Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Snot Heard 'Round the World

Do you need a Kleenex? Because I have one. Actually, I have two in each back pocket and one in my front pocket. Of course, none of them are what you might called virgin. And I had really hoped to forget they were in there so I could wash the jeans and find what appeared to be an exploded sheep in the dryer, but if you need one, it’s yours.

Two weeks into the school year and Daughter has her first cold. It’s like Old Faithful with phlegm. Her version runs about five days, with not one of those days being compromised by anything but a general all-over increase in Child Moisture. Consort and my version, on the other hand, is going on its seventh day with no end in sight with a brain-clenching headache and a constant background mantra which sounds like:

“You know what you should do right now? You should nap.”

“But…I’m driving.”

“Here’s a little more head-clenching for not obeying me.”

This cold is behaving as if I owe it money.

And when I am not sniffing over a rampant rhinovirus, I am sniffing over Randy Newman, which is all Garrison Keillor’s fault. The week after Katrina decimated New Orleans and parts of Mississippi, NPR re-ran an earlier broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” which featured singer/songwriter/composer Randy Newman playing a song he wrote called “Louisiana 1927”. If you have never heard Randy Newman sing, imagine your uncle who gets drunk at holidays and sings “Danny Boy”, then mix that voice with a soulful frog; it’s not always tuneful, but it’s always heartfelt. Randy Newman is a New Orleans native. He had written this song years ago about a devastating flood which hit Louisiana in 1927. It includes the following lyrics:

The river rose all day.
The river rose all night.
Some people got lost in the flood.
Some people got away alright.

This lovely song, sung by his fallible voice and accompanying himself alone on the piano, sent me into tears. I promptly ran to the computer and downloaded it onto my IPod. I’ve listened to it several times over the next few days, crying every time. I guess someone needed a catharsis.

A few days later, I noticed the song wasn’t making me cry anymore. Do you suppose I decided to cross back over to the sunny side of the street and switched over to my IPod workout mix -- which includes such emotional powerhouses at “(You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real” by the eternally falsetto Sylvester? No, not me.

I bounded back to the iTunes music website and searched out Randy Newman again, as I remembered he had other songs which made me cry (In case you’re curious, I also enjoy sticking my tongue against a canker sore to make sure that it still hurts like crazy). Mr. Newman has written wonderful bouncy, silly music for such children’s films as “Toy Story”, “Toy Story 2”, and “Monsters, Inc.”, and the eternally flip “I Love LA”. But if I wanted happy, I would have stuck with the “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” soundtrack.

I honed in on his work in dramatic soundtracks; “The Natural”, “Ragtime”, “Seabiscuit”, “Pleasantville”. At his best, with only a piano, Randy Newman can make you think of the last summer Sunday afternoon you all spent as a family before Grandma became bedridden and Dad took to drink; it’s all sunny amber late-afternoon light and melancholy wisps at the same time.

I listened to “Ragtime”; I listened to “Seabiscuit”; I dabbled in parts of “The Natural”, and I was melancholy. Yea verily, I was melancholy. But I wasn’t getting that satisfying “BWAH hah hah” for which I had been longing, with the sodden tissue pressed to my nose and a bag of mint Milanos evaporating supportively at my elbow.

So I went back to ITunes and briefly considered Chopin, but determined he makes me wistful, not tearful. I lingered over a few songs I had played obsessively during certain break-ups, but quickly realized these would just make me embarrassed over the time I had wasted mooning over idiots rather than cathartically sad. Damn it, I wanted sad. Back to looking at the Randy Newman catalog again, I saw it.

The “Terms of Endearment” of songs.

