Adventures In Babysitting

September 1, 2012

A buddy of mine has, for a good decade, had the cushiest gig known to man, serving as a nanny to a couple who are cardiologists.

His duties mostly consisted of driving the two kids to and retrieving them from school. In return, he had quarters in a huge home in a posh neighborhood as well as a handsome salary.

As the children have been driving for several years, his responsibilities have been minimal and, now, the position has been rendered obsolete. I fear that he will have a difficult adjustment to the true working world.

My lone experience in child care offered me a taste of this good life.

As a junior in high school, several of my friends and I opted to take Home Economics, causing a bit of a stir as the class had traditionally been reserved for girls which was one of our reasons for taking it.

(our other reason was the expectation that there would be food)

The class did put us in close proximity to some of our more desired female classmates, but, in an unfortunate development, no cooking was involved and, thus, there were no foodstuffs for us to consume.

To my surprise, as the following summer break was ending, our teacher recruited me to watch her three children.

The trio of boys ranged in age from nine to twelve and the gig, as outlined to me, was simple. The afternoon would be spent at the pool of our town’s country club, where my teacher and her husband were members, and, then, home until their return later that evening.

So, for a couple hours, I lounged poolside at The Club. This meant my one task was to make sure that no one drowned.

(actually, water safety fell under the jurisdiction of the lifeguard on duty as – had they drowned – it would have reflected most poorly on him)

This allowed me to give full attention to Kate, a classmate who had arrived shortly after we had encamped. She settled into the chaise lounge next to me, accompanied by her string bikini, to take advantage of one of the last days of summer to work on her already impressive tan.

By the beard of Zeus, the only thing that would have added to the experience was had I, like Chevy Chase in Fletch, ordered a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich and billed it to the Underhills.

The evening ended with me and the kids, back at their house, watching Miami Vice and eating take-out pizza.

Easy money.

Here are four songs from the waning days of that summer of ’85…

Godley & Creme – Cry
from The History Mix Volume 1 (1985)

The duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had once been members of 10cc and had become acclaimed producers of videos.

(Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Asia’s Heat Of The Moment, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Synchronicity II, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes…)

So, not surprisingly, it was an innovative video – using the same morphing visuals that Michael Jackson would use for Black And White‘s clip – that garnered the duo attention on MTV. Radio soon caught on to the song’s twangy, hypnotic goodness and Cry became a hit that seems to have been largely forgotten.

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures (1985)

I was well acquainted with Talking Heads beyond their Top Ten hit Burning Down The House from a couple years earlier. When Little Creatures was released earlier in the summer, I was charmed by the cerebral rockers jaunty ode to levitation And She Was.

Though I didn’t hear the song much on radio, it became one of the few songs by The Heads to make the Hot 100.

Jeff Beck – Gets Us All In The End
from Flash (1985)

I’m not sure if I knew of Jeff Beck before 1985. Perhaps I’d come across the name, but I certainly knew no music by the legendary guitarist (who more than a few folks would argue is the greatest guitarist of the rock era).

Flash had already gotten airplay (and MTV play for the video) with his soulful rendition of People Get Ready, on which Rod Stewart provided vocals. On Get Us All In The End, Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall guested on vocals while Beck handled the guitar work which is simply ferocious.

Bryan Ferry – Slave To Love
from Boys And Girls (1985)

Roxy Music was another act with which I had little familiarity in 1985. I know that I’d heard Love Is The Drug on 97X, but I wouldn’t discover them in more depth until a year later when, as a college freshman, a French professor would play the group’s classic Avalon before class.

It was certainly on 97X where I was hearing Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry’s Slave To Love and I liked the suave fellow’s style.

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The Road (There And Back)

November 27, 2011

As a kid, the family usually made at least one trek annually to visit relatives in Western Pennsylvania.

To mitigate the need to navigate traffic, we would often set off on these trips in the wee hours of the night, getting the first couple hours in before the sunrise.

It was thrilling to be up in the middle of the night, at an hour whose existence was wholly unknown to me at the time.

As my younger brother and our mother would be asleep in the backseat, I was accorded shotgun, road atlas perched in my lap and serving as navigator for our father.

I assumed the responsibility of the task with deadly seriousness and a certain belief that any failure on my part might result in us being lost forever, though little navigation was truly needed and the position was essentially honorary.

Thirtysome years later, it’s simply good to that Paloma and I have made our Thanksgiving trek with no difficulties and are safely back in the treehouse with the animals.

Here are four road songs (out of the numerous ones residing on the harddrive)…

John Fogerty – The Old Man Down The Road
from Centerfield (1985)

I was a junior in high school when John Fogerty released his first new music since before I had even begun the educational process. I was hardly enamored with Centerfield or the handful of tracks that were getting airplay, but the album and Fogerty’s comeback was inescapable (especially as my buddy Beej loved the record).

