Ba-dee-ya! An exhortation to be happy.

Do you remember the 21st night of September? I bet you just sang those lyrics in your head as you read them.

Even before Maurice has those first few words out of his mouth, I’m moving my arms and doing a chair dance. September is one of those songs that I am absolutely convinced has always existed. It’s brilliant. Nothing shy of brilliant.  And it means absolutely nothing. Nothing.  It’s just an exhortation to be happy.

Allee Willis, said this of Maurice White: “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.” ba-dee-ya.

No one cares that it means nothing. Just as no one ever cared that there was literally no meaning to September 21 either. I’m willing to bet that even after 30 years, you don’t even know all the words. The only reason they matter at all is that it gives us all a chance to hear Maurice sing.

It’s about the vibe.  It’s about how it makes you feel.  It’s musical ice cream: it makes you happy even if the flavor really isn’t your favorite. I love this song for that reason – it just makes me happy, I feel good listening to it. The way Ice Cream feels in your mouth, there’s nothing in this world better.

Compare this with something like Snuff” by Slayer: even if Slayer is your go to, the vibe will never make you feel “happy” (unless you’re a psychopath) and yeah, the lyrics matter for that reason:

“…Torture, misery
Endless suffering;
Pleasing to the eye
To this you can’t deny…”

The world holds so much Snuff, and far too little September.  Its far too easy to be angry – that ignorant social media post, something shocking in the news, that unfair decision at work. What’s a little bit harder is being happy – just making the decision to be happy. To ignore that social media outrage, to remember very little in the news is actually news, that work is only one part of your life.

So today, on this 21st day of September, even if there has never been a 21st of September in your life worth singing or dancing about, hit the play button right now and give yourself a gift of 3.5-minutes of happiness.   Make the choice to be happy.

Ba-dee-ya.

TKOs, Strategic Retreats, Halls of Mirrors and Being Adamantine

It would seem the year that was getting punched in the face has won via technical knockout.  This is not to say goals haven’t been achieved – they have – but it is to say that 2017 has stepped up to take back the idea that while you can fight age, no you cannot fully outrun it.  A seemingly obvious truism, but it is a lesson I think we each learn in our own way.

An ironic lesson perhaps that I started on a fitness journey to be sure that I reclaimed everything I possibly could because I was all too aware that life is short, opportunities come by once and I was determined not to allow Father Time to advance on me without giving myself the best opportunity to enjoy my one trip here.

In June, the year that was getting punched in the face punched back and I was put out of commission for 6-weeks. Made worse by the fact that at the fact that at the beginning of June I was bold enough to say that I was dissatisfied with punching in the face and was going to tear the face off the year.  On the 10th, I had fallen down a mountain.  9 stitches in my forearm and tendon surgery on my foot.  Had I to do it again, I probably wouldn’t continue the remaining 20+ miles of the race, but I was headstrong enough that I was not going to quit.  Hard to know if this was a “win” or if it was failing to accept a strategic retreat.

But that was an accident.  A failure perhaps of training, a failure to pay sufficient attention to what was required of a highly technical trail race.  Perhaps a failure of focus.  It was not a failure due to age.  Anyone taking on that race, under the same circumstances would have suffered the same injuries.  In fact, I feel confident in saying not too many people would have had the fortitude to continue on to finish – for better or worse.  In my mind’s eye, the fact that someone less than 1000 days from age 50 was out there on that course was testament to the idea the Reaper was getting further away in my rear view rather than closer.

This is different.  This is the reality check.  There may be times when the Reaper seems further behind, but that is perception in the hall of mirrors that is life.  After that involuntary layoff, I doubled down on my efforts.  More miles on the odometer.  Faster miles on the odometer. More races on the calendar.  Longer races on the calendar.  I improved personal records on 5k races, 10m races, 50k.  Running more, running faster, running more frequently.

