Tuesday, October 27, 2009

29 Homes in 21 Cities

On October 5, I posted a poem called 28 Homes in 21 Cities on my under-traveled poetry site Take the Body With You, formerly called A Poem a Day For the Rest of My Life. Yes, I was overreaching there a little. Considering that I've only made 106 entries in nearly three years (the anniversary is Thursday) and the great majority of these were made in the first 12 months, I'm not exactly fulfilling my original mission. But when you reach a certain age, you think more about quality than quantity (said with a sense of "I'm not really saying this").

This poem was about me and the places I've called home. Careful readers would have noticed that, in cities where I have lived in more than one place - say Minneapolis, where I lived in four different homes or Santa Monica where I had two homes - I created separate entries for each address. In fact, there were two cases where I had two addresses in the same building (North Hollywood, (homes #17 and #18) and Eden Prairie (#21 and #22)).

Well, I missed a rather important home in the original poem. I first lived in the Mondale-era suburb of Eden Prairie, Minnesota in 1984, at a house on Amsden Way with my parents and the sister. In 1987, my family exiled to Asia and California one day after my college graduation, I rented an apartment on Valley View Road, also in Eden Prairie (my first place living "on my own"!) with my friends John and Bill, the latter eventually replaced by Mike, no not that Mike.

So, to remain consistent with the rest of the "rules" of the poem, I added a new entry for Eden Prairie (the 10th home), making it a total of four for the little town with the lovely name. The title of the poem has also changed, as did the Pomona-Pasadena-Monrovia troika, and something in Santa Monica. Oh and I fixed the strained structure of the post-Long Beach lines.

Enjoy 29Hi29C. Read it here (down below) or

(Some blog post stats: Amidst all the flowery text, there are eight left parentheses, eight right parentheses, three left quotation marks, three right quotation marks, and 23 different numbers in text or numeric form, including the number 23 that I just typed and now it's 24 including the 24 that I just typed. DAMN, that makes it 25 numbers not including this one and it will never never end. Yes - quantity vs. quality.)

29 Homes in 21 Cities

We worked it out
I come from Eskilstuna where the kiosks come up
I come from Alexandria where the asphalt was invented
I come from Teaneck with its sharks in quicksand
I come from Feasterville so you have no upper upper hand

We called it out
I come from Bergenfield where the floods did come
I come from New Milford where no children smile
I come from River Vale with its bushes of baseball bats
I come from Doylestown so you best not relax

We tore it up
I come from Eden Prairie where the warmth is palatable
I come from Eden Prairie again where the earth is flat
I come from Brea with its music 'til four in the morning
I come from Minneapolis where swift lifts make for soft pulls

We made it shiny
I come from Pomona so all your threats are empty, empty
I come from Pasadena where the ping-pong is dusty
I come from Monrovia where hearts are down and dusky
I come from Newbury Park with its two exits

We pulled it back
I come from North Hollywood so I know about coming from
I come from North Hollywood again and its ski lodge aspirations
I come from Ventura where the U-Hauls skulk
I come from Amherst where on the twelfth day we rise

We cleaned clocks
I come from Eden Prairie again so you best believe I linger
I come from Eden Prairie again with its misreading of the future
I come from Minneapolis again with its disappeared
I come from Minneapolis again with its so you never stood a chance

We pushed it out
I come from Minneapolis again with its owned not rented
I come from Santa Monica where nothing bad ever happens
I come from Santa Monica again where the rain is unending
I come from Hollywood where the helicopters haunt me

We rattle easily, no
I come from Long Beach so you know why we do what we do when we do what we do

We broke it down
We made a run
We wait it out
We have it all

Friday, October 23, 2009

"He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn out winters": Top 100 Songs of the '00s, Part Two: #90 - #81

I've allowed a few days for the first batch of songs to sink in. I'm looking at the spreadsheet and I think to myself, "This might be the best decade for music, ever." I probably said this same thing in November 1999 and December 1989, so take it for what it's worth. I love music and there were so many songs by so many great artists these past 10 years that, like my cat Lily when she feels too much love, I feel like hissing at the magnificent universe around me. But I have work to do:

90. Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken - Camera Obscura (2006)
I love a good answer song. On December 31, 2008, I sat at a poker table in Las Vegas playing a tournament in which I would finish 3rd, profiting several hundred dollars which I would later give back to several other people at several other similar poker tables. I had my iPod on. I had recently synced my iPod with a friend's iTunes list. (This is unusual for me - relying on someone else for my music but I had a new laptop and was still in the process of combining my four different iTunes accounts on three different computers and one flash drive.) I had created an acceptable song list of 993 songs, many of which I have never owned. (This is a long-winded way of explaining why these particular songs played on my iPod.)

