There’s an App for That

rocket shipI’ve been writing about some tough stuff lately, and though I skrinkle my forehead and concentrate really, really hard, at some point, my mind rebels and makes me take recess. Recess involves important things, like writing Twitter haikus and eating M&M’s stirred into a small mug of peanut butter. My butt is growing faster than my word count.

I haven’t been totally unproductive, though. Amadeus and I have been to a few open mics, where I read stories and poems and horrify crowds with my singing. Last weekend, I had a groovy time speaking at WordCamp about the magic of blogging. The people who attend these events are preternaturally kind and encouraging, and so far, not one person has booed or thrown anything at me.

Otherwise, I’m writing, always writing, though I’m not always writing what I’d planned to write. Some little phrase will wander onto the front porch in my head, and park like a stray cat that won’t leave until it’s fed. A lot of times what parks are song lyrics. It’s gotten so bad that I now keep a guitar next to my desk, just to make the cat leave.

Here’s the most recent one. It’s pretty ridiculous, and probably unfinished, but since I haven’t posted here in over a month, I thought I’d share it.  Note: In the chorus, “SATs” is pronounced “sats.” I’m explaining for rhymey reasons.

There’s An App for That

Uncle Charlie hit the floor,
clutching at his chest,
“Someone call an ambulance!”
screamed my cousin Tess,
I whipped out my cell phone,
began to tippy tap,
instead of calling 9-1-1,
I found an app for that.

Located a defibrillator,
placed it in my cart,
paid for it with PayPal,
my phone is oh-so-smart.
I’ll bet that you can guess the rest,
I placed the screen on Charlie’s chest,
no more cardiac distress,
shook his hand-hugged cousin Tess,
everyone was overjoyed,
I’m so happy with my Droid.

If you need some minor dentistry,
or yearn to join the ministry,
want to build a pirate ship,
or take a short time travel trip,
win a million poker chips,
repair your granny’s broken hip…
forget about tuition, ACTs and SATs,
no matter what it is you seek,
there’s an app for that.

I longed to build a rocket ship
and visit planet Mars,
blast into the stratosphere,
and float among the stars,
but all I got’s a Buick,
and my wallet isn’t fat,
but that’s okay, I’m on my way,
I found an app for that.

Searched my phone until I found,
an application so profound,
it built my ship, I’m heaven bound,
10,000 miles above the ground
Look–there’s Earth! It’s just a trace
I’m texting this from outer space.
If you’d dreamed of joining NASA,
but they stomped your mission flat,
never fear, your phone is near,
and there’s an app for that.

If you need some minor dentistry,
or yearn to join the ministry,
want to build a pirate ship,
or take a short time travel trip,
win a million poker chips,
repair your granny’s broken hip…
forget about tuition, ACTs and SATs,
no matter what it is you seek,
there’s an app for that.

One day I will be president,of the USA,
not a single voter will be standing in my way.
With my cell phone and Bluetooth,
I’m gonna rig the polling booths,
then I’ll win, I’ll be sworn in,
no more war, I’ll feed the poor,
I’ll unite the nation,
have some Fireside Chats,
and solve the problems of the world
-is there an app for that?

©2013 Moonbeam McQueen

Okay–the cat’s been fed and recess is over. Time to get back to work.

*skrinkle*

The Great Golf Monkey Giveaway–Oh, And a Song

***WARNING! *** WARNING!

I’m about to sing.

Here’s the thing. About a month ago, I sat in one corner of our living room and wrote a poem. At the same time, Amadeus sat in another corner, working on a tune. We spent the rest of the evening merging them together, tweaking and smooshing until we’d turned it all into a song. We’re pretty self-critical at times, but we love this one. I think it’s our best collaboration. It has our hearts in it.

