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Entry date: 5-13-2024 – Ups and Downs and Sideways – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

We talk a lot about the “ups and downs” of life, but shouldn’t we learn how to handle the “sideways” things better, too?

 

This isn’t meant to be revelatory, just throwing it out there. As a teacher, we deal with “sideways” all the time. Working in the non-profit world and also being a middle manager type in my for-profit days, I understand the space in between “ups and downs” pretty well.

 

Life is the space between not yet and not here.

 

First, we are a “pre-being.”

 

Then we are beings who are busy being.

 

Then we are a “not-being.”

 

Two people make us. Many people teach us. Hopefully a lot of people love us and if we are lucky, they will remember us.

 

Maybe even fondly.

 

*****

 

On a completely different plane of being, though, was this past weekend. What a nice time Rhondi and I had traveling up to Prescott for Angela and Jeff’s daughter’s wedding. I was honored to do the ceremony for them, and it was a really lovely time all around.

 

Rhondi and I had a really good weekend and it started with a fun drive up together and then a little time on Whiskey Row. Admittedly, after the last few months of dealing with all kinds of things, I’ve been a tad nervous about wanting to drink alcohol, but no booze touched my lips.

 

I had a number of non-alcoholic beers, though, and if anyone is interested, I was very pleasantly surprised by the four different ones I tried.

 

We went to a place called The Birdcage and they had a pretty talented cover band playing. The setlist was kind of all over the place for classic yacht, prog, and rock songs. That place had the Corona NA beer and it tasted very much like a Corona. I was very pleasantly surprised.

 

I also tried a Guiness NA and it was really good, too. I had forgotten how much drinking beer makes you need to pee. I haven’t missed that at all.

 

On Saturday, I had a few Heineken 0.0% beers and they were quite tasty, too, but the best of them was an Athletic Brewing Upside Dawn. I gave Jeff and Lance a swig and both were impressed by it as well.

I don’t think I will make a huge habit of drinking them, but it is nice to know that I can enjoy a beer flavored drink without feeling shitty or guilty about it. I have to believe companies will continue to make them, too, and they will get even better. Now for someone to make a good NA scotch.

 

*****

 

On a different note, I think there was a bit of fence mending this weekend, too. I saw an old friend and it was really nice to see him. We had a falling out, some of which I have alluded to over the last couple of years, but when you have so much history with someone, it’s always nice to put ill feelings to bed.

 

Well, maybe they are saying their prayers, but not at my end. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself, I can honestly say the hurt and anger is gone. Life is about right now. It’s about being.

 

*****

 

Bam.

 

Not quite ready to go there just yet, but it’s been really touching to see so many thoughtful social media posts about him. I keep wanting to think it is not true. One of the funny things about some people in your life is that while you don’t necessarily want to see them every day, you want to have the option to be able to see and talk to them if you can.

 

On Saturday night we listened to the Harvest track from the Placebo’ compilation, More Coffee for the Politicians. It was so damn good, but now Steve and Bam are both gone.

 

Fudge.

 

*****

 

Ten school days to go.

 

*****

 

 

 

In the early 90s, my mom lived over near 48th Street and Thomas. When she and my (now) stepfather travelled, I would often house sit for them to make sure their cats ate a well-balanced and nutritional meal. It was during one of these times that I heard Blur for the first time.

 

A family friend, Jay, was aware of a lot of cool music and he would loan me CDs to check out. I remember he had a bunch of British stuff I really liked and for years, I thought the song “There’s No Other Way” was by Chameleons UK. It wasn’t until the early 2000s when I picked up Blur’s Best Of CD on a lark that I realized that I’d always been looking in the wrong place in the record shop for the album with “There’s No Other Way” on it.

 

Picking up the CD, which was probably on sale, was primarily driven by really enjoying the track, “Song 2” off of Blur (1997). That song is a straight up rocker and so is “There’s No Other Way,” which is off 1991’s Leisure record. Either way, the Blur songs I had heard and recognized as Blur songs I had really liked, so I decided that I could count myself among those who like Blur.

 

There are much worse things.

 

To be honest, I’ve never purchased either Leisure or Blur, but I listen to them on Spotify. I did purchase Parklife (1994) and I really like that one, too. My gateway drug, though, was Blur: The Best Of. It is really this record that made a true believer of me when it comes to Blur.

