No greater feeling than hope

Okay, so it’s been a little while since I last posted. Frankly, it’s been an insane couple of weeks. Between 2 weekends out-of-town in a row (first for the amazingly, unexpectedly stressful 90th birthday of my grandmother and second for a professional conference) and a lovely headache that has been with me in one form or another since Monday… well, finding the time to write has been a bit tough, not to mention finding the ability to stare at a glaring computer screen for minutes on end. But enough whining. Here I am! Have I been missed? Who can say?

As for myself, I have literally been itching to write something. That list of entry ideas in my phone just keeps getting longer. I keep latching onto one of about 4 ideas and then experiencing what amounts to long and excited inner monologues that all ultimately ran out of steam before a computer, a piece of paper, my phone, or my head could be scraped together. And tonight that list is just going to have to stay as long as it is. No my friends, instead of delivering a speech about my first concert experience, my first album, the bitter sweetness of happy music written by a future suicide case, or that promised term paper on the role Rush has played in my life, you’re going to get something completely different. You’re getting The Black Eyed Peas…

One of the lowest points in my life occurred very shortly after moving to Charm City in the fall of 2009. Having recently graduated from library school in May, I was one of (but probably not the) first in my class to find a job in my field that would pay me. The only catch was that I’d have to leave Boston and move to Maryland… on the depleted financial resources one is inevitably left with after pursuing a graduate degree… and my husband would have to quit his job… in the middle of an economic meltdown. Well, there were not jobs for me in Boston, academic advisers had always sung the praises of being willing to move out-of-state increasing your chances of employment, and my husband had no attachment to his company. So we threw out, sold, or gave away everything we possibly could, borrowed money from family, and made the smallest, cheapest move we possibly could. At first everything was great. We found an adorable apartment in a decent neighborhood. I began settling into my current job. My husband began his new job search with a sense of casual optimism. And we began to explore our surroundings. This was late summer.

By January, the situation (both within our apartment and without) had changed dramatically. After taxes and health insurance for the both of us, my pay check was ill-suited for tackling the mountain of debt we’d racked up the last few years. My husband was still searching for a job, but had grown increasingly despondent. Like most people tend to do when facing the prospect of long-term unemployment, he stopped sleeping at night, began sinking into video games, and did not like being asked how his day went. I experienced the biggest bout of self-doubt it has ever been my misfortune to subject myself to and I stopped answering my phone because they only wanted one thing and I had to pay my heating bill first. We were feeling really low. The dreary winter weather wasn’t helping anyone either.

Now we were lucky. Really lucky. We had the amazing luxuries of a steady, if inadequate, paycheck and our wonderful families who went above and beyond helping us get by. During the first part of the economic downturn, a lot of people couldn’t even count on that much. I’m not painting such a bleak picture about my own situation to belittle the harsher reality of other people. But in my own limited experience, this was as bad as it has ever gotten. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we hit bottom and things started to change.

It was some time around early February when my husband started finding job listings for jobs he was actually qualified for and felt happy about doing. He applied and started to get interviews that looked really promising. And a hotel in D.C. started actively courting him for his event a/v expertise. He started doing free-lance work with them. It stopped feeling like we were suffocating and we got a little extra money in our bank account. It truly felt like we were on the verge of something good happening.

One night around this time my husband decided to buy The Black Eyed Peas new album, The E.N.D. and he popped it into the car stereo. We’d left the darkly pessimistic city to go exploring out in the gentrified parts of the county. It was getting late and the temperature was falling. There hadn’t been any snow for a while, so the landscape was dead, gray, and dismal. But for the first time in months, we were both in a good mood. There was a sense of optimism we’d been greatly lacking and I could feel it bubbling just below the surface as we drove back towards the city. We talked about the future and smiled at each other. We made jokes and laughed and for the first time in a long time I didn’t worry so much.

