Music Monday: Wishlist

Last week’s full moon reminded me of this song from Pearl Jam, and the line, “I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro’s hood.”

I caught a glimpse of the moon at about 4am, as I was battling a night of interrupted sleep. I looked out in the backyard and saw the glow of the moon, and immediately wondered if Eddie Vedder would consider rewriting the lyrics to, “I wish I was the full moon shining off my backyard patio table’s glass table top.”

Yeah, maybe not. Camaros are way more poetic. You'll hear for yourself when you listen to the song…doesn't have the same flow.

Whether or not it becomes a song lyric, that stream of light painted on the table, and the moon beginning its descent into the early morning sky, made it worth being awake at such a ridiculous hour.

While we were not in the path to view the lunar eclipse in North America, I read on several sites that this eclipse was a sign of rebirth, a completely new life…and those who were feeling detached from their current reality could expect great change. Because of the eclipse. And that the past few weeks of disconnect have been the birthing pains.

Interpret that however you will, or dismiss it as a load of hooey, but can I ask…how long has it been since I’ve posted a Music Monday here? Or even a word, syllable or letter of any kind, for that matter?

Hmm…I may be even more convinced in the power of the moon if I revisit this space two or three times in the next month.

Here’s “Wishlist,” by Pearl Jam. What's your favorite wish on that list? And what's on your wishlist?

Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs

So I just spent the last two hours watching a TV show that dropped hints from start to finish that I should do more with this one life I've been given and spend my time more creatively.

The irony is not lost on me.

Immediately after the show ended, I raced upstairs to my desk to tick off each item on a list of about four daily creativity projects I'm attempting to maintain. Perhaps if I would have had those two hours back that I spent in front of the TV, I could've put forth a better effort before the clock struck midnight.

Life advice from CMT.
It don't get no better 'n 'at, y'all.

I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper…that koala would like to be a Pepper, too.

The 23 distinct flavors that really make up Dr. Pepper's famous soda-pop secret:

  • Aged leather
  • Koala bear tears
  • Eggnog
  • Minced unicorn horn
  • Sun-dried NERF® football flakes
  • Anchovies
  • Eucalyptus pulp
  • Store-brand yellow mustard
  • Freshly mowed grass clippings
  • Pepper (duh!)
  • Essence of caribou flatulence
  • Cedar mulch
  • Ground fingernails (index fingers only)
  • Apple Macintosh Plus disk drive dust
  • The sweat of Stephen Hawking's brow
  • Beet juice
  • The taste of failure
  • Fizzy bubble stuff
  • Crumbled lime lollipops
  • Water buffalo nostril hairs
  • Bottom-shelf peach schnapps
  • Boot residue from the 1,408th mile of the Appalachian Trail
  • High fructose corn syrup

A shot and a beer (skip the beer, add a fish).

My New Year started with pickled herring and a shot of Crown Royal.

The herring is a tradition, the Crown not so much...but if someone offers you a shot of Crown, why, I ask, would you refuse?

My mom's aunts used to eat herring at midnight on New Year's Eve...a Scandanavian tradition to ensure a bountiful and prosperous new year. I've eaten it for several years, and can't say if I've prospered because of it...except for getting a chuckle out of the reaction of people who think herring is so. totally. gross.

I've spent many miles and many hours in a car on this road-trip weekend, and Jessica and I have spent some of that time discussing the requisite resolutions/goals that are so easily made and broken this time of year.

While my short list hasn't been finalized, one of the writers' "rules" I see repeatedly when scrolling through social media is that writers are voracious readers.

Confession: I haven't been a voracious anything lately…except a voracious consumer of eggnog this holiday season.

So maybe that's a good place to start. Reading…and writing. I'm not going to go as far as setting up a Goodreads challenge for 2017, but it's reasonable to state that words in all forms need to be a much bigger part of my new year.

If I can't make a vague resolution like that stick for more than a week or two, then perhaps I should look into briefcase repair or reindeer wrangling as my next hobby/career.

Herring or no herring, may you all have a bountiful and prosperous new year. My biggest wish is for a bountiful supply of herring to tide me over until next New Year's Eve.

I think in terms of
the day's resolutions,
not the year's.

—Henry Moore

On Uninvited Sandwiches

As I've been poking around this Squarespace…space…the last few days, trying to get the feel of things again, I've run into a problem that those of you who are glued to your Facebook timelines may have noticed.

