In 2007-07, I switched schools, going from Hamilton Southeastern to the first new public high school in the state of Indiana in 20+ years and HSE’s sister school Fishers High School. I moved mainly because when the school split would happen, if I remained at HSE, I would be teaching biology to freshmen, and after teaching chemistry for nearly a decade, I had no desire to go backward. Plus, at FHS, I would get to start the Honors Chemistry and Microbiology programs from scratch. To a healthy me, that was a challenge I needed at this point in my career. Unfortunately, I underestimated my healthiness and found out later that this change was a huge strain on my health. However, if I stayed at HSE, my mental side would have dragged me down faster by teaching freshmen because I took it as a demotion.
The crazy part of the move is that I instantly went from being a teacher of average age to being one of the old teachers in the building. That was ironic since I had spent all of my career teasing the seasoned teachers. Now, I was the seasoned teacher who was being teased. That was jarring to say the least, but that’s how karma works.
To top things off, I allowed myself to get talked into being a varsity assistant basketball coach at the new school, during a year in which we would be fielding a team with no seniors (the school opened with NO seniors, it was full of juniors, sophomores and freshmen). The new head coach and his assistant needed a fourth coach on the staff. Those two had been assistants at Lawrence North, which was coming off two national high school basketball championships and three Indiana state championships. They coached two future professional basketball players, Mike Conley and Greg Oden. They were in for culture shock with the lack of basketball experience.
This all occurred because I am friends with another assistant coach at LN, and he recommended the head coach, JR Shelt, to contact me. JR called me and gave me his sales job. He said that he would give me time off when my back was giving me problems. The biggest thing he wanted was a somewhat familiar face to the kids coming into a new school. I was hired ultimately because I could help the other three coaches navigate the high expectations for a teacher and coach in this school district. Unfortunately, I knew we were in trouble when the final roster was split into three teams, with the best team to be coached by the varsity assistant; the second best by the JV head coach; and I got the leftovers to play a Round Robin sort of unofficial tournament in a free game of teams playing for a quarter each. Before each quarter we played, I told the kids they were playing for the playing time during the upcoming season. This was the opportunity to work on things we had taught them during the preseason, and all I was asking for them to play hard and the score will take care itself. Now, what was the bad part? My “C” team beat the tar out of the other two teams. They played harder, defended decently, went for rebounds with more passion and simply out-played the “A” and “B” teams.
So, whenever the other coaches would give me crap about being the low man on the coaching totem pole, I would remind them that I’m undefeated against them. And, whenever I needed to play this card, I would: I was the only coach in this coaches’ office who had won a Conference, County, Sectional or Regional championship. That one would always get the most laughter out of them. However, by mid-December, my back was so bad that I stopped riding on the team bus to the away games that were more than an hour away, of which there were several. By the end of the season, I was so tired and hurting so badly that I knew I had just coached for the last time. That March, I resigned and have had a huge hole in my heart ever since. No matter what I attempt to do, nothing can fill it the same way.
Then, a month later, I made my first step into the world of electronic devices made to help me deal with my pain better. I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted that is a battery on my left side back just above my waist. It feels like a thin hockey puck and has electrodes that run up to one of the higher levels of my thoracic vertebrae, threading down both left and right sides of my spinal column until they reached the nerves that branch off the spinal cord between L4 and L5 that were damaged by my injuries to those vertebrae. The constant delivery of electronic impulses kills the pain by fooling my brain with those impulses instead of the pain signals. It has reduced my pain by 85%, causing me to slightly reduce my oral pain medicine intake at the time. So, I am part bionic, but I can’t see better, run faster OR jump higher. Still, I am getting closer to having the same $6 million dollars to improve Steve Austin.
Which means, it’s time for the music from 2007 that made my life just a little more bearable.
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007). Bon Iver (pronounced bon é-vār, a deliberate misspelling of the French phrase bon hiver that translates to rough winter) is the studio name of indie folk artist Justin Vernon. Vernon recorded this sparse album in a cabin in the wooded regions of Wisconsin during the winter of 2006. And, this beautiful album was what he came out in the spring of 2007 with. It has been described as a rustic, acoustic Radiohead album. Vernon went on to work with Kanye West, the first of several collaborations with rap artists.
