Saturday, October 31, 2009

T Party Express: Love Lies Bleeding

The T Party Express slows down for no holiday.

Luis, my STBX (soon to be ex-husband), and I are spending our last Halloween together greeting the costumed masses with handfuls of premium candy and reminders that Jesus loves them. Can you imagine asking Him "trick or treat?" Christ is the only man who can truthfully promise to never disappoint or fail us.

For the past four months, I have spent too much time trying to understand how suddenly and unexpectedly a steadfast soulmate can become a sadistic stranger. If I drive by a trainwreck without acknowledging that there but for the grace of God go I, then I avert my eyes from the depths of despair and wickedness that characterize our sinful human nature at my own peril.

This ends the first week that I have been posting songs of heartbreak and survival. I have been happily surprised so far by how little I relate to most of their lyrical scenarios. That is not necessarily true of this weekend's creepy detour, but some secrets are best left unblogged.

Love Will Tear Us Apart
by Joy Division (1980).

This is the song credited widely for launching the New Wave genre. Lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide one month after its release on the eve of Joy Division's first American tour. The remaining members formed the influential electronica band New Order.

Reptile by the Church (1988).

Australia's The Church crafted several albums of lush loveliness that were undermined by lead singer Steven Kilbey's ugly heroin addiction. The serpent never sleeps.

Accidents Will Happen by Elvis Costello (1979).

Among Elvis Costello's numerous accomplishments, he has been one of the greatest practitioners of the lost art of the song fade-out since Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. I heard Costello claim that this song was inspired by the cycle of resentment and guilt in his first marriage. The haunting refrain "I know, I know, I know, I know, ..." gives me chills.

Luis, my STBX, is a Calvinist, which means he doesn't believe in "accidents." His view of God's sovereignty over all His creations means that God micromanages all His creations. A few months ago, Luis was careless with his personal security, which resulted in his wedding ring, watch, GPS system, iPod, and bluetooth earpiece being stolen from his SUV. He interpreted the theft as a sign from God that our marriage was over, although somehow not as a sign that God doesn't want him to tell time, find locations on a map, listen to music or talk on his cell phone.

Tears Run Rings by Marc Almond (1987).

Marc Almond is more famous stateside for his work in Soft Cell on Tainted Love, but I have a soft spot for this solo outing.

Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen (1984).

Fate up against your will. What a poetic way to describe forcing something that was never meant to be to a regrettable conclusion.

I wish I could embed the official video, but the record label won't let me.

Love Lies Bleeding by Elton John (1973).

Hey, jealousy.

Last Time Forever by Squeeze (1985).

A fretful lover commits a frightful act over a fretless bass line.

Songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford have often been compared to Lennon and McCartney. On this record and others, I especially like when the tenor Tilbrook and baritone Difford sing the same melody one octave apart. The little details mean a lot to me.

Previous stops:

Conjure Me by the Afghan Whigs (1992).

Debonair by the Afghan Whigs (1993).

Hallelujah by Jason Castro (2009).

Total Recall by the Sound (1985).

Fly by Jars of Clay (2002).

Train in Vain by the Clash (1980).

It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).

Friday, October 30, 2009

T Party Express: The Hounds of Love

Fasten your seat belts as we begin our steep descent. It's going to be a bumpy weekend aboard the T Party Express.

The death of love is a common theme in popular music, but rarely has it been explored in the mainstream beyond the most bittersweet of cliches. Love hurts. Love is a battlefield. You give love a bad name.

The graveyard of broken hearts is not an amusement park dressed up for Halloween. It can be filled with secrets so haunting that they won't stay buried.

The Afghan Whigs were alternative rockers who resided in the shadowy underground at the intersection of soul and grunge. Greg Dulli's voice, more fierce than melodic, was like the tortured howl of a trapped animal.

