A Playlist for My Son (arriving 5-24-2016)

Though I am not yet a father, I’ve come to realize the knowledge that I will be a father changes everything.  The changes have been subtle; soon, I gather, they won’t be.  Little things have shifted.  Certain colors seem more vibrant.  Foods taste a little different.  My mind shifts to new subjects. And, as the basis for this blog post, specific songs have developed new meanings.

The below list contains songs that, for whatever reasons, have resonated with me over the last several months.  A warning:  This list may be different than you expect.  Not every song is “happy-go-lucky.”  Rather, these are the songs I hope to discuss with my son in his 20s; perhaps by then I will have a better grasp of why these songs have stood out.  But, for now, here is my feeble attempt at explanations.

“Atlas” by Coheed and Cambria

Relevant Lyrics

So sleep tight, little Atlas cause when your daddy goes off just you know

That you’re the weight of his anchor, the love that is guiding him home

First, a confession:  This song is the reason I made this list.  I discovered it shortly after my wife told me she was pregnant and I’ve listened to it many times since.  It is also the most “on the nose” song listed, but that’s okay.  Sometimes a punch to the face is needed more than a tickle.

Claudio Sanchez, lead singer of Coheed and Cambria, wrote this for his son, Atlas; the love shines through.  I’ve always dreamed of writing a song for my wife or child.  Unfortunately, my dog leaves the room whenever I sing, so I’ll have to stick to blog posts.

The lyrics are amazing and relevant.  The first verse is about a carefree couple who discovers they’re pregnant and slowly realize what that entails.

And out of that we found ourselves back at the start of it all

So scarred and incomplete

The second verse is Claudio discussing his fears about being a busy father and the doubt that stings his mind.

And if there’s one good thing that comes from my away

It’s that you won’t be anything like me

In the last verse, Claudio realizes he’s got to “man up” and do whatever is necessary to succeed.

Now give us the man that you’ve been hiding

Cause this is your life now

I’ve experienced this exact cycle.  The excitement, the fear, the doubt, the acceptance, the readiness.  No matter how many times I listen to this song, it’ll still bring the occasional tear.

“All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles

Relevant Lyrics

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown

No where you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be

It’s easy

No playlist of mine would be complete without a Beatles song, and this was a simple choice.  My son will learn life can be complicated.  Sometimes, it’s easier to let the highs and lows sweep you away than to remain centered, focusing instead on what’s important, on what’s in front of you.   It especially concerns me there is so much stimuli in modern times.  There’s too much color, too much noise.

I hope to teach my son to detach, hold the one he loves, and just exist.  To slow down and remember that he’s exactly where’s he supposed to be.  That love is all he’ll need to make it through.

“Lovesong” by The Cure

Relevant Lyrics

Whenever I’m alone with you

You make me feel like I am young again

Whenever I’m alone with you

You make me feel like I am fun again

“Lovesong” has been one of my favorite songs since high school, although I didn’t understand it as an angsty teenager.  I think I get it more now, although maybe I don’t.  Anyway, the fact it’s a chameleon is the reason I appreciate it.  The beautiful, almost spiritual lyrics combined with a dark, sad melody creates a stark contract I will forever enjoy.

This is, in part, an extension of the last song—though life can be needlessly complicated, love is more complicated than movies and music portray.  My son needs to know love can be hard, love takes work.  Love can hurt more than anything else.  But these realities make love more beautiful, not less.

“Phantom Limb” by The Shins

Relevant Lyrics

This is that foreign land,

With the sprayed on tans,

And it all feels fine,

Be it silk or slime

What does a song about a high school lesbian couple in a repressive, small town have to do with the birth of my son?  Well, everything really.  I don’t know what kind of person my son will be in high school.  Maybe he’ll be a jock like his dad.  Maybe he’ll type away at a keyboard like his dad should have been.  Perhaps he’ll strum a guitar or move chess pieces.  No option is any less valid than the others as long as he’s true to himself.  My son should know that life’s too short to concern himself with the stares of others.

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire

Relevant Lyrics

So can you understand?

Why I want a daughter while I’m still young

I wanna hold her hand

And show her some beauty

Before this damage is done

But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask

Then send me a son.

The above lyrics will always send chills down my spine.  “The Suburbs” is a song about getting lost in the ugliness of the past.  I know bad things will happen to my son in life, and I will not teach him to hide from life’s darkness as much of life’s beauty can only be found in the dark.  I will, however, make sure he knows the importance of movin’ past the feeling, so he won’t miss the present by living in the past.

“Buried In Detroit” by Mike Posner

Relevant Lyrics

I used to live in New York City

But baby, that ain’t no substitute

Not for my hometown

That place people avoid

I’ve made love in every city

But I’ll be buried in Detroit

This song is here for the inverse reason of “The Suburbs.”  “Buried in Detroit” is about a man who travels the world, lives his dreams, loves every moment of his life, but refuses to forget his roots—this is exactly what I hope for my son. While living in the moment is important, I pray I do a good enough job as a father to instill in my son the importance of appreciating where he came from.

