scared little faces peering out from buses at hostile, snarling grownups. what must they be thinking?
loads of children are making a perilous journey, sans parents, to the united states. most are coming from honduras, guatemala, el salvador, and mexico. we can talk all day long, i’m sure, about our immigration policy and how problematic it remains — while we don’t all agree on what should be done, we all, with the possible exception of the US Congress, realize that something must be done to improve the situation. and until they figure things out, we as a nation continue to show our both best and our worst side to the world. i admit i was intrigued by a thread i had read about what sort of parents let their children travel alone to a foreign nation. who in their right mind would put young children in the care of people they don’t even know and hope that they make it to their destination in one piece.
i know exactly the sort: my great-grandparents.
my great-grandfather aron katz was born in 1879 and married rose kogan between 1899-1901 in odessa, russia. aron was a tailor and they were not well-to-do. to put it mildly, things in russia were not great for anyone at that time but particularly not for jews, who were routinely persecuted and often killed. he, rose, and the two youngest children — sam and my grandmother belle — emigrated to the united states in march of 1913. oddly enough, they did not come through ellis island as most did. at the time, a lot of people in the US were pretty hostile to all those jews coming in. instead, my great-grandparents were caught up in the galveston movement, which essentially lasted from 1907-1914 and was an effort to disperse the jewish immigrant population throughout the united states by bringing them in through the port of galveston, texas.
on the manifest of the SS cassel, the ship they came to the United States on in march of 1913, their destination is listed as kansas city, missouri. now i have no knowledge of whether they ever made it to kansas city; however, we know that by november 1913, they were living on the lower east side of new york. when i was in college, i completed an oral history of my grandmother’s life — and i still remember her telling me that her father was a tailor — and oy! could you imagine a jewish tailor in galveston, tx? she told me that they somehow made their way up the mississippi and then eastward where their relatives lived on the lower east side of manhattan. but we know that they had made their way because in november 1913, they had an important delivery to receive.
because they were not wealthy, my great-grandparents could only afford the fare for their two youngest children. their two oldest stayed behind with relatives until they were able to raise the fare for them to come over. in november 1913, those two children came to america on the ship grosser kurfurst. my great-aunt lillian (or liebe) was 11 years old, and her brother max (or mordechai) was 10. imagine being a child and taking a journey to a place you had never been? according to my cousin ilene (lily’s daughter), her mother had recounted how terrifying and awful the trip had been. her mother was especially frightened by all the drunken sailors on board. i can only wonder what she dealt with as the elder child in charge — and only at age 11. somehow, though, after a long time fending for themselves on board, lily and max made it to new york, where they were reunited with the rest of their family.
so what kind of parents would put their children in harm’s way? what kind of parent would take young kids and have them fend for themselves among unscrupulous adults who might take terrible advantage of them — or worse? i can imagine exactly the kind of parents — very desperate ones. my great-grandparents lived in a place where they faced peril regularly. they knew they had to get somewhere safe for their family’s sake. i can only imagine how it killed them a little bit to leave two of their kids behind. they crossed their fingers that the children would be cared for and, once the money was raised, they would send for them, too. i wish i had had a chance to talk to my great-aunt about her trip. knowing that jews were not exactly welcomed when they arrived, i’m sure their initial experience in america was probably not too pleasant; but i can figure that anything had to have been better than a pogrom so they were going to make it work here no matter what.
thinking about this experience sheds light on what mothers and fathers in dangerous places such as honduras must be thinking. they scrape every little bit of money they have and borrow what they don’t and send their children to a place where they hope their children can somehow be protected from their current daily misery. the situation has to be pretty bad for a parent to send her child off with strangers in the hope that somewhere else is better than the child’s current environment.
so whatever you might think about immigration policy, think twice before you impugn the fitness of parents of these children because they send their kids off to america. faced with the same choices, we all might do the same thing. instead, while the immigration situation gets sorted, why not treat the children as you would hope strangers would treat yours?