And then, that pain in my heel.  I “knew” at the end of my run what it was.  It wasn’t an ache.  It was acute and localized.  I was pretty sure I had done something to my Achilles.  I was hoping it was a strain.  I ran a few more times, each time my pace suffered, my pain increased.  One last struggle of a run and the accompanying pain the next day, I knew I had to go to the doctor.

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And thus I find myself in an immobilizing walking boot.  My year of goals without fear is over.  I accomplished more than 1100 miles on a plan of 1000.  I ran something like 47 races even while missing more than a few while recovering in June and July.  I failed at some goals, but I succeeded at my most important ones.  It’s important now to focus on what I want to accomplish in 2018, and what this injury means for those goals.  Right now, there’s no surgery planned.  The doctor seems content to give me a few weeks in the boot anticipating that time should give me the time to heal and then work toward strength building.

I took too long to admit it, but I did. Like my experience in June, I tried to solider on and get it done.  Unlike my experience in June, I quit before it cost me more than it already had.  Perhaps a degree of learning or growing up on my part to realize that calling a strategic retreat isn’t an admission of defeat – it’s the appropriate reconsideration of the requirements given changing conditions on the battlefield.

Building an athletic level of fitness is not a means to fully prevent injury or illness.  It is, however, a means to mitigate those injuries or illness.  A runner may in fact be less likely to suffer a heart attack, but that runner is also more likely to have a heart that can mitigate the damaging effects of a heart attack.   Stronger hearts fare far better in both survival and recovery rates.  Because I’ve been running, because my body is strong an injury which may have completely ruptured my tendon 2 or 3-years ago, resulted in a partial rupture.  Why was my tendon prone to rupture? I’m less than 800 days away from age 50.  Time waits for no one, age will come to collect its toll.  The object is to resist.  As any personal trainer knows, resistance creates strength and strength allows further resistance.

The Reaper still remains, hiding somewhere in that hall of mirrors.  Ultimately, he will come to collect his due, but just like everything else in life, putting in the work to prepare for that which may come is the best way to get the best results from any encounter.

I’m determined at this point not to follow the path I followed in June.  I let my nutrition go and gained weight.  I focused on what I could not now do instead of what I could do and my conditioning suffered for it.  I’ve found vigorous activity keeps my emotions in check and keeps my head in all aspects of my Life’s game. I’m a better, more full and interesting person when I have been working out.  I’m determined not to see why I cannot run.  I am determined to see what I can do to maintain fitness while I’m recovering from this setback, what I can do to avoid a similar setback and what I can do to be sure I find the opportunity.  I’ve been duly reminded that I’m not 20 and bulletproof.  I’m screaming toward 50 and far from bulletproof, but I’m in the game.  If I’m to stay in the game, I need to be sure I’m more cognizant of the rules.   It’s all about resilience. Positioning oneself to be able to resiliently face the challenges in front of us is the key.

Doing the work – no matter how slow the results – to position yourself to best withstand whatever form the Reaper presents himself is your best bet for surviving and thriving despite the Reaper’s call, whether that’s wearing your seatbelt, or maintaining heart health and a generally healthy lifestyle.

Sometimes that means a strategic retreat.  Something that’s easier to acknowledge later in the battle than sooner.  In June when I hadn’t  accomplished anything that was hard to hear.  In December, it’s easier.  I’ve done the work, and now I have the perspective.  I’m glad – eternally grateful – that I realized that in the middle of my life, and not in the December.

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 30

Day 30. A song that reminds you of yourself.

I’ve struggled with this one. The culmination of a month’s worth of music should be something meaningful, especially when describing oneself, no? I mean, over the previous 29 days there have been several hundred songs referenced. ONE has to stand out somehow as being mindful of oneself.

I don’t know that this song does fully remind me of…me, but it does a good job. I don’t want to be an American Idiot.

This song stands for so much of how I feel about America today, and so I think it’s worth my day 30 pick.