Anyhow, as I sat there in dirty Vegas with the iPod set to shuffle, Sykynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama played. Good song. Rollicking. Then, the iPod shuffler chose Southern Man by Neil Young, the very song Sweet Home was written in response to. From nearly a thousand possibilities, the random (and yes it really is random) little music machine chose the one song that the answer song had been addressed to. Yes, it would be far more impressive if Old Neil was played first and then Lynyrd but I can't have everything.

I tell you this story because it's the rare example of both the first song and the answer song being really good. Here's another example: In 1984, a young Brit named Lloyd Cole writes Are You Ready to be Heartbroken? Twenty-two years later, a Scottish band led by winsome/comely Tracyanne Campbell and her gravity-fucking-with bob haircut answers him:

89. Chamchu - Cornershop (2009)
Such an enigmatic entry. This song has no lyrics. No video, official or unoffficial exists. It cannot be found streaming and is not available for quick immediate sly illegal download. Granted, Cornershop are rock gods in Britain and their triumphant (and triumphantly titled) new album Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast is being pumped out of Jeep windows kingdomwide. Still, in this age of clickable happiness (a good thing, by the way), I have no choice but to not link or embed, to leave you wanting more.

88. John Allyn Smith Sails - Okkervil River (2007)
If, years ago, you told me that an Austin, TX-based band would write a song about the 1972 suicide of poet John Berryman, who jumped off the Washington Avenue Bridge into the icy Mississippi River on the campus of the University of Minnesota (my two-time alma mater) and that this song would end with a rollicking rendition of the Beach Boy's Sloop John B, I would have anointed such song a guaranteed top ten spot in a best-of-the-decade list. The fact that it only makes it to #88 should not be seen as a negative for the song because, as you know, it's pretty awesome. No, it's just been a great 10 years for music.

If you don't want a camera-shaking headache, don't watch this link; just close your eyes and listen:

87. Stuck Between Stations - The Hold Steady (2007)
If, years ago, you had also told me that a Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis-via Edina, MN band would release another song about John Berryman and that this song would open the album that was the follow-up to their album Separation Sunday which may or may not be my favorite album of the decade but is most certainly in the top 3, then I would have peed my jeans and rushed to the store to buy the physical CD - not just get the download - because that's how much I would want it and no I wouldn't have changed my jeans. But this song - though awesome - is merely #87. (Although it's comical how many times The Hold Steady and its predecessor band Lifter Puller will appear on this list.)

Which song came first? Although this song came out in October - two months after the Okkervil River song - I remember hearing Craig Finn pontificate (as he does so well) about Berryman before launching into this song at a Hold Steady concert I attended in February 2006. So...

86. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5 (2007)
You're likely thinking "WTF AF? A freaking song by freaking Maroon 5 being ranked higher than the 2 Berryman songs?? What have you become?" Let me tell you a story.

I recently told someone (a someone who knows a lot about music) that I really really liked the new Fiery Furnaces album. This someone told me that the Fiery Furnaces were "yesterday's news" and that I should support something different and less buzzed-about, you know something like obscure local post-rock bands and neu-world music collectives.

Now, I happen to know for a fact that this same person would, in a heartbeat, attend, say, a weekend-long revisionist celebration of overrated 80s no-wave and post-punk bands. I also know for a fact that this person would see no contradiction in lapsing into swoons when a song first made popular in 1979 Great Britain plays on that college radio station that you can only hear if the radio is on
that side of the room.

But I didn't mention any of that. No, all I said was that it doesn't matter to me where the song comes from or who else likes it... it doesn't matter to me if the song is commercially popular or depressingly underappreciated... if the song is huzzawed-for by hipster blog aggregators or ignored by everyone but me. Over the radar / under the radar / on the radar / under the table where the cutting edge of the radar just misses... none of it matters.

All that matters is the song: the words and the music. As Eddie says in Eddie and the Cruisers: "Words and music, Wordman. Words and music." (Okay so the performance of the words and the music matter too but you get my point.) But for me, it's about the truth and the only truth is the song. This is why, for example, my statistically and artistically sound list has 3 consecutive songs from 2007 and more than 10% of the list is made of songs written by this guy>>>>>>>>

Actually, I didn't say any of that to my friend. All I said was "you're yesterday's news." So I like a Maroon 5 song, so what? (Note: Being that I have many friends who wouldn't know that Maroon 5 is a commercially popular band, much loved by present-day teenagers, college students, and young mothers with nape tattoos, let me make it clear that, in my particular thesis, Maroon 5 is like Mr. Mister was back in '85 and Okkervil River and the Fiery Furnaces are like Aztec Camera and Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians. Respectively. Oh and the guy in the picture up there to the right is not from Maroon 5.) Go here for the SONG (embedding disabled.)