in the end, human nature is human nature, whether you’re in central america, russia, the united states, or anywhere else parents and children exist.
the tide goes in. the tide goes out.
this morning, i made the trek out to washington radiology. i failed my mammogram on my birthday 6 months ago and, happy birthday to me, ended up with a biopsy. as is my medical custom, i stumped the experts; they didn’t see anything malignant, but they were also puzzled by the quantity of lymphoid tissue in the sample. i told the doctor that perhaps i have a lot of lymphoid tissue because i have all sorts of lymphatic fun thanks to my underlying immune deficiency. i mean, my lymph nodes react when i have an infection, when i drink hot and sour soup, and because the moon might be in the 7th house and jupiter is aligning with mars. you just never know. so hey, c’mon back in 6 months and we’ll take another looksee under the hood, okay?
like i’d say no?
my mom has lost both breasts to cancer and mercifully, she continues to be a major pain in my ass 30+ years after the fact. but thanks to that little tidbit of medical history, i go ping whenever the subject of family history and breast cancer comes up in a doctor’s office. mom recently underwent the testing to see whether she had the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and tested negative. well, yeah, that’s awesome, and i celebrated, thinking there’s one less thing potentially wrong with me genetically… except i learned, mid-biopsy, that there are loads of other BRCA genes, so there’s always the chance… which then made me want to scream at the doctor who shared that info why on Dog’s Green Earth bother with testing then? except, at that particular moment, the doctor had just cut into me with a very sharp scalpel, and also, there was that little matter of blood literally splattering across my chest, just like in the movies. it was pretty cool, actually, except for the fact that it was my chest and my blood.
maybe next time, i will ask to be put under.
anyway, so back i went today. i was a little perplexed by the fact that i was being charged for a full mammogram (plus the extra $50 for a 3D mammogram, which isn’t covered by insurance but which would probably make a hell of a slideshow at a party.) only one side was getting the excruciating glamour treatment. but the woman behind the desk who seems to repeat the same spiel over and over all day to women of all ages and sizes and races told me nope, no discount for one boob. ah well. you pays yer money and you takes yer choices. when i was finally taken out back and shot, i had a lovely lady who was a wonderful smoosh-o-grammer. after the smoosh, she led me to a room to wait for the doctor.
now, let me tell you about this room. when you are doing your annual mammogram and you have never had any troubles to speak of, they take you back to the closet they stuff you in little changing room where you first got into your little brown gown (open in the front, no deodorant, no lotions, no creams please.) there, you wait for the technician who performed your mammogram to come in, tell you that you passed again, get your clothes on, and make your way up the road to the mosaic district, where you can dine on fine food and shop at neiman marcus last call go home. the event passes like a tiny bump in your road. but then, there’s the room. there are magazines. there’s a box of tissues. there’s an HD TV against the wall playing a video of the ocean tide coming in and the tide rolling out. it’s a little haven of medical office zen. if there was a giant glass bottle of cucumber spa water in the corner and mani/pedis, it might not be such a horrible place. but it is a horrible place.
it’s the place where women like me go.
it is the holding pen for the women who have failed their mammograms, a sort of purgatory. it is the place you go when an actual doctor has to talk to you about your results. women like me end up there because we have failed before. women who are new to failure end up there as well. and somehow, that oceanic video is supposed to be a positive, peaceful life buoy. today, though, as i marched into the room, i saw a young woman, probably around 30 or so. at first, all i could see was her blonde hair sprouting out of a head that was bobbing and heaving between her knees. i bit my lip. clearly, the girl had had some sort of shock, and no amount of azure waves was going to help her.
