Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

As with many of these musings, this one begins with a dream and a musical earworm. I dreamed that my family (a mixed lot of from throughout time and some people strictly from my imagination) moved into a house, an old, blue-painted, farmhouse in need of a lot of work but with some great features, and before even unpacking, my dream father-figure (one of the imaginary dream characters, oddly resembling the writer Michael Chabon) decided we were selling the house and moving. There was much interaction with realtors, cleaning up of the farmhouse, etc.

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Author Michael Chabon.

Moving has been a recurring theme in my life from the age of 10 through my adolescence and adulthood until I met Bob, who’s comfortingly happy in one place.

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Home is where the heart is.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve moved over the years. If my tally is correct, I moved 25 times between the years 1972 (Atlanta to Sacramento) and 2006 (from Napa to Oakland). Locations in between included Ashland, Oregon; Ankara, Turkey; Chico, California; and a long tour of Davis, California at 5 different addresses. I’m sure family and friends gave up trying to keep up with my changes of mailing address along the way.

demonic U-Haul
Demonic U-Haul, drawing by headexplodie.

Which brings me to the earworm, David Bowie’s 1972 song Changes. I was never a huge Bowie fan when he was alive, sad to say, but I’ve come to appreciate his work more in the last few years.

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Most of us want change at some point in our lives, whether to escape boredom or troubles, to challenge ourselves, to not be stagnant. In recovery circles, it’s called “doing a geographic”, and is not always the best approach. Such as in those 25 moves over 34 years–some were for good reasons (new jobs) and some were for the wrong reasons (unresolved unhappiness). My mother’s second husband put us through a few moves, usually for financial reasons (downward, not upward) and in one case, to escape creditors in one state by fleeing to another on short notice.

Then I went off to college and met a boy, and set off on a whirlwind of moves myself. My now ex-husband seemed to think the cure for any unhappiness or restlessness was to do a geographic. Rather than addressing the real problems in our lives, we had the thought that going to a new place would make everything better. Unlike smaller changes we make, like a new haircut that can put a spring in your step and make you feel sassy and fun, moving is itself stressful. And your friends get really sick of being asked to help.

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Some changes, like I say, are great. I went from vegetarian to vegan in the spring of 2015 and although I am not a perfect vegan, I am a happy one.

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I remember visiting my paternal grandparents in about 1971, and thinking how cool and modern their house was. I revisited years later and nothing had changed. It made me sad. It seemed old and faded and no longer cool but fusty. I look around our house now and long for new furniture, partly because the cats have destroyed most of our upholstered furniture, and partly because I don’t want that unchanging, old-person fustiness to envelop me. Unless fringed furniture becomes stylish, in which case my cats are trend-setters.

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The fringed look is great for dresses and jackets, not so much for furniture.
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Interior designer cat. Image from cattime.com.

Haircuts and hairstyles and fashion are like that too. We change with the times. And if we don’t, we can hope that what’s old comes back in style and is new again. That 1980s mullet hopefully never comes back in style! Please, never.

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The classic mullet on Billy Ray Cyrus.
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Even young George Clooney looks silly with a mullet.

My hair has changed many times over the years, long to short and back again. It’s also changed as I’ve gotten older, from thick and wavy to neither of those things.

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Me on the left with a lot of hair, my equally thick-haired sister Ellen on the right, circa 1988. My hair, sadly, is not thick and wavy anymore. The things they don’t tell you about getting older!
1975 hair
Circa 1975.
1985 hair
Mom on the left, me with 80s hair on the right. Circa 1985.
2015 hair
Fast forward to 2015.
2017 hair
Getting longer, 2017. I call this my moody rock album cover photo.
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Today in hair, March 13, 2018.

Rather than moving, when I am hit with those “doing a geographic” urges, I go back to school. School is my comfort zone, my safe place, the place I feel like I belong much of the time. I’ve been back to school several times over the years, and now with online education, I can be a life-long learner from the comfort of my own home, changing mailing address or not. Someday I’ll finish this Ph.D. I’ve embarked upon, and then I’ll maybe go to sewing school or goat-herding school or who knows what.

