dad from day one: Won’t Ever Be Lonely

Week 6.

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am a proud Country music fan- though I’m ultimately a Dave Matthews Band/Guster/John Mayer/Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty kind of guy.  In the past few weeks, in the midst of leaving our lives behind in Nashville and entering uncertainty and a current status of “in between jobs” in Alabama, not having much to do but constantly search for jobs and take care of our baby, the lyrics to a Country song by Andy Griggs from 1999 keep coming to my mind: “I promise you now, you won’t ever be lonely.”  Though the song is obviously written from the perspective of a man in love with a woman, looking forward to spending the rest of his life with her, the lyrics now speak to me in a different way:

“You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms and I’ll never let go.  Baby, here’s where it starts and I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely. Here’s a shoulder you can cry on and a love you can rely on.  For as long as I live
there will always be a place you belong.”

But while the words to this song obviously make perfect sense in the perspective of me speaking to my child, they actually are more relevant to me in this mindset: I won’t ever be lonely.  Not just him.  But I won’t ever be lonely.

I am better able to understand now why there are so many pregnant teenagers and why MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is such a popular show- because so many kids today are lonely. (I am under the crazy notion that a good number of pregnant teens and extremely young parents are not getting pregnant simply because of the careless lack of birth control, but instead because they subconsciously want to be have a baby in a attempt to be loved by someone.) So many daughters have never been told by their fathers that they are beautiful. So many sons have never heard their father tell them “I’m proud of you”.   Having a baby definitely changes the lonely factor in many ways.  Even if the 19 year-old father who works for minimum wage at the oil change place bales on her soon after the baby is born- at least that young mother will always have someone depending on her.

Granted, I haven’t been lonely in a long time.  But I can easily remember it.  It can be painful; literally.  Last week I watched a National Geographic documentary on solitary confinement where I learned that loneliness is processed in the same part of the brain as pain.  I can easily remember being 20 years old, feeling lost, out of place, an unmatched. I wondered for the next five years if I would be like the actor who played Mr. Belvedere, who never married or had children his whole life. But at age 25, my wife and I met each other and those heavy and desperate thoughts of loneliness haven’t entered my mind in over four years.

Now at age 29, I am the opposite of lonely.  I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful and hilarious baby son that I will always matter to.  And I have a feeling that the older our son Jack gets, the more attention and energy of mine that he will require.  At least until he reaches 7th grade and gets too cool for me.

Lyrics to Andy Griggs’ “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely”:

Life may not always go your way
And every once in awhile you might have a bad day
But I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
The sky turns dark and everything goes wrong
Run to me and I’ll leave the light on
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

For as long as I live
There will always be a place you belong
Here beside me
Heart and soul baby — you only
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely

It’s still gonna snow and it’s still gonna rain
The wind’s gonna blow on a cold winter day
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
You’re safe from the world wrapped in my arms
And I’ll never let go
Baby, here’s where it starts
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
Here’s a shoulder you can cry on
And a love you can rely on
For as long as I live
There will always be a place you belong

Here beside me
Heart and soul baby — you only
And I promise you now you won’t ever be lonely
No, no, you won’t ever be lonely

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The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

At what point does life reach its peak?

Last August I bought Third Eye Blind’s new album, Ursa Minor, on the day it came out. And while I love it tremendously, I realized several years ago that nothing they ever do will top their 1997 debut album with “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Jumper”, “Graduate”, “Motorcycle Drive By” and “I Want You”. They keep making good music, even if I’m the only one still listening. But they peaked 11 years ago.

Michael Jackson experienced his peak in 1983 with the success of Thriller, personally haunted by the fact that he was never able to commercially or critically top it. And as much as I love Dave Matthews Band, I find it scientifically impossible for them to top their 1996 7x platinum album Crash, featuring the flawless “Crash into Me”.

Not that it’s an awful thing to peak early in a career. Not everyone can go out with a bang like George Burns, or remain relevant after several decades. It happens to plenty of good actors and comedians too: they continue to make movies after people stop really caring. Steve Martin. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell. Robin Williams. Tim Allen.

A sign of a once-relevant comedian officially being past his peak is when he appears in a family movie in which he gets thrown high into the air, then lands abruptly but suffers no major injuries, then looks up at the camera with this expression that says, “Ugh, that’ll leave a mark…” (I have a visual right now of Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen when he gets catapulted out of the Gymboree.)