i walked across the room and grabbed a tissue. i tried to not look at her at first, as i didn’t want to completely intrude, but merely extended my hand near her arm, gently brushing the tissue against her elbow. i figured if she wanted it, she would take it; if she didn’t, she would ignore me and that would be just fine. you never really know what people want or need at times like these; but i cannot look away from it, either. she picked up her head, gratefully took the tissue, and said thanks and tried to smile. she wiped her face off, but then a fresh flood came and she put her head down again. reflexively, i started to rub and pat her shoulder, much as i do with my children when they are crying. i don’t generally make a habit of touching total strangers, especially ones who are in terrible pain; but i just didn’t want her to feel alone. i wanted her to know that other people will care about what happens to her, people she knows and loves. if even a total stranger cares, then her loved ones will surely embrace and comfort her, too.
i wanted her to know that maybe something awful was in store for her, but there was also love in her future, too.
she would try to stop crying and pick her head up and smile at me. i smiled back. but then, she would cry again, and her head would once again duck down. i patted her some more til she calmed down. she had just picked her head up when the nurse came in to call her. miss s, the nurse said, you will need more pictures and then the doctor will see you to talk more. come with me. my new friend miss s picked her head up and looked at me. hang in there was all i could muster. she smiled weakly, and i nodded and smiled back.
my turn came soon. the technician walked me into my little changing cubicle, which i thought was a good sign. after all, i had my biopsy news in the sonogram room, not in the little closets. the doctor came in, told me that the area where the biopsy was done 6 months ago had shrunk, and she didn’t see anything scary. nothing at all. so go on out and treat yourself, she said, smiling. i guess she likes to give good news. when you hit the point where you are sent to the room to talk with the doctor, your talks don’t always go so well, i guess. she’s probably as happy as i am. or close. i whipped off that brown gown and headed out, with big plans to walk around the mosaic district. that was going to be my treat. i walked past the room where i had waited. no one was sitting there. miss s was somewhere else, hopefully getting better news, hopefully sitting in a changing cubicle finding out that she, too, was going to bump into me at a more pleasant place. like say, neiman marcus’s last call. i will always hope so, and i will always wonder about miss s. but all i saw in that room was the ocean video, playing on a never-ending loop in high def.
in memory of my friend syrentha savio.
it sure feels that way this morning.
yeah, i know. on a week when we remember the tremendous shock and loss of life of 9/11; when flood waters are ravaging colorado; and when people the world over are being tortured and killed, you might think: boo-fucking hoo. seaside park businesses are on fire. so what?
sleazeside, as we townies affectionately call it, is an integral part of my childhood and my psyche. yeah, so all of america thinks we are snooki and the situation and spray-tanned, classless people like that. but those people aren’t even from the shore. those people are the bennies, the tourists who come to town and who make us locals often laugh and cry at the same time for their outrageous NY/North Jersey buffoonery. we loved them because they kept the shore alive with cash and spirit, but wow, they were brasher than we locals.
but we locals love the boards, too. as a very little girly, i loved riding the choo choo and the carousel. every year, one of the highlights of my day camp career was the day we were given our ticket book and had free reign (or so it felt) to ride rides, stuff ourselves full of kohrs custard, and lose our quarters playing the wheels. as i grew older, i spent so many nights with my oldest brother, getting some (at the time) cheap slices of pizza and some grape drink from the sawmill, then playing pinball for hours. we also hit the waterslides — there was rainbow rapids, away from the boards and closer to the mathis bridge, which i didn’t like because my legs always got all cut up on the fiberglass. and there was another waterslide i loved, right off the boards, where you felt like one wrong slip and you’d end up on the pavement, a few stories below.
sometimes for me, it felt like a tiny taste of freedom. my parents would not allow me to work there, but they did let me go and breathe in the tar, the ocean, and the zeppoles. i remember endlessly walking up and down the boards, looking at all the people who seemed to have lives well underway. mine seemed like it would never begin. then again, there were lives getting destroyed there as well; people getting into fights, people getting into trouble underneath the boards in more ways than my teenaged brain could imagine. the most trouble i could get into was getting a gaggle of friends to line up at the game where you squirt water into the clown’s mouth and, when the bell went off to start the contest, everyone sprayed the poor guy or girl behind the counter. they never got too mad at you but you always felt a little deliciously evil afterwards. it was the extent of my badgirl moment; i would hear the commotion coming from the chatterbox club but never have the moxie to step in while underage.
