Songs, Video Recording

Song: “Colors”

“Colors”

Sometime in my middle teens it dawned on my that my life seemed to go in peaks and valleys. Sometimes I felt great, other times I felt rotten. (I’m not talking about bipolar disorder, mind you, more the normal ups and downs that all flesh is heir to.) This realization wasn’t so much a bolt out of the blue, but a gradual recognition, like noticing you’ve been speaking prose all your life.

I didn’t care much for this. Why couldn’t I have only peaks? Why couldn’t I fill up those valleys? Surely there was a solution out there.

I spent many years looking, in one way or another. My favorite strategy tasked me with hunting down The Ideal System. The Ideal Diet. The Ideal Belief System. The Ideal Career. And so on.

Common wisdom will tell you that such a quest is a fool’s errand. Accept the peaks and the valleys, don’t worry so much about them, and do your best.

Well, maybe — but is there a System that articulates this thought?

Several, actually. The one that’s working for me is a form of talk therapy (or in my case, “book therapy”) called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or “ACT” for short. ACT grew out of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tradition. As its name suggests, ACT invites you to accept the challenges you face and then choose which values you want to act on. It then gives you a toolbox of skills to help you do that.

Today’s song “Colors” expresses some of what I’ve learned from ACT. Specifically, that when we try to erase the bad parts of life, we can end up erasing the good parts too, or at least the ability to feel the good parts. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out the book A Liberated Mind by Steven Hayes, one of the founders of ACT).

Still, the valleys suck. I’m in one right now: day two of recovering from my second shot of the Moderna COVID vaccine. I’m grateful to have the vaccine, and I’ll be excited once the two weeks are up and I can go running through the streets kissing strangers — kidding! — but yesterday was pretty awful. I didn’t feel much like accepting any of my feelings then or today.

Anyway, better days ahead.

Kind of the definition of bitter-sweet, isn’t it?

Lyrics

Some days the gods smile on me
pouring sunshine on the land.
The world's my private oyster
spilling pearls into my hand.

But other days are darker
my mouth is full of soot.
My words are slurred and mumbled
I drop anvils on each foot.

But I'll take 'em both, the bright and dark, before I take the gray.

So give me red, give me green, and the biggest grin you've ever seen.
Give me all the colors I know how to feel.
Give me blue, give me brown, lift me up and slam me down --
Let me get a grip on everything that's real.
Cause I don't want to face
the endless smear of gray
So give me all the colors every single day.

Now the gray can seem so promising
when it promises no pain.
Smooth the hills into the valleys
so you trod an even plain.

But in that land of twilight
I find it hard to tell
What's water and what's poison
'cause heaven tastes like hell.

That's why I'll take the bright and dark, before I take the gray.

So give me red, give me green, and the biggest grin you've ever seen.
Give me all the colors I know how to feel.
Give me blue, give me brown, lift me up and slam me down --
Let me get a grip on everything that's real.
Cause I don't want to face
the endless smear of gray
So give me all the colors every single day.

Now I don't seek the downpour
I'd just as soon stay dry.
But it's hard to feel the sunshine
when I avoid the sky.

So if I want to see the heavens
and I am tangled in a wood
I've gotta get good at feeling
'stead of trying to just feel good.

That's how I'll see the bright and dark, instead of only gray.

So give me red, give me green, and the biggest grin you've ever seen.
Give me all the colors I know how to feel.
Give me blue, give me brown, lift me up and slam me down --
Let me get a grip on everything that's real.
Cause I don't want to face
the endless smear of gray
So give me all the colors every single day.

Songs, Video Recording

Song: “A Little Fame”

“A Little Fame”

Here’s a cheeky song … with a little basis in biography.

From 8 years old onward, I acted in plays every chance I got. I remember having a conversation with my mom, I think, about whether I should audition for commercials, movies, etc. (We lived in a small town, nowhere near close to major TV/film markets, so it’s not as if I was turning down solid opportunities. But the effort could have been made.)

If I remember right, I said something like “no, I’ll keep on acting in local plays. Have a normal childhood. Then I can get famous when I’m older.”

Now, much older, I don’t have too many star-studded dreams anymore, and I’m pretty much fine with it. (I’d like to share my songs … but not so sure about being in the spotlight.) But every so often I get the itch to stand at the center of a stage with all eyes on me. This song takes that little urge, embiggens it, and has some fun.

Not really bittersweet … but I don’t have a flavor for “cheeky.” Hmmm … maybe salty? Taffy?

Lyrics

I'm glad I wasn't famous 
early in my life.
No refreshing crop of groupies
to spoil me for my wife.

And I'm glad I learned the value
of eking out a wage.
Learned to grin and bear it
and bottle up my rage.

But now I think I'm ready for the movie to begin
Close up on my sparkling blues and my million-dollar grin ...

Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
a little star-struck when they see --
Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
I think I'm ready now
for a little fame
a little fame for little old me.

See I always had the feeling
that I should be a star.
Like everyone should know me,
but like, know me from afar.

When I speak I'd hook my listeners
without the need for a sharper wit.
And I'd just kind of glide off problems
on the wave of my latest hit.

