Flashback: The Summer of My Discontent, 2012 Edition

Prelude

It has been a while since my last post—over two months, in fact.

I had intended to continue the saga of the Summer of 1987 in my next post—but, alas, real life decided to intervene. (You are forewarned—this could be a long one…)

First, I lost the one source of (somewhat) regular income I had left. I’d been doing layouts for a weekly magazine since mid-April; it was going quite well, except for one thing: I was not getting paid in a timely manner. It finally got to the point where there were unpaid invoices stretching back six weeks—so I had to put my foot down. I notified the magazine that I would not be able to continue doing the work until I’d been paid at least through the end of the previous month, and that, given the ongoing delays in payment, I was going to require a higher rate going forward. The very next day, I received e-mail telling me that I would no longer be working on the magazine—ostensibly because of changes within the organization. (I did finally get paid in full, but it was another ten days before that payment arrived.)

Three weeks later, my wife’s unemployment benefits ran out. She’s managed to get some odd jobs (mostly painting and other handyman-type work) from her old employer (the closure of his previous firm resulted in her unemployment), but, compared to how much time she puts in, it pays very little.

Then, of course, the financial uncertainty has only added to the stress our marriage has already been under for the last couple of years—so there’s that wonderful bundle of mixed-up emotions to deal with.

Next on the list of this summer’s highlights (as such) are the 25th anniversary of my moving to Tokyo after I graduated from college (part of the whole 1987 saga), and the 20th anniversary of my return from Tokyo (a tale for a future post or two at least).

Finally, there’s the intensified job search, and its accompanying litany of frustrations—those of you who have spent any time at all looking for work in the last couple of years or so will know what that is about.

So, we’ve got relationship problems, money problems, unemployment, and rampant nostalgia. Good times!

Playlists

I have had occasions to construct playlists for one purpose or another during this time, but putting them all here in one post would be overkill, so, for the most part, I’m going to just hit some of the highlights.

Love, Lust, and Frustration

For the sake of privacy, I’m not going to go into great detail here. Suffice it to say that it sucks when things aren’t going well between two people, especially if there isn’t a whole lot of conversation happening between them.

(It should also be noted that the things going on here are largely taking place in my head—the line from Jules and the Polar Bears’ song “Good Reason” seems apropos here: I got one tiny mind that makes small things huge. In other words, I have my feelings and my fantasies, but that’s all they are.)

Harry Nilsson – “You’re Breakin’ My Heart” (RCA)
The Knack – “Frustrated” (Capitol)
Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain” (Warner Bros.)
Go West – “Masque of Love” (Chrysalis)
Thomas Dolby – “Don’t Turn Away (version one)” (MCA)
Marvin Gaye – “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You” (Tamla)
Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get it On” (Tamla)
Marvin Gaye – “I Want You” (Tamla)
Tommy Simmons – “Time and a Bottle of Wine” (self-released)
Fiona Apple – “Anything We Want” (Clean Slate/Epic)
Madonna – “Erotica” (Maverick/Sire)
Living Colour – “Love Rears its Ugly Head (SoulPower mix)” (Epic)
Living Colour – “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (Epic)
Alison Moyet – “Love Resurrection” (CBS)
Cherrelle – “Everything I Miss at Home” (Tabu)
Prince – “Gett Off” (Paisley Park/Warner Bros.)
The B-52’s – “Dance This Mess Around” (Warner Bros.)
久保田利伸久 – “LA・LA・LA LOVE SONG” (Sony)
Anna McMurphy – “Deeper and Deeper” (EMI)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “Beyond Belief” (F-Beat)
Tweaker – “Linoleum” (featuring David Sylvian) (Six Degrees)
Meat Loaf – “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (Cleveland International/Epic)

The list above represents some of the songs that I’ve found myself drawn to this summer. If it seems like a mixed-up bunch of songs, well, that’s because it is. I’ve been angry, I’ve been down, I’ve been frustrated, I’ve been confused, and I’ve been to several of these places at the same time. Sometimes, I’ve found myself stuck in the present moment; other times, I’ve engaged in a bit of “what if?” thinking.

Anyway…

I first encountered the Harry Nilsson song in the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? I’d had no idea that this song had been around for 28 years before Cee-Lo Green’s more explicitly titled “F**k You!” Either way, it’s a perfect song for venting relationship frustrations. Its early ’70s party song vibe makes it fun to sing along with, without being all that heavy or serious.

“Let’s Get it On”, “I Want You”, “Time and a Bottle of Wine”, “Erotica”, and “Anything We Want” represent a few of those “what if?” fantasies—visions of circumstances in which everything is new and fresh, and problems and disagreements don’t exist.

“Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, and “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You”, of course, represent the “what went wrong?” scenario, where I’ve sometimes found myself wondering: a) how things might have turned out had I not been in such a rush to take that next step when I was younger—had I allowed myself some time for reflection before forging ahead; and b) exactly where things started to go awry. Of course, the past is the past, and cannot be changed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn a thing or two from it.

