Why Would Anyone Do That? (Listen to 60’s Music)

The other day, whilst whipping up this bourgeois gastric delight from the last century, I thought why not dip further into nostalgia and listen to music of that same era? So I turned on the Old Fogey Station and as I chopped and sauted and opened cans, I happened to take a good listen to some of the crap with which we used to numb our brains.

Depending on which part of the country you hail from, you will refer to the plebian delight pictured here as either goulash (preferred), or Johnny Marzetti (Midwestern) or Chili Mac (Texas, maybe?). It’s has been around forever, a dish full of stuff, and was especially popular in the fifties and sixties. I am including one of six thousand recipes for it at the bottom of this post, in DIY casual instructions.

Back to the music, here are seven of my observations about some sexist and/or dumb lyrics I heard.

First up: Wives and Lovers, written by Burt Bacharach.

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

Thanks, Burt, for this lovely chauvinistic message. I’m sure it inspired a lot of women to go out and buy more of your crappy music.

Sure I sent him off to the office still in curlers but at least I have good hair! What’s with that sausage-roll flippy thing you’re sportin’ there?

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Next! Under My Thumb, The Rolling Stones

It’s down to me, yes it is
The way she does just what she’s told
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb

Under my thumb
A siamese cat of a girl
Under my thumb
She’s the sweetest, hmmm, pet in the world

Mick Jagger was in favor of “The Rolling Misogynists” but was voted down 4 to 1.

Geez, Mick, what will the neighbors think?

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And here’s You’re Havin’ My Baby, by Paul Anka (and this is too bad, because I really like you Paul, but this rates an 8 on the Suck-O-Meter).

Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’
How much you love me
Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’
What you’re thinkin’ of me
I can see it, face is glowin’
I can see in your eyes
I’m happy you know it

Because, Paul, it’s all about you, isn’t it?

Yeah, Paul, it was fine when it was just a baby bump but now that I’m the size of a VW Beetle you’re sorta changin’ your mind now, aren’t ya?

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Next up, If You Wanna Be Happy by Jimmy Soul. You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty women your wife
Go for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

Don’t let your friends tell you you have no taste
go ahead and marry anyway
Her face is ugly her eyes don’t match
take it from me shes a better catch

Oh, Jimmy Soul. You didn’t make old bones but if you had, some woman would have killed you by now anyway. RIP, but Dude, what a nasty song.

Who’s ugly now, Jimmy, you two-hit wonder!

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Ah, sweet Donovan, how we loved ya’. That is until we listened, really listened, to what you were saying to us.

Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothin’ on me
I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yeah!
A you-you-you can just sit there a-thinking on your velvet throne
’bout all the rainbows a-you can a-have for your own
When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine
I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind
When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine

Slowly “blow your little mind”? Little mind? Um, I think, lovely Donovan, that perchance it’s you with the little mind, given your penchant for the cannabis.

Maybe I should have tried to find a two-syllable word other than “little”.

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Next is Cherish, by the Association.

Oh, I could say I need you, but then you’d realize
That I want you, just like a thousand other guys
Who’d say they loved you with all the rest of their lies
When all they wanted was to touch your face, your hands
And gaze into your eyes

Who wants to bet that they have more on their minds (these thousand other guys) than touching your face and your hands and gazing? Even back then, I don’t recall this scenario. Oh, you say, this is the third-grade? Oh, well then.

Funny, this look worked for the Beatles but we’re not getting anywhere with it.

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And now, Do You Love Me, by the Contours.

You broke my heart
‘Cause I couldn’t dance
You didn’t even want me around
And now I’m back, to let you know
I can really shake ’em down

Do you love me? (I can really move)
Do you love me? (I’m in the groove)
Ah do you love? (Do you love me)
Now that I can dance (dance)

Listen up. Any wench who dumps you because you can’t dance ain’t worth learning to do the shimmy-shimmy for.

Look, I can dance! You can’t see it but I’m doing the whirly thing with my hands. I’m the one with no partner!

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Last but CERTAINLY not least, Next Door to an Angel by the ever-annoying and always-slimy Neil Sedaka.

Do do do, doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don
Doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don
Doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don
Doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don

I took a look and oh what a shock
to find a little bit of heaven right on the block.
I’m living right next door to an angel
and I’m gonna make that angel mine.

I can’t believe that this is the girl next door,
her funny little face isn’t funny no more,
sixteen and oh what a dream, ain’t it strange
how she changed into such a lovely angel.

Do you know where your sixteen-year-old angels are?

Mmm, it’s a little bit of heaven living right next door to an angel. Did I say, mmm?

