Playlist: Too Close for Comfort

This is the first in a series of posts about songs in The Best Playlist Ever. The overarching theme of the playlist, other than love, is anachronism. I’ve written about anachronism before, because I have an affinity for things that are out of place, out of time. I also like the irony of anachronism in a music playlist since, you know: chronos, time, music, rhythm. There’s an irony there.

I’ll start by looking at the only song that makes an appearance twice in the playlist: Too Close for Comfort. One is an old version from Mel Tormé, and the other is a new version from Jamie Cullum. We will start with Mel’s:

You have certainly heard of Mel Tormé. He got onto my radar in the 1980s because Harry on Night Court was a huge fan. Mel’s voice earned him the nickname “The Velvet Fog,” which, frankly, I never really bought in to. I love his voice, but it’s not foggy. It’s crystal clear. It is velvet, though, on account of him straddling that tenor/baritone range, and having the best tremolo you’ll ever hear. One really interesting thing about this version of the song is that the bass line is being carried by… listen for it… yes: that’s a tuba. What the fuck is a tuba doing in a jazz band? Weird.

Now let’s contrast that with the version from Jamie:

The tempo is a bit faster, giving the song a brighter feel. And the tuba is gone, replaced with an upright bass. Although perhaps as an homage to Mel’s classic, there is a very prominent trombone in the horn section giving it that tuba-ish character. If you go back and forth between these, you will realize that the arrangements are almost identical (slightly different key, to accommodate Jamie’s slightly lower voice). The sax player in Jamie’s band clearly listened to the sax solo from Mel’s version. The notes are different, but the feel is exactly these same. Fast bop licks, but with a lyric quality, like Charlie Parker might have done.

Jamie Cullum is a fascinating character. I heard him interviewed once, and he has this thick English accent; yet his singing mostly reminds me of Harry Connick Jr., who is from New Orleans. He has played around in a bunch of different genres including hiphop and rock, but has had most of his success breathing new life into jazz standards. We will be hearing a few more songs from Jamie as we explore the playlist.

The song itself deserves a little mention, of course. It starts and ends with the same refrain: “Be wise. Be fair. Be sure. Be there. Behave. Beware.” (I like how those last two sound like be-have, be-ware.) I’ve never seen the musical this song comes from, so I’m not really sure of the context. The lyrics are extremely ambiguous. They are an admonition, but against what? Against falling for a woman who will just use you up and leave? Against falling for a woman when you are already spoken for? Against being too eager, and risking having the woman not want you because of that? It really is not at all clear, which makes it versatile, I suppose.

I tried to find out the context of the lyrics, and I learned that the song comes from a musical called “Mr. Wonderful,” which basically had no plot, and was just a pretense to bring Sammy Davis Jr’s Las Vegas act to New York. “Listen here, man, I’ve got this idea. We’ll do a musical. A big production number. Lots of dames. And you, Sammy, you’ll be at the center of it. Your Vegas act. But in a musical. Dig it? It’s gonna be huge!” That’s how I imagine the idea was pitched. And then Sammy says, “Yeah, man. I dig it. That’d be cool. Lots of dames. Yeah.”

A revival of Mr. Wonderful doesn’t seem too likely, so we may never know what exactly the lyrics intended. Perhaps it was just an admonition not to sit too close to the tuba player.


Sweat is pooled on her solar plexus
I trace my finger through
Is it hers, or mine?

She is divine
She doesn’t snore or swear or sweat
It must not be hers

I am mortal
I lust and covet and consume
It must be mine

Or perhaps it is ours
The remnant of our moments together
The echo of our whispers

The cool breeze from the fan
Slowly diffusing this moisture into the ether
Cooling her skin, making her shiver

I trace my finger through
She is mine, I am hers, and the sweat is ours
Our boundaries are undefined

Her soul and my soul
Her love and my love
Entangled like these molecules of water and salt

Yet remaining as one

On Connection

I was chatting with a dear friend this morning, and the crux of our discussion centered on connection. And as we argued (because every chat with this friend seems to have some level of “argue” in it), it became clear to me that what I think of as connection is not a universally understood concept. I’m not sure if she understands what I mean or not. I wonder how many people have even experienced the thing I refer to as connection.

I wonder this because I didn’t experience it until I was about 33 years old. I had been in love five times by then. I had been married for nine years. And I had never experienced this thing, which I now think of as pretty much the only defining characteristic of true, deep love. When I was 32 or 33, I experienced it with the girl I was dating, and only because she insisted. She was an especially intuitive woman. A social worker by both training and deep in her bones (as I suspect is the case with all social workers), she was able to sense that I lacked connection to her, which after a few months became intolerable to her. So she set about training me.

