Five years ago this morning, this blog went live with a few brief pieces. You’re reading post #841 right now, which means that in the intervening time I’ve blathered on and on and on. As I’ve noted previously, this site sprung from a conversation over lunch at a Mexican restaurant and then ice cream at Dairy Queen with my college friend Judy. What to call the endeavor came quickly to mind, though perhaps I’ve sometimes focused too much on the “my life” side of things as opposed to “the music” portion. Part of that is to get some things in writing for (ultimately) Ben’s benefit; part of it is to get things down for my benefit. The funny thing about the latter is that there’s a decent chance that what’s now canon about various events I’ve written up isn’t always how I remembered things before trying to describe them in words (and who’s to say the memories were correct to begin with?).
Writing hasn’t exactly become less fun the last couple of years, but it has proven more difficult. Maybe a good chunk of the lower-hanging fruit has been picked; maybe I’ve gotten more self-conscious and feel like I need to publish stuff worth someone else’s time; maybe I’m mildly depressed from the pandemic and other national/world events. Regardless, I do still have the fire to continue, ideas for future posts, etc. I’m not going away quite yet.
Part of the impetus for The Music of My Life was a desire for an outlet to help process the deaths of my parents (Dad in December 2013, Mom in March 2015). Loss and regret are recurrent themes here. In some ways I waited too long to start this project, as I’ve got plenty of questions I’d love to ask my folks. And of course, loss hasn’t stopped: a retired departmental colleague and friend, my college roommate and his wife, a beloved pet. You hope that in response you fight through the pain, you remember, you try to do better with friends and loved ones, you work on living your best life—for yourself and for others.
Discovery and gratitude also appear over and again. In recent years, I’ve learned so much about early 70s R&B from listening to old AT40s, about “songs Casey never played” from the later 70s to later 80s, about early 90s modern rock tracks that slipped below my radar at the time. I’m thrilled almost beyond words to have gotten a slot at my campus’s radio station this past year—the show is probably informed from time to time by what I’ve done here. But the best part of the experience has been interacting with fellow travelers on the music blogging highway. Apologies to anyone I’m overlooking, but it’s been a pleasure to “meet” Jeff Ash, Kurt Blumenau, Jeff Gemmill, HERC, Charlie Ricci, and Jeffrey Thames. My long-time friend Warren “ProfMondo” Moore has been both an inspiration and a guide plenty of times. Special thanks go to Erik Mattox and Mark Seaman, both of whom have individually met with me on Zoom several times over the past eighteen months to chat about songs we adore (or don’t). Except for Warren, I believe these connections all arose directly or indirectly from Jim Bartlett plugging my site on his blog back when I was getting started; it (waves hands all around) is much appreciated, Jim.
Since I’m being reflective, here are a few of my favorite “Music” posts from the past five years:
—Pretending to be a disk jockey when I was in seventh grade;
—Analyzing four-week moving averages of # of debuts on AT40 over a twelve-year period;
—Ranking the songs on Silk Degrees;
—Memories sparked while eating a chicken finger salad at Zaxby’s;
—Remembering albums that a record store donated to our college radio station.
And from the “My Life” side of things:
—My paternal grandparents’ years as itinerant teachers in 1920s Kentucky;
—The man who helped introduce me to my wife;
—Christmas memories across the years, centered around the lyrics of a Nilsson song.
In late December 2017, a former student offered up a series of posts on Facebook highlighting some of his favorite songs from the year about to end. His tastes run mostly in the indie vein, and not surprisingly many of his choices were by artists new to me. One song that stood out was “June,” by Scranton band Tigers Jaw. It’d been released in the spring, with a video bowing in early June, mere weeks before this enterprise began. I loved the clip, shot at the shuttered Penn Hills Resort in the Poconos. There’s something oddly touching in comparing what Penn Hills had been, as seen in the interspersed scenes from old TV ads, with its then-current state. I’m sure the place was plenty kitschy in its day (heart-shaped bathtubs and all), but it was also the center of a number of peoples’ lives. Not that I need another reminder that time marches on…
As it turns out, Penn Hills was located about 30 miles south of the timeshare resort (which I think still exists) where Martha and I spent part of our honeymoon.
(I know it would have been more appropriate to find a song called “July”…)
Thanks to friends (both long-time and more recent) for regularly dropping by to read what I have to say, to the other folks who’ve chosen to follow this blog over the years, and to everyone who’s stumbled across one or more of my posts from doing a web search. I’m grateful for your support and interest. My family is heading out this morning on our first real getaway vacation in, as fate would have it, five years; maybe there’ll be a short post pop up while we’re gone, maybe not. Either way, see you again soon.