I want to thank everyone who has participated in this little exercise. It’s been so fun learning about your musical taste and learning from your participation. It’s been a very fun month.

Wisdom of Crowds Picks:

Piano Man Billy Joel

Just the Way You Are Billy Joel

F**kin’ Perfect P!nk

Dancing With Myself Billy Idol

Try Colbie Caillat

Here I Go Again Whitesnake

‘Voodoo Child’ (Slight Return) Jimi Hendrix

You Don’t Own Me Leslie Gore

Beautiful  Christina Aguilera

Somebody To Love Kacey Musgraves

“Bad Girls”  MIA

For Your Precious Love Michael McDonald

Ballerina Girl Lionel Richie

Idiots Rule Jane’s Addiction

Under the sun Black Sabbath

All On Me Devin Dawson

That I Would Be Good  Alanis Morissette

 

 

 

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 29

A song that you remember from your childhood.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with this, but I sat and thought for a couple of minutes and it was right there. Plain as day.

This isn’t contemporaneous with my childhood, it was an oldie even then, but it was a song my parents enjoyed so I remember hearing it not infrequently.

It’s a silly song, but it’s fun.

Wisdom of Crowds Picks:

Jelly Man Kelly James Taylor

Stuck In The Middle With You Stealers Wheel

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go Wham!

One Billion Is Big The Fat Boys

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego

Dominique  The Singing Nun

The Candy Man  Sammy Davis, Jr.

Don’t Stop Believin’ Journey

Eruption/You Really Got Me Van Halen

Puff the Magic Dragon” Peter, Paul & Mary

ITSY BITSY SPIDER

Happy & You Know It

I Want To Hold Your Hand The Beatles

RINGO Lorne Greene

Summer Wine Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood

Courtship of Eddie’s Father theme song

Surfin’ Safari  The Beach Boys

 

 

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 28

A song by an artist with a voice you love.

There are a few I love for different reasons. I think Paul Stanley has one of the more unique sounds out there, especially with Kiss’ mid 1980’s stuff.

Ozzy’s earlier stuff into the 1990’s is similarly unique.

I love the stuff my daughter has recorded, although it would be patronizing for me to choose that – I assure you that if I didn’t think it would be over the top, I would go there.

There’s Colbie Caillat whose voice is just like butter. But none of these folks are my pick on this 28th day of the challenge.

This one is probably going to come out of the woodwork though, you’re probably not going to see it coming. I can’t point to a given song by this person that I love, nor have I ever considered myself a fan, but the voice. Simply amazing. So much power and control.

Wisdom of Crowds Picks:

You Raise Me Up” Josh Groban

Sweet Surrender” Sarah McLaughlin

Angel” Sarah McLaughlin

Suedehead” Morrissey

Patience” Guns N Roses

Magic man” Heart

Alone” Heart

“Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man” Sheryl Crow & Stevie Nicks

Hunger Strike” Temple of the Dog

“Road Trippin” Ashlee Keating
”I Finally Found Someone” Bryan Adams & Barbra Streisand
Voices” Cheap Trick
Evergreen” Barbra Streisand
Stay A Little Longer” Brothers Osborne
Runaway” Bonnie Raitt
Mercedes Benz” Janis Joplin

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 27

A song that breaks your heart.

Schmaltz. Pure, unadulterated schmaltz. If I had to choose 3 words to describe my pick, they would be the words. I really don’t know how else to categorize it.

On Day 10, I went with Gary Jules’ version of “Mad World” as a song that makes me sad. This one doesn’t make me sad, per se, and “Mad World” doesn’t break my heart, so this is in an interesting place.

With the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, you’d think I’d choose “Candle In The Wind,” but that doesn’t break my heart. It doesn’t even make me sad. I always felt manipulated by EJ trotting that song out for Diana – but then again, I’m not British, so I suppose it’s not meant for me anyway.
But back to my choice. Why this song? Well, as ridiculous as it sounds, at various inflection points in my life it’s come out from under its rock, played itself in the background of the soundtrack of my life and burrowed its way into my ear, quietly speaking to me.