And then this song came on:

Not being much of a fan before this album, and having had my head in the sand for the last few months, I’d never really heard this song before. I’d certainly never seen the crazy video they made for it. I remember sitting in the car and gazing out of the window. And this thrilling and powerful feeling of hope seemed to fill me. It was so intense, I think I may have cried. I feel silly to admit it, but reliving the memory right now is making me cry. Don’t tease me about it though…

Long story short, that sense of hope turned out to be right. A week or two later, my husband got his pick of three job offers and everything changed.

I’m still not a huge fan of The Black Eyed Peas. Their earlier work doesn’t really attract me and their latest album, The Beginning, is honestly underwhelming. But The E.N.D. has become one of my all-time favorites. Some of this is admittedly on the strength of my memories associated with the song I Gotta Feeling. But it is truly a worth wild album that is tightly crafted and possibly one of the last albums we will hear that was created expressly to play in order in one sitting–something that is becoming very rare in this iTunes world. And no matter how I may feel about their other work, if you ask me what I think of The Black Eyed Peas, the first words out of my mouth will be, “Oh, I love them!”


It’s been one of those days

Have you ever had one of those days? The kind where you feel like you’re dragging around more than your usual baggage? You start second guessing every little decision and find yourself dissecting every email or text message for hidden meanings. You fear that people think you’re a clod. And deep down inside you find yourself agreeing with them. It’s a bad scene and today it was kinda my scene. I hate those kinds of days because it can be so hard to talk yourself out of it.

No, nothing really happened. People still like me, my marriage is sound, my job is secure. I’ve just been working really hard lately and avoiding sleep when I could really use it. And most people have a tendency to beat themselves up when they are tired. So I’m going to try to take my own advice and hit the hay early. I promise I’ll post some length treatise next week about the cultural significance of Rush.  (You think I’m kidding?) But for tonight, I will leave you with a song that perfectly reflects the black rain cloud that has been hanging over my head all day.

I give you The Reeling by Passion Pit, a wonderful little electropop outfit from Cambridge, MA. They got their start during my own days wandering around Cambridge, which always makes me feel inexplicably pleased. Almost a sense of kinship, if you will. In this song, lead singer Michael Angelakos strikes the perfect balance between dance-ably upbeat and existentially questioning. He cries out to the listener, “Look at me, oh look at me. Is this the way I’ll always be?” The video is colorful and gorgeous, calling to mind the magazine collages you might have made in high school art classes. And the significance of the constantly peeling layers plays right into the analytical tone set by the lyrics.

Do you have a “one of those days” song?

Good and stuck

Close your eyes and clear your mind. Mute that television program that (let’s be honest) you’re only half watching in the background. Walk away from the day you had at work. Tune out all noise, including your significant other venting about their boss, your kids whining for their dinner, and your pets begging for their walk. Now stop thinking about those dirty dishes waiting for you in the sink and that laundry that needs to be folded. Set it all aside for just a moment. Now take a deep breath. And another. Good. Now listen…

What song is running through your head right now?

Come on, you and I both know that there’s something lurking in the background of your brain. So confess! For all I know, it could be a jingle for a beer commercial. But there is something there and I’m willing to bet that if you’re anything like me, then it’s a song.

The song I’ve had running through my head today is If You Wanna by The Vaccines. They’re an English Indie band from London that has recently been making headway in the UK and I can’t –and frankly don’t want to–get them out of my mind. They’re still trying to make headway here in the states, so you may or may not have heard of them, but I think they’ll hit their stride soon. Their first American single, Post Break-Up Sex, kinda passed me by without much notice (although if you love Morrissey, you might want to look it up). But for some reason I recently seem to have latched on to their second single in a major way. Maybe it is because it has such an up-beat and bubbly feel to it that it makes you want to bounce along to it in the car while singing loudly? Maybe it is because the lead singer, Justin Young, sounds remarkably like Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 who also have a new album out now? Or maybe it is because it has the catchiest chorus in the history of the world?!?! Well whatever the reason, it seems to have securely lodged itself in my psyche. And honestly I couldn’t be happier about it!