Yes I know I'm ready for the movie to begin
Close up on my sparkling blues and my million-dollar grin ...

Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
a little star-struck when they see --
Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
I think I'm ready now
for a little fame
a little fame for little old me.

Won't I be unhappy with that spotlight in my eyes?
Just hand me a pair of designer shades
and I'll be fine.

Yes, Lord, I am ready for the movie to begin
Close up on my sparkling blues and my million-dollar grin ...

Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
a little star-struck when they see --
Ooooh, just a little, Ooooh, just a little,
I think I'm ready now
for a little fame
a little fame for little old me.

Songs, Video Recording

Song: “Crom”

“Crom”

This song started as an exercise for a lyric class I was taking, and quickly took on a life of its own.

As gods will.

When I was in high school, my best bud Jesse and I got into the musical score for the great and grim film Conan the Barbarian (the Schwarzenegger/Milius version.) The score was composed by Basil Poledouris, who deftly captured (and help create) the archaic, unforgiving, desolate feel of the film.

I wanted to echo that same feeling with this song. And have a little fun while I was at it.

A little sea salt sprinkled in, too

Lyrics

Their gods may be the four great winds
they may strip my hills to stone.
But I reap the rock and shape it to my will
with blades that splinter bone.

I am Crom
the god of doom.
I shroud the earth in dread
and fields of blood.

If you seek to earn my bloody blessing
I demand a heavy toll.
Your sword will leave many widows weeping
and the price is your soul.

I am Crom
the god of doom.
I shroud the earth in dread
and fields of blood.

I will turn you on my wheel of pain
I will turn your skin to stone.
Your hand will strike down every man
you will trod my earth alone.

I am Crom
the god of doom.
I shroud the earth in dread
and fields of blood.

Why do you call my name?
Beg for me to speak?
Crom feels no pity
for the weak.

You will build your throne on a stack of skulls
their skins will be your cloak.
The world will know you're coming
when they smell the blood and smoke.

I am Crom
the god of doom.
I shroud the earth in dread
and fields of blood.

Songs, Video Recording

Song: “All She Left Behind”

“All She Left Behind”

A bittersweet song about unrequited commitment.

Mostly bitter, a little sweet

Lyrics

She's standing at the airport
a carry-on in hand.
The world is waiting for her
to say good-bye to her man.

The ring is in his pocket
he asked her on the way.
She said no, you know I'm no good
when I feel I gotta stay.

The porter's pointing at the sign
the cars are crowding up behind
no time for things he don't know how to say.

He pulls her close into his chest
his arms wrap her up in a little nest
he knows she'll be the first to pull away
he can only take away --

One last touch
for the lonely nights ahead.
One last touch
for the tears he'll never shed.
He asked her for forever
but honey, I'm not that kind
One last touch
is all she left behind.

She promises to call him
once she settles in.
Maybe he can come and visit
she can always use a friend.

The smell of her will linger
when he watches her walk away.
The whiff of perfume she left on his sleeve
to mark her stay.

The porter's pointing at the sign
the cars are crowding up behind
no time for things he don't know how to say.

He pulls her close into his chest
his arms wrap her up in a little nest
he knows she'll be the first to pull away
he can only take away --

One last touch
for the lonely nights ahead.
One last touch
for the tears he'll never shed.
He asked her for forever
but honey, I'm not that kind
One last touch
is all she left behind.
Songs, Video Recording

Song: Pink Envelope

Pink Envelope

The envelope wasn’t pink — but that’s how I remember it in my head.

Almost just a touch of sweetness in it … but let’s call it dark.

Lyrics

I got the bank's pink envelope hand-delivered to my door.
The mail-lady said I had to sign so they'd know I knew the score.
Ninety-one days I had to pay or they'd come back for the keys.
I mumbled thanks as I turned away to hide the quiver in my knees.
But how do I hide that bright pink envelope?

The checking was empty and the cards were maxed and the cupboard was looking bare.
But Target was carrying groceries and I had a little credit there.
At the checkout line, I glanced behind, 'cause I felt I was on display.
I held my breath till my card went through and I could make my getaway.
But what do I do with that bright pink envelope?

You can't hide when you've been tied to to the end of your rope
you can't fill a wallet with nothing more than hope
you won't get free by crying
or begging for more slack
you've got to climb one dollar at a time
until you reach the black

At my daughter's birthday party I was a smiling man.
Fancy gift-bags for all the kids, yeah, I had it all in hand.
I strolled up to my brother when my wife looked the other way.
"We're doing fine, but would you mind, to lend me a couple k?"
'Cause I can't stand that bright pink envelope.

You can't hide when you've been tied to to the end of your rope
you can't fill a wallet with nothing more than hope
you won't get free by crying
or begging for more slack
you've got to climb one dollar at a time
until you reach the black

With early mornings and sleepless nights I got back on the ball.
In seven years, the record clears, like it never happened at all.
But each time I see the lady from the post approach my door
my heart drops out for a beat or two till I learn what she's knocking for.
'Cause what if it's another bright pink envelope?

You can't hide when you've been tied to to the end of your rope
you can't fill a wallet with nothing more than hope
you won't get free by crying
or begging for more slack
you've got to climb one dollar at a time
until you reach the black