Friday, May 29, 2009

Mix Tape

I had been thinking about doing a music post for awhile, but it's really not that great unless you can hear what I'm hearing. So, I decided to put together a mix tape just for you (yes, you). Pretend we're both fifteen and there's all kinds of things I wish I could say to you, but I just don't have the guts. So instead, I sit down with my dual cassette deck, and let drug addled artists do it for me.

CLICK HERE to download the 24 track collection I put together. You'll be taken to Sendspace. If you've never used Sendspace before, here's what to do: At the bottom of the page (under a bunch of ads), you'll see a file link calld Click on that, then simply save the file, unzip, and listen.

If you like a song, you should really consider buying the album. Click on the song name, and you'll be taken to Amazon where you can add it to your cart. With a handful of exceptions, these are independent artists and they could use the gas money. I'm just sayin' is all.

1 - Letter From Home - DJ Shadow
"Everything went wrong."

I've put together a few mixes in the past couple of years, and like beginning and ending them with Letter From Home (I & II) the same way DJ Shadow opened and closed his album "The Private Press". The two tracks are a frozen moment in time for this family, and we don't get to hear nearly enough. They set a great tone.

2 - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight - The Postal Service
"I'm staring at the asphalt wondering what's buried underneath."

Ben Gibbard, known for his work with Death Cab for Cutie, worked on this project and I really like this stuff much more than output from his "steady job". Musically, I could imagine them opening up for 1988 era Pet Shop Boys, but the writing is so smart it makes me shake my head at times. It's a real pleasure to just sit and listen to this entire record, but this opening track kicks it off in style.

3 - Like a Vibration - The Whigs
"My reputation is hanging around my neck. It's hanging around in bars."

Three piece rock and roll from simple Southerners that doesn't sound small town. The Whigs are just a great loud rock band. Go see them live.

4 - Squares - The Beta Band
"So, miles and miles of squares. Where's the feeling there?"

This is a band I love when they're in a mix. To sit and listen to a full album is difficult for me because they're a bit too hypnotic. By the end, I feel groggy and slow as if I slept way too long. We were given the ability to bob our heads to a beat because the Great Creator knew this song would come along.

5 - In My Room - The Beach Boys
"But I won't be afraid."

One of the most beautiful songs ever written. Ever.

6 - Get it Together - The Beastie Boys

"The phone is ringing. Oh my God."

I always associate classic Beastie Boys records with the time in my life when they were released. When "Ill Communication" hit the racks I was having lots of fun and I still get a taste of that, even in my cubicle.

7 - Strange Desire - The Black Keys
"I don't wanna go to hell, but if I do, it'll be cuz of you."

There are two bands in this mix that a particular friend turned me onto, and this was the first. The Black Keys are two guys from Ohio who have amassed critical acclaim, sold more than a few records, and still drive their own van to gigs. Beautiful stripped down blues and a fierce live show. If you like this, go buy everything these guys have done.

8 - V.F.W. - The Dead Milkmen
"We're all veterans…"

When I was in the fifth grade, a bunch of my friends sent off a mail-order form and weeks later received their black and white Dead Milkmen shirts. I was so jealous, but didn't have the money for one of my own. We would spend our winter recesses under one of the work tables in our classroom listening to "Big Lizard..." quietly so the profanity wouldn't be overheard and get us in trouble. The Dead Milkmen were my first exposure to punk and they still give me the feeling of naughty joy that I got the first time I heard them tell me that we're all veterans of a fucked up world.

9 - Send a Little Love Token - The Duke Spirit
"You should read these words I bet you never heard."

When I think of my favorite music, The Duke Spirit don't come up for some reason. Every time one of their songs is played as part of my shuffle I'm reminded how good they sound though, and will usually have to go listen to the "Neptune" record from start to finish.

10 - Handlebars - Flobots
"I can hand out a million vaccinations or let 'em all die in exasperation."

Our local independent radio station (
WWCD 101.1) played this song, and I was on iTunes downloading it that night (at the time, the album hadn't been rereleased in its current format, and owning a copy of the CD would have set me back $45). I liked it so much that I sent it or played it to everyone I could. The world is a better place with Flobots tending the light at the end of their own particular tunnel.

