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Random Shuffle: The Beach Boys, The Jesus & Mary Chain, And Ella Fitzgerland & Louis Armstrong

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"Surfin' USA" – The Beach Boys
From the album Made in the USA
Click here to download all songs featured in today's Random Shuffle.

It looks like we're gonna survive the Blizzard of 2010. I have maneuvered the wife's car out of the frozen drive way and she has now made it safely to work. I finished my morning ritual of e-mail/Facebook, then loaded the dishwasher, started a load of laundry and am ready to do some writing. The dog is slip sliding around on the snow and ice after having been kept inside all weekend. I'm getting a little stir-crazy after literally not leaving the house since Friday, but I'll pull through.

I know my friends from up north are ready to rain down a storm of "quit yer whinin'" and its true that what we got wasn't that insane – 7-9 inches of snow sandwiched between layers of ice is not The Day After Tomorrow and is likely just another January day for those in New Hampshire, but this is West Tennessee. We're not equipped for this stuff. The only salt I own comes in small shakers. I don't have any chains and if I did I wouldn't know how to apply them to my tires. The town is obviously not equipped for it either since I've seen hide nor hair of any sort of plow on my streets, and I live less than a mile from downtown.

To tell the truth though, its been kind of fun. The wife left school early on Friday and we spent the weekend watching TV on DVD and probably a half a dozen movies. Snacks all around. Blankets and the pets for warmth. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days, if I do say so myself.

But now, yeah, I'm ready for a little sun and surf.

"God Help Me" – The Jesus & Mary Chain
From the album Stones & Dethroned
Click here to download all songs featured in today's Random Shuffle.

Sometime right after I graduated from college I gave a large stack of CDs to my sister. Like a lot of people college was a very transitory period in my musical life. I came to college as a long-haired metal head and left it as a short-haired hippy. Much of that transition involved a girl, and, well a boy.

The girl was a girlfriend and she was totally punk rock. She loved the hard-edged noise boys. I was in over my head. For all my Nirvana and Pearl Jam she had two Dead Kennedys and four Henry Rollins. In the game of being hip she always won. I played along and pretended, but we both knew she was the leader of our two-person gang.

Eventually the relationship soured and so did my love for most of that music. You know how that goes, one day the girl goes and suddenly all the music you shared only invokes painful memories. Somewhere in the midst of all that landed the boy. Just a friend, who dug on the folk, the hippies, the jam band: John Prine, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead. He began to turn me onto that scene and when the girl left I plunged headlong into it.

Enter the sister and her still passion for the hard rocking/alternative/grunge/whatever-you-call it music. I grabbed up all the music I couldn't stomach any longer and gave it right over to her.

Fast forward a decade or so and find me looking through some old bins of my sister's that the mother has been storing since my sister and her husband moved to China. Beyond the clothes, posters, and unused wedding gifts were loads of CDs, including a stack of albums that I had given her so long ago.

Lets just say in the intervening years I've remapped myself musically again, gotten over the girl and gone back to craving some of those old tunes. And here they are. Since the sister has no plans of returning to the States anytime soon, and since mailing things like CDs is asking to be ripped off in China all those golden tunes now rest again on my shelves. Plus a few others that I didn't give her.

Circle of life and all that.

"I Got Plenty of Nothing" – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
From the album Jazz Masters 24
Click here to download all songs featured in today's Random Shuffle.

Lets go back to college for a moment. Two years after the aforementioned girl, my junior year. I had never been much of a ladies man and I was in the long midst of a very dry spell. I had a huge crush on the editor of the yearbook. In fact I was a member of the yearbook staff simply so I could be near her several times a week. I used to call her up for help on a layout not because I didn't know what to do but so I could sit next to her for a few minutes more.

This happened enough that I actually got rather good at layouts and the whole yearbook concept. We also got to be pretty good friends. She started the year with a boyfriend and ended it without one. All through it I longed to be the guy on the other end of her hand, but could never work the courage up.

That summer she went home and I stayed at school finishing up the yearbook. There was a lot of work left to do and I toiled long hours getting it done. But I didn't mind because that meant periodically she'd give me a call to see how it was going.

I made her a mix tape. It was a really good one, too. Full of songs that expressed love, friendship, solidarity and hinted at perhaps a little more. It started with a bang and never gave up. The flow was perfect. I sent it to her with my heart on my sleeve hoping she would get the hint, hoping she wouldn't get weirded out. She loved it but if she found any deeper meaning she certainly didn't come out and say it.

The fall rolled around, she came back and I still couldn't find the nerve. At this point we had entered the stage of friendship where I feared losing what we had if I tried to go further. Or something. Whatever, I was shy and nervous and too afraid to put my heart out there.

Then the day came. She left yearbook early to have dinner with Charlie. Now this boy did not really have a great reputation on campus. He was in like his seventh year of college, still having not obtained a bachelor's, and he appeared to be none the better for it. He was totally not the guy I would have picked for her, even when I wasn't picking me. Add to that the lame way he asked her out: he asked her for help on his English homework and for payment agreed to take her to dinner. I was flabbergasted. When I asked her why she fell for it, why in the world she was going out with him she replied:

"I haven't had a date in months. He's the first guy that's even asked."

Had you looked into the room at that moment you would have seen my heart in a vice grip with her twisting the lock tight. Why, I wondered, hadn't I simply asked her? Why, I still wonder did I not take that as a challenge and ask her out again. I could have won that competition easily.

I supposed I'll never know.

Somehow, years later, I managed to find some courage, asked a pretty girl out and married her. The other girl is now my friend on Facebook and sometimes I look at her pictures, at her life and try to imagine myself in it. I never fit. I simply could not be that person by her side anymore. My life is definitely not what I expected it to be, and not always what I wish it was, but I'm okay with that. When I look at what I might have had, I have to be happy with what I've got.

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About Mat Brewster