85. Can You See - Mark Eitzel (2001)

The first song to appear on this list performed by a Facebook friend of mine, Can You See is a lovely love song about universal themes like truth, love, memory, and stuff like that. Go to his blog. Buy his new album called Klamath, titled for that spot "where the Klamath River meets Indian Falls." I hope I get to see that place some day.

84. Beanbag Chair - Yo La Tengo (2006)
In 1998, I was at the club First Avenue in Minneapolis. I was there to see the Magnetic Fields who were opening for Yo La Tengo. As I stood there rapt in attention as Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields sang song after brilliantly written song, I seethed as the two guys next to me booed every MF song and screamed for Merritt to get his ass off the stage so "Yo La" could get on stage. I was a believer in non-confrontation back then so I just let it go and said not a word. Today? I would have kicked their asses (if not physically, then most definitely mentally, with cleverly constructed insults) and wait, STOP.

Did my last parenthetical statement really have FOUR adverbs in it? I need to rein it in. I have to remember that I'm writing this for YOU, not for myself.

Actually, if that incident happened today, I would have booed along with those two guys because the last two Magnetic Fields albums have kind of sucked and Yo La Tengo keeps rolling along, putting out great songs like this one about that most awful thing in the world, the beanbag chair: There are no good videos but go here for a free legitimate download from the band's official site.

83. Remind Me - Royksopp (2002)
There should be an umlaut over the 'o' in the band's name. Can't figure out to do that in Blogger.

82. Sunshowers - M.I.A. (2004)
There's that one Facebook thing where you can choose the 5 people you want on your side in a bar fight. Why didn't I put M.I.A. on my list? I suppose I could do it again. But then I'd be making lists and then reneging on my original list. A bad precedent would be set.

81. The Crystal Lake - Grandaddy (2001)
I feel like I am listing this song too low. I feel like it should be higher. I look at my spreadsheet. I shake my head. I can't find another better spot for it. I go back to work, go back to myself. I feel the shivers that come when the instrumental bridge at 1:25 hits. Wow.

(I made you click on the link to hear the thing at 1:25, didn't I? Is that a theremin?)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"I come from Chino where the asphalt sprouts": Top 100 Songs of the '00s: #100 - #91

This is an ambitious project, a reckless road I'm about to run on. One-hundred songs, discussed in enough detail to drive a stake through our friendships. I've got my Excel spreadsheet open on the next page, sorted in various ways - 98 definite songs, 3 placeholders.

Prepare to stare in gape-jawed disbelief at the over-representation of one particular year (it was a year of transition), one particular songwriter (yes he's that good), and the complete absence of Radiohead and Interpol (the former being more of an album band than a song band, the latter being not good enough).

I will include as many links as I can find - audio (get them while you can) or video (watch them before they disappear). I will mean every word I say. Although I reserve the right to change my mind about whether a song deserves to be, say #64 instead of #57, it's unlikely that #89 will ever get reclassified as #2. However, with 72 days remaining in the decade, it's possible that something new or newly listened to will blow me away and a difficult decision will be made. Okay, it's time:

100. Killer Parties - The Hold Steady (2004)
It's appropriate that the first (last) song on my list is the last song off the first album by my favorite band of the decade. This is what Craig Finn will reveal to you: clues to his (your) psyche, places where your (his) sublimation begins, and killer lines that never leave your (his) repertoire. This is what Blueprint Blue will reveal to you:

99. People Change - Nick Lowe (2007)
It surprised me that Nick Lowe transformed himself into a Sinatra-esque lounge singer with the personality of Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye. But, like he says, people change - that's the long and short of it.

98. Animals - Gravenhurst (2005)
No better example of the different ways in which music was heard this decade: I heard this as a free download from a no-longer existing daily download feature... an enigmatic song from a band I'd never heard before (or since)... five minutes of sheer beauty that I used to stick on mix CDs back in mid-decade.

97. Lisztomania - Phoenix (2009)
For two hours one cloudy afternoon this past summer, this was my favorite band and favorite song. Now? My 57th favorite band and 97th favorite song of the decade.

