Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: new jersey

What a difficult list to compile. Especially since, glancing down at my iTunes running, there are 33,773 songs in my library. According to iTunes, it will take me more than 100 days of continuous listening (with no sleep, now I realize) to listen to them all. It’s rather extensive, and it’s the sort of collection that makes my taste in music suspect at best, beginning as it does with A-Ha (because any collection without “Take On Me” is incomplete) and ending (before it reaches songs without proper ID3 tags and lumps them all) with “Skin Up Pin Up” by 808 State/Mansun from Spawn: The Album (iTunes is the first organization system I’ve seen that puts numbers after letters, rather than before; if it did, the first songs would be by 1 Giant Leap or 12 Rounds). In between those few, there’s everything from Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle, and Bon Jovi to all of Clapton, the Beatles, and Sinatra.

So it’s pretty expansive.

But expansive as it is, I tend to stick to some favorites. Lately it’s been a lot of Wolfmother (and Jet; what is it about Australia that inspires such great rock music from its bands?), Vanessa Mae, and, as always, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Also, Adam Lambert and Matt Wertz.

So there’s a lot. But I winnowed. I winnowed after I kept reading other lists that fawned over, like, Radiohead and such. I mean, has Radiohead ever managed to be as good as Pablo, Honey? They’re like Pearl Jam and Matchbox Twenty, with fantastic debut CDs but output that has gotten subsequently less terrific with each title. For me, anyway. Your listening may vary. Also, dear Rolling Stone: The Strokes and Wilco in number 2 and number 3 spots, respectively. No offense, but seriously? No wonder people debate the continued relevance of the magazine. I mean, how safe.

Why not stretch a bit? Why not reach for some choices few people would expect? Then again, this from a guy who doesn’t really enjoy any of those three bands. I know lots of reviewers fell over themselves to heap a lot of praise on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but there wasn’t a single song on it that made me want to listen to the CD again. I get the impression it’s all just, like, hey, everyone else likes it, so we should, too, but to cite one of the artists who earned a spot on my list by way of a great CD, “You don’t know what love is, you just do as you’re told.”

So, suspect taste noted, shall we? My top ten albums of the last ten years, in order:

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The town spreads out below us, looks up to us, admires,
Wishing that it could be where we are for a moment.
We’re on top of the world, blessed in our youth;
We’d better enjoy our positions while we can.
The stars look down on us without our condescension;
They all wonder what happened to God.
They see what we have done and are doing
But never realize that we can change.

The moon shines down on us its scornful eye;
We are uncomfortable though others are less moral.
It is only half there, but where the rest is I cannot say.
Perhaps it is with God, waning philosophic.
The wind moans against wood and our flesh,
The same sweet nothings we whispered earlier.
And when it howls like fury through the darkness,
It almost seems like it knows how we feel.

Moisture like morning dew beads blades of grass;
Tiny, clear jewels of dripping condensation.
The whole world smells primal and visceral,
And it glistens in what little light there is here.
There are sounds all around us, some loud and some not,
From furtive, unknown sources in the darkness.
They seem to be everywhere at once and yet nowhere at all,
And isn’t that exactly how we are sometimes?

There is night all around us, overhead, up above,
Silk and satin and dark to the touch.
It is almost oppressive but somehow refrains;
It shows more restraint than we did, earlier.
And so we stare down at the town with a smirk on our lips,
And look up at the stars and feel less than we are.
We throw an ‘up yours’ in a scream at the moon,
And whisper nothing in reply to the wind.
We let the moisture bead and then drip off our skin,
And the sounds gradually become unnerving.
But we live this night, my lady, on Inspiration Point,
Despite darkness’ trying to steal the only one we’ve got.

***

Yesterday, Lisa said:

That poem reminds me of countless nights I looked up at the stars with Chad. Times when we wanted so badly some recognition for our efforts, times when we both felt like it was an endless cycle of repetative days. Times I wanted to shout and scream at the moon, because I felt so damn tired. We both were looking for inspiration.

Which, I think, is pretty awesome.

It’s kind of amazing how you can try for one thing but achieve something else entirely.

To wit: I wrote “Inspiration Point” when I was a sophomore in college (which probably shows through in ways, I think), and its inspiration was “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen. My then roommate was a huge fan of the Boss, and he played “Thunder Road” one night, and, while I liked the song, my more visceral reaction was closer to, “Man, I want to do that.”

And so I tried (ain’t sayin’ I succeeded, mind you, just I tried. Then again: man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for?).

Here’s some Bruce, because come on, nobody does it better:

It’s a bit crappy, video-wise, but I love the story (“This is the land of peace, love, justice, and no mercy.”). Also, hey, another Jersey boy doin’ it right (also, we see where I get my predilection for tank tops, though, admittedly, the Boss pulls it off better than I do). Unfortunately, I got no guitar, but sometimes I get my pen goin’.

