Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

I hate the words dago, wop, guido, etc.  People in this country toss these words around quite casually and so I wasn’t always aware of how hurtful or degrading they can be.  When I was 8 or 9, the neighbor’s daughter walked past our house and called me a dago bitch.  I asked my mother what that meant.  Now I am an adult and realize the irony of the situation.  Our neighbor’s daughter was a female dog of Italian descent.  But there is a difference between being Italian and being of Italian descent.  And if you use words like dago and wop, you aren’t Italian.

Zia brought over some homemade prosciutto the other day and I like to pair it up with fresh pineapple.   It’s even better than with cantaloupe.


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Well, yesterday was a glorious day.  Yim and I had Prantl’s burnt almond torte for breakfast with coffee.  It was left over from Yim‘s birthday celebration on Tuesday.  After breakfast we ran a couple of errands together.  We went to Home Depot for anchors and to Market District for lunch meat, rolls, Gerolsteiner and . . . Kennywood tickets!  (Yimmy loves it when I refer to Giant Eagle as Market District!  But, hey, my friend Alyssa calls it Hot Man Mecca!)

While I made a picnic lunch for us, Yimmy re-mounted my mailbox on the front of the house.  I’d given the mailbox a shiny new coat of black paint.  Incidentally, the mail has already come today, and the mailman opened the screen door and dropped the mail inside again, without any notice whatsoever of my newly painted and mounted box.

Once the chores were done and the picnic lunch was packed, Yim and I headed out to Kennywood.  The weather was phenomenal; clear, bright blue sky, dry warmth under the sun with wispy high clouds up above and a cool air circulating just enough so that one never felt uncomfortably hot.  The occasion was Yim‘s boy’s school Kennywood day and all three of his boys went there with their mother.  We shared the responsibility with her, trading off between the older and the younger so that everyone had the opportunity to ride.

Throughout the day Yim and I were prone to our own memories of childhood days spent running the park, from ride to ride, with our friends.  We didn’t leave until the park closed at 10pm and when we got home I collapsed on my bed, feeling the same satisfied exhaustion as I did at the end of a day back when I was 9 years old and had spent the hours running, laughing, riding and eating funnel cakes with Elisabeth.  I fell to sleep fast, with physical heaviness but mental levity, dreaming of all good things.

And so it was a great day, but there is more!

Yesterday marked the last day in the house of the Earth sign Taurus, which, other than my own Capricornian sign, I love the most.  It seems that so many of my favorite people have been born under the sign of the Bull:  Zia, Lord Mycol, Yim, and my brother, Rock.  If you follow the philosophy of the stars, it’s no wonder why.  Consider the following:

The Taurus and Capricorn combination is considered to be one of the best astrological combinations. When they unite there is a union of similar and positive creative forces and a subtle but powerful physical attraction. They understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths perfectly and act accordingly. Since both require a certain amount of acknowledgment of their positive qualities they do the same for each other. They fulfill each other emotionally, physically, intellectually and financially. Saturn and Venus the ruling planet of Capricorn and Taurus respectively complement each other. Taurus loves money and Capricorn wants security and sees financial stability as a way of security. Both are practical, sensual and calculative. They believe in hard work and success. So nothing can be better than this!!

Also, yesterday was, indeed, Rock’s birthday.

Before I get into wishing Rock a belated birthday I’d like to point out that I seem to have developed a habit of birthday posting, which puts a new kind of pressure on a person.  I no longer merely have to remember to check the calendar and get a card off in the mail, but now I must come up with some sort of brilliant tribute to the ones I love, lest any of them feel jilted.  This all started with a ridiculously fun post I wrote, a roast post, if you will, for the birthday of Elisabeth’s husband Dag.  It was one of the easiest and most fun things I’ve written to date.  On that day my blog stats reached their highest rating.  This created a two-fold reason to continue writing birthday blogs: 1) so as not to offend the others, hahaha, and 2) to strive towards beating my personal best where my stats are concerned (I’m talking about daily readership, folks).  This week I won some and lost some.  Let me put it to you this way; I beat my personal best on Tuesday, May 18th with “Feelin’ Good”.  That’s right, Dag, my post for Yim surpassed my post for you!  If I were a statistician I’d tell you by what percent.  On the other hand, I failed to put up a post for one of my most cherished Taureans, my brother Rock.  And so, short and late as it may be, without further adieu . . .