11 - Exchange - Massive Attack
"_________________ ."

When I was a young, a bunch of us kids would be packed into the back of my Aunt Elta's station wagon and we'd go to Lake Hudson near Granville, OH to go swimming. They had old fashioned speakers (you know, the ones that looked like megaphones) that they would play music through when not making announcements. The music they played was restrained, picked because it wouldn't be annoying or offensive to anyone. This song reminds me of those 1960's instrumentals that Lake Hudson was so fond of. It's all about lake water, the smell of popcorn, and learning to swim.

12 - What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
"Right on, baby."

I didn't come to like Marvin until I was an adult, but it's music that I wish I was nostalgic about. I would love to be able to tell you a story about how my mom turned me on to Marvin when I was just a kid, and how it sparked discussion about where this kind of music came from, and how we came to hear it all the way out in rural Ohio. But yeah, that shit never happened.

13 - Paper Planes (Remix for the Children of Adrock) - M.I.A.
"No one on the corner has swagger like us."

Chris Wilbourn, Heiruspecs MC extraordinaire, told me about a song that he couldn't get out of his head. (This was a year or two back, long before Slumdog hit the screen). I had recently sent him some Flobots stuff, and he returned the favor with the album version of M.I.A.'s Paper Planes. A couple days later I picked up the album and a remix disc and immediately latched on to Adrock's version.

14 - You or Your Memory - The Mountain Goats
"St Joseph's Baby Aspirin, Bartles & James, and you."

I worked with a young law student who first played The Mountain Goats for me. It took some time for me to come around, but once I did I was hooked. This is by far my favorite album they've done, and one of my favorite songs off it.

15 - Oh, Me - Nirvana
"I don't have to think. I only have to do it."

A few weeks ago, Sound Opinions did a show where they shared their favorite live albums of all time. Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in New York made their list, and it makes mine. Originally a Meat Puppets tune, the version played here is the absolute highlight of the record. I remember being so broke when this was released that I had to go through my CD collection to find stuff to trade in just to get enough cash so I could buy it. I don't think I listened to anything but this record for three months after that day.

16 - Punk Rock - Mogwai
"Do you understand what I'm talking about?"

A 1977 recording of Iggy Pop lecturing on the beauty of Punk with master instrumentalists Mogwai setting the tone. God bless Iggy Pop. God bless Mogwai.

17 - Trunk Fulla Amps - Self
"Like Glen Danzig…MOTHER!"

"Self" is actually one dude recording music using nothing but toys. Seriously. Listen, and you'll hear it. The crunchy guitars are made of plastic and marketed to 8 year olds. The keyboards are kiddie Casios, and there's plenty of tinkling, blurping, and beeping provided by a literal army of toys. Add profanity laced finger pointing, and I'm hooked.

18 - Ode To LRC - Band of Horses
"The world is such a wonderful place."

Beautiful rock music created by vocal clinicians. I love this band, and really hope they tour again soon so I can go see them.

19 - JC - Sonic Youth
"All the men want a charming whore."

I love Sonic Youth. I know they're an acquired taste, and many of you have already decided if you love or hate them. Because I love so much of what they do, it was really hard to pick a track to put in here, so I thought I'd go with one of Kim's songs that I thought was a bit more accessible than some of their other stuff. No one creates a wall of sound like SY.

20 - Wolf Like Me - TV On the Radio
"My heart's aflame, my body's strained, but God I like it."

Critics seem to love these guys, which I find odd since they're hard to classify. If you ever take the time to try to figure them out, they wind up surprising you at every turn. My wife hates the vast majority of the music I love. Chances are, the more important an artist is to me personally, the more she hates them. It's instinctive, and never malicious, but it always hurts in a way she'll never really understand. TV On the Radio have the dubious distinction of being the band she hates more than anyone.

"Who are these guys?" she'll ask.
"TV On the Radio".
"That's the worst shit I've ever heard. They make me love Sonic Youth."

