paulaabdulstraightup“What is this? ’80s music day?”

“Actually, it’s 1989, all day baby!”

“Well, I lived through this music once. Why are you forcing me to do it again?”

This was a conversation this morning between me and my wife, who tends to like her own combination of music regardless of decade or individual years, while I, on the other hand, like to compartmentalize into little boxes with everything. And there was no littler box than 1989 when it came to music. There really was no exploration or furthering of musicianship in 1989, not clearly identified by its popular music anyway.

bobbybrownThe number one song in 1989 was “Look Away,” by Chicago, a band that has produced pretty much the same song over and over again. But it was a good song the first time and it’s still good in this incarnation. Fast on its heels was the biggest song of Bobby Brown’s solo career, “My Prerogative.” I can almost hear it again now without hearing Britney Spears’ reinvention of it from the ’00s. The beat screams ’90s even though it clings to the late ’80s in time of release.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison
Straight Up – Paula Abdul
Miss You Much – Janet Jackson
Cold Hearted – Paula Abdul
Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli
Baby I Love Your Way – Will To Power
Giving You The Best That I Got – Anita Baker

One thing that calls out to me from this list was how popular Paula Abdul really was in the late ’80s/early ’90s. With songs like “Straight Up,” she made a huge name for herself, then followed it up with “Cold Hearted,” the anthem against all men who can’t show emotions and who protect secrets. I’ve always loved her voice, even though it was never the strongest one, but it was her beats that made her different, the flow of the music that made me want to dance. That still makes me want to dance every time I hear her.

millivanilliLike my wife said, one thing about the late ’80s is that it was an imminently forgettable time for those who were seniors in high school or college students back then. They were so focused on their schoolwork that any “extras” were truly that: extras. Music was pretty much for background with them. Their tastes would generally run to early ’80s because they had less responsibilities then. So groups like The Police and Echo and the Bunnymen, and individual artists like Pat Benatar and Prince were more their speed, their comfort music they were already familiar with.

For me, though, and other Generation Xers who were born in the mid to late ’70s the late ’80s were a coming of age time for us. It was and remains our comfort music, what we go back to when we need reassurance that we matter in this world. Songs like “Toy Soldiers” by Martika bring back those lazy summer days when the whole world was ahead of us but we didn’t have to be a part of it yet. The music still resonates because the time still resonates, and it’s still so glorious.

Yes, even “Blame It On the Rain.”



imageThe place used to be a warehouse. That much is clear. With its exposed beams and flaking brick interior it almost could have come straight out of a book by Charles Dickens. But it isn’t sitting there unused and abandoned. Instead there is a line outside full of couples leaning against its side, chatting and waiting. Yes, always the waiting, because regardless of when you shown up there are no reservations. And it’s the trendiest place on South Street. At least these days anyway.

I’ve been in enough of these places throughout the years, these IT places that thrive for a while and then fade away into the ether, but while they’re at their apex they are a glory to behold, like the second coming of Christ. And this line is testament to its current popularity. They take our names and we also wait.

The double entendre in the name is an evident homage to trendy names of other places that inspire smiles from those who pass by. Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat. At first glance one might even pass it off as a horrible pun, but the place is so much more. It’s cafĂ© meets diner, a combination of standard fare and exciting homemade dishes that smell divine. With an ambiance to die for.

Now we are inside. They asked us if we minded sitting at the counter and I said yes. The better to hear the intimate conversations between workers as they go about their hectic day, always moving. Coffee? Yes please. And they get it, whippet quick. They wear no uniforms and have no nametags, all a part of the trendy ambiance that permeates the place. Oh yes, and it’s cash only, one of the few places remaining that is organic that way.

imageWord of mouth must be huge, I think, as I look around and take it in. Every chair is taken, every corner accounted for, as patrons talk at high volume and servers maneuver between them, as fluid as water. And the line is still forming out the door, on the sidewalk, and at the counter itself. They keep coming, and we wait for them, eager as beavers, awaiting our veggie burgers that called out to us from the menu. More coffee? Yes please.

Other couples share this counter, talking excitedly, kissing furtively, and looking around just as we are. They are from elsewhere, or this is their first time here. Either way they are as fascinated by the feel of the place as we are, dressed in reds and blues and drinking fresh squeezed orange juice. They are trendy because they are here. They have finally arrived and they want to be seen. I see them.

Our food arrives and we dig in like foreigners being given the finest dish of the land, in sync with the rhythms of the place, as comfortable as the others here. It is this dining culture that binds us together, that makes us one at this moment, in this place. The staff continue to move in their complicated dance, changing partners, shouting out “Get that bottle of champagne to the table in the corner,” while simultaneously wiping clean the large table that just got up. I see a couple at the end of the counter look at us, as if we are the reason they are here, enjoying a hearty lunch at this place.

