Tainted Love

 

love your life clipboard decor
Photo by Natasha Fernandez on Pexels.com

It was deep autumn of 1988, my first semester away at college, when I popped some ecstasy and danced my ass off to Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” The pill-popping wasn’t a habit, just an experience. I don’t say this to be cool or convey shame. Our pasts do not define us. I often think how the sum of our parts makes up the whole of our being and how life is one continual remake. All of this goes through my mind when I hear this song. Life is tainted. No one is perfect. Everyday is a brand new start, and I just try to be better than I was yesterday.

In the ‘80s, I had no clue the song was a remake. News to me in recent years, Gloria Jones first recorded “Tainted Love” in 1964. 

 

 

The English synthesizer and vocal duo Soft Cell slowed the “Tainted Love” tempo in 1981 and made it famous. It was the bestselling single in the UK that year, and the song spent a record-breaking 43 weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100. But, oh my, this video. So ’80s.

There are quite a few versions out there, like the notable Marilyn Manson’s take in 2001 and Imelda May’s twist in 2010. My personal favorite is the 2008 remake by My Brightest Diamond, a project of singer-songwriter-instrumentalist and University of North Texas alumna Shara Nova. 

 

And sometimes I still dance my ass off. (Re)make it a fantastic (Mon)day, everybody!

Hotel California

 

the beverly hills building
Photo by Erica Zhao on Pexels.com

My sister Liz loves “Hotel California” and the Eagles, and my bro-in-law loves her. So much that he flew her to the Big Apple last Valentine’s Day to see the Eagles at Madison Square Garden. How romantic is that?

A collaboration of all five Eagles of that era: Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder, and Randy Meisner, The Hotel California album was released on Christmas day in 1976 and became one of the biggest selling of all time. Texas vocalist Don Henley said of the song writing process, “We were getting an extensive education, in life, in love, in business. Beverly Hills was still a mythical place to us. In that sense it became something of a symbol, and the ‘Hotel’ the locus of all that LA had come to mean for us. In a sentence, I’d sum it up as the end of innocence, round one.”

Liz, if you’re reading, I dedicate this iconic classic to you.

Although the Gipsy Kings released their Spanish flamenco version back in 1990, I probably heard theirs for the first time in The Big Lebowski Jesus scene, sometime after 1998 (click the link for purple polyester poetry in motion). When not touring, The Gipsy Kings founding members, Nicolas Reyes and Tonino Baliardo, live with their families in the south of France.

Today will be fabulous.

Dear Reader, Thank you!

Thank you for being here today. Let’s face it. Without readers, this blogging gig might just fizzle out. I’m humbled by those of you who return time and time again, and especially by those who award me with some extra recognition and pass my site along to others. Rhonda, Bryan, Greg, and Brother John Mark, thanks for the support from the bottom of my heart.

Rhonda asked, and I linked a few (okay, a lot) of my answers to previous posts…

  1. You have an opportunity to have a sit down with another writer. Who would it be and why?                                                                                                                              Maya Angelou—click for post.
  2. Who is the most talented Black artist (musician, writer, painter, potter, any type of artist) that you think deserves to be more widely known or appreciated?                See #1.
  3. Who is the funniest person you have ever personally known?                            Denise.
  4. What or who is your spirit animal?                                                                         Butterfly for metamorphosis. A cat for an independent mind.  
  5. What is the biggest mistake you think you’ve made as a blogger?                      Ignoring family and friends.
  6. What one aspect of your life during the pandemic is “for keeps” post Covid-19? Eating at home.
  7. If you were granted the ability to be highly proficient at playing a musical instrument, what would it be and why?                                                                     Maybe viola to play duets with my son, the cellist—or acoustic guitar—or banjo, but only if I could be gifted with a voice to sing.

Bryan wanted to know…

  1. What your favorite book and why?                                                                                         I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
  2. What song do you currently have on repeat?                                                              “Wolf Like Me,” Lera Lynn.
  3. Which season of the year best describes you?                                                                      I love the season changes, and Summer now.
  4. What is you most prize possession?                                                                                    My grandmother’s pearls.
  5. Which historical figure would you like to meet and why?                                        Maya Angelou.
  6. What makes a good blog?                                                                                              Humor and making the specific relatable.
  7. Back to the past or forward to the future?                                                                          In the moment.
  8. Your dream vacation?                                                                                                      Thailand
  9. The greatest movie of all time?                                                                                                 I love Moulin Rouge. Greatest movie? IDK.
  10. Wealth or health?                                                                                                               What is wealth? As a former teacher and current student, I prefer to focus on what’s within my control. My health.
  11. Your proudest moment.                                                                                                    Going back to school.

