Glenn Frey, the Ultimate Gentleman of Songwriting

You never thought you’d be alone, this far down the line.

Victim of love, it’s such an easy part, and you know how to play it so well.

She’s so far gone, she feels just like a fool.

You just want someone to talk to, they just want to get their hands on you.

All the broken dreams, all the disappointments…

In the movie Bull Durham, Crash Davis defends a local “Baseball Annie” named Millie who had history with more than a few ball players. Her character was a girl who some men would call four letter words, or worse, but Crash threatened anyone who “said anything bad about Millie” to the man she was about to marry.

Even though, based on his infamous speech earlier in the movie, I had decided I would marry a man like Crash Davis, and though I was around thirteen years old, I spotted a difference between self-assured gentlemen like Crash Davis and a classless, compassion-lacking, ignorant, machismo type of guy.

About this time — early 80s —  I’m thirteen and I have HBO and a walkman so life was good, and Glenn Frey begins getting lots of airplay. He wrote a brilliant song for Miami Vice, You Belong to the City, which beat had such a pull that I recorded it from a radio station onto a high-bias tape. He wrote a catchy tune for Beverly Hills Cop. And the lyrics of Smuggler’s Blues, popular on MTV, put the “war on drugs” in great perspective for a kid not particularly well-versed in international affairs, as well as a sexy spin into the minds of common criminals. (I don’t think the pretty blonde in the Smuggler’s Blues video hurt the song’s popularity, either).

I grew up with The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. But for now, we’re discussing The Eagles. Pre-high school I would catch Eagles lyrics here and there “I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight, with a billion stars all around…“, and Desperado was turned up max volume on the living room speakers or my mom’s cheap car stereo whenever it came on.  I didn’t really understand Desperado then, but it was melodic, and I liked it.

Fast forward a few years to when I’ve become that city girl, and I had indeed figured out to to open doors with just a smile. And maybe I’d suffered a broken heart. Or two. And unfortunately, by that time, the singles bar references in Eagles songs made perfect sense to me.

Through the new wave, romantic, ska, hair metal, grunge eras, although I enjoyed music from all of these genres, I stuck to The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac to make sense out of everything I saw, experienced, felt, and wished for.

And I don’t like to think of my youth without Glenn Frey and Don Henley’s contribution to the way I saw myself.

That’s right. Out of all the self-help books of the 80s and friends I had come and go, The Eagles gave me the mirror with the best reflection (Stevie too, but that’s another post).

Because there are men who will sniff out regret or insecurity, sharpen it like a spear, take aim and use it against the girl who is in a transitional phase. It’s predatory, sometimes misogynistic, and always wrong.

There are men who look at certain women (the interesting kind that The Eagles wrote about, yeah, “interesting” is a good word to use here) and see sadness instead of desperation, heartbreak instead of easy prey, hope instead of a lost cause.

The Crash Davis’ of songwriting. The way a man thinks about women and girls — good girls, bad girls, young ones, old ones — will reflect in just about everything that man says and does.

So thank the Music Gods for songwriters like Glenn Frey (plus Don Henley, together, such a team). The ultimate gentlemen of songwriting.

The Music Gods gave Glenn Frey the gift of observation and instilled in him the kind of reverence that translated into an insightful blend of empathy and enticement in some of the best songs ever written. Frey wrote songs that made women who were listening feel alright about the oftentimes seedy, confusing landscape of love, loss, and regret, but still feel optimism and yes, even lend to a healthy self-assessment. If that sounds like a stretch, stop for a second and listen to Victim of Love or Lyin’ Eyes.

I see a broken heart, you’ve got your stories to tell.

She drives on through the night, anticipating, ’cause he makes her feel the way she used to feel.

Infidelity, drugs, bad decision making at the club, or up and down the highway, whatever…okay, you can invoke a righteous position about these behaviors all you want, but they are still things people do. Always will do. For whatever reasons. And it’s all compelling material for songwriters, artists who see what other people don’t and have to express it through their medium. The music of The Eagles has teeth and heart. Frey was cerebral and pointed, but forgiving. Maybe you know exactly what he, and The Eagles, were talking about. Maybe their music was sweet relief and not bitter condemnation. Who the hell turns on the radio to hear that.

Not me. But that’s just me.

And it may be a generalization, it’s my personal opinion, that if you’re a woman who listened to The Eagles, Glenn Frey’s lyrics reached inside your head, identified with this thing or that time, and let you off the hook from any rotten self-judgement. Play a love-centric Eagles song with a female subject. Never did the idea of self-destruction seem so ludicrous as coming of age felt natural and free. As a similar female to the one written about, you knew that you weren’t the only one who felt that way, and maybe things didn’t go exactly as you’d planned, but Glenn Frey told you (actually, Don Henley sang to you) that you could get on with your search and contrary to your worst fears, it wasn’t Wasted Time. Not at all.

