Sneaky Peek #3 of my New Mystery Novel

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An excerpt from the new novel (coming October 2013) …

I walked into the crowded bar, barely able to see for the intermittent bright lights and completely unable to hear due to the blaring beat of a song without a melody.  The locals were doing that dance where you put your hands in the air and look for all the world like a second grader who is trying to get the teacher’s attention because you really have to go number two.  The place smelled like beer, wine, whiskey and something semi-flammable but illegal mixed with sweat and too much body spray.

In other words, it was not a unique bar.

It was also not my kind of bar.  I’m not a drinker, but my line of work takes me into a lot of drinking establishments.  On a personal level, I prefer the low-key bars—like the one down the street—where the music is a little more laid back and the patrons are so laid back they’re about to fall over even when they’re sober.  The kind of place where the lights start out dim and stay that way, except for a few well-placed neon signs that advertise the favorite brands, bands and teams.  The problem with those bars, though, is that if you’re an outsider you’re usually spotted within ten seconds of crossing the threshold.

At these loud, boisterous, pushy establishments, a person can sometimes blend in, even an outsider.  Part of that is because almost everyone there—at least that night—was an outsider.  What few locals were “partying” there were doing so because they either worked there or had sponged off so many locals that they had to hit up people who didn’t know them if they wanted to drink—or partake of anything else.

It was late February, in a ski town, on the penultimate night before the big “Mind-Games Finale” (which, incongruously enough, was going to last all weekend), and every place in town was filled with ski-culture tourists who had come to Toltec Mountain to watch the big snowboarding competition and, maybe, meet some of the participants.  While most of the participants that I had met knew how to put down their share of lubricants, their time spent in the middle of a pressing crowd was kept to a minimum by their coaches and handlers—especially if they were expected to perform the next day, when their performance would directly affect the payday of said coaches and handlers.

Still, I took a look around, trying to place the people in that particular bar and discern if any of them needed to be on my radar.  Over at the bar—a surprisingly short one for the business it did—I saw Clay “Leadfoot” Headly getting a pitcher refilled with what looked like that green goo they put in glow sticks.  Leadfoot was a recent entrant to the world of the “Mind-Games”, having first made his mark in the summer-time sport of mountain bike racing.  The word I had was that he could top the podium in the snowboard half-pipe within the next year if his handlers could keep his head on straight.  I wasn’t betting on the handlers’ success.

Over by the DJ, one of those people who thought the crowd wanted to hear him grunt along with the vinyl he was massacring, I saw Lena “P.J.s” (“always make sure the ‘s’ is lower-case”) Johnson, women’s ballet ski competitor and rumored girlfriend of “Mind-Games” big-shot Andy Crow.  I didn’t see Andy anywhere, which was probably why that kid with the lemon yellow hair felt so comfortable hanging onLenalike that.

And in the center of the room, regaling people who were pretending they could hear his stories. was Pete “Pete” (OK, I had to) Oni, extreme snow-mobiler and resident bad boy of the junior circuit.  Pete’s exploits were talked about in whispered tones all up and down theRocky Mountainsand were what kept him on the mountain and flush with sponsors even though his days of leading the pack were long behind him.  If there were any other notables in the room, I didn’t see them and even back then I was pretty good at making a surreptitious survey of a room count.

A stoned-out chair-lift operator offered me a high five and exclaimed, “Baaaaattttt!” when I took him up on it.  “How’s the P.I.?!?!”  This was followed by a couple other people who also greeted me in similar fashion.

I was not exactly supposed to have had a cover, which was good because it had been blown pretty early on in the investigation.  I had been peeved at the time, but then had learned that most of the people at the “Mind-Games” seemed to think private detectives were a strange and interesting species and they all wanted to tell me something.  Very little of it was of value, but I was trying to sift through it all and see if any of it amounted to anything.