Greg was curious about…

  1. What is the last book you read?                                                                                       Kafka on the Shore. (This is actually not true, but I did finish this book in July and loved it so much that I blogged about it. The last book I read was Elizabeth McCracken’s An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, a memoir that I also LOVED and would call a must-read. However, I’m realizing this is also a false statement because in the next couple of days I also finished How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry and Staying Alive, Real Poems for Unreal Times, and I forget in which order. All for summer school).
  2. What is the next book you are going to read?                                                              Black Zodiac by Charles Wright
  3. What are your favorite genres to read?                                                                    Memoir and historical fiction
  4. What is the last song you played on your preferred listening device?               Tainted Love by Imelda May
  5. Who when and where is the last live music concert you attended and where?    Matt and Kim, on my anniversary 11/11/19, in Dallas
  6. You can only take 5 albums with you into quarantine, which ones do you choose?      I just need YouTube.
  7. Once travel restrictions due to COVID-19 allow travel, where is the first place you want to visit?                                                                                                                            My mother in her nursing home back in Oklahoma, but I do have a trip planned to Telluride, CO.
  8. Who is your favorite author?                                                                                           Maya Angelou.
  9. What is your favorite writing instrument to use when not on a digital platform? Mechanical pencil.
  10. Do you believe that cursive handwriting should still be taught in our schools?            No.
  11. What is one life goal you still want/need/hope to accomplish?                                      To finish my master’s degree and my first memoir.   

Brother John Mark asked about my faith…

  1. Who is your favorite character in the Bible aside from Jesus? And why?           David. See post.
  2. How do you develop your relationship with God?                                                           All relationships take time and consistency.
  3. Who is Jesus for you?                                                                                                         Love.
  4. Have you visited historical Churches? If yes, where?                                                    Yes. Venice and Ravenna, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem, Israel; Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; Kuşadası, Turkey; and Patmos and Athens, Greece.
  5. Do you read the Bible? (Y/N) Yes.
  6. What parable/stories of Jesus in the Gospels touched you most?                             What he says to Peter about forgiveness.
  7. Do you love religious music? Yes.
  8. Can you name one favorite religious song?                                                                      For KING & COUNTRY “Joy”.
  9. What is your favorite verse in the New Testament?                                                      “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Or “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).
  10. What is your favorite verse in the Old Testament?                                                         “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
  11. What day of the week you spend hours in meeting the Lord?                                  More on Sundays, but I try to say a daily thank you.

If you made it to this point, thanks again for reading! If you clicked on any of my links to past posts, I hope you found something that spoke to your heart. If you have extra time, please check out Rhonda, Bryan, Greg, and Brother John Mark.

The Sun Never Says by Hafiz

Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

Hit the Road Jack

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

The Ray Charles version of “Hit the Road Jack” takes me back. On most of the family vacations of my youth, we hit the road, and I eventually made it through the entire lower forty-eight via car. As for Ray Charles, blindness and heroin addiction aside, he revolutionized American music. “Hit the Road Jack” topped the Billboard Hot 100 on October 9, 1961 and won a Grammy award for the Best Rhythm and Blues recording.

And Becca Krueger, well, she has some balls to remake this one. She recorded in 2013, and I love the way she pulls it off.

It’s another Monday, my friends. Do you have what it takes to Remake it?

Come Sit with Maya Angelou

Sometimes I sit with Maya Angelou. Dr. Maya Angelou. I mean, I sit on my couch with my laptop in my lap, my left knee bent, my left heel tucked under my right butt cheek, and Maya Angelou on YouTube (three and a half minutes below). She is probably the wisest, most accessible, most inspirational person I know. God rest her soul.

I discovered Angelou’s 1969 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings maybe just five or six years ago, and this book catapulted into the status of my all-time favorite. Since then, I’ve reread it a few times, as much for Angelou’s style as the strength of her story. The title alludes to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s 1895 poem “Sympathy.” In Dunbar’s version, “the caged birds sings” as “a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core.” Angelou opens her memoir with herself at age three accompanied by her four-year-old brother Bailey and otherwise unattended on a train from California to live with their Grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. I believe that was 1932. It’s a coming-of-age story of a little black girl growing up in the Jim Crow South. As a child, Angelou faces racism and trauma and the setback of becoming a sixteen-year-old, single black mother in the year 1944. I guarantee you, someone prayed for that little girl from the heart’s deep core. She would go on to thrive against all odds. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings begins Angelou’s seven-volume autobiographical series. I still have four to go.

The Heart of a Woman (1981), fourth in the series, follows Angelou from 1957-1962, from California to New York City, Cairo to Ghana. She arrives in New York as a singer/dancer, joins the Harlem Writers Guild, becomes a civil rights activist, and raises her teenaged son. Angelou is the epitome of determination, only one of the reasons I find myself sitting with her.

Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997) is a series of essays, a quick little read, published between her fifth and sixth memoirs. She opens up about her marriages, sensuality, sexuality—what it means to be human, American, and a black American. I sit with her in part due to her honesty.

A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002) is the sixth of the series, and once more the title refers back to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “Sympathy.” This volume begins as Maya Angelou returns from Africa to the US to work with Malcolm X. As she arrives, she learns that Malcom X has been assassinated, and violence in Watts explodes. She meets Martin Luther King, Jr., who asks her to become his coordinator in the north, and then he is assassinated. A Song Flung Up to Heaven ends as Maya Angelou begins to write the first sentences of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. “What you looking at me for. I didn’t come to stay.”

Still on my to-read list:

  • Gather Together in My Name (1974, volume two) follows Maya as a single, teenaged mother sliding down the social ladder into poverty and crime.
  • Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976, volume three) spans the years of 1949-1955, Angelou’s early twenties and her struggles to support her son, form meaningful relationships, and establish herself in the entertainment world.
  • All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986, volume five) recounts Angelou’s years in Accra, Ghana between 1962-1965 and her return to the United States. Racism and the journey continue to be themes.
  • Mom & Me & Mom (2013, volume seven) was published shortly before Angelou’s 85th birthday and focuses on her relationship with her mother Vivian Baxter. In earlier volumes (the ones I’ve read anyway), Baxter remains an enigma of sorts, and this final volume fills some gaps. Even though it’s still on my to-read list, I’m inspired that Angelou continued to write until the end of her life. Maya Angelou died in 2014 at the age of 86.

Are you interested in diversifying your reading experiences? Here’s a list of 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read. Let’s agree to add Paul Laurence Dunbar and make it eleven. I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Sympathy

BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;   
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,   
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,   
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!
 
I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   
For he must fly back to his perch and cling   
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!
 
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

(This post inspired by my friends Rhonda at Pollyanna’s Path and Greg at A Thousand Miles from Kansas for their kindness in award nominations and their understanding of my Q & A rule breaking. When you have a chance, go check out their awesome blogs.)

Unknown Legend

Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young (of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) penned “Unknown Legend” and released it on his solo album Harvest Moon in 1992.

I was 22 and not listening. Somehow it seems songs, like other messages and people, appear when we need them.

The first time I heard the song was in the 2008 movie Rachel Getting Married with Anne Hathaway. I haven’t seen every Anne Hathaway movie, but her performance in this one is legendary. She plays a drug addict who has been released from her current treatment program on a day pass to attend her sister Rachel’s wedding.

During the ceremony the groom (Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio featured on last week’s Remake Monday) serenades Rachel in a performance that moves me every time.

[Verse 1]
She used to work in a diner
Never saw a woman look finer
I used to order just to watch her float across the floor
She grew up in a small town
Never put her roots down
Daddy always kept moving so she did too

[Chorus]
Somewhere on a desert highway
She rides a Harley-Davidson
Her long blonde hair flying in the wind
She’s been running half her life
The chrome and steel she rides
Colliding with the very air she breathes
The air she breathes

[Verse 2]
You know it ain’t easy
You got to hold on
She was an unknown legend in her time
Now she’s dressing two kids
Looking for a magic kiss
She gets the faraway look in her eyes

It’s Remake Monday! Remake it amazing!

Ode to My Bestie

I love telling people
how I crashed her party
and met her on the day
she turned five.

It was July the Fourteenth,
Nineteen Seventy-Five.
She was blonde haired,
tiny, and hazel eyed—
my new friend, Denise.

In school we shared
home rooms—
First grade
with Mrs. Shaffer,
second grade
with Mrs. Goff
third grade
with Mrs. Lane
and so on
and so forth
through senior year.

Nineteen years

ticked away.
The Class of Eighty-Eight
Reunion. In Oklahoma.

Memorial Day.


We both lived in Texas.
She lived nearby,
this girl I had known
since we were five.
I needed a friend,
and she did, too.
We met for margaritas
and Mexican food.

More years pass.
We ate and drank.
We told each other
secrets, even when
they stank.

Forty five years
from the day we met,
July 14th, 1975,
a day I’ll never forget.

Wolf Like Me

I believe this song was first released in 2006 by TV on the Radio, an American art rock band. (I found this info. on Wikipedia. Art rock makes use of modernist, experimental elements, elevating rock to an artistic statement).

I guess it was about a week ago when I heard Lera Lynn’s folk version. I dig the stripped-down sound of the acoustic guitar and banjo. What some can do with two instruments and their voices! Anyway, you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia. They say Lera Lynn released her version in 2003. Independent Music Awards calls it a cover, and the YouTube video was posted in 2011. Disputed information aside, I love both, but I have to give it to Lera Lynn.

And I’m calling today Remake Monday. 1) Because I love a great remake. And 2) Because every Monday deserves a reimagined look. Make yours mighty good.