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Another change I go through admittedly more than I’d really like is jobs, which is what really brings up the whole Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes song for me.  I’ve had jobs I loved–working as a museum technician for California State Parks in Sonoma, as Assistant Registrar in the art exhibitions department at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa. I’ve had jobs that I disliked–my first job after I finished my Bachelor’s degree in design, working as a “scientific illustrator” for an unnamed company in Sacramento. I’ve had jobs that I was mostly “meh” about–the 11 years I spent as the Assistant Registrar at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

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Because I was “meh” about that job, I spent a long time looking for and interviewing for other jobs. I thought I landed my dream job when I was hired by the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis in late 2015. I love UC Davis and I love the city of Davis. I was sure that was the job I would retire from. Maybe it’s true that you can’t go home again, though I don’t really believe that. Maybe my clue should have been my start day on Pearl Harbor Day–December 7. Or on my second day of work when my car broke down and I was 3 hours late getting there.

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Needless to say, it didn’t work out and in the summer of 2016 I found myself unemployed. Yippee!

I felt unappreciated at first, then I tried to be positive and think of it as a learning experience.

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(From the Travelling Squid)

better

A career change, that’s what I needed. I wanted to do something to make a difference in the world. Another version of doing a geographic, maybe, but in my case, it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I applied for jobs at every animal shelter and rescue group I could think of, and landed at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in August of 2016. I couldn’t have been luckier. Or happier.

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Best job ever!

I spent a wonderful year and a half there.  I fell in love with the dogs and cats there everyday, and couldn’t ask for better colleagues or volunteers to spend my days with. I traded down in terms of a paycheck, but seriously up in terms of satisfaction and mental rewards. Like David Bowie sings, “Don’t want to be a richer man…” (woman), just a more fulfilled one. I wasn’t looking for a change.

So I applied for a job at the East Bay SPCA.

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I’m still not sure why. Needing a personal challenge? A shorter commute? Trying to go home again (I volunteered there from 2009 to 2016)? I was offered the job. I spent 5 days agonizing over what to do. I accepted the job. And here I go again, starting anew. Which starts my ear worm transition to Here You Come Again, by Dolly Parton (1977) (“…here you come again and here I go…”).

 

I hope I made the right decision. Admittedly, I miss my friends at ARF. But I seriously hope I spend the rest of this career in animal welfare with the East Bay SPCA (assuming I do a good job and get to stay). I’d like to stay put in one house and one job for a while. I can keep changing my hair. Maybe we’ll get new furniture and miraculously the cats won’t destroy it. (Do they make stainless steel living room furniture? And how uncomfortable is it?)

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Cat proof?

Before you know it, it will be time to make a big change and retire. Then maybe we’ll sell the house, move to the country, rescue some goats…

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Leanne Lauricella, one of my heroes, is the founder of the goat rescue and sanctuary Goats of Anarchy.

Keep learning, keep happy, and stay motivated to make a difference. You can change the world.

 

I’m a Believer, It’s the End of the World As We Know It, and Here Comes the Sun

I’m in a covers mood. After being plagued by earworms (Is there a cure for earworms?Or, Help! I Need Somebody…) I started thinking about the earworms I was suffering from that happened to be cover versions of songs. I was in Atlanta (Look Homeward, Angel, or Things Thomas Wolfe Said) visiting, and my sister Ellen keeps the radio on stations of music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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It just happened to be Ellen’s birthday while I was in Atlanta.

I was born in 1961, so my sweet spot is pretty much music from the mid 1970s. Maybe not the best era for pop music, but we are teenagers when we are teenagers. C’est la vie. I seem to have been living under a rock, since my list of original versions of songs tapers off in the 1990s (with one most beautiful entry from Lou Reed in 2008). The covers, however, span the years, showing that a good pop song is timeless.

Ellen and I started a handwritten chart, which quickly got out of control!