In The One You Love, with that hypnotic saxophone, Glenn Frey offered surrender, someone you can talk to, instead of judgement, in a love triangle. Lesser men or writers take shots at the person doing the hurting. I’ve listened to that song thirty times this weekend (I had just added that song to my 80s Spotify playlist last week) and I hear someone ready to reluctantly walk away rather than stick around to throw stones. It’s almost like a beautiful prequel to Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

And the common denominator of all those lyrics at the top of this post and throughout, is the man who, just by the way he wrote, nudged some (I’m guessing, but me, for sure) women towards better men. No need to inflict more punishment on yourself by choosing a bad seed, the 70s and 80s were punishment enough.

To me, Glenn Frey was the guy who watched the girl through some craziness, saw beyond Those Shoes, and waited until the time was right for them both, but no rush. He knew all along. And nothing she ever did is something he can’t get over.

You’re still the same old girl you used to be.

And I will miss his contributions, but we get to keep so many, and whatever they mean to us.

Going to get up and pour myself a strong one in honor of the founding member of The Eagles.

Maybe I’m that girl, and if I were, from the bottom of my heart with the shiny little chains around it…

Dear Glenn Frey,

You wrote me through.

I’m back, for reasons I don’t quite understand.

Disclaimer: I have mixed feelings about the blogosphere, leaning towards really not liking it.

What is to like about it?

It’s saturated. It’s a cacophony of egos, bullies, unqualified statements, non-experts, the righteously indignant, people explaining why they’re right, and posts with too many exclamation points and product endorsements before I get to the list of ingredients for a recipe I want to try. I’m not technically gifted so my blog will never be beautiful. There are things that distract from the mission of useful words like blog of the day awards. I won’t go to a blogging conference because seeing people fighting over swag bags would be enough to send me into hibernation again.

But, what is there to like about it, really….like about it?

The blogosphere connects people. The blogosphere gets people to take risks and put themselves out there, and there is good content out there that should be discovered. I’m a firm believer that good will needs as much generating as quickly as possible, and the blogosphere enables that. And after some impatient scrolling, I have found some incredible recipes.

Someone I respect recently told me to start blogging again, and my response was, who am I? I’m not an expert on anything. I only have an undergraduate degree. I have no platform. I’ve got one finished book I need to submit, a couple of books I’ve started, and a list of ones I want to write still. But what the hell makes me so special that I think I should get a share of web traffic, clicks, reads, shares, views?

I forgot that I am not after those things, so that’s easy. I think the cardinal sin I’ve been afraid of committing, and what has kept me from blogging for years, is seeming self-important.

But I don’t want to suppress any more the compulsion to sit and organize my thoughts through a keyboard when I am moved, inspired, or otherwise need to let the beast clawing it’s way out of my brain the f*** out and make sense of it so I know how I feel and most importantly, move on to the next thing. Idea. Recipe. Act of good will. Whatever.

Because, I write, It’s what I do, the only thing, in fact (besides having some luck in the kitchen) that I have ever been good at. My desire to introduce some stories and compelling characters to the world has to be bigger than my fear of sucking. If not, that’s my ego at work, too, just in a different way.

(Not to mention the fact that if I back off my ambitions out of doubt, my kids would be right to call me a hypocrite).

I don’t know where my work will end up, but I am going to write it anyway. I’ve read enough submissions, heard enough indie bands, seen enough underdog teams succeed, and consumed enough small batch craft beer to know, good material can come from anywhere, it doesn’t even have to start off as good.

But it has to start somewhere.

So here goes. I’m back, for reasons that, after writing this, I think I understand a little more clearly now.

…Sam

 

 

 

 

my perfect little (imaginary) writing retreat

The woodsy scent of the pines mixes with the salty ocean air, and it is quite possibly one of the cleanest, purest, most intoxicating scent on Earth. A scent that draws you in, like the burning of the sugar cane fields in Hawai’i, a field of lavender, fresh-picked mint, or tangy barbecue in the southwest.

But the meeting of ocean to a forest, those two things put side by side are a divine gift that only those who appreciate it deserve to behold. Only those who see the ancient history and epochs past, know what a spectacle it is. If you can’t see where the water level used to be, or catch the tail of a sea monster out of your peripheral vision, you should move on down the highway and try to find techno music on a jukebox. It’s over your head.