In a way, I had become the father confessor to a lot of people whose lifestyles led me to believe they couldn’t have found a church building from the inside.  They all had something they wanted to tell me about the recent accident, or something else they thought was going on, and they all wanted to do it in confidence.  Simultaneously, they wanted their friends and supposed admirers to all see that they had something worth telling the private eye—whether they actually did or not.

“You found out who did it?” Stoner John shouted.

“Did what?” I replied with a smile.  “Haven’t you heard?  It was just a freak accident!”  I didn’t really want to say that with an exclamation point, but I had to for it to be heard at all.

“Right, dude!” he shouted back, giving me an overdone wink.

He was distracted by something—perhaps a friend calling out to him or, more likely, just a voice in his head—and was jerked away like a dog on a leash.  I wasn’t too disappointed.

A couple more greetings and then I spotted someone I had missed in my initial sweep of the room.  She saw me looking her way and rolled her eyes.  To anyone watching, she probably appeared annoyed at having been spotted.  I knew that look, though, and knew it really meant she was bored out of her mind.

She was hanging out in a corner with a bunch of half-drunk college-age but not-college-material types, several of whom were trying to make some time with her.  She was laughing at their jokes and deftly putting off their pawing ways, all the while making it seem like her casual gestures were getting in their way.  If they were chagrined, they were either too drunk or too prideful to admit it.

I walked over and a guy with a beet-red mohawk and terminal acne shouted out, “Hey look, it’s the private detective!  Come to arrest one of us?”

Everyone at the table laughed and I chuckled along with the joke.  Sitting down, I turned to Mohawk and said, “You’re the one they call the ‘Donkey’, right?”

“Yeah, what of it?” he asked insolently.

“I have it on good authority that you’re known in some circles as a mule.”

He mumbled something about needing to be somewhere else and skedaddled.  I took the opportunity to slide in next to the girl who had caught my eye.  She was wearing the baggy, hip clothing of the grungy snowboard chic set and had pink highlights in her hair that did a good job of catching the flashing lights of the bar.  She wore lots of bracelets on one wrist and had a tattoo of a Greek word on the other.  “Didn’t I see you on the terrain park this afternoon?” I asked over the din.

“Maybe.  You the one who was filming us?”

“Wasn’t me.  I hate cameras,” I replied.

She laughed, the laugh going all the way to her eyes—something most of the laughter never did in that room, for anyone—then asked, “You really a detective?”

“Wanna see my badge?”

She laughed again, nudging me in the ribs and then answering a question from someone else at the table.  This led into a discussion of the snow conditions, which led into a discussion of the next day’s events, which led into a discussion of other mountain-related topics.

I think.  It was hard to hear anything clearly.  The answers I gave to the questions that seemed to be directed to me may have been complete nonsense.  If so, no one seemed to care.  I was thinking I was wasting my time, in more ways than one.

Then, maybe a fruitless hour later, the girl with the neon pink highlights leaned over and asked, “So, finding any big leads, Detective?”  She put one hand on my thigh and the other on my chest, acting like the next move might be to reach inside my jacket … or maybe even my pants.  If anyone at the table noticed her actions, they didn’t say anything about it.  Even the dude sitting on her other side, who had been quite interested in her earlier, seemed to have lost that interest in favor of the dark-skinned woman to his right.

“You never know,” I answered.  “There’s still some people I’d like to interrogate, though.”

“Is that a really cheesy pickup line?” she chided with another laugh.

“Maybe?  Did it work?” I asked, getting a chuckle from several people at the table.

Then, leaning in close, she whispered something in my ear, punctuated by a lascivious wink to the rest of the table.

“Wanna go somewhere else and,” I asked, “Um … you finish that sentence.”

“Sounds like fun,” she told me, bumping me out of the booth with her hip and then standing up to follow me.  Turning to the table, she told them with a lascivious smile, “I’m going to go get interrogated.”

