Sterling excerpts from Love is a Mix Tape: Life & Loss, One Song at a Time

Rob Sheffield
pg. 29
I had never made out, smoked, drank, broken a law, set fire to a car, vandalized a cemetery, or worn socks that matched. But I had the passion for rock and roll; I was a regular Dr. Johnny Fever in the body of a Les Nessman. Nobody could truly understand my quest to rock—except maybe Annie, my favorite Solid Gold dancer. I was totally clueless about social interaction, and completely scared of girls. All I knew was that music was going to make girls fall in love with me.
pg. 90
I was still serfing away at grad school. My friends and I assumed that we would soon be tenured professors, which is an excellent life goal—it’s like planning to be Cher. You think, I’m going to wear beads and fringed gowns, and sing “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” on the way to work every morning, and then one day, I’m going to get a call saying, “Congratulations! You’re Cher! Can you make it to Vegas by showtime?
pg 214
There’s a lot I miss about the nineties. It was an open, free time of possibilities, changes we thought were permanent. It seemed inconceivable that things would ever go back to the way they were in the eighties, when monsters were running the country and women were only allowed to play bass in indie-rock bands. The nineties moment has been stomped over so completely, it’s hard to imagine it ever happened, much less that is lasted fix, six, seven years. Remember Brittany Murphy, the funny, fizzy-hared, Mentos-loving dork in Clueless? By 2002, she was the hood ornament in 8 Mile, just another skinny starlet, an index of everything we’ve lost in that time.
When Avril Lavigne sings “Sk8tr Boi,” a song about how lucky she is to wait backstage for her rock boy, how is anybody supposed to remember that the Avril Lavignes of yesteryear were sold pop fantasies in which they had a place onstage, too? (“Sk8tr Boi” is a great song, too—which is part of the reason why there’s nothing simple about these questions.) Something was happening in nineties music that isn’t happening anywhere in pop culture these days, with women making noise in public ways that seem distant now. Nirvana brought mass appeal back to guitar rock, and the mass appeal made the bands braver—some of them even had something to say about the real world, which is way more than anybody has a right to expect from musicians. A kind of popular song existed that didn’t before and doesn’t any more, as arty guitar bands sized the moment to communicate with huge numbers of fans and go to extremes and indulge their appalling drug-addled muses and say dangerous or dumb things and expand the emotional/musical languages with which people communicated.
I remember the summer of 1996, at a drunken wedding with one of my professors, a Hendrix-freak baby boomer, when he was complaining about the “bullet-in-the-head rock and roll” the kids were listening to today, and he asked Renee, “What does rock and roll have today that it didn’t have in the sixties?” Renee said, “Tits” which in retrospect strikes me as not a bad one-word off-the-dome answer at all. The nineties fad for indie rock overlapped precisely with the nineties fad for feminism. The idea of a pop culture that was pro-girl, or even just not anti-girl—that was a 1990s mainstream dream, rather than a 1980s or 2000s one, and it was real for a while. Music was not just part of it but leading the way—hard to believe, hard to even remember. But some of us do.

The Bike Project Day 20

The Bike Project:
In which I attempt to ride all the yellow, green, blue & purple streets on the Bike There Bike Map while increasing strength, stamina, aerobic capacity and exploring Portland’s Nooks and Crannies.
Day 20
Weather: A bit windy and threatening to rain. Very grey
Ride Average Speed: 11.2 mph
Time: 1h 14m
Distance: 13.90 miles
Best Pace: 2:21
Best Speed: 25.4
Calories: 563
Rest Time: 1.35
Rest Distance: 0
Total: 1h 16m
Average Heart Rate: NA
The Ride:
Lombard & Denver
N on Denver
R Jantzen Beach
Over the bridge to Washington
Turn around and come back
R on Marine Drive
L on Portland Road
L on unnamed bike path by Triangle Lake
R on Denver to start
I wanted to test ride over the bridge to Washington, something I knew could be done, but I had never done before. Then I wanted to make a big old square and take out a long purple bike path that I had never done before. The directions to are somewhat vague because the map didn’t really have names for a lot of these streets/paths/interchanges.
How did I do?
· Bike Riding in North Portland is a study in contrasts. I rode on a lovely neighborhood street to an industrial slew to a huge shopping megalopolis to a sidewalk on an Interstate bridge to a beautiful bike path on the Columbia River to a beautiful bike path surrounded by railroads and auto wrecking yards to another bike path that took me past the waste water treatment plant then a golf course.

· The ride up Denver to Marine Drive is a bit marshy. This makes for very pretty viewing of grasses and birds etc., juxtaposed with highway noise.

· The route over the bridge is incredibly not peaceful. All those cars whizzing by are unsettling, even if they are on the other side of the barrier. Also the bike lane/pedestrian path is a bit skinny. I inadvertently ended up on the west side of the bridge (riding against traffic) and I’m glad that no bikers were going the other way. Going back, I poked around figured out the way to get on the East side path so next time I will at least be riding with traffic.

Glorious Bicycling Moments/Neat Things:
· The sign on the Marine Drive Bike Path near the Expo Center says: “Welcome to the Peninsula. Gateway to Nature.” I laughed a little because the Peninsula, like many slough-y areas, has been a bit of a dumping ground, historically. Hence the reason I rode past a waste water treatment plant, and a lovely marshy area has an Auto Wrecking yard in the font of it. However, right before I got to the auto wrecking yard, I came upon a fellow biker who was very quietly following two geese and their goslings. We both followed them as they waddled along the bike path. Only when they turned off into the grass did I pass them.
· Other bird sightings: Two yellow birds flew along in front of me for about a quarter of a mile before they turned off. I interrupted a dove resting on the path and also maybe a killdeer? I’m such an ornithologist.