 

It features five songs off of Parklife and my favorite of those is probably “This Is a Low.” It’s super mellow but has this really great, Paul Weller-esque chorus. I find a lot of similarities in the Jam and Blur, actually. Maybe you do, too. Maybe, though, you’ve thought about it.

 

 

I would even postulate that, if you are aware of both bands, it would be very difficult to not like one but like the other. There is a kinship there that touches both style and substance. I could also just be picking up on both bands utter and devout Englishness.

 

One of the things I like about this compilation that is mostly made up of their Food Records singles from the 1990s is that it has a lot of different moods and shows how Blur attacks music from a ton of different angles. Perhaps this is because all four members contribute to the songwriting.

 

Another probably unpopular opinion might be that if there was no Blur, there would not be a Radiohead. I feel it, though. Blur paved the way for a lot of bands and Radiohead is one of them. Part of me is sad that I wasn’t listening more closely throughout the 90s. I may not have liked the music as much, though, back then. I needed to get into my 30s, I think, to get it myself.

 

“Beetlebum,” for example, is a song that I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about in 1997. It’s great, though, and sets the table for Blur: The Best Of quite nicely. In fact, the first three songs are stellar. After “Beetlebum” comes “Song 2” and “There’s No Other Way.” When I listen to this record, I just kind of pinch myself at how damn good Blur was.

 

 

‘The Universal” is another one that reminds me of a Paul Weller song. It’s kind of a big, British ballad that could have been the theme music for a Peter Sellers’ movie. Damon Albarn, who sang lead for Blur, really has a great voice with a tremendous range and it shows on “The Universal.”

 

“Coffee & TV” is one, like many of these, that I wasn’t familiar with before getting this CD. It’s a mid-tempo number with some really interesting guitar work going on. Graham Coxon, the band’s excellent guitar player, sang lead on this one giving it a very different flavor.

 

I love the Parklife record, and the title track has a wonderful groove to it. For a band that sometimes seemed to take itself very seriously, Blur also seems to be really keen on taking the piss out of themselves a lot, too. There is a good sense of humor in their songs.

 

“I get up when I want, except on Wednesdays when I get rudely awakened by the dust man.”

 

“End of a Century” is kind of like Squeeze and Oasis had a baby. ‘No Distance Left to Run” and “Tender’ are both from the 13 record and I’m not terribly familiar with that one. They are both pretty mellow. I guess I should listen to it and see if that is the feeling for the whole record. The slight tinge of gospel to “Tender” is pretty rad, actually.

 

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, get through it/C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, love’s the greatest thing.”

 

It really is.

 

“Girls & Boys” was a pretty huge song, and I’ve always liked it. I’ve never been quite able to make out exactly what is being said in some of the parts of the song, but that’s part of it’s charm. It stands out nicely on Blur: The Best Of.

 

“Charmless Man” is not the most memorable song, but it’s not offensive, either. “She’s So High” is catchy as hell, and it makes me think of being young and in a love that had no chance of succeeding but at that moment of feeling like you were connecting with someone, it’s kind of like magic. The guitars in it are great, too.

 

“Country House” is a cross between a Madness song and the Batman theme. It’s off of Great Escape (1995) and that’s one that I need to spend some time with, too. “To the End” is another one that sounds like it came from a soundtrack from an old British movie. It’s lush and lovely.

 

“On Your Own” has a lot cool sound electronics going on in it. I talked about “This is a Low” already, and I still love it, but “For Tomorrow” is another one that I really dig off the Modern Life is Rubbish (1993) record. I’ve spent some time with that one, if for no other reason than the title is great. It’s one that is definitely worth a few listens.

 

Lastly, we have “Music is My Radar.” This one finds Blur playing around with some funky sounds and it works. Listening to it makes me wonder what the writing and arranging process is like for these guys. It feels like there are a few ideas converging here and it would be cool to see how they did it.

 

While I loathe Coachella and will probably never step foot there again unless I’m getting paid to be there, it would have been cool to see Blur play there last month. Sounds like those will be their last shows ever.

 

Bummer.

 

The music will live on, though, at least in my car.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



We saw these cool motorcycles with side cars in Prescott. I almost want one.

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