What Makes Me Happy?

Oddly enough, all my online dating has resulted in quite a bit of introspection. No, not about what a bitch I am to strangers who can’t string a sentence together. I know why I do that. It’s more in response — or reaction — to the questions asked: What AM I doing with my life? What DO I spend a lot of time thinking about? What AM I looking for? And probably most problematic: What makes me happy? Not just “happy” but seriously, joyously, out-of-my-body happy?

Ya know what I spend a lot of time thinking about? The above questions. I’ve dug deep plenty of times but have never really written down my innermost feelings. I don’t want to come across too brooding or high-brow or sensitive. Or insane. But I’ll tell you the two things that I’ve come up with that truly, truly make me happy. Like when I think of the times in my life I’ve felt (and continue to feel) CRAZY FUCKING JUMP OUT OF MY SKIN HAPPY. When I say to myself, I LOVE THIS!

The first doesn’t make me totally OUT OF MY SKIN happy but it is the one thing I enjoy enough to do as much as possible. And I know this sounds ridiculous but…walking. I really do love to walk. It can be as simple as walking around the city on errands or as arduous as trekking from one place to another over a period of hours. Whether on a beach, through a park, down streets or through a mall, it doesn’t matter. With a friend, deep in conversation is wonderful. But so is strolling alone, noticing things I haven’t before: the way the sun hits that building. New stores. New graffiti. Foliage. The ways people interact. People-watching is a secondary passion that’s easy to accomplish while walking, usually, and I enjoy it almost as much as the walking itself.

I haven’t walked anywhere in…hmm, since SantaCon, I don’t think, which may partially explain why I’m sitting here so depressed. It isn’t news that three quarters of the country is in the deep freeze and it’s no different here. I’m not too eager to run errands when it’s only 7 degrees out. But I digress. Let’s get back to happiness.

The one thing — the BIG thing — that makes me feel the most joy in my life is when I’m holding a beer, in a room full of friends, singing along to some song at the top of my lungs. Not alone, mind you, but with everyone else in the room. When all our voices are joined in one drunk, disharmonious cacophony. I once described myself (probably on an online dating site) as a “bar singing, beer slinging fraulein.” It still holds true. Now I’m not talking about karaoke. I’m not a huge fan unless it devolves into a big singalong. Which, fortunately, among my circles of friends, is usually the case.

The beer isn’t a necessity but it certainly helps. The best times of my life have been had in bars, most specifically Downtown Beirut, screaming out “Touch Me I’m Sick,” crooning “The Summer Wind” and rhapsodizing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The jukebox in that bar was world famous and I’m convinced that there were advertising creatives slumming with us because just about every song has eventually turned up in a TV commercial. Everyone in the place would sing along to everything. It was like Cheers but way more wasted. I met some of my closest and oldest friends in that bar; we bonded over the music. Somewhere between “Fairytale of New York” and William Shatner’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” you could tell if someone was “your kinda people.”

A bar with great music has been a constant, though. I listened to The Beatles in Mission Beach at Saska’s; danced to Duran Duran in Holmdel, New Jersey, invented my Truck Driver’s Dance at Dollar Taco Night in Newport Beach, and sang Irish songs along with the house band at Fleming’s on East 86th Street. The singing wasn’t always confined indoors. The closest I’ve ever come to a religious experience was at Oktoberfest in Munich. Standing on the enormous communal tables with a hefty stein of beer hoisted, belting out “Life Is Life” and “Sweet Caroline” with members of 30 different countries was like the UN, trashed. I swear, I was so overcome with pure joy I cried. Looking out over those thousands of strangers, all singing together, was heaven.

Music seriously moves me. Even stuck in a church on Christmas Eve I’ve gotten weepy. There’s something about voices raised together in song that simply wrecks me. Completely. In fact, when I went to the San Francisco Symphony’s holiday show in San Francisco last month, there was a boys choir performing and when they sang, tears started inexplicably rolling down my cheeks. They sounded — yes, so clichéd — angelic. More than art or money or spirituality or, well, anything, music reaches right into this jaded, cynical shell of a human shitbox and squeezes my heart.

