Dedication: To My Mom (Or Why A Rock & Roll Baby Has Country Roots)

Saturday mornings at 2045 N. 63rd Place.When my siblings and I had squeezed all the possible life and enjoyment out of non-cable kid-oriented programming, it was time for chores. We'd shuffle and lollygag like any children might, I guess, but eventually (around 10:15, maybe) we'd find ourselves with our little shoulders to the wheel.

I can't recall anybody having specific, regular chores we did every week. But I remember feeling like I did a lot of dishes. Standing on a wooden stool, up to my elbows in soap suds, and with the belly of my shirt getting progressively wetter, I usually passed the time imagining myself horribly misused, like some nine-year-old Cinderella. The kitchen faced eastward, toward the back yard, where four citrus trees- tangelo, lemon, tangerine, grapefruit- stood in a row along the cinderblock wall on the other side of the lawn (and in the summertime, the above-ground pool), punctuated by a sandbox and swingset on one end, by a trampoline on the other. My parents basically built the landscape, front and back, up from the wild wild western nothing, and the backyard was everywhere to me- it was Africa, it was Floren, it was the doomed Titanic, it was New York City... and it shimmered and mocked me behind the window where I was slaving away over dirty dishes.

My fantasies and daydreams had to fight through one significant distraction: Mom's music. The stereo supported six CDs and I do believe we listened to the same handful of albums every week (except at Christmastime) for seven or eight years. Creedence Clearwater RevivalVan MorrisonSheryl CrowStingChris Isaak, and Lyle Lovett were the voices of Saturday. This was before I even liked music, much less knew the difference between thumbs up and thumbs down over it. And they also had to fight over the sound of the vacuum, or over the sound of Mom singing along.

There are minutiae-sized holes in the tapestry of the memory that bother me, like what all was on the windowsill of that kitchen window, or what kind of dishes I was washing, or what anybody else was doing (although I can tell you we preferred sectional couches in the family room- first a smushy second-hand brown one, then a mottled multicolor/green one). But all I really need to remember is the most poignant part of Saturday morning chores: Mom.

Sometimes she'd stop whatever she was doing and shout for us all to come join her, and she'd turn up the stereo and sing and dance to "Brown-Eyed Girl". Being old enough for this moment to brand itself into my memory, I was definitely old enough to think I was too cool for dancing in the family room with my family. I was still young enough to not notice that Mom doesn't really sing that well, though- a nonjudgment that persisted with me for a long time. After all, what child, having been born of goodly parents, does not think of being sung to by Mom as a distinct pleasure in life?

Anyway, I think usually I stayed right where I was at the sink, imagining myself the only one who did any work around here, while my hoodlum family played and frolicked (and maybe half an hour later I'd be done with the dishes). I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd gone running to Mom then as I did to Dad when he came home and showed her I loved her by dancing with her and singing out loud too. At risk of waxing sentimental, I wonder if she didn't stand at the selfsame kitchen window more often than we were aware, watching over us through our treacherous journeys through Wonderland or Oz or wherever the backyard was that day.

I can say this: my mother's everyday efforts made my childhood idyllic, safe, and happy. She taught me, she loved me. If I didn't know it then, I know it now. To this day when I do dishes, by myself, I sing "Brown-Eyed Girl" and hope that someday I will have a household just as warm, lively, and rich with love of the Lord and of each other.

It was both Mother's Day and my mom's birthday this month, and though it's late, I hope you don't mind the proverbial trip down memory lane, but this merited a double LP-style list called M<3M.

Side A: Our Old Playlist (Sounds of Saturday Morning)
1-3. Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Susie Q", "Lookin' Out My Back Door", "Hey Tonight"
4-6. Van Morrison: "And It Stoned Me", "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", "Brown-Eyed Girl"
7-9. Sheryl Crow: "If It Makes You Happy", "Maybe Angels", "A Change Would Do You Good"
10-11. Lyle Lovett: "Don't Touch My Hat", "Fiona"
12: Sting: "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"

Side B: Our Karaoke Music (Sounds of Sharing Music with Mom)
13. "Delta Dawn" by Tanya Tucker
14. "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus" by Janice Kapp Perry
Ok, so we didn't hear this one on the radio but this is one song I loved to hear Mom sing to me.
15. "Sold [The Grundy County Auction Incident]" by John Michael Montgomery
16. "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" by Trisha Yearwood
17. "Real World" by Matchbox Twenty
18. "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" by Sun Tan
19. "Lucky Denver Mint" by Jimmy Eat World
20. "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence
21. "Bubble Toes" by Jack Johnson
22. "The First Single" by The Format
23. "Pepper" by a band with a distasteful name (sorry guys. that's what you get)
24. "Selfish Man" by Flogging Molly
25. "Life Less Ordinary" by Carbon Leaf
26. "Mama, I'm Coming Home" by the Vitamin String Quartet

"Who needs to be cool? Life's amazing.": Ozzy Osbourne

After having finally gotten my fill of the new Bowie album, I transitioned into a Rush CD, then to the Killers, then to The Paper Route, and then, out of nowhere, I popped in Ozzy Osbourne's 2010 effort, Scream. Because, after all, it is now the Merry Metal Month of May.