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It’s a work in progress.
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Just a couple of pop divas hanging out.

I have cleaned up the list to make it legible. I do not expect anyone to agree with me on the choice of cover versions; a good song (and even some bad ones) has a lot of covers and our tastes differ. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things!

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I should get a juke box and put all of these on it. Please forgive typos and misspelled names.

I am not going to post each and every song and its cover(s) on the list, as much as I would like to. Here are a few of my favorites, or if not my favorites, at least memorable versions of these songs. I am sure each and every one of you can add so many titles to this list. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

On my birthday, in 1992, there just happened to be an amazing tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden. The moment I remember most clearly is Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready performing Dylan’s 1963 Masters of War. It’s pretty intense.

 

A song that I played over and over again during a certain sad period in my life: Alison Krauss & Union Station’s 1995 version of Baby, Now That I’ve Found You. It’s much more melancholy than the original to me. And despite the cheerful face I generally show to the world, I love a good melancholy, make-me-cry, song.

 

Stevie Nicks’s song Landslide also serves the “I’m sad and I’m going to listen to this song over and over” purpose.

 

Ellen’s request for the list: Ewan McGregor singing Elton John’s Your Song  (1970) to Nicole Kidman in the 2001 film Moulin Rouge.

 

For my own selfish ends, I have to get some Hall & Oates in here somewhere! So here they are covering The Spinners 1972 hit I’ll Be Around.

 

I’m sticking with the original on this one; I’ve been singing this one in the car all week now so I have to post it to get it out of my system!

 

This one cracks me up. I love R.E.M., and It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine), is a good song. I will not brook argument on this one. I’m posting the original and the cover, which I first heard as filler music on NPR. It made me laugh, and we need more laughter in the world.

 

In the songs-that-make-me-cry category is Eva Cassidy covering Sting’s Fields of Gold. I remember the first time I heard it. It was a Sunday, I was driving to my job in Benicia from Davis, listening to Acoustic Sunrise on KFOG radio. Heart-breakingly beautiful.

 

Ellen keeps up with current pop music better than I do, so this is her pick: Sam Smith covering Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. I’d never heard of Sam Smith before (I mentioned that rock I live under), but I approve.

 

I can’t not post the awesomeness that is Richie Havens performing Here Comes the Sun.

 

In case you’ve never hear Peter Gabriel’s 2010 cover of Lou Reed’s 2008 song The Power of the Heart, I hope you love it as much as I do.

 

I think I’ll leave you with something to cheer you up and make you dance. If this doesn’t make you dance, I give up!

Is there a cure for earworms?Or, Help! I Need Somebody…

earworms

I have what is arguably one of the stupidest pop songs EVER written lodged so firmly in my brain right now that I am on the verge of scheduling myself for brain surgery to have that place where earworms go and NEVER DIE surgically removed.

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Looks like earworms were particularly bad in the late 1940s.

By earworm, I mean the “musical” kind, not the kind on The Twilight Zone that really eat your brain.

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Right now, I’d rather have that kind. Because then I might finally have SILENCE from the insipidness that is the song Midnight at the Oasis (David Nichtern, 1972, performed ENDLESSLY by Maria Muldaur).

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In case you are lucky enough never to have heard this song:

Midnight at the Oasis

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Shadows painting our faces
Traces of romance in our heads
Heaven’s holding a half-moon
Shining just for us
Let’s slip off to a sand dune, real soon
And kick up a little dust
Come on, Cactus is our friend
He’ll point out the way
Come on, till the evening ends
Till the evening ends
You don’t have to answer
There’s no need to speak
I’ll be your belly dancer, prancer
And you can be my sheik

I know your Daddy’s a sultan
A nomad known to all
With fifty girls to attend him, they all send him
Jump at his beck and call
But you won’t need no harem, honey
When I’m by your side
And you won’t need no camel, no no
When I take you for a ride
Come on, Cactus is our friend
He’ll point out the way
Come on, till the evening ends
Till the evening ends
Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Got shadows painting our faces
And traces of romance in our heads

No, it’s not Shakespeare, it’s not T.S. Eliot, it’s not Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan. It’s not even Dr. Suess. It’s just BAD. No offense, David Nichtern. And I am sure you and Maria Muldaur did quite well from this song. Can you invest the money in a cure for earworms, PLEASE?

