Every Breath You Take of the Air Tonight

What were Phil Collins and Sting really singing about?

It happened just a few weeks after I was born, then again exactly two years later in May of 1983. A man living out the final months of a dying marriage releases a song that goes on to become one of the biggest hits of the ‘80’s and most replayed songs on syndicated radio stations like Jack FM. Both of these men’s songs were destined to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Songs that were sad realizations from a man watching the love of his life slip away from him, though she shared his bed every night. I’m referring to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and Sting of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”.

Known for its memorable drum introduction over two minutes into the recording, its ghostly atmosphere, and its refrain of “oh Lord” that allows the song to exist not only has a premonition of his soon divorce and confrontation with his then-wife, but also as a desperate acknowledgement that God is overwatching the nightmare unfold, “In the Air Tonight” remains the perfect song for a drive on the interstate on an overcast day in October.

However, to many fans of the song (who wouldn’t be?), the meaning has always been vague and abstract.  Obviously some mysterious big event is about to happen and the accusing tone reveals anger, distrust, and sadness. So it only makes sense that a believable urban legend was born: A man watched Phil Collins’ brother drown and didn’t try to save him. Phil Collins years later invited the man to his concert and gave him a front row seat and sang the song to the man to drench him in guilt. The man later died of a heart attack. I believed this story for three years, until I did some research myself (on Wikipedia) to find out the truth. The Drowning Man Theory makes sense and it’s easy to want to believe it. But once I found out it’s a song about Phil Collins’ fading first marriage, the depth and weight of the song became so much clearer to me.

In a strange parallel, Sting woke up in the middle of the night and wrote “Every Breath You Take” as he watched his first marriage disintegrate. It went on to become the #1 single of 1983, surprisingly beating out all of Michael Jackson’s mega-hits that year (Thriller, Billy Jean, Beat It, P.Y.T., Human Nature, The Girl is Mine, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’). While the song comes across as a vow of undying love to many, with its promise to keep watch over his object of affection, it’s actually the opposite. It actually described Sting’s feeling of deep loss, knowing he would never fully get over losing his first wife. He didn’t want to let her go, but the marriage was ended regardless. Therefore, the “stalkerish” feel of the song is completely intentional.

Two British men who fronted successful pop rock bands in the 1980’s both wrote a song at the end of their marriage that went on to be a classic and unforgettable hit. And many people will never know the truth about the background of the writing other than what is written here. That’s often the case though: Some of the biggest legendary things in life are surrounded by mystery, only adding to the intrigue.

Readers’ Expectations 4: False Witness Memories, Jon Lovitz in Drag, and That Urban Legend About Women on Adrenaline

It’s been over a month since the last time I took a few minutes to share the most absurd Google searches that people used to find my website (Readers’ Expectations 3 on May 7th).  Now that enough bizarre key words have washed up, it’s time to check them out.

“how to photograph the Hollywood sign”- Well, first you get a camera.  Then you go to Hollywood and stand in front of the sign.  Press the correct button on the camera.  Bam.  You’re done.

“false witness memories”- Is it easy or is it difficult to remember memories that don’t exist?

“Jon Lovitz in drag”- That’s the ticket!

“women defecating”- I don’t know which is worse: The fact that some sick guy out there wants to see a woman doing “#2” or that somehow what I’ve written about something that in some jumbled sense, comes out similar to what he was looking for.

“brian winkles fort payne”- Brian Winkles was one of my best friends growing up.  I’ve referenced him a few times in my writings.  Either he Googled his own name or… looks like somebody’s got a secret admirer… woo-ooo…

“nick shell sugar”- I feel proud of that fact my discovery that consuming one tablespoon of sugar is equal to smoking one cigarette is becoming a world renown, sought after article: healthnutshell: A Tablespoon of Sugar or a Cigarette?  Oh, and… That’s “Doctor” Nick Shell to you…

This is the best you're gonna find, Mister.

“a pickle driving car”- Yeah, that’s cool.  A lot of people out there are looking to learn about that these days.  Also popular, “a pickle directing traffic”.

 

“women on adrenaline urban legend”- Did you know that one time, there were these women, and they got all hyped on adrenaline, and oh boy,  you’ll never believe what happened…

“famous painting”- Oh… That famous painting…  Yeah! I love that famous painting!  It’s hanging up on my wall.  Interesting, sounds like we’ve got a lot in common- you and me.  And the famous painting.

Marketing Schemes Involving Breast Cancer Research

No one hates e-mail forwards more than I do, especially ones that tell me I’m not a good enough Christian because I don’t forward the cheesy things to everyone in my contacts list.  The forwards I despise the most are the ones that mention kittens and/or guardian angels.

