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Notes From The Flip Side: 12.29.2002

"It was Christmas Eve, babe / In the drunk tank / An old man said to me / 'Won't see another one' / And then he sang a song / 'The Rare Old Mountain Dew' / I turned my face away / And dreamed about you / Got on a lucky one / Came in eighteen to one / I've got a feeling / This year's for me and you / So happy Christmas / I love you baby / I can see a better time / When all our dreams come true"

The Pogues, "Fairytale Of New York"

War on Iraq? Not in my name.

I read J.P. Donleavy's "Fairytale Of New York" some months ago. I had read "The Ginger Man" in college at the suggestion of Tom Donahue, an old linguistics professor of mine and decided Donleavy wasn't for me; the title of that book made me give him a second chance. The book was worth it. And together with Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale," there's a story of initial hope and subsequent loss and eventual redemption that weaves between the brawlers and drunks and thieves and inveterate liars who populate those yarns. And it seems that I find it hard to get past the loss part of these stories.

The holidays are usually difficult for me. This year, I resolved that the holidays would be as painless as possible. Since I couldn't leave the country, I decided to take leave of my senses and settled in with a large bottle of bourbon and about a case and a half of beer. I got home from work on Monday night and took the edge off with a shot and a bottle of Rolling Rock. Based on the number of bottles I found in the trash can the next morning, I repeated that process almost a dozen times before I passed out. And did the same the next day. And finally began tapering off around mid-day on the 25th.

For once, these days didn't really hurt much. I remember singing many drunken versions of the above song to a girl in upstate New York. I remember telling someone in my hometown that I should have kissed her when I had the chance. And in between, I called a lot of friends and tried to let them know how much they mean to me. And, I might add, a fair number of people called me just to say hey - including people whose voices I never would have expected to hear.

I remember thinking about Peter Lake and Cornelius Christian, about their stories of loss and their struggles to be redeemed. And I remember listening to The Pogues on my way home Monday night, singing along and trying to keep it together until I got home. And it seems like the only stories that mean anything to me these days are ones in which tragedy strikes early and hard ... and recurs.

With that in mind, here are my Top 5 Worst Years Ever:

  1. 1997
  2. 2002
  3. 1996
  4. 1999
  5. 1993

Merely making the Top 5 means unseating a bad year. In this case, 1994 slipped down to #6. In 1994, I nearly died during surgery for the conditions that made 1993 such a waste of a year and spent six months recuperating. And this year debuted at #2. That should tell you something about how shitty a year it really was.

Fuck this year.

For me, "Fairytale Of New York" resonates with bitter, dehydrated, broken-down dreams. It's a song which describes those initial hopes and best intentions and the road to hell that they mapped. It's true that the song seems to contain a silver lining, but it strikes me as more accurate to say that it was just the way that the dim light in the bar glinted off the empty glass as it left another drunkard's lips.

And even so, I hope.

I hope that we all get on a lucky one. I hope that this year's for me and you. I hope that we all make it through intact and in good spirits. And I hope that all our dreams come true.

It almost seems too soon to get back to trivial things like debating the virtues and merits of albums. This year has been cruel; it seems more appropriate to remember how cold the winds that it brought have been. But that would mean that it won. And while I may not have been able to win for losing for most of this year, I'm sure as shit going to come out ahead this time.

Thus, it's time to talk music. I don't claim that these are the best albums of the year - I think if anyone claims to have heard every album that came out this year, they're lying or extremely ignorant and, without having heard everything, I think it's impossible to qualitatively declare that any album is the best. I merely note that these are the ones that profoundly affected me or that I listened to most.

Guiltiest Pleasure Of The Year:
Andrew W.K. "I Get Wet" (Island)
When I first heard this record, I immediately hated it. It was the most mindless album I had heard in a long time, probably since Buckner and Garcia. It ripped off Meatloaf and replaced the pomp and bluster with dumb and dumber. It was tops in the stupid department, overdrawn at the intelligence bank, several IQ points shy of a shoe size. You get the idea. He was a goof, a kook, a nut, a loon, a certifiable nutcase who seemed to believe that he was a Blues Brother for pop-metal - a crackpot on a mission from God to remind everyone that we really needed to have a party. Like, right now. And we needed to get wet in the process - beer, blood, jumping in the pool with our clothes on ... it didn't matter. Just have a party. And get wet. So I hated it. I hated its huge, anthemic hooks. I hated its simple lyrics. I hated just about everything that I could hate about this record. However, the thing that I missed about it is that it's ridiculously fun. I missed the disco beats supporting "I Love NYC" while Andrew bellows "Oh yeah! / New York City!" Sure, this rips off Slade, Night Ranger and pretty much every other cheese metal band found in pub jukeboxes, but it doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Dumb record, dumb fun. What more can I say?

I'm opting not to include collections or reissues in the above list, but I'll note that you really should grab Jawbreaker's "Etc." and Pavement's "Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe And Reduxe."

I don't believe you'll go wrong with any of the following records either. Consider this the honorable mention list:

As a final note, the following were my most frequently played songs this year - on average about 500 listens each.

Favorite Songs
Alkaline Trio - "Jaked On Green Beers"
Hot Water Music - "Trusty Chords"
tiltWheel - "Hold My Hand To Make Them Go Away"

Raise your glasses to my friends Cranford, Jarrod and Paulette. Hoist a pint for the dearly departed Waylon Jennings, Jam Master Jay, John Entwhistle, Dee Dee Ramone, George Harrison, Joe Strummer, Mary Hansen of Stereolab and all of the other people who made music so personal that they seemed like our best friends.

Good riddance to this year. Next year will be a better one.

Site Updates

Added two essays - some random musings about soul and Guided By Voices and a screed about alternative culture that I wrote many years ago. They were both originally published in Finley Breeze, one of the finest e-zines to ever grace an inbox.

Now Playing:

Sunday Drive. The Malakas. Watch It Burn. Tori Cobras. tiltWheel. A.M. Vibe. Fairweather. Sunday's Best. Jets To Brazil. Lucero. Beth Orton. Rilo Kiley. Jedi Five.

Just Finished:

Greil Marcus, "The Old, Weird America"

Now Reading:

Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"; Andrew Feenberg, "Questioning Technology" and "Alternative Modernity"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Italo Calvino, "t zero"; Naomi Klein, "No Logo"

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008