21 - There's No Secrets This Year - Silversun Pickups
"I'll tell you a secret."

I understand all the complaints people make that SSPU are too derivative of Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine, I just don't care. I love big warm fuzzy guitars. I love strong female bass players. I love noisy freakouts. SSPU gives me all of this without fail.

22 - Handshake Drugs (Live) - Wilco
"I was buried in sound."

I had "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", and had listened to it some, but it never grabbed me in a big way. A friend that I talk music with every time we get together kept rhapsodizing about how amazing Wilco is, and I'd have to admit that I just didn't get them. I saw that PBS was going to show an Austin City Limits episode taped shortly after the release of their "Sky Blue Sky" album, and I recorded it. That performance opened my eyes, and a big part of the discovery was "Handshake Drugs". Nothing is more fun than a chipper song about scoring.

23 - Videotape - Radiohead
"This is one for the good days."

Funeral ready.

24 - Letter From Home (2) - DJ Shadow
"It look like everywhere I go I draw heat. Period."

You're damn right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's In a Name?

I know I usually act like I'm twelve years old, and a lot of things are funny to me that maybe shouldn't be, but the other day I came across a man by the name of Major Johnson. (Major was not a rank, it was his first name.)

I swear on everything that is good in this world, the dude's legal name was Major Johnson.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bike Commute (A Cellphone Camera Pictorial)

Merryman 3.0?

After seven years of off and on conversations, and then several months of more intensive conversations, Jen and I have decided to try our hand at starting a family. A lot of people would consider this very personal, and might not discuss it until the pregnancy is firmly rooted in the second trimester, but we're not those people. While I have been told certain parts of our life together are off limits (at least in terms of blog fodder), Jen agreed pretty readily to let me talk about this. I think she was OK with my discussing it because she's so excited by the possibility. For me, I'm just happy being able to communicate that I'm getting laid.

I know all the reasons having kids is not discussed with outsiders during the planning stages: It might not be able to happen. Either Jen or I could be fundamentally flawed in some way that will send us running to the Foster Care system, robbing our own stunted genetics of their chance to scar some new life. Or, we could lose the child, something I can't even begin to understand how people cope with. Then, you're left with the conversations and awkward silences. Still, I've never been one to shut up when I should, so here we are talking about it.

I've told you all of that, so I can tell you this: I went out at lunch today and entered into a rite of passage millions of parents-to-be have undertaken. I picked up a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting". After five minutes of flipping through the book, I've decided having kids is definitely not the way to go. This is less a book of what you can expect, but rather a list of all the shit that can go wrong. And way too much shit can go wrong. It's amazing children are ever born in this world.

It's even more amazing to me who is able to have kids in spite of all the hidden dangers and conditions waiting in hiding for barebacking couples everywhere. Crackheads are squeezing out more kids than they know what to do with. Hillbilly cousins have trailerfulls of the little buggers. And I know there are twelve years olds that pull off successful pregnancies all the time, but that doesn't mean much. I've seen "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" and am well aware there are things kids are capable that I, even in my mid thirties, am not.

I'll spend some more time with the book before making a final judgment, but I'm leery now. In addition to all the lurking disaster awaiting us, I realize now that my reproductive skills being compared against those of crack heads, incestuous country bumpkins, and preteens, and it might be more than my fragile ego can handle. If they can do it, and I can't...well, let's not think those thoughts.

I'll let you know how it's going once we hit the second trimester, I guess.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lucy Loo & Otis Too

It's early, but things are already winding down here. The dogs are curled up at the foot of the bed, snug in their cliche. Jen is already asleep, though the sun isn't down yet. The dogs and I were keeping her company while she read, but after satisfying my Facebook addiction for awhile, I find myself still sitting here, not sure what I really want to be doing.