I posted the poem here immediately, and ever since, I’ve been dying for you to hear the musical version of it. The problem, as we saw it, was delivering it. Neither of us are singers. Oh, sure, Amadeus plays like an angel and sings beautiful backup vocals in bands, but with few exceptions, our melodies  stay confined to our living room. The same goes for Amadeus’ guitar playing, since he’s a bassist by trade. But this one we want to let out. This one we wanted to do for you. We could have asked someone to perform it for us, but in the end, we decided to do it ourselves. It’s kind of the main message of the thing–to just be your imperfect self, and not worry what others may say. But honestly? I was a  little worried. I’m still a little worried.

We went to a friend’s house and he recorded it for us. He and Amadeus were happy with the version we ended up with, but I’m off-key in places, and it makes me cringe. But it’s a wrap. We ran out of time, then our friend’s mom got sick and he’s going to be tied up for while. So here it is, glitches and all.

We want you to hear this. We want you to share it with as many people as you can, if you’re moved to do so. More than that, we want to hear YOU sing it. So, we’re offering incentive. We’re having a giveaway. A unique contest, to celebrate your unique contribution to this project.

Here’s how it works:

1: First, give a listen to “You Are Who You Are,” posted below.

2: Record your own version. We want you to do this however you’d like. Amadeus isolated the guitar part (also posted below), and you can sing over that. You can do it acapella or play your own music. You add harmonies or invite the Harlem Boys Choir to sing it with you. You can make a video to go along with it (in fact, we’d love it). But you have to sing it. We want to hear “your beautiful song.” Don’t worry about perfection. We love rank amateurs.

3: Send us an MP3 or the link to your audio or video. We plan to post all of the versions we receive onto one or two sites–YouTube and BandCamp, most probably. By sending it to us, you agree to let us use it however we’d like.

4: On August 15, 2013, we’ll hold a random drawing. Everyone who submits an audio or video will be entered to win. In other words, this is based on effort–not popularity or musical ability. The prize? This gorgeous pair of antique golf monkeys.

No, you’re not dreaming. You read it right. These attractive, useful, one-of-a-kind golf monkeys (circa 1920) could be YOURS!! Imagine the pride you’ll feel, seeing them on your shelf, knowing they were a reward for your contribution. Contest ends at midnight.

5: If you post this song online yourself, please credit Moonbeam McQueen and Amadeus Rockerfeller. No commercial use without permission. We retain all rights to this song. We aren’t completely sure of what we’re doing with all of this, but we know we’re supposed to say that.

Honestly, we have a two-fold purpose here. Fold one is that we really do want to hear everyone in the universe sing our song. Fold two is that we hope someone likes it enough to buy it. We have loving hearts, but we also have empty pockets. If you like it, please share it far and wide, link to this page and tell your mother.

Hang onto your earbuds and give a listen. I apologize again for my veering voice, but only sort of.

Love,

Moonbeam

The guitar part can be found here.

Update: I posted chords and lyrics for those who might want them. You can find them here.

Little Wonder

Collaboration. We are not this cool.The closest Amadeus and I come to arguing is when we’re writing a song.  It’s stupid, I know. We aren’t professionals-we’re doing it for fun, and most of the time it really is fun. I love the flowiness of the whole process, the way we work together. I’ll be deep into a writing project, he’ll be deep into playing his guitar and sometimes the stars align and things will merge. We mentally float toward each other–our separate projects are put aside and we start collaborating. Before you know it, we’re sitting beside each other on the sofa, singing something that hadn’t existed an hour before.

But I’m persnickety about words and he’s persnickety about music theory and I wanna jam things in and he wants to yank things out and I wanna sing it this way and he wants to play it that way and we have moments of testiness that we never experience at any other time. I’ve come to believe that some of the world’s most beautiful love songs had to have been written by people who wanted to beat the holy shit out of each other. I imagine Ashford and Simpson glaring at each other while penning “You’re All I Need to Get By,” Dozier and Holland getting into fistfights while writing “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.”

Amadeus: “You just need to take the word ‘moonlight’ out of there.”

Me: But it’s important to the theme. It’s painting a picture.

Amadeus: You can’t cram all those syllables into it.  It won’t work with the tune.

Me: Sure it will.

Amadeus: No it won’t.