and the food. as a red sea pedestrian, i was never a fan of the sausages, though legions swear up and down they are the best. me, i always ended up with powdered sugar in my hair from chowing down on as many zeppoles as i could fathom. dinner would always be pizza for me, whether from the sawmill, three brothers, or some other place in a pinch. and kohrs custard? i think i can thank them for part of my fat tush. kohrs custard was always thicker and silkier than mere ice cream. i remember once, while driving outside of charlottesville, va, with my family — i saw a kohrs and begged to stop. my kids thought mom had lost the plot until they tasted the dream.
there is something about the heavy, heady smell of decades of tourists looking for a cheap, good time that has been lost. hurricane sandy just exploded over seaside like a swampy h-bomb. the devastation from that storm ripped my heart out. the jetstar sat in the ocean, rusting out for months before it was taken out of the collective misery of our memories. and slowly, the boards began to rebuild. they replaced some of the boards with something tougher than wood to withstand the pounding storm surf. the carousel was cleaned up. sure, the whole thing wasn’t really back to full steam, but there was a certain feeling of pride that the place was going to be back, stronger than ever.
and then, the fire.
and all these places that were lost to me have become lost to me again. i want to bring them back, and yet the only way i think i will is through my memories. sure, it looks like no one was killed, and thank goodness for that, as people are not replaceable. ever. but as time goes by, i’m beginning to wonder whether places were meant to be replaced. the smells, the sights, the strange mix of earnest kids and flashy outsiders: it will never be the same.
and yet, there’s that part of me that wants to catch the wave of seaside’s next act.
bet you’re glad attack of the gpms is over after today, aren’t you. (well, except for actual mondays when i feel like writing about guilty pleasure monday selections, of course.)
yeah, yeah, yeah, i know. this is the second genesis song in one week. (if you don’t like it, go write about it in your own blog. and then, share your link with me.) however, can you even believe it is the same band that sings afterglow? you hear this song, and you definitely think you are listening to another group. what a difference a couple of years made! by the time the band made abacab, the dudes had moved from ethereal prog rock (also known in my head only as music for hobbit heads) to nearly-radio-ready top 40 singles. and while this album mostly was a mainstay of AOR radio at the time, subsequent albums would yield multiple top 40 hits. this effort was sort of like training wheels for the ride to come.
i adore abacab for so many reasons, some of which i will keep to myself so i that don’t make your eyes glaze over. there are quirky songs intermingled with songs striving to be pop hits. while my favorite song on the album is probably still the dark horse like it or not, i adore no reply at all. and i adore it for one reason: my Beloved Spouse.
no, there’s nothing mushy or sentimental going on here. this is not one of our songs, per se. but when this song comes on, BS always attempts to be the entire horn section. he only does this on two songs. here’s exhibit b:
phil collins may be a stellar songwriter, drummer, and even a distinctive voice. but hot damn, the man knows how to put together kickin’ horn sections.
and nothing is funnier than BS imitating them.
just take my word for it.
better yet, you try it.
daft punk is playin’ at my house.
are you sick of robin thicke’s blurred lines yet? i don’t care if it’s the freaking song of the summer; i sure as hell have od’d on it (and i have only heard it for two days now. i’ve tried to avoid it, but when it shows up on the Today Show and i have to see al roker bumping and grinding, well, it has jumped the shark.) and no, i’ve got no kick against modern jazz crap pop. it’s very catchy pop, that is, if you don’t mind being called a bitch. but call me old-fashioned. if i am going to listen to a song about getting laid, i think i prefer something breezier. something that doesn’t insult me.
that’s where get lucky comes in.