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David Nichtern, probably a perfectly nice man, but I will never forgive him.

I have NO IDEA why this song has been on an endless loop in my head for 4 long days (and sleepless nights). It is not on the playlist on any of my devices, except for the hard drive that is my tormented brain. I am happy to share:

This is one of the images that came up when I Googled “friendly cactus”; it makes me laugh. That’s good.

friendly

I don’t listen to the radio much at all anymore. My listening of choice for drives longer than 5 minutes is whatever audiobook I have going. Currently, it is book two of The Hunger Games. If there is a connection, I have no idea what it might be.

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If I do listen to the radio, at home it’s more likely to be NPR and in the car, the dial is set to, I hate to admit it, I Heart 80s.

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I am much more of a 10,000 Maniacs girl than an anything-1973 girl.

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My gift to you:

Yes, there was good music in 1973 (Allman Brothers, The Doobie Brothers, Three Dog Night, Dr. John, Pink Floyd…). But I was 12 years old in 1973. The music I remember is more like Tony Orlando and Dawn, Helen Reddy, Karen and Richard Carpenter. And Maria Muldaur and her blasted camels and friendly cacti.

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The earworm phenomenon can happen with music you love, yes. But that gets to be its own kind of torment. The last time this happened to me in a really bad way was with the beautiful Damien Rice song The Blower’s Daughter (aka I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You).

The Blower’s Daughter (Damien Rice, 2001)

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We’ll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower’s daughter
The pupil in denial

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off of you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?

I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off of you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind
My mind, my mind
‘Til I find somebody new

Please listen; click here:

I already had a thing for Damien Rice and was playing O (on CD, it was back in the day of ancient technology like compact discs) a lot.

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I love a good brooding singer-songwriter.

Then in 2004 I saw the movie Closer. Supposedly the stars of the movie are Julia Roberts and Jude Law. But I think the movie belongs to Clive Owen and, most of all, Natalie Portman. She broke my heart in that movie.

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The opening scene:

haunted me for days. And the beautiful song lodged itself quite snugly in the deep, dark part of my brain where earworms live and it would not shut up. I started to worry about my mental health. I started to hate Damien Rice. Not really, but I would’ve liked some peace. I didn’t get any sleep. But at least it’s a good song!

Now, Midnight at the Oasis. It is not a good song. I have tried replacing the earworm with another, but no worm so far has been able to defeat it. In the arm-wrestling contest (if worms had arms), Maria Muldaur beats Damien Rice every time. I need an intervention.

So I am going to bring in the heavy hitters. First up, Todd Rundgren. Here:

he is in a 1973 clip performing Hello, It’s Me (1968, released in 1972), one of my favorites and one whose earworminess I can attest to.

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Hello it’s me,
I’ve thought about us for a long, long time,
Maybe I think too much but something’s wrong,
There’s something here that doesn’t last too long,
Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as mine.

Seeing you, or seeing anything as much as I do you,
I take for granted that you’re always there,
I take for granted that you just don’t care,
Sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through.

It’s important to me
That you know you are free,
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me.
Think of me,
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night if you think I should.

It’s important to me
That you know you are free,
‘Cause I never want to make you change for me.
Think of me,
You know that I’d be with you if I could
I’ll come around to see you once in a while
or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night if you think I should.
Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad.
Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad.
Sometimes I thought it wasn’t so bad.

Maybe Todd can finally bring Maria down off the throne. If not, I guess I’ll just ride my camel off into the desert, like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, toward that oasis with the friendly cactus.

Peter O'Toole In 'Lawrence Of Arabia'
Peter O’Toole with his camel in a scene from the film ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’, 1962. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)