Nobody Says It Better

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Who has been in a relationship that you knew was wrong? And your friends knew it was wrong. But you kept going back, because it was so….right.

I started thinking about such past relationships while driving to work, as I was listening to my Carly Simon playlist, and the song “Jesse” came on. Very poignant lyrics to that song.

I have only a few of my own words to contribute to this post, because nobody says it better than Carly Simon. Just a little editing and rearranging Carly’s lyrics. The “he”s could be “she”s, depending on who is telling the story.

Annie, keep reminding me
That he cut out my heart like a paper doll
Sally, tell me once again
How he set me up just to see me fall

Jesse, quick come here
I won’t tell a soul
My friends will all say “She’s gone again”
But how can anyone know what you are to me?
That I’m in heaven again because you’ve come back to me!

My friends….they think I’ve sunk so low
LA LA LA, LA LA!
LA LA LA, LA LA!
LA LA LA, LA LA!!

Jesse, I will put on cologne
And sit by the phone for you
And sit by the phone for you
And sit by the phone for you

Oh mother, say a prayer for me.

Songwriters: Mike Jr Mainieri / Carly Simon
Published By Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

The Vegetarian

C90F66CD-B1B8-462F-A7F1-E7D353EF9085-16539-00001CBF297809E1I was twenty minutes early for my 4:45 appointment with the psychiatrist. I sat in my car and opened the Meetup app on my phone to see if anything interesting was coming up for book club. I saw that the nonfiction book club was going to read “All The President’s Men” and the fiction club was going to read “The Vegetarian”.

By then it was 4:30 and I walked into the office. Dr Z came out. I said “I’m fifteen minutes early,” and she said “That’s OK, I will see you now.”

She asked how I was doing. I said I’m doing well, and sleeping through the night on the current med. She said, “Good” and wrote a refill prescription and handed it to me. And she gave me a followup appointment for three months out. In all of less than a minute, I was done. My 4:45 appointment was done at 4:31.

My yoga class, which is in the same building as my shrink, wasn’t scheduled to start until 6:15. I had time to kill, so I walked to the Mission Viejo library, which is just across the street.

I went to the online catalog and looked up “All The President’s Men”. Because I’m a non-fiction kind of guy. Two copies, both out. So I looked for “The Vegetarian.” One copy, on the shelves. Woohoo!

I found the book and sat down and started reading it. Interesting book. It was written by a woman from the point of view of a man, telling the story of his wife. The wife apparently had horrible nightmares that prompted her to become a vegetarian.

I really liked the writing style, and in no time I read about five pages into the book. I decided to keep the book and try to finish it for book club, which is exactly one week out. Only 188 pages. I think I can do it.

While I was reading, a young Asian woman walked up to me and said, “Is that ‘The Vegetarian’?” I said, “Yes, it is!” And she said, “Oh my God! I was just looking for that book!”

If I were someone else, this might have been the start of a new romance. Instead, my thought was “What luck! If I had arrived at the library ten minutes later, the one copy would have already been out!”

I felt a blog post coming on. I checked out the book and walked over to Yoga Works, checked in, changed into my yoga gear, and sat down on a chair in the lobby. And I took out my phone and typed up this post with my two thumbs. Finished just in time for yoga class.

Spring Cleaning

I’m doing a little spring cleaning today. I came across this newspaper. I had saved it because of the article about furnaces.

IMG_6579September 28, 2000. The last few months of the Clinton presidency. The last days of the previous millennium. The unofficial last days of the ’90s.

Notice that the furnace article was the top story on the front page. There was a presidential campaign going on (Bush vs Gore), but not a lot of mudslinging or calling opponents names. Perhaps the people had had enough after the aborted Clinton impeachment. Articles about the campaign didn’t even appear until page 12. The biggest issue of the campaign was what to do with the huge budget surplus.

Who knew that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision would soon divide the nation? Who knew that we would soon be attacked on our own soil? Who knew that we would soon have an economic crisis rivaling the Great Depression?

I miss the ’90s.

Just Seventy Cents

I asked for the Quarter Pounder With Cheese meal, but with lettuce and tomato. The boy asked if I wanted the lettuce and tomato instead of the ketchup, mustard, onions, and pickle, and I said, “Yes.” I asked how much extra it would be. He rang it up and said the total is $8.82. I asked, “But, how much extra for the lettuce and tomato?” He said, “Just seventy cents.” I said, “OK”.

Thank God it was just seventy cents extra. Because seventy cents for just lettuce and tomato would have been outrageous.

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Somtimes a Rock

Last night, I was home alone; my daughter spends Monday nights with her mother. And I found myself sitting on the sofa, reading a book of poetry. And actually finishing the book!

Thoughts went through my head about the nature of the activity. I flashed back to my life, pre marriage and child, when I did this kind of thing quite often, practically every night. “This kind of thing” means devoting part of an evening to reading in solitude, sitting in a living area, and feeling content and chill. I didn’t call it “chill” back then, because in the ‘80s, “chill” was a verb. These days, I still read, but it’s mostly in bed before I sleep, and on my Kindle phone app at various times during the day when I can squeeze it in, such as when I’m alone at a restaurant, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or having arrived early for a yoga class.

Life in the ‘10s is very different from life in the ‘80s, at least for me. It’s so rare these days to do one thing at a time; everything seems to be multitasked. And it’s so rare to be isolated from human interaction. The phone is constantly chiming with text, Messenger, and Skype tones.