My most recent rapturous moments have been spent in The Black Rock Saloon, a club house, of sorts, for the DPW crew, those of us who are out in the desert early to build Burning Man. No cash changes hands. Anyone can tend bar. And everyone can DJ. Which often leads to an interestingly eclectic soundtrack, from 60s soul (thank you, Starchild, for your Slow Jam Sundays) to hilarious “yacht rock” (thank you, Gravyfoot, for serving up all that delicious cheese), from the most annoying current Top 40 to the most inspiring Top 40s of the past. Even “Freebird” (ON REPEAT, bless you, Joey Jello) was resurrected from its former status as Most Hackneyed Rock Song Ever to the DPW Anthem of the Year in 2011. Other anthems we’ve collectively warbled: “Come Sail Away,” “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” This year my crew came up with the Sign Shop theme song: U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

The wildly diverse group of people that comprise this crew means we expose each other to all sorts of music. We shriek, in unison, to everything from “Bubble Butt” to Adele’s “Someone Like You,”  “Under My Umbrella” to “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The DJs who program during Playa Restoration have subjected us to “Bringin’ Sexy Back” a dozen times in a row, “Meltdown” TWO dozen times in a row. We’ve enjoyed all sorts of aural effluvia like sexually transmitted disease propaganda, WWII comedy routines and bizarre spoken word…pieces. But it’s really the incredible range of music we enjoy, together, as a group, that amazes me. And all of us singing — and dancing — along together while we work, picking up safety pins and bottle caps from the vast Black Rock Desert floor.

Listing the songs that have touched me would be a Sisyphean task. There are just so, so, sooooo many. And I know the words to most of them. Lyrics have always been my thing. Like some people know every baseball or football player and every move they made or every band and who played what instrument when, or, you know, how to cook or something, I have retained the words to seemingly every song ever written. Yes, my brain is a gagillion gig hard drive, crammed with words. Sometimes I even know the words to songs I haven’t ever heard. Love? Above! Heart? Part! Glasses? Asses!

So how to wrap up this post? I’ve toyed with writing it for months and enjoyed finally doing it. I realize it’s a bit of a departure from my usual bitching and complaining. I didn’t make any wacky New Year’s Resolutions, so don’t think it’s some new leaf or anything. But yeah. This is the heart of me. Happy 2014, motherfuckers.

An attempt at the Sisiphyean? I’ll start with The Downtown Beirut Jukebox.
(Email me if you have anything to add. I can’t remember everything…)
It was 5 or 6 CDs and the rest 45s
Wild Gift & Los Angeles – X
Nevermind – Nirvana
The Velvet Underground
The Summer Wind – Frank Sinatra
Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney
Mack the Knife – Bobby Darrin
Mr. Tambourine Man – William Shatner
Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds
Goin’ to Alaska – The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
Witchita Lineman – Urge Overkill
Head On – Urge Overkill
Sheena Is a Punk Rocker – The Ramones
Downtown – Petula Clark
To Sir with Love – Lulu
The Boat That I Row – Lulu
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
You’re My Best Friend -Queen
Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
Is That All There Is? – Peggy Lee
God Save the Queen – Sex Pistols
Anarchy in the UK – Sex Pistols
Who Killed Bambi – Sex Pistols
My Way – Sex Pistols
Pleasant Valley Sunday – The Monkees
Words – The Monkees
Delilah – Tom jones
It’s Not Unusual – Tom Jones
Seasons in the Sun – Terry Jacks
Ballroom Blitz – Sweet
Viva Las Vegas – Elvis
I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Smash It Up -The Damned
Brick House – The Commodores
Surrender – Cheap Trick
Dreamin’ – Blondie
Pretty Vacant – The Sex Pistols
YMCA – The Village People
Fairytale of New York – The Pogues
Bottle of Smoke – The Pogues
Heroes (the French version, I think) – David Bowie
Sex Bomb – Flipper
I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family (I bought that one)

That’s all for now…time to post this!

One response to “What Makes Me Happy?

  1. I spent a semester in college living in London where I became a regular member of the a local folk club – the Bounds Green Folk Club – and every week we sang sea shanties. The harmonies were glorious. I have recordings we made way back in the 70’s. I totally understand. Group singing can be ecstatic.

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