I’d like to tell you all the truth about how I feel about my brother.  I used to wish he was a sister!  I remember telling my mother that I wanted a playmate.  In my recollection of the past, like she’d waved a magic wand to grant my wish, the next thing I knew was that she’d gotten herself pregnant with a playmate exclusively for my sake.  Imagine my utter horror when, after months of giddy anticipation, she came home from the hospital with a boy-child!  What had gone wrong?  It went down like this:

One day my mother was so swollen with pregnancy that she could not find the energy to play with me.  I had no one else to play with at all.  I played imaginary games all by myself with my wooden farm set on the coffee table while she lie big on the sofa with heavy eyelids.  Then, in the dark of night in the middle of a spring rain, we had to leave the house.  There was a mild urgency – do you understand that? From the back seat on the way to my grandparents’ house I peered at blurry street lights through the rain drops on the windshield, glowing white, red, yellow, green, intermittently through the slash of the wipers.

It was likely 4 days later when Mummy returned from the hospital.  It was a sunny spring afternoon.  My grandparents lived in a 3 story large Victorian house and my mother came in through the back door to the sun-lit kitchen carrying the swaddled babe.  The excitement and joy expressed by those around me could not befog the circumstance.  There’d been a dirty trick played and this was not my requested playmate.  As I ran up the dramatic staircase in the entry hall, I stopped two-thirds of the way up, stuck my little head over the banister and screamed past the chandelier, “Why didn’t you tell the doctor we wanted a girl?!”

Oh, the follies of youth.  I’d like to tell you now that I would have it no other way than to have my playmate be my brother Rock.  Despite a fight here and there we got along marvelously.  I love him so much.

In the winter time when we were confined to playing indoors a lot, we used to take his crib mattress and prop it against the bedroom wall.  We mimicked Muhammed Ali and Leon Spinks, sparring with the mattress, fancy-footing around the room and sticking our faces in the mist from the humidifier for the dramatic effect of profuse sweating.

We have been playing together since he could walk and talk and the fun has never come to an end.  There is only one person in the world who really understands what my childhood experience was all about and that is him.  And vice versa.

Still, I did dress him up as a girl and call him Rebecca for about 4 years, until Mummy made me stop.  There is photographic evidence to support this claim.  I suppose you’re wondering which years, as from 12 to 16 would be rather strange, huh?  Don’t worry, he was hardly big enough to defend himself.

I called my brother yesterday and wished him a Happy Birthday and he told me it was his second best to date, the first best being the day he was actually born.  I am so glad his wishes came true.  He met one of his idols, Dave Matthews, who, ironically, shares his birthday with mine.  You see how Taureans and Capricorns love each other?  Rock and his wife, Luvy, were granted a backstage audience (with photos) with Dave, Tim Reynolds and Jane Goodall before enjoying the show up close.  An ecstatic experience for my brother and I am happy for him.

Happy Birthday, Rock!  I love you, brother!

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Now this is what I am talking about folks: COMMENTS AND REQUESTS!  Ha!  Ask and you shall receive!

UB, to answer your question, “By the way do you know who is playing that alto sax in your photo?”, yes, I do.  I must admit I only know now because you asked and I did some research – which took about 4 seconds.  That is Paul Desmond, who actually wrote “Take Five”.


And by the way, did you know that you could click on that ‘photo’ and play the video clip of The Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond playing “Take Five”?  Try it, UB, I know you’ll like it!

And now, because Zia, UB and E-Beth have all requested the story of what happened with Rock and the bird, here it is: (E-Beth, chime in with more detail if I am forgetting something here…)

Rock used to wear one of these all the time:


That’s a batting helmet for the best team in the league!!  Okay, so I think Rock’s helmet only had one little hole in the center of the dome, rather than two as in this image, therefore cutting the chances of something randomly dropping from the sky onto his scalp in half.  Right?  Right.  And as we, E-Beth, Rock and I played on Broughton Street, running up and down, jumping and climbing the mulberry tree on the edge of the property, somehow a bird dropped it’s, well, it’s droppings, straight through that little 1/4 inch diameter hole in the center of Rock’s batting helmet.  INCOMING!!!