96. Gold Lion - Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2006)

95. Gaslighting Abbie - Steely Dan (2000)
The best band of the seventies nails it one more (and certainly not one last) time. My favorite memory of this song involves eating penne (al dente) with vodka sauce in a budding lesbian's house on the near north side of Minneapolis in the summer of zero-zero. Here's a good and apparently live version of it:

94. A Drop in Time – Mercury Rev (2001)
If a year is just a drop in time, then what is a decade? The pithy answer would be "ten drops." My favorite memory of this song involves hearing it on the drive home from Malibu on the best day of my life (another list, for a future time). Now I wonder if it should be moved up higher on this list. But now I realize that its association with the best day of my life is an inherent positive bias and if I had heard this song on the worst day of my life (4 months, 9 days later), then it might not have even made the list. No link/video available.

93. Lua - Bright Eyes (2005)

You listen to it because I just can't. If songs were ranked in terms of honesty and sheer frozen sadness, this would be in the top 12.

92. Pigs That Ran Straightaway Into The Water, Triumph Of – Mountain Goats (2004)
Again, if songs were ranked in terms of honesty and sheer frozen sadness, this would be in the top 6. And among the top 10 lyrical lines of the decade would have to be the one you see above, in this post's title. I mean, if you have to come from Chino, your reward might as well be the opportunity to write that line.

91. Lived in Bars – Cat Power (2006)
Yes Chan, you made the list. Are you happy now? You bled into my veins, you poked my gums with your fetal screams and crooning whispers. Now go back to Atlanta, stop recording covers, and write something new.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I am not clear on the details.

I must continue to make charts and graphs.

Text can be taken out of context.

I am walking too much these days (in the rain) which is another way of saying I am driving too little these days (no rain) which is another way of saying I would like things to change soon.

I have been eating too much chocolate and bread and candy and not enough vegetables.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Life in Car Accidents

I have been driving for over 26 years. In the first 21+ years (March 1983-November 2004), I was associated with exactly two car accidents (one as a driver). In the past five years (November 2004-present), I have been associated with seven accidents (four as a driver). This is not a mere anomaly with a few outliers. This is a full-on trend. Let's make a list of my accidents: (and no this is NOT an indispensable blog entry. It's kind of a thematic mess. So feel free to ignore it. But I wanted to get something on here. This is what I came up with.)

My Top Car 9 Accidents Which Involved Me as Driver, Passenger, and/or Co-Insured

1. January 1987, Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN. It was a winter's night. I was a passenger. My then-girlfriend drove my mother's Mazda GLC into a Cadillac. No one was hurt. The Mazda was totaled. In the tape deck was this album. Song #5 was playing. Song #4 would have been ironic. This accident happened right around that awful 12-way intersection where Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues intersect with 15th Street South (by the Walker Art Center) and that other side street and the various exits/entrance ramps for that one freeway. They've since fixed up the intersection. I think it's just a 10-way now.

2. August 1998, 101 Freeway, Los Angeles, CA. In a strange karmic twist on the '87 accident, I rear ended a semi-truck on the 101 freeway with my rental car, which happened to be a... Cadillac. This happened in L.A., although I was living in Minneapolis at the time. I was visiting. I never asked for a Cadillac but that's all they had. So I got the free upgrade. I don't remember what I, if anything, was listening to. I wasn't hurt, the truck never stopped, the front end of the Cadillac was CRUSHED and thus totaled.

3. December 2004, 405 Freeway, Santa Monica, CA. In a decidely non-karmic twist, I rear-ended a BMW with a Toyota Camry. I can't say what exactly caused this incident to happen because the Statute of Limitations may not have passed. But I will say this: My car was damaged significantly but not totaled; the BMW, on the other hand, suffered exactly zero dollars worth of damage. Though no one was injured, the accident took its toll, causing financial woe and rocking the foundation of my then-marriage.

(Do you sense a pattern here?
My small car>>>>>>their small car... small car gets crushed.
My big car>>>>>>their big truck...big car gets crushed.
My medium car made out of plastic and aluminum>>>>>>their medium car made out of high-end German steel ...my car gets bent out of shape)

4. July 2006, corner of Glendale and Fletcher, Los Angeles, CA. So the marriage has suffered enough and we're living apart, but with both our names still on the same auto insurance policy. The ex-wife is exiting the parking lot in a Camry (not the same one as #3 above). I'm at home enjoying casual work-from-home Friday. Bastards. No one is hurt. Car is totaled. The other driver is uninjured. The ex-wife gets a check and wisely spends it on her next car. I get higher rates that haunt me for 5 years.