One of the band's early videos, Conjure Me from their 1992 album Congregation, hints that the singer's most enduring relationship is with self-loathing.

i smell your blood, my love
but i can't taste it yet
i have your mind, my love
but i can't waste it yet
please understand my love
i find this sickening
my head is ice my love
my skin is thickening
but oh! my love
we could still be friends
and oh! my love
with me you must contend
i'm gonna turn on you before you turn on me
i'm gonna turn on you can you conjure me?
and walk the mile into this web of my conspiracy
i'm gonna turn on you before you turn on me
i'm in a hole
but i don't feel the safety net
i have your soul
but i am wasting it
but oh! my love
we could still be friends
and oh! my love
with me you must contend

Debonair, the Whigs' most successful single, includes this coda to co-dependence – an obsessive neediness that can masquerade as love.

And once again the monster speaks
Reveals his face and searches for release
A little boy is tied to you
Attracted only 'til it comes unglued

'Cause it don't bleed and it don't breathe
It's locked its jaws and now it's swallowing
It's in our heart
It's in our head
It's in our love
Baby it's in our bed

Tonight I go to hell
For what I've done to you
This ain't about regret
It's when I tell the truth

Previous stops:

Hallelujah by Jason Castro (2009).

Total Recall by the Sound (1985).

Fly by Jars of Clay (2002).

Train in Vain by the Clash (1980).

It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

T Party Express: A Wholly Unholy Hallelujah?

The T Party Express is slowing down to smell the roses and examine the thorns.

Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is subject to at least as many lyrical interpretations as there are cover versions. The revered recording by the amazing Jeff Buckley is widely considered to be the definitive benchmark. Buckley's world weary, intensely vulnerable vocal exposed the raw nerve of Cohen's Davidic metaphor for a love affair fallen from grace. Buckley's rendition is no hosanna to God.

My American Idol season 7 favorite, Jason Castro, launched a Hallelujah revival by performing it during the 2008 competition, in the season finale, and on a studio recording for the film Amar a Morir. Jason always sings purely from the heart and his is my second favorite version. If he keeps the song in his concert catalog, his interpretation can only improve as the happy-go-lucky troubadour matures and experiences some of adulthood's inevitable disappointments. I sincerely hope that one of those disappointments will not include sales of his eponymously titled debut album on Atlantic Records scheduled for release on January 26, 2010.

Jason describes himself as a Christian and participated in the I Am Second movement to promote faith in Christ as the answer to all life struggles. In his video for the organization, he described his selection of Hallelujah as a special opportunity to praise God, so there is no question that his interpretation was spiritual and not sexual. To keep up with this endearing, budding musical talent, Castrocopia is a whimsical, wonderful website devoted to all things Jason Castro and great music in general.

Previous stops:

Total Recall by the Sound (1985).

Fly by Jars of Clay (2002).

Train in Vain by the Clash (1980).

It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

T Party Express: I Can See a Distant Victory

Plenty of years ago, I had a boyfriend who was several years my junior. At that time, it was the biggest age discrepancy in my dating experience where I represented the older half of the relationship. We shared many interests in common and he became serious quickly – more quickly than either of us anticipated.

Then reality set in, in the form of my young son. The boyfriend didn't want to share me with Chris and, although he decided I was close to his ideal woman, he realized he was too immature to be a stepfather and bailed. I thought we broke up for good. He thought we were taking a break until he grew into stepfatherhood.

For the next ten years, he kept me on a short leash, checking in periodically to keep his memory fresh in my mind and make certain I didn't form another serious relationship. His dog-in-the-manger strategy was largely successful and it took a long time for my heart to heal. The last time he called was just before I embarked on a lunch date with my STBX (soon to be ex-husband) and I let him know I had moved on. I used to predict teasingly that he would be a bachelor for decades and one of those middle-aged first time dads. Sure enough, he married in his mid-40s and has a baby daughter. He even achieved his goal of becoming somewhat famous.

Younger guy would make me music CDs filled with odes to romantic angst and thwarted love to keep the hope alive. One of those songs was Total Recall by the Sound. Several others will probably show up as I ride the T Party Express.

