1. Willy Porter "Unconditional"
2. David Bowie "Heroes"
3. Journey "Don't Stop Believin'"
4. Matt Hires "State Lines"
5. Toad the Wet Sprocket "Windmills"
6. The Damnwells "Texas"
7. Ian Axel "Gone"
8. Greg Holden "The Lost Boy"
9. Rick Springfield "Tear It All Down"
10. Greg Laswell "Sweet Dream"
11. HYUNA "Bubble Pop"
12. Pink "U and UR Hand"
You don't forget the song that's playing when you get goosed by a shirtless and sexy black man. Thanks Pink.
From West of Independence page 190:
Lights flashed, fog filled the room, and bubbles filtered down from above. People were writhing and jumping to the music. It seemed that everyone around me was finding his or her own groove. I stood like a pillar of anti-rhythm in the center of the pulsating crush. I was a white-heterosexual-married-male in his mid-thirties standing on the dance floor of a gay nightclub.
And then it happened.
The hands on my ass could not have been my wife's; Ella was in front of me, dancing like a diva. They weren't Jared's, because he too was in front of me, and my own brother, no matter how gay, would not have grabbed my butt in such a suggestive manner. This realization took but a fractured moment. I spun around to see whose hands had not only grabbed, but squeezed my cheeks.
A black man with a very muscular (and shirtless) build stood behind me, his hands only just removed from my butt, and a bright smile on his face. He winked at me before turning away, presumably to dance, but the thought occurred to me that perhaps he expected me to return the handy favor.
I didn't. Circling back to face Ella and Jared seemed to take several minutes. My dear wife was shaking what the good Lord had given her, but she stopped when she saw the look on my face.
"What?" She shouted, her hands gesturing confusion.
I leaned over to shout in her ear, and the words felt funny crossing my tongue. "I just got goosed by a very large, half-naked black man!"
13. Mat Kearney "Fire and Rain"
One of my greatest fears is that I will forget Jared. I remember the first week I went without crying at least a little every day, and the subsequent guilt that I felt for not grieving at a constant clip. It had been almost three years since his passing.
After Jared died I was told to "get over it," that "life is for the living," that "Jared was selfish to do what he did," and that there was "nothing" I could have done. The hollow words seemed to stack up around me like cordwood brought by (well-meaning?) people that hoped it would keep me warm through the sad and bitter cold of loss.
Even now, after going through such a terrible loss, I still don't know what to say to someone that has lost a loved one. That's okay though, because I have learned that it is better to just be there to listen, rather than to be there to advise or counsel. It's what I wanted, it's what I needed, and I was lucky in that a few of my friends were wise, compassionate, and patient enough to offer it to me.
Words of comfort are easy. Actions of comfort are hard.
From West of Independence page 213:
But ruin was hardly the right word to use when talking about the pueblo; the original owners had built their home to last. A formidable structure with straight edges, thick walls, and sharp corners, it had been standing strong against the elements for nearly a thousand years. The tower stood three stories high from the base of the rock upon which it was built, affording the occupants plenty of time to prepare for welcome or war. I doubted that anyone had ever snuck up undetected, and was sure that any attackers had suffered a nasty assault from high above.
We ducked through a tiny opening and entered the tower. I stood on the uneven dirt floor and cocked my head back to look at the cobalt patch of sky overhead, framed by the high red walls.
“Beautiful,” I marveled out loud. My voice bounced around inside the tower.
We took turns looking out through a hole that might have been a window. The walls were almost as thick as my arm was long. My imagination was hard at work as I looked out the window at the landscape. A band of enemy warriors was approaching, their lances held aloft. Connor and I rained arrows down on them from our fortress tower.
After repelling the attackers, I pulled my head back inside the pueblo and returned to reality. I turned to see Connor staring out through an even smaller square in the wall to my right. The camera cord hung out of his back pocket. I reached out and tugged the camera free without a sound.
Connor was lost in thought, as if he were searching for something or someone far away on the horizon. I snapped a photo of him from across the little room.
Leaving my brother to his daydreams, I crawled back through the little doorway and out into the sunlight. I looked out across the large open area that made up half of the pueblo. I could picture deerskins stretched and drying in the sun, baskets full of gathered foods, a fire pit ringed with stones, and children chasing a flea-ridden puppy in happy loud circles.