Next…

No Money, Mo’ Problems

Was (Not Was) – “Hello, Dad… I’m in Jail” (Chrysalis)
Spinal Tap – “Gimme Some Money” (Polymer)
Earth, Wind & Fire – “System of Survival” (Columbia)
Squeeze – “Hourglass” (A&M)
Scritti Politti – “Tinseltown to the Boogiedown” (Virgin)
The B-52’s – “Dance This Mess Around” (Warner Bros.)
Tears For Fears – “Shout” (Mercury)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Rage Hard” (ZTT)
The Beatles – “Hey Bulldog” (Apple/EMI)
Marvin Gaye – “Inner City Blues” (Tamla)
The Brothers Johnson – “Get the Funk Out Ma Face” (A&M)
Kaisoku Tokyo – “Copy” (Youth)
David Sylvian – “Red Guitar” (Virgin)
Dolby’s Cube featuring Cherry Bomb – “It Don’t Come Cheap” (MCA)

It often feels as though looking for a job in the United States of America in 2012 is largely an exercise in frustration. Job listings that demand more skills and/or work for less money; potential employers who don’t identify themselves in job postings, acknowledge receipt of resumes, or bother to do you the courtesy of telling you they’re considering other people for the job; and the bogus “overqualified” excuse for not hiring you (especially if you’re over 40).

(And if you apply for a retail job? Well, you’ll probably have to do that online, and you’re guaranteed to have to answer a slew of questions whose purpose is clearly to weed out as many folks as possible. Since when did hiring employees become about finding the wrong people for the job, then hiring whomever is left?)

In short, to paraphrase the Squeeze song “Hourglass”, it’s like pounding on a big door, but nobody hears you knocking—and time is running out. Worse, the money’s running out, too. I’ve already completely drained my HSA and IRA, so there’s no more cushion left.

Exacerbating things is that people are increasingly unwilling to pay for creative services (I’m a graphic designer). Either they figure they can save a few bucks by doing it themselves (some can—most shouldn’t), they decide to simply copy what they need from somewhere else, or they expect you to work for free—either for the exposure (my favorite), or because they simply can’t afford you otherwise.

Part of my problem, of course, is timing. I decided in mid-2006 to go back to school. I had no idea the economy would tank in 2008, three or four months before I graduated, or that I’d still be looking for work three-and-a-half years after graduation.

It’s enough to make you want to scream, as The B-52’s do in “Dance This Mess Around”: Why don’t you dance with me? I’m not no limburger!

Finally (for this round)…

Nostalgia

a mix disc: 7/29/2012—20 years ago, I saw you yesterday.

ABC – “When Smokey Sings” (Neutron/Mercury)
Alexander O’Neal – “(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me” (Tabu)
Michael Jackson – “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Epic)
Jane Child – “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” (Warner Bros.)
Tracie Spencer – “Symptoms of True Love” (Capitol)
Earth, Wind & Fire – “Share Your Love” (ARC/Columbia)
Jane Wiedlin – “Rush Hour” (EMI America)
Greg Kihn – “Lucky” (EMI America)
Sade – “Paradise” (Epic)
Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give You Up” (RCA)
Johnny Hates Jazz – “Shattered Dreams” (Virgin)
Cherrelle – “Everything I Miss at Home” (Tabu)
Madonna – “Cherish” (Sire)
松任谷由実 [Yumi Matsutoya] – “Anniversary~無限にCalling You” (Toshiba-EMI)
The Communards – “Never Can Say Goodbye” (London)
Jody Watley – “Everything” (MCA)
小田和正 [Kazumasa Oda]– ラブ・ストーリーは突然に… [Love Story wa Totsuzen ni…] (Fun House)
Epo – センチメンタル・シディ・ロマンス [Sentimental City Romance] (Dear Heart/Midi)

On July 31, 1992, just five years after I originally went there, I returned back home from Tokyo. I hated to leave—and I did actually consider looking for a job in another part of Japan (probably Osaka or Kobe)—but I didn’t think I would last much longer if I stayed. The isolation and stress simply were getting to be too much.

The last week of my life in Tokyo was spent getting rid of the appliances I’d accumulated, arranging to pay final utility bills, cleaning my apartment, and packing for my trip home. (I’d already spent much of the previous four or five weeks sending my books, videos, and CDs home a few boxes at a time.)

On July 28, my ex-girlfriend came over to help me with the cleaning. We’d actually split almost three years earlier (as a result of an argument plagued by one miscommunication after another) but had somehow managed to stay in touch, even after she’d gotten married. On a couple of occasions, she’d even spent the night at my place (nothing happened) after arguments with her husband. But I digress…

Between the cleaning, the conversation, and a late lunch/early dinner, we spent just about the entire day together. While there was some rekindling of the flame that had never quite burned out, eventually she did have to go back home.

Honestly, it was a goodbye out of a Japanese drama, if not an actual movie. We walked for a bit, it started to rain, and we took shelter under an awning next to a vending machine. A kiss and a hug goodbye, and off she went on her bicycle as I watched her leave. It was all very bittersweet. And it was the last time I saw her.

It was with that day in mind that I compiled the 7/29/2012: 20 years ago, I saw you yesterday mix. They are all songs I associate with her in one way or another. (And the Kazumasa Oda song is actually from a Japanese drama, Tokyo Love Story.)

Wait! One more…

Everything in General

Jules and the Polar Bears – “All Caked Up” (Columbia)

I found myself listening to Jules and the Polar Bears’ second album (Phonetics) yesterday when I went out for groceries. “All Caked Up” is the album’s last song (though on the Wounded Bird CD reissue, it is followed by five bonus tracks); it perfectly captures my current state of mind these days. I’m looking for that to change soon, but that’s how it is for now…

(August 26, 2012)