The tall trees on the ocean cliff give depth and character to the landscape more than a clearing overlooking the Pacific would. And tucked behind some of the shorter trees, and a path of flat stones with moss tickling the edges, is my writing retreat, my solitary cabin.

Enough space exists beyond my porch to see the waves crashing on the craggy rocks. All I see when I look straight out over the cliff is white water splashing up like a standing ovation. All I hear is water crashing then hissing as it pulls back out to the break. Then another waves crashes. And another. It’s rhythmic, predictable, nature’s music to set my internal clock by.

Soon the sun rays (because you can’t see the sun behind the clouds) fade into a bluish-gray sunset and the moon, that looks like a pearl, takes over the sky like the main event. And the water dances and sparkles beneath it, the surf that crashes becomes opalescent. Some sea god spread his fingers under the tide and splayed electricity into the water causing so much brightness, and it makes me hope the night never ends.

The smoke from my cabin’s chimney is so welcoming now, pulling me back into the cabin though I want to stay outside watching shapes dart in between the tall, dark trees. I want to watch the water shimmer. But the cold reminds me where I am, that I am better off inside, and the owl in the distance is the final answer. Owls scare me with their foretelling, so I crunch on pinecone shards beneath my boots as I approach the steps to the cabin.  The hammock is swinging with the ghosts who love the night. I should bring them out some shots of agave tequila.

Inside the rustic cabin, the Navajo rug — a nod to my deceased mother — hangs above the bright screen of my Macbook, and I know, who the hell am I kidding…I want a fairy tale setting somedays, a roughing it feel on other days, but my modern conveniences comfort me as much as the traces of generations come before me in this sturdy, wood-paneled house. The coffee maker, microwave, computer and satellite dish pacify the modern girl in me. The quilts, stained glass window in the bedroom, and brick chimney take me to a place in time I require to connect with the people in my head who try to come out through written words.

I light some candles, including the taper tucked into the iron sconce on the wall. Can’t fall asleep with that lit. Need caffeine. I grab the coffee creamer out of the mini-fridge. It’s past 5 o’clock, so I add liquer to my oversized ceramic mug of java. Write drunk, edit sober, I saw somewhere once.

During the day I would put on a playlist — Stevie Nicks, movie soundtracks,  something on Spotify with the pre-text “Celtic” — but at night, why would I override the magic that happens outside? I’m a writer and I am supposed to close my eyes and hear sprites bouncing off leaves as the bells on their slippers jingle. I am supposed to hear a seductive cello as a vampire approaches. I am supposed to hear the screams of someone caught in the surf below. I am supposed to let the soundtrack of nature infuse stories into my mind.

Outside, a crushing of leaves underfoot should scare me, but it’s just one crush. A few more, I’ll bring my shotgun from under the bed next to my writing table. No human, no matter how twisted, desperate, or evil, lurking outside my window who was attracted to the dim light of my cabin from a mile away, scares me as much as that damn owl. That owl is commiserating with the ghosts in my hammock, I’m sure of it. I’ll get your damn tequila in a sec.

I close my eyes, breathe in the crisp air. There’s a whirl of dirt outside the right corner my porch. There are wings of a bird moving restlessly on a branch. The log in the fireplace cracks and spits out sparks. And the ocean in the background and forefront simultaneously, pounding the rocks. I’m safe, so safe.

I can write something scarier than anything that wants to invade my perfect little writing retreat. And I can imagine twenty-five thousand ways to defeat a dragon that tries to make me think it’s real. My created heroes are undefeated, clever, and soulful. They’ll save me.

As I bring them to life. In my woodsy cabin on an ocean cliff.

 

 

Why Abby Wambach Is Right

I agree with Abby but I am having a little bit of trouble understanding…

a) why what Abby Wambach said moved Mix Diskerud to Instagram about it, and

b) what he means in his post with the use of the word “soldiers”

c) wondering how out of millions of American youth athletes, it’s necessary to recruit dual-national players for the USAMNT

Firstly, Abby Wambach isn’t a divisive American to worry or get pissed off about, for those who have been paying attention to the big picture.

While we are on the topic of the big picture, I am trying to figure out what Diskerud means by “soldiers” — soldiers as in soccer and history, soccer soldiers, historical soldiers in world wars…what?

Does Diskerud mean he is defending our nation when he takes the roster spot of an American-born kid who played rec soccer before starting kindergarten, then spent his entire youth in U.S. club soccer, chasing a dream of one day playing on a national team?

If that is what Diskerud meant, he would be wrong.

If he meant to say that specific nations of the world have united against a mutual enemy, okay, I get that.  But what the hell does that have to do with soccer?

