Went to my accountant to figure out my 2015 taxes today. I’m in a monetary quandary: I make too much money to qualify for things like subsidies for my health insurance or financial aid for my daughter’s college tuition, and yet I don’t make enough to cover all the expenses that I have to pay. This means that I put myself in debt every month just to make ends meet, believing that somehow I will manage to come up with the shortfall and catch up with myself. I’m sure my situation is not unique – in fact, I would venture to guess that it’s quite common for anyone who’s not in the magical “one percent”. Don’t get me wrong: I am extremely grateful for my employment arrangement (which, admittedly, is pretty darn cushy), because it enables me to earn a decent salary. But being dissatisfied with so many aspects of the work that I do (this is a broken-record complaint of mine; see “The Blizzard of 2016 and Some Thoughts about My Job”, 1/27/16, among others), I dream of the day when I can do something else for a living. Unfortunately, even if I could figure out what that “something else” might be, I’m quite certain that “something else” will not pay me nearly as much as I make now. My annual meeting with my trusted family accountant (who has been my accountant for nearly 20 years, to whom I have sent everyone in my immediate family, and who affectionately told me, as we looked through my 6-inch-thick file, that I have a lot of “oddities” where my financial situation is concerned) at tax time always brings this troubling fiscal reality into focus. But surprisingly, I don’t hate taxes as much as other people do because in recent years I’ve tended to get a refund, which turns out to be a nice windfall that is almost always earmarked well in advance of actually receiving it.
This year’s earmark will probably be my daughter’s summer internship. It looks like she’s going to South Africa. For a person who has believed, almost her entire life, that she wants to work with endangered African animals, a trip to Africa to actually work with endangered African animals seems to be in order, if for nothing else than to confirm that this is what she really wants to do and not some romantic notion. But – surprise! – providing unpaid labor for a wildlife rehabilitation center on the other side of the world will actually cost Mommy Dearest upwards of $1,600, which covers room and board but does not include the hefty airfare. And now she has the nerve to whine about the 15-hour flight! (“You can always work with endangered African animals at the Bronx Zoo,” I helpfully suggested, the response to which was less than enthusiastic.)
It’s just as well that she’ll be gone for three weeks over the summer because, if all goes according to slow-moving plan, the menagerie and I will be moving to temporary digs for about six months beginning in April. As of today, I am waiting to hear back from the realtor, the project manager and the general contractor, which doesn’t bode well for the progress of this project if I’m chasing them already and the gig hasn’t even started yet. I am not optimistic, but I’ll just have to stay patient. Raising my house has become a necessity, and a grant from New York State is paying for the bulk of it, so a half-year of inconvenience will be worth it in the end (I hope). The value of my home will increase, potential flood damage from any future storms will be mitigated, and my long parking nightmare will finally be over! I’ll be able to leave my house on weekends and go to places beyond “biking distance”. I may even be able to invite people to visit!! A year from now, my life will (theoretically) have improved exponentially.
But make no mistake: There’s still a long, potentially frustrating period of my life to get through in the months ahead. Who knows what they’ll find when they get my house up in the air? My architect said, upon initial inspection from my crawl space, the floor beams of my house “look like spaghetti”, going in every which way. What if there’s previously undetected termite damage or mold? My biggest nightmare by far is that the entire house will simply collapse in on itself as they’re lifting it. I wish I could just blink like “I Dream of Jeannie” and have it all be over, with my cute little bungalow eight feet up and a double carport underneath.
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On that happy note, it’s time for another Nan’s Top Ten list, and this one is especially close to my heart: My Top Ten Favorite Singers. See, once upon a time, I used to be a singer myself. I actually still have nearly perfect pitch, but I have no range whatsoever. I basically am a one-octave singer, somewhere in the tenor/contralto spectrum. And it’s been years since I actually read music so I don’t know if I would even be able to anymore – it’s kind of like losing a language. But you can still hear me unabashedly belting out tunes in my car, and every once in awhile, if I have a little alcohol in me and a good song comes on, I might even sing in public!
But enough about me: Without further ado, here are the ten singers whose vocal gifts I hold in highest esteem and, as a singer myself, can only envy:
- Andy Bell of Erasure – His voice, especially when multi-tracked, sounds like a choir of angels. I love every note that comes out of his mouth. His latest project (in addition to Erasure’s 30th anniversary) is the second iteration of his one-man show featuring alter-ego Torsten, the polyamorous libertine. I heard the first single from the project, “My Precious One”, the other day and it was, of course, delicious.
- Ali Campbell of UB40 – Not a classically beautiful instrument, but his fine raspy tenor is so appealing to my ears. I especially love his tone on “Kingston Town”.
- Bowie – Much has been said on this blog already about Bowie’s genius as a songwriter, performer and icon, but his voice may not get the credit it deserves. It is as chameleonic as his persona: Anthony Newley-esque British cabaret singer, rock wailer, soulful crooner, anthemic belter, plaintive whiner (listen to “Running Gun Blues” on The Man Who Sold the World and you’ll know exactly what I mean) – the man could do it all.
- Iggy Pop – I love Iggy’s voice, so deep and rich and raw, even now. Post Pop Depression, his new project with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, is so tantalizing, especially after hearing the first single, “Gardenia”.
- Midge Ure – An under-appreciated Eighties chanteur, Ure was the soaring lead singer of Ultravox and Visage and co‑writer of the seasonally ubiquitous “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.
- Ann Wilson – Half of the Heart sisters, she was my vocal idol when I was in college and imagined that I might possibly be worthy of singing in a band (I was wrong, of course, mostly due to my being a complete coward).
- Annie Lennox – Her voice in the ‘80s was magical, but now it’s even more nuanced and textured. Listen to what she does with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”.
- Glenn Tilbrook – Taken on its own, his distinctive voice touched something deep inside me from the moment I heard the opening notes of “If I Didn’t Love You” (from Squeeze’s breakthrough record, Argybargy) back in college, but if possible it was made even better when meshed with the depths of Chris Difford’s basso profundo. My friend Sue treated me to an Acoustic Squeeze performance back in December, featuring a stripped down Glenn and Chris doing all their hits and some songs from their latest album, which I have not yet discovered but it’s certainly on my list. They were in very good voice that night and they really seemed to enjoy themselves, as we in the audience did as well.
- Bryan Ferry – The man is panty-dampening smoothness personified. He could sing the phone book and make it sound sexy.
- Johnette Napolitano – The soul of Concrete Blonde, her range and tone (especially on the lowest notes) are epic. Where have you gone, Johnette Napolitano? I miss your voice.
Honorable mention goes to three “newbies”, all of whom have supremely impressive and wholly singular instruments: Pink, Adele and Adam Lambert. Adam Lambert is pretty damn special, folks. I wish he would find his niche because I want him to get the attention and fame he deserves. He was actually able to follow in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury (a man with an incredible voice, but not one of my personal favorites – perhaps because his voice is almost too perfect?) as lead singer of Queen on a recent tour.
[Post-script on a prior top ten list: My Top Ten Perfect Pop Songs list (“A Hodgepodge and My First Top Ten List”, 9/23/15) admittedly omitted quite a few excellent songs, some of which were pointed out by my friend Carol Constantine, including the fantastic “No Matter What” by Badfinger (OMG, I LOVE that song, and amazingly I do not own it!!) But two that should have made my list (which I might have to expand to a Top 20 list) are “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s and Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”.]