Sunday, December 27, 2015

Finding Zara Larsson

Ever had one of those days when you almost can't quite convince yourself that it's really worth the effort to not go ahead and take that last step?  Most military veterans are familiar with that convoluted train of thought, and mostly we manage to do something else.  For the last decade and more too many of us haven't though, at a rate of 22 a day on average here in the US.  Thousands of us every year.  Why isn't this strange company to find myself in?

This is my story of how I'm not one them quite yet, and how a teenage Swedish Pop singer plays an important part in continuing that string of accomplishment into the future.

Most stories have a beginning, and this one starts when I was a teenage Californian whose voice stubbornly wouldn't settle into any recognizable vocal range.  Instead of singing, I read.  In particular, I read Robert A. Heinlein, and the works of his that most impressed me had to do with the Howard Families and Lazerous Long in particular (no links - consider this an exercise of your Google Fu :)).  Never mind the wiz-bang technology or the somewhat questionable philosophy; the thing that stuck in my testosterone-flooded mind was the reason ol' Woodrow Wilson Howard claimed to be the real cause of his having lived for so long (English tense gets a little bit fuzzy when you're describing a Future History event you read about 50 years ago). 

Basically, he didn't want to miss what comes next.  You see, in the first few decades of his life he recognised that not only did change continue to occur, it occured in a recursive fashion.  A new thing over here leading to something entirely else over there, inspiring an improvement to something totally unrelated some other place.  Sometimes good, sometimes not-so-much, but always the predictable pattern that, if you can just hang around long enough, you will see some wonderful newness and have a chance at experiencing greatness.  The trick being to live through the experience, of course (if there's no trick to doing it, where's the adventure part of the story?).

Which brings this story back around.

 I first read about the concept of a "wikiwander", following one wikipedia link after another until you find yourself in serious need of a loo and more coffee, from Tamara Keel though I doubt she would claim to be the originator even if she was.  You can do the same kind of thing on You Tube.  Lindsay Sterling leads to Pentatonix, which (somehow - I was there and even I'm not real clear how) leads to Five Finger Death Punch, which obviously gets you to Taylor Swift, to ... wait a minute, who's this chick? 

Have you ever heard a voice that touched a void place in your soul?  That you didn't even know was there (that last is sort-of in the nature of a void, actually; the absence of any detectable presence)?  It's not the lyrics especially, that's a different thing; this is about the timbre and presence of the voice itself.  They say when you first hear your childrens voices is like that, but ... sorry, not so much. 

It all tends to run together in my memory now, but I think the first song was "Endless", or maybe "Carry You Home", and I know "Rooftop" was in there.  It mystifies me why no commenter has correctly identified the emotion in "She's Not Me, Pt 2".  That's not anger; if the girl was pleading any harder, she'd be in tears (which I'm guessing is more of an Italian thing than Swedish).  If I'm wrong, and she is anrgy instead of frustrated, then Pt 3 is going to feature something large, sharp and pointy if Swedish cultural history is any guide.  More probably, Pt 3 would demonstrate the effect of finding someone who appreciates that Me is not She and how little interest Me has in how anyone else is (that made sense when it was between my ears).

Most people I expect, but military vets for certain, have a recurring schedule of hard-to-get-through times; you'd think after so many years of practice dealing, it would get easier.  I know it was late summer (which here in Texas runs from June till "will this never end?"), and there were other stressors I was letting get the better of me, but that was when I first heard those songs.  I let the experience of Zara's voice get lost in the mix of (mostly non-) events that were also taking place at the time. 

I re-discovered her in early October, which is fortunate since birthdays are a pretty common trigger for dark thoughts and emotional desperation.  The CD "Zara Larsson 1" was only available through her european music company then (via Amazon natch), but I bought it anyway as a BD gift to myself.  I'm thinking it isn't actually possible to wear out the electrons in my computer, but I've been giving that theory a rigorous test ever since. I downloaded my copy of the CD into Windows Media Player, made a playlist of it, and have proceeded to try my neighbor's patience mercilessly.  I can say without reservation that there is widespread sentiment where I live, work, and even among people I only occasionally drive by, that "Zara Larsson 2" can't be released soon enough.

Man, am I in love with that girl's vocal cords.

Proof of my boyhood belief that life will offer new and different relief if I can only just hang on, is illustrated by my discovery of Zara and her love of song.  Those of us who take the periodic opportunity to look the void straight in the eye are usually intimately familiar with both ends of the gun barrel.  I keep all my blades sharp enough, and know how to push away instead of cut across.  And then "Uncover" comes up in the rotation, or maybe it's "Wanna Be Your Baby", and all that other relief stays on the shelf.  There ... but not, you know?   