sure, pharrell williams ends up on both of these songs, and he continues to laughlaughlaugh his way to the bank. i actually like his voice. but get lucky is a study in sunny, discofied summer music, the sort of stuff you might have on your radio while driving to the boardwalk. this is not entirely surprising since nile le chic rodgers is a co-writer of the song. (can you HEAR that bass lane? i’ll bet the ranch it’s niles.) it’s totally old skool, something i might have expected to listen to on Disco 92 WKTU. and yet, there’s something so fresh about it. i have listened to it a jillion million times, and i am still not sick of it.
and hell. it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
bursting into tears in T-3, 2, 1.
jools was worried about me last week. a song came on in the car, and i just burst into tears. i assured him i was okay, nothing was the matter. it was just how a song made me feel. here’s a secret about me that everyone in my family knows all too well: i’m kind of a boohoo by nature. to be sure, i have not been a big girl’s blouse who would cry about getting beat up or something like that. i didn’t cry, for example, when a girl named lori started to kick and punch me at north dover school while we nine year olds were hanging out waiting for our brothers’ basketball practice to finish. no, i kicked and punched her back (until another girl, sari, ran and got our dads.) i also don’t cry when most people say rude things about me. generally, such things make me either ignore them or give them the finger and i go my merry way. in truth, the things that make me cry are usually and strangely not the things that make other people cry.
beauty makes me cry.
i have never been able to explain it, really; but some things in the world are simply so exquisite and rare that i can’t find the words to describe them. words fail. and my heart feels full, partially because i have all this emotion in me and i cannot express it. sometimes, there is special meaning to said song and it makes me feel engulfed by memory and feelings. so i do what i can do: i cry.
there are certain pieces of music which hit my soul in such a place that i can’t even sing them. i hear, for example, in my life (as i did in the car last week) and i am a blubbery mess. border song is another example.
and this, of course, brings us to today’s guilty pleasure. i think genesis keyboardist tony banks said that he wrote afterglow in about the same amount of time the song runs. if that’s the case, i count that among some of the universe’s wacky musical miracles, along with keith richards waking up one night, playing the satisfaction riff into his tape recorder, and then falling back to sleep. off of wind and wuthering, afterglow is often overshadowed by perennial 1970s prom favorite your own special way, an absolutely gorgeous song in it’s own right. in fact, i am hard-pressed to think of any obvious love songs by genesis prior to these two on this album. (feel free to correct me in the comments; i might be mistaken.) but where your own special way is this wistful celebration of love and the wonder of holding hands, afterglow is a song of yearning and loss. the singer has been somehow been banished — from home, from the heart of his love, from something central to his existence. he has lost everything. he has nothing.
but what sustains him is the singular hope that maybe, somehow, in some tiny little recess of her heart, his love will accept him again. maybe it’s a vain hope, but it is all he has. he would search everywhere just to hear (her) call:
And walk upon stranger roads than this one
In a world I used to know before.
For now I’ve lost everything,
I give to you my soul.
The meaning of all that I believed before
Escapes me in this world of none,
I miss you more.
he is consumed by love. he has lost love. he is pretty damned morose. but he hasn’t given up. if you have ever been in the most untenable situation of hoping against hope that love is not lost, this song conveys that and grips you in a way few others can. it’s like the grandma to another song that makes me weep, against all odds, though far more powerful, i think.
pardon me. i need to find my tissues. in the meantime, here’s where i first heard this wondrous song — as part of a medley genesis played in concert for years. probably the pinnacle of every genesis live show for me.
this song would get me off the dock of the bay. toute de suite.
happy monday! what? you’re not feeling the love this morning? here. i’ll give you some in the guise of the late, great otis redding. everyone and their dog is familiar with the classic (sitting on the) dock of the bay. and anyone who has ever sat through pretty in pink will never forget jon cryer’s amazing lip synch to otis’s try a little tenderness:
but not a lot of people know the happy song, and that’s a shame. it’s hard to stay grumpy with this one on. yeah, i know it’s titled like something out of romper room; but i promise. romper room would be so lucky to have such a soulful moment. (and while we’re talking romper room, i’m not still bitter that the teacher never saw me in her magic mirror. no, not much.)