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And now for that recipe:

Goulash (aka Johnny Marzetti and Chili Mac) is a combination of pasta, meat, flavorings and tomato stuff. Makes one of those 9 X 13 baking dishes full of good eatin’.
Pasta: Elbow macaroni or whatever you have. Cook 1 pound, make sure it’s al dente since it will cook further.
Meat: Hamburger and/or sweet Italian sausage. Whatever amounts you want but not more than 1.5 lb total.
Flavorings: Any combination, of onions (one medium), green pepper (one medium) and mushrooms (8 oz.) depending upon personal preference. Mushrooms need to be sauteed first since they throw off so much water.
Tomato stuff: One can diced tomatoes, and jarred or canned spaghetti sauce. This dish isn’t worth using up homemade sauce for.

Cook up the meat with the onion and peppers and drain. Mix in tomatoes, optional sauteed mushrooms and jar/canned sauce till it looks like a big slug of chili. Mix in enough pasta that it looks right, being careful not to over-pasta-ize since it swells up as it cooks and can take over your kitchen. Don’t forget to salt and pepper to taste (whatever that means). Other cool stuff you can add: parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. I guess that’s “to taste” also. Just dump some in. Slop this into a baking dish and cover with cheddar cheese. You know the little shards that come in a bag with the texture of cardboard? That stuff. I think it keeps the moisture in or something but really, it isn’t edible. Bake covered for a while, maybe while you drink your first martini, then uncover. Make a second martini and consume it. When done, so is dinner. Good luck because by now you might be too shitfaced to eat it. If so, stick it in the refrigerator and nuke it later, but beware that the stuff on the top does not improve with nuking.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I didn’t count the lyrics. So taking that reduction into account, I am well below the word limit.

Perfection is the Enemy

My post is a little early this week. But I wanted to share it.

I had an eye-opening discussion with my daughter-in-law over the weekend, as I attempted to assist her with an upcoming interview. When I asked if there was a time she sacrificed quality on a project, she said something interesting, that yes, there were times when absolute perfection might not be the ultimate goal, if it involves missing a deadline or going over budget. And as my husband says, “Perfection is the enemy of just good enough.”

It occurred to me, that’s what is happening to me, even though I don’t want my book to be “just good enough”, the comparison is clear. I have edited, and proof-read, Second Stories so many times that I think I might know it by heart. And every time I say, I’ll just look at the things I changed, make sure that’s right, and then I end up reading the whole thing through again. Frankly, I’m sick of it. And now I’ve found one thing, yet again, that I don’t like. I’ve fixed that, and a couple of other things that nagged at me and now I am ready to pull that trigger. Get it out there. Has anyone else gone through this?

Second Stories is actually my first book. I put it on the shelf for a while, and wrote Whatever Happened to Lily?, and afterwards went back to it. It needed to be tweaked, of course, and many parts were completely rewritten but the basic story is the same. It’s the story of four men, and a lasting friendship among them, since their first day of work at Bethlehem Steel. The office politics, the union problems, the angst when the place shut down, all of that is in the book. Of the four, three of them have relationship issues, to varying degrees. Especially one of them, a guy who always tried to do the right thing, and discovered he’d done everything wrong.

They say the first book is autobiographical, and that’s probably true. You write what you know. There’s Lydia, who is agoraphobic, and has low self-esteem, and renovates her house, and all she wants is to have her beautiful home and the love of her family. Of course, she can’t have that, because she’s married to the guy who did everything wrong. Then there’s Bonnie, who went back to school later in life, and Angie who became a macramé addict and a feminist and a computer programmer in the eighties, and Patti, who loved soap operas and romance novels. They are all me, to varying degrees. I took something of myself, and exaggerated it and formed four separate characters. Although, in defense of my soap-watching days, I did that while steaming wallpaper off the walls. Well, mostly, I did.

I wanted the book to be about experiences in the sixties, seventies, eighties, up to the present. The first chapter is a bit of a prologue, it takes place in May, 2008. Then there is a history of each of the four couples, up until the time the men start work in August of 1968. Then the Steel years, the changes that take place in the relationships of the couples, and finally, back to 2008 and the last half takes place from May through New Year’s, when the excrement hits the fan, with Lydia and her wrong-doing husband, and other changes take place, with the other couples. There’s a little politics in the book, as the guys sit around in a delightfully dumpy bar, named Wally’s, and discuss the events of the day, and the upcoming election. The model for Wally’s is a bar called Obie’s in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Obie (aka O’Brien) used to lean on the counter and pass out beers and talk to the regulars, while Mrs. Obie just smiled at everyone and flipped burgers.

