Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Aaaaaahhhhs

On weekend mornings, THE WIFE and I play chicken as to who will get out of bed and retrieve the peanuts. Usually, we both feign sleep until the other can’t hold their morning pee anymore. It’s understood that whoever gets up first on Saturday gets to sleep in on Sunday. Today, THE WIFE budged first so I snoozed until 8.

By breakfast time, I stirred and came down for coffee. Greta requested tunes so I randomly wheeled around on the iPod until arriving on bands beginning with the letter R - or aaaaahhhhh as Massholes would say. I never noticed it before but a lot of great music lies in the aaahhhh section of bands in my iPod.

[Editor’s note: I may be repeating myself on some of the following from a prior post so forgive the premature dementia if that’s the case. If not, nevermind.]

Back in junior high and high school, recording mix tapes onto cassettes was much more time intensive than simply right-clicking on a bunch of songs and selecting “add to playlist.” First, one had to press record and give at least a second or two of lead time before pressing play on the song to be recorded, lest the mixer risk cutting off the song’s beginning. Next, you had to sit through the song’s entirety before recording the next one and so on. As the song played and recorded, the mixer had time to write the playlist on the little sleeve that rested inside the cassette case. If the lucky recipient was receiving the mix tape for a special reason, the mixer could inscribe a thoughtful message. Sometimes, there was a theme to the songs like great guitar solos, or the “best of” a particular band perhaps. Other times, we just made the token “gym mix” or “Spring Break 1992” or even the very risqué “sex tape” jams. (Sade was inevitably on the latter.)

Anywho, I still fancy myself a master music mixer. Today’s theme– as you may have guessed – will be songs found in the R-band section. Hence, for your reading and listening pleasure, here is the “Saturday Morning Aaaaaahhhh” playlist from yours truly to THE READERS. Band followed by album followed by song. In the spirit of the original mix tape method, I will attempt to write between songs.

Radiohead – The Bends – “Fake Plastic Trees.” Radiohead is one of those bands that always flies under my own radar. If pressed for my top five bands, I usually respond in no particular order Weezer, Cake, Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles, and U2. (Again, premature dementia apologies if applicable.) But Radiohead has to be lurking out there as a strong sixth.

The Bends is a great album to start with if somehow you’ve never dabbled in Radiohead. I was really torn whether to select “High and Dry” over “Fake Plastic Trees” (which by the way is as strong a three- and four-hole batting order in the album’s song lineup as say, Ruth-Gehrig or well at least Texeira-Rodriguez) but Trees won out because I love acoustic guitar ballads. I also love the way my cousin Stevie covers this song.

If you do like Radiohead, please do yourself a favor and download Eric Gorfain’s string orchestra cover of Radiohead on the album, Strung Out on OK Computer. Strangely, I enjoy this album the most when I’m on an airplane. I could go on but the next song is starting already…

Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard – “Boy.” I heard this song on WERS a few months ago and it still does it for me. It has such a killer bass guitar hook, it’s impossible not to air bass guitar with a slight head bob to accompany the bent right hand simulating string plucks over your belly. Gus loves this jam, too, especially with exaggerated air bass playing for him.

Side note, the scene from “I Love You Man” when Paul Rudd is explaining how he’s “slapping the bass mon” to Rashida Jones just kills me. It feels like both of them are suppressing laughter but keep it together and pull off the scene. Great stuff.

Rod Stewart – The Very Best of Rod Stewart – “Young Turks.” Without lifts, honestly how tall is Rod? Do you think he’s over five feet? And how great is the name Rod? Honestly. Is Stewart’s first name actually Rodney? I need answers. Have you seen his house on “Cribs”? It’s large.

This song is one of my all-time 80’s favorites. I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean, but I feel like wearing a head band and leg warmers then running quickly in place like the video for “Flashdance” when it comes on.

Again, air instrument play seems essential to my evaluation of music and this song does not disappoint for air boards. While air guitar gets its appropriate due, air boards surprisingly provides a much better opportunity to express one’s inner white man’s overbite jam sesh. And “Young Turks” is a great song to profile the air board skills. (Ah Ha’s “Take on Me” is another prolific song for air boards.) Lastly, Greta is showing great promise of air board aficionado status. Moving on.

Ray LaMontagne – Gossip in the Grain – “Hey Me, Hey Mama.” Don’t get me wrong. I like Ray. He’s really talented. But I’ll only listen to him if I’m already in a good mood. Because listening to Ray in a bad mood makes me want to drink a bottle of whiskey and cry myself to sleep. Melancholy is the one word that keeps coming to mind when I try to describe his music.

With that said, THE WIFE and I saw Ray play when she was like 9 months preggo with Gigi and so I suppose there’s a little connection

Roger Sanchez – Another Chance – “Another Chance.” Another random. I just like this song. I heard it in Amsterdam at a club in 2001 so I think of wooden shoes, windmills, and bicycles whenever this song comes on. Not much else to say here.

The Rentals – Return of the Rentals – “Friends of P.” I forget where exactly, but there’s some kind of connection with this band and Weezer. I think a former member of Fweeze is in The Rentals.

