expectations and playlists

Actual conversation a few years ago between me and my son. The youngest grandelf was somewhat plaintive about his struggles with his Color Nook.

“Wow, there is nothing quite so pitiful as a seven-year-old complaining that he can’t connect to the wi-fi,” I said.

“Yeah, what did I have at that age, an Etch-a-Sketch? What did you have, a stick? And some dirt to draw in?”

“Yeah, something like that.” 

Technology is like this. It creates expectations, especially when it is meant to be easy to use. We become accustomed to it and then get frustrated when it fail us. Our frustration is not just with its failure, but with the void it leaves in our lives. To a boy of seven whose life often revolves around the content delivered via high-tech tablet, the inability to connect to the network to receive more content, creates a painful emptiness.

That’s the nice thing about just having a stick and a patch of dirt – it’s pretty easy to go find another stick. Or just use your finger. Its when things are special, when they have potential to be all-consuming, that the void becomes seemingly limitless. That void is hungry and wants to be filled. It aches. It screams for attention, like a nameless thing shrieking “Feed me” endlessly into the night.

And then there’s my playlist.

The last few days I have not been listening to satellite radio in the car, but to a collection of what I *thought* was a great collection of songs for driving. Instead, especially when played in alphabetic order, it begins to sound pretty dark. Dark like a bruise full of purple, black, a little bit of green, and streaks of gold. Sad and angry music, even when it’s uptempo. Music that spans decades and a half-dozen genres that I think are generally closely related and overlapping. Break-up songs (No Souvenirs). Songs about moving on. Fighting  (Ballroom Blitz), drinking (I’m Gonna Hire a Wino), and fornicating songs (I was Made for Loving You). Love songs for the pure (If I were a Carpenter) and not-so-pure of heart (Secret), or slightly ironic (Alyson). Or just songs of pure macho assholery (That’s What You Get for Loving Me). I’ve begun to wonder if much of it is all too dark together, creating and reinforcing an inner darkness and sarcasm in what I’m told was once a sunny and cheerful disposition.


Certainly the little boy in this picture did not have a dark and sarcastic interior. But, clearly those girls flanking him did.

But I spent some more time listening to the playlist and looking at it. While I might not be at a one-to-one to ratio of sad/angry songs to happy/peaceful songs, there is a good mix, maybe about four-to-one. Of course, it is a matter of perspective. When Zach was young, he thought Jimmy Buffett’s Come Monday was a horribly sad song but like Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue, it always makes me feel good, as do Bob Seger’s Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser and Jackson Brown’s The Naked Ride Home (of course, I know a couple of true stories on that theme). Of course, some songs confuse the hell out of people, like Green Day’s Good Riddance or Rupert Holmes Escape, both of which are more familiarly known by “The Time of Your Life” and “The Pina Colada Song” respectively. Darkly cheerful and upbeat, but breaking up and cheating songs that seem like they belong together. Or darkly upbeat and triumphant like Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone and Bring on the Dancing Horses by Echo & Bunnymen.

I like the dark though. Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt still amazes me.

So, while I was thinking I need to lighten up my music drastically, I’m now thinking it needs only tweaking and better balance. I’m not giving up any Tom Waits (Tom Traubert’s Blues), Johnny Cash (Sunday Morning Coming Down), Merle Haggard (Mama Tried),  or Steppenwolf (Snowblind Friend) and certainly not Bat out of Hell.

We’ll see  – it is full speed ahead, because I Can’t Drive 55 and if you ride with me, be prepared for We’re Not Gonna Take It to be followed by Rock Lobster and Pretty in Pink or Picture or Dead Skunk. Or Dwight Yoakam’s cover of Purple Rain.

There’s just no telling other than alphabetically, we’ll end with Ziggy Stardust and if it’s a roadtrip, Born to Run is likely to blasted at least twice.

Yeah, upon further review, I’m fine with all this. It’s good music.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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