Tag Archives: Culture

Those Punches, Those Lines

14 Feb

Today I was listening to a Long Island radio station playing back-to-back love songs in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Ode to the lovers of the day, what a symbolic day to be a couple, to offer sweets to your sweet and perfumed red roses for the – hopefully – blazing passion you share with the object of your affection.

I can’t recall the last time I spent a Valentine’s Day with someone, but hey, I’m not without a romantic heart. And when in love – well, at least this is what I tell myself, I am pretty romantic. But this blog is about songs, well, lines from songs, meaningful lines that really leave a punch.

Remember “having a song,” one that you shared with your lover that was, “your song.” There was probably a song that came out when you started dating or a song that really seemed to amplify your experience as a couple in some way.

I’m listening to Sade’s, By Your Side remembering where I was when that song came out. I know it was winter. That February I had just broken up with a woman from Vermont (there’s a lot of breakups this time of the year. Seems like people hook up around October and then go through the holidays, and right after Valentine’s break up.)

Anyway, one of the line’s in By Your Side is, “Think I’d leave your side, baby, you know me better than that.” What a good line. How reassuring to tell someone to stop worrying, that I’m with you, that I’m loyal, that you’ll be there for them. We all once  said similar words.

If I can’t remember how a song starts, there’s always one line that sticks. Maybe that’s the idea. The “Hook.” I associate songs to events, or think of people who liked a particular song. My friend, Mike, always sings Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” at karaoke.

There’s the irony of love and the bittersweet. “I’ll Never Fall in Love” sung by Dionne Warwick, is still a kicker. Just kick someone’s heart to the curb. And, because of  its, “lies, and pain and sorrow,” she’s never falling in love again. I can’t blame her. But wait, and here’s the irony, she finishes with a defining inspiration, “So for at least until tomorrow I’ll never fall in love again.” Dionne may not have been lying about the hurt one feels when love fails, but she was definitely giving it one more try.

Remember “Crying” by Roy Orbison? I don’t remember how it starts, but I know the hook, “Cry I – I – I n –g…over you… Cry I – I – I n –g…over you.” It’s so sad a line. Given Orbison’s powerful voice and the complexity of his range, when he sings Crying, I simply melt. He IS crying in the song. I can’t imagine leaving someone so alone, so broken down, that they’re standing on a doorstep crying their eyes out. Who has the heart to do such a thing? Plenty of people, that’s who.

When Brook Benton’s song, “A Rainy Night in Georgia” came out in July of 1969, I was a teenager. I can still remember reeling from the pain and agony I heard in his voice as he sang the line, “I feel like it’s raining all over the world.” To be that distressed and troubled is no easy place to be. If you listen closely you can hear the rain.

By the same token, you can also hear the joy of cymbals and flutes in Oliver’s, “Good Morning Starshine,” such a happy, good-feeling song, with the unforgettable chorus, “The Earth Says Hello!” But I somehow feel like I should be sucking deeply on a bong somewhere in flowered pajamas when I hear it.

Off the top of my head I can’t recall how all songs start – who could – but the following one lines come to mind:

Roxanne! You don’t have to put out the red light

Welcome to the Hotel California!

A Whole Lotta Love

Sittin’ in the morning sun, I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

Billie Jean’s not my lover

Rhiannon rings like a bell in the night and wouldn’t you love to love her

Little diddy about Jack and Diane…

Mrs. Jones….we got a thing…going on…..

You’re getting the idea right? I figured as much.

When Edie and I met, our song was, I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. It was big and splashy and it exemplified the two of us in some meaningful way. I guess we were big and splashy. It went like this:

Now I’ve had the time of my life

No I never felt like this before

Yes I swear it’s the truth

And I owe it all to you

‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life And I owe it all to you!

We were young, exciting, in love, and we owned the streets we walked. What a team – her, blonde-haired, green-eyed, leggy, smart. An Anglo-Saxon, All-American with a “pirate smile” as Elton John wrote and sang in Tiny Dancer. And her counterpart, a dark-eyed, mysterious, wild, a double-dare persona – me, bordering on crazy with a mane of unruly black hair.

Later she gave me the breakup song by Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Whenever I hear that song I still feel an ache somewhere in my heart. It’s true: I had the time of my life with Edie.

I know Justin Timberlake’s, “Mirror” saved this one lesbian couple who was on the verge of breaking up their marriage. That song brought them back together while the other woman – uh, that would be me, was left holding the proverbial “bag.”

Show me how to fight for now

And I’ll tell you baby,

it was easy Comin’ back into you once I figured it out

You were right here all along It’s like you’re my mirror

I’ve just thought of something. It’s a song by Don Henley of the Eagles where he talks about “Forgiveness.” It’s the “Heart of the Matter,” and it goes something like,

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter

but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter

but I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.

Tonight on Valentine’s Day, there won’t be any chocolates or roses, no weekend getaway, no heart-shaped tub to jump into, and no special dinner planned.  There isn’t a lover, a date, or an Internet chat.

So why live now without love, when I once loved so deeply and so well? Why choose to be alone?

Oh, that’s easy, “Cause I couldn’t stand the pain, and I would be sad if our new love was in vain.”  

Come on, I know you know that line.