“Time” by Pink Floyd

Relevant Lyrics

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I always knew I wanted to write a novel, yet I waited over three decades to do so.  I didn’t wait for lacking of wanting; my desire to write never left.  I figured I had plenty of time.  It took a serious car accident for me to understand the fragility of life and value of time, our most precious commodity.

I will tell my son this story often.  I’m sure he’ll get sick of it, but he won’t forget the message.  No one lives forever, and our youth is gone in the blink of an eye.  Practicality is critical, but my son should never cast his dreams to the wayside.

“I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie

Relevant Lyrics

If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied

Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs

If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks

Then I’ll follow you into the dark

My wife and I have very different opinions about this song; she thinks it’s depressing, and I think it’s uplifting.  There’s something so simplistically beautiful about loving someone so much you’d be willing to follow them into whatever awaits, whether it be heaven, hell, or just darkness.  And I hope my son realizes that one of the worst things you can do in life is settle.  The person he ends up with should make him feel the way I feel about his mother: When it all turns to ash and the light turns off, he should want to follow his love into the dark.

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Stephen King’s FINDERS KEEPERS – A Compelling Parenthesis

I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fanboy of Stephen King’s recent work.  Under the Dome11/22/63Doctor Sleep, and Lisey’s Story rank, in my humble opinion, among the best novels King has ever written.  But my personal favorite of the lot is Mr. Mercedes.

Mr. Mercedes doesn’t tackle the social-political issues of Under the Dome.  Mr. Mercedes doesn’t touch the massive scope of The Stand, nor does Mr. Mercedes contain many of the tropes that have made King famous.  Mr. Mercedes is, however, a dang fun novel, the kind that puts you in one place and keeps you there until the final chapter.  And isn’t that the whole point?

So, of course I was excited to read Mr. Mercedes sequel, Finders Keepers.  Finders Keepers is the second book in a planned trilogy.  And from the first page, I was hooked.

(Spoilers Alert!)

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Finders Keepers begins in 1978, with the antagonist, Morris Bellamy, murdering the famous and reclusive author John Rothstein (an amalgamation of John Updike, Philip Roth, and J.D. Salinger) to steal Rothstein’s unpublished manuscripts. Bellamy later kills his two cohorts and buries the manuscripts along with thousands of dollars in the backyard of his childhood home.  He actually gets away with the murders, but then rapes a woman in a drunken stupor, an act for which he is sentenced to life.  Eventually he is released on parole, with an insatiable thirst to read the buried manuscripts.

Flash forward to the present day, shortly before Bellamy’s release a boy named Peter Saubers finds the buried manuscripts and money.  The Mercedes Killer injured Saubers’ father, which is putting a financial strain on Saubers’ family.  To help, Saubers sends him family the found money anonymously, until it runs out and he decides to try and sell the manuscripts.  Unfortunately, Saubers hopes to sell the manuscripts around the same time a desperate Bellay is searching for them, leading to an inevitable confrontation.

Deus ex machina aside, this is an interesting setup.   But about a third of the way through the book, I started to think, Where is Bill Hodges?  And Holly?  And Jermone?  This is good, but how is it a sequel to Mr. Mercedes?  All these characters do make an appearance, but it’s pretty late in the game.

And therein lies my only significant problem with Finders Keepers.  As a stand-alone book, it’s great; but it’s not a stand-alone title.  And all my favorite characters from Mr. Mercedes go through major transformations “off-screen.”  Hodges loses a bunch of weight off screen.  Holly develops a degree of self-confidence off-screen.  Jerome goes to college off-screen.  The penultimate novel in a trilogy should set the stage for the final book, but I don’t see how any of the major events of Finders Keepers will play into End of Watch (the last title).  Except, however, for the parts about Brady Hartsfield.

Brady Hartsfield was the Mercedes Killer from Mr. Mercedes, and because of the events in that book, he is seemingly in a brain-dead state.  But in a twist, the ending of Finders Keepers implies that Harsfield is far more “awake” than he is letting on, and may have developed certain telekinetic powers.  Now, I can already hear the cries:  “You just had to go there, didn’t you King!  Couldn’t just write a standard mystery trilogy, could you?”  And to those people I say:  “Get over it.”  If Stephen King wants to give one of my favorite villains psychic powers, I’m all about it.

Yet, Hartsfield seems to be the only link in Finders Keepers that will connect Mr. Mercedes to End of Watch.  Of course, King could surprise me, and I may change my opinion of Finders Keepers if he does.  Unfortunately, as it stands, Finders Keepers is an entertaining read, but as a sequel to Mr. Mercedes and entry in the Mercedes trilogy, it is at best a compelling parenthesis.

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