Back in the sixties, it was a lot easier for misunderstandings to happen. That’s why I like writing about it. Today, with voicemail and email and texting and IMing and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to name a few, combined with the way people are today, free, unencumbered by hang-ups like we were, or maybe not to the extent we were, it seems harder to me, to have the kinds of gut-wrenching problems that could have happened back then. Back when there weren’t even answering machines, and the phone just rang and rang and rang when nobody was home.

Remember when Jay tried to call Lily after she stopped writing to him? He called and no one answered. That’s because Lily couldn’t talk to him, she was there but didn’t pick up. She didn’t have the guts to tell him what had happened. If she’d had an answering machine, he’d have left a message. If she didn’t return his call, he would have got it, that she didn’t want to be with him any longer. End of relationship, end of story. But he really didn’t know what happened to her. Ah, conflict. Conflict = Good.

Do you recall the story of the Duke University student who rated her lovers, last year? I thought, wow. That’s sure a lot different than it was back when I was a college student. Back then, we still were a lot more romantic about sex. I think I liked that better. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of young women out there who will find the kinds of issues that happen to the Second Stories characters, a bit, uh, dated. Or silly, or just plain stupid. But then, as I said in an earlier post, this may not be their genre. And it’s history. It wouldn’t happen today, but it could have happened back then.

Who agrees? Love to hear from you…

Not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success

I’ll bet every writer feels the same way, when that first novel is finally out there, and s/he waits with a great amount of trepidation, what will the comments be? What will people say about it? The notice goes out, okay all you Friends and Family, I’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now, it’s ready for prime time. And they tell you, I just ordered your book, or I’m going to order your book but couldn’t find it on Amazon, or I looked for your book in the store but couldn’t find it, and so you answer each one, because after all, it’s important for as many people to get their hands on it as possible.

(Never mind that Amazon’s search engine won’t find the book unless the title is typed in exactly, “Whatever” is one word not two, and “Lily” is with one L not two, and if you mess up, you won’t find it. That’s not good. I’m betting if you screwed up one of John Grisham’s titles, it would probably come up anyway. But that’s another story.)

The first two weeks are the hardest, although occasionally someone will tell you that they are reading it, and they really like it, or once in awhile they’ll say, “I can’t put it down.” That’s good. But still, no one has reached the end yet, so maybe they can’t put it down now, but it gets boring in the end, or maybe the end is just, well, dumb.

I gave a proof copy to my daughter-in-law. She likes cozy mysteries, and has a job, and a five-year-old, and a house to take care of. She doesn’t get much time to read she said. She texted me six days later to tell me she’d been hooked from the first, that she thought it was really, really good. To say her comments were important to me, and very, very gratifying, would be an understatement. I was stunned. I hadn’t expected it.

And then I got an email from a high school friend, who ordered the book and it arrived in time for him to take on a trip to Europe and he read it on the plane, and while he was there, and on the trip back. He wrote to me when he got home and told me he absolutely loved it, that the characters were great, and he used lots of exclamation points. I could tell he meant it, he wouldn’t have had to be that complimentary, and I had only seen him once in twenty years. He wouldn’t have had to say anything, but he did. That was a turning point for me. Two people liked it, and one was a guy. I was on my way.

And a few of my friends, women, started to tell me they really liked it too, and I noticed some were very moved by the story. But still, some of the comments were more like “Good job, I liked it”. I went to a week long gathering with six friends, and they all liked it, but I knew some liked it more than others.

One of my best friends said it was the best book she’d ever read. Although she may have actually said “it was maybe the best book I’ve ever read” or “one of the best books I’ve ever read”. I’ll have to go back and check that voicemail, which I kept.

Another close friend of mine ordered it, immediately after it came out. And to this day, not one word has been said between us, about it. To me, this means she probably started to read it, didn’t care for it, and gave up on it. Or maybe she read the whole thing through, gritting her teeth the whole time, and still didn’t care for it, or disliked it a lot, or actually thought it sucked, but couldn’t say that.

I talk about it with my husband sometimes, my writerly insecurities, and one day he said, you know, not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success. And I thought about that, and how right he was.