Oddly enough, it’s in a children’s film. In “Toy Story 2”, there is a song which is played during a montage where we find out about how a doll had been loved by a girl who had grown up and moved on:

When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful.
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart.
And when she was sad, I was there to dry her tears.
And when she was happy, so was I when she loved me.
Through the summer and the fall, we had each other, that was all
just she and I together, like it was meant to be.
And when she was lonely, I was there to comfort her.
And I knew that she loved me.
So the years went by, I stayed the same
and she began to drift away, I was left alone.
Still I waited for the day, when she’d say I will always love you.
Lonely and forgotten, never thought she’d look my way,
She smiled at me and held me, just like she used to do,
Like she loved me, when she loved me.
When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful,
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart
When she loved me.


The song was written and sung by Sarah McLachlan, a woman who can make me cry by singing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, and the music, thanks to Randy Newman, was almost painfully poignant; it is the perfect storm of musical misery.

I sat in that theater and cried into my hand (who thinks to bring Kleenex to a PIXAR film?). I wanted to call my mother and apologize for something. I wanted to grab every child in that theater and moan “Just promise me you won’t have your assistant call your mother on her birthday”, because I wasn’t weird enough being an adult alone in a kid’s movie in the middle of the day.

I downloaded and happily cried. While blotting my eyes, I remembered that she did a version of “Blackbird” I seemed to remember as also being terribly sad. Also, Randy Newman created a score for a movie called “Avalon” which was a veritable mantle of gentle misery.

Neither exists on iTunes, but I am in active pursuit, and I will find them, and I will cry. And when I have used every tissue in the house and two washcloths, I will play “Tell Me Something Good” by Chaka Khan and Rufus, as a post-lachrymal cool-down and cheer-up. And I know I will emerge from this spent, but happy, brushing mint Milano crumbs from my cleavage. .

Think of it as Spinning for the tear ducts.

17 Comments:

Blogger Mel said...

Something is wrong with me, because all I can think of when someone says is http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/SongUnid/3244F1D30051F75E48256A370048B6FA

which is the song my dad always sang to my stepmother. We found it uproariously funny, being tall people. She, however, was not amused, being a short people.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Hehehe, Quinn, I have been wanting to comment on your blog for sometime now. I found it via the listing on imdb.com for Goodbye Girl (my all time favourite film. Thank you.) and was very pleased to find that you were -- 1. Still alive. (the rumour which reached my ears in Australia was that you had passed on) and -- 2. that you have a similar wit and a view on life as myself. Anyway, halfway through this entry, I wanted to suggest to you the very same Sarah McLachlan track. That song gets me every time and I find it to be the most beautiful and sad song that I have ever heard. Glad that you enjoy it also. Another teary song that you may enjoy is 'Some People' by Cliff Richard. Not sure what it is about it that gets me going, but it moves me. And gee it is nice to be moved sometimes.

Regards,
Andrew

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see that someone else on the planet purposefully plays something to make themselves cry. Normally, I do that with movies.

"The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" has an ending so touching that I cry even thinking about it.
"It's a Wonderful Life" (even in July -- it's out of season, but dang if it doesn't do the job)
"When Harry Met Sally" has that nice combination of laughter and tears.
"The Goodbye Girl" (you probably get tired of hearing that.. but it kills me when she finds the guitar at the end)
"I Remember Mama" makes me cry even in the opening credits -- but then again, I"m a little odd.

8:01 AM  
Anonymous DC said...

"Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton is, in my view, the last word in crying songs.

DC

8:08 AM  
Anonymous mayapapaya said...

I do exactly the same thing! My current cry song is "Daddy I'm Fine" by Sinead O'Connor. I'm totally fine until the last line of this otherwise belligerent rock song, when the tears well up in happy anticipation of that emotional punch "... and I am happy in my prime, Daddy I'm fine, Daddy I'm fine, and Daddy I love you".
Or how about Ben Folds' "Still Fighting It": "Good morning son ... twenty years from now we'll sit around and have a few beers/ and i can tell you about today and how i picked you up and everything changed". Sob city everytime.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Juliane said...

How about Phil Collins "You'll Be in My Heart" from the animated Tarzan? I didn't care for the movie at all, but that song set me back on my heels but good!