The girls at the table “whooped” and the guys—who had still been hitting on her in a desultory manner even after I moved in close—looked disappointed.  Still, she took my arm—more than my hand, more like she was hanging on me to steady herself—and let me lead her out of the bar, after she’d slid into her coat.  We made our way through the maddening crowd and over towards the door.

Not out the door.  That had been my goal, but the press of people coming in was making it too hard to swim upstream.  I turned to say something to the girl and she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.  I thought I heard a cheer go up from the table we had been sitting at, but it was hard to be sure in the cacophony of The Dive Bar (that really was its name).

I returned the kiss passionately until I sensed a break in the crowd and we fell through it and out the door.  Outside, on the snow-covered sidewalks of the frozen mountain town, we stepped out of the rush of the door and fell to kissing again.  It wasn’t just to keep our lips warm.  It felt really good.

And it helped us stay in character.

Finally, when we had to breathe, we broke off the kiss and—with my mouth near her ear—I said, “I have missed you so much!”

“I’m not sure I like being someone who can be picked up in a bar.”

“You want to go back in?”

“Smoke no!”

“This is just helping to establish our street cred,” I told her, before kissing her again.

She then asked, “How much longer do I have to keep playing Sheila the Boarder Groupie?”

 

Who Are These People?

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If I were easily influenced—OK, more easily influenced than I already am—I think I would find our modern world scary.  OK, more scary than it already is.

For instance, a particularly insecure person—someone who needs constant affirmation of their friendships with other people—would seem to be incredibly vulnerable to this modern phenomenon—experienced by yours truly just moments ago—of a complete stranger telling me they want to share “Instant Messages” with me.

I, of course, looked at the name, first, to see if it was anybody I might know.  Considering I don’t know anyone named MeGottaBigBooty, I had no remorse about declining their offer.  The insecure person, though, the person who feels they don’t have any friends, the kind of a person who actually answers the questions on a telephone survey, that sort of person might actually accept the big derriere’d one in hopes that it would lead to a friendship.  Or, at the very least, tips on how to get a big booty yourself.

What I can’t figure out is why all these people want to message with me.  My suspicion is that they want to sell me something.  But then, that’s almost always my suspicion.  Accosted by a stranger in the mall, I look for his (or her) kiosk.  Person I don’t recognize comes to my door, I just assume they want to sell me either a candy bar that will somehow benefit the local band or interest me in a new religion.

[As an aside … wouldn’t you think that being told, “I’m a minister” would dissuade people from trying to convince me to join their religion?  It almost never does.  Repeated assertions along the lines of, “I go to church,” or “I disagree with your theology” or “I’m pretty sure you’re a glue-sniffing whack-job” barely seem to slow down their spiel.  Who are they thinking this works on?  Are there people so lonely that they will listen to a complete stranger who is paying them no attention just because they want the perceived company?  Apparently.]

Anyway, there are people amongst us who so crave human companionship that they will even sign up for an account on LinkedIn even though no one in the world has any idea what LinkedIn does or how they came to have account there in the first place.  It’s why we click “like” on pictures of some zit-faced kid we’ve never seen or heard of getting ready for his prom: because we think we might know his parents and we a] don’t want to offend them by ignoring the picture and 2] we’re hoping they’ll one day click “like” on the picture we plan on posting when we finally get a good one of the cat eating out of the dog dish in that cute way he only does when the camera isn’t around.

Did I say “we”?  I meant, “them” or “someone else”.

Sneaky Preview #2 of the NEW Novel!

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The new novel is ready but the cover is still under construction.  Let me know what you think of this iteration!  (And, to see the other sneak preview cover, go here!)

Click on the picture to the left if you’d like to see a larger version.

A Theory of Bonds

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One of the curiosities of modern warfare and espionage is the British decision to make their most successful spy of the day known to the public.  Generally, spies are kept secret, with great care being taken to keep their covers from being blown.