Total Recall is a song suited to dreamy romantics who assume they will have ample time to revisit young love and set it right. It doesn't fit my current circumstances, but it can still make me cry buckets of tears. Tragically, singer/songwriter Adrian Borland of the Sound committed suicide at age 41, which adds the gloss of legend to an otherwise obscure band from the New Wave era.

The lyrics reference a "distant victory" when the singer will reunite with his lost love. As a Christ follower, distant victory for me is synonymous with salvation from death. Things change.

Previous stops:

Fly by Jars of Clay (2002).

Train in Vain by the Clash (1980).

It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

T Party Express: Jesus Take the Wheel

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. In October 2006, tests revealed that my cancer had spread to my hip, adrenal gland, and lymph nodes. I had been seeking God, but Luis, my STBX (soon to be ex-husband), was not. Through my cancer metastasis, we were both sufficiently humbled to submit our lives to Him and He changed our hearts.

My husband's commitment to Jesus Christ soon manifest as a calling to the ministry. We became involved with Pastor Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel, including the evangelism program, and Luis enrolled in its Bible College. In May 2009, less than six months ago, Luis had his personal testimony published at Things Not Known, a website run by a Calvary Chapel brother in Christ.

This is what Luis wrote about how God used me to break him:

God gave me a wife who was used by God to change me in ways I never thought possible. I became a business man and God gave me open doors that a person with my background could not get. I then became the youngest executive in the firm I worked for and soon started helping run the everyday to day operations. I was to inherit the company if anything happened to the owner and I thought life was good. However during this time my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. I still did not pray to God nor give him thanks and She was spared. In October of 2006 she was diagnosed with a cancerous steak size tumor on her hip. God began to move in my mind and began to convict me of my open rebellion (sin) against Him. So I fell on my knees and cried out to Him in my bedroom and repented (a turning away from sin) of my sin and told Him I will follow Him even if I lose the most precious thing in my life which was my wife. At that time I was not looking for God nor did I want Him in my life but he sovereignly sent his Holy spirit. I soon asked my wife for a Bible and she ordered one online. I never had read the Bible before and I used to hate to read because it left me empty, but once I opened Gods word and Gods Holy spirit helped me understand it I could not put it down. I read from Genesis to Revelation and all the study notes from April to August 13 2007.

Science had failed my wife for she had been told by the Doctor that she only had 6 months to live. The Lord had been preparing me to withstand the loss of my wife if He had sovereignly chosen to take her from me. This was incredible because everyone knew I loved my wife more than anything, but that changed when Christ Jesus Sovereignly saved me I knew I had to Love Him more than her. God gave me a peace that truly passes all understanding and I knew I was a new creature. On March 16, 2007 as I was on my treadmill I began listening to Christian music and got rid of all my secular music. I heard the song Amazing Grace and I started to weep and sob like I never had before as I was thinking about what a wretch I was even though my life was at this time very moral and many people thought about me as the nicest guy they had ever met (because they did not know my past). As I started asking God to forgive my vileness I felt a power which was the Holy Spirit that came upon me and immediately I stopped crying and knew I was at peace with the Creator of All things. In late March of 2007 my wife was told that a miracle had happened and her cancerous tumor was gone. I thanked God and rejoiced in His doing and knew that He was indeed the Sovereign Lord who has control of all things. I left my riches behind and everything else to follow Christ Jesus who is the only truth, the only way and the only life. I read the scriptures daily like the Bereans in the Book of Acts to grow in the knowledge of God so that I can encourage & edify others and become a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him.

The miracle Luis described was a completely unexpected remission without chemotherapy in early 2007. However, in November 2008, we learned that the cancer had spread to my liver and to bones and lymph nodes throughout my thoracic region. In December, I started chemotherapy and will probably remain on chemotherapy as long as it continues to contain the cancer. If it stops working and there are no other alternative treatments available, I will go home to God. It's a win/win proposition. In Philippians 1:21, Paul wrote, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

The chemotherapy regimen I started in December 2008 was brutal on my red blood cells. I suffered from chronic hemolytic anemia, which led to a series of transfusions. Luis accompanied me to one of my transfusions in July, which affected him deeply. He began to withdraw from me, to grow cold and distant. Then he tried to convince me that continuing my chemotherapy meant disobeying God. He begged me daily for two months – in truth, he berated and badgered me – to stop chemotherapy and die. He said he would withhold his love until I gave him what he wanted – my swift death and my 21-year public employee pension. Not surprisingly, he eventually confessed that God didn't want me dead, but he did so he could start a new life with a new wife he already picked out at work, along with my retirement savings to buy her a house.