I say "effort" with a little smugness. Most of it comes from having seen Ozzy on the tour for this album and being actually disappointed- the first time that's ever happened to me. Anybody who's talked with me about live acts knows how dissatisfied that show left me. He spent more time trying to rile up the audience than trying to entertain us, and this I could tell from even my nosebleed seat. He was audibly off-target too. I mean, I noticed. I know enough about art to understand that sometimes it's not until the last five minutes that everything comes together. I am patient enough to wait and see, try to connect and get into it, if I don't jive with the project right away. Not this time. "War Pigs" turned out pretty good, and "Shot in the Dark", I think it was, was not dismal. "Bark at the Moon" wallowed at the other end of the spectrum, where most of the rest of the show hung out.

Guys. He led his own encore chant from backstage. Seriously. Empty stage, mumble of crowd, and then his voice on the microphone: "Come on, everybody: Oz-ZY, oz-ZY..." And he wouldn't come back out til everyone was playing along.

To be fair, the band was tight. Slash was promoting a solo album at the time and he was awesome as an opener.

I felt bad about it. I wanted that show to be good. I sent all the positive vibes I could, which usually works when I'm not sure I'm tuning in to the musician's station just right. Not even the power of positive thinking could change that show into a great, or even a good, show for me.

So, I'm sorry, Ozzy. I once waited about six hours in line to get your signature in your autobiography. I was about your three thousandth signature that day, I think, and someone told you "This is the last book," and you looked up with a glimmer of hope on your face. Then you realized there were two hundred more people behind me, with vouchers to be signed because the physical copies of the books were sold out, the last one to me. And you said nothing. You looked down and kept on signing. I felt bad for you then, too, but in a different way. A full day of book-signing is no place for a mighty rock star. After all, I like you. I even slipped "Mama, I'm Coming Home" on a mix CD I made for my mom when I left for college, even though she'd banned you from the house. I taped a radio interview you did for Nights with Alice Cooper, once:

ALICE: So, you're not really the Antichrist, then.
OZZY: Me? I thought you were.
ALICE: Well, I figured it was either you or Bono.
OZZY: [laughs]
ALICE: If Bono becomes President of the World Bank, he's definitely the Antichrist.

Don't tell me there's no love here.

When I was in high school, one of my best friends really dug Ozzy & Black Sabbath. Ozzy was his Bowie. (Which also makes me feel sort of smug, since Bowie is Ozzy's Bowie, along with John Lennon, I am told.) This is the same music-loving friend who gave me Pink Floyd, and Johnny Cash, and Jim Croce, and Cream. It was back when we first met, at that same table in the back of Spanish class. Mid-semester, probably. We'd finished our stuff for the day and were goofing off as was our wont (he more conspicuously than prim freshman Sandra-Dee me), talking about music. He asked me if I liked metal. I told him (primly) that I hadn't much experience with it. He asked me if I liked Ozzy. I said again, I hadn't had much contact but I knew his reputation from the TV show.

With the air of a doctor prescribing something to a particularly sensitive patient, he pulled out his discman (this was before iPods, but he was one of the first to get one, BTW) and handed me his headphones. And he put on "Dreamer".

O my little brother, you never could quite get the hang of me, could you? I never did make it easy and I certainly never made it fair, but I told you I liked Judas Priest! You thought "Dreamer" was all I could handle? We're not friends anymore by any long shot or definition, but there are times when I rerun those memories in my mind like episodes of Firefly. There is such a dense concentration of change and growth and self-realization in those memories and others like them that it is hard to look upon them, even the painful ones, without appreciation and fondness. Wherever you are, I wish you well.

So, this week I'm revisiting Scream, burned for me by a former boss with whom music was the only thing I had in common. (Amazing what music can do for people who otherwise maybe wouldn't be very friendly.)

There are some really fun things about this album and there are some really forgettable things. I can listen to the first four tracks ad nauseam and totally leave the rest. You, however, don't have to leave the rest. You can just have the good stuff, and here it is, with the tragic Spotify exclusion of a cover of the BeeGee's "Stayin' Alive" featuring Dweezil Zappa (sold separately here.): Life's Amazing: Ozzy Osbourne

For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "Desire" from No More Tears
2. "Let It Die" from Scream
3. "All the Young Dudes" from Under Cover
4. "See You on the Other Side" from Ozzmosis
5. "Rock & Roll Rebel" from Bark at the Moon

For Your Playlist: Side B
6. "Centre of Eternity" from Bark at the Moon
7. "Fire in the Sky" from No Rest for the Wicked
8. "Breakin' All the Rules" from No Rest for the Wicked
9. "Dreamer" from Prince of Darkness

No, I never really did take to Black Sabbath, although I love their name.