In the 1960s, however, the country of England (or Great Britain) decided that it somehow served their interest to publish and make movies about the exploits of their best spies.  Some have suggested that this was to scare the opposition.  If so, it hasn’t worked.  We can discuss that another time.

The first person to receive the title of “England’s #1 Spy”—or, “James Bond” for short—was a Scottish lad named Sean.  Tall, debonair, and with a voice that would have been instantly memorable to all (some have suggested that it was his voice that actually settled England on this new idea of spying because it was so easy for opposing forces to detect transmissions sent by this spy), Sean was the prototype for all James Bonds (sometimes called “Commander James Bond” or just “Oh, James!”) that would follow.

Following five spectacularly successful missions—if one can accept the maxim that it is better for the one to die to save the many (or, in these cases, that thousands should die to save the millions)—Sean retired from the title of James Bond.

England then hired someone from one of their outlying territories to take over the position of James Bond, chief of spies (who was given the number “7”, presumably to convince foreign powers that there were six other spies of even greater worth out there).  The new spy was another tall, debonair young man, this time from Australia, and named George.  George only led the British spy agency, MI6, for one mission, after which he got married.  The official story—this, too, was a new thing: putting out an official story about a spy, but it had some precedent having previous published in Japanese papers that James Bond had died—was that George was retiring from the James Bond service following the tragic death of his wife but the rumors persist that George merely faked his wife’s death and went off to live a life of ease—probably in Jamaica—with his beloved Tracy.

Suddenly without a James Bond and no one in the training pipeline,Britain talked Sean into coming back for one more mission while MI6 trained a new apprentice.  While Sean was blowing up a satellite with the aid of a woman in a bikini, MI6 was training a man named Roger to take his place.  Handsome in an effeminate way, Roger brought a strange sense of humor and a year of experience in the American west to the job, leaving almost a decade later when it seemed that his missions were becoming just too silly to bother with.  It was, after all, the early ‘80s and there wasn’t a lot to do, what with the Cowboy American president having vanquished all worthy foes.  He did, however, before retiring, kill the man who had supposedly killed Tracy, in some weird attempt to facilitate the fiction that all the James Bonds were the same man and not distinct individuals with singular looks and a shared sex addiction.

At some point in these years, many debate the actual year, Sean came out of retirement and, of his own accord, took up the title of James Bond and, without authorization, saved the world from almost the exact same threat it had faced in one of his earlier missions.  It has only been recently that MI6 would even acknowledge that his mission ever took place, so it remains shrouded in some secrecy.

It wasn’t until a few years later that England saw the need for another James Bond and hired a man named Tim.  Handsome, like the others, but strangely well-read in the works of former spies of England, Timothy served in two missions with distinction before quietly retiring as it didn’t seem like England needed James Bonds anymore.

When the need did arise,England hired an ex-patriot working in Los Angelesas a private eye to take on the job of James Bond.  Even when new to the job, however, he seems to have been aware of previous MI6 business well enough to tell the new boss where the old boss kept his liquor.  Many people were initially reluctant to accept the newby in the job of James Bond, and may reasons why have been suggested, but it is this writer’s contention that the reason this James Bond was often viewed with some disdain was that none of the women spies he worked with were as pretty as the woman who ran the American detective agency.  After serving with distinction for four missions, this James Bond—code named Pierce—retired to a quiet life in America with his wife and children.

It wouldn’t be until years later that England would again hire a James Bond, this time not out of necessity but, apparently, out of an overriding sense of, “Eh, why not?”  In keeping with that attitude, the powers that be (whoever “they” may be) decided to conduct a world-wide search to find the most boring, most-non-charismatic person on the planet.  Finding a man named Daniel whose personality was practically non-existent, they quickly set out to insert him in missions that, while vague in objective, were obtuse in outcome.

We can all thank England for using the James Bonds to keep the world safe and, I think I speak for everyone when I say: I wish they would bring back Sean.