My close friend, above, the one who has yet to say anything, is a Stephen King fan, a lover of Dean Koontz. She likes action movies, science fiction. We can hardly find a movie to talk about that we both like, although we did both like Fargo and Pulp Fiction. She likes musicals. I dislike musicals. She loves the TV show Glee. So I tried to watch Glee. You Glee-watchers will know the plot better than I, but I watched a segment about the cute cheerleader, who is pregnant and everyone thinks it’s one guy’s baby, but it’s really another guy’s baby. Apparently the Glee cheerleaders are doing more in their spare time than practicing their back flips. The guy-who-everyone-thought-was-the-father, while at the cheerleader’s house, and at the dinner table with her parents, breaks into song, “You’re Havin’ My Baby”.

What?!! Really?

Really?

Is it any wonder, then, that perhaps she couldn’t be as enthusiastic as some of the other readers, who might be more inclined to favor the genre in which I write? She just doesn’t have the guts to say it. Your book… well, it sucked. For me anyway.

I’ve read reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Most liked it. Some did not. We all know how successful that book has been. Oprah liked it, that’s enough. The reviewers who didn’t like it probably gave rave reviews to the Twilight series.

The President’s approval rating will fluctuate between 40% and say, 60%, although that’s on the high end. There are 40% of people out there who will never approve of the President no matter how good a job he does. If he found every single American a job, and stopped global warming, and secured the borders, and reduced the deficit to the point where we had a surplus, and didn’t raise taxes, and wore a flag pin every day, and even learned how to bowl better, 40% of the population still would not approve.

So the moral of the story is: Not everyone likes the same stuff. And it’s a good thing we don’t.

I’d love some comments!

First Entry – January 9, 2011

First Entry! I’m glad to be here…

I’m new to the blogging world. It’s a little harder than I first thought it would be. I decided to start out simple, maybe progress from there, so it might look different week to week. I hope so, at this point I’m not too sure about anything. Hopefully, it will become easier with time and I’ll figure out how to get neat things on the sidebars. For now, it’s pretty basic, I’m afraid.

A few years back, I decided I’d like to write a book, which is not an uncommon goal. Many people want to and some actually do it. There are more books being written today than at any other time.  I’d thought about it for years, what it would be about, what the characters might be like, where the plot would take the reader. It was to be a story about a group of women, friends who had graduated from high school together, and still live in the same town, and get together once a month at each other’s homes and play a mindless game, of maybe, Bunko. The purpose of the gatherings is not to play Bunko of course, but to gossip and compare notes and outdo each other with fancy margarita recipes.

I didn’t end up writing it, but maybe I will someday. I still like the concept, that the women continue to get together month after month, year after year, because it’s become a habit. Their lives have gone in very different directions and today, many of them would very likely not be friends at all. Some are nicer than others.

I ended up writing a book about a friendship among men instead and the relationships with the women in their lives. Second Stories, which will be available very soon. Before that, I wrote one about a romance that didn’t end properly, Whatever Happened to Lily?, a love affair which left many unanswered questions, and the two people in it hadn’t properly closed the chapter on that time in their lives.

When the books are written, and available on Amazon.com, what comes next? The author must market them, whether s/he publishes in the old traditional way, or in the new traditional way, i.e. self-publishes. The author has exhausted his/her circle of family and friends, so how to break out of that sphere and go, dare I say, viral?

I took an online course called Social Networking for Authors (Beth Barany, it’s well worth it) who shares her tips and tricks. Pick your poison, she says, decide what works for you and concentrate on that. We can’t do everything, after all. I decided to put up a Facebook fan page for my books, and began to tweet some and thought about blogging. I knew if I decided to blog, I had to decide how often I would post, and commit to it. Nothing will discourage readers more than their visiting your blog only to discover it hasn’t been touched in three weeks, after you’d advertised that it would be updated weekly. If it were me, I’d probably take that off my Favorites right then and there.

How many blogs are out there? Millions! Millions of blogs, the number goes up every minute. Who wants to read another one? I’m not sure, I only know what will happen if I don’t try, and that’s… nothing. So I’m committing. It will be a weekly blog, and will be updated at the end of each week. And if there’s an emergency, if I’m in the hospital, or if I have such a case of writer’s block that I’m paralyzed by it, there will at least be an entry to explain it, and beg for forgiveness and to be allowed to remain on your Favorites list a while longer.

The subject matter will, naturally, center on writing, but also on things one degree removed from that, or two, or three. And maybe I’ll write next Christmas when my annual trip to Toys R Us is over, when I haven’t done a good enough job ordering online, and have to actually, venture into that evil, fluorescent den of Chinese-made, overpriced, marketing miracles they call toys these days. Just an example.

Subjects like, listening to music while you write, writing in your head when you can’t be at the computer, things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe I can even help some people. I’d like that. And subjects that interest my target audience, men and women who grew up in the sixties and seventies.

Please comment and come back next week!