The Music Blog: My Two REO Girls

Life is more and more to me about balance. It seems for every horrible thing you must endure there is at least a positive event to help balance it out. Maybe it seems lopsided sometimes, but I think mostly that’s about true. So this blog may seem a bit of a hodgepodge but really its about balance. Now that I have my negative four readers intrigued, yes I am up to negative four readers, let’s get to it.

Probably the last thing in the world you want to hear is another Kris story but too bad. Kris was my first REO girl. Now for the clueless people REO refers to the band REO Speedwagon.

I was never a big fan of REO Speedwagon growing up. They did not get a lot of airplay in Texas except for a few songs. Sometimes when I bought an album there would be an insert advertising other albums of the period and I would see the album You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish and I always thought what a ridiculous title that was for an album. Then in 1981 everything changed. In 1981 REO Speedwagon released the album Hi Infidelity and it was a mega hit and became one of my favorite albums.

A few years later my friend from college Kris and I started to really hang out and that meant a lot of times being at her house in the afternoon listening to music and making crazy party tapes for me. The first time we did this she could not stop laughing because it was not anywhere near a party tape because it was almost all of the band Asia’s first album. So I was determined to do better on the second tape and she pulled some of her own albums to help me put together something good. One of the songs I wanted to add was the live version of Ridin’ the Storm Out from You Get What You Play For. Now if you can remember that song has a really long fade out and mostly its Kevin Cronin the singer introducing the band. As I was running out of tape I told Kris to go ahead and stop and she just kept recording because the last person Cronin introduces is Allan Gratzer the band’s drummer and she had a thing for him. So every time I hear that song I have to see if they will allow it to go all the way for Kris. I just love her. I actually have found her husband if they are still married but I am really afraid to reach out. My reach outs don’t seem to work out. Anyway Kris is my first REO girl and definitely the positive in this story.

Now remember that album You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish? Of course you do it was just a few seconds ago, sheesh. anyway that happens to be a really awesome album and the big song from that album happens to be my favorite REO song of all time Time For Me to Fly.  Now my loyal readers, wait I don’t have any of them. You might recall that I am not crazy about lyrics. For the most part I am not big on them but that song I am. It’s about gaining independence from a really bad relationship[ or at least it is to me.

For seven years I was in a relationship with a woman who I adored, cherished, loved and sometimes even worshipped the ground she walked on. It was not a relationship I needed to be in at all. I was wrong for being in it despite whatever promises and plans she made and shared with me. I am not going into great detail, but I had never loved anyone that much and believed that they loved me that much. It was horribly destructive and the longer it went the more destructive it became. One of the things that became clear is that I was just entertainment to her. I was someone who would tell her how gorgeous she was and how much appreciated she was and how nice her hair looked or her nails when they got done. I even loved to shop with her and she loved every bit of that attention. It mattered little that she could not meet many of my own needs and pretty soon she was not meeting any of my needs. Slowly Time For Me to Fly just began to have more and more meaning for me. More and more I made her laugh and she made me cry. The times she walked into my house were moments of pure joy and when she would leave I would ache with loss until all I ever felt was loss and sadness. Time For Me to Fly and The Veronicas You Ruined Me those songs pretty much encapsulated what I felt every day. I thinks it’s been three years since we did anything romantic and in that time I have tried a couple of times to be friends but each time she starts to put me on a pedestal and building me up and I know that its only so she can hurt me later. I cannot be friends with her. I am broken because of this relationship. I won’t ever be the same. I don’t even want to try.  Yea she is my second REO girl. The best thing I can say is that I loved that song before her and luckily she has not ruined it for me but sometimes when I hear it I know for me it’s about her.

That is just the way it is

Mike out.

The Music Blog: This One Goes Out to the One I Love

In the mid 80 to late 80’s I worked for a large group home, it was essentially like a large orphanage full of broken children from as young as 4 up to age 12. They were grouped by age and each group had a group leader. If you read my blog on Kenny G this is the place where the group leader broke down. I began working there as a relief and weekend group leader for the oldest group of boys. A week after I started the regular group leader left without notice and I took over that position. The staff was young. There is something about the work that almost requires you to be young. The older you are the harder time you will have gaining trust with kids that have a hard time trusting anyway. The downside to this is that there is high turnover and so these shattered children who have known almost nothing but abuse in their short lives keep feeling abandoned. Another downside is that when your staff is young they need a lot of supervision because their coping skills and experience with crisis situations and de-escalation techniques is just lacking. I had already worked at a similar group home and as I have said I am a problem solver and a leader and things just ultimately start to go through me.

