All I Need To Know I Learned Listening To Music

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Fall was exhausting. I had investors convinced I’d written an algorithm that converted any text instantly into haiku. I hadn’t: I pitched the idea simply so they’d stop interrupting Hogan’s Heroes. To show bona fides, my email responses instantly had to fit the 5-7-5 syllable pattern:

Investor: Can it be true, an instant haiku-app?

Response: What do you think I/Do all day, just sit around/Watching Nick at Nite?

Investor: Amazing. This will be huge in Tokyo.

Response: Now you’re talking, friend/Care to raise your equity/stake in yours truly?

Investor email: Yes! Our lawyers will be in touch.

Haiku publishing pressure took a lot out of me. So I’ve lounged most of December, and I blame haikus. And Kelly Clarkson, who in teaching me what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, reinforced what I suspected, that what doesn’t make you stronger also doesn’t kill you. So knock yourselves out with your free-climbing. I’ll meet the chill of winter with a hot toddy and some fireside backgammon.

Can I be honest? I can’t pin this on Kelly Clarkson. I trace my skepticism to something my mom told me growing up: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This explains why the Marines have never recruited at Burning Man, why Bobcat Goldthwait was not cast as romantic lead in Four Weddings and a Funeral and why you’ll never wear jodhpurs on Casual Friday. No, I can’t blame music – most of what I’ve learned in my unadventurous life has come from listening to music.

While you probably missed it during your open-water swim, it’s music that holds life’s eternal truths, verities waiting to be discovered if only you’d stop and listen. Am I right about this? Was I right when I told you to pass on that Rodeo Clown College Deanship in Utah? I know you miss the leafy erudition of Charlottesville, but that was not the way. So stop and catch your breath. I think you’ll agree that most of what you need to know in life you can learn from music:

  • Never allow yourself to be operated on by a surgeon with a Molly Hatchet hand tattoo.
  • We Didn’t Start the Fire is terrible background music for an arson tip line.
  • If no matter how hard you train you cannot break a 6:00 mile, drive to a Beaumont, Texas, find a jukebox and select something by The Cure.
  • Close counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not speed dating. If her favorite Heart song is Barracuda, have a second drink. If it’s Crazy on You, slip the waiter a twenty and get the hell out of there.
  • It’s impossible to fight when Dan Fogelberg’s Leader of the Band is playing. Remember this when your kid’s hockey team is playing with too much aggression.
  • It’s impossible not to fight when the Dropkick Murphys’ Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya is playing. Remember this when your kid’s hockey team is playing with too little aggression.
  • If your daughter comes home heartsick from a middle school dance, don’t say anything. Just put your arm around her and listen to Love Hurts by Nazareth. Then drop the mic and walk out because that, my friend, was textbook parenting.
  • It’s okay for a man to play the bongos before his 15th birthday and after his 65th. Anything in between is a cry for help. (Note to Mickey Hart: you may disregard this.)
  • If you like your living room just so, don’t play Only The Good Die Young at a party attended mostly by women who went to Catholic school. There will be dancing tonight, and carpet cleaning tomorrow.
  • Speaking of party etiquette, remember the names of anyone who leaves in the middle of Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. Never invite them into your home again.
  • The ten all-time worst wedding songs are #10 All By Myself by Eric Carmen, #9 Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash, #8 The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot (this means you, Edmund Fitzgerald), #7 Better Man by Pearl Jam, #6 I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2, #5 So Lonely by the Police, #4 Is She Really Going Out With Him by Joe Jackson, #3 The Worst Day Since Yesterday by Flogging Molly, #2 The End by The Doors and #1 Love the One You’re With by Stephen Stills.
  • It’s okay for a father under forty not to get emotional when he hears Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. But not after forty.

So tell me, what did you learn in your mountain-bike race, that it’s bad to go head-over-handlebars? Well I could have told you that! Come on over here by the fire, and let’s get some ice on that elbow. And play some backgammon.