5. August 2007, somewhere in the (San Fernando) Valley, CA. That new car she bought? (see #4) She crashed that one too. Wasn't my fault. How does this haunt me? Every time I apply for new insurance, I'm told that the insurance company report lists me as the driver for this accident. But it wasn't me! I was home sick from work watching a 10-hour John From Cincinnati marathon. That's the truth. Oh yeah - no injuries, some damage.

6. November 2008, Normandie Ave., Los Angeles, CA. Driving south on Normandie just north of Santa Monica. Thinking I saw an opening, I tried to squeeze into the space between a car waiting at the traffic light and a car parked along the curb. My car's right mirror hit the parked car's left mirror. My mirror fell off; the other person's mirror remained intact. A man whose business card reads "Mr. Yu" fixed it for 10 bucks.

7. October 2008, 101 Freeway, Los Angeles, CA. Now, let's go back to my Camry. Someone else is driving it now. Another ex-girlfriend.But she paid me for it so I used the cash to buy me a badass Honda CR-V. This happened as she was driving north on the 101 freeway, just south of downtown L.A. Accident #2 (above) occurred as I was driving south on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles just south of downtown. Completely different circumstances. Someone rams her car into the freeway wall. She is not hurt but her car (used to be my car) is totaled. No one is injured. How does this affect me, you ask? The car is towed to the street near my apartment as the whole body shop / insurance thing slowly shakes out and I have to see my old charcoal-grey pal in its crushed metal former glory every day for like an entire week!

8. August 2009, someone's driveway, Los Angeles, CA. The Honda CR-V is no longer badass (it does have elements of just plain bad and just plain ass, however.) Anyway, I do exactly what's mentioned in #6. Except this happens in a driveway, not as street. And my car hits a fence and not someone else's car mirror. On the left and not the right. Damaging a fender and not a mirror. And it costs me 20 bucks not 10. Which I give to a guy named Marco, notn a guy named Mr. Yu.

9. October 2009, Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA. Yesterday. Me, a curb, a light post, some morning mist, a bent wheel, a bruised ego. The guy at the auto body shop just called me. His name is Moon. The CR-V is probably not totaled. I feel relief. Because today I experienced the alternative to driving: The Blue Line train between Long Beach and L.A. And while it's always interesting to see people gambling recklessly and hundreds of dollars changing hands on public transportation, I'm sure it gets boring after a while.To review:
  • First 21 1/2 years: 2 accidents, only 1 as driver.
  • Last 5 years: 7 accidents, 4 as driver.
  • 3 different girlfriends/spouses/ex-spouses involved in 4 of the accidents.
  • 4 cars totaled (1, 2, 4, and 7); no injuries at all.
Some additional quirks:
  • In my five accidents, I was the only driver. That means that when you - my friends - are in my car, I'm super-extra careful.
  • Nine accidents and only one of them - #1 - occurred during the first six months of the year.
  • Just last week, I was given the Good Driver Discount by my current insurance company.
  • The cars whose very names/makes/models generate the most laughter and derision - e.g., my 1977 AMC Hornet, my 1988 Hyundai Excel - NEVER got so much as a single dent. Meanwhile, my own five accidents have occurred in, in order: Cadillac (rental), Toyota, Toyota, Honda, Honda.
Actually, to drive the point home even more, I was never in any accidents as a passenger before I became a licensed driver. So really, in the first 38 years of my life? Two accidents. In the last 5? Seven accidents. Maybe we ought to toss out the two minor solo accidents where I hit the fence and mirror. Still I ought to be more careful.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I and You

I really should:
--See the new Coen Bros. movie. Waited too long. Maybe this weekend.
--Enjoy the Vikings/Favre resurgence more. But my love for Minnesota sports teams goes a little something like this: 1 Timberwolves; 2. Twins; 3. Gophers men's basketball; 4. Vikings; 5. Gophers football; 6. Gophers women's basketball; 7. Wild.
--Remember the stapler.

You really should:
--Listen to Charmaine Champagne by Fiery Furnaces:

"They said we had to get a quarter pound of peach leaves

On a dry and sunny day
And she showed me the squarest thing on the jukebox"

--Listen to Horchata by Vampire Weekend:


Two years after really pushing things by rhyming Louis Vuitton, reggaeton, and Benetton, they top themselves by rhyming horchata, balaclava, and Aranciata.

--Then listen to 11th Dimension by Julian Casablancas:

Because: It’s simply a great song.

--And, finally, listen to Fiery Furnaces again and – why the hell not – some Lifter Puller for the end of the evening.

Monday, October 05, 2009


My last post was #600.

I will celebrate this milestone one post too late by giving you embedded links for not ONE but TWO poems about the history of my life.