And that's how I do it.

All my life this sense of certainty that, no matter how bad it gets there will be some newness for me to discover and learn to experience, is what keeps me from stepping into the void instead of tossing off the usual wink as I turn away.  I'm lucky really; my lifetime accumulation of owies are bearable with the usual abuse of OTC nostrums.  I've gone through the amatuer pharmaceutical pursuit and come out the other side (mostly) unscathed and un-arrested (there was that one time, but moral certainty doesn't rise to the level of actual evidence so far in this country, so a misdemeaner charge had to suffice) (also demonstrating that the human capacity to survive the spontaneous over-consumption of at least one particular amatuer pharmaceutical is way more than US government anti-drug propaganda would have it) (just sayin' ... :)). 

I've always managed to find a way to get to the next newness, and that always enables me to keep looking elsewhere than the business end of one of my guns or (literally) fall on one of my swords.  Oh yeah!  Martial arts aren't just chop-socky these days, there's Historical European Martial Arts!  With ten centuries or more of Western Martial Arts tradition to pick from, there must easily be a dozen or more time-tested tools to make one hell of a mess of yourself for the crime scene boys and girls to wade through after.  :)  The books alone stack up to a pretty stiff drop, never mind the sharp stuff.

All of this is very hard for anyone else to go through.  Mostly (and completely understandably, trust me) they haven't.  Not for long.  There always comes a point where all the good becomes entangled with all the rest, and I must offer a powerful attraction to otherwise sane women because they all have shown good sense and stepped away eventually.  There's a school of thought that has it that, after you reach a certain age, you shouldn't take on another pet because you'll die before it does. That pretty much sums up my thoughts about involving another woman in my life. 

There's a positive thought in there somewhere.

That's another thing about human anguish; I don't understand why Zara singing about it is solace to a kinked-up soul, but I'm grateful.  It's not like music hasn't always been a big part of my life, because it very much has; I've just been miserable at doing anything with it myself (and everyone around me has been too, on the occasions I've tried).  Song has always moved my spirit, but this girl's voice transports my imagination like (almost) nothing else ever has.  Resist the temptation to help me over-think this.

After decades of accumulating ill-health, I find myself losing weight and gathering strength again.  Daily yoga (this is a good starting point) and working on the footwork of long sword make other exercise more likely.  Whoever said life doesn't have a soundtrack never heard of earbuds and MP3 players.  :)

Tip-toeing cautiously around the "that's kinda creepy" boundary, I keep having this day-dream about a rooftop cafe in Stockholm.  I can't tell if it's a Wednesday, but I know it's the 3rd of September.  Right as the sun goes behind the skyline, and the day's heat begins to fade, I stand up from my seat at our table and wave to this astonishing blond girl in a really nice dress just inside the entry.  She walks towards me in the way only a woman can and I help her into her chair.  We talk about the places between eternal love and no longer, and how our questionable cardiac health makes hanging on so much more possible.  Later, we dance to a song she loves but never gets to dance to normally.  Meat is on the menu, because life is a pretty simple choice really, so make sure yours are your own and not for somebody else's reasons.  Humanity is this planet's apex predator because we are omnivores.  That said, just because we can eat damn near anything doesn't automatically mean we have to eat everything all the time.  (I wonder if I can get the chef to include that little homily on the printed menu for the meal?)  (Why am I asking you?)  My dream dinner date with Zara Larsson (with a lyrical assist from Taylor Swift apparently :)).

Let's just face facts here, shall we?  If your imaginary fantasy life isn't as vivid, satisfying and confused gratifying as mine is, who's loss is that really*?

Watching and listening to Zara Larsson over the coming years as her music grows and develops, promises much distraction from the final choice.  That's not a reason for her to do all that, but I'll take it all the same. 

If you're a fellow vet, I hope you find your Zara Larsson.  I can recommend a good one. 

*Oh, and just for the record, my memory of that "really nice dress" usually involves helping her back into it after finding it amongst all of my own clothes in her room.  What!?!  I'm old, but still a guy. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Proof Of Life

There's an interesting post on the ever-debatable topic of "money" over at the Al Fin Next Level blog in which I offer some commentary and (does 8+ years qualify as "historic"?) observations.  You should go read it; good stuff as always.