This morning, as I was getting dressed and ready for work, I found myself listening to my Simon and Garfunkel station on Pandora. A live version of “I Am a Rock” came on. And for the first time, I listened to the words very carefully. I realized the sadness of this song. It might be their best song, lyrics-wise. It really brings out human emotions that I’m sure we’ve all experienced before.

The first line that caught my attention was this one

It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain

Wow, what a strong sentiment. I wondered how sad a person has to be to realize and state that he disdains laughter and loving. But, then I recalled feelings from my past and started to understand. For example, who hasn’t woken up grumpy in the morning, turned on the radio to one of the morning talk-comedy programs, and at the sound of the guffawing of Mark and Brian just wanted to throw the radio out the window?

That got my attention, and I listened to the next verse.

Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried

Wow. We’ve all felt this before, yes?

And then the next verse seemed to have been sent to me like magic, making me immediately flash back to last night.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me

Yikes! I was home alone last night reading a poetry book! A coincidence? A sign? Does everything happen for a reason?

My conclusion from all of this, which inspired me to quickly barf out this blog post before starting my day, is the old saying, “Everything in moderation”. Yes, a rock feels no pain, but being a rock can be therapeutic sometimes.

Epilog

When I read the book last night, I couldn’t help myself from multitasking. I wanted to write my first Goodreads book review, and I was thinking about what I would write in the review as I was reading the book. I stopped to bookmark pages, look back on what I’d read previously, and ponder whether I wanted to post my review on Goodreads or Amazon. And I might have picked up my phone once or twice to see if I had missed any messages. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to the unitasking solitude of the ‘80s. But close can be good enough. Baby steps. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Yada yada.

Sad Neil, Happy Neil

I’ve been listening to Neil Diamond’s latest album, Melody Road. It’s a pleasant upbeat album, easy to listen to, and I am enjoying it. But each time, after I’ve listened to it for about 15 minutes, I find that I switch to the old stuff. Tonight, I think I figured out why.

The new album is happy. The songs tell a happy story. Here are some examples.

The title track, Melody Road, is an ode to happiness.

I know every song you lead me to
It’s gonna be my friend

Write me a song to make you smile
There’s no need to sing the blues

The second track, First Time, gives advice for a happy life. I think it’s meant for aspiring songwriters.

Finally out there on your own and it’s
Your time
For making it happen

Make rhyme
So fine
First time!

There is actually a song on the album called “Sunny Disposition”. You get the idea.

Tonight, after I made the switch from the new album to my Best of Neil playlist, came my epiphany. I just don’t connect with the new songs. They don’t resonate with me the way the old songs do. The way the old sad songs do.

You know the old songs. The ones you can sing with a cry in your voice. The songs you listen to when you hurt. When hurtin’ runs off your shoulder. The songs you listen to when you feel lost between two shores. I could feel my mood change as the old songs played. For I was lonely. And she was lonely.

This doesn’t mean I’m a sad person. It’s just easier for me to connect with a sad song. When I am sad, hearing a happy song doesn’t do much for me. But hearing a sad song gives me a feeling of empathy. When I am happy, the sad songs make me appreciate my happiness.

Hearing about love on the rocks reminds me of what I’ve gone through to make me strong today. I gave you my heart, gave you my soul, you left me alone here with nothing to hold.

If I am ruminating about a failed relationship, I don’t feel so alone when I hear lyrics telling me that memories won’t go, that thoughts of her won’t leave my head, and perhaps just one thing makes me forget. I’m not the only one whose blue, blue heart has been torn apart.

The old songs are a gold mine of therapy. Melinda was mine till the time that I found her holding Jim, and loving him. Until I can find me the girl who’ll stay and won’t play games behind me, I’ll be what I am, a solitary man. Forever in blue jeans.

If I’m feeling down, It’s not even necessary for me to drink red, red wine to make me forget. All I have to do is listen to a few bars of Cracklin’ Rosie to make me smile.

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This post contains excerpts of songs. All lyrics quoted here were written by Neil Diamond.

Love and Loss

A friend of mine recently reminded me of the old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I happen to agree with this. I can’t imagine going through life never having experienced love.

My friend said this to me to encourage me to go “out there” again. But the saying doesn’t exactly apply, because I’ve been lucky enough to have already experienced love. And I’ve been unlucky enough to have experienced loss.

I do think that for someone who has experienced love and loss, it’s still worth that risk to try again. A second chance at love is probably worth the risk of another loss.

However, I also believe at some point it makes sense to stop. Loss is always painful. And it doesn’t get any easier each time. In fact, I think it gets harder. Isn’t there a limit to how much loss one must endure in their quest for lasting love? Surely so much loss must have a deleterious effect on one’s health.

If someone has been lucky enough to have already loved ten times, but has been beaten down from ten losses, I don’t think it is true that it’s better to love an eleventh time and experience yet another excruciating loss. At that point, it’s worse to lose yet another time than to try to love again.

Let us summarize what we’ve learned so far. Better to love and lose once than not at all. Better to love a second time and lose again than to give up trying. Worse to love an eleventh time and lose yet again than to quit while you are already so far behind.

It seems that there is a magic number between two and eleven, an inflection point, where the risk of loss starts to outweigh the potential benefit of another attempt at love. Let’s say that number is five. Then the saying for that infection point would be, “It is equally as painful to experience a fifth loss as it would be pleasurable to experience love for a fifth time.” And once you pass this number, stop and choose a new hobby.