We've been taking the dogs for walks more. Uncivilized beasts, they are. Otis is really decent for the most part, but Lucy is non stop work. To take her out we have to gear her up. Loaded with a shock collar (save your judgements) and a Gentle Leader, it's still all we can do to control the twelve pounds of fury tethered by a cute pink leash. The Gentle Leader is great because it keeps her from pulling the entire time we're walking. The shock collar is great because she gets a small zap when she barks. With it, she still barks some. Without it, she flies into a fury of barking and high-pitched squealing at the sight of flailing children, bicyclists, joggers, and chipmunks.

Our walk begins next to soccer fields that accommodate up to 8 games to be played at once (flailing children), and it's on a bike trail (bicyclists and joggers), and chipmunks are a epidemic everywhere you go (you get the idea). It's a perfect storm.

I don't know what we'd do without the battery powered taser attached to her neck. The collar might seem cruel, but trust me...walking her without one is much worse for all involved, including Lucy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Seasonal Winds

The wind played with the hem of her dress, pulling it back tight against her. The shape of her legs, wiry and slim as cattail reeds, stood out in the folds of black fabric like engorged veins, pumping blood from her pelvis into the loose earth where her feet were planted. She was connected to her world in ways I had prayed for.

She didn’t move when I asked her to move, just kept looking at me, seeing a new piece of me that had been hidden until just this moment.

Now she knows, I thought. Not that she knows everything, but she knows enough. Enough to make her want to run. I’d want to run. I’d want to be anywhere but here.

I saw it. There was a loosening of the tension in her face, and her hands fell absently to pull the fabric out from between her knees where the wind had gathered it. I knew she had decided whether or not she was going to stay, but did not know what her answer would be.

I felt the sun on my balding head and caught small breaths of her soap in the racing wind.

I was unable to remove my eyes from the end of her dress, flapping in the wind like an overenthusiastic tail on a falling kite.

Friday, May 15, 2009

This, That, and The Other Thing


If you're not going to wash your hands after using the rest room, do me a favor and just rub your balls on the door handle on your way out. Stop screwing around and just do it up right.


Several weeks ago I was listening to the best radio show ever created (This American Life) and there was a piece by Dan Savage. Dan is a sex columnist, author, and he puts out a weekly podcast that I just recently started listening to. I downloaded one episode of the podcast, then after listening to it, went back and downloaded all 90(ish) available shows, and have been listening to very little other than that. As a result, my brain is a wee bit oversexed but I'm laughing and learning, so there's that.

The show is basically a series of voice mail messages left for Dan that he responds to "on the air". Sometimes he'll call the caller back, and other times he'll just rant by way of response. The show is funny, sad, disgusting, and ultimately enlightening. While it obviously focuses on sex, the most interesting thing the show reveals are the secret lives we're all working so hard to hide from each other. Callers are anonymous, and with that freedom comes an honesty that we almost never see in the "real world". From the young Mormon man who is struggling with coming out to his family who will most likely disown him, to minions of people calling to try to learn the origins of their particular kink or fetish, the level of honesty is shocking. And when the callers fall short of total candor or are unable to be honest with themselves, Dan is there to drag them kicking and screaming into the light.

Yesterday, I listened to Episode 53 where a 61 year old retired man called in because he felt guilty for using escort services to satisfy certain needs. It wasn't because he was ashamed of paying for sex, or because of the lack of a partner in his life. The man felt guilty for putting what he described as "extremely gorgeous looking guys" into a situation where they had to have intimate contact with him because he is extremely unattractive. He felt bad for putting people in a situation where they would have to touch him.

I'm just left thinking that so many of us are working so hard to keep our secrets, that we're missing out on a greater truth: None of us are that different from one another. When we hide what we are, our secret lives build pressure that eventually has to escape. Our judgments, our inability to laugh at ourselves, and our fears of being weird keep us from being who we are. I wish "real life" was more like The Savage Love Podcast. I think we'd all be better off.

The Other Thing

This past winter, we put up a bird feeder. Sure, it was a bad time of year to put it up, but we figured finding good eats would be tough for a bird, and we'd try to help a brotha out. We had three birds show up (that we actually saw) in a three month period. We talked to birds we saw nearby, and told them that they could take as much food as they want at Merryman Manor, but they never did.