· Just past the wastewater treatment plant the bike path suddenly opens up and voila! Golf Course. Portland International Raceway is in the background.
· Just after turning onto Denver there was a pile of garbage, but on the top was a ball peen hammer! I stopped and grabbed it. Free ball peen hammer! Excellent ride bonus!

Lost in Dreams of Adulthood

The gym I currently belong to is the 10th Ave Athletic Club in the YWCA in downtown Portland. I joined it because I love Nicole, the morning yoga teacher. Now, I just love the gym in general. The people there are nice, everyone is there to do their own thing, not to look pretty or meet a potential mate. It is a perfect gym, except for one thing—day after day, the music that plays throughout the gym is from the 80s
I grew up in the 80s. I was five when the decade began and 15 when it ended, so music from those years brings me straight back to my childhood and adolescence. Hearing this mishmash of music: leftover disco, metal, pop, new wave and rap inevitably calls up very vivid memories.
It’s 1988. I’m 13 and in that period where school doesn’t really take up much of my time and I am too young to have a job. I’m not so much into sports and so most of my spare time is spent with Adam Curry and the top 20 video countdown and MTV viewing in general. This might have been the year when I watched all 10 hours of the top 100 video countdown. Hearing some songs now, nearly 20 (!) years later, I can clearly recall their videos.
“Lost in You” Rod Stewart. Not one of his better known songs, but boy, did it make an impression on never-been-kissed me. The song: Rod Stewart sings of pining for his unnamed woman, who he has been separated from for unknown reasons. The setting: Rod is working as a bartender in a strip joint, looking sad and unsatisfied. There may have been inter-cutting to the unnamed woman he was pining for. She may have been writhing on the bed. I’m sure there was some writhing, it was a staple of 80’s videos. All I know about writhing, I learned from MTV.
The lyrics still transport me. They were so adult, and I was old enough to understand what he was singing about; I just hadn’t experienced it.
Hey baby
You’ve been on my mind tonight
I’m so lonely
I just had to sit down and write
I spent all yesterday
Trying to figure out what I’m gonna say
A letter from the heart
is so hard to start baby
How’s your mama, how’s the weather
How’s that son of mine, yeah
Rod not only misses unnamed woman, he also has a child with her and is working hard to write a letter. No boy had ever written me a letter from the heart at that point, but it sounded great. I also liked how he started the letter. It is so polite to ask how her mother is first! Thinking about the video now, did the bartending job in the strip joint pay that much more than wherever his family was? Did they not have strip joints in the town?
Hey baby
Been a long time since we made love
I’m stone cold, the bed’s hard
and the work is tough
I’m never gonna leave you again
This job ain’t worth the pain
No money in the world
ain’t worth being away from you
Ooh baby I don’t sleep
without you by my side, listen
Still to this day, I love the line, “I’m stone cold, the bed’s hard and the work is tough.” Here Rod questions his commitment to his bartender/strip joint career. But then, the lyrics that I really pined for someone to feel about me:
I’m in love with you woman
It’s a common known natural fact
And I’ve found what I’m looking for
And it’s so much more than that
I’m lost in you, I’m lost in you
So much of these adult themes sound so exotic at 14: the casual mention of making love, the “common known natural fact” that he is in love with her. Next we find out that in the past, Rod needed some saving:
Hey baby
you don’t know what you’ve done for me
I’m so happy
as any man can deserve to be
I was living in a life of sin
God knows what a mess I was in
So glad you found me
I ain’t getting any younger
Hey baby I just hope
it ain’t all a dream

I guess things were worse before. I particularly love the line about “I ain’t getting any younger” At the time this song came out, he was sort of an elder statesman of rock. Twenty years later, he is officially old. I’m not sure he’s caught on to that though.
I miss your laughing eyes
I miss our baby crying
I wanna lay you out
and kiss you all over
I’m coming home real soon
Be ready cause when I do
I’m gonna make love to you
Like fifteen men.
My adolescent self liked that bartending/strip joint Rod missed normal people things like “laughing eyes” and babies crying. The making love like 15 men? I couldn’t imagine what that would be like, but I loved to sing along, with feeling.
I think was the thing about being an adolescent. So many adult things sounded so great to me. They also seemed so very far away. How romantic; life forcing a separation. Would this exciting event ever happen to me? When I actually experienced it, it wasn’t so great at all. It was boring and lonely and there was a lot of pining. I don’t think I thought of this song once.
I’ve been mulling “Lost in you” for a few days, and My favorite TV columnist, Peter Ames Carlin, also deconstructed a song this morning in his column. (go here)

The 50% me with a side of grumpy

On Monday and Tuesday, I was the super me. I rode to the gym, ran, lifted, rode to work. At work, I was productive all day and cheerful and so super. Today, that all came crashing down. I was awake in the middle of the night last night, so missed the gym, though did ride to work. My cold, which was receding, returned to me. I made it through the school day, but came home pretty quickly after school got out at 1 p.m. It’s 8:10 p.m. and I am about to head for bed. Maybe tomorrow I can be the medium me, returning to the super me next week.
David Bailey: Tonight I’ll be the super me.
Steve Dunne: What if the super you meets the super her and the super her rejects the super you?
David Bailey: Then it’s no problem.
Steve Dunne: Uh-huh. Why?
David Bailey: Because it was never you, it was just an act. I live my life like a French movie, Steve.