A Better Man

August 11, 2016

When I was in my early twenties, grunge music took hold and hi-jacked the American airwaves. To me, it seemed like it happened overnight–but I think that’s more a symptom of my graduate-school myopia than anything. I was ass-deep in Alexander Pope and John Dunne and Jesus-help-me James Joyce to really notice what was playing on the radio. Until I did. Whoa. What was this howl-y, sloggy, slack-grimy stuff blazing out of the radio? I was thunderstruck. When did this happen?  I wasn’t sure if I liked it or loathed it.

I came around, though. I came around to the growling vocals and the clangy garage sound and the dusty, well-worn plaid. In particular, I have a soft spot for the band Pearl Jam. There are many arguments about who defined “Seattle Sound,” and who embodied that heart and angst and spirit of the city best. There are bitter disagreements, even to the point of righteousness, and I get that, but y’all can stuff it. I’ve always had a soft spot for Vedder and the boys. I will never apologize.

I had a boyfriend once who was absolutely disgusted that if given the choice, I’d pass up Nirvana, toss away the Soundgarden, and head straight for the Pearl Jam. Unsurprisingly, that relationship didn’t last. Mainly because I don’t think music is a platform for derision.

A girl likes what she likes, and you can take it or leave it, which is what my husband had to do when he found out that I listened to the wrong Dylan.

Blessedly, he is a forgiving man.

My distaste for Paul Simon was also a black mark on my standing with him (Hey, Julio, hang in the other play yard, far away from my ears). Secretly, though, I think he likes it that I don’t back down. I don’t apologize.

I even won’t apologize that Pearl Jam, bucking the fuck-the-man mentality at the time, was featured in one of my favorite movies of all time, Singles. Those jackass sellouts! But I loved it. It wasn’t expected, and earned them some shade, but fuckit. That movie is pure hipster joy, right there. Hipster joy served up with a healthy serving of self-deprecation and tongue-in-cheek humor? I’m so in. Say what you will.

I’m also so in, and will always be, because…lyrics. Dang.


Is something wrong/ she said?

Of course there is.

You’re still alive/ she said

Oh, but do I deserve to be?

Is that the question?

And if so/ if so/

who answers

Who answers?


And of course, Jeremy, the song that said so much before anyone knew what was coming for us.


Surely I remember/picking on the boy

Seemed a harmless little fuck

Oh, but we unleashed a lion

Gnashed his teeth and bit

The Recess Lady’s breast

How could I forget?


You can say that Vedder’s no prophet (and he doesn’t want to be one), and he’s no philosopher, but a poet? Maybe.

A reluctant poet at best. Maybe just a howling coyote.

Even if he’s any or none of those things, he is dear to my heart, because every time I hear a Pearl Jam song, it makes me think of Mama. Because Mama, bless her, could never understand what the fuck he was saying.

I mean, let’s face it, Ed. You could enunciate a little better, dude. You don’t have to go all crazy Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins kind of enunciation, but you have a mush-mouth problem.

Don’t know what mush-mouth problem is? It’s where you’re singin’ with so much feelin’ that nostinkingbody can make out what you are sayin’. Most of the grunge-era bands suffered the same affliction.

Poor Mama. The Grunge Movement was hard on her. Stuck in the car with me, where I controlled the radio, she got very confused. To wit:

Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit: (real lyric): the denial/the denial/the denial.

Mama hears: poke an eye out/poke an eye out/poke an eye out

(don’t even ask what she did with: an albino/a mulatto/a mosquito/my libido. Lordy.)


Soundgarden’s Spoon Man: (real lyric): Spoon Man…

Mama hears: S’a Poot Man…


and my fave


 Pearl Jam’s Better Man: (real lyric): can’t find a better man

Mama hears: Can’t find that butter, ma’am?


I have gleefully told the girls about all of Mama’s mis-steps, but they think the last one is especially funny and whenever my beloved Pearl Jam comes across the radio waves, they clap and howl and sing “Can’t find that butter, Ma’am!!” I grin and cackle and my gosh, that’s the good stuff, I tell you.


That Pearl Jam song has been on my mind so much lately, because in the complicated, salty-eyed muck of Mama’s death, I’m learning so much about how…okay, this is going to sound sentimental but I don’t care…you find, in so many ways, if you’ve found the Better Man.

Yeah, I’m talking about my husband.

He’s the Better Man, and it seems crazy, but going through this awful time, where my feelings are all over the place and nothing makes sense and there are black, black days…through all of this nasty stuff…I’m finding a deep, new {wonderful} appreciation for my husband.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate him before. I’m well aware that I got ridiculously lucky when I met that man. Ridiculously Lucky. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s nice. He’s a kickass father and works really, really hard. He’s a good-lookin’ devil. He tolerates my neuroses and my, ummm, “quirks.” Many of which aren’t super fun.

And now I’m finding out that not only can he do all of that, he can do all of that when things fall apart. When the proverbial rug’s been yanked out. This is the first big loss for either of us, and it’s been really scary because we have zero idea what to do or how to handle this or what’s normal, or if normal even exists when it comes to things like this.

What I’m finding out is that there are some people who will take your hand and sit in the muck with you and not go anywhere, even if they’re scared, too.

Silver lining. Better man. Lucky girl.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Biz August 9, 2016 at 7:29 am

Loved this post – and love that I can actually leave a comment! Hugs my dear!


elizabeth August 9, 2016 at 8:05 am

Oh, Eddie V. I always had a soft spot for him even if Chris Cornell is my favorite (his voice KILLS me and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” always hits me in the feels when I listen to it). I wasn’t *as* bad as your Mama when it came to mis-hearing lyrics, but it definitely took a few listens to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to figure out what he was singing.

I have to say, though, that I’m FLABBERGASTED that you don’t like Paul Simon. Does this extend to Simon and Garfunkel or just his solo work???


Annie August 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

I’m not sure I ever understood Seattle grunge even though I was smack in the middle of it and the appropriate age to adopt it all. I was always too chubby for plaid, lol.

Love both of you and am so glad that you have each other now and always.


Sherri August 14, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Love it :)


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