Spring came, and while they did show up more often, it was still sporadic at best. Then, about two weeks ago, the tide turned. Our postage stamp sized front yard has become a buffet of the highest order, and Jen and I are addicted. We sit out on the porch, watch the birds in-between paragraphs of our books and sips of coffee, and we joke to each other about being the type of old married couple that sits around and watch birds.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Jen had a birthday yesterday. This is what I was doing by 11:30 in the morning.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bring Out Your Dead

I believe in ghosts as much as anyone who's never seen or experienced one can. I want them to be real, but I'm not at all certain that they are. I wish they were, though.

I've known lots of people who say they've had experiences, but I normally chalk it up to bullshit. Still, every once in awhile, I'll have a conversation with someone that I've already come to like and trust, and they'll tell me about an experience they've had. I still can't say I believe the stories, but I do believe that they believe them.

I was talking to a friend about this earlier today and it got me thinking about this haunted tour of New Orleans that I went on. It was a walking tour of the city that set out shortly before dark. Our guide was a medium and worked for a company who was contracted to come out and investigate hauntings. She told us stories about working on the shoot for Oliver Stone's JFK and how they had trouble keeping night security staff because they were tormented by a presence.

We walked around the city, and even spent some time in a haunted hotel room and then a lobby that used to be a holding area for incoming slaves. At one point in this former slave holding tank, she asked us to focus, hold our hands out in front of us, and see if we felt anything. I walked around, trying as hard as I could. What I did feel was the heavy atmosphere of the history of that room, but I had no flashes of the past. My arms tingled with lack of blood flow, and when she saw me wiggling my hands she spoke to me and said that she could tell I felt something. I didn't correct her.

For me, it almost doesn't matter if they're real or not though. It's the stories that come with them that's fascinating. It's the horror of life, the sudden unfairness of death, and a soul refusing to accept the natural order of things that draw me in. Like any tale, a hint of truth will enhance it, but it doesn't make or break it for me.

I've been accused of not believing in ghosts because I'm an atheist, and having to accept the existence of ghosts means I would have to redefine my beliefs in other spiritual matters. Again, I call bullshit on that. First, I've never been afraid of my many glaring contradictions, and can't imagine this would be any different. I would have no trouble hanging out with the Ghost of Christmas Past and still saying I don't believe in God. Second, I don't mind being proven wrong from time to time. You show me the face of God, and I'll be the first one to let you know I was fucking up.

Ghost stories are my favorite though. Other supernatural tales are fine. I like zombies, vampires, and werewolves, but when it comes to spookiness and stories that make me look over my shoulder as I'm reading, it's all about the ghosts.

So, if you know where I can find one, holla at your boy. Jen and I are ready for a road trip. But, if we drive all the way out to the middle of nowhere for nothing, you're buying us beer.

Close Enough

I got up to the third floor by using a tiny stainless steel box of an elevator, and followed the signs through the dark hallway around to the left. As I rounded the corner I could see a new sign again saying "Suite 300" with an arrow pointing to the left and I started to think I was walking through a cork screw maze. Finally, after a mile of stained carpets and struggling fluorescent bulbs overhead, the door stood open before me, welcoming me inside.

I smiled at the receptionist and she said "You must be Steve." I let her know I was, and took a seat after being told it would be just a few moments before my interview would start. I looked around the room, thinking it could use some paint and a fake plant or two at the very minimum, but reminded myself that this is a small company and they're probably getting by on whatever they can. That's when I noticed the sign at the end of the receptionist's desk:

Welcome Stephanie Merryman!

I smiled to myself, and settled in to wait. After a couple of minutes, I got bored and thought I'd chat up the receptionist. She let me know that she had been there for a year and four months and really enjoyed the work there. She was eating leftovers from their Cinco de Mayo potluck the day before, and I could hear occasional crunching as her head dipped behind the high counter. The room smelled of the corn chips scattered on her paper plate.

After several moments of chit chat, Laurie, the receptionist said "Oh my goodness!" She stood, opened a drawer that contained little letters with tabs on the back of them, and started changing "Stephanie" to "Stephen". I continued to smile.