Remember that time when I almost talked to the girl of my dreams, but didn’t? Yeah. That’s this song.

I can specifically remember writing this song on a day where I was really moody and upset with myself. I was living at my parents’ house, commuting daily to Ann Arbor to my senior year classes at the University of Michigan. On this particular day, I had made a pact with myself that I was going to talk to Lora (future wife) at class. I got to the Industrial & Operations Engineering building early to make sure I was comfortable, calm, and prepared to say hello.

I saw her walk in with friends, and my heart jumped into overdrive. I wanted to get to her alone so that I could actually try and talk to her, so I told myself that after class I’d say hi.

Class came and went. I sat a few rows behind her as I normally did, and daydreamed about her through most of it. When class ended, she was again talking and giggling with her friends, and I just couldn’t muster up enough courage to interrupt just to say hi and try to strike up a conversation.

I left for home with a mild case of devastation. The whole ride home I was upset with myself. Brooding. Scowling. I was only a few months away from graduating and I hadn’t done a good job of getting to know her yet. Time was running out on me, and I knew it. Remember this is the girl of my dreams, here!

I arrived back home to an empty house. Perfect for getting out my Fender Telecaster (with the hot James Burton pickup) and wailing away for the entire neighborhood to hear. After about 45 minutes of that, I picked up my acoustic and went to the computer to record this song. It just kind of came out of me at the time, and I haven’t changed it or tried to re-record it since. I think it’s beautiful and is kind of a perfect sound for how I was feeling.

The odd-sounding solo that runs through it is actually an acoustic guitar track layered in reverse over the main rhythm guitar melody. That’s something that the old Microsoft Sound Recorder program was really good at. Take a listen:

Advertisements

When two passions collide: songwriting and fantasy sports

Fantasy sports. It’s the chance that everyone has to be the owner of a group of professional players, win money, and claim victory over friends and loved ones. And what better way to toot your fantasy spots success horn than to have your own custom fantasy fight song for your team?

That’s what I was thinking, anyway, when I made a fight song for my team, “The Children of the Corn”. Yes, terrible fantasy name. Except I was living in Iowa and Nebraska at the time, so it just made sense to me. But I proceeded to make a fight song for each fantasy team in my league, mostly after moderate-to-heavy drinking.

After a bit of time passed, I sent these out to the other fantasy owners and they all thought it was humorous and fun. My brother asked, “why don’t you sell these?” So I took a very, very minor stab at that by posting an offer for a Fantasy Fight! Song out on the site fiverr.com, which lets people sell basic task services for $5 and up.

Within a day or two, I had my first client. He was the owner of a fantasy football team he called “Focal Leat” which, apparently, is Gaelic for “fuck you” or “fuck off” or something like that. I asked him about other members of his league, what his draft strategy is, and general stuff like that so that I could make lyrics. I also asked him if it would be cool if, since it’s a Gaelic name, I made the song sound like Flogging Molly or another one of those types of bands. He said that’d be awesome, so I went with it. Mind you, this was a lot of work for $5. But whatever, I was having fun with it.

Here is my first ever recording that I’ve made any money off of. It’s a fantasy football fight song called “Focal Leat”:

Yeah, when it comes to Focal Leat,

you other fucks just can’t compete

Your wideouts are shite

and your running back’s weak

that’s why you can never beat

Focal Leat!

They rule the draft and the waiver wire

You stupid fucks like Bret aspire

to be just like the Focal Leat

You other fucks just can’t compete

Your flex is a mess

and your quarterback’s weak

That’s why you can never beat

Focal Leat!

The hardest song I’ve ever had to write

I am a fortunate man. I went down a really dark path that I still cannot bring myself to disclose publicly (feel free to guess, you’ll probably never get it right). So stupid, in retrospect. I bottomed out, and I felt so ashamed of myself that I didn’t know what I was going do with my life. As I worked hard to get myself right, I stepped back to reflect on the progress I’d made. And that’s when I had my supernova / lightbulb moment: songwriting is my personal grounding wire for all of the physical, spiritual, emotional, and existential energy that flows through me.

What I mean is that after I stopped writing somgs, every wicked, demented part of me–all the negative charge–had nowhere to go. It coursed through me like a horrible syndrome, starting with my hands, then my mind, into my heart, and back out again. That’s when I couldn’t control myself anymore, and I knew how critical it was to get it back.