So this song always appeals to me. I love songs with ladies singing back-up vocals. I love synthesizers (for air boards opportunities, obv) but also for the sound alone. Great jam. Now speaking of Weezer…

Rivers Cuomo – Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo – “Buddy Holly.” The song is a lot less catchy than its counterpart on Weezer’s Blue Album, but I like the rawness of this version.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way – “I Could Die For You.” The Peppers are another band that flies under my radar a la Radiohead. These guys have been around forever. And even though every one of their recent radio-play songs seem to refer in some way or another to California, I could listen to pretty much any of their albums new or old without complaint.

As for this song, again, ballads are a kind of kryptonite to me. And the next best thing to ladies singing back-up vocals are dudes singing back-up falsetto. Falsetto back-up vocals give the singer-along a chance to feel like they’re part of the song. Let Anthony Kiedis take care of the lead, while you can sing the back-up parts.

Lastly, “By The Way” is – by the way – a really solid album overall. Start to finish, this is a pretty damn good record. Check it.

Now to the finale. (Breakfast is rarely more than a eight or nine song endeavor, but then again it is the weekend so things do move slower.) You didn’t think we’d be in the Rs and I’d omit …

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – “Factory Girl.” Allow me to be Tim McCarver a/k/a Master of the Obvious for a moment. Hands down, BB is one of the Stones’ best albums ever. Two absolute pearls, “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man,” are both on it for example. But “Factory Girl” is probably my favorite song from here.

When the song plays, I picture the Stones all sitting around in a log cabin somewhere out in the woods. And I want to be in a chair sitting next to Mick to hear him singing. It’s only a little over two minutes long, but what a cool little ditty.

And that wraps up the “Saturday Morning Aaaaaaahhhhh” mix tape/playlist. Hope you liked the show. I know only a handful of the regulars leave comments on the site, but I’d love to hear feedback on any of the songs from THE READERS. Agree? Disagree? Did you listen to any you never paid attention to before? Any R-bands have a song that should be on this list? Let’s hear it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


August Thomas Teravainen will celebrate his first birthday this weekend! Let that sink in for a moment.

Our G-man has had quite a remarkable first twelve months to say the least. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to effectively write a post to celebrate his first year and I’m stumped. I worry I might crash the web site’s server if I wrote everything that’s made me smile, laugh, cry, love him, kiss him, hug him, or be so proud of my little boy since last July.

The discovery of Gus’ diagnosis with Down Syndrome after his birth, and the immediately urgent medical dangers he endured at that time, obviously and understandably dominated so much of our family’s focus when he arrived. Just looking at the blogs I wrote, one can see how much I at least concentrated so much about what we had to learn about DS and all of its baggage. I never overlooked Gus as an individual first and foremost. But my preoccupation about DS was never far from my mind.

As the weeks and months transpired from last July, the dust gradually settled – minus a little hiccup just before Christmas – and (thankfully) our family routines evolved and adapted to the point where we are operating today: situation normal.

So at least with respect to my own feelings and attitudes merely as a father who looks at his son, the part about the last twelve months for which I am most grateful is how the presence of an extra chromosome in August’s body is so rarely in my thoughts. While I intended at the outset not to be so focused on DS, only time would tell if our minds would comply.

Today, when I look at my son when he wakes up in the morning, I see a beaming and energetic one year-old so excited that someone has finally come to get him out of his crib after he’s been calling for so long. When I hold my son around me, I treasure his chubby arms around my neck and his chubbier legs squeezing around me for a tighter grip. When I make faces at and talk to my son, I appreciate every reciprocating smile, laugh, and gesture back at me.

Never in these moments does my mind betray me and say, “But he’s got Down Syndrome!” The thought is just baseless because Down Syndrome as a medical condition or whatever you want to call it, simply has no bearing on that previous instant when Gus and I just connected as a father and a son. I don’t know how else to say it except that when I see Gus, he is my little boy. Not my little boy with Down Syndrome.

Don’t misunderstand me. Our life is filled with reminders of a path that deviated from what we originally envisioned before Gus was born. Ten different medical specialists. Monthly doctor visits. Weekly visits by Early Intervention. Home physical therapy and occupational therapy. Thickener to mix with every bottle. Battles with insurance. The list goes on. But these are the adjustments a parent makes when his or her child is not typical, as I’ve written before. And as I said then, we’re okay because that’s what we signed up for.

I don’t mean to overstate August’s personal triumphs, especially relative to other children who are battling whatever medical challenges they confront however more or less severe. I’m simply celebrating my love, pride, and admiration for a precocious individual whose fierceness of spirit inspires me every day.

A few weeks ago, THE WIFE “checked in” with me to see if I was okay. She wasn’t sure if I was being grouchy as she loves to tease, or if there was something possibly important bothering me. I admitted I was a bit apprehensive that Gus was almost one and he wasn’t crawling yet. The subject came and went without much more discussion, as we reminded ourselves to be patient.

Almost as though the little bugger was eavesdropping on our conversation before, Gus decided to show me after bath time about an hour later how he actually could crawl. He just liked to do it his own unique way: backwards. Some people just like to moonwalk before they dance, or mooncrawl before crawling forward.

Nice job, my little man. I should know by now you’ll never cease to amaze me. Keep up the good work! Happy birthday. I love you.