Me: Uh huh. Here. Let me sing it for you.  (sings)

Amadeus: (Winces) No it won’t.  

They’re tiny little road blocks, and as time goes by, we’re learning give and take, how to listen to the other’s musical point of view.  Sometimes I win my case, sometimes he wins his, but usually within a few minutes a little lightning bolt will hit one of us. We reach a compromise, make a change or two and all is right with the world.

My husband popped out of his mother’s womb with, I think, a viola in his hands, and he’s been involved in music professionally since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  I have to defer to his knowledge a lot of the time, and I want to hug him each time he defers to mine. He taught music for more than twenty years, and he understands more about these things than I ever will. Solo, he’s written some sweet, stirring songs, but when we write together we’re two sides of a coin. He’s logic, I’m emotion, he’s technical, I’m all about the feeling of the thing. He’s rhythm, I’m…I don’t know–a ceiling fan. But wonderful things sometimes happen when the left side of his brain and the right side of mine link up and click together like space modules.

Amadeus is also much more subdued about our songwriting than I am. Don’t get me wrong– he loves it as much as I do. We’ve written several tunes he’s proud of. He’s just a lot more realistic about our limitations than I am, and deals with things in a more mature manner.

Example: A musician pal of his just moved back to town. They’ve played together for decades, and once recorded a CD together. He came over a few weeks ago, and played us a new tune he’d been working on. Amadeus picked up on it within about three seconds, heaved out his upright bass and began playing along.  He began making a few suggestions, and creativity started bubbling. I tell you, I can’t keep the smile off of my face when this type of thing starts happening. My brain chemistry goes into some weird mode that feels like a combination of starlight and queso dip.

As I sat listening, words began twinkling in my head. I grabbed my laptop and started writing. They looked at what I’d typed, and they liked it a lot. Encouraged, I went on, and before too long, an entire song had popped out.  Amadeus and his friend were looking at me as though I were some freak alien songwriting machine, but for some reason, that tune just happened to make lyrics appear in my head. We set about tweaking and rearranging, moving words and sounds until we’d finished.  It was lovely. “Why don’t we start meeting once a week?” the friend suggested, “You know–just to see what happens.”  

After he left, I  jumped up and down like a popcorn kernel. “Wasn’t that fun???” I squealed. “Wasn’t that amazing???” “A songwriting night! Wow! Won’t that be great???”  

Amadeus does not jump up and down. He does not squeal. He has dignity. He is a bass player, and he is cool.  

“Mmm hmm. We’ll see.”

We’ll see? What the–

I have to look at it from his point of view. He’s been involved with enough musicians to populate a small country. He’s hauled more amps than Mötley Crüe’s roadies. He’s played more gigs than…You get the idea. Obviously, he looks at music much more pragmatically than I do.

So far, our musician friend has performed that new song twice, and Amadeus accompanied him on bass both times. The friend very sweetly told the audience that the three of us had written it together. I sat in the audience, snapping pics on my camera phone like a new mom, beaming at the baby we’d brought into the world. To those two guys, it’s just another kid. To me, it’s a little wonder.

You Are Who You Are

Nobody knows
the way you’re constructed,
the pattern of wires
inside of your brain;
they don’t have a clue,
as to what you’ve been through,
they cannot imagine the depth of your pain.
 
Nobody hears
the voice that whispers,
no one can sing
your beautiful song;
there’s wisdom inside you,
you have all the answers,
you’re brilliant as diamonds
and Hercules strong
 
You are
the loveliest star-
you are who you are who you are.
The world’s definition of success,
may sometimes make you feel like less;
You might not think you have a thing,
yet still be richer than a king.
You are who you are who you are.
 
Nobody sees
much past your face,
the shape of your body,
your myriad mistakes;
They force you to choose,
the words that you use,
smile when you express yourself,
then they turn away.
 
But I’m begging you
stay true to you,
don’t let them try to make you bend
to shapes that they create;
That inner voice that guides you,
like a sailboat on a lake,
is telling you exactly
the course that you should take.
 
