all enjoyed every minute, then when we left the theater a light dusting of snow covered the ground. It was nothing short of magic. The crisp, beautiful air acting as nature’s coda to a perfect evening.
One More Try by George Michael represents my middle school years, the hardest of my life, when my sister had gone off to college and married, and my dad decided we had to move away from the house I’d grown up in to a rougher area where we could afford property. I was devastated and every night to try to put myself to sleep, I listened to the album Faith. This was usually the song that I finally drifted off to, on the nights I actually slept.
Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 was a song that I knew as a small child, but didn’t fully grasp until high school. For nearly a year, every day on the way to and from school, I listened to the War album, and this was of course, the first song. It seemed to bring out the good (strong) Irish part of me.
Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson was pure joy. When my best friend Jen got her driver’s license, we made regular trips to Dairy Queen and TCBY for treats, always laughing and singing along the way. We did a hula car dance to this song, which was part of Jen’s regular car stereo repertoire.
Squeeze Box by The Who will always remind me of my first taste of independence. On a hot July day in 1992, I packed my things and ‘relocated’ to Washington, D.C. for a summer journalism workshop that taught me so much more than AP style. I made lifelong friends, discovered the thrill of air travel alone and realized that I needed to broaden my horizon farther than Portland. On one of the late nights in the dorms at GW University where we stayed, Jeff hosted Aaron, Lauren and I in his room for a blast through what was on his stereo at the time and this is one we all sang along to, not caring if we woke the neighbors.
Sea of Love by The Honeydrippers came out when I was in elementary school, but like so many other songs, I had to grow up before it hit me. On a dreary day in high school when I was daydreaming about the wedding I was going to have, I decided that this would be the song I walked down the aisle to because of its perfect intro. Though I haven’t married (yet), I hold out hope that someday I will and I still think it would be ideal.
Cowboys and Angels by George Michael is another song with an amazing intro. There is so much to it, yet it always seems to be over too soon. This song is calming and healing in so many ways, I pull it out of my arsenal whenever I need to reflect.
Dear Prudence by The Beatles was the song I was listening to the first day I was free. The day after my mom and her cousin dropped me off at the University of Missouri-Columbia to start my new life, and the afternoon that Lauren and I separated to go shopping and run errands before classes began the following week. The first time I was all by myself without anyone expecting me to check in and report my whereabouts, I put on my headphones and started walking across campus to learn about my new surroundings. The sun was out, the sky was blue, I was thrilled and I was terrified.
#9 Dream by John Lennon was playing the day Brendan and I went with David and Ann, his friends visiting from Kansas City, to Finger Lakes State Park in Columbia. The conversation was lively and lighthearted, but with Brendan driving and the sun beaming in on my passenger seat, I was content in a way that I had never been before. I was all grown up. I fell into somewhat of a trance as I listened to Lennon above the din of our happy outing and had to be snapped out of it upon arrival to the little patch of nature where we spent the afternoon. It was divine.
Wintertime Love by The Doors holds another good memory of my time with Brendan at MU. We had gone to the movies late one night in the winter of 1994 and were waiting for the shuttle back to our dorm from the parking lot where we left his car. We heard a loud sound and looked toward the woods to see at least 20 or 30 deer leaping in unison across the way. We both froze and watched them, looking at each other to confirm what we’d seen. It was one of the most majestic scenes I’ve ever witnessed; these amazing animals charging across the backdrop of a dark purple sky, disappearing into a cluster of bushes and low trees. We said nothing on the way back, and as we landed back in his room, he played this song as we sipped hot drinks to warm up.
It’s All Too Much by The Beatles reminds me of my 20th birthday. I spent it with Brendan at his parents’ house in Kansas City, and since it was Thanksgiving weekend, we were around his extended family for most of the time, but he made sure that one night we got to celebrate, just the two of us. He took me to my favorite Japanese steakhouse where I (illegally) sipped a Mai Tai (he could order it because he was a year older) and then we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. When we returned home, I stayed upstairs with his parents while he and his brother wrapped my gift in the basement, carrying it up the stairs to me ceremoniously. This song was playing as I opened his mom’s laundry basket (a trick to make me think it was something huge) to find the Sgt. Pepper watch I’d been coveting at the bottom, tucked into its wooden guitar-shaped case. I practically burst with happiness.
Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana doesn’t bring up happy memories, but it’s a moment in time I’ll never forget. I’d come home from class at MU and heard Nirvana playing as I passed several rooms to get to my own. I went downstairs to Nick and Brendan’s floor (where we all hung out) and people were crying, watching MTV. I ducked into my friend Scott’s room and saw Kurt Loder break down and pronounce Kurt Cobain dead. I went across the street to where Brendan was working to see how he took the news (he was upset, but not surprised); I called Jeff in his room at Brandeis, as I knew he’d be affected as well. He was in shock. I went back downstairs to be near friends and watched the biggest Nirvana fan I knew completely melt down and slam his door to the world in a fit of tears. This song was playing. It would continue to play in the weeks that followed.
The Unforgettable Fire by U2 symbolizes the first time I left the country by myself. At age 25 I ventured to Ireland to see the band perform at Slane Castle and had somewhat of a religious experience. Because U2 had recorded this album there so many years ago, it was the one I listened to most in preparation for the trip, and the one that helped me heal when I returned, after losing my beloved Grandmother and enduring 9/11 just a few days after I landed on American soil.
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant is my favorite Billy Joel song. In the early 2000s my life was taking a new shape in Seattle and I often daydreamed my way out of my problems. I listened to this song almost daily on my bus ride to work and its characters came alive so vividly for me that when I saw them represented in the theatrical production of Movin’ Out in 2004, I felt like they got them all wrong. I’ve itched to write a screenplay about them ever since. Brenda and Eddie would be played by Bobby Cannavale and Annabeth Gish. Stay tuned.
Where The Streets Have No Name (Live Version) by U2 is the song that gives everyone goosebumps. I was never a big fan of the studio version (still am not, to be frank), but there is something about feeling the opening notes of this song live, and absorbing the energy of the crowd, that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. It’s something that shouldn’t be described; only experienced.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (Live 8 Version) by Paul McCartney and U2 brings back one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. My sister and I were in Hyde Park in London, watching the monitors as our favorite living band, along with a Beatle, ascended the stage to perform together. The crowd was electric, the vibe was peaceful and I was about as sonically happy as I’ll ever be. Brilliant, as the Brits say.
First Day Of My Life by Bright Eyes was the first time a man had ever chosen “a song” for me, to represent us as a couple. The sincere lyrics, the unassuming guitar, the gorgeous voice — all meant to symbolize our feelings, which were more intense than anything I’d ever experienced up to that point. My love for said boy soared, my joy became euphoric; my tears stung like a thousand wasps when he broke my heart months later. I couldn’t listen to it for years, and I still prefer not to, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still feel it to the core.
Hero by Family of the Year is the song I presently can’t stop listening to, the main theme from the film Boyhood. Though the narrator of the song is male, it’s stayed with me as I’ve struggled with some decisions about how to move my life forward. Its themes universal, its chords simple, its message profound.
I’m excited/thrilled/terrified/anxious to know what you all think of it.
It was so much fun to be a part of, and I find myself missing the alter egos from time to time. In fact, when I went to see A Brony Tale this weekend, I found myself hanging on every word of the voiceover artist featured in the film.
I was thrilled to see that some of the things she does with her arms and hands while she’s narrating are the same things I do, and even more excited to learn she also often models her characters on famous celebrities like I do.
I can’t wait to get better equipment and dive in to more projects.