Understandably, this turn of events was extremely painful and burdensome to me, in addition to the weakening effects of anemia. For no physical reason that my doctor could discern, at the same time I became turbocharged with an unflagging energy that has not abated. I attribute my energy to God, who has sustained me with His peace, strength, joy and hope even as my husband failed me.

Fly is a song by Jars of Clay that tells the story of a couple close to the band that had to face separation because of the wife's terminal cancer. Their farewell is told from the point of view of the husband, who holds tightly to his beloved wife until it is time to release her to God. For Luis and me, the song used to symbolize our deep love and commitment to each other and to God.

I don't know definitely why Luis changed so radically and he will not explain it himself, other than that he felt trapped and suffocated, but I believe that Satan is working to break him. He has abandoned not only me but the ministry and our family, which includes my son whom he helped raise for the past nine years and my handicapped brother, who is dependent upon us. Although I offered repeatedly to accompany him, Luis refuses to seek pastoral counseling or any other type of couples counseling.

God hates divorce and Luis knows it well, but he is rushing headlong towards that goal. Marriage is the relationship that Christ compared to His love for the church. But Luis is a Calvinist and believes he cannot lose his salvation. California is a no-fault divorce state and there is nothing I can do to contest the dissolution of our marriage. To be blunt, since he repeated daily for two months that he wants me dead and out of his way, I want him removed from my earthly life as soon as possible and forever. I must act as the Bible commands since I do not take my salvation for granted and I will likely face God's judgment before Luis does. My understanding of scripture is that I cannot be a consensual party to divorce without dishonoring God.

I feel the entire range of human emotions, chief among them anger and confusion, but I cannot hate Luis. I fear for his weakness and pray for him to be strengthened by God. Man's weakness is not a reflection upon God but a manifestation of our sinful nature. I must forgive Luis, even as I navigate an unknown future without him. And so our roles are reversed. I am letting go of Luis and pray that he finds his way safely to God, who may reunite us as brother and sister in heaven.

I'm trying to have a bit of fun with my T Party Express, but I never forget who is driving this train.

Previous stops:

Train in Vain by the Clash (1980).

It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).

Monday, October 26, 2009

T Party Express: The Cougar Edition

According to the UK Daily Mail, there is a specific formula for connubial success (hat tip to Hot Air). Ladies, we should look for never married bachelors 5 years older than ourselves.

Cougars, beware! My STBX (soon to be ex-husband) is 22 years younger. I was his first spouse and he was my second. From the outset, I knew ours was a high risk coupling and we were lucky to have what he calls "eight-and-a-half glorious years together." Our 9th anniversary was October 18th. Ahem.

Marrying a young man, regardless of the bride's age, is tantamount to raising a husband. It's a thankless job and, as divorce statistics indicate, the odds are you will never fully reap the benefits. I taught my STBX countless life skills. I certainly don't expect a thank you note from him or his next wife, but she has no idea how much I molded him from the raw can of Play-Doh that I found.

Our second stop on the T Party Express: Train in Vain by the Clash (1980), a hidden gem that closed out one of the greatest albums of the punk/new wave movement.

Previous stop: It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My T Party Express: A Declaration of Indepen-dance

October 2009 has been a tearful month around Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion headquarters. I for one am ready to party. By party, I mean revel in music, the comfort food of forlorn lovers. I have always been a sappy romantic, so unsurprisingly many songs dearest to my heart are of the breakup variety.

How convenient.

