What good am I?

Recently I was talking with a friend about a dog that I’d seen and mentioned that it was a “Rick Springfield dog,” meaning that it looked like Springfield’s dog that he put on all his album covers. A friend of this friend, who was standing nearby, in his pressed-as-though-disheveled Urban Outfitters ensemble, with perfectly mussed hair, adjusted his Lisa Loeb glasses–oh, I’m sorry, those are indie hipster glasses . . . my bad–and scoffed, “I wouldn’t know what kind of dog that is. I never bought a Rick Springfield album.”

Finally, someone more mainstream-impaired than I am, but what an arrogant ass about it. Then I got to thinking about emails I swapped with some of my loyal six readers about what music to request for my upcoming 20-year high school reunion. Both of them suggested that I go with REO Speedwagon, and I sorta dissed REO in my replies to them.

But who am I kidding? I know all the words to those REO songs that I dissed, so it’s not like I never listened to them. Or sang along with them. Or maybe even turned them up on the AM radio in the Moosemobile, late at night, all by myself. I’m also the one who introduced (subjected) Brother #2 to Styx. Yes, even during the Mr. Roboto days, I stood by Styx. And, since you know that Enya made me cry during pregnancy, you know that I have it on hand to listen to. This makes my emails about REO as snotty as my hipper-than-thou friend’s comments, and hypocritical to boot.

I got to thinking about all of this while I drove in to work today, listening to the radio shows replaying snippets of live coverage from 9/11/01. I couldn’t take too much of it, and found myself flipping around, looking for some comforting music, which I couldn’t find because everyone was talking about 9/11. It made me wish for CDs other than what I had in the car, specifically the mix that I put together after getting an email from my best friend in NYC after 9/11 that simply read, “Where was Superman when we needed him most?”

That led me to listen to a few songs differently, and then to compile those with some others that both dredged up and soothed my sadness about that day. It’s a mix of songs that’s, by turns, maudlin and obscure. On a day when I’d like to remember not how awful and sad this world can be, but how strong, good, and kind people can be, even when confronted with unspeakable tragedy, I offer up this playlist as penance for my transgressions. At the end of the day, who cares if it’s REO Speedwagon or R.E.M.? Whatever gets you through the night, as a wise man once said.

So, yeah, it’s not all the time, but I do listen to Rick Springfield, and REO Speedwagon, and Enya still makes me cry sometimes, as do most of these songs, especially when I think of that day when Superman abandoned us. But I’m comforted to know that we didn’t abandon each other in our times of greatest need, that we held onto each other and held each other up, even as each of us was stripped to the bone.

  1. Fanfare for the Common Man-Copland
    Because that’s who we all are and that’s who we lost. Common men and women.
  2. Hold On-Sarah McLachlan
    Because this is going to hurt like hell. This did hurt like hell. It still hurts like hell.
  3. Pale September-Fiona Apple
    Because it became a pale September in a matter of minutes.
  4. Superman-R.E.M.
    Because sometimes nobody is Superman. Sometimes nobody knows what is happening here.
  5. O Superman-Laurie Anderson
    Because “when love is gone, there’s always justice. And when justice is gone, there’s always force. And when force is gone, there’s always mom. Hi mom. So hold me, mom.”
  6. Recycled Air-Postal Service
    Because every time we fly away from my home in California, “I watch the patchwork farms’ slow fade into the ocean’s arms.”
  7. From the Air-Laurie Anderson
    Because it’s hard not to hear this as a horrible prophecy. It’s hard to hear this song at all, anymore.
  8. Dies Irae-W. A. Mozart
    Because it was “Heaven and earth to ash consuming.”
  9. Stay (Faraway, So Close)-U2
    Because there were so many angels who hit the ground that day.
  10. Crash-Dave Matthews Band
    Because we all crashed into each other that day, because we all need to be forgiven for our haste, because we all held each other so close.
  11. Clocks-Coldplay
    Because “Confusion never stops, closing walls and ticking clocks . . . home, where I wanted to go.”
  12. Superman-Five for Fighting
    Because “I can’t stand to fly. I’m not that naive. I’m just out to find the better part of me. I’m more than a bird. I’m more than a plane. . . . I wish that I could cry, fall upon my knees . . .”
  13. Superman’s Song-Crash Test Dummies
    Because “I despair the world will never see another man like him.”
  14. What Good Am I-Bob Dylan
    Because “what good am I, if I’m just like all the rest? If I just turn away when I see how you’re dressed? . . . If I turn a deaf ear to the thunder in the sky. . . . And I freeze in the moment, like the rest who don’t try. . . . And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings, and I just turn my back while you silently die. What good am I?”
  15. Walk Away-Ben Harper
    Because we all had to walk away. From those who we lost. From our cities. From the past.
  16. Stop All the Clocks-W.H. Auden
    Because all the clocks might as well have stopped.
  17. Only Time-Enya
    Because it was used as a soundtrack to a riveting and horrifying slideshow of 9/11 photos that someone sent me a link to long ago. And that I had to watch, but could never watch again.
  18. Lacrimosa-W.A. Mozart
    Because “Tearful that day, on which will rise from ashes guilty man for judgment. So have mercy, O God, on this man.”
  • I L-O-V-E REO Speedwagon and I’m proud to say it. Ya know what else? I listen to Jesse’s Girl all the time. I am also a proud listener of country music. I get made fun of by my friends but screw ’em. If that’s what gets me jammin’ in the car and calms me down enough to not get road rage then there you go. You’re welcome–millions of lives saved!

  • Well, I think I’m even more mainstream-impaired, since the only items on your list that I can bring to mind are the Dave Matthews Band, Laurie Anderson and Mozart. Let’s see…1996, 1982, and 1791. I am so with the times.

    9/11 in my family is pretty funky as it is both my birthday and the day my stepbrother died at the WTC. Back in 2001 I promised to find a way to use my birthday to make the world a better place. So far the only thing I can honestly say I’ve achieved is that I’m trying to raise my children to be compassionate and non-violent. Maybe it’s a start.