I wrote this song about it. It was hard to write because I wanted to remain very coy as to what the issue was, but try to make it abundantly clear what the saving grace was. Let’s see how it translates to you.

Also, musically, you’re only hearing the demo here (it’s a song I want to get perfect), but it’s purposefully crappy in the beginning. Since the song is about how I hadn’t picked up the guitar in years, I wanted it to feel like I’m building back up my skill on the guitar from verse to verse. You’ll notice it gets far more demanding at the end when I finally do pick up that damn guitar.

Here’s the track, with lyrics below:

When I stopped playing my guitar I was 26 years old / Til then I wrote songs about princesses and hands I would hold / I put the loneliness and porn in a secret compartment / Then met the princess in real life and that began my descent / When I stopped playing my guitar I was building our castle / The house, the cars, the kids, the vacations were all too facile / I kept my freedoms and the truths locked up inside the dungeon / Then got a smartphone from my work and then I kept on plungin’ / One day I went on an adventure to a faraway land / To find the treasure and the lifestyle of a rock and roll band / I fought a red-scaled, fiery dragon who left me with a scar / Then took a deep breath and I reached down and picked up my guitar / Picked up my guitar / Picked up my guitar / Picked up my guitar!!!

It Was Just Vanilla, or at least that’s what I eventually told myself

“Gas station girl” as my friends came to know her, was a gorgeous 20ish year old I met in my brief year in Storm Lake, Iowa. Ali Gardalen was her name, and I was smitten with her from when we first met. I’ll post some prequel tracks about her later, but one moment I was thinking about when writing this song was after I had hooked up with her twice.  The first time was in Storm Lake, our first encounter.  The second time was actually when I was living in Norfolk, Nebraska.  I drove out 3 hours just to see her for the night and drove back in the morning on zero sleep to go to work the next day.  The problem that I had was that I liked her a lot, and wanted to make something of it.  Don’t think she felt the same way; I think she just liked having fun with me. 

It was after that trip from Nebraska that I kind of lost my mind.  I told her how much I wanted her, and then she told me that I shouldn’t get involved with her.  Maybe it had to do with her obsession with cats or that she had like 40 foster brothers and sisters over the years or her dad wanted to kick my ass once. But at that point, it was a challenge. I was ready to up and quit my job and chase after her.  I couldn’t help but tell her what was on my mind, and of course that rightfully freaked her out a little bit. You know, very romantic, not-at-all-practical-or-smart stuff here.  Well, she took herself off the grid for a bit and it took me a while to clear my head.  When I did, here’s how I felt.

I had to take a little time off; needed to clear my head

You had me saying the craziest things that I have ever said

Not really sure if I was in love; wasn’t thinking straight

Don’t get me wrong I’ve still got hope that you could be my fate (be my fate)

But now for the good news: I still think about you every damn day. Whenever I smell vanilla I remember how you bit your bottom lip and smiled at me while laying pretty on your pillow, and every other cute thing you did.

You don’t want me involved with you, but I’m already too far gone. I’ve changed so much since the last time we stopped talking–I grew up and got my head out of my ass! I know exactly what to do now! So I’m begging for just one more chance…

Memorial Day is for missed connections and hopeless romanticism

Back when I was living near Nashville, Tennessee (working in Goodlettsville and living in White House), I would make holiday trips back home to see my family. Every time I went back I’d reach out to my old friends and connections to see if they wanted to hang out. One that I always used to call up was Lora. If you’ve read enough posts you’d know that she’s now my wife. So this feels like on my Memorial Day trip back home in 2004, this story would have a happy ending. WRONG!

On this particular trip back, I was feeling particularly in love with Lora (and we had never even gone on a real date, mind you). I wanted to see her so bad. I was super excited when she picked up the phone and I asked (more like blurted out with zero vocal volume control) if she wanted to get together.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “I’ll be out of town. I’m headed to my family’s cottage over in Canada.”

I was a bit heartbroken, to say the least. But the fact that I even talked to her made me more emboldened to keep pursuing her. I wanted to let her know how I felt about her–and that’s the reason I wrote this song:

To be close to you was the purpose of this trip

I completely missed you and I think I’m going to flip

Maybe you’re still flighty or think I’m insane

Maybe you would love to be beside me on this plane

My hands for yours to feel

Proximity’s ideal

But you went to your cottage

So I’ll pump up this wattage to let you know

To be close to you could be the purpose of this trip

Until I know for sure I know I should get a grip

Maybe you will confirm everything that I’ve been screaming

Maybe you will tell me that I must be dreaming (oh come on, Lora)

Proximity

Proximity

Couple things in the lyrics that need a little more explaining. First, I mentioned “maybe you’re still flighty” because I must’ve tried to connect with Lora twenty or more times over the years but something was always going on–flighty in the sense of always taking flight somewhere else. The other is the mention of “proximity” a few times. I had convinced myself that if only I lived in closer proximity to home, I’d be able to pursue her and be happier overall.