Gone are the days of Steve Martin’s classics like The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, and the legendary Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (which I refer to in about 23% of my writings). Now we’re stuck with The Pink Panther. I’m sure it makes him millions of dollars, but it doesn’t make anybody laugh.

Steve Martin: surprisingly, not Jewish.

While I don’t have a career in acting or music where I have to keep reinventing myself to please fans in the business of entertainment, I do live a life in which I am sometimes tempted to keep looking to the future for my vindication, contentment, or perfect stage of life. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to remind myself of some corny forward that someone e-mailed me a few months ago that said: These are the good old days.

Whether or not I am living in the peak happiness of my life now or in 30 years, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned it’s not the bad, boring, or annoying memories I keep going back to. It’s the good ones. Those are what I keep close to heart: These are the good old days.

Robin Williams: Also, surprisingly not Jewish either.

“I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)

“And I’ve never been so alive.” -Third Eye Blind (“Motorcycle Drive By”)

John Mayer’s Battle Studies: The Newest Installment from the Half-Jewish, Tattoo-Sleeved Guitar God

There are certain male musicians who while they seemingly have a unisex audience, it’s mainly women who are openly proud fans. Key examples: Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban.

Then there are those male musicians who seemingly have a feminine audience, yet they also earn the genuine respect of men who recognize their talent despite their charm. Key examples: Michael Buble and Jason Mraz. But the epitome of this category is none other than the 6’ 3”, tattoo-sleeved, half-Jewish, Connecticut native, John Mayer.

His most romantic songs are typically my least favorite- “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Come Back to Bed”. What draws me most to his music is a quality found in his lesser hits like “83” and “Something’s Missing”. Half nostalgic, half philosophical.

In reviewing any genre of entertainment, I can’t say any one thing is the best. I can only say what is my personal favorite. Because my favorite is simply an opinion; I am not qualified to declare what is best- that would go beyond a matter of opinion.

That being said, my favorite John Mayer album is his 2003 Heavier Things. It features the hits “Bigger than My Body”, “Daughters”, and “Clarity” (“ah whoo-ew… ah whoo-ew”). Along with its less featured songs “New Deep”, “Home Life”, “Split Screen Sadness” and “Wheel”.

The cover of this album itself perfectly captures the style and direction of the music. It represents a simple sense of timelessness, yet at the same time somehow reminds of me of Eric Clapton and/or Sting between 1988 and 1993.

I say that to say this. John Mayer’s newest album, Battle Studies, is a hybrid of two of my favorite things of his: 1) The album Heavier Things and 2) his very much underappreciated song “I Don’t Trust Myself with Loving You” from his 2006 album Continuum.

Very bluesy: “Fell down on my knees, asked the Lord for mercy, said ‘help me if you please’” (“Crossroads”).

Very jazzy: “Who says I can’t get stoned?” (“Who Says”)

Very soft rock: “I’ve got a hammer and a heart of glass- I gotta know right now which walls to smash” (War of My Life).

I decided half-way through this decade that John Mayer is incapable of releasing an album that isn’t good. I stand by that. Battle Studies is completely up to par with all his other recordings. But just like how Dave Matthews Band will never be able to top their Crash album, in my mind John Mayer will never be able to top Heavier Things.

Actually I see Battle Studies as a direct sequel (yet not necessarily a continuation) of Heavier Things. So in other words, I love it.

A year ago I posted a review of my favorite albums of 2008, and in a prophetic moment, I praised the then unknown song “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington. A few months later it was released as a single and went to #1.

Therefore, I will predict the soon-to-be hits from Battle Studies. The most obvious is the industrial-infused groovy tune “Assassins”. John has never sounded more like an African-American lead singer of an alternative rock band than he does in this song. Maybe it’s because this song has so many Michael Jackson qualities about it.

Like it was written with “Smooth Criminal”, “Dirty Diana” and “Give in to Me” in mind: “I work in the dead of night when the roads are quiet and no one is around… I’m an assassin and I had a job to do… Little did I know that girl was an assassin too.”

Another song destined to be a radio favorite is “Half of My Heart”. Perfect catchy melody. Perfect opening line: “I was born in the arms of imaginary friends.” Perfect choice of a female vocalist to do a song with: Taylor Swift.