And again: the poem is from my collection, the proceeds from which benefit the United Way NYC in honor of those we lost on September 11th, 2001, and in the days following. If you took advantage of the free download, now’s a good chance to help make a difference, and let’s not forget, it would make a great Christmas gift for the booklover you love.

This map, over at Strange Maps, is awesome. Basically, it highlights penitentiaries and the state in the 50s. The blurbs are worth the price of admission (which is, of course, free).

My favorite: “Here Vineland, famous for its contributions to our knowledge of the feebleminded.” And who knew Vineland is where the word “moron” was coined? You’d think I would have, being that I use the word often enough (and am from Jersey). I dated a girl from Vineland once. No, really: once. I found out she had a psychotic episode and was taking Zyprexa. She told me she wanted to run away with me and then promptly never called me again.

For anyone curious, I’m from halfway between Pennsgrove and Camden, right there near the Delaware.

Last night, I think I dreamt of Denver.

I’m not sure it was Denver, as I’ve never been to Denver, but I think it was my mental approximation.

The situation was this:

A coffeeshop/bar/deli. Not sure which, as I didn’t order anything. Could have been all of the above, in fact, for all I knew. And there was a person (I think a woman) at a table outside. And I spoke to her, and then she referred me to a ledger inside the shop itself. The ledger enumerated points of my life, mainly to do with graduate school, with commentary beside each one. Like, for example, the note under “Went to USC” was along the lines of “Dusting off the old diploma to . . .” etc. (the actual details of the dream, are, as is so often the case, lost to the kind of morning that will last all afternoon). But I woke up thinking about that ledger, and feeling judged. Feeling as though I came before a jury and was found wanting.

Which seemed as good a prompt as any to talk about Denver. Shows how much I want to go, I think. For various reasons.

Los Angeles has not agreed with me. I usually take pretty well to new places, and I dug LA for a while; I’m not sure when it lost its luster, but it since has. Which isn’t to say it’s been a terrible experience, and saying that I hate LA would probably overstate the case, but I really can’t wait to get the hell out of here. I was talking to my advisor and his wife about it on Friday night, and I think they got it; his wife mentioned the “hermetically sealed confines of people in their cars compartmentalizing their destinations” (pretty much verbatim), which may be partly it. Some of my friends have called me a city boy, which may be true, but calling Los Angeles a “city” stretches the word across too many miles to really have any meaning anymore. It’s a giant, smoggy sprawl full of vanity and car exhaust, and though I’ve made some wonderful friends, I’ve never considered friendship a function of geography, and more than I’ve thought writing might be.

So, Denver. First, the PhD. I realized I wanted to pursue one, because I definitely want to continue being a professor. I love teaching, and on a college level . . . yes, please. There aren’t many PhD programs; USC, UNLV, a couple places in the midwest, and Chicago, are the ones that stick out. And really; I’m done with LA, don’t want to do either Chicago or Las Vegas for the next five years, and the midwest doesn’t sound all that terrific. Denver has some really cool professors, namely Brian Kitely and Laird Hunt; the former is interested in story and its origin, while the latter has written some experimental noir books.

Story and noir? Um, yes. I want to found a new theory of literary criticism, in fact, and who doesn’t like good noir?

I had the same reaction to their names and concentrations as I had when I read that Marc Norman and Janet Fitch taught at USC. And that was enough for me.

Also, I think Denver will be a good balance between the urban life I love to immerse myself in and the natural life I continually seek. It was one of my favorite things about Jersey; smack between New York and Philadelphia, with millions of acres of the pine barrens in between. Between the tight-pack of Denver’s thriving downtown and its proximity to both the Rockies and Red Rocks, I think it will feel like a different version of home, which is pretty much what I’ve sought all my life; where I’m from, but a little different. As dynamic as New York but smaller, and without the brusk hustle.

Getting into DU, I’ll be a teaching assistant (awesome), which is actually a step down from what I’m doing now, technically, but that’s all right by me. And if I don’t get in; it’s not like I’m not qualified to do just about anything. I’m going to retake my personal training test this summer, maybe get into subbing again, and query some freelance stuff.

And then I’ll just reapply next year.

That’s always been the deciding point for me; is it something I’d want to do even if I didn’t have to? If I’d gotten a book deal two years ago, would I have finished my Master’s? I didn’t decide to go to USC until I realized the answer to that was an emphatic yes. And if I’d sold my novel last week, I would’ve used it to rent a house in Denver without a second thought.

So I’m a bit scared, but it’s nice to know that feeling comes from the fear that I won’t get into DU. That it won’t work out the way I want it to.

One thing I’ve learned so far, though, is that even when it doesn’t, it works out the way you need it to, and that’s all right by me.