Seems when I turn on the auto updater to publish to my social media accounts when I publish these posts, if I don't have a photo in the current post, Squarespace reaches blindly for a random thumbnail to slap onto the Facebook update. Two nights ago in my post about the Illinois Tollway, Squarespace thought I might get hungry as I drove, so it included a thumbnail of my Zingerman's sandwich that I can assume it stole from the Instagram block in my sidebar.

Last night, I "sang" a John Denver tune, and again, when it posted to Facebook, there was a big ol' beef sandwich next to the link.

So I'm either going to stop using the auto updater, or be sure to include a photo with every post (because good blogging strategy and yadda yadda yadda).

Since a few of you may have seen that tiny glitch, and then seen the sandwich thumbnail disappear as fast as I could hit the Edit button, I thought tonight I'd actually feature...the sandwich! Because its from Zingerman's, and it's delicious.

 This is the "Diana's Different Drummer" sandwich from Zingerman's (#34 if you want to be efficient with your order). Beef brisket served warm with Russian dressing, coleslaw, and fresh horseradish on Jewish rye bread. This is the "Fresser" size (Yiddish for "big eater," according to their website).

This is the "Diana's Different Drummer" sandwich from Zingerman's (#34 if you want to be efficient with your order). Beef brisket served warm with Russian dressing, coleslaw, and fresh horseradish on Jewish rye bread. This is the "Fresser" size (Yiddish for "big eater," according to their website).

On Being High in the Rockies

(**cue John Denver's singing voice, please**)

"He was born in the summer of his forty-seventh year…"

Earlier this summer, I found myself repeating this John Denver line to myself.

Not coincidentally, I turned 47 in June, and wondered if this was the summer in which I'd be born.

[Note: There are a couple of things wrong with this blog post right off the bat. First, I am aware that in the song, he was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year. And second, being 47 means I've just successfully navigated the summer of my forty-eighth year, not my forty-seventh. But if you don't play along, this post will shrivel up to a haiku, and we don't want that. At least not yet. Let's examine a few other lines from the song.]

"…comin' home to a place he'd never been before."

Actually, Mr. Denver. I have been here before. I've lived near here most of my life. But you were close. Last summer, we bought a house…a home in which I'd never been. So close.

"…you might say he found a key for every door."

What I'm looking for is a door to which I have a key. It's been on my key ring for years, and I have no idea where it goes. Can you help me out, John?

"And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high, I've seen it raining fire in the sky…"

I know that high. I've seen that fire. Not in Colorado, because I've never been. But I have a friend there who lives three blocks from my second-favorite brewery, so I'm thinking it might be time to visit.

"And they say that he got crazy once, and he tried to touch the sun…"

I've never tried to touch the sun, I'm not that tall, nor do I have the protective gloves required. But I have looked at the sun for too long, and possibly burned my retinas. My glasses are very thick.

"Now he walks in quiet solitude…"

Nailed it! Introvert here.

"His sight is turned inside himself…"

I may be as self-absorbed as the dude in the song, even though I'm 21 years older. I'm not proud.

"You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply."

Here's where I'd better end this. When you're in your twenties, the reply might be casual, but when you hit your late forties, God doesn't have that kind of time. He's looking for a comfortable chair to reserve for sometime in the next two to forty-two years.

[One more.]

"I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle flyyyyy......"


Now here's the man himself. He explains it way better than I ever could.

On Taking a Toll

I don't care how polite the Illinois Tollway is…I still don't have to like it.

Last weekend, as I entered the wonderful cluster that is often Chicago traffic, I noticed a big sign that said, "WELCOME to the Illinois Tollway!" I'm sure I've seen the sign before, but I was driving alone, so perhaps I was more dialed in to minor details, like…road signs.

Several miles and a handful of traffic jams later, another sign read, "THANK YOU for using the Illinois Tollway!"

Of course the powers that be are going to welcome and thank all the drivers, because those drivers are dropping off approximately 185 cents for every mile their tires touch Illinois pavement. Or…close.

At several other points during my roll through Chicago, I saw three speed limit signs grouped together: "Speed Limit 70;" and then "Speed Limit 60—Trucks With..." (I didn't pay attention to the rest, but I'm assuming it was something about weight limit, or number of axles); and still another sign, "Buses—Speed Limit 65."