I smile because it is this that makes Philadelphia so special to me. No matter how many places come and go, the city keeps churning them out like flavors of ice cream, one after the other, a huge thrill ride that has no end. As we make our way out of Honey’s (on South), I imagine we will be in another place just like it sometime later, maybe in three years, when it will be gone and another will be the trendy eatery/hangout spot for those in the know.

But we’ll always have Honey’s, at least where it counts, in our memories. We walk away hand in hand while others slide over to take our place in line.


Subtly Feathered

subtlyfeatheredLove is complicated
An intricate thing
Subtly feathered
Taking to the air
Like a hurricane
Before it explodes

Love is emotional
A conflagration
On the verge of igniting
In reds and blues
At the boiling point
Then spilling over

Love is contradictory
An exercise in pain
Wrapped in velvet
Sealed with a kiss
Just like Iscariot
Waiting to destroy

Love is a mansion
Populated with rooms
Large and expansive
As empty as air
Whistling down stairs
A certain pretense

It teases the senses
And tests the limits
Struggling to survive
In a world of apathy
A town of one-way streets
Agonizing in its reach
An absolute necessity
That lives forever.


Dressed in Black

black-white-34I remember the oddest things sometimes.

A woman wearing all black came through my cashier line at Target yesterday, and she was purchasing another all-black outfit, so of course I had to comment on her clothing choice…

Me: That color brings out your eyes.

All-Black Girl: It is pretty easy to accessorize in the mornings.

Me: So, not going to a bunch of funerals this summer?

All-Black Girl: [laughing] Not quite.

Me: So, you do it so people focus on your eyes?

All-Black Girl: Actually, I have to wear it for work.

Me: Where do you work? And are they hiring?

All-Black Girl: I work at the Spaghetti Kettle, and yeah, I think so.

Me: Because I could get on board with a place where you wear all black.

All-Black Girl: Yeah, makes it easier when you spill wine all down your front, too.

Me: No! You didn’t!

All-Black Girl: [laughing] I definitely did. Black worked out better than white. That’s for sure.

Me: I’m sure it smelled pretty good too.

She left the store with a smile on her face, and with her wallet $63.18 lighter than it had been upon entering, and I watched her leave thinking that I had a new restaurant to check out sometime when I felt like being served by people wearing all black attire.

That’s just one example of some of the interesting conversations I have at work. It’s the conversations that keep me going day in and day out, that and the people who keep apologizing for bothering me when in fact it’s those conversations that Target encourages more than anything else.

In the case of All-Black Girl I’m sure she probably tweeted about it on her way to work last night, about that funny guy at Target who wanted to smell like wine. Or of course she might just have promptly forgotten all about the interlude with the girl who wore black that nevertheless stayed with me.


Dear Journal: Being 37

This is what 37 looks like.

Dear Journal,

I am an adult. Sometimes I find that hard to remember, which is funny since I spend a lot of time with younger people. Time was when I would be the youngest one in a room or a group, and I got used to it. But of course as time has passed so have those opportunities to be the youngest, or the second youngest, or the third youngest. Sometimes I still like I’m maybe the fourth youngest but only if I squint really hard and imagine some people are older than they appear to be.

And I’m not sure when that age thing became important to me. Maybe it always was, but from the other side of the glass, when I was looking in at the exhibits instead of being one of them. Generation X. We had the future ahead of us, but now that future is now, and it’s moving quickly. Objects in the rearview mirror are getting more numerous and hard to differentiate from each other. Was it 10 years ago or 20? I can remember both with some level of clarity, but they all start to blend together at a point. That’s all part of being 37.

But yes, I can still be childish at times. I find myself making jokes that I am ashamed of later. Kid jokes, like the kind you would find in a “clean jokes” book available at Barnes & Noble for six bucks. Or playing the repeat game, when someone else says something and I repeat it. Then I’m the only one who laughs at it. I do that a lot with my eight-year old and she’ll roll her eyes at me and keep on doing whatever she was doing before I started repeating her.

Every once in a while I’ll find myself thinking about what I was doing 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, and remembering how I thought I was so old then, that time was some kind of vacuum that sucked years up like so much detritus. And I’m older now, but I don’t always feel my age, whatever 37 feels like. Maybe 37 feels like whatever I’m feeling at the time, like it’s an individual thing instead of a collective age.

Maybe being 37 is just a state of mind.


Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: