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Top 100 Meme

Here they are: all the songs I didn’t dance to at my senior prom. And, no, it wasn’t because I didn’t have a date—it was because these songs suck so much. 1989 was not a great year for music.

This, by the way, is via Amanda at Pandagon, and it’s a meme. Here’s how it works: Use the “Music Resources” page at Music Outfitters to find the top 100 songs from the year you graduated from high school, bold the ones you loved, strike-out the ones you hated, and leave untouched the songs you neither loved nor hated or simply don’t remember. Your favorite song on the list should be underlined. If memory serves, my affection for Madonna was almost ironic at this point. I liked The B-52s and I had luved Duran Duran, but the latter band was well past its prime in 1989, and “Love Shack” drove me nuts. Finally, while I did think “Stand” was a catchy little tune, I generally considered REM played-out at this point—I only saw the Green tour because Rita Baranwal and our little sisters really wanted to go.

1. Look Away, Chicago
2. My Prerogative, Bobby Brown
3. Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison
4. Straight Up, Paula Abdul
5. Miss You Much, Janet Jackson
6. Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul
7. Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler
8. Girl You Know Its True, Milli Vanilli
9. Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird, Will To Power
10. Giving You The Best That I Got, Anita Baker
11. Right Here Waiting, Richard Marx
12. Waiting For A Star To Fall, Boy Meets Girl
13. Lost In Your Eyes, Debbie Gibson
14. Don’t Wanna Lose You, Gloria Estefan
15. Heaven, Warrant
16. Girl I’m Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli
17. The Look, Roxette
18. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals
19. On Our Own, Bobby Brown
20. Two Hearts, Phil Collins
21. Blame It On The Rain, Milli Vanilli
22. Listen To Your Heart, Roxette
23. I’ll Be There For You, Bon Jovi
24. If You Don’t Know Me By Now, Simply Red
25. Like A Prayer, Madonna
26. I’ll Be Loving You (Forever), New Kids On The Block
27. How Can I Fall?, Breathe
28. Baby Don’t Forget My Number, Milli Vanilli
29. Toy Solider, Martika
30. Forever Your Girl, Paula Abdul
31. The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics
32. Eternal Flame, The Bangles
33. Wild Thing, Tone Loc
34. When I See You Smile, Bad English
35. If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher
36. Buffalo Stance, Neneh Cherry
37. When I’m With You, Sheriff
38. Don’t Rush Me, Taylor Dayne
39. Born To Be My Baby, Bon Jovi
40. Good Thing, Fine Young Cannibals
41. The Lover In Me, Sheena Easton
42. Bust A Move, Young M.C.
43. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Great White
44. Batdance, Prince
45. Rock On, Michael Damian
46. Real Love, Jody Watley
47. Love Shack, B-52’s
48. Every Little Step, Bobby Brown
49. Hangin’ Tough, New Kids On The Block
50. My Heart Can’t Tell You No, Rod Stewart
51. So Alive, Love and Rockets
52. You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids On The Block
53. Armageddon It, Def Leppard
54. Satisfied, Richard Marx
55. Express Yourself, Madonna
56. I Like It, Dino
57. Soldier Of Love, Donny Osmond
58. Sowing The Seeds Of Love, Tears For Fears
59. Cherish, Madonna
60. When The Children Cry, White Lion
61. 18 And Life, Skid Row
62. I Don’t Want Your Love, Duran Duran
63. Second Chances, .38 Special
64. The Way You Love Me, Karyn White
65. Funky Cold Medina, Tone Loc
66. In Your Room, Bangles
67. Miss You Like Crazy, Natalie Cole
68. Love Song, Cure
69. Secret Rendesvous, Karyn White
70. Angel Eyes, Jeff Healey Band
71. Patience, Guns N’ Roses
72. Walk On Water, Eddie Money
73. Cover Girl, New Kids On The Block
74. Welcome To The Jungle, Guns N’ Roses
75. Shower Me With Your Love, Surface
76. Stand, R.E.M.
77. Close My Eyes Forever, Lita Ford
78. All This Time, Tiffany
79. After All, Cher and Peter Cetera
80. Roni, Bobby Brown
81. Love In An Elevator, Aerosmith
82. Lay Your Hands On Me, Bon Jovi
83. This Promise, When In Rome
84. What I Am, Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians
85. I Remember Holding You, Boys Club
86. Paradise City, Guns N’ Roses
87. I Wanna Have Some Fun, Samantha Fox
88. She Wants To Dance With Me, Rick Astley
89. Dreamin’, Vanessa Williams
90. It’s No Crime, Babyface
91. Poison, Alice Cooper
92. This Time I Know It’s For Real, Donna Summer
93. Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson
94. Heaven Help Me, Deon Estus
95. Rock Wit’cha, Bobby Brown
96. Thinking Of You, Sa-fire
97. What You Don’t Know, Expose
98. Surrender To Me, Ann Wilson and Robin Zander
99. The End Of The Innocence, Don Henley
100. Keep On Movin’, Soul II Soul

