Sunday, June 30, 2013

Too Happy? Take Two of These

It's Sunday and when I took my morning walk to downtown Chapel Hill this morning an old Kris Kristofferson song, Sunday Morning Coming Down, stuck in my head. If you remember the lyrics, you won’t find that surprising. Maybe it was that line about the “Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken”. This is the South, after all, and Lord knows someone is always fryin’ something.

Heck, over at Mama Dip’s Country Cooking they deep-fry the napkins.

Anyway, I got to thinking about songs that people should listen to when they find themselves feeling too happy.

See, I walk a lot and to paraphrase A. A. Milne, sometimes I walks and thinks, and sometimes I just walks.

Back to Kris, though, this might be the most depressing song ever written; yet, it sticks in my head. Do I like it? Don’t know, but I’ve been singing it in my head all morning. (I sound a lot like Kristofferson in there.)

There ain’t nothing short of dyin’ that’s half as lonesome as the sound, of a sleepin’ city sidewalk with Sunday morning coming down.

Yeah, if I were feeling manic, I could probably stabilize my mood by listening to that.

I heard Kristofferson do the song in concert. In the middle of the tune, he stopped singing and said, “Kinda makes you wanna get up and dance in the aisle, don’t it?”

It don’t.

This week, a friend on FaceBook mentioned what an awesome song Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne is. It is awesome. I loved to play it on my guitar until I noticed that I always seemed to want to jump off a bridge after I did.

It tails off with a guitar solo of Auld Lang Syne. Taps would’ve worked equally well.

I worked with a young lady named Carla years ago and I remember something she said when several of us got together for a beer after work. She said, “I was feeling depressed last week so I went to a record store and bought a Dan Fogelberg album. Never. Do. That.

She got a round of amen’s.

We went to have ourselves a drink or two, but couldn't find an open bar. We bought a six-pack at the liquor store and we drank it in her car.

If there is a more depressing scene for two old lovers having a drink together and reminiscing, I’m sure Dan would’ve found it.

I’ve always thought Janis Ian’s Seventeen, and in fact the entire Between the Lines album, could bring Betty Boop down. It’s a pretty catchy tune, though, and I’d love it were it not for the lyrics. Truth is, I love it with the lyrics.

Besides, if your parents named you Janis Eddy Fink, you’d change it and find yourself writing lyrics like, “I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty queens”, too.

If I were super-manic and looking for a natural way to dampen my mood, I have always thought that listening to Seventeen and Same Auld Lang Syne back to back would do the trick. I would worry about an overdose, though. 

They should come with warning labels. “Same Auld Lang Syne: Do not take with Seventeen. If you have suicidal thoughts, stop listening and call your doctor.”

There’s no shortage of competition, though. One of my favorite John Lennon songs, Imagine, posits that if we just have a fertile enough imagination, we can envision a world that doesn’t suck. Imagine wins polls for best rock song ever.

My favorite song ever is Fire and Rain. Nothing I’d rather hear. Nothing I’d rather play. J.T created the genre of acoustic singer-songwriters.

But it’s a recovery song. About heroin.  You better look down upon me Jesus, you gotta help me make a stand. Just got to see me through another day. My body’s aching and my time is at hand. I won’t make it any other way.

Would it be my favorite song if I had understood the lyrics the first four hundred times I heard them? Probably. It’s a hell of a song.

Gordon Lightfoot is another of my favorites, but The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald just relentlessly beats the joy out of you, verse after verse. And it’s not like you can’t see how it’s all going to end.

It can’t hold a candle to Gordy's  Circle of Steel, though. A child is born to a welfare case where the rats run around like they own the place. And it goes downhill from there. At Christmas, no less.

One of the greatest hits of the Beatles? Yesterday. And because the lyrics might not totally rip your heart out, George Martin added that damned cello. As a result, Guinness World Records has named "Yesterday" the most recorded song in history.

I wish I could figure out why we love depressing songs so much. I have every song mentioned above. On vinyl. And most on CD, too.