My cohort in all of this was the supervisor, Diane. We were kindred spirits from the moment we met. She was exactly one year and one day older than I was born on April 29 the year before I was. In some ways she seemed so much older than I was. I had grown up in Texas and had never really been anywhere else. She was a modern day hippie girl and she had lived in both New York City and Baltimore, Maryland.  We both loved music but her tastes were more into old 60’s rock, Kate Bush and her very favorite band R.E.M.

          I had honestly not heard much of R.E.M.’s music, maybe a few songs. At that time they still were not widely heard on the radio, especially Texas radio. They were really an underground college band. Diane loved them and she was always encouraging me to check them out and one day I did when I bought the album Document. If I was going to start anywhere this was certainly a good place. You might know the album from the enormously big song It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine which received enormous airplay and still does. Its everyone’s apocalypse song. It might be my least favorite song on the album. It might be my least favorite song the band ever did.  There was one song though that I instantly fell in love with and I can’t hear it and not think about Diane.  This One Goes Out to the One I Love was a minor hit for the band but I think it’s the best song on the album and one of the best songs they ever did. It was this song that made me a fan and in typical Samurai fashion I went out and started getting all the other R.E.M. albums.

          R.E.M. hit it big with the album Out of Time.  The album was a hit machine and brought the band fully into mainstream music.  With hits like Radio Song, Losing My Religion, and Shiny Happy People the band was suddenly all over MTV. Michael Stipe has always said that he regretted making Shiny Happy People and after the tour he refused to sing it again. I suspect that the reason why he recorded it in the first place was Kate Pierson from the B-52’s who sings background on the song. Both bands came from Athens, GA and were friends and its pretty hard to deny Kate Pierson anything. I know none of this for fact but it feels right to me.

          After Out of Time R.E.M. just dominated the music scene. In 1992 they released Automatic for the People which is an amazing album also full of hits but it has one of the most awesome chilling songs to kick the album off. Hearing the song Drive today still gives me goosebumps. There is also Man on the Moon a tribute to the great Andy Kaufman and I just adore that they would do that.

After Automatic for the People R.E.M. continued to put out records at a steady pace. After the album Monster they started to tail off as other bands replaced them at the top of the charts but that’s okay. That’s what happens in the music business. For me though R.E.M. had one more great moment left one great amazing song which is actually if I had to number it would be my second favorite R.E.M. song with Imitation of Life off the album Reveal.

So let’s listen to some R.E.M. and let it fly.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Breaking the Girl

There are few bands that I love that I once hated. You can count them on one hand and if you asked me in a moment off guard I could probably only think of one.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

I know there are some that don’t like the band and many who just adore them and still an entire other group who say they love them but can only point to the song Under the Bridge as the reason. Those who love them always want to know how I could have possibly ever hated them. Actually some of my reasoning would not surprise you at all as I have stated multiple times that I don’t really care for bands that rap to their songs in a rock format and that includes bands like Rage Against the Machine and Linkin Park and a host of others. None of those bands mean anything to me at all and both of those bands I really do not like. I just don’t like that style. Honestly a lot of my disdain came from the whole socks on their cocks thing they did. If you don’t know the Chili Peppers early in their career would come on stage wearing only socks on their nether regions and that’s how they would play.  I am certainly not a prude but to me it was a big turnoff. How big a turnoff? Well big enough that I just didn’t listen to them at all.  There was another reason though that hardened my heart just when the band got big.

I used to work at a free standing psychiatric hospital on the adolescent inpatient unit. Now this particular hospital had a Residential Treatment Center as well that sat away from the main hospital.  It wasn’t always the safest place to work but mostly that came later.  The RTC kids and the inpatient kids rarely mixed because the RTC kids had a lot more freedom and naturally snuck things in, contraband things that we didn’t need around the inpatient unit. Along comes my very favorite patient of all time. She came in late to be admitted around midnight. We had reports of her that she was disruptive and had been kicked out of her last hospital for sleeping with a staff member. The same night she was admitted she walked out of her room naked. We had to watch her. If you want to know about her I blogged about her long ago and its titled Gianna, pronounced Jenna. To me she was sick and needed both care and protection. It always falls to me. When something went wrong on the unit they asked me what happened and I was the default leader of the evening staff. I made things go. That’s not me blowing my own horn that’s just the way it is everywhere I have ever worked. Leaders lead and leaders solve problems.

