Monthly Archives: January 2011

What my playlist says about me…

As I ran this morning at the gym (aside: I only run outside in good weather), I was listening to my iPod Shuffle and wondering what those around me were listening to. What you listen to says something about you, whether you wish it did or not. Of course, if I could hear what the other runners were listening to, I’d probably make some kind of judgment based on what I heard.

So what kind of judgment would someone make if they heard what played on my iPod this morning? Here’s what I listened to:

1. Bringin’ da Noise by *Nsync.

2. Overkill by Men at Work

3. Down Under by Men at Work.

4.  Come Alive by Mark Schultz.

5.  Don’t Cross the River by America.

6.  Closer Than I’ve Ever Been by Mark Schultz.

7.  Syndicate by The Fray

8.  What About Now by Daughtry.

9.  Lovers in Japan by Coldplay.

10.  Supernatural by Daughtry.

11.  What I Like About You by Lillix.

12.  Message in a Bottle by The Police.

There’s definitely a nostalgic component to my music, and that surprised me. I don’t dwell in past, but … songs by *Nsync and the Backstreet Boys end up on my Shuffle because they take me back to a time when my kids were in middle and high school and we used to take these long, cross-country vacations. We listened to their music in the van sometimes. Lillix’s “What I Like About You” is also from that time, from the Freaky Friday soundtrack. My kids (and Debbie and I) really enjoyed that movie, which starred Jamie Lee Curtis and the now-disgraced Lindsay Lohan.

Add to that Men at Work, America, and The Police, and this list practically screams nostalgia. Those groups were popular back when Deb and I were in college and then out on our own, before kids, back when we were cool. (At least, I thought we were cool. Deb says we were never cool.)

But there’s a good mix of up-to-date music in there, too. I love the contemporary Christian scene, especially artists like Mark Schultz and Chris Tomlin. I make no secret I’m a Christian, by the way. If you’ve never read them, my books straddle the line between mainstream and inspirational.

And I LOVE the Fray. Can’t wait for their next album. The Coldplay song is from Viva la Vida, which I got largely because of the title track, but I really liked “Lovers in Japan” as well. And Daughtry.  He is SO much better than American Idol, and I’m glad he lost the competition and is proving to be more popular than a lot of those who won. His thoughtful lyrics and driving melodies are really appealing.

So, in short, here’s the analysis based on my iPod playlist: I enjoy revisiting the past, because so much of it—especially concerning Debbie and my kids—was so enjoyable. But I don’t spend my life there. I live for today, and find good in as many places as I can.

That’s what I want to believe, and I’m sticking to it.

So Cold the River

Michael Koryta’s latest novel, So Cold the River, is nothing like the novels that he’s written to this point. While it still has well-drawn characters and impeccably-described settings, this one starts out with a quiet puzzle rather than a lit fuse. That puzzle is presented to a man named Eric Shaw, who has the ability to sense truth through photographs and video. The failed former cinematographer is hired to go to West Baden, Indiana to do a video portrait of the mysterious early life of a 95-year-old rich man who is dying. The project is financed by Bradford’s daughter-in-law against the old man’s wishes. Bradford started out as a purveyor of Pluto water which is drawn from the springs found at West Baden.

Weird stuff begins to happen as soon as Shaw is hired. The blue bottle of Pluto water the daughter-in-law gives him is strangely cold, even in the ninety-degree heat. Shaw makes the mistake of tasting the water and is soon drawn into fits of migraine headaches and—once he reaches the West Baden Hotel—surreal visions. A young man who is a descendant of Bradford’s becomes a thorn in everyone’s side as he, too, sees visions and is driven to protect old secrets, even if that means committing murder. Like quicksand, So Cold the River slowly pulls the reader in until there’s no going back. What starts out as a curiosity that tugs at your brain becomes a compelling urge, not unlike the one which possesses Shaw, to learn the truth behind the Pluto water and the mysteries that surround Bradford’s history.

Though the end didn’t completely satisfy all the questions I felt Koryta had built up, there’s no denying the power of the story and his ability to tell it in a literate, compelling way. Plus, for those of us who’ve been to the towns of West Baden and French Lick and stayed in the two amazing hotels, Koryta’s novel provides an imaginative turn on the history of the area while documenting the rise, fall, and resurrection of this part of southern Indiana.


Some of you may know that I wrote columns about being a stay-at-home dad for the Indianapolis Star.  The first column, which you can read here, was about my feelings the day my older daughter Liz started first grade.  This column was written on the day my younger daughter Katy finished high school.  It was never published, but I always liked it.  It serves as a nice bookend to that first column, and I thought I’d share it with you (especially since I got nostalgic over the holidays).  Keep in mind it was written two and a half years ago…


Katy’s gone.

She didn’t hustle by me on her way out the door.  To her credit, she stopped and gave me a hug when I said, “Well, here it is, your last day of school.”  I needed that hug.

I wished her good luck on her Physics and Econ finals.  She got in her sunburned, paint-peeling red Cavalier, backed out of the driveway, and drove away, waving at me as she did.

On this same porch about 15 years ago I put her older sister Liz on the school bus to first grade.  And got misty-eyed.

I’m misty-eyed again, for an entirely different reason.  Who could have seen this coming fifteen years ago?  Who knew time would pass so quickly?

Liz left the house a half hour ago, on her way to her summer job at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, but with suitcase packed because she and her boyfriend were leaving at noon to go to Peru to be at a friend’s wedding this weekend.  Her boyfriend is one of the groomsmen.


Liz will start her final year at Ball State this fall to finish up her degree in primary education.  She begins her student teaching in August.  Next year at this time she’ll (hopefully) have a job.  She is talking about moving away from Indiana.  She thinks North Carolina would be a good location.

North Carolina?

Katy will be at Purdue in the fall, studying at the Krannert School of Management.  She’s contemplating international business.  She speaks French reasonably well and has the kind of outgoing personality that would fit well in the business world.

International business?

Fifteen years ago I wondered how Mom had felt when she’d put me on the bus to first grade, if her thoughts were similar to mine, but since she had died the spring before, I couldn’t ask her.  Today I want to ask my dad a similar question, how he felt when my youngest brother Brian graduated from high school, but I can’t do that either.  Dad died last fall.  I hope that I will be around to answer these kinds of questions if my kids have them.

I open the door and walk in the quiet house, placing my now-empty coffee mug on the kitchen counter.  I sigh.  And although I know Katy will be home after school this afternoon, and that she will be living with us this summer while she works as a lifeguard before she starts college, something has changed today.

She’s not my little girl anymore.  Katy’s gone.