How about: "Speed Limit 0—All Vehicles with Broken Axles;" or "Speed Limit 32—All Moped Drivers Who Just Realized They Made a Wrong Turn."

if they categorize too many other drivers with their own speed limits, soon there won't be enough room for any of those lawyer billboards advertising for desperate clients and begging them to call numbers like 222-2222. (true story.)

Until next time, Chicago. Stay friendly.

THANK YOU for reading the gregg blog on the information superhighway.
Please deposit $3.95 into his PayPal account before exiting.

"If you own a toll road, you don't care how many passengers
are in each car or what kind of car it is. You just want as many
cars to move down the road as possible, and you make
damn certain they pay their tolls, okay?"

—Richard Kinder

Music Monday: I Still Believe

Back when I had my CDs meticulously alphabetized (which we've learned from High Fidelity is not the way to organize a music collection; autobiographical is the way to go, if you can pull it off without pulling out your hair), I had a string of bands in the C's that all kind of blended together if you rattled them off in one breath: The Cure, The Cars, The Clash, The Cult.

There are probably more, but my collection has been packed away in boxes for a few years, through two moves, and I don't know when or if it will be put on display again, because we listen to music so differently now. Who reaches for a CD anymore? I envision selling them someday for a buck apiece when I'm in the market for a top-of-the-line set of tires for my car.

One of the bands that fits into that category is this week's Music Monday feature.

"I Still Believe," by The Call

A new year in the real world.

I've never rung in the new year in the eastern time zone, so over the years when I managed to catch Dick Clark's New Year's Eve (rockin' or not rockin', depending on my opinion of the musical guests that year), I always felt like an outsider watching the big countdown to the ball drop, and a zillion tons of confetti falling on a zillion people in Times Square as they kissed whomever was closest to them during the first seconds of the brand new year.

The clock in Wisconsin would show 11:00 as I watched the celebration on TV, and I thought, "Well this is going to be awfully anti-climactic 60 minutes from now."

It was already the new year in the real world, after all...or Dick Clark's world, anyway.

Last night I was in the eastern time zone to celebrate New Year's Eve, as we're combining Christmas and New Year's at Jessica's parents this weekend in Michigan.

Long gone are the nights of fighting bar crowds on the final night of the year, as are the nights of house parties of more than 10 people. For the last dozen (or maybe more) years, I've preferred a quiet night at home, with close family or friends.

Last night we shared good snacks, and sampled festive beverages. I ate herring at midnight for a prosperous new year (or maybe just because I really like herring), and as we clicked around the TV channels between 10pm and midnight, we found Ryan Seacrest on one channel and Carson Daly on another...woeful substitutes for Dick Clark.

And somehow, around midnight, we were too distracted enjoying each other's company to realize that we missed the ball drop.

The real world was never about a ball drop or a time zone or confetti against a neon backdrop. The real world is about who you spend your time with, on New Year's Eve and every other day throughout the year(s).

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope your real world looks as good as mine does.

"Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, 'It will be happier.' "

—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Music Monday: Understanding Jane

Last Friday, our local St. Vincent de Paul came to pick up a load of items that were still in our garage from our move, including a couch and a dresser that we were happy to finally get rid of.

As we were arranging and adding to the items a day or two before they came, I included my five three-drawer cases of cassette tapes (which they didn't take, by the they're available free to anyone with a fondness for poor sound quality and inconvenient song search capability).

All of my cassettes were in storage for the last five years, and as I opened the drawers to skim the contents, one cassette jumped out at me as a perfect candidate for Music Monday (with barely two hours to spare...sorry. but you can play this song any day of the week, I promise).

Sometime in the mid-1980s I happened upon a group called The Icicle Works, and an album called "If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song."

Put on your headphones and turn up the volume. You're welcome.

"Understanding Jane," by The Icicle Works

Music Monday: A Lot More

In 2010, Todd Snider came to Manitowoc, WI, to play an acoustic show in our city's downtown park. I'd been a fan since his first album, "Songs for the Daily Planet," was released in 1994.

The park wasn't full for his show, so we got seats on the ground in front of the first row of benches. But as we strolled over to the beverage stand before he came out, we saw activity behind the stage, as he was talking to a few fans and signing autographs.