August 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

CDs I Listened to While Driving to and from My Parents’ House in Ohio Last Week

Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys
Moon Pix by Cat Power
This Year’s Model by Elvis Costello
Springtime by Freakwater
Sky Motel by Kristen Hersh
All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail by The Meat Purveyors
Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse
The Moon & Antarctica by Modest Mouse
Electric Version by The New Pornographers
Massachusetts by Scud Mountain Boys
Ex Hex by Mary Timony

August 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The King Is Dead. Long Live the King

This is the best dream I’ve ever had.

I’m cruising in my first car, a 1979 Impala, back in my hometown. I don’t know where I’m going—maybe I’m not going anywhere—it just feels good to be back in my big old Chevy, driving.

It’s a gorgeous day—early summer, just getting hot, the sun mellow and beneficent. Eventually, I am so bewitched by the day that I have to get out into it. I pull over to the side of the road. After giving the Impala a loving farewell caress, I get my bike out the trunk and continue my lazy, aimless journey.

I ride. Overwhelmed for a moment by the luxury of sun and breeze on my skin, I close my eyes. I open them to I discover that I have a companion. A skinny old man—impeccably neat in creased slacks, short sleeve dress shirt, canvas golf cap and horn-rimmed glasses—is pedaling along beside me. I acknowledge him with a nod; he nods back. After a few minutes of weird silence, he points to my right. Past the road, past the sidewalk, I see a paved bike path running through a field. I look back at the old man, but he just continues to point. I turn my bike and start down the path.

It’s nice to be off the road, biking through gentle, Ohio hills of fragrant grass. Eventually, the open fields give way to trees, and the pavement ends. I continue to ride through the forest, following a dirt trail that narrows as the trees grow thicker. Finally, the path lets out onto a small clearing and ends altogether.

This enclosed meadow is lovely—overgrown grass and wildflowers, all aglimmer in the dappled light. I lay down my bike and continue on foot. After a time of wandering through the daisies and Queen Anne’s lace, I notice a small house in the distance, camouflaged beneath the branches of an ancient willow. Strangely compelled, I walk toward it.

A figure moves from behind the little house. I cannot yet make out the face—just a pompadour, shiny and black as a crow’s wing, and a gleaming white satin shirt. The air around me glows; pollen sparkles and dances in the green, golden sun. I know something wonderful is happening.

A little closer, and I recognize the man standing before me. It’s Elvis.

He’s beautiful—healthy and happy and gracefully old. He smiles at me. Something inside me—an anxiety that I didn’t even know I had—is washed away in a wave of brilliant joy. I am overwhelmed by profound relief, so happy to know that Elvis is alive and glorious.

In an instant, I understand everything—how Elvis had to disappear to save himself, how he had to return to the simplicity to which he was born to cleanse himself. I understand that he did this for me, for all of us.

“So, this is where you’ve been hiding,” I say. Elvis just laughs and opens his arms. Enraptured, I walk toward him, dazzled by the glow of his white satin shirt. I press my head to his chest, and his arms surround me. My head fills with light as I dissolve into the vast, radiant, loving heart of the King.