She is the one I’m referring to in that tweet. She had me read Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types which covered the Myers-Briggs classifications and emotional intelligence. She uncovered the fact that I have basically no empathy at all, and helped me find strategies for compensating for that using my intelligence in other areas. And she trained me to be connected during sex, which was a completely foreign thing to me. That was my first experience with the kind of connection I’m talking about here.

I had always been a very generous, pleasing lover. I focused on the needs of my partner and was very attuned to whatever feedback I could use to ensure she was in a transcendent state of bliss. But at the same time, I was detached. There is an old saw about men focusing on baseball statistics in order to last longer. The implication is that by being detached a man can avoid climax, and I suppose that is true, because I was detached and I could last pretty much forever. Up until this woman, that had never been something a woman would complain about.

But she taught me to connect during sex. It’s somewhat like learning to meditate. You stop thinking about anything else. You don’t even think about what you are doing at any one moment. You don’t think about what you might do next. You just exist in the now. You let your limbic system run the show. You do what feels right. This is at the heart of the practice of Tantra, I learned later. But then, with her, it was just a new way of having sex, and I liked it. A lot.

I also lost my ability to last forever. Sorry about that.

After that relationship fell apart, the next person I dated was the woman who is now my wife. She has only ever known the connected version of me. What I discovered with her, though, was that connection is not just a sex thing. It can transcend every interaction if you let it. And over time I’ve learned to sense it. I can sense when I am connected, and I can sense when she is connected. That’s another interesting aspect of the thing I’m talking about. It doesn’t have to be bi-directional. I can be connected to her while she is detached. She can be connected to me while I am detached. But if we are both connected at the same time, the force of the connection increases ten-fold.

Being connected mostly just requires having no other obligations. When I am focused on work, or the kids, or anything requiring attention, I detach. It’s natural. Getting out of that detached space and back into a connected space takes time. Decompression time. And I’m not alone in this. I see it in my wife as well.

For example, last night she got home from a business trip and was still her work self. I was patient. Gave her space. Eventually we settled into our evening routine, and I was massaging her feet. As I pressed my thumb deep into the sole of her left foot, I saw it. I saw the connection wash over her. I saw her enter a state of bliss. I knew she was connected. The same way I am connected. And her connection, with my connection, were together an overwhelming calming force for both of us.

“I’m in my happy place,” she said.

Just thinking about that, I’m filled with a ridiculous amount of joy.

I suspect some people never get to feel this thing I call connection. And that makes me a little sad. Because it is everything. I’m pretty sure it’s what life is all about.

The Best Playlist Ever

A couple of years ago, I found myself in charge of organizing the music for a library fundraiser. I played at this same event a few years later, and have some tracks from it in this post. Since I was in charge, I needed to put some music together to play on a shuffle during setup and breaks. The event was Valentine’s-themed, and I figured love songs would be the way to go. It’s an older crowd, so jazz vocal standards won the day.

As I assembled this playlist, I tried to hit a wide variety of artists, and to take just a couple of my favorites from each. Since then, I’ve found that this may be the best playlist I’ve ever created. In fact, it may be the best playlist ever.

Of course, I’m in love. So of course I’m going to be partial to lists of love songs. But there is something special about each one of these songs. And I’m going to tell you what that something special is. There are 37 songs on the list, so it’s going to take a while. The songs are meant to be shuffled. Order doesn’t matter, so here they are alphabetically. Each of the album names links to a place you should be able to find that track on iTunes, although sometimes I couldn’t find exactly that album. If there is no link, that means you can’t get that on iTunes at all (sorry), so google as needed.

Song Artist Album
Almost Like Being In Love Nicole Henry The Very Thought of You
Bei Mir Bist Du Schon Robin McKelle Introducing Robin McKelle
Beyond the Sea Bobby Darin Aces Back to Back
Bienvenue Dans Ma Vie Nikki Yanofsky Nikki
Bye Bye Blackbird Etta Jones Don’t Go To Strangers
Comes Love Robin McKelle Modern Antique
Dance Me To The End Of Love Madeleine Peyroux Careless Love
Devil May Care Jamie Cullum Pointless Nostalgic
Do It Again Annie Sellick Street of Dreams
Don’t Wait Too Long Madeleine Peyroux Careless Love
Embraceable You Nat King Cole Stepping Out of a Dream
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons Nat King Cole Stepping Out of a Dream
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was Robin McElhatten Never Let Me Go
I Love Being Here With You Queen Latifah Trav’lin’ Light
I’m Gonna Lock My Heart Nicole Henry The Very Thought of You
I’ve Got the World On a String Robin McKelle Introducing Robin McKelle
In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning Jamie Cullum Pointless Nostalgic
L-O-V-E Nat King Cole Stepping Out of a Dream
Let’s Fall In Love Diana Krall When I Look In Your Eyes
Lullaby of Birdland Robin McKelle Modern Antique
Mambo-Italiano Annie Sellick Street of Dreams
Monk’s Dream Sachal Vasandani We Move
No Mood At All Robin McElhatten Never Let Me Go
On the Sunny Side of the Street Robin McKelle Introducing Robin McKelle
Señor Blues Anita O’Day All The Sad Young Men
Snap Your Fingers Perry Danos Snap Your Fingers – Single
Some Cats Know Annie Sellick Street of Dreams
Sweet Lorraine Nat King Cole Stepping Out of a Dream
The Nearness Of You Norah Jones Come Away With Me
They Can’t Take That Away from Me Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong The Verve Story: 1944-1994
They Say It’s Wonderful Eliane Elias Everything I Love
Too Close For Comfort Mel Torme The Verve Story 1944-1994 (Disc 3)
Too Close For Comfort Jamie Cullum Pointless Nostalgic
Waters of March Nicole Henry The Very Thought of You
Yes Sir, That’s My Baby Etta Jones Don’t Go To Strangers
Yes, My Darling Daughter Robin McKelle Introducing Robin McKelle
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go Madeleine Peyroux Careless Love


Best of Alfageeek: Clean your Room

My 8-year-old’s room is clean. It has been clean for nearly a week. It’s unsettling. It’s probably no coincidence that a week ago she got her hands on an iPod Touch after nearly a year of not having access to one (there are not one, but two iPod Touch’s that have disappeared somewhere in our house, most likely in her room). So she has been obsessed with playing Minecraft with her siblings, and clicking cookies (don’t ask me, I have no idea), and having long FaceTime chats with her 8-year-old BFF. So she is simply too busy to mess up her room, I’m guessing.

Anyway, back around Mother’s Day, she and I spent some hours cleaning her room, and I wrote about it. My editor picked that story as today’s best-of, so go read it. You wouldn’t want to defy my editor. Trust me.

Best of Alfageeek: Lifetime Muse

Today is the 14th anniversary of the first email I ever sent my wife. I have it. It’s fairly mundane, but I’m pretty adorable in it. It’s not the first communication I had with her. I don’t have a record of that, because it was a DM kind of thing on a dating site. So this is the anniversary of our first communication using protocols like SMTP and POP3. The next minor anniversary I have coming up is the first time I saw her in person. I can still see her. On the sidewalk, Waltham, MA. July 23, 2000. 5pm. 78°. Sunglasses. White sweater. Blue jeans? Not sure, I was focused on her face.

Anyway, if musings about how much I adore my wife is something you want more of, read My Lifetime Muse, which I’ve linked here for your convenience.

Best of Alfageeek: Grilled Pizza

Tonight I grilled pizza, including a gluten-free pizza which actually ended up pretty decent. Not as good as a real pizza, but not as horrible as they usually are. Our friend, the chef at the local restaurant, has opened a country store, and he is stocking it with some amazing things. That gluten-free dough is one such thing. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you actually need to eat gluten-free.

Never made grilled pizza? Well you should. And here is how.

The Tide

My love for her is resilient
When she brings me great joy
I love her
When she brings me great pain
I love her
When she surprises and delights me
I love her
When she disappoints and crushes me
I love her

Her love for me?
It ebbs and flows

Her love is the tide and I am a stone on the beach
When the tide is low, I languish in the sun
Longing for her return
Confident in her return
When the tide is high, I am enveloped
Surrounded with warmth, and salt, and wet
Unable to breathe, but not needing to breathe

Her love is the waves crashing on the beach
Each pass wearing away my rough edges
Making me smooth, allowing me to roll deeper into her
Year after year, deeper and deeper

When the tide is high, I make her promise to never recede
And she promises
But the tide is the tide
The tide has no use for promises
But she promises
And I believe her

And perhaps, as I roll deeper
Eventually I will no longer be part of the beach
I will be part of the ocean floor
Enveloped in warmth, and salt, and wet

Best of Alfageeek: Alpha Voice

This next “best of” entry explores a little of the D/s (Dominant/submissive) culture that seems to permeate the part of twitter I inhabit. Since starting this blog, I’ve followed-back a bunch of other bloggers, and because of the twitter connection, and the tendency of my twitter followers to be subs, I’ve ended up with a ton of submissive erotica in my WordPress feed. If you are into that sort of thing, or are wondering if you might be into that sort of thing, I recommend that you read “My Lover, My Beloved and his Girlfriend,” as it is a compelling example of the craft.

Anyway, without further ado, here is The Alpha Voice, which is part story telling, part sociology, and probably part completely misguided and wrong.