You won this round, Lora… but I’ll get you in the end!

I feel lovesick, nervous enough to puke.

Let’s get back to talking about Lora. In fact, let’s talk about life after I knew who she was, but before I ever talked to her. Man, was that something. I still remember the day I noticed her. It was in at the University of Michigan Industrial Engineering building. She came into our auditorium wearing a yellow t-shirt and a Burger King crown, a huge smile on her face, passing out little tubs of peanut butter to other students. I was stunned how cute she was, how I hadn’t noticed her regularly sitting in front of me in class for an entire month. I had to get to know this girl.

Every time I wanted to talk to her, I would get insanely nervous. I wanted my approach to be perfect, but everything I thought of seemed dumb at the moment of truth. I didn’t have a clue what to do! And the more I struggled with it, the harder it became to build up the nerve–she was getting larger than life in my mind.

That’s what this song is about. Here, give it a quick listen:

From “The Underdogs”, released in 1998 into Lora’s backpack at the Media Union.

Let’s dig into the lyrics a bit.

Met a girl named Lora Maier

Fell in love the day I eyed her

I hope she doesn’t think that I’m insane

Understand, I can’t pretend. See,

I’m like Stan when he sees Wendy

I feel lovesick

Nervous enough to puke

I had a dream you saw me there and smiled and waved to me

I heard a scream inside my head say, “Say hello! Say anything, you moron! If you don’t, you’ll never have a chance!”

But I’m so scared…

This is how I feel

This is how I feel

I was always proud of my ability to reference the unique love connection between South Park characters Stan Marsh and Wendy Testaburger. Not only reference it, but have it be a truly meaningful reference! It’s totally true that I felt like puking when I was getting ready to approach Lora. Then I would back out, and I would scold myself for not saying anything. This went on for what felt like months, until the day I sat next to her. That’s for another post, though–because that’s an entirely different song!

I’m like Stan when he sees Wendy.

Whoa, wait, someone actually likes me?!

Today I had a morning business meeting in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan–hometown of my alma mater, the University of Michigan. That’s right, I’m a bonafide college educated office jockey. But as Liam Neeson says, “I have a particular set of skills” that help make my day to day a generally enjoyable one. It was a good meeting, by the way, thanks for asking.

Afterward, I got in my car and drove through campus to get over to the freeway to Detroit. I passed a street that I lived on during the summer between my sophomore and junior year. You know, to take summer classes and try to recover from the 0.9 GPA I got in the prior semester (I have an excuse: Jenn Pann).

That was a great summer. I lost 40 pounds. I discovered Schumann’s Dichterliebe and the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime. I learned how to study. I got attacked by crows. I developed a devastating tennis serve. I got B’s in calculus. And I finally got a girl to like me.

Her name was Elizabeth Fiorentino, just in town for the summer from upstate New York, hanging with her friends. She lived next door to us on McKinley Street. We met just by hanging out on the porch and being neighborly with each other. I played guitar for her and taught her some stuff. We went out for picnics, had great conversations while we played cards and drank outside on those perfectly chill Michigan summer nights. I liked her. She had frizzy brown hair, bright blue eyes, and a smile that always could put me in a better mood.

Toward the end of the summer, one of my roommates asked me why I hadn’t “put the moves” on her yet. Truth be told, I had no moves. And I was also in disbelief. I spent years just wanting and yearning for a girl that I like to actually like me back. And now that I had one, I had no idea what to do! So I went with what I knew…

I did nothing to go after her the rest of the summer, built her up in my head, and then with regret filling my mind I wrote her this song after she left.

I know her name and that we’re similar

Here comes that feeling again

And every day she’s weighing heavy on my mind

My heart she’s stealing again

She plays guitar, hearts, even wiffle ball

Can perfection be so plain?

With time alone I find her voice echoes in my mind

It’s simple: sight and sound and same

God, not again.

Please, not again.

God, not again.

Please, not again.