Month: June 2014

Do we really need friends?


My new best friend. Well, not really. I don’t keep score that way. Plus, she has no idea who I am. That’s kind of a sticky wicket.

There’s a quote from Amy Poehler that I read recently — I think it is; I haven’t been able to verify it, but we’ll go with the assumption for now — and it really resonates positively with me. “Other people are not medicine.”

Once upon a time, I probably did use other people as medicine. I was jealous of friends who were in relationships because I wanted to be in one, and I just genuinely enjoyed the company of others. I never felt codependent, but I also never felt comfortable in my own skin unless I had someone around to reflect back at me.

Amy is right, though; people are not the cure for what ails you. At best, they are a salve that provides short-term comfort.

This may sound shocking and terribly coarse, but I’ll say it anyway. I don’t need my friends. I will not drop dead without them. The sun will rise tomorrow morning regardless of the number of people I count as my peers.

If you’re one of my friends, don’t go clicking on the red “x” in the upper right hand corner just yet. As I said, I don’t need you in my life. I want you in my life. I don’t say that to make it sound as though “you made the cut,” because that’s not it at all. There’s no leaderboard and even if you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you specifically what makes me gravitate toward some people and away from others. I’m not trying to fulfill degree requirements, I’m just trying to have a good time traveling through life.

I don’t ever want to tell someone I need them any more than I want to hear it told to me, especially from a lover. I wasn’t always that way. I’ve told at least two different women “I can’t live without you.” Guess what? I woke up this morning on the correct side of the turf. I only lament it a little bit that I’ll never be able to say that phrase to another woman because it’s a very nice platitude, but that’s all it really is. If you have someone special in your life, live in the moment. If you’re having a bad day, tell them you’re really looking forward to seeing them later. If they make you feel good inside, tell them that you’ve noticed that you smile and laugh more with them than anyone else.

If they press you for more than that, re-evaluate the relationship. I used to be the kind of guy who needed that kind of reassurance. Rightfully, I did not get it. Now, I cringe at the thought of it. “I can’t live without you.” In what universe?

For the first time since 1999 I am living alone, and as each day passes, I wonder what the hell I was so afraid of.

To my friends reading this, all two of you, please don’t take this as indifference to the times we’ve shared. I have been through some tough times — my brother Todd’s death, two periods of unemployment, divorce — and just knowing that you were there at the other end of a phone or an email was often enough to help propel me forward.

When you face your fears (leaving your departed loved one in the past, a longer-than-normal job search, moving on as a single man), it’s really just you in the forest against Voldemort and a wall of Death Eaters. It can be lonely, but the sad reality is there’s only room in your skull for one conscience.

“Other people are not medicine.” Damn right. If that was the case, don’t you think a room full of your friends and loved ones surrounding your bed as you lay dying might be enough “medicine” to snatch you back from death’s chilly grasp?

No. Because whether that hospital room is packed or empty, that journey toward death we make alone.

It’s the same in life. By all means, surround yourself with people who mean something to you, but don’t do it because you can’t stand the thought of being alone. Don’t do it because you can’t stand the sound of your own inner monologue. From cradle to grave you’re the only best friend you’re ever going to have your entire life.

Make sure you’re worthy of your own company first.

Incidentally, Amy I know you’re recently single. I’m recently single. I don’t foresee me lifting my six-month dating moratorium for you (because you should have to wait like everyone else), but if you ever find yourself in the Central Kentucky area with a few hours to kill, and you don’t have any better offers, my door is always open, except when it’s locked. And you should knock first. And we should agree on a code name for you because if I say “who is it?” and you say “Amy Poehler,” I’m probably going to think you’re full of shit. No, I won’t just use the peephole to confirm it visually, because how do I know you’re not looking through the peephole from the other side? If someone knocks on my apartment door and I don’t know they’re coming, I’m not answering the door, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to tip them off that I’m home by walking up to the peephole to look through. What kind of careless individual do you think I am?

So, yeah, we’ll need to come up with a code name for you. Maybe something low-key, like “Lindsay Lohan.”

I’d tap that

I'm trying to regain my dashing college form.

I’m trying to regain my dashing college form.

A few weeks ago, and with the exception of missing a few nights over the holiday weekend, I began a cardio and upper body workout regimen of about 30 to 40 minutes a night. The big picture goal is for me to get healthy, lose about 15 or 20 pounds to regain the physique that compelled so many women, in my previous single days to say, “eh, you’ll do.”

Specifically, though, I timed this routine to begin about a month before I start fulfilling a dream I have steadfastly held to since childbirth. Beginning in mid-June I am taking seven weeks of adult tap dancing classes.

Dr. Freud to the launch pad.

Sometimes a Saturn V is just a Saturn V.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s unusual as a remedy to the midlife crisis. Most men invest LARGE MONEY™ in automobiles of dubious taste. The reason they do this is because – let’s be honest – they cannot purchase rocketships or submarines.

It’s an exciting prospect. For years, I’ve watched Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in movies, making it look easy, Astaire with his characteristic grace, and Kelly with his workmanlike athleticism. The fact that both of them are now dead has not deterred me in my quest.

Doing this would be great. Landing like this would be painful.

Doing this would be great. Landing like this would be painful.