The only downfall is that there’s not enough Taylor Swift in this song. She just does background vocals towards the end. Every time I hear it, I keep hoping the song has magically changed since the last time I heard it and that the song has become a true duet like the immaculately crafted “Lucky I’m in Love” by Jason Mraz with Colbie Caillat. Great song though: “Half of my heart is a shotgun wedding to a bride with a paper ring.”

Often when a musician or actor becomes a superstar, showing up in the tabloid magazines, the authenticity of their art suffers. Despite dating Jennifer Anniston and Jessica Simpson (to name a few) , his art hasn’t suffered (just his personal reputation). He’s still got the talent. Just as much as ever. Going beyond the rut of “the same three chords” compositions and “I miss you baby” lyrics.

And not that this takes away from his music at all, but this lifestyle definitely shows up in his song content. Like in “Perfectly Lonely”- “Had a little love but I spread it thin. Falling in her arms and out again. Made a bad name for my game ‘round town.” It’s also evident in the future hit which will inevitably be featured on several romantic comedy soundtracks, “Heartbreak Warfare”.

Gone is the charming, mysterious John Mayer from the beginning of the decade. Gone is the gentleman. Apathy and aimlessness are starting to show up in his attitude and lyrics. I don’t like his music any less because of it. But I do recognize the change.

Though this may actually be hurting him with his current single, “Who Says”, which is his lowest charting single, breaking his string of 5 consecutive Top 10 singles. This song much departs from his former classy charm, containing lyrics like this: “Call up a girl I used to know, fake love for an hour or so” and “I don’t remember you looking any better. Then again I don’t remember you”.

Not to mention the song’s constant references to marijuana use.

John Mayer is suffering from what I call “King Solomon Syndrome”. King Solomon had it all: Extreme wealth, fame, and wisdom. And 700 wives. And 300 concubines. But by the end of his life when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he said it was all meaningless. None of it made him happy.

At least at an early age, John Mayer recognizes something’s missing.

Related Post by the Same Author:

John Mayer’s Stupid Mouth  http://wp.me/pxqBU-wz

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Manspeak, Volume 10: Exploration

It’s not something we sit down and think about, but there is definitely something morbid, grotesque, and disgusting about a whole refrigerated bin full of chopped up bones, blood vessels, and body tissue for sale. With blood swishing around in the Styrofoam container. Somehow it never processes in my mind when I’m with my wife at the grocery store, walking by the Meats Department as we plan for that week’s meals.

Blood is an interesting substance. I am intrigued by the human love/hate relationship with it. It is the physical source of life- without it, we die. Blood is a major theme in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, with countless traditional hymns and modern songs with the word in the title.

But for most, the sight of blood gives an uneasy feeling. With good reason. The sight of blood is a sign of death.

From a skinned knee to a busted nose, when blood leaves the body, it is life escaping.

While blood keeps us alive, we don’t usually want to see it. It’s definitely better kept inside. The main exception I have found to this is the male population. Like most American men, the Rocky movies along with Band of Brothers and Fight Club happen to be among some of my top favorite films of all time. All include a lot of blood. Why are men so fascinated by other men causing each other to bleed?

Danger. Seeing how close to the edge of life a man can get and still survive. A subconscious curiosity about life after death. To step up close to that window between life and death and try to look through it, knowing that once that line is crossed, there is no coming back to this life.

A form of exploration.

Three weeks ago when my company moved offices, I decided to take a walk around the development. I scaled down a steep hill on the other side of the building and found an interesting discovery, the kind I longed to find 20 years ago when I was a boy pretending to be a Ninja Turtle in the woods behind my backyard.

What I found was a 6 foot tall tunnel. I could barely see a light at the other end. After stepping inside and walking about 50 feet inside, not being able to see anything around me, and unsuccessfully trying not to think about the Saw movies , I pictured a creepy man wearing a pig skin mask, poking me with an anesthetic needle. Within about 10 seconds flat, I was back outside.

A challenge was now set in place: Must conquer the tunnel. I recruited my co-worker John. We made it just as far as I did alone, until he said, “I think I’m stepping on a snake right now…” After darting back outside to equip ourselves with big sticks we found outside underneath some trees, we marched back inside a little bit more confident this time.

We trekked the tunnel all the way through.  It was only a few hundred feet long, but at the end we found a metal ladder.  I climbed up to a welded shut drain opening, where I could see the sky and hear the cars cruising on the road above me. We did it. Made it to the end of the mysterious tunnel. And to this day, we are the only two people at our company to have explored and conquered that tunnel, not to mention the only ones to even know where it is.