So, don’t judge. Or if you do judge, you had best put up your own song.

Wisdom of Crowds Picks:

Time To Say Goodbye” Andrea Botcelli & Sarah Brightman

Tears In Heaven” Eric Clapton

Wildfire” Michael Martin Murphy

One” Faith Hill

One” Three Dog Night

“Only The Lonely” Roy Orbison

Everybody Hurts” REM

The Drugs Don’t Work” The Verve

 AVE MARIA” Andrea Bocelli

One” Metallica

Turn! Turn! Turn!” The Byrds

He Stopped Loving Her Today” George Jones

Lips of An Angel” Hinder

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 26

A song that makes you want to fall in love.

This is a thing? A song…that makes you want to fall in love? A song does that? What does that even mean? “Goodness, this song is so mushy, it makes me want to fall in love so I can better enjoy it!”

I think I’d prefer to choose a song about being in love.

I remember being a small child in the back seat of my parents’ car with this coming over the old crackly AM radio when AM radio is where you would hear the contemporary hits of the day.

Especially pertinent as it references this past weekend.

Wisdom of Crowds Picks:

Unity” Shinedown

Fortress Around Your Heart” Sting

Welcome To The Jungle” Guns N Roses

My baby you” Marc Anthony

Like I’m Gonna Lose You ft. John Legend” Meghan Trainor

A Song For You” The Carpenters

Harvest Moon” Neil Young

Could It Be Magic” Barry Manilow

High On You” Survivor

Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying ” Gerry & The Pacemakers

You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)” Rod Stewart

Truly Madly Deeply” Savage Garden

Sweet Surrender” Sarah McLaughlin

 

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 25

A song by an artist no longer living.

I’ve thought a little about this and it comes down to two: Elvis and Prince.

Now I can think of a bunch of artists I want to point to, but when I first started thinking about this day’s theme it was these two that came to my mind first.

I talked a little about my rationale for Elvis in my Day 23 post, where I could remember as a 7-year old hearing the news Elvis had died when I can’t remember much of that age. I am a bit of an EP fan, although not huge; I have an album called “The Top 10 Hits” and that’s pretty much all I need. Maybe “Viva Las Vegas” tossed in for good measure, but otherwise, I’m good with it. It’s just that he has pretty much hung around the outskirts of my life my entire life. Kind of the familiar stranger you see on the bus every day on your commute or at the coffee store that one day just inexplicably stops showing up.

Prince is a different vibe. I was never a big fan, although I have always adored “Purple Rain” and some other assorted songs along the way. “1999” and it’s hit songs were about as deep into the catalog as I got with him – a few random songs here and there, but really just the early/mid-1980’s stuff. When he died, however, he was hailed as a musical genius. I’m still not convinced that genius is quite the word, but he was supremely talented and I know he had an oversized impact on a lot of the people in my generation and for that, I have to recognize a certain affinity.

So, Elvis, you’ve gotten the nod twice from me in three days, both for having died, yet not having your music chosen. I’m sorry for that. Sometimes a mile wide and an inch deep just doesn’t do it.

Now, with that as lead up, there’s a dirth of video versions of Prince’s “Delirious” which is the song I wanted to highlight, so I’m going to provide a link to the audio.

Wisdom of Crowds Picks:

Suspicious Minds” Elvis Presley

“Miss Misery” Elliot Smith

Let’s Dance” David Bowie

More than A Feeling” Boston

The thrill is gone” BB King & Eric Clapton

Lawyers, Guns and Money” Warren Zevon

Imagine” John Lennon

All Along The Watchtower” Jimi Hendrix

Down in a Hole” Alice in Chains

One More Light Live” Linkin Park

Piece Of My Heart” Big Brother and the Holding Company

Space Oddity” David Bowie

Don’t Change” INXS

Georgia On My Mind “ Ray Charles

Ripple” Grateful Dead

Greatest Love Of All” Whitney Houston

At Last” Etta James

 

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 24

A song by a band you wish was still together.