Love Languages

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My wife recently found a book about “discovering your love language”.  It is, from all reports (hers, anyway) a good book and is really opening her eyes.  Mine, too, by proxy and whether I want them opened or not.

The premise of the book—I haven’t read it but I have had each paragraph discussed with me in monologue form and have had several key passages quoted to me—asserts that we all have a “love language”.  This is how we show love to other people and how we want to be loved.  The author’s premise—and according to my wife, he’s right—is that many of us (especially men) are not aware of our love language.  That’s why he wrote the book: so that we men could find out what our love language is and what our wife’s love language is by letting her read the book and then tell us how it comes out.

For instance, some people apparently show their love language through acts of service.  This is the person who shows her love by taking food to someone who is sick or actually looking for thoughtful, applicable Christmas cards rather than just buying the cheapest box of generic cards and sending them all out with the same photocopied message to everyone in the phone book.  This person, the author writes, is going to want to BE loved through acts of service.  In other words, a bowl of soup when she’s sick will express more love to her than, say, a Valentine’s card.

My wife’s love language is, apparently (if I was listening well and I can’t swear that I was because there was a good YouTube video playing about a cat trying to kill a fly and getting caught up in the Venetian blinds), time together.  For those of you who didn’t understand that sentence because you were thinking about the cat, let me repeat: my wife’s love language is time together.  This can involve walks together, drives together, sitting on the back porch together, etc.  The good news is (obviously) that I can show my wife all sorts of love without spending a dime.

My wife has another love language, but I’ve forgotten what it was.  I should ask, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 24+ years of marriage, it’s “be very careful about admitting what you didn’t hear”.

Other people, according to the author and my wife, have other love languages.  Some people really like to express their love through gift-giving while others express theirs through finding a hobby and sharing it.  One interesting phenomena my wife told me about from the book is that, often, a person who likes to express their love verbally will marry someone who is a good listener.  Another interesting thing, to my wife, was the revelation in the book that many people—especially or even almost exclusively of the male persuasion—like to express love through sex.  I, for one, am really glad we have books to tell us these things.  Men like sex?  How would we have known that without this book?

My wife has finished the book and we’ve been through it in some detail as we sat on the back porch, walked around the neighborhood or went on long car rides.  We’ve discovered what her love language is, but we still haven’t found mine.  I can tell you what it isn’t, though: discussing love languages.

Wanted: Naked People (?)

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As a phenomenally unsuccessful author of several novels, I began to look into the matter and try to figure out why my books aren’t selling. Now, I began with the reasonable assumption that my novels are the best-written and most-entertaining works of fiction on the market.

That being the case, why aren’t they selling?

The first thing that came to my mind were the covers. I compared the covers of my novels with those of other independent authors and discovered that my covers don’t look like other author’s covers. For instance, despite my covers having been designed by a former graphics artist, I couldn’t help but notice that my novels were missing one key ingredient that seems common to all other independent authors’ works:

Nudity.

Now, let me make it clear that I have no desire to ever have naked people on the cover of any of my books. While there are some passages in my books that are both sexy and Christian (i.e. marriage-honoring), it just seems that naked people on the cover would probably send the wrong message.

Tell the truth: if you see a book cover—or a movie poster—that shows two people who, from the waist up, are wearing no clothes, the first thing that comes to mind these days is probably not, “Boy, that looks like a happily married couple!” No, we just assume they are unmarried because modern popular culture finds no pleasing sexuality among the married—unless both people are of the same gender.

But then, another question comes to my mind: where and how were these cover pictures taken? There is apparently no shortage of people in this world—men and women—who have no qualms about having their picture taken while they are naked. Where are these people? I’m not saying I want to meet them or hire them, but if I did, I have no idea where I would find them. I check the want ads occasionally and I have never seen one that reads, “Young, chiseled torso seeking people who will photograph me” or “pert derrière seeks opportunity to be photographed in latest swimwear.” Everyone I know seems to prefer to live life clothed and, from what I can tell based on how we fill out those clothes, I say, “Praise the Lord!”

