Category Archives: Music

Scenes From a Country Church (A Story)

Josh drove along the country road, the smile on his face wrinkling its way up to his eyes. Next to him, Susie sang with abandon, her voice exuberantly mouthing the words to the Billy Joel song on the car’s media center. It was a song Josh knew well. He once disliked the song but loved hearing Susie sing it. She didn’t know that he hadn’t been a fan. Josh wanted her to sing it every time she heard it. He didn’t need to appreciate the song to love the person accompanying it. Susie didn’t know that the song was Billy’s favorite of all his songs.

Before their second date, Josh spent hours learning everything he could about Billy Joel. Susie shared a fascination with trivia and details about people’s lives. Susie listened in wonder as Josh recited all the facts that he’d learned about Billy Joel: that he had been a boxer and quit after his nose got brutally broken, that his ancestors were Jewish but that he had attended a Catholic school, only to end up as an atheist. Susie was horrified to learn that Billy also suffered from depression and attempted suicide by drinking furniture polish. She laughed in delight when Josh told her that Billy’s success came after failing to end his life.

“I learned to play the piano when I was very young, just like Billy,” he had told Susie. She raised her eyebrows in dubious surprise. “I hated it then but learned that music was as much a part of me as breathing. My mom told me that music would keep me sane. She was right. I can’t sing to save my life, though.”

Susie laughed. “We will see about that,” she mysteriously told him.

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“Where are we going, Josh?” Susie laughed as she stopped singing long enough to utter the question.

“You’ll see. It’s a beautiful drive. Just sing a little more. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” Josh smiled and kept driving.

The road became less maintained as he drove. Fences that were previously metal became loose barbed wire, and the number of houses decreased precipitously.

As he neared the old country church, he slowed and turned between the narrow confines of the ditch on either side. The church stood against a backdrop of old trees. The white steeple looked brilliant against the intermittent sun that peeked through the clouds.

“It’s beautiful, Josh. I love old churches!” She almost squealed. Her enthusiasm always bubbled up.

“I know. That’s why we’re here.” He pulled up closer to the church and shut off the engine.

“Want to go inside? I have a key.” He grinned.

“You have a key? Wow. Of course I want to go in.” Susie immediately opened her door and jumped out of the car.

Josh scrambled to undo his seat belt and follow her. She was already walking up the few steps to the door by the time he exited the car.

As he walked up to her, Susie turned and gave him a light peck on the lips. Josh laughed. Her affection still caught him off guard. He’d spent a lot of his life imagining what such attention would evoke.

Josh unlocked the door with the large key in his jacket pocket. He pulled the door open, and Susie darted in ahead of him. He shook his head in amusement.

As he entered, he flipped on the lights. The inside of the church flooded with sudden illumination. The wooden pews shone with the proof that someone still took the time to polish them. The wood smelled divine.

Josh took Susie’s hand and led her to the front pew. Her fingers folded effortlessly around his.

“Sit here, Susie.” Josh gestured to the front pew. A single piece of dark chocolate lay on the bench. Susie looked at Josh in surprise, realizing he’d planned this. Her eyes grew wide, and she smiled. She said nothing as she sat on the pew. She picked up the piece of candy, unwrapped it, and savored the bitter flavor as she chewed it. She nodded.

Josh bowed toward her as he turned. Both of them smiled. The church was quiet as Josh’s feet echoed faintly on the wooden floorboards. He walked behind the small altar and to the right. He sat at the old organ and looked at Susie.

“Did you know that Billy Joel considered himself a better organist than a pianist, Susie?” Susie shook her head “no.”

“I do too. And this one is slightly out of tune. I love the way it sounds. Imperfect enough to give this song the new life it deserves.”

Josh’s fingers began to play. Instead of the expected four bars of notes to precede the lyrics, he played an improvised version, much like Billy loves to do at his concerts. He looked over at Susie as he began. He was delighted to see that she was slightly shocked. The sound of the old organ flooded the church with melody and life.

“A bottle of red, a bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead,” Josh sang, his voice cracking with emotion. Susie clapped in delight.

Josh continued to play and sing, his audience of one feeling the emotion he brought to the song. Time stopped as the wood structure of the church filled with melody and vibrated.

He played an improvised closing melody that faded into a hum as he finished the lyrics. “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” had never been played with so much love by someone who once thought it was a terrible song.

Susie had tears across her face as she sat in the pew in front of Josh. She smiled.

“Look under the pew, Susie. I left another surprise for you.”