While I am not “discovering the New Word” like Christopher Columbus did (even though the Russians had to be well aware of our continent based on the fact that there are only 53 miles of ocean between Russia and Alaska), I can still discover and explore not only interesting places that few people know about, but more specifically in my case I can uncover new social observations and conspiracies that seem to successfully slide under the radar. I thrive on it.

Why the true stereotype of the man ignoring his map and/or GPS and refusing to stop to ask for directions? A man is wired to explore new things. There’s no getting around it. The stereotype must live on.

“If you could keep me floating just for a while, ’til I get to the end of this tunnel…”  -Dave Matthews Band (“Jimi Thing”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

tunnel

People are the Meaning of Life, Part 2

It’s a fact. There has never been another year in history (2009) when this many well-known people have died, namely middle aged celebrities, Michael Jackson being the foremost.  I keep thinking of the lyrics to that Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “oh, oh that smell- the smell of death surrounds you”. For a culture that seems to have some roots still grounded in the mindset of a 19 year-old kid (convinced they’re invincible and not really seeming to grasp that they actually will get old one day if and only if they live that long), we are now being forced to consciously think about it: There is a 100% chance of death for all of us. Life is a trap- no one gets out alive.

Not only does that require us to evaluate our lives, but it forces us to make at least one conscious attempt to nail down our view of the After Life. Because despite what we allow ourselves to safely believe, there can only be one absolute truth about life after death. Not everyone can be right. That’s the security, necessary exclusiveness, and hope that a faith brings.

Just like the way the male baldness gene randomly shows up in some men by age 20, while for others it leaves them alone for quite a while, the same “hot potato” concept goes for death. If everything goes as expected, we will live into our 70’s. But there are many variables that just can’t be controlled. There’s a redneck cup koozie I’ve seen before at gas stations that says in neon rainbow colors on a forest green background: “Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke… Die anyway!”

Being that I work in the transportation industry, someone a few weeks ago was trying to make a point to me about a particular safety issue regarding an 18 wheeler truck and in an effort that I feel crossed the line because it brought my personal life into a work environment, I was asked this question in front of others as a fear tactic: “How would you feel if a big rig ran into you and killed you?”

I pretended to listen and pay attention to what the person continued to say after that, knowing it didn’t matter anyway because I knew I was right and I later proved it through course of action instead of words. But ultimately on the inside I was doing my best to keep from saying out loud, “How would I feel if I died? I probably wouldn’t feel anything. I would be dead, you moron.”

Admittedly, that lame attempt to prove a wrong point to me actually has caused me to truly give thought to “dying before my time”. I am solid in my beliefs about my eternal destination. But the ultimate sadness of death is knowing that the 50 remaining years I have planned out in my head, with my wife and my family and my friends, are at this point just that- plans.

Either I get those years with the people I love or I don’t. And I have no control over that. Therefore, it makes me over-aware that each passing year I live is nothing but God’s grace. He allows me to continue to share life with these people. That is the reason I am still alive.

I used to have this way of thinking that if I didn’t talk out loud about my fears, they wouldn’t come true. But now I’m talking. Knowing that it’s not up to fate or something I can jinx; it’s up to God choosing to keep me around.

The downside of being happy about my life is knowing that it’s not guaranteed another second. Like the previously mentioned “hot potato” concept, in a sense we are forced to play Russian Roulette every day we wake up. So far so good. We’re all still alive. But the thought of missing out on life, which is the people in it, which are the meaning of life- deeply saddens me.

So this helps to explain why I am constantly called “Grandpa” when I drive, often going under the speed limit and never taking my eyes off the road. And it better explains why I am so focused on healthy eating and exercise. It’s why I won’t jump off into water I can’t see the bottom of. It’s why I never say good-bye to my wife without letting her know I love her.

People are the meaning of life. And in a related yet also almost opposite perspective, the real reason death is so scary is the fact is that it removes us from the people we love and the lifetime we’ve shared with them. Death takes us away from the meaning of life. We’re not afraid of dying, we afraid of losing life. That moment when everything we’ve ever known becomes like an old series of blurry dreams, and we wake up to the ultimate First Day in a New Place.

“I am invincible as long as I’m alive.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)

“And if I go before I’m old, oh brother of mine please don’t forget me if I go… When I was young I didn’t think about it, now I just can’t get it off my mind.”
-Dave Matthews Band (“Bartender”)

dysentery