Me in the Meditation Garden at Graceland

August 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

“Enough About Me #20: In Which the Author, Nearing His Publication Date, Offers 10 Tips on How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Interview”

If you’ve ever been an interviewer or an interviewee, if you’ve ever read or watched or listened to an interview, you may find this amusing. I certainly did.


August 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Book Review: The Coast of Akron by Adrienne Miller

The Coast of AkronThis book reverberates with a jumble of voices. It begins with an omniscient narrator describing the life of a loopy young woman named Merit Haven Ash. Then Merit’s father’s lover chimes in with a rather high-pitched account of his own equally eccentric existence, and, when Merit begins reading her mother’s old diaries, we are introduced to another first-person perspective.

Initially, I found this to be a bit much. I felt that such cacophony could only be the product of a first-time novelist’s lack of craft and discipline. I was, however, still trying to decide whether my objection was criticism or mere complaint when Fergus—the aforementioned lover—started writing an imaginary profile of himself in the hypothetical style of a magazine journalist, at which point I thought, “Well, fuck it,” and decided to just chill.

This novel is quite mad, and unlike anything I have ever read. My own sense of discombobulation was no doubt fueled, if only in part, by the novel’s locale. While the frisson of recognition my be unexceptional for people who live in, say, New York, I’ve never encountered a fictional version of my hometown before. Miller—who is also from Akron—offers a portrait of the Rubber Capital of the World that is both real and imagined, and it was oddly thrilling and subtly unnerving for me to enter her universe.

But you don’t have to be from northeastern Ohio to find The Coast of Akron oddly thrilling and subtly unnerving. This story’s weird power is fueled, I think, by its internal tensions. This story is comic and tragic, but not tragicomic—both the funny bits and the pathos are real and distinct and not at all ironic. It’s both screwball and bitchy, campy and Gothic, excessive and honest, but—again—these elements do not mitigate each other. For example, Fergus may be a diminutive, egregiously faggoty hypochondriac, but that doesn’t mean that he’s any less the lethal emotional vampire, nor does his destructive monstrosity make his own emptiness any less sad.

Although it’s quite playful and often very funny, this is a profoundly anxious novel. Each narrator, each character, offers a significantly different interpretation of events, and the result is disturbing. By the end, this disharmonious chorus of voices creates an uncanny sense that nothing—even, or especially, our own memories—is at it seems, and that nothing—even our own selves—is real.

The Coast of Akron is ridiculous and terrible, and Miller’s writing is a rare, strange, powerful alchemy.

August 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Recipe: The Fauxjito

I’ve lost track of the mojito. I know it can’t possibly still be in—an acutely fashion-forward friend of mine made a little moue of distaste when I ordered one at a restaurant, like, 4 years ago—but I don’t know if it’s currently out or if it has retreated to a place beyond the dictates of trendiness. Whatever. It remains a delicious drink, and a very pleasant one to serve at small summer gatherings. When entertaining a crowd, however, it is a colossal pain in the ass. For those of you who enjoy the refreshing taste of the mojito but prefer not to consign yourself or someone you love to several hours bruising mint leaves, I offer an alternative: the fauxjito. While this drink does require a little bit of work, it’s all done in advance, leaving you free to mingle instead of muddle.

The ingredients for this drink are

A couple bunches of fresh mint (more for a large crowd)
At least two cans of frozen limeade (more for a large crowd)
A bottle of rum

First, make mint ice cubes by chopping the mint leaves, stuffing them into an ice-cube tray, topping the mint with water to fill, and freezing. Each drink should have at least a few mint cubes, so make as much as you think you’ll need. Obviously, you want to leave yourself several hours of freezing time for each batch.

Next, make a pitcher of limeade according to the instructions on the carton. This will involve thawing limeade first, so plan accordingly.

At party time, put the mint cubes in an ice bucket, and set this out with the pitcher and bottle of rum. Drink assembly is totally simple: Put a few mint ice cubes in a glass, fill glass with limeade, and top with a shot of rum. (Straws are optional, but they do make it possible to stir the drink, and your girl guests won’t mess up their lipstick as they sip.)

August 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack