1990s

Exit 229. I knew the answer all along.

I was watching Jeopardy! a few days ago.  Jeopardy! and other trivia games have always been huge in my family.  I’ve told people that my hours of reading random stuff on Wikipedia, then clicking a link to something else I read that I’m curious about, and repeating that dozens of times, are just studying for being a contestant on Jeopardy! eventually.  This argument was justified a few weeks ago when something I had read following a Wikipedia rabbit trail actually showed up a day or two later as a Final Jeopardy! question.  (“In 1790 Thursday October Christian became the first child whose birth was recorded on this remote island” — I had read about said remote island on another Wikipedia distraction-fest a few years ago, so I might have still gotten it right had I not read about it again recently.  I’ll let you think about it; click here for the correct response.  It’s also tradition in my family not to give away the answer in trivia games to non-participants who might be watching and playing along.)

Anyway, that isn’t the point of this post.  Another recent Final Jeopardy! category was “Female Singers,” and the clue was “In the 1990s this New York native had 8 of her first 10 Billboard Top 40 hits reach No. 1.”  I’m sitting there trying to think of the answer, and the first thing that comes to mind is, Crap!  In the 1990s I wasn’t listening to female singers who had No. 1 hits.  I was listening to R.E.M. and Pearl Jam and Aerosmith and Toad The Wet Sprocket, and then I had my Pink Floyd phase, and then I became a Christian and listened to DC Talk and Jars of Clay and Third Day.  I might not know this one.  Who could it be… whoever it is, her music probably sucks.

I was staring at the TV, at the words “1990s” and “No. 1 hits,” and I thought of something else.  A meme, of all things, something that I saw months ago.  It said to post the song that was No. 1 on your 14th birthday, and that is the song that defines your life.  Mine was “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey.  That’s pretty much the opposite of what defines my life.  I’ve had plenty of visions of love, but unlike the song, they never come true, at least not for long.

But, back to Jeopardy!… my 14th birthday was in the summer of 1990.  Vision of Love was a No. 1 song from the 1990s by a female singer.  And it was from the start of her career, and she did have a lot of big hits in the next few years after that.  Could Mariah Carey be the correct Jeopardy! response?  I didn’t know whether or not she was a New York native, and I didn’t know exactly how many No. 1 hits she had or anything like that.  But I didn’t have a better answer.

Mariah Carey was correct.  I had the answer all along.

Literally.  I’ve literally had the answer since I was 14.  Somewhere in my parents’ attic is a cassette tape of Mariah Carey’s first album, the one with Vision of Love on it.  I haven’t listened to it since I was 15 or 16, but there was a brief time when I didn’t think that Mariah Carey sucked.  She had a strong voice with a pretty impressive range, and there were some catchy songs on that album.  Mariah lost favor with me a few years later, when she released another album with a song with banal lyrics and lots of parts where she was just shrieking at a pitch that only dogs and dolphins can hear, and by that time I was pretty much ditching pop, R&B, and hip-hop altogether in favor of classic rock.

So when I heard Alex Trebek telling the two contestants who wrote Mariah Carey that they were correct, I felt pretty proud of myself.  I thought that this question was going to be completely out of the realm of things I know about, but I knew the answer all along.  Maybe this is the case more often than I know.

Exit 190. I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

One interesting thing about having a huge collection of music is that every once in a while, I’ll have all of my thousands of songs on shuffle, and I’ll rediscover a song from my past in a way that speaks to me all over again in the present.

Jars of Clay is a Christian rock band that was popular during my college and young adult years, when I was first discovering Christian rock (and first discovering what it meant to be a Christian, for that matter).  Their song Flood, off of their self-titled debut album, was a major hit in 1996, crossing over from the Christian niche into mainstream music and charting on the Billboard Hot 100.   I’ve seen them live at least three times, most recently in 2006 with Vega the Nice Ex.  (Some of the popular Christian bands of that era I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen live, since I went to some festivals and other large events where many bands were playing.  I know I’ve seen them at least once at a festival, and twice as the actual headliners of actual concerts.)

Jars of Clay never really replicated that early mainstream success.  They experimented with different sounds over the years, and although I have all of their first seven studio albums, their self-titled debut will probably always be my favorite.  But there are some good songs off of their other albums (as well as some recent work which I haven’t heard at all; maybe I’ll have to check them out one of these days).  The song “The Eleventh Hour,” from the 2002 album of the same title, came up on shuffle recently, and I hadn’t heard it in a while, and it had probably been even longer since I had actually paid attention to the lyrics.

 

The English phrase “the eleventh hour,” which like the phrase “jars of clay” is derived from a passage in the New Testament,  refers to the last minute, a time in which it is almost too late.  (Some modern translations use modern methods of timekeeping in that passage instead of the words “eleventh hour”; the NIV, for example, says “five in the afternoon.”)

The song says:

Rescue me from waiting on this line.
I won’t give up on giving you the chance to blow my mind.
Let the eleventh hour quickly pass me by.
I’ll find you when I think I’m out of time.

Sometimes I feel like I’m out of time.  Sometimes I feel like my best years are past me, having been wasted drowning in fear and self-doubt.  Sometimes I feel like I could have been happy and had a more fulfilling life if I had done things differently in my younger years.  Sometimes it feels too late to be successful financially, or too late to meet that special someone and find a family, or too late to find a place where I belong.  God, rescue me.  I won’t give up on you.  I can still find God, and he can still do wonderful things with my life, even if I think I’m out of time.

As I’ve been writing this, two other Jars of Clay songs came up on shuffle.  Maybe God is telling me he approves of my topic for this week, or that one of my readers needed to hear this.

Don’t give up on God.

Exit 127. A very unique place.

Yesterday afternoon, I had lunch plans in Davis. Afterward, since I wasn’t having a very busy day, I just drove around for about 45 minutes before I started to head back toward home.

Davis is a small city of 65,000 (yes, that’s considered small around here) in Yolo County, California, about 15 miles west of Sacramento and 70 miles northeast of San Francisco.  It is adjacent to a large public university, which I attended from 1994 to 1999, and for the most part surrounded by farmland.  Davis is a very unique place.  It is a classic example of a college town, with a significant portion of the population, economy, and culture dominated by the university.  Also, somewhat because of this, Davis is one of the most bicycle-friendly communities in the USA, with many miles of bike trails and greenbelts that I spent much of my late teens and early 20s exploring.  Statistically, Davis is part of the Greater Sacramento region, and also not far from the outer reaches of the San Francisco Bay Area, but Davis is also isolated enough to feel like its own little world in many ways.

Had I done more research on the city of Davis while I was choosing colleges, there is a good chance I would not have gone there.  Davis, being dominated by the university, has a pretty extreme leftist slant in its local politics, and in my teens I leaned even farther to the right than I do now.  But, the longer I lived there, the more it grew on me.  As I have written before, I became a Christian while a student at UC Davis, and I found a church there that felt like home.  I stayed in Davis for a couple years after graduation, because by then it was my home.  I had a job within commuting distance, I had friends, and I was active in a church.  I thought I was going to settle there, although circumstances took me in a different direction.  I lost that job around the same time that most of my close friends moved away, and I followed suit and moved away in July of 2001.

On a few occasions, particularly when life seemed uncertain and I wasn’t sure what step to take next, I’ve considered moving back to Davis.  But every time I’ve given this more than just a passing consideration, it has felt like a bad idea, at least at the time.  Davis is a great place for a college student, which I am not anymore.  Davis is a great place to raise a family, which I don’t have.  Davis is a great place for hippies, which I will never be.  But at this point in my life, it’s not for me.  I’m not saying that middle-aged singles can’t be happy and feel at home in Davis, and the argument could be made that I fit in just as poorly where I live now, since it’s mostly families.  But knowing what I’m like, if I were to move back to Davis, the temptation would be too strong to live in the past and deny the reality that it’s not 1998 anymore.  And that’s not healthy.

Seasons change.  Things come to an end.  I’m not in Davis anymore, and it’s not my home anymore, but it’s still very close.  So I’ll just have to settle for visiting occasionally, and driving around reminiscing if I have time, building on what I have learned in the past to create my future.

Exit 113. All I can say is that my life is pretty plain.

Those of you my age may recognize the title of this post, from the lyrics of the song “No Rain” by Blind Melon.  If that title doesn’t ring a bell, then perhaps I should refer to it as That Bee Song.

I don’t have this song in my collection currently.  But I’m going to add it soon.  But why the big deal? you are probably asking, especially if you know me in person.  You rediscover one-hit wonders from your teens and add them to your playlists all the time.  Why is this one a big enough deal to blog about?

Two reasons.  First of all, because my brain is mush from all the socializing I did over this recent holiday weekend, and I can’t think of anything else to write about.  But more importantly, because this marks a major turning point in my feelings toward this song.  I’m not rediscovering this song; I’ve never forgotten it, despite the fact that, for the greater part of the last two decades, I have refused to listen to it and immediately changed the station almost every time I hear it on the radio.

If not for one specific incident, this song wouldn’t be a big deal, and I very well may have forgotten it in the almost-quarter-century since it was released.  One time, back when I was young and confused, a guy I knew went to a Blind Melon concert with a girl I really liked and didn’t have the guts to ask out.  And this guy was a jerk.  She could definitely do better.

That’s it.  After that happened, I refused to listen to this song.  Nothing ever happened between that guy and that girl, as far as I know, but for many years after that I refused to listen to this song, because I was angry that he got to go out with her and I didn’t.  It sounds petty and ridiculous, but… no, there is no but here.  It is petty and ridiculous.

Approximately eleven years after this incident happened, I was making cookies with the radio on in the other room, and I heard No Rain come on.  I instinctively started to walk away from the cookies, toward the room with the radio, so I could change the station.  But then I realized something.  I realized I was being absolutely crazy.  There was absolutely no legitimate reason I should leave what I was doing and go change the station, getting the flour that was all over my hands all over everything else in the process, just because someone I liked went out with someone I didn’t like, once, over a decade earlier.  Not listening to No Rain had become so ingrained in my brain that this was the first time I really thought about why I didn’t like this song, and how it really didn’t matter at this point.

For a while, I still didn’t particularly like the song.  R. Shannon Hoon, the lead singer (who, sadly, died of a drug overdose a few years after recording this song, only a few weeks after surviving age 27), has a weird voice, and on those occasions when I would hear No Rain come on the radio (which usually happened in the car, when my hands weren’t full of flour) I would still change the channel.  But I’ve heard it twice in the last couple weeks, all the way through, and I got to thinking about how I still associate this song with something that happened more than half a lifetime ago that still has nothing to do with me and is insignificant in the long run.

And, even though I’m still not a big fan of Mr. Hoon’s voice, it really isn’t a bad song.  It’s exactly the kind of nostalgic one-hit wonder that I’ve been listening to a lot in the last few years, with the kind of beautifully sad lyrics that I can really relate to.  So, now, every time I hear this song, it will be a reminder that the world didn’t end for me on that day decades ago when I found out that my crush had a date with a douchebag.  I’ll probably never completely forget about this, since that’s not how my brain works, but I don’t need to let the past weigh me down anymore.

Exit 48. I can’t please everyone.

Hosting an event at my house is always tricky for an introvert like me.

I’m not 100% on the introvert side of the spectrum, that’s for sure.  I enjoy having a bunch of friends over.  I’m thankful that I have a house that I can share with my friends for events like this.  And being that I am the only homeowner among my closest group of friends, I often volunteer my house to host friends’ birthday parties and the like.  It’s the least I can do.  However, because I am an introvert by nature, I can’t do this every day, or even every week.  Once every month or two is enough for me.

As I’ve said before, every few months I invite people over to hang out and play retro video games from the 80s and 90s, while listening to 80s and 90s music.  If this sounds like fun to you, and you live within day trip distance of Sacramento or plan to visit Sacramento at some point, let me know.  We’ll talk.  But anyway, I had 22 people over last night, plus me.  While not quite a record, this was the largest crowd I’ve had in quite a while.  And whenever the crowd gets big, I always feel like I’m spread thin.  I can’t possibly spend significant time with all 22 people.  I can’t participate in every game that gets played.  And sometimes that makes me feel like a bad host.

I think my friends understand, though.  I’m certainly not ignoring them on purpose.  And I would understand if the tables were turned.  I’ve been to big parties before in which I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the host, because there were so many people there, and yet I’ve still had fun.  And I’m sure my friends did too.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately that I don’t feel like I fit in with adults socially, and activities like this certainly contribute to that feeling.  Video games are not a so-called adult activity.  But I don’t see anything wrong with what I’m doing.  I don’t play games often enough for it to take over my life, and most of my games go untouched in between these events.

Regarding not fitting in socially with adults, for example, I know a lot of adults whose entire social lives seem to revolve around drinking.  I’m not being judgmental, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a night at the bar, wine tasting, or a beer festival, as long as you’re doing everything in moderation and not making reckless decisions that will leave you dead, injured, or infected.  If that’s what you like, go for it.  But I really have no interest in that.  Believe me, I’m not uncomfortable being around people who are drinking, so if you’re considering whether or not to invite me to your birthday party where most if not all of the guests will be drinking, please go ahead.  I want to see you even if I’m not drinking myself.  But I just don’t feel like I should be changing my interests and activities just to fit in.  I’m willing to try new things, I’m willing to change to improve myself.  But if you can’t relate to me because I don’t drink, then I just can’t make myself see that as my problem.  (To clarify, I’ve never been told this to my face, but I kind of get the impression sometimes from some conversations I’ve had and the way some people act around me.)  I hope no one sees me that way, because some people I know whose social lives revolve around drinking seem like pretty cool people in some ways, but maybe they aren’t so cool after all if they can’t include me.  And I just have to understand that I can’t please everyone.  Not everyone is going to be a lifelong friend, and that’s just a sad fact of life.  All I can do is be who I am.