You are
the loveliest star-
you are who you are who you are.
The world’s definition of success,
may sometimes make you feel like less;
You might not think you have a thing,
yet still be richer than a king.
You are who you are who you are.

©2013 Moonbeam McQueen

Yikes

This is an embarrassing admission, but since I’m kind of the queen of embarrassing admissions, I’ll just spill it. My custom design upgrade expires today, and I’m going to have to let it go for now. I’m not sure how this change will affect the appearance of my blog, but I’m pretty sure that it will look messy for a while, until I can make adjustments.

I’m telling you this only because it’s not going to be as easy on your eyes to read my posts (which is why I upgraded in the first place). I feel bad about it–you have such nice eyes. But–I don’t run ads on this blog, and I generate no income from it, save for the occasional very beautiful, kind, generous, big-hearted, sweet, much-appreciated PayPal donation. I simply can’t justify the expense right now, but I promise that as soon as I can, I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled font. This is not a hint or a plea for donations, by the way–it’s just the way things are at the moment, and it’s certainly not a huge dilemma. I wanted to explain though, and give you a heads-up.

So, thanks for understanding. I’m sending out big mushy hugs, and will be putting up a new, slightly uglier post soon.

Happy Birthday, Dear Da-Da

This morning, I woke up and wrote the first thing that popped into my head, which was this:

My dad would have been
seventy-five today, but
after some consideration
he decided to end his contract early.

Some melt slowly,
others blaze 
at twice the speed of light, 
then
Poof
they’re gone. 

Bummer huh? And as far as poems go, it sucks. It’s not even really a poem.  But it’s how I was feeling, on this, the 75th anniversary of my father’s birth. And you know, I want to commemorate him somehow.

He was only fifty-seven when he died, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I’ve written a lot about him over the years. About his craziness, his temper, the damage he caused to others. He was one of the most selfish men I’ve known, and certainly the most tormented. He hurt a lot of people. But today, I want to tell you some good things. I want to honor him. It’ll probably sound pathetic–these are probably things that normal fathers do as a matter of course. But my dad was far from normal, and I’m incredibly thankful for every kindness he was able to show me.

So here goes:

We shared a weird bond–it seemed his genes swam a bit deeper in my pool than in my sister or brother’s. It wasn’t just that I looked like him, although I do. There was an invisible, powerful connection that ran between us, some sort of simpatico. I was his eldest, and he lost his enthusiasm for parenting by the time the others arrived. But I was the baby he held once or twice, the one he fed once, the one who pooped all over him. Once. He was proud of these paternal efforts, and reminisced about them until the end of his life.

He could make me laugh until my sides nearly ruptured. I inherited his silly sense of humor. If I stood near him during a solemn occasion–a religious service or a funeral–I was a goner. He’d be there beside me, our heads bowed in respect, and before long, he’d start vibrating with repressed, inappropriate laughter. It was horribly contagious, and soon, I’d start shaking too. We’d turn red as bricks, tears rolling down our faces as we struggled to stay silent and respectful. Occasionally, we blew it and made snortling noises, which caused the more reverent to give us the evil eye (and rightly so). It was awful at the time, but I now look back on our looniness very fondly.

He co-signed on not one, but two cars for me. In fact, he even picked out my first one. This is akin to saying that he parted water for me, or gave me busload of doubloons. Dad wasn’t magnanimous as a rule, and these were huge gestures, especially in light of the fact that I burned the engine up on the first one within a few months and abandoned it on the side of the road (no one told me that cars needed oil). Of course, he never let me forget that he’d done these nice things–not for years and years, or ever. But that was okay.

Between his marriages, we hung out as friends a bit. He was drinking a lot then, blacking out and falling down and taking who-knows-what kind of pills. I worked up the courage to tell him he had a problem, and offered to attend an AA meeting with him. He took me up on it and stayed with the program until the end of his life.

When I became pregnant at twenty-five, Dad was the person I feared telling most. I wasn’t married, and he disliked the baby daddy (later, my husband). I broke the news as we sat across from each other in a crowded restaurant. Not only was he not angry, he seemed to really care. He asked questions about due dates and finances and by the end of the conversation, he was happy for me.