I am admittedly confused by any offense toward Abby Wambach, and regarding Diskerud, how it was worded.  I admittedly do not know national, or international soccer, as well as others, as well as the soccer players in my house.

This is what I do know…

From the time you start your kids in rec sports, then for whatever reason switch to the competitive/club side, you see a side of parents (or a side of yourself), and in some children, that initially takes you by surprise. The competitive nature of American parents, and children, manifests itself in youth sports in all positive and negative ways imaginable. What drives it mostly, the common denominator of behavior we smile or scoff at on the sidelines, in every city and state, is chasing down a dream.

Dream of being the best. Dream of going all the way. And why the hell not? This is America. Aim high, don’t let anyone stop you.

There are athletes in America, millions of them who work on their sport(s) every single day of their over-scheduled, agenda filled life (not lodging a complaint, this is a choice). And they do it because they love it. Absolutely LOVE working towards individual and common goals, sweating on a turf field in the middle of summer, freezing on the pitch during state cup in winter, playing through injury, running alongside their team mates to score. Girls who find their euphoric place defending or dribbling, and call their team mates their sisters. Boys who take in their sport like it’s a supplement they need to survive. There are kids whose parents don’t show up but they still find their way to the field for practices and games, and there are kids whose parents count minutes of playing time. There are kids who work it all out as they tie their cleats, to whom the world makes more sense when they take the field. Kids who need that coach as a mentor. Kids who are hoping for an adult to give them the opportunity the deserve.

The opportunity they deserve.

This is where I go into my opinion…

I could be wrong here, but I think that is what Abby Wambach was saying. The national team is the golden goal. The roster spot every soccer player dreams of when they watch the USAWNT or USAMNT as kids growing up. To play for their country of birth. That is the way it should be. No one should take that opportunity away, especially not a player who has the opportunity to do it for their own, other country of origin.

Is it so naive now, to count on at least authentic, accredited American traditions being held to a fair standard? (The NFL notwithstanding).  I thought national meant, well, national. Of the nation. I kind of counted on that. Kind of worked some countryman pride into national sports. File that under things I foolishly assumed.

Some rules are intentionally fuzzy (dual citizenship eligibility), but doing what is right is always clear as a bell. Because it’s not like there isn’t a big enough pool of qualified American athletes. Even in my little soccer-obsessed corner of the country, I have seen kids who have, and do, what it takes to play at the national level.

I can’t believe that there is such a deficit of American soccer talent that it is necessary to pull from players not born and raised playing in the United States. But if it’s a win at all costs philosophy (didn’t someone else mention that?), I guess you can spin and rationalize anything.

Most of us youth sports parents spend eighteen years teaching our children, the win-at-any-cost philosophy is wrong. We also teach them that life, sports, whatever, isn’t always fair. But to just accept what isn’t fair without fighting the good fight? NO. Defend your goal. Score for your team. Give it all you’ve got. And if you can fight what isn’t fair (which is always) and win, give it your best shot.

I can only imagine how demoralizing it was/is to an American soccer player who has worked hard his entire life to lose a spot on the USAMNT to a player who was born and grew up in another country. Sorry, man. Pack your bags and go home, it is what it is (and it really sucks).

From a youth travel team coach bringing in ringers to the championship game, to the head coach of the USAMNT rostering players that did not come up through the country’s system, it feels wrong because it is wrong.

It is a disservice to the players who have done every thing the American youth sports system and it’s representatives asked of them and more. It’s an affront to take a that’s-the-way-it-is approach, and it is sad to think of young athletes having to concede a birthright because the definition of that word is up for interpretation when that stakes are as high as a world championship.

(“Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. It doesn’t make me Madonna.”)*

Being American does not make them exceptional to the other players of the world (one love), it just makes them eligible.

What does make America exceptional is that everyone can shoot for the same goal and realistically, achieve it. These young athletes that are right now staying up late to finish their homework after practice and compiling video of themselves to send to recruiters and pining for scholarships, dreaming of getting a call from a national coach someday, not all of them will get as far as they hope, but they should at least be able to rely on a player pool with fair, dignified, equitable criteria.

Winning is the ultimate goal, I get that.  But “it matters how you win.”*

So lay off Abby Wambach (not that she needs any defending). Her statement is mot malicious or mean-spirited. She knows about soccer at every level and with her experience, has the most qualified opinion of just about any American athlete in history of American athletes (love letter to Abby in another blog). She’s smart, humble and courageous and my guess is she knew she would be called out for what she said, and I like to think she took that risk for all the athletes who are still chasing the dream.

(*These are movie quotes. Come on.)