Figuring this would be the only time I'd ever get to hang with Todd Snider (if you can call 30 seconds a hang), I walked toward him and motioned for Jessica to follow me, because I knew she had her camera.

Right before he slipped back to the backstage area, I yelled out, "Mr. Snider!" And as he turned, I asked if he had time for one more photo, and he was gracious to oblige. I told him I'd been a fan since I heard "Alright Guy" on the radio years ago (how original), and he said, "Oh yeah? Well we'll be playing that one tonight."

He didn't ask me to sing backup. Smart guy.

The "we" was just him. A folk-singing, masterful-storytelling hippie with his guitar and his harmonica. And the me was...well, one hell of a big fan.

He still tours often, and comes to Wisconsin at least once every couple of years, but I doubt he'll ever play a show again within walking distance of my house.

This is one of my favorite songs off of "Songs for the Daily Planet," but there are more than a few others I've listened to hundreds of times.

"A Lot More," by Todd Snider

Save BIG! (or maybe not so much.)

I don't consider myself a Black Friday shopper. The early mornings, the crowds, the elbowing other shoppers in the nose over the last fifty-dollar Blu-Ray player. Not really my thing.

That being said, we often venture out on the infamous day...usually around noon...for the remnants of sale items that may or may not have been trampled six or seven hours earlier.

I'll go in search of a Best Buy, bypassing the $800 TV deals and opting instead to browse the $1.99 movies or see how low the prices can go on flash drives (my Black Friday tradition the past several years—buying flash drives whether I need them or not (and I do not)).

This year I found this screaming deal at a Michigan Best Buy, and figured if stores have us brainwashed into thinking that saving nothing is a bargain, then maybe it's time we all boycotted every store on Black Friday.

On our trip home Sunday evening, we stopped at Costco (not for a 55-gallon drum of Heinz ketchup to give as a gift...we have way more class than that), and on our way out of the store, we saw this guy, apparently already exhausted from the holidays before we even flip the calendar to December.

I know how you feel, big Teddy. I know how you feel.

Music Monday: 4th of July

Back in 2007, I went to a concert with a buddy in Milwaukee. I don't remember who we saw—maybe Counting Crows—but I do remember it was on a weeknight, and I had to wake up at the crack the next morning to drive the hour and a half home and get to work on time.

When I was a slightly younger soul, I would go to concerts anywhere in the state, on any night of the week, not worrying at all about getting home at 2 or 3 in the morning, or waking up early the next day if I drove in the morning instead of at night. I was more resilient than I am these days.

My buddy giving me a disc to take with me for the drive home. He was certain I was going to like what was on it, and he was right.

As I maneuvered early-morning Milwaukee traffic, I learned who Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers were, and in the years since, we've been fortunate to see them in concert twice...once at a venue that holds barely a few hundred people, and another time at a park with plenty of room to sprawl out and sneak up to the stage for photo ops.

The album "Glassjaw Boxer" was released in 2007, and is solid from end to end. While there are several songs on the album more up-tempo than this one, this is maybe his most openly autobiographical song on the album...

"4th of July" by Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers

Seeing stars.

In the latest installment of What's Been Stored in My Parents' Attic for Years and Years and Years and Is Now Being Sent Home With Me Because I Have Tons of Room to Store It, I give you a constellation map of the summer stars, created during elementary school, and moderately damaged by moisture at some point during its decades of dormancy.

I've continued my affection for the night sky over the years since grade school, though my favorite constellation—Orion—appears in the fall and winter sky. I've written on more than one occasion about how I hold actual conversations with him when I'm taking the dog out, or when I come home late at night and pause for a few minutes to say hello before going in the house.

I see from this poster, however, that Boötes is best viewed in the summer months. So I'm considering adopting a favorite constellation for each season. Because who doesn't like summer Boötes?

Happy star-gazing.

Music Monday: Guilty for a Lot of Things I've Done

Spotify steered me to Amanda Marshall last week, offering her as a suggestion related to Alanis Morissette.

Turns out they're both Canadian.

Other than that, Marshall's music is more R&B-influenced, and she hasn't released an album since 2002's "Everybody's Got a Story."

As I clicked around the album to get a feel for her sound, this song stood out for me, and became an instant contender for this week's Music Monday.

"Love Is My Witness," by Amanda Marshall