As Susie locked eyes with Josh, she already knew what awaited.
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I won’t tell you what happened next. If you’re full of life, you already know. You can smell the wood, feel the melody as it dissipates. And you can imagine Josh and Susie and the life that followed them out of the church.

Try This On For Sighs

Well, I wrote a country song, if you can believe it. The song is just banjo, piano, and guitar; the guitar is loosely tuned to mimic a banjo’s jangly feel. It’s an imagined moment, making it more tangible than a memory. One of these days, I will sing it, though your ears might protest.

Try This On For Sighs

I turned on the radio, hearing lyrics nostalgic and free
Conway, George, and Charlie telling us simple stories
invoking us to live by life’s happy and simple decree

family to give us community
friends to give us companionship
and one to share our vulnerable soul

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

I walked by the closet, you standing like a dare
facing the mirror, nimble bare feet on the floor
black dress draped against your body, shoulders bare

the memory of your departed mom flooding your candid eyes
I could picture both of you silhouetted there, and still
your shared beauty an ongoing and persistent surprise

your chin and neck trembled with the painful past
you turned and smiled willfully in my direction
knowing I witnessed the overlap of time, recast

you tossed the garment aside, your eyes locked and wide
“Come here, and try this on for sighs,” you whispered
as the invisible music played, our bodies erased the divide

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

In the small space of a closet, time slowed, then stopped
as we laughed, elbows bumping as we twirled
in that closet, the entire volume of the world

….as we sang…

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

hallelujah, hallelujah

I haven’t finished the melody, but I wrote this song, something I haven’t done in a long time. When I finished, I realized that it could be both spiritual plea or a personal promise. For those whose lives are filled with God, let that be your premise. For those who love, may this be your optimism and purposeful promise of anticipation of another day. And for those souls who have both? Stand together and watch the sunrise, if you can.

Or the sunset. And be renewed. – X
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hallelujah hallelujah

I shall never know if you’re listening
only that I’m whispering the words

That my life not be made easier
only fuller and always in anticipation

I don’t want to know the obstacles
nor the slap of who will precede me

only that I’ll have one more variable day
before the shadows grow feet and approach me

I make this unrequested promise to you
let me arise and see the sunrise, anew

just one more time, one more snapshot
another measure of loving enduring optimism

and if you do, I vow to sing

hallelujah, hallelujah

not for me, but for you

hallelujah, hallelujah

I shall never know if you’re listening
only that I’m whispering the words

hallelujah, hallelujah
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Love, X
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P.S. The picture is two superimposed pictures of a man celebrating both sunrise and sunset. Because the sun never sets upon the Earth, only upon our eyes. So much of us is limited to our narrow perspective, and we grow to trust only the things we can touch – instead of the things we can feel and experience.

You Are The Dancer

Youth, age, loss, love, optimism, and above all, laughter.

I always loved the song “Tiny Dancer.” In 2017, another video version came out. I missed it until recently. As with so many great songs, I hear it differently now that I’ve experienced more of the buffer that life offers. Some menu items are bitter, some sweet. But we are all standing at the same buffet. None of us experience it the same way, even when our Venn diagram overlaps. That’s the mystery of life that makes it so sublime.

Because I’m a “moment in time” writer, this video somehow captures the nuances of the full range of our obstacles and emotions. If I could write a story that captures this breadth of emotion, I’d be proud.

We are all stepping forward with our own particular obstacles, joys, and struggles. Some of us are, at this moment, feeling alive, remorse, love, laughter, anxiety, or optimism. Many of these emotions are privately experienced. They don’t have to be.

Wherever you are and whatever you make of this Sunday, remember that there are always people who love you. And more importantly, I hope you love at least a piece of yourself. There’s only one of you, after all.

Love, X

Ha!

I guess it’s only fair that Marilyn and Larry surprised me with a recorder or flutophone. I bought them emergency clown noses a few years ago. True story. Should I go stand in front of Target and pretend that I’m jamming? Will people pay me to shut the heck up? This could be really lucrative. A pay-to-not play win-win!
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Get Up!

Not Safe For Work
Contains Profanity & Other Good Stuff
Seriously, Don’t Watch Or Listen If You Despise Cursing

If you’re not familiar with Marc Rebbilet, I’m sorry. He’s acquired some fame for his brand of on-the-fly music-making, fancy robes, boxer briefs, and irreverent take on music, initially recorded in his apartment.

I listened to this for the first ten minutes of my walk this morning. It’s funky, ridiculous, and makes me laugh.

If I’m found dead, some people will be unable to process the variety of music that resonates with me. From Los Angeles Azules to Il Divo… to whatever this is.

Whatever it is: Get Up!

Charcoal Grill

I’ve joked for years that if I ever need dentures or implants that I’m getting BLACK teeth. It’ll be awesome and perhaps scary. Now that I’m dabbling in the infamous rap genre and will have a suitable dark grill to highlight my talent, I’m considering using an artist/stage name I devised several years ago: Charcoal Grill. ..

PS I’ve pretty much got the 50+ rap market cornered here. .

A Follow-Up on Miley

Yesterday, I posted on my blog about the Miley Cyrus cover of “Heart Of Glass.” I hadn’t seen the live video until then. Several people commented, and all who did so loved the song. Regardless, such things are subjective as hell. That’s okay. There are times when I can’t explain why some songs earworm their way into my head and others don’t.

I also mentioned that Miley’s performance was sensual. It was.

More importantly, it reminds me that people will always bring their own filters to anything shared, voiced, or written.

Even if they are wrongly stretching words to mean things they don’t.

Take the word ‘sensual,’ for instance; it is NOT a congruent synonym for ‘sexual.’ It CAN be used similarly. But when someone deliberately uses ‘sensual’ in context, it doesn’t signal that the reader should infer whatever meaning they wish to, especially with the intent to change the intended spirit of what’s said or written.

In the spirit of honesty, this performance is very provocative. But it is her voice that is the focal point of the song for me. The internet is full of much more revealing content, if that’s what I’m after. Her song, “Midnight Sky,” among others, is certainly more focused on sexuality. I love that song, too.

We see a lot more skin at swimming pools and beaches. And tv shows, in catalogs, at Walmart, in commercials, sporting events, and just about everywhere else.

While I’m not one to brazenly advocate provocative behavior, it’s none of my business when an artist chooses to do so. I can click away. But don’t fault me for saying that a particular song is sensual. Or sexual, either, if I had been making that argument.

My sexual proclivities aren’t something that I expound on in public, but I could. We are all humans with similar desires and behavior. There is no shame in saying someone is sensual, sexual, or beautiful. It’s an acknowledgment of our senses. Being 54 doesn’t detract from my human response.

The whole point of my previous post was to say that the song resonates with me powerfully.

Love, X

And Miley Sings…

I’ve long been a fan of Miley Cyrus, even when she became controversial. I didn’t know her until after her Disney run. Her cover of “Jolene” opened my ears to her ability to sing.

Hannah Montana aside, I find her voice to somehow echo something in my head when I listen to her sing. Her voice certainly isn’t angelic or pure.

And along came her single “Heart of Glass,” a cover of Blondie’s hit.

The first time I heard this, I felt like it was the way the song should have been recorded in the first place. Whether everyone else agrees with me or not, but somehow I understood the lyrics with her version.

It’s raucous, a little uncontrolled, and 100% one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Broken voices always add an extra measure of something that I find compelling.

And then I saw the video of her singing live. I’ve honestly never thought of her as anything other as interesting and a singer with an amazing voice, one who constantly defies genres. Whether I’m supposed to say so or not, everything about her in this video is distilled sensuality. It’s hard to look away. I’m 54, but not dead.

I loved “Midnight Sky,” as well as “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” and “Younger Now,” too. If you want a treat, get on YouTube and give the Miley Cyrus – Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix) with Stevie Nicks a listen. She does a few other covers that are worth a listen.

I know Miley isn’t for everyone.

I hope she does a lot more covers, especially rock covers. Her voice bangs a gong in my head when I hear her wail.

The Dream Song

In another life, one I almost lived, I was a musician.

A few nights ago, I found myself inside a dream so real that it was impossible to move my head, even in the dream.

The song began, wrapped in gauze, growing in intensity, like a delayed crescendo.

Even when I awoke, the song intensified in my head.

I sat up on the side of the bed, repeating the reverb chorus of it over and over.

I’m not convinced I was dreaming.

The melodic voice on top of this track eludes me, although I can remember most of the lyrics, which in itself is unusual for me.

The protagonist in my dream danced and moved in accompaniment to the unsettling music, eyes locked in on mine. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, but whether fortuitous or calamitous, I didn’t care. The movements were like an unending crescendo.

Though I haven’t used it much in several months, I opened several iterations of my music software and began compiling the components of the song from my dream. Although one’s dreams always convey a couple of levels that honestly aren’t experiential, the result is reasonably close.

And even now, as I listen with headphones, I feel like I might be sitting in two places simultaneously, so powerful was the feeling of being in two places at once while I dreamed. It’s a good thing I haven’t used drugs.