OK, so I don’t have naked people on my covers. What else am I missing? If there aren’t naked people, there are explosions. Once again: where does one go to photograph an explosion? I suppose some of this is being done with PaintShop, but they look real to me. As someone who generally tries to avoid explosions, I don’t know where I would go to take a picture of one—and I have a sneaking suspicion that if I tried to stage one the authorities might frown on me for doing so!

So I have no idea why my novels aren’t selling as well as the explosive-nudity cartel, but I’m going to keep working on it. If you have any ideas, please email me (unless you are currently running for mayor of New York City; I think I have made it clear I don’t want those kinds of pictures).

Find me at garisonfitch@gmail.com or my novels at www.garisonfitch.com.

Baby Boom!

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Like many of you, I became aware—whether I wanted to be or not—that royal wife Kate Middleton-Mountbatten (that’s what her last name would be in the normal world, right?) was quite possibly going to give birth this past weekend.

I think the Middleton-Mountbatten-Windsors are just about as cute a couple as there is in the known world, and for all their inherited pomp and circumstances they come across as very likeable and down-to-earth and I wish them the best as parents.  And let me go on record that I am all for babies, pregnancy, and “all that rot” as a British person would say (at least, they do in PG Wodehouse novels of the early 20th century).

So put me down as a proud supporter of parenthood and babyhood and all the rest before I say … “What?”

As in, “I don’t get it.”

Not that I don’t get a happily married couple wanting to have children—we have two ourselves—I just don’t get why we, Americans who fought a war with England for the express purpose of being able to wear funny three-pointed hats if we wanted to and not pay a confiscatory tax rate (which was, actually, less than we pay now, showing that we may have actually lost the Revolution—or given it back) and … where was I going with this?

Oh yeah.  Here it is: there are a lot of babies born all over the world every day and I’m happy for every one of them I hear about, but why am I hearing so much about this particular baby?  So he might or might not get to be king ofEnglandsome day, so what?  As near as I can tell, the purpose of the monarchy in England is to dress well and take fewer and less costly vacations than our President, so what’s the big deal about them having a “royal” baby?

Maybe it’s because I have grown up in America and the only king we’ve ever had during my lifetime was Elvis and I was too young to have noticed when his daughter was born but I just don’t understand all the hoopla for this one baby.

Morally, I think every baby should be cheered as loudly and happily as this little British boy.  The baby born today in Moore County probably won’t grow up to be queen of England(especially if he’s a boy), but so what?  He’s just as much a gift from God to his parents and the human race in general as little George Herbert Bartholomew Middleton-Mountbatten-Windsor the First and should be treated as such.

And lastly, I wonder if the prince and duchess are registered at Wal-Mart ‘cause I might get them something when I go there later for my tube socks.

Food Fight!

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It has come to our attention that the mayor of New York City has taken it upon himself to tell people how much sugary soda water they can purchase on a given visit to the convenience store. Claiming he is only doing this for the benefit of his subjects—who are, he seems to think, too stupid to regulate their own food intake—he has capped their, um, cup at 24 ozzes.

Out here in the rest of the country, we think this is nuts. Especially those of us with a libertarian bent, who think that if a person wants to eat nothing but fatty pork and keel over with a heart attack at a young age that should be their constitutionally guaranteed right to do so. Want to talk bloated, gorged and gluttonous? Let’s talk about the government’s “budget”. Who is the government to tell us what we should or shouldn’t eat?

I like food. I also like to eat out.

On occasion. For the sake of the household budget, my family eats out twice a week. Once a week we’ll go to a fast food place (read: cheap) and once a week we’ll go somewhere a little nicer. The rest of our meals are eaten at home—fixed expertly by my wife and just chock-full of health and happiness.