I spent some time thinking about this. My first thought was “Blood and Roses” by The Smithereens…but they’re still together. So I guess I should be happy about that, but perhaps it just means that I really don’t care about them if they’re together as much as I did when I thought they had broken up. Which should cast doubt on anything I subsequently pick today: If I can pick a Smithereens song because I thought they were broken up, it means I wish they were still together, presumably because I miss their stuff…only to realize they’re still around, so I don’t really miss it as much as I thought.

So, I went back to a band I KNOW is long gone. The band I’m going with was essentially engineered into life, but unlike so many created bands, they changed everything. Malcolm McLaren, a visionary in his own right, saw the oncoming Punk scene, and harnessed it. Punk as a movement began as a rejection of the establishment at a time that (here in the US) the establishment represented involvement in Vietnam and Watergate. It was the rejection of the mainstream and glam rock. I suppose it was perfectly predictable that a band built on such anti-social principles would implode, but it would have been interesting to see just how the Sex Pistols would have evolved, how they would have behaved: would they continue to reject the establishment or would they become the establishment, like Green Day?

My pick is “Anarchy In The UK,” a song I to this day will blare while driving, only these days I’m driving a late model Swedish sedan…kind of a perfect exemplar of the reason you can’t remain anti-establishment for very long.

Wisdom of Crowds picks:

Bohemian Rhapsody” Queen

Love Ballad” LTD

Voodoo Child” Stevie Ray Vaughn

People of the Sun” Rage Against the Machine

“And I love her”  The Beatles

In The Evening” Led Zeppelin

 The Old Apartment” Barenaked Ladies

Queen Of The Reich” Queensryche

Brothers in Arms” Dire Straits

Songbird” Fleetwood Mac

Planetary (GO!)” My Chemical Romance

 

 

30 Day Music Challenge: Day 23

A song you think everybody should listen to.

There’s this one song by a band that no one has heard from again after this album was released that has always evoked meaning for me. Like I could see this magnetic traveling vagrant coming through town telling stories to kids on an early Autumn day. I remember it was a day like that in August 1977, when a then 7-year old learned from the radio news that Elvis Presley had died. I didn’t know who Elvis was, but it seemed like it was a big deal because it was all over the place that “the King of Rock and Roll” had died. I remember running outside where all the neighborhood kids were playing in the street to spread the news.

“A Salvation Army band played, and the children drunk lemonade, and the morning lasted all day…and through an open window came, like Sinatra in a younger day…”
That just says the start of Autumn to me. Crisp air, but not quite the first day of school – back when school didn’t start until after Labor Day. Kids out playing.

I can imagine going back to the winter of 1963 and just being so cold – perhaps it’s the Salvation Army being invoked in the opening verse, maybe just being a lifelong New Englander who knows what it feels like when it’s so cold that it feels like the world would freeze, or maybe the sound of the wind blowing through the air. Perhaps it’s just the thought of a cold winter, paired with the assassination of our young president – the world feeling so cold and dead, yet the promise of what’s to come with this little band out of Liverpool, England who would change rock music forever, like a little sapling growing out of the tundra. A promise that the world does go on.

“In winter 1963, it felt like the world would freeze, with John F Kennedy and the Beatles…”

Maybe it’s the music itself or the repetitive African chant “ah hey ma ma ma ma…” or just the feelings it evokes for me. I don’t know, I’ve just always loved this song.

Wisdom of Crowds picks:

Always on Your Side” Sheryl Crow

Let It Be” The Beatles

The Sounds of Silence” Simon & Garfunkel

L-O-V-E” Nat King Cole

Beloved Wife” Natalie Merchant

At This Point In My Life” Tracey Chapman

Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a small town” Pearl Jam

The Greatest Love of All” Jane Olivor