Today I was moving and grooving to some of my all-time favorites when I had a happy realization. I finally get to dance again! The STBX (soon to be ex-husband), despite being as graceful as Fred Astaire, had to be dragged onto the dance floor. I did that exactly once, at a wedding two years ago. By his own admission, I pushed him around the dance floor like a coffin.

To celebrate my declaration of independance, I decided to start posting videos of my favorite heartbreak/survival songs, probably one per day until I feel like stopping. They won't all be tearjerkers. This ain't no pity party, peeps.

The first video of the series is one of my favoritest favorites. Back in the 80s, I used to have a specific dance routine that I performed to this song. Mock me if you must, but it always captured the attention of the cutest guy in the disco. This is such a powerful tune that even Gwen Stefani couldn't ruin it.

Without further ado, let's get the T Party Express rollin' with It's My Life by Talk Talk (1984). All aboard!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

And Then There Were None

Six years ago this month, my brother Richard and his beautiful red Doberman, Hershey, moved in with us from Florida after my sister died unexpectedly. Now Hershey is gone at the age of almost 14, practically ancient for a Dobie.

Luis, Chris and I had been living with our beloved cat, Tigerlily, in cosy quarters, necessitating a swift relocation to a larger house to merge our family. We were unapologetic cat people who considered felines the superior species. Hershey challenged our assumptions and changed our lives.

One of the reasons we selected this house is that it has tile floors only, no carpeting. Tigerlily had never lived with a dog and Hershey thought cats were chew toys. Thankfully, a pissing turf war never materialized. I went to great pains to befriend Hershey – truthfully, I spoiled her rotten – and to install Tigerlily at the top of the pecking order. Tigerlily seemed unafraid of the big red dog and Hershey was bemused by her fluffy new roommate.

Here is one of the earliest photos from October 2003 with Hershey upstairs and Tigerlily downstairs.

Upstairs Downstairs

Hershey claimed our La-Z-Boy love seat as her own, but I put a stop to that pretty quickly.

An Uncommon Pose

She spent a lot of time hanging around the kitchen, waiting for special meals or treats I prepared for her.

A More Common Pose

Another reason we selected this house is that the city Bark Park is right outside our tract, down the street and around the corner. Hershey loved to take my brother for walks, sometimes twice a day. She was completely devoted to him and even learned sign language commands.

Hershey Loves Daddy

Adopting Hershey was the best thing our sister ever did for Richard. Richard was born deaf with learning disabilities but an enormous capacity for love. Hershey was the love of his life.

Daddy Loves Hershey

When Tigerlily passed away nearly four years ago, Hershey became the undisputed queen of the house. The avocado, almond, pomegranate, fig and loquat trees in our backyard attract squirrels, possums, and a variety of birds, which kept Hershey entertained for hours. She was also the self-appointed neighborhood watchdog.

In the past year, tumors started popping up through her fur and she slowed visibly. About six months ago, she started eating at herself compulsively. No medication, balm or spray would give her peace. We made her wear the cone of shame, but then she got depressed and stopped eating. Then we would take it off and she would chew bloody holes wherever her teeth could reach. Her breathing became heavily labored and we stopped her walks for fear of a heart attack.

Finally, Hershey's appetite began to deteriorate and her organs started to fail. On her final drive to the veterinarian, she could barely climb into the van. Hershey was the reason we got the van. When we went to Disneyland or on weekend trips or to holiday dinners with the extended family, leaving her behind was unthinkable.

I have a son and I have had beloved pets. I understand the difference, but cats and dogs are also created by a loving God. Hershey has been an unexpected blessing to all of us and I will never forget her as long as I live. Mere hours after she died, Luis and I both heard a sound exactly like her claws going clippity-clop across the tile floor. She has left a big, red dog-shaped hole in our hearts.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

God, Give Me Strength

I have stage 4 metastatic cancer. My husband is leaving me. I have a handicapped brother who is dependent on me and a son who is losing both parents.

God, please give us strength, peace, joy and hope.

Hosanna in the Highest

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Everything I Once Held Dear, I Count It All As Loss

Lead me to the cross.

Friday, October 09, 2009