Monday, February 13, 2012

Something I Love Now

Let me start with this: I am not a good blogger. I barely ever post, and when I do it's long-winded and not the sort of quick, fun read that's heavy on pictures that most people are looking for. Though I tried to turn this into a blog centered on my jewelry and creative pursuits because I got involved with one of Lori Anderson's Bead Soup parties right after I started it, that hasn't really panned out, in part because I go great stretches without making jewelry (and then I hate photographing it) but largely because I never intended it to be centered on jewelry, which I enjoy making but which is not really who I am, especially now.

I started this blog because I had had a rough time for several months and I needed to talk through some things. In 2010, I'd hurt my back, my job had ended, and someone I had been very close with for a long time died suddenly. Largely due to these stressors, my romantic relationship was also in tatters, but I did not talk about that here even though that certainly was something else I was struggling with. That relationship came to an end -- a painful but not crippling end -- early last fall, and I've been on my own since then. For a long time I just didn't feel like sharing anything here and considered just closing the blog. But by December I was feeling much better, enjoying the freedom I had to do and experience what I felt like doing and experiencing, and that led to my last post, about 10 things I'd loved in 2011. It felt great to put that list together and to end the year on what felt like an upswing, and I still feel like I'm on an upswing.

One of the ways I know this -- that things are getting better -- is that I have a new celebrity crush. Especially at my age (nearing 50), having a big, heart-swelling crush on a famous person is completely ridiculous -- there's no arguing that. But such crushes have gotten me through times of loneliness, boredom, and light depression my whole life (they started with Ryan O'Neal when I was about 10, gak), so they're old friends and not unwelcome. They take me by surprise; it's not like I'm hunting for someone to waste time and energy on who doesn't know I exist. I'll just see a movie (usually) or something and be completely taken with a fellow who stays under my skin for months if not years. It's something to do, something to think about, in lean times. You just can't let it get away from you.

This is only my second crush of the internet age (fortunately), which makes it crazy easy to obsess about a famous person. I'm laying this on a little thick. I'm not actually obsessing, but I am very preoccupied and frittering away a lot of time on YouTube and elsewhere. Since I'm self-employed, I've had to set limits on myself, such as no YouTube until 3:00 pm, no watching the same video more than twice in a row, no registering and posting in a fan forum (that way madness lies), and the like. This is part of that "not letting it get away from you" thing I mentioned.

Since I know you must be insanely curious by now about who this mystery man is, I'll spill the beans: Raul Malo, the singer. He was the once and future frontman of the 90s band The Mavericks and has what I have come to believe in the past month is the best voice in contemporary music. (Yeah, I said it, Buble fans. And this is not my opinion exclusively; he is widely heralded as THE voice in modern music.) Now I'd been aware of Malo and the Mavericks for close to 20 years and have even owned some CDs (which I lost in a breakup), but somehow I'd managed to miss being exposed to the full knee-melting power of his voice until very recently. I will blame this on the radio station I usually listen to, which, a playlist search has shown me, plays very few of his songs and then very far between, so I was not getting the full experience of his capabilities. That is now being rectified.

Want to hear how we met? In early January, I was home alone on a Saturday evening, as I often am (there are far worse things, trust me), and I tuned in to a Buddy Holly tribute show on PBS that was celebrating Holly's 75th birthday with a bunch of musicians performing Holly's songs to an audience that included his wife. The show's called Listen to Me, and I highly recommend it if you get the chance to see it. Anywho, I'm watching and playing with my phone and reading the paper, as usual, when Raul Malo is introduced to sing the love song "True Love Ways," never one of my favorite Holly songs. I glanced up and my first thought was, "No way that's Raul Malo; it looks like Pavarotti," for indeed the fellow has considerable -- considerable -- girth and not much hair anymore (as compared with, say, this look). But he started to sing this song that I do not love and by the time he hit the phrase "by and by" at the 16-second mark of this video, I had laid aside the phone and paper and was paying close attention. Yowza, what a crooner. Later in the show, he was introduced again to perform the title song, "Listen to Me," a song I already did love, and this large man wearing a little guitar just knocked my socks off with his tender, heartfelt rendition of this 2-minute ditty. Really, see for yourself. He creams it. By the time he and his big voice led off the final number, "That'll be the Day," I was wondering why they even bothered with Chris Isaak and Lyle Lovett and all the rest and didn't just let Raul do all the songs. He was far and away the best. Big voice, big presence, beautiful smile.

A couple of weeks later, I was checking my Tivo and saw this concert and watched it again, rewinding and replaying Raul's songs exclusively. By the end of that evening, I was smitten, which led to some internet searching and YouTube watching and the not-at-all-surprising discovery that the man has had the same effect on approximately a jillion women, who call themselves Malo Mamas and flock to his concerts in droves. (This funny video covers the phenomenon with animated characters, and this excellent blog post reports on it firsthand with humor and helplessness; I strongly urge you to click over and read it.) Ah, glad it wasn't just me. I've ascertained from the videos and interviews and even his own blog that he is funny, self-effacing, passionate, and extremely hard-working, cranking out records and touring, touring, touring. (In fact, I just missed several shows in this area, which pains me, let me tell you, but he'll be coming somewhere around here with the reconstituted Mavericks in 2012, and I'm. So. There.) Frankly, given the guy's talents, demeanor, politics, and other things that matter to me, he's probably the most worthwhile crush I've ever had in nearly 40 years of crushing. Often described by music writers as "a national treasure," he's not one that's likely to embarrass me ("as others have" is of course implied here).

There's much more I could say about this man who I don't know at all, such as how I find him more attractive in his current large state than in his (probably briefly) thin state early in the Mavericks' run, that it annoys me that so many of his promotional photos cut off the top of his head because he's been losing his hair for a while (in a most adorable fashion), and that I'm finding it hard to believe I will every find another voice more appealing than I do his, so I'm not even going to try. But I'll stop at that for now.

Well, except for this: because it's Valentine's Day when I put this post up, here is a love song that I just can't get over. This song was on the Mavericks CD I used to own, and I'd forgotten all about it. But when I found it recently, it struck me to the core. Because even though my love life is not happening right now and does not have a great track record, I'm a real believer in love, a sucker for the "thrill" described in this song, and I'm looking forward to experiencing it again. Until then, I have Raul, his twinkling eyes, and his remarkable voice to think about. Please -- watch, enjoy. It's my valentine for you. (And if you like this song, there are a bunch more versions of it on YouTube. Seek and ye shall find.)