Seize it!

What’s for Dinner?

We keep it pretty simple around here, meat and veggies and rarely a recipe. I prep for the in-house chef mostly. I can make a mean salad and a darn good sandwich, but we try to go light on the carbs. When the meat requires fire, Kody is the guy. He kills it on the grill and the gas-top stove.

Taco Salad. Meat courtesy of Kody. Chopping and assembly by me.
In the freezer section of your local grocery store.
Our go-to for leftovers. Taco meat on the front. Grilled chicken on the back. Gluten-free cauliflower crusts.
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Grilled sausage with sautéed mushrooms and onions to the left. Bacon to the right. Tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Another leftover success.
Baked cod and grilled asparagus, summer squash, and zucchini. A squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of parmesan.
Leftover zucchini, squash, and asparagus in my omelet. And steak, too, I think.
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts. Olive oil, salt, and pepper. Maybe teriyaki. I love them oven-roasted even more.
Speaking of oven-roasted, broccoli and carrots. Aren’t they lovely?
And the most gorgeous butter leaf lettuce. No roasting necessary.
Egg salad lettuce-wrap. That grilled chicken (salad) sometimes reappears here, too.
Lunchmeat from the deli. Cobb-ish Salad, anyone?
Kody’s first ever homemade pasta and Bolognese. OMG!

The other day my friend Rhonda asked me what aspect of life I will keep post-pandemic, and this is it. More meals at home. Our few dining experiences out in recent months don’t even compare. Some lessons we learn the hard way.

If you don’t know Rhonda, well, she’s an optimist, who finds silver linings, lifts others up, shares positively good stuff, and gave me a little award. Check out her blog. And thanks so much, Rhonda, for the recognition and inspiration!    

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Favorite quarantine meals? Go!

Kafka’s Metamorphosis on the Shore

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much? Except there is almost no way to adequately explain. Like if you tried, people might think there’s something wrong with your brain. For me, that’s Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

Mind-bending, for sure.

Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away to escape his father’s house and an Oedipal prophecy and to search for his long-lost mother and sister. His name isn’t Kafka, by the way. He travels incognito.

Kafka’s story alternates with a man named Nakata. After a childhood accident, this sixtyish-year-old simpleton lives on a government subsidy and communicates with cats, literally.

Add in fish and leeches raining from the sky, Johnnie Walker—collector of cat souls, Colonel Sanders—a seedy pimp, and some graphic sex scenes, and well, that’s Kafka on the Shore. It’s a surreal story within a story within a story, laden with purposeful references to pop culture and literature, music and history. No one is who they seem. Most detail serves a metaphorical purpose. Jewels of wisdom abound.

In my eyes, the novel is a guide to life.

  • Both Kafka and Nakata have companions who appear out of nowhere to help. How many times have you felt an insurmountable problem, only to realize that there is someone willing to help you? I know I have, over and over, and our connections with others are vital to life. Our truest, most intimate connections have the power to transform us. We have the power to choose those connections, or we can live lonely, miserable, dysfunctional lives. It’s that simple.
  • There’s a message here about a “persistent, inward-moving spirit” (329). I think that means that we flourish though self-reflection, knowing ourselves, and confronting our own souls. Yes, you can lie to everyone around you, but you’re only lying to yourself. It’s so easy to spot the faults of others, but what about your own? As much as your friends can help you, ultimately you must rely on yourself and what’s inside you for courage and honesty, motivation and strength. If you can overcome your own fear, bias, and anger, you will be the strongest person in the world.
  • There’s another message about maintaining a “pliant, youthful sort of curiosity” (329). What do you like? What interests you? Are you open to new things, new people, new ideas? Kids are naturally more curious, naturally more accepting of differences, naturally willing to try new things. As we age, we become more stubborn and consequently more stuck in our ways, but a childlike curiosity keeps life interesting. Our first inclination might tell us, I would hate a book like that, by a Japanese author, where absurd things happen. But all the absurdity serves a purpose if you take some time to consider it. As they say, never judge a book by its cover.

In the end, I don’t think it spoils anything to say, Kafka’s metamorphosis is complete, and he has all the tools to bloom and grow. Life teaches us all about transformation when we keep our hearts and minds open. And I don’t know about you, but I’m happy that I’m not my past self.

I admit, this book might not be for everyone, but then again, maybe it is.

2020 Summer School Required Reading

Shout out to my friend Barbara over at ALTAIR 5G Theatre for bestowing upon me the Penable Award. Barbara wanted to know, “What’s your trick to regaining confidence in your life?” And this is it: intimate connections, using what I have inside (my heart, my brain, and my guts), and the childlike curiosity to keep on going because amazing things are still ahead.

(P.S. Barbara, salty, except I do love my wine, and about that song, here you go…)