RTC had a staff member that was a self-stylized rocker and Anthony Kiedis was his idol and role model down to the recovering heroin addict. When RTC came to dinner he would walk into the inpatient unit with his guitar and disrupt everything and he was there for one thing; Gianna. To her he was a rock star and to him she was a groupie that would sit there at his knees and sway to his guitar playing singing along. She was a free spirit, elfin cute and certainly not afraid to be sexual. She was also a Schizophrenic and not a stable one. I saw him for what he was a predator and it took me going to the RTC Coordinator who would one day become my wife and telling her what was going on for it to be nipped in the bud.

The cynic would say I was just jealous. I took my job serious and Schizophrenics would always be my favorite population to work with. Medication worked with Gianna and eventually we got a lot done and when she was discharged I stayed with her until late just talking crying about all her fears and all her potential. There is a reason why she will always be my favorite and much of it has to do with that last conversation dealing with a horrible diagnosis and an iffy future.

I hated the Chili Peppers and all for the wrong reasons. That guy moved on, as did Gianna and I still would not listen to any of their music. Then a friend who used to run around with me a little but smoked a little too much weed asked if I had heard the Chili Peppers song from the Coneheads soundtrack Soul II Squeeze.  He insisted I listened to it and sat their singing it at the top of his lungs but he was right it was a great song. How great? It is my favorite Chili Pepper song. So I gave them a chance and listened to Blood Sugar Sex Magik the album and I guess the song and I did like it. I did love Under the Bridge and I really fell in love with the story of Hillel Slovak the band’s first guitarist and Kiedis’ best friend and drug buddy who died of a heroin overdose and certainly impacted the writing of those lyrics in Under the Bridge. I admire Kiedis’ silence on his addiction. He will talk about it and he has slipped before maybe even a couple of times but he has the soul of a poet and why wouldn’t I love that. I love their music and I have it all. Overnight they went from a band I hated, despised and I am talking Zappaesque hate to a band I just cherish and love. I titled this Breaking the Girl named after a Chili Pepper song on Blood Sugar Sex Magik and when I hear that song I think about Gianna. I actually think about her a lot. She impacted me in many ways. I don’t know whether anything I did mattered or made a difference because that’s not ever the reason why I did the work I did. I hope I did but I can’t get trapped in the did I or didn’t I questions. I did the best I could. I tried to protect her because her parents gave us their trust and because she had been let down before.  She mattered to me then and she matters to me now and that’s why I was a social worker.

So here we go playing the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I hope you enjoy and I hope you read the blog and maybe think about a free spirit because I sure hope she is still out there. I hope she is not broken.

Mike out

My Weird Week and Part of My Journey

If you were expecting my music blog well you are at the right place but its just not that particular blog but you are most welcome to read it anyway. Its just been a weird bizarre week full of good things and full of strange occurrences.  If you are one of the people close to me then it is likely you know that I am in the process of converting to Judaism. It is something I have wanted for a really long time, and the funny (not ha ha) thing about my journey is that for the first time it does not feel like I am fighting God, like I am swimming upstream all of the time. For most of my 57 years I have felt disconnected from God and for the last 20 years I have felt punished by God. I have railed against him angrily, fallen to my knees crying asking for forgiveness for being born. Its been painful and I have felt like I am walking on a knife edge for a long time. I could go on, there is more but honestly you don’t need to know all this and I would hope that you would at least respect that before you read this and share it with someone else or talk about it.

My journey to Judaism began a long time ago and it began because I recognized that our office wasn’t as neutral about the holiday season as they claimed. Oh sure it was mandated that we say Happy Holidays but all of the decorations were about Christmas. They put little Christmas trees on  all the cubicles and each unit had holiday parties and Secret Santa only I had a Jewish girl who worked on my team and I just felt it certainly wasn’t fair to her and wondered how she felt about it all so I asked. She blew me off, said it was no big deal as she wasn’t really religious but I got that bit in my teeth and if you know me then you know time to look out. So I threw her a Hanukkah party. She loved it and we surprised her and I woke up at 4 am and made enough latkes to feed the entire office with seconds.