Grand Slam Pam

18 Aug

Grand Slam Pam

When I met Pam she was working as a mortgage officer with a well-known bank in Vancouver, Washington, a beautiful area in the northwestern territory of the United States where the majestic Columbia River runs along the banks of carefully placed high rises and corporate offices. Nearer to the Columbia Basin, Pam had an office high enough to view the rapidly changing currents of the river. Having an office overlooking the river was something Pam never seemed to take for granted because it came with her planning. When we spoke by phone, usually on her lunch hour, she’d interrupt our conversation with, “Oh, Jo, I can see a great heron from here! He’s beautiful! I think he’s caught a fish!” That’s how good a view it was that Pam could watch blue heron dive for salmon and trout.

Pam had been working for the bank seven years and had come up through the ranks, starting first as a teller and with her sunny good looks and smart, facile tongue, she had a good head for numbers and she went on from one promotion to the next until she became a mortgage officer. Known for her ability to see a job through, and with her connections, she could move paperwork where no one else could. To arrive at this stage in the banking and loan industry was a coup of sorts, and though it may have come with a bit of cunning, her meteoric rise to break the glass ceiling was, nonetheless, a carefully planned move – not an exercise in complacency, but rather a bold move by a bold and confident woman who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted.

“This is what a woman has to do,” she told me after her excitement over the blue heron, “I work this hard for my kids, because no one is going to raise them but me.”

Pam had two children, a boy and girl, both in college. The children were self-sufficient and were working part-time jobs to help pay their tuition, but Pam often helped by sending checks to help with incidentals. She seemed to have it together: great job, healthy life attitude, good health, good children, a life that was well-balanced, and she seemed, overall, very happy.  If she did complain the complaint was minimal and she’d quickly move onto the next topic.  A considerate and thoughtful woman, she was mindful of taking up too much of a conversation, stopping to ask, “So, enough about me, tell me girl: what have you been up to?” Underneath that savvy, smart businesswoman exterior was a woman who yearned for a simpler life, one out of the corporate world. “Well, what is it?” I asked her one day, she had just come from a tarot card reading.

“I went into a metaphysical store that has just opened in Vancouver. I heard about her, this woman, there. I was just leaving when a very beautiful woman approached me and took my hands in hers. I didn’t know who she was. She looked into my eyes and said I think you need a reading. I found out she was the psychic I had been hearing about. But she didn’t know I was asking about her.”

“Wow, hmmmn. Amazing.”

“Well, I thought so anyway. She said I don’t belong in corporate America (I knew that about myself).”

“Where do you belong?”

“When I brought up the idea of the pet shelter, she thought I meant just volunteering. The next card she pulled was a card that said “Destiny.” Then she pulled the next card and it was a picture of a half-human, half-lion and it said “Power.”

“Hmmn. so, that’s where you got the idea? You don’t belong in the corporate world?”

“I hate the rat race and the petty competition. I always have. I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something bigger that benefits people. Every time I take a job making good money (working in a corporation) I feel like I’m just doing it for the money…I feel…like a prostitute. But I have never felt that it was my purpose. I have had the idea of a pet shelter for the past couple of years. It was just something I thought I might want to do someday…later.  I’m good at what I do and this is my job for now because I need the money and the benefits. But I need to be working towards my other goal at the same time.”

As fortune would have it, realizing her world was incomplete, on one particularly stressful day, feeling the walls of loneliness closing in, Pam had gotten onto a local dating site where she began an exchange of love letters with a woman from Seattle. She would later tell everyone – including her boss – she had met “the love of her life” and that it was time for a change. Soon after that, everything that Pam built for herself, everything she had worked for, was pushed aside in order for Kasey to place first in Pam’s life.


Kasey Fairfeather was a tribeswoman, seated on the counsel of tribesmen in the Suquamish tribe of the Pacific Northwest. This tribe also approves of same-sex marriage, and so when Pam told me how high an honor it was for Kasey to be on the counsel, I was surprised, having little knowledge about tribal customs. In addition to this rank and privilege, Kasey held an RN degree from the University of Washington, and had a nice home twenty minutes from where she worked as a second-shift nurse at Northwest Hospital and Medical Center.

Pam became quickly involved with Kasey and in February of 2010 began to unravel her life – she had left her Vancouver home – doing a short sale to unload it as quickly as possible, she left her Vancouver job at the bank (and the view), and told her children she was moving to Seattle. By June of 2010, Pam and Kasey, only knowing each other four months, were living together in Kasey’s home in Seattle. Pam and I spoke infrequently during this time, and I let it be, giving her the latitude to develop her relationship, I figured she’d call when she could.

In July, she called wishing me a happy birthday and during that exchange she told me how happy she was with Kasey, how leaving her job and moving and being free of her home in Vancouver was the, “absolute best decision” she had made. I was surprised and saddened, leery of the situation happening so quickly and said, “You don’t even know her that long, Pam.”

“Jo, but I do! We are like glove-in-hand, it’s a fit. We know each other instinctively. She is the one I’ve been searching for all my life.”

They say that good news sleeps late and bad news calls early, so when the phone rang early the day after Thanksgiving, I knew it couldn’t be good.  “Hello?” I answered cautiously. I picked up to hear Pam’s sobbing voice into the phone.

To be continued.

© Terry Rachel, 2011