Some folks may look at this as an incredibly “sissy” thing for a grown man to do, but I put it to you that collectively Kelly and Astaire had five marriages. Fred Astaire was 81 when he married Robyn Smith, whom he would remain married to until his death in 1987. At 81 he still had enough game to woo a woman about half his age.

And me? Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve been on several first dates.

Tap lessons will give me something to do this summer and will help expand the elastic waistband that is my addled brain. A few summers ago, I discovered as I took an American Sign Language class at one of the community college campuses that I was, much to my surprise, still capable of learning and adapting new information to my use.

Born to do it! Lexington, Kentucky. 125th Street.

Born to do it!
Lexington, Kentucky.
125th Street.

Plus, I’ve got rhythm. Boy, do I got it, brother. And not to toot my own horn too much, but I was a star student in my ballroom dance class at Morehead State University my freshman year. It was my physical education elective, and a great way to meet girls.

And since I have sworn off dating for at least six months, I will, at least for the summer, focus on dance to distract me.

At least my feet and legs will be getting a little action.



Tribute to Allan Sherman

Ever since college, I have had a dysfunctional relationship with music. I have a decent enough grounding in music history and literature that I can hold my own in a conversation about, say, nationalism in music composition, and depending on how much alcohol the other person in the conversation has consumed, I will come off as an authoritative voice.

Yet, I often gravitate toward music that is obscure, irreverent and downright naughty. For me, that fetish began in high school when I first listened to a borrowed copy of a Monty Python compilation album titled “The Final Rip Off,” specifically a track on that album called “Sit on My Face,” which sounded eerily like “Seventy-Six Trombones” from “The Music Man.”

In college, my fetish blossomed when I was introduced to the music of Tom Lehrer. If you don’t have a basic awareness of Mr. Lehrer’s music by the time you turn 30, there is still hope for you, but I am grateful to have been exposed to his musical comedic genius the first semester of my freshman year. Do you know how you often wish you could go back and recreate the first kiss you ever had with the love of your life (or at least with a former boyfriend/girlfriend who was a really good kisser)? That’s how I feel about the first time I ever heard Mr. Lehrer play and sing “The Masochism Tango.” I was in Wes Flinn’s dorm room in Morehead State University’s Cartmell Hall, doubled over laughing to the point of tears and being unable to speak.

Morticia and Gomez

“Tell us more about this…masochism tango.”

Take your cigarette from its holder,
And burn your initials in my shoulder.
Fracture my spine,
And swear that you’re mine
As we dance to the Masochism Tango.

It’s all Wes’s fault for getting me hooked on this crap.

Over the years, I have collected various forms of so-called “novelty music,” though I hate that term because it’s very dismissive of the intellect involved in creating music that should have as much merit as the output of “serious” composers. Mr. Lehrer, a Harvard-trained mathematician, wrote a song that was variations on the folk tune “Clementine,” incorporating the styles of Cole Porter, W.A. Mozart, Thelonius Monk (I’m taking a stab at that one, because in his remarks Mr. Lehrer only said he was emulating the “modern cool school of composing”) and Gilbert and Sullivan. The label “novelty music” cheapens that creative process, in my opinion.

Allan Sherman

“Hello? Muddah?”

I came to know the music of Allan Sherman courtesy of Pandora radio (God bless modern technology). I had known for years that he was the voice and genius behind the popular tune “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” but I was ignorant of the rest of his work, or his oeuvre if we really want to get pretentious. One of my favorite tunes of his really isn’t his tune at all; it’s a parody of the Gilbert and Sullivan song “When I Was a Lad” from “H.M.S. Pinafore.”  Mr. Sherman kept intact the spirit of the song, an illustration of how cronyism, going to the “right school,” and apple polishing could help one go far in life and career. He adapted the lyrics to reflect a more modern tale, shifting the setting from a 19th century law firm to a 20th century advertising agency.

One day, when I was listening, though, a jaunty tune came on the radio, with Sherman’s signature unrefined voice cranking out lyrics, and I had to pull over the car to really listen.

There is a place I long to go and I confess
It’s Peyton Place.

They’ve got a brand new meaning for “togetherness”
In Peyton Place.

I knew you weren't here for the articles!

I knew you weren’t here for the articles!

I was vaguely familiar with the reference to “Peyton Place.” I knew it was a film from the mid-1950s and a popular soap opera from the 1960s, and that it had all the accoutrements one usually associates with American daytime entertainment, namely sex and other related intrigue.

The beauty of Mr. Sherman’s “Peyton Place, U.S.A.” is that even a modern audience can enjoy it. They may not know “Peyton Place,” but if you tell them to think of, for example, Wisteria Lane from “Desperate Housewives,” they will make the connection.

The fun with this tune is that Allan Sherman never quite comes out and says the word “sex.” It’s all in the subtext, which is the most fun part of seduction anyway.

Isn’t it?

“Peyton Place, U.S.A.” earned the distinction of being the first ever song I downloaded from iTunes. Still, I wanted to see it on Youtube. I searched, hoping for a live recording. Alas, it’s not out there, or I’m just not looking in the right place. So, I decided to pay tribute to Mr. Sherman’s tune with a video of my own making.

I have also searched for sheet music of this tune, but that also ended up at a dead end. To the best of my knowledge, there is no Allan Sherman Songbook, though there should be. I think a lot more people would gather drunk around a piano if they could sing Allan Sherman tunes.

Because if you can’t sing Allan Sherman while blasted out of your mind, then the terrorists win.