From that point on every year I started to recognize Hanukkah and last year I began to wonder what would happen if I decided to explore why lighting those candles gave me so much peace more peace than I have ever known.  So I bought two books one on Judaism and one on conversion and after reading those books I contacted a Rabbi and every day since that day has been filled with wonder, and excitement and a connection to God that I have never ever had. If I thought lighting a Menorah gave me peace lighting Friday evening Shabbat candles is like lighting a flame inside of me. I have had multiple spiritual moments along the way and I have not completed the process maybe not even be close but every day I feel a little more fulfilled a little more blessed than the day before.

The worst part is that Covid has impacted services so that we do them on Zoom, I meet with the Rabbi on Zoom. I cannot imagine how much more amazing it would be if I could be with so many kindred spirits as one in person.  The biggest issue for me is of course sight. The format that was used in services was impossible for me to see.  They were working on this though and they moved to a sort of power point style with the colorful backgrounds and larger print and I announced I could see it which excited a lot of people.  The Rabbi calls on people to read so this was a big deal but almost as soon as we switched to that format my vision has slipped away as it does and I just have not been able to see it without getting really close which would probably scare people. A few weeks ago though on a Saturday morning the Rabbi called on me to read and I put on my stronger glasses which have not been enough and suddenly it was enough. I can’t tell you how much joy that gave me. When I took my dog to the park this story started coming fast and furious in my head. I have long wanted to write a story with a character who is blind and suddenly I had it. Now we have also been in the month of Elul which is the month before Rosh Ha-Shanah and then just 10 days to Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement.  The month of Elul is spent reflecting on your past year your screw ups your good moments and your worst moments but for me having never gone through naturally I think of my entire life. So I wrestle daily with this idea of laying myself bare to God and the horrible things I have done. I am not an evil person but I have done some bad things at least to me they are bad, mostly having to do with relationships. Let’s just say its been a rough month like scouring your soul clean. I talked to the Rabbi about some of these things but really this is between me and God but just re-telling how that reading made me feel made him smile and he said its powerful stuff. So my character is Jewish and because of all the reflection a lot of the story is personal wrapped up in a fictional tale.

So this week I have been preparing for Rosh Ha-Shanah. I have posted a couple of times the shofar blowing. Just hearing it gives me goosebumps and that’s from youtube.  I also outlined this story which is going to be in six parts. I don’t think it will be a super long book. I am going to tell the story and let it fly but I have gone old school because I don’t usually write to an outline but this time I am. I started writing part one this week. Its slow going but it feels good and the writing is what I want. One thing Judaism has really instilled in me is honoring my parents. I have let go of a lof of guilt around my mom’s death and on Yom Kippur it will be good to go through a Yizkor service and light a Yarzheit candle for her. I have one ready to light. I have also I think grown closer to my dad. I talk to him a lot more often and I am not letting our differences get in the way of just enjoying hearing his voice.  He had made me laugh a lot lately. Early in the week my dad sent me steaks from Omaha. It was so nice of him. Now I can’t talk to him about any of this because he isn’t going to understand and he is going to be horribly upset. In fact I have no family support for what I am doing. I am doing this all alone.

A few days ago a friend of mine who helps me from time to time and checks on me and I were texting and she asked if we could talk on the phone. I said sure.  We didn’t really even talk she asked me right off the bat why Judaism. So I started to answer and before I could even get a sentence out she interrupted me and said you want to know what my belief is. I said you asked me a question that you won’t listen to my answer. She said we would get back to it. She then proceeded to tell me that everyone needs to have a personal relationship with God. I said I didn’t disagree with the statement and then started to explain why Judaism is working for me and she interrupts and says you told me a long time ago and then tells me what I told her ten years ago which wqs everyone can believe or not believe in God and having a relationship with God was important. Then she goes off on a preaching rant where she keeps saying YOU Need to find the religion that works best for you. I said I had and then she goes off again and said there were many religions out there and I needed again using that YOU need to find the one that works for me. So now I was bordering on a little anger and I forcefully interrupted her and said that I was not a stupid person I was aware of other religions and that Judaism is what worked for me. Then she told me she just didn’t want me to blow something up, that she loved her country too much to see me especially me blowing things up. She meant this as physically making bombs.  I asked her who the hell she was talking to and when had I ever threatened to do anything like that and how did Judaism connect. She didn’t answer just said goodnight and then sent me a text message saying it wasn’t her best night.  Its hard to even call the comments Anti-Semitic.  Maybe it was me posting the shofar being blown that confused her. Clearly she thinks that being Jewish is some radical religion, maybe she confuses it with radical Islam but it will still be wrong to lump all of Islam with outright terrorism. Later I talked to my friend Wayne who put in perspective to not let it bother me and laugh it off but still. I told you it was weird. Now I also had my dear friend Genia add my fruit request to her grocery list and my friend Scott her husband dropped it by which was incredibly kind of both of them. Then more weirdness this morning Rosco my dog and I got up pretty early so we made some coffee. He likes his strong. We walked to the trash bin and threw some boxes away and then he did his business and I cleaned it up and we start walking around the neighborhood. I call it the quick loop. We get to the street and this guy runs out of his gate, with a gun waving. Thankfully he recognized me but it made me a little nervous. Turns out he had caught someone under his truck with a cordless saw I guess trying to maybe to steal the Cadillac converter and had chased him away. He asked if I had seen anyone and I said no. We chatted a few minutes and then Rosco and I finished our walk in a hurry.