For me, it was a bit too twangy for my tastes at the time, though now I have a much greater appreciation and affection for the ex-Creedence singer’s bayou brew. And, Paloma and I came across a fellow in a roadside McDonald’s that certainly would have been well cast as the titular character.

Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere
from Little Creatures (1985)

As John Fogerty was making a comeback in 1985, art-rockers Talking Heads were making a belated arrival, notching the most commercially successful album of their almost-decade long career with Little Creatures. Sure, the quartet had a major radio hit two years earlier with the übercool Burning Down The House and, though nothing on Little Creatures matched that success, the album had several songs that got a lot of airplay.

One of those songs was the skittish march Road To Nowhere which I heard a lot on 97X that spring and was accompanied by an expectedly eye-catching video that MTV played incessantly.

Steve Earle – Six Days On The Road
from Essential Steve Earle (1993)

Paloma and I didn’t spend six days on the road – two was more than enough for us – so we didn’t quite reach the level of weariness that the protagonist felt in the song that was a major hit for country singer Dave Dudley in 1963.

Nearly a quarter century later, Steve Earle contributed his version of the song to John Hughes’ movie Planes, Trains And Automobiles, a flick that has become a holiday perennial.

Eddie Vedder with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – The Long Road
from Dead Man Walking soundtrack (1996)

Traveling through the Midwest, Paloma and I heard a similar rotation of artists and songs on the (mostly) classic rock stations we’d pull up on the radio. And, there amongst ’70s warhorses like Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Skynyrd was – over and over again – Pearl Jam.

(much to Paloma’s chagrin)

Personally, it reminded me of how much of Pearl Jam’s catalog I have enjoyed over the years. The band certainly has had its detractors (aside from Paloma), but there’s always been something about the grunge icons that has struck me as geniune.

And, over the years, lead singer Eddie Vedder has, like several other members of the band, stepped out on his own as he did in 1996 when he collaborated with the late Pakastani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the lovely, mournful The Long Road for the soundtrack to the movie Dead Man Walking.


The #1 Pants

July 21, 2011

I suspect I drive Paloma to distraction with my lack of sartorial acumen and interest in such.

Often she will return home with a new shirt or pair of pants for me. I truly feel bad that I cannot participate in her enthusiasm.

Truly, I am.

It’s just that career choices afforded me the ability to dress casually with few restrictions well into my thirties.

(grunge played right to my strengths even if not all of the music associated with that era did)

Of course, during the past half decade or so, I’ve labored under the fashion standards deemed acceptable in the corporate world.

In the civilian world, I opt for simplicity and comfort – a pair of baggy cargo shorts, a well-worn t-shirt with The Who emblazoned across the front.

Two things about cargo shorts appeal to me. One is the loose fit, the free-wheeling vibe of not wearing pants while still wearing pants.

And then there’s the loose, deep pockets.

I have stuff – an iPod, wallet, keys, cigarettes, sunglasses – and that stuff takes up space that my work wordrobe’s meager storage compartments cannot handle comfortably.

(if humans are the most intelligent species on the planet, wouldn’t we have figured out a way to exist without carting so much crap everywhere we go?)

For the work day, I strive for as much comfort as possible knowing that I’ll still feel like fidgeting.

It is not easy – despite Paloma’s well-intended efforts – for new items to move into the rotation. I go for veterans that I know, through experience, will enable me to attain the greatest state of clothing Zen.

It must be the heat – what’s here and what is forecast as impending – but I feel compelled to announce that a new pair of khakis has ascended to the top of the heap in trousers.

Well done, pants.

Well done, Paloma.

I truly have no idea what kind of music best captures this event. I simply have few “pants” songs.

Here are four songs that pulled up scrolling through my 97X playlist on the iPod…

Talking Heads – And She Was
from Little Creatures

I could imagine that Talking Heads could have written an awesome song about pants. In fact, I’m probably blanking on some song in their quirky catalog celebrating clothing.

But, there is the band’s jaunty ode to levitation And She Was which has charmed me from the first time I heard Little Creatures. I used to hear it now and then on some of our more mainstream rock stations, and it even became one of the few songs by The Heads to make the Hot 100.

The Cult – Rain
from Love

The recorded output of The Cult is a bit uneven to me and, despite its success, I thought the Rick Rubin-produced Electric was an overrated yawn aside from the wonderful Love Removal Machine.

However, Love, Electric‘s predecessor, is a classic from the time and the driving Rain – with lead singer Ian Astbury’s howling to the heavens – is appropriate today.

Timbuk3 – The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
from Greetings From Timbuk 3

Well, another song suitable for the occasion pops up because a man with new trousers is a force to be reckoned with in the corporate America workplace.

Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive!
from The Flat Earth

Thomas Dolby is an A-list act in our household and, like Talking Head David Byrne, I have absolute faith that he would succeed smashingly if I could commission him to write a song about my new pants.

(note to self: get mega-wealthy, commission Thomas Dolby to write pants song)