Knowing this, one of my friends takes special care in finding some of the worst ones to send to me, as a joke.  I received one last week that tells the story of an old married couple living in a tall apartment building.  When they argued, the man would wave around his unloaded shotgun at his wife, for dramatic effect.  However, this particular time he pulled the trigger, it was loaded.  The bullet missed his wife but coincidently hit a man jumping off the roof who fell past the couple’s window as he committed suicide.

He died from the bullet, not from the fall.  The old man would have been convicted of murder of the jumper, but they found out that the jumper was actually the son of the couple and his name was Ronald Opus.  The son had loaded the gun, knowing that his father waved it around in times of argument, knowing that his father would pull the trigger and possibly kill his mother.  Inheritance money is what the son was after.

But after trying for months to find ways to kill his mother, Ronald Opus gave up and jumped off the building.  The irony was the police cited the incident has suicide because Ronald himself loaded the gun.

That’s all I could think.  Immediately I Googled “Ronald Opus”.  And sure enough, there was a full Wikipedia entry for the fictional urban legend of Ronald Opus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Opus

I’m no Doubting Thomas; I just pick up on red flags when stories don’t add up or seem legit.  The thing is, I’m not usually one to call a person out on their BS.  I’d rather let them believe that alligators live in the sewers of New York City.  Why should it be my role to rain on their parade?  When a person starts a sentence with “did you know?…” that typically means whatever they are about to say is urban legend or a fabricated story.

Read “Did You Know?” http://wp.me/pxqBU-g

 

 

I have to call out another BS situation too right now.

Since last week, I have been seeing this commercial for a popular fried chicken restaurant franchise advertising that they are now donating a portion of their profits from the sales of both grilled and “original recipe” (fried) buckets of chicken to breast cancer research.

For all the millions of dollars we have donated to breast cancer research, the strongest findings they have released to us is this: The more fat a person consumes on a daily basis, the more likely they are to eventually get breast cancer. This does not necessarily mean that overweight people are more prone to breast cancer.  Because some people eat a lot of fattening foods, yet stay slim.

It truly angers me to see companies try to take advantage of people with what I call The Breast Cancer Gimmick: “Want a find a cure for cancer?  Buy and eat this bucket of fried chicken and we’ll help by donating money to research.”  But really, the fried chicken only increases the chances of getting cancer and encourages a lifestyle to stay unhealthy.

Of course it’s not just fried chicken restaurants committing this insulting and greedy gimmick.  It’s pretty easy to find chocolate candy companies during the same thing.

Here in Nashville, I recently saw a car dealership’s commercial advertising that they will donate $400 to breast cancer research for every car purchased within the month.  That’s tacky, but at least it doesn’t contribute to the unhealthy lifestyle of the customer.

I very much want the cure for breast cancer to be discovered, but I refuse to fall for a marketing scheme like this.

If you want to donate money to breast cancer research, do it.  Just don’t let a fast food restaurant or a candy company be the middle man.

To read more about the actual causes of breast cancer and ways to prevent it, click the link below:

The Unholy Trinity of Food http://wp.me/pxqBU-Hk

Parks and Rec: How Growing Up Near DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne, AL Made Me Who I Am

“A crooked chimney standing in the middle of a field once surrounded by walls of work, by laughter and by love…  It once was beautiful, right here.  It still is beautiful, in here.  You once were beautiful, I hear.  I hear it can be beautiful, just remember.”

– “Just Remember” by Sister Hazel

I grew up in the wooded mountains of Alabama, a few miles down the road from DeSoto State Park and the Boy Scouts’ Camp Comer. It was only inevitable that I would forever enjoy hiking and exploring trails, well past the days of Cub Scouting. Barely marked paths are rough draft adventures that offer something more sacred and wild than any tourist attraction I could know.

Whenever I trek through new terrain, I always wonder how few people in the history of the world have stepped where I step. And I wonder how long it’s been since anyone else was there. And what kind of animals cross the path throughout each day.

Saturday my new friend Daniel is coming over. That means two things will happen. We will play New Super Mario Bros. Wii. And we will go hiking in the woods behind my neighborhood. There’s an urban legend that an Indian man has been sighted out there meditating. And wild boars.

I’m not inspired by sporting events where the players and coaches switch teams each new season. So when another guy chooses to hang out with me, I will find a way to incorporate some sort of exploration of the wild.

In 2001 my dad and I spent a Saturday morning exploring the undeveloped, unmentioned land in between the Interstate and main street of my home town. I had never talked to anyone who knew what was back there. Forty-five minutes into the hike, we found what we didn’t exactly know what we were looking for.