“That would have been a great place to stage battles with our Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures,” Connor mused, interrupting my imagination with good memories.
I looked down from the pueblo to the rocks below us, where Connor was pointing. “Definitely, look at all the great places for waiting in ambush,” I agreed.
As kids we had spent more of our playtime choosing our figures and vehicles, staging them on the battlefield, building their bases, and mapping out scenarios than we had in actual play. In fact, we took so much time to work out the details that we rarely played past the initial setup.
Connor and I stood in the ruins of an ancient Native American pueblo, reliving the best moments of our childhood. It was an unlikely moment in an even more unlikely setting.
And I hadn't forced it.
14. Ben Folds "Still Fighting It"
I have little time for adults who suck the joy out of life. Meetings, responsibilities, goals, and hard work are all well and good, but they have their place, and that place should often be much smaller than we make it.
No one ever accused me of being too mature, but I will be damned on the day that my children feel the urgent obligation of shaming me into being there for them in their time of need.
From West of Independence page 236:
“Could you sit down? I need to talk to you both and I need to focus.” I tried to mask the trembling in my voice, but failed.
“Oh, this must be serious, he wants our full attention,” Dad quipped, his tone taking an obnoxious dive into condescension as he sat at the table next to Mom.
“I just wanted to say that I think you should go to Jared. He tried to kill himself; he is sad, lonely, and feeling worthless. He needs to know that people care about him. He needs to feel love. He needs his parents telling him that they love him. He needs you.” The words came out in a calm rush until I spoke the final three, which were delivered through the onset of tears.
My parents sat in silence. I wiped my eyes and waited at the other end of the table that had served as the centerpiece for countless moments in our family history. We had gathered around it for happy dinners, arduous lectures, family meetings, and birthday celebrations. There wasn’t a grandchild that hadn’t slept for hours atop that table in a car seat, and most of them had probably had a diaper changed at least once on its surface. It had needed a few repairs over the years, but it had stood up against our abuse. The table had witnessed all of the good and the bad that our family had to offer.
“Well, it’s not as simple as that,” Dad said, breaking the silence with his all-too-familiar father-knows-best voice.
He could have stopped right there, at the end of that first sentence. I had heard that tone before, and I knew what was sure to follow.
“We don’t even know that they would let us in to see him once we got there. He is in the mental health ward, and in my experience that is not a place where they allow many visitors. We could fly all the way there just to stand in the hallway,” he explained, as if I were a child that had not considered such grown-up things.
“Then you stand in the hallway outside his room and shout through the door that you are there, and that you love him. You write notes to him, and give them to the nurses to give to him. He needs to hear that you love him. He needs his mother. He needs his father." My voice cracked, but I held the new threat of tears at arm's length.
“Look, we have to be realistic here. We can’t do him any good if we aren’t here to take or make phone calls relating to the situation. We don’t know how long they are going to keep him there. It might be quite a while, and what are we going to do, live in a hotel until they release him? We can do more good from here than we can out there.” Dad’s reply was exactly what I had expected, but not what I had hoped for.
15. Snow Patrol "You Could Be Happy"
Elizabeth stood in the closet, one of Jared's tee shirts in her hands. I sat on the bed, my eyes edged in tears.
I watched as she pulled the shirt up to her face, rubbing her cheek against it. "Oh, Matty, I can smell him," she cried suddenly.
I leapt from the bed, rushed across the room, and joined my wife in the closet. Together we buried our faces in the soft cotton fabric, taking in Jared's scent. Joy filled the tiny space, and the sweet tones of our own laughter sounded in our ears for the first time in recent memory.
From West of Independence Page 264:
Jared stopped rummaging in the closet and turned to face me. A sudden quiet fell over us both, filling the room. Jared started shaking as if he were cold, and his eyes widened with fright. After a long moment something inside him gave way, and he collapsed against me, his arms reaching around me for support.
“I am so scared...” he cried, his voice like that of a little boy afraid of the monsters under his bed.
I held him in my arms, his slender frame trembling against my chest.
“I know you are, I know you are,” I whispered into his hair.
“I love you, Matthew.”
I hugged him tighter, as if my strength could somehow cross over from my body into his.
“I love you too, Jared."