And everyone knows that getting hit with bird poop is good luck, right?

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3 Little Brown Eggs

I am sitting here at my desk listening to a morning dove coo outside my window.  The windows are shut because even thought the sun is shining brightly, it is extremely cold outside.  I am eating leftover jelly beans from Easter because I am starving and there is nothing already made to eat in the house and I don’t feel much like cooking.  I just ate a pear flavored jelly bean and that is my absolute favorite flavor.  Lord Mycol has left for work and the house is empty, quiet.  I am daydreaming about my ideal situation.  Where the blog is concerned, I’d ideally like to log in to my account and see that nearly everyone has left a comment for me.  It’s validating.  Most days, though, I struggle to get more people to visit in the first place, let alone comment.  Of all the visitors that click by, how do I even know how many of them actually read the article I posted?  Sometimes the truth is just that I am tired of coming up with new and interesting things to write about.  Any suggestions?

My Zia has told me that when I was a little baby she held me sitting on her lap.  In those ancient times babies were still wearing diapers made from natural fibers, like cotton.  Mothers had to wash them and dry them every time they were soiled.  Children were potty trained nearly as soon as they could walk.  So there I sat in Zia’s lap without a diaper at all.  When she picked me up she saw that I had laid 3 little brown eggs in her lap.

When I was 3 years old I named one of my baby dolls Diarrhea.

My brother and I used to fight like cats and dogs sometimes.  When he was smaller than me and I would torture him, adults used to warn me that when he grew up the tables would turn.  The tables did turn by the time he was 8 years old.  He was like the Tasmanian Devil when he got mad.  A raging bull.  I would fight with him to a certain point and then it became a game of survival for me.  I had to lock myself in the bathroom, the only room with a locking door, to protect myself.  And his rage lasted for hours!  I got tired of being a bathroom shut-in!  At some point I figured on how to lock him out of the house instead.  When from the other side of the door he told me that he had to go to the bathroom, the very room that used to be my refuge from slaughter, and pleaded with me to let him in to use the toilet, I sympathized and truce-fully opened up.  And I got pummeled.  But then there was the time.  As in, “Remember the time when . . .?”  The time when I locked him out of the house again and he begged me to let him back in to go to the bathroom again.  “Go outside,” I said.  But he said he had to go ‘number 2’.  “So what,” I said, not believing him.  “Go outside!”  And seemingly with no other choice, he did.  We had a fairly private back yard.  Our dog didn’t seem to mind.  But that evening when we sat down to dinner with Mummy, she asked that question that all good children dread to hear; “Okay, which one of you pooped outside?”  And we simultaneously pointed at each other.  Who knew adults could tell the difference between dog and human poop?  Then Mummy made poor Rock go and cover up his mess with dirt, just like a cat!  And that is how we used to fight like cats and dogs.

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Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than his children. — Cicero

I have a vivid memory from my childhood of playing on Broughton Street and plotting out my future in my imagination.  When I married, my husband and I would live in the country and have a small farm where we would raise a brood of children.  I was thinking of Little House on the Prairie and how ideal that lifestyle seemed to me.  Later, in high school, I imagined I’d rather just have 3 children, and could they all please be boys?  In real life, I did have a baby boy, just as I hoped.  He was the biggest fish, too, weighing in at 9 lbs. 6 oz.  I remember thinking then that I loved him so much, how could I possibly love a second child equally as my first?  But I never had to cross that road and he wound up getting all the love that I had in my heart to give to ten children all to himself.  Now, so many years later, I am wondering what I will do with myself when my only chick decides to fly the coop.

Today, May 1st, is my son Mycol’s 19th birthday.  I have been thinking all week long about what to post here on this special day, but I don’t even think Mycol reads my blog!  Even so, I have decided to take a photographic trip, mostly to 1994 and ’95, while I share with you some of the things that make Mycol who he is.

Mycol knew his numbers when he was little.  While he wasn’t a great artist, he would still take crayon in hand and write all of the numbers from zero on up, until there was no more room on the paper.  He did this a lot, and all of the many sheets of paper covered in numbers are a good example of how he has always kept hundreds of objects or facts organized in his brain.

For instance, Mycol got his first Legos for Christmas when he was 2 1/2 years old.

By the time he was 10, he had at least 5,000 pieces.  He constantly played with them.  After the initial assembly, following the directions, his Legos would be dismantled and rebuilt into myriad constructions.  As I made dinner he would dump the bins of Legos in a pile on his bedroom floor and build.  I cannot tell you how many times he called me in to help him find a piece.  He would say, “Mom, can you help me find a piece like this?” and he would show me the piece.  “I have 4 more of them in gray and I have 6 in red.  I need a gray one.”  I would look at the pile and look at him in astonishment.  How could he keep track of all those tiny blocks?

Mycol was the most pleasant of babies.  He never fussed, he never threw tantrums.  I don’t know how I got so lucky.  It’s not selective memory.  He was just content.  He let me know when he was hungry and he let me know when he needed changed, and once he was satisfied, that was that.  Smiling and relaxed again.  We didn’t have to survive the ‘terrible twos’.  He never threw himself onto the floor of a store because he couldn’t have something or because he was tired and wanted to leave.  I never had to wrestle with the dead weight of his little resisting body.  He was such a good eater, determined to get every morsel in his mouth, I hardly had any mess to clean up behind him.  He never once fussed to get out of the car seat.  I swear, not once!

When Mycol was about 5, UB started getting baseball and football trading cards for him.  Mycol’s collection began to grow as big as his collection of Legos.  Grand Mere started getting him binders with clear plastic sleeves to keep the cards organized.  Mycol would arrange and rearrange the cards in ordered stacks on the floor according to different statistics.  Sometimes he arranged by team and other times by position or college or rookie year.  By the time he was 8 years old, he could hold his own weight in a sports conversation with 45 year old men.  He could spew stats from players that were drafted 30 years before he was even born.  Grown men were always impressed with his knowledge.

Over the years, Mycol has traveled the world with me and been a great side-kick.  He likes to explore new places, meet new people, and try new foods.  He is open minded and unbiased, which makes me proud.

Every single one of Mycol’s teachers, from kindergarten through high school, has told me that while he is enthusiastic and smart, he talks too much in class and has to try and curb himself.  It’s true, Mycol is a conversationalist and has never, ever been able to sit through class without talking to someone.  Believe me, he loves to talk to teachers, too!

Whenever I meet an adult who has interacted with my son, whether on the job or from the neighborhood, they compliment me on what a bright and polite young man I’ve raised.  I know my family can’t believe it, because he’s not afraid to exercise some lip at home, but out in the world I’m confident he minds his P’s and Q’s.

Some of Mycol’s favorite things to do were riding his bike on the trails, watching Kratt’s Creatures and Marty Stouffer’s Wild America on PBS, spending the weekend at Zia’s, and playing with his Spiderman, Venom, and other action figures.

When he was 3, he said he wanted to live on the North Pole because he couldn’t stand to be too hot in the summer time.  Born in San Diego, it took him years to adapt to the humidity of the northeastern summer.

In middle school Mycol started putting his organizational skills and love of sports together and began putting together pick-up games and teams.  There have always been papers lying all over the house covered in team and stat lists for his players.  He started playing school basketball, football, and baseball.  When there wasn’t an organized sport to play, he organized it.  All those years of rounding up players culminated in his participation with a local semi-pro league.  These days, if Mycol is not in class, at work, or at home, he’s most likely “down the field” playing football or shooting hoops.  I have encouraged him not to chase money, but rather to follow his passion and the money will follow.  So far, he majors in kinesiology, and if he continues, I think someday he will make an excellent coach.

Because I am the Duchess, he is the Lord.  And because Lord Mycol is my number one son, I am making him a lemon cloud tart with blackberry compote for his birthday dessert.  The boy loves berries, always has.  I asked him, “For your birthday, would you prefer chocolate or berries?”  I only asked because I prefer chocolate and I was hoping for that off-chance.  Of course, he replied, “berries,” as expected.  And what the Lord wants, the Lord gets.  After all, he is my favorite son.  (You’ll notice the recipe calls for rhubarb compote, but we prefer the blackberries).

So, it’s hard to believe he is 19 years old today and I can still remember the day he was born clear as ever.  Just look at him now!

Happy Birthday, Mycol!  I love you and may you have many, many more years filled with progress, love, and happiness!

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Last night I finally went to a Storytelling Night with Yim.  He’s been asking me to go almost as long as he’s known me and somehow it has never worked out.  So after dinner last night I drove out to Border’s Bookstore and met up with him.  I didn’t expect that all of the stories would be children’s tales, but the best thing happened!  Storyteller Barbara Guger told the Brothers Grimm fairytale Snow White and Rose Red.


As a child, I had a Tale Spinners album (I think it was Tale Spinners) with Snow White and Rose Red on one side and The Goose Girl on the other.  I listened to this story so many times that when I heard it told again last night I recognized every bit of it, and it was just as wonderful as ever.  I realized that I had a vivid picture in my mind of every scene in the story; a result of the effects of listening to a story and using your own imagination as opposed to watching a story play out on screen.  I loved every word of it.

I feel really good today because I have gotten a lot of things done in the past week and therefore I am extra confident that I will accomplish even more in the week to come.  I’ve made my lists and systematically crossed things off.  I’ve managed my time wisely.  My motto is “If I rest, I rust.”  I have gardened with Yim, broken bread with the Italian Ladies Social Club, cleaned the house, renewed library books, cooked delicious, whole food, written, brought good company and lunch from Pho Minh to dear friends recovering from illnesses, gone to Storytelling Night with Yim and his boys, had the roof repaired and entirely resealed, and started a new home improvement project myself.

In the coming weeks I hope to post all about the Easter holiday with my family, the garden that Yim and I have started, and I’d like to review all of the remodeling and decorating efforts I have made over the past 2 years.

Yesterday I started to remove the wallpaper from the entry hall with the stairs to the second floor.

My goal is to paint the walls a light gray, re-shellac the woodwork where needed, and pull up the carpet.  So far I think the floor beneath the carpet is in good condition, but we shall see.  This wallpaper has been the worst I’ve ever removed.  It is not vinyl, washable, cloth-backed paper.  It is glue-backed paper and it is stuck like skin to the wall.  First, I perforate the paper by running my utility knife in a criss-cross pattern all over the area.  Then, I spray the wall with a warm water and vinegar solution.  After it sits for about 10 minutes I start to go at it with my scraper, trying to pry up edges and pull back the sections as well as I can.  Mostly the paper starts to peel in layers and I have to re-spray and re-scrape until it is all gone.  The upstairs hallway has the same paper and I’ll get to work on it once this hall is finished.  I can’t wait.

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There is a radio in my bathroom that remains plugged in.  This way, when I hit the light switch, voila, I have music as well.  I’ve always kept it this way, no matter where I’ve lived.  I just love to hear music as often as I can, even if it is in the can.

Sometimes a song will take me straight back in time and remind me of everything about a moment in my past, and this is the best kind of sometimes.  Songs are like smells that way.  They can trigger your memory to recall all the details of an instance.

All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments. — Walt Whitman

I thought it would be fun to make a list of all the songs I can think of that have this effect on me, share the list with you, and ask you to post a comment with your own songs and the memories they induce.

Here are mine:

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” – sung by B.J. Thomas

In my memory this song is forever linked to the nursery rhyme

It’s raining, it’s pouring,

The old man is snoring,

He went to bed and he bumped his head,

And couldn’t get up in the morning.

When I was three years old we lived in an apartment on the third floor of one of the big, old Victorians around here, and from our window I could see the steeple of the Gothic Presbyterian church in East Liberty.  I was three, so I can’t explain anything about the memory other than if I hear the song “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” it most definitely always triggers the memory of the nursery rhyme and the view of the steeple from our window.

Suicide Is Painless” – theme song from M*A*S*H*.

I’m sure that many people my age can remember their parents tuning in to M*A*S*H* every week on TV.  It was one of my mother’s favorite programs, and I understood that it was funny, but most of the time the only thing that I could really laugh at was Jamie Farr in drag.  So it would make sense that the theme song would provoke memories of the show.  What I remember when I hear this theme song is my 5th grade music class at Liberty Elementary School.  That year we learned to sing this song and I can still clearly visualize the wide-ruled paper I wrote the lyrics on in pencil.

Through early morning fog I see
visions of the things to be
the pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…


That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
all our little joys relate
without that ever-present hate
but now I know that it’s too late, and…


The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.


The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I’m beat
and to another give my seat
for that’s the only painless feat.


The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger…watch it grin, but…


A brave man once requested me
to answer questions that are key
‘is it to be or not to be’
and I replied ‘oh why ask me?’

‘Cause suicide is painless
it brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
…and you can do the same thing if you choose.

Such deep and gloomy lyrics to teach to a classroom full of children.  Obviously, I can’t forget it.

“I Think I’m Turning Japanese” – The Vapors

“Life in Tokyo” – Japan

Music will often play a kind of soundtrack to your life, especially to the good times with good friends.  I think it’s strange and interesting that there is an Asian theme to these two songs that will eternally be linked to my friendship with Elisabeth.

When I was 7 years old, I was walking back to my house from playing up the street.  The summer day was coming to an end.  It was just dusk outside.  My roller-skates with the pink rubber wheels were slung over my shoulder, tied together at the laces.  Sounds cliché, but it is 100% true.  I could see my mother sitting on the front porch with my 3-year-old brother.  And waiting to cross the street on the opposite curb was some lanky boy I’d never seen before.  As I got closer to home I saw this boy cross the street and go right up onto my porch and talk to my mother.  And as I got closer still, I realized that boy was a girl.  Elisabeth was taller than me but had shorter hair than me.  She was long and skinny.  She was wearing a t-shirt with horizontal alternating navy and white pin-stripes.  She had bubble-gum stuck to her shirt.  She had a white gauze bandage taped to her ankle – a burn from the exhaust pipe of her uncle’s motorcycle.  We became quick friends and over the years these songs were used in group choreographed dance contests we had at her birthday parties.  “I Think I’m Turning Japanese” can absolutely be considered our theme song.

“King of Pain” – The Police

I guess I must have been 12 years old when I read Cujo by Stephen King.  By this time we were living in that huge, drafty house that I did most of my growing up in.  My bedroom was on the first floor, while my mother and brother slept upstairs.  I’ve mostly always read in bed before switching off my bedside lamp and going to sleep.  I’ve not always read with the radio on as well, but that is what I was doing then.  Cujo was so scary and I felt so alone and vulnerable on the first floor.  I had the radio on quietly beside me as I read so as to comfort me.  And then the DeeJay played “King of Pain”.  It was the first time I’d ever heard it.  It was just as dark and eerie as Cujo.  I put the book down and listened to the lyrics and got even more creeped out.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love this song a lot, and part of it’s appeal is what it did to me that night.

“Need You Tonight” – INXS

“Tell It To My Heart” – Taylor Dayne

Okay, I just watched these videos and listened to the lyrics and got a little embarrassed.  Oh my.  Well, you can probably guess that these songs, and the videos, trigger my memories of my “dawn of womanhood”.  Let’s just say that the mature feelings expressed by the lyricists inaccurately describe my experience, but nonetheless, I am transported in time to a certain weekend of my life.  And we’ll leave it at that.

“Big Mouth Strikes Again” – The Smiths

When I married Mike in Oregon we spent a few nights in his mother’s guest bedroom before and after our “honeymoon”.  We listened to The Smiths in the damp coolness of Oregon’s November on the Columbia River.  It sounds slightly romantic, but I assure you, the lyrics should be “sweetness, I wasn’t joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.”  I actually love Morrissey and The Smiths and think their lyrics are brilliant, but listening to this one is somewhat bittersweet.

I’m not trying to be morose here, there are songs by the dozens that take me back to happy, happy places.  I just felt this was a nice sampling to share, even if the last few do seem to remind me of things less than ideal.  C’est la vie.

Now it’s your turn.  In the comments section of this post, tell us about a song that transports you to another time and the memory it triggers.  More than one?  Great!  Let’s hear them!

Without music life would be a mistake. — Nietzsche

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