We looked up and it was as if it just suddenly appeared. An old abandoned house with no power poles or roads leading to it, but instead, an isolated railroad track ran right in front of the house.  Only a few miles from civilization, yet completely forsaken. The entire house was covered in moss. We dared to step inside.

The front door was already open. The couch in the living room was rotted out. The floor of the back bedroom and bathroom was gone. The only proof of recent life was in one of the kid’s bedrooms. Blue shag carpet. Tinker toys. And the local newspaper, The Times Journal, from 1986.

Mentone, AL

The year I started kindergarten was the last time a family had lived there, evidently. In a way, my dad and I discovered it. If anyone in my town wanted to know details about this forgotten house, they would have to come to us. Otherwise, for all practical purposes, it doesn’t exist.

And it’s that sort of discovery that is the motivation for my constant attraction to hiking the woods. It’s what I do. I thrive on it. Not hiking a three day excursion through Catskill Mountains surviving on Cliff Bars and filtered urine. But just finding simple forgotten pockets of wilderness wherever I am.

Today I spent my lunch break from work hiking in the woods behind my office building and found a mysterious soccer field with no parking lot or road leading to it. And an old pony stall. And a frozen baby snake. Perfect.

And as I was searching for pictures of Canyon Land yesterday I stumbled into a new discovery about myself. I am fascinated with abandoned amusement parks. While I didn’t successfully find many pictures of Canyon Land, I did come across several others that fellow abandoned amusement park enthusiasts have taken the time to post. These wonder-playgrounds that once brought thousands of people joy now sit tucked away on the corner of town.

Maybe I romanticize the situation. I see them like Cinderella waiting for someone to come along and save them, bringing them back to their full potential. Like Jim Carrey in The Majestic, I imagine bringing the lost back to life. But for now, these broken-down Ferris Wheels and rusty roller coasters sit quiet like Atlantis.

Below is a collection of the beauty and wonder I see in abandoned amusement parks.  Sometimes creepy.  But what a life they once saw.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, 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

What Ever Happened to the Amusement Park Called “Canyon Land Park”, Near Fort Payne, Alabama?

During the early 1970’s up until circa 1983, there was an amusement park called Canyon Land, just a few miles outside of my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama on Lookout Mountain. In ‘70’s fashion, very comparable to the Dharma Initiative on LOST, Canyon Land could best be described as “1977 carnival meets small zoo”. One of the rides was a ski lift that took people over an actual canyon, Little River Canyon.

Being that I was born in 1981 and the park closed a few years later, my descriptions aren’t based on me being there during its prime. But my parents did go on dates there as teenagers.

Fortunately in 1993 (7th grade) my church youth minister Eddie McPherson was able to rent the shut down amusement park for $4 for the Halloween season. Our youth group put on an evangelical version of a “spook house” called Hell House. We used the old roller coaster carts and its track to manually push the guests through a “no flashlights allowed tour of hell” which ended with a bright room featuring Jesus (played by my dad) who invited them to Heaven.

It was a lot of fun for a 12 year old kid to explore that old place. The grass was taller than I was, where the parking lot used to be. Much of the place had basically been frozen in time as it evidently was abruptly shut down. In a room that stored all the old ski lift chairs, I found a completely intact Mellow Yellow can from 1979 (which I still have in my old bedroom at my parents’ house.

The urban legend is that the man who ran the place just let all the zoo animals go free into the woods. Therefore, to this day, jaguars and monkeys and all kinds of exotic animals can still be spotted on a lucky day. That would be fun to believe.

Because I helped resurrect Canyon Land for a few weeks in 1993, I tend to imagine what current lively buildings and attractions would be like if they became old an abandoned. Like Starbuck’s, for example. Twenty years from now, will all those Seattle-esque building be defunct? Like the old Food World building that remained years after the Super Wal-Mart came to town.

Not so much a ghost town. But a ghost attraction. Once filled with people laughing and buying ice cream. Now, only visited by raccoons.

Canyon Land is so forsaken that not even the Internet really acknowledges it. No Wikipedia entry. The best Google was able to do was take me to Ebay where someone is trying to sell Canyon Land postcards and tickets from 1970.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Fort-Payne-Alabama-Canyon-Land-Park-Card-Tickets-1970_W0QQitemZ310185209860QQcmdZViewItemQQssPageNameZRSS:B:SRCH:US:101?rvr_id=

Also, for anyone who would like to purchase Canyon Land, it’s currently for sale. For the low, low price of $2.4 million.  http://www.mycampgroundsforsale.com/park_detail.asp?ID=11