I told you it was a weird week.

Shana tovah


The Music Blog: Freddie

I am going to struggle with this blog. I just am and mostly because my feelings for Queen are just so ambivalent. I like Queen but I just don’t love them. Its not really any one thing but maybe just a mix of things. When I listen to their studio albums I get the real good highs of the really good songs and the few great ones and the really bad songs that turn me off and make me wonder what were they thinking. I like the gems in their albums like the song All Dead but that’s just not enough.

A couple of years ago I was at a vinyl party and it was a good time and we got into a discussion as you might expect on great front men. Now look I love all sorts of front men and some at least one front woman I cherish the ground she walks on. Oh Belinda!!! Like any great discussion on who the greatest is be it singers or guitarists or drummers there is going to be a variety of opinion. First of all let me say there is a difference between a great singer and a great front man. You don’t have to be one to be the other. In my opinion and its just my opinion the greatest front man in the history of rock and roll is Mick Jagger. Everyone falls in line somewhere after Mick. One of my vinyl buddies believes that it’s Freddie Mercury. I do think they are both great but Mick is Mick and Freddie is Freddie. Mick is the example that all front men aspire to. He set the standards.

My first experience or knowledge of Queen was when I was in junior high. My sister who was in high school and old enough to drive would take me to school some mornings. Many mornings I rode my bike. Depending on which grade I was actually in, I either had football practice in the morning or afternoon. So one morning we were on the way to school and a song came on the radio and I said there was something wrong with her speakers. She said no that’s the way the song was which I thought was cool. I cannot remember the song but I asked if there were other bands that did that and my sister said that Queen had a few songs. I had never heard of Queen. A little while later months weeks I don’t know when the song We Are the Champions became a hit and was all over radio. I bought that album News of the World. I didn’t buy another queen album for many many years. The album was just okay and as a teenager I was going to spend my money on albums I really liked. For most of the remainder of Queen’s career they would have hit songs and some of those songs I really liked and some I really didn’t. When Fat Bottom Girls came out I liked the guitar riff but little else. Now I love the song quite a bit. I don’t know what it is about them but it’s there for me something I just can’t quite put into words. I am just not a big fan.

Queen is a band that just revolves around Freddie.  I know there are Brian May fans and quite honestly I think he is underrated but you didn’t go so see a Queen show to see Brian you went to see Freddie. Now maybe some of you might say that about the Rolling Stones but I bet you are in a very small minority. Keith is as much the show as Mick. I actually saw Queen with Paul Rodgers and thought it was a great show but that was because Rodgers is a great front man too and could stand up on his own. Queen with Adam Lambert is all about tribute to Freddie and more power to them as I do not begrudge Brian May for that.  Play as long as you can and Freddie is worth remembering.

It is not Freddie the front man that intrigues me. It is Freddie the human, the vulnerable very fragile human who privately was so lonely and just wanted someone to love him not because he was Freddie Mercury the rock star but because he was Freddie this vulnerable fragile human who deserved to be loved. He denied the horrible illness that took his life until the end telling the band only and just a few others close to him. That’s the tragedy and I cried for him still cry for him because Freddie mattered like the friends I lost mattered all dying miserable sad deaths all alone.

That is what makes Queen worth remembering because Queen will always matter. There are some who will always hate Queen because they are unable to separate Freddie’s sexuality from the music he wrote and performed. Maybe they should not be separated. Freddie stood for LGBQT rights before that phrase was coined because Freddie knew that no one should have to deny who they are and certainly should not be judged for it. Again it will always be Freddie the person who matters to me and maybe one great moment from Wayne’s World that reminded everyone how much music matters to most of us,

Party on.

Mike out