After my son arrived, Dad and I went shopping. He sat on a bench and ordered me to go pick out things I’d need for the baby. I was unused to such gestures (it had been years since the co-signing). Timidly, I selected a little package of t-shirts and brought it to him. “More,” Dad said. I kept putting things into the basket, one by one, and he kept saying, “More.” This went on for quite a while, until he was satisfied that his grandson had enough.

A year later, I moved away and married my son’s father. My dad was the only family member in attendance on my side of the family. He drove six hours to get there, and I was proud to have him standing by my side.

Okay, all of this is making me cry. I’m going to have to stop soon, because the more I add to this list, the more I miss him. It’s been eighteen years since he killed himself, and though I understand and respect his reasoning, I often find myself still wishing he was here. He was a huge presence, and he left a big rip in my universe.

He’d like Amadeus. He’d be proud of my kids and me.  He’d be older and calmer, and the fire that blazed in his brain would be, by now, just softly glowing embers. Maybe he’d have found some happiness. Maybe he’d have bitten the bullet (no pun intended) and gone to physical therapy and regained the dignity he lost when they amputated his leg. I imagine him discovering the joys of the Internet, finding a community of people he could relate to, looking up information on Post-Polio Syndrome, traveling the world from the comfort of his wheelchair.

As I was growing up, he was always more of a buddy than a father, and we kids were more of a burden than any sort of pride and joy. In fact, he found it  difficult to even say the word “Dad,” and instead referred to himself jokingly as “Da-Da.”  He just couldn’t do the parenting thing. My mother had remarried a despicable man, and for the better part of eight years, we kids were on our own. I never shared my problems with my father during weekend visits to his house, and he never seemed to want to know. We were a horribly fractured family.

When I was eighteen, a freshman in college, my world began to fall apart. I don’t want to go into the details right now, but trust me, it was a bad time, the worst of my life.

Even my father noticed, and in a weird show of concern, he sent a friend, an emissary, to talk to me and find out what was going on. She and I met at a restaurant, two rather awkward, uncomfortable strangers. As we chatted over coffee, she began to quiz me a bit, I guess in order to report back to Dad on my well-being. It was beginning to get on my nerves. In fact, it ticked me off. Finally, I looked her in the eye and said something like, “Listen. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I don’t want to talk about it. And I sure as hell don’t want to talk to my father about it. He’s never been involved in my life. He’s never given a shit about me. I’ve been handling things on my own for ten years–I’ll handle this too.” I considered myself very tough at the time, although in reality I was quite lost.

Just then, I looked up, through the large, plate glass window across from us. There was my father, sitting in his car, blocking other drivers, trying to get my attention. His window was down, he was waving his arm, he was saying something.

“I love you.”

Those were the words he formed as he slowly drove by, ignoring the honks of the people behind him. He circled that restaurant at least ten times, and with  each rotation, he’d ride that brake and mouth, “I love you.” And at that moment, I knew that he truly did love me, probably more than anyone in the world. He seemed so helpless as he rolled by, looking through the glass, moving his lips like a fish in an aquarium. He wanted to be there for me, he wanted to fix things, he just had no idea how to do it. How could he? He was broken himself. But I knew he cared. I knew that someone gave a shit after all.

So here’s to my dad on his 75th birthday. I loved him dearly. I still do. I hope that you’ll send some good wishes his way, if you believe in that sort of thing. He probably gets lonely.

Here’s an old post that lists more nice things about my father. And here’s one of his favorite tunes: 

Auditory ADD

The World Becomes a Miracle

The sun gleams bright up in the sky,
Its beams shine on your face,
A hundred bluebirds sing up in the trees,
Fields of flowers bloom like valentines made out of lace,
Painted butterflies float on a breeze.

In the night the moon glows bright,
The crickets sing their song,
Cicadas sing along,
Every star is twinkling your name.
And I look up and think of you,
and wish that you were here,
wish that you were near,
It makes me blue that you’re so far away.