Quite agree with the S. MacLachlan opinion. I spent way too much money on a Disney song book just so I could get the music to play that on the piano. Playing *while* crying? Now THAT's catharsis!

11:08 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Quinn,

Sarah McLachlan's cover of Blackbird is on the soundtrack to I Am Sam, which, in itself, is a wallow in the sadness of the world song.

I know this because I have a freakish love of covers. Anyone covering anything of anyone else's, whether I like the original or not. My collection is massive. From Napster to Morpheus to LimeWire to ITunes and beyond, I spend my time scouring databases for that rare, elusive acoustic tinny sounding hidden treasure of a cover.

May I also recommend a beautiful and haunting cover of Sheryl Crow doing a live version of Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones. Just her, just her piano. It gets me every time. The Dixie Chicks also do a very lovely cover of Landslide by Stevie Nicks. Actually, they do this beautiful acappela version of the Star Spangled Banner (from the Superbowl some year - I don't know when, I barely know what sport the Superbowl is) that moves me to tears EVERY TIME I hear it. Hmm.

I'm getting geek-exicted about this. Is it weird for me to send along a list of great covers and B-sides you can hunt down?

3:39 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

I've been in need of a carthasis, too. After New Orleans and the gulf coast, I was in some sort of state of shock. When Rita came on the scene, I went into a cold dark stare. The thought of Galveston under water just weeks after New Orleans. . . and the reality punch that it really could happen was too much. Ever since Rita failed to destroy Galveston (and Houston), I have been in need of a good cry just to let it all out. Thanks for your suggestions. I was thinking about dropping bricks on my toes, but I'd much rather eat cookies and listen to music!

6:48 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Julie-
For some reason, only about a third of the "I am Sam" soundtrack is available on ITunes; I'm guessing licensing issues.

Jan-
If you have never seen it, try the movie "Avalon", and then find the soundtrack. That should clean out the lacrymal pipes nicely.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

My personal pick of 'sob song' is Billy Joel's "And So it Goes"...

Gets me every time.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Randy Newman is a genius - I have one of his first albums, Sail Away, but it's on LP (yes, both he and I are that old). So if you can find a way to digitize it, Quinn, you can add to your iPod collection. Otherwise, just come over and I'll play it for you - I get eye-rolling from the resident teenager when I try to turn her on to brilliant gems like this.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

"Old & Wise" by the Alan Parsons Project has always ripped me apart.

11:58 AM  
Blogger ellipsis... said...

My big tear-jerker song is "Sooner or Later" (love is gonna get you) by the Grass Roots. Go figure. God, I'm old.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

> The song was written and sung by Sarah McLachlan

"When Somebody Loved Me" was written by Randy, not Sarah. Also, Randy was born in Los Angeles, despite media reports claiming New Orleans, as he explained in a recent NPR interview on "Louisiana 1927":
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4838741

Other than those inaccuracies, I loved your column!

1:40 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Dear Susan,
Thanks for the correction on the writer of the lyrics-guess I should have checked TWO websites,instead of just going with one.
As for Mr. Newman, I heard the same NPR segment and dithered over what to call him. When you (as he did) first visit a city at the age of one week, spend several years there and most of your childhood summers with your family there, it's hard to call someone a visitor, isn't it?

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abit late but I had to ad Deeper Water by Paul Kelly. It would make a statue cry. Especially parents.

Check it out Quinn I implore you.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

I guess I am guilty too. While watching a DVD of Family Affair recently. Buffy and Jody bravely trudged through the set...er city late at night trying to find the owner of a $20 bill they had found. The thought that those two little tykes would risk their life on the mean streets of Paramount Studios, I mean New York to return someone’s lost money sent me bawling my eyes out. All while Uncle Bil,l Mr. French and Cissy were at home franticly worried about their whereabouts. And then the closing credits showed the writers names and I came out of it embarrassed that I had purchased the Family Affair DVD and enjoyed it so much at 37 years of age. I am watching That Girl next.

8:30 AM  

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