It’s not like this for everyone, though. A study a few years back said that the people of Oklahoma City eat out more on average than any other state in the Union at 17 times a week! I checked out my calendar and—unless the Okies have added a meal to the standard regimen of breakfast, lunch and dinner—there are only 21 meals in a week. This may explain why the Southwest Airlines flight from Oklahoma City to Dallas has to taxi on I-35 the whole way because they can’t get the planes in the air.

My family and I took a trip to the Dallas area over the weekend and one of the things I like about such trips is eating out. We hit some fast food places, a couple “finer” dining experiences, and—I’ll tell you the truth—after two days I was ready for some good ol’ home-cooked meals.

It’s not just that my wife is a better cook than those employed by most restaurants. I like to be able to put on some music I want to listen to, and feel free to eat fast or slow as the mood takes me without a waiter hovering over my table. I enjoy being able to get up and go get my own glass of water (or other beverage) when the mood takes me.

I also like being able to walk around the block after a meal without feeling like a coronary episode is impending. See, after I eat out, I generally go get back in the car and drive to some place. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like the food starts to settle in almost instantly and, by the time I get an opportunity to walk later, I’m feeling heavy and bloated like—and I mean this in the best possible way—an Okie.

But this is just me. I don’t want the government telling me or anyone else how much to eat, drink or consume. I don’t want them telling restaurants they have to waste menu space on printing the calorie count for an order of grease-soaked cheese fries. I don’t think it’s any of the government’s business whether I eat out 21 times a week or none.

I also don’t think it’s any of the government’s business who I talk to on the phone but I guess that ship’s already sailed.

Let’s Not Do It Again

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I’m listening to “Jack & Diane” by John “Used to Be Cougar” Mellencamp and thinking how glad I am that being 16 years old wasn’t actually the high point of my life!

I remember a friend of mine in 10th grade who was lamenting no longer being in junior high.  Even at the time, it seemed kind of pathetic to already be living in the past.  He would be my age now—assuming he’s still with us—and I really hope 9th grade wasn’t thehigh point of his life.

What is it about popular singers—and entertainment in general—that so lionizes the teenage years?  I get that the entertainment complex wants to appeal to that demographic because they often have disposable income and are—let’s face it—morons (when it comes to fiduciary responsibility).  Still, you can’t make a sustained living off of only teenagers.

They must know that we adults are tuning in, too.  So why this push to take us back?

One of the all-time great “looking back at my high school years” songs is “Glory Days” by Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen.  I hear that song and I’m taken back to my own high school days … even though I was a lousy baseball player, never had a girlfriend—let alone one who married someone else, divorced, and now lives down the street—and I don’t drink (and didn’t then).  But I can listen to that song—or play it for my sons—and say, “Man!  That’s how it WAS!!”

[Full disclosure: my sons haven’t figured out the attraction of Springsteen’s music—to them he is, at best, The Shop Foreman—other than that my younger son likes the song “DarlingtonCounty” because it ends with the protagonist’s best friend getting hand-cuffed to a state trooper’s Ford.]

Now, on one level, it makes sense that hearing songs that were popular while we were in high school would evoke thoughts of high school.  But why is there this pull to romanticize what wasn’t—for me, anyway—romantic?

It’s more than just high school and/or the teenage years in general, though.  I like listening to the Beach Boys even though I’ve never surfed.  I was playing some Jimmy Buffett music earlier today even though I’ve never tasted a margarita, robbed a filling station or gone very far on a boat without getting seasick.  I adore Joe Walsh even though I have never (knowingly) trashed a hotel room.

This is what music does for us: it takes us some place we wouldn’t have otherwise gone.  To a mountain peak, a sandy beach, or even to the very throne of God.  I don’t want to go back to high school—even as a visitor—but I can enjoy a song that takes me there vicariously.

Much as you’re probably enjoying the thought of going somewhere that has a coherent ending to this column.