I Was Never Cool in School…

Inspired by:Underground” (1995) from the Ben Folds Five album Ben Folds Five

This song reminds me of high school, or more specifically, thinking about high school on the verge of my ten year high school reunion a while ago. It’s the song’s opening lines:

I was never cool in school
I’m sure you don’t remember me
And now it’s been 10 years
I’m still wondering who to be
But I’d love to mix in circles, cliques, and social coteries, that’s me
Hand me my nose ring (Can we be happy?)
Show me the mosh pit (Can we be happy?)
We can be happy underground

“Underground,” written by Ben Folds

Aside from the nose ring*, I feel like this describes high school me pretty well. A mostly unforgettable existence where I was fairly known among the various social groups hung out with but not known to the wider population of the school. Part of this was due to being one of 2,000 kids or so in the school, and among the 700 or so kids in my graduating class, but also because I just didn’t care about being popular. For that reason, I kind of hated high school (in retrospect) and fled Utah because I didn’t want to simply be a “townie” that followed everyone to the University of Utah or whatever.

Continue reading “I Was Never Cool in School…”


Inspired by: Jesusland” (2005) from the Ben Folds’ album Songs for Silverman

Two straight posts kinda centered on the dominant religion of Utah. Oh joy!

When I listen to “Jesusland,” I can picture the type of southern or rural area that Ben Folds is describing. He grew up in North Carolina, and I’ve seen those places with giant crosses, dollar stores, and other indications of religiosity undergirding everything. I also see the same thing here in Utah, never failing to pass an LDS meeting house when I venture out of the house, unless I am driving in one specific direction and not that far.

If you’ve ever been to Utah, it’s probably to come see all our amazing National Parks and Monuments. Or the mountains, for summer hikes or winter skiing. We have a “booming” tech industry with a dumb name (Silicon Slopes), trying to take advantage of our generally well-educated citizens and lower cost of living compared to the Bay Area or other tech hubs.

Otherwise, what’s the point of coming here? We have terrible air for half the year, from the winter inversions (January to March) and smoke from wildfires in the summer (June to August). We have funny laws related to alcohol, and despite being surrounded by states with versions of legalized gambling (either lotteries or actual gambling) resulting in funding for schools and whatnot, our Republican-led supermajority legislature will never allow those “vices” to come to Utah, letting the citizens of our state to fund our neighbors through their “illicit” border runs for PowerBall, weed, or fancy booze.

Continue reading “Brighamland”

Shame and Guilt and Fear…

Inspired by: Cigarette” (1997) from the Ben Folds Five album Ben Folds Five

How old were you when you first realized that your parents were human? That they weren’t some weird, bigger version of you that seemingly knew everything somehow and that they existed before you did and had flaws and struggles and long-term trials to be the best version of themselves that they could be?

This realization comes early for a lot of kids. It doesn’t take much to pierce that image honestly. I can’t pinpoint an exact date myself, but I’m sure it happened long before the incident I’m going to talk about in this blog. Like the first time that I “outscored” my dad in out nightly Jeopardy! watch. Or I came to him with AP Calculus homework that I didn’t understand and he had to read my textbook to refresh his memory how to do what I was asking. Or our struggles with poverty growing up, though a lot of that was pretty well shielded from us kids growing up until we got a little older and realized just how poor we were.

But the day that I fully realized my dad was truly human occurred sometime in 2005, when I learned something that managed to shock me in such a way I collapsed to the floor crying in my sisters’ apartment and ultimately led me to finally leave the Mormon church. It was the night I found out that my dad was a smoker.

Continue reading “Shame and Guilt and Fear…”

Signs You’ve Made It

Inspired by: Free Coffee” (2008) from the Ben Folds’ album Way to Normal

As the first song from Way to Normal to pop up in the series, let’s talk about how Ben Folds recorded almost two whole albums and “leaked” the “wrong” version of the songs, which led to a lot of internet discussion on the various Ben Folds sites around the internet what was going on because the “leaked” versions were definitely a little more foul mouthed than regular Ben Folds.

As a quick aside, the first time I saw him perform “Free Coffee” live was pretty amazing. If you listen to the song, it has a very distinct piano sound, one that people that he made by using a distortion pedal or something similar. But one of the first times I saw him play the song live, which was a few weeks before the album had even released, he put a tin of Altoids on the piano strings and did some other stuff I’m surely forgetting to get the wonderful sound.

He also apparently did it at a show I went to a few months before that show that the internet apparently forgot (but I was there, I promise!). It just reinforces his musical bonafides in my eye, something that was further reinforced when I was a member of his Patreon a while ago and he wrote a song in a couple of hours (from lyrics submitted by patrons) playing all the instruments while we watched in stunned silence for the most part.

Continue reading “Signs You’ve Made It”