Jay-Z – American Gangster (2007). Jay-Z’s retirement didn’t last very when he dropped Kingdom Come to lackluster reviews and soft sales. So, Jay needed a bounce back quickly. And that came in the version of a film called American Gangster which inspired this album. And, he rose to the occasion as he fashioned an album that details the gangster life of NYC in great detail and empathy as a cautionary tale much like the movie that inspired it. Jay-Z was back!
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007). This studio conglomeration is the brainchild of a huge music fan named James Murphy. One listen to this album, or any by his band, tells you this guy is a HUGE music fan. Murphy, a Gen X-er, latched onto the club scene for his inspiration for his mixture of humor, punk, EDM, rock, soul, pretty much anything and everything, to create some of the most exciting music of the new century. Once again, I must thank my older son for the heads up on this one. It has been a gift that truly keeps on giving.
M.I.A. – Kala (2007). I remember hearing this song coming from my younger son’s room that was based upon the sample of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell.” I popped into his room and asked him who the artist was, telling me it was M.I.A. So, I listened to the album and discovered that there were really some artists doing wonderful music under the banner of EDM. And M.I.A. was one of them. This album uses all kinds of samples from the alternative music of my youth, like “Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers, or Jonathan Richman if you prefer. What an exciting new form of dance music.
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (2007). I love the jumping-off point of Millennials’ version of rock music. The Boomers’ music used the blues, jazz, Broadway, big band and hillbilly music as their starting points. With Gen X, those musicians began with disco, punk and bubblegum music for their inspiration. The Millennials start with the technology of their youth, cheap Eighties electronic noises. Thus, this album by MGMT, a new duo from NYC. They started with a Casio keyboard and a producer of some of The Flaming Lips’ more ornate albums resulting in this album which is nothing but fun use of junk culture made into great art. This reminds me of my new wave days, yet still sounds light years beyond my age group’s music. Simply put, it might be the Album of the Year for 2007.
Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007). This album is notable for the band offering it for download on their website for whatever the downloader wanted to pay for it. That was a marketing masterstroke, as this meant the band was making pure profit nearly from the outset. The crazy thing is that Radiohead’s music actually sounded cheerful, regardless of Thom Yorke’s lyrical misery. It was a great juxtaposition. When the physical form of this album was finally released, the band was flushed with cash and able to put together an elaborate tour, which only increased their reputation as being this era’s Pink Floyd. This is truly a wonderful album.
Rihanna – Good Girl Gone Bad (2007). You gotta give it up to Jay-Z because the man sure can recognize talent. Rihanna was his latest protégé to receive his cameo appearance in her ubiquitous hit “Umbrella.” This album broke Rihanna into superstar status with this state of the art pop music. Rihanna will always reside next to Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift as the big divas of the early 21st century.
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007). Sometimes, it is simply reassuring that an album like this is released periodically these days. It tells me there are musicians still out there who are picking albums by some of my favorite artists like Cheap Trick, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub and the rest and expanding upon their vocabulary. For 2007, it happened to be another journeyman band called Spoon who concocted this masterpiece in indie rock to whet the thirst of this old man. And, I still crank up my car’s radio whenever I hear “The Underdog.” It’s a great song from a great album.
The White Stripes – Icky Thump (2007). Everybody’s favorite Detroit garage band since The Stooges was back with what appears to be the duo’s last studio album. If this is the way they intended to end their creative bond, then they did it right. Both had moved out of Detroit (Meg to LA and Jack to Nashville), so fans were worried what that would mean to their sound. Yes, the eclecticism from their previous album was present but in less obvious manners. Plus, Jack had gotten back to cranking up his guitars, so all was fine with the fans.
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (2007). In the fall of 2007, Graham was in San Diego attending law school. One night he called and said, “Dad! Seriously, you gotta get the new Wilco album! It’s awesome!” Reluctantly, I followed his advice since it had taken me a couple of years and many listens to fully appreciate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I did it anyway, and, of course, he was correct! This was a great album right from the first listen. This is a much more subdued album as opposed to the aforementioned LP, as if Sky Blue Sky were influenced by Neil Young’s Harvest, the hits by America, and the rest of that great soft rock from the early- and mid-Seventies. This is just a beautifully relaxing album, and a great way to forget about one’s physical pain.
Those are my picks from 2007. We now have 910 albums finished and 90 more spanning 12 years left to cover. See you next time! Peace.