But I can’t figure it out, and my brain is getting tired.

Time to just walks for a while.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

About 1.2 million years ago, around the time I graduated high school, a section of North America about the size of Ohio and located around the Four Corners (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah) was uplifted tens of thousands of feet. It’s known as the Colorado Plateau and its southern face is the red cliffs seen around Sedona, Arizona. This uplift is the reason the Grand Canyon and several other national parks in the region exist.
There is no other place like it in the world.
Over the last 10 days, we put 1,981 miles on our rental car.
We flew to Phoenix and then drove to Sedona, Flagstaff, Monument Valley, Cortez, CO, Moab, UT, Torrey, UT, then back to Arizona and Page, Flagstaff and Sedona again, then to tiny Jerome and back to Phoenix (but not to Winslow).
I wanted to detour to Winslow on the drive from Page to Flagstaff to have my picture taken standing on a corner, but my wife said she thought that was dumb.
We went from 425 feet of elevation in Chapel Hill to 2,100 feet in Phoenix to nearly ten grand near Boulder, UT. (Nope, I didn’t know there was a Boulder in UT ‘til this week, either. I think the population is like, 12.)
I have no idea what the elevation of Winslow is.
I don’t know exactly how many photos I took, but it seems to be more than 700. Of course, many of those are bracketed shots that I will combine into single HDR photos when I get home, so I'll guess maybe 600. (If you're interested, there are far fewer than the full 700 at
We learned that Utah skimps on guard rails and oxygen (above 7,000 feet, or so), and offers an absurd over-abundance of privacy. Parts of Arizona are hot as hell in June, though we already knew that, and other parts, like Flagstaff, are delightful.
We loved the southwest corner of Colorado, but we were only in New Mexico for a few minutes and only because we parked in the southeast corner of the parking lot at the Four Corners Monument.
Vicki agreed with my 10-minute detour request to the Four Corners monument (but not to Winslow). I just couldn’t see being so close and not getting a look.
We visited Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park (NP), Monument Valley, Mesa Verde NP, Canyonlands Needles NP, Arches NP, Dead Horse Canyon State Park, Canyonlands Islands in the Sky NP, and Bryce Canyon NP (but not Winslow).
We even stopped twice in Tuba City, on the border of the Navajo and Hopi nations. The Tuuvi Cafe there has great Navajo fry bread.
My vote for Most Breathtaking and Can’t Be Missed would be the Grand Canyon. Most Fun goes to Arches NP and the Most Beautiful award goes to Bryce Canyon.
If I could only go back to one, it would be Bryce Canyon. At the first six overlooks at the Grand Canyon, you think you’ve spoken with God, but by the seventh, you’re like, “Yep. Grand Canyon. Still there.”
I learned that I really missed the Diamond Heels playing in their Regional and Super-Regional baseball tournaments while we were gone. I followed the games on Twitter, but coverage was so sparse I could only get updates when we passed through towns — and that ain’t often in the Southwest.
This photo of a trail at Bryce haunts me. Vicki and I walked five minutes down this trail and back on our way out of the park. I REALLY wanted to hike it.

It looks like promise. There’s some really good stuff beyond that peak in the distance where the trail disappears over the ridge.
This trip was on Vicki’s bucket list. I couldn’t even think of something to put on a bucket list. I’m glad she dragged me along. I may have enjoyed it more than she did.
Vicki brought me sudafed, Kleenex and naproxen when I developed a sinus infection and a few times I had to walk to the parking lot and bring the car back to the trail head when she looked like she couldn’t take another step.
But she climbed steep steps carved into rock and four ten-foot ladders to make it out of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, (I had to climb the ladders holding both our water bottles in my left hand) and she coached me through my fear of heights on the climb up to Delicate Arch.
I was so impressed.
And she didn’t complain once when I sang “Take It Easy” all the way from Page to Flagstaff.
Not much on the radio in Tuba City.

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