I’m trying to do something tonight that I haven’t done since the summer of 1991, I think, and right now it seems harder than it really is.
You see, I’m trying to write a song. But I’m a weird writer.
First, I need a title. I know that seems silly, but it is true and I am nothing if not a creature of habit. The same rule applies to this stupid site. I didn’t even start writing about wanting to write until I had a song picked out for the title. In fact, my original choice was “Thrift Store Chair” by Everclear. But, thanks to having my iTunes on shuffle, I realized that “Things” by Paul Westerberg was a superior option. If you’re familiar with either song, you might catch what is driving my sudden lyric ambition.
Things I want to tell you
How you make me feel
How you look to me
And how good it feels
Things I don`t want to tell you
Every little thing`s all right
What I was before
And where I was last night
But back to the summer of ’91 first.
I went to South Padre Island with my friends Kevin and Ray in late June (I remember that because Ray’s birthday fell on a day early in our trip) and all we came back with was a few stories. Nothing even close to scandalous, sadly. For example:
- On the drive down, which was about 8 hours, I remember Kevin taking over the driving of my car during the last stretch. As we were on this long, boring stretch of road between Kingsville and Harlingen, not a word was spoken among us for a long time. Then suddenly Kevin broke the silence by saying “Woo! How long was I out?” I still laugh when I think about that, and the way I told the story here does it no justice whatsoever.
- Ray developed a crush on some girl who walked up and down the beach every night. She was always wearing Umbros. I didn’t even know what Umbros were, but I took Ray’s word for it. We called her “Umbro chick” because we were clever like that.
- Kevin made a woman out of sand for him to lay next to. That’s about as scandalous as things got. As far as sand women go, she was ok. But she was definitely no Umbros chick.
- Kevin also inexplicably decided to race my car (an 87 Grand Am, if I recall correctly) back to the condo one day. On foot. I have no idea why, but I’m pretty sure rum was involved.
- The sunburn/peeling stage really messed with Ray’s bed. That dude molted, I think.
- We tore up the buffet at Louie’s Backyard, and I’m pretty sure Kevin danced while there, too. Again – the rum.
- A nice older woman did invite me over to her spot on the beach for a cold MGD because I gave her a cigarette. She was 37 (yes, I said “older” – it’s all in context) and from Minnesota. We had a nice, respectful chat. And, of course, MGD became my beer of choice for the next several years.
All these things
We did come back with one other thing, though. A song.
It was composed on the balcony of our condo, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, and almost assuredly with Umbro chick walking in front of us at sunset. I am 99% sure that Ray wrote all the music and I wrote all the lyrics, but that was over 25 years ago, so who knows? (Ray probably knows. I hope he reads this.)
I’ve been searching my memory to recall the name of the song. I think we called it “Island”, but I could be confusing that with a song by Dumptruck. I honestly don’t remember what it was called, nor do I remember the lyrics or the melody.
But it was a hit at the kind of parties we went to back in 1991.
Things I try to tell you but come out oh so wrong
Seem to feel pretty good, seem to last pretty long
Things I don`t want to tell you
Now there ain’t no doubt
You lit a fire in me
Can`t seem to put out
We debuted the song in the living room of my house on Newton St. My mom was out of town so I was having a party. I had recently been promoted at work, and that involved a transfer to a sister restaurant in Mansfield. I invited a few people from the new place to the party and a couple of them brought a friend. A female friend.
Ray and I did our song, and she smiled at me the entire time. I was hooked. Within a couple of years we were married (for a while).
That stupid fucking song.
I think back about that time frame and I don’t even recognize myself. It seems like a lifetime ago. To this day, my biggest memory of that night is a song that I can’t fully remember.
All these things
Oh, there were songs after that one. But only party tricks. I’d ask someone for a topic to sing about, hear the suggestions, and then craft an off-the-cuff song using the most basic of blues riffs. Lots of misses, but some funny moments, though none memorable enough to make an impression. I seem to remember my 100 Acre Woods song going over pretty well at the apartment in Stephenville on Lingleville Rd, but of course specifics elude me.
There was one time in the late 90s when Ray and I actually performed a totally ad-libbed song about the forest fires in Mexico that were turning our Texas skies grey. Recorded it, even – on cassette. I remember the name of that song (Mexico Jam), but no specifics at all.
Things I long to tell you but I don`t know how
Things I don`t want to tell you but I have to now
Packed my things
But the cool thing is that typing all this out has given me the name for song that has been sitting in my head for days just waiting to be written. I told you that I’m a weird writer. My baseball book might have died on the vine, but I’ve got a song in me. Per Rolling Stone, a massive hit like “Rolling in the Deep” or “Poker Face” can make as much as $500,000 per year just in radio royalties.
I expect exactly zero, but if you see me playing my ass off on the street corner singing my original song “Hot Mess”, please feel free to drop a few loonies in the open guitar case.
Things I`m bound to tell you like that dress looks great on ya
I could use some breathing room but I`m still in love with you
Things I`d never tell you, down the line someday
You`ll be a song I sing
I give away
Pack my things today, I packed my things today
– “Things”, Paul Westerberg