The world becomes a miracle,
when you are here with me,
but when you’re gone it’s just another place,
I dream about you every night,
of kisses warm and sweet,
And all I do is long for your embrace.

Boats and trains and aeroplanes,
they sometimes interfere,
make people disappear,
and lovers move a million miles away;
And though I know it won’t be long,
Until you’re here again,
Until you’re near again,
I sit and count each sad and lonely day.

The postman brought a telegram,
it said you’re coming soon
-Saturday at noon,
and I’ll be waiting for you at the gate,
soon the world will once again become a sunny place,
when I see your smiling, lovely face.

The world becomes a miracle,
when you are here with me,
but when you’re gone it’s just another place,
I dream about you every night,
of kisses warm and sweet,
And all I do is long for your embrace.

I’ve got so many irons in the fire I’m beginning to feel like a blacksmith on steroids. I’m working on a novel, a couple of short stories, an essay and some poems.  I’ve even got a little erotica brewing, though I’ve got to diagram the various positions to see if human beings can actually bend into the shapes I’ve choreographed. WordCamp just contacted me about doing another presentation this year (despite last year’s debacle), and I’ve got to get going on that, too. 

But my brain plays awful tricks on me. Each day, I crack open the laptop and begin writing or editing or researching or playing word games on Twitter, when, from out of nowhere, something completely different will start trampling through my head. It’s a horrible ADD thing, and I believe it’s brought on by a type of genetic insanity, combined with financial panic and aggravated by SHS (Spastic Hormone Syndrome). Lately, what’s trampling are songs. A tiny voice begins to whisper rhymes, and soon, a melody follows. It’s happened three times this week.

They’re like the old road kill tunes I used to write, only worse. Before long, I abandon my other projects, because once this hay ride starts, I can’t stop until the voice has had its say. It hijacks my head and makes me pick up a guitar, a tragedy for all who enter these premises.

It happened again yesterday. I was working on an essay I plan to submit to an online publication. There I sat, crinkling my brow in a serious manner, rubbing my brain cells together and trying to make sparks, when a little sing-song started. La, la, la, tee dahhh. I’d been writing about important things– beauty and society and the size of my butt, but that voice in my head was drowning it out. It was like American Idol in there. This time though, the tune was sweet and wistful, a little old-fashioned. I stopped construction on the essay and began jotting lyrics, the ones above. I became a gypsy in our living room, automatic writing for the spirit of some 1920′s flapper.  

I thought it was pretty swell for an amateur, much better than “Little Dead Squirrel.” By the time my hubby got home, I’d finished. I was overjoyed, because although it had disrupted my regularly scheduled writing, I rather liked the end result. Best of all, Amadeus didn’t grimace  once when I sang it for him. In fact, he liked it. We had some errands to run, and we hummed that sweet tune all around town and home again.

“Catchy, isn’t it?” I beamed, feeling kind of hopeful. Maybe I can do this songwriting thing. Maybe we should do a demo. Maybe we should move to Nashville. 

He nodded. “But you know, that tune sounds a little familiar.”

“It does? Well, I wrote it to sound like an old standard. It probably sounds like a lot of songs.”

“No,” said Mr. Music. “It sounds exactly like something I’ve heard before.” He puzzled over it for a while, then it hit him. A few days earlier, we’d listened to a Jesse Winchester song someone had linked to on Facebook. We’d only heard it once, but now he played it again. As we listened, my heart began to sink like Lance Armstrong’s career. With a few differences in the pattern, my new ditty was almost identical. I’d committed otic plagiarism.

“I can’t believe it,” I said. How was it possible that a four-minute song–a song I’d heard one time–had crawled inside my head and stayed without my knowledge? How could my brain have betrayed me so? I guess the answer is that it really is a very beautiful tune, as you’ll discover if you click on the link below.  

At some point, I’ll come up with a new tune for those lyrics, but in the meantime, I may need a prescription for Ritalin if I want to get any work done. And if this keeps up, Amadeus will need earplugs. And beer.