then again, i don’t think she called otis’s name, either.
anyway, the happy song came off the immortal otis redding, an album recorded in a three-week span of time just before his untimely death in 1967. (nothing happy or immortal about that.) there’s such a wonderful quality to redding’s voice, especially in this song. it always feels like he is speaking directly to me (or you); it has craggy warmth and realness that so many these days lack. (and no auto-tune.) and backed by the best of the best — the stax crew, people like steve cropper and duck dunn and booker T and isaac hayes, for cryin’ out loud. that crew could have recorded the freaking phone book and it would have been the funkiest, coolest white pages experience ever.
in a world where music seems to have lost a certain level of authenticity, it is so wonderful to remember that there are people out there who have got the goods. they can sing, even without augmentation. they can play instruments with gentle power and great skill. they can create musical moments which easily translate and morph into your personal musical memories. and i’m sure there are people out there in the world, still, who can do all that. maybe they aren’t getting the industry attention or backing, but i know they are out there. i hear it in otis’s voice, and it brings me back to that wonderful realization. and hope.
and that makes me very, very happy.
yeah. i’m a little late to this game, already in progress for about 40 years.
okay. so how on earth did i miss the small faces? yeah, i always knew about itchycoo park. i had heard aplenty about steve marriott and ronnie lane, but i never really paid any attention to that crew. (i’m sad now, as i think i have fallen in serious like with steve marriott, only too bad for me: he has been dead for over 20 years now.) the only faces i ever listened to involved rod the mod stewart. one day last summer, i was stuck in a musical malaise. you know the sort: you’re sick of your music, but nothing new is making you jump up and down? so i was working from home, as i do, and i actually paid attention to one of those thingies that said if you like this band, you’ll like small faces. and in a leap of faith, i began my journey with ogdens nut gone flake.
what an amazing concept album. yeah, the storyline is a bit dodgy (it isn’t like tommy‘s story isn’t a little crazy) in that late 1960s sort of way. but i LOVED it. from the intro of the album, which sounds like a cross between the creation meets the who, and then all sorts of stuff ranging from the kinks to english music hall, i was just gobsmacked. i cannot help but smile when i hear lazy sunday afternoon. (kazoos, people. in a rock song.) anyway, i really love this album now, and i need to engage some further study in the history of rock opera and concept albums because of it.
after pulling myself away from ONGF, i branched out into the rest of their catalog, and wow, is tin soldier a stunner of a song. originally, steve marriott wrote it for singer p.p. arnold, but he took it back and kept it for himself, letting p.p. sing backing vocals on the track. (you have to have a lot of confidence if you walk through life with the nickname p.p., and her voice is like a steamroller.) i love the story of the song , which brings us back full circle to rod the mod. apparently, marriott wrote this song to impress a girl, jenny rylance, who had a rocky relationship with stewart. in the end, love won out — marriott and rylance were married. yeah, i know — the marriage ended eventually. but you gotta love someone who wins the heart of someone else through creative means.
i know i would.
not, not bob saget. bob seger.
yeah, a lot of people my age are pretty sick of bob seger. his music has ended up implanted in the national psyche, i don’t even think i can think of so many songs anymore without the relevant visual. (let’s see: like a rock makes me think of chevy vehicles. old time rock and roll: tom cruise in his skivvies. night moves: a young matt leblanc. and i can keep going.) his stuff is the dreams that lite rock radio is made of. and except for some of his really old stuff, like ramblin’ gamblin’ man (go ahead and click the link and listen to it; i’ll wait. it’s that good), when i see bob seger’s name pop up on my radio, i tend to turn the page, er, station. it’s not that his stuff is inherently bad: he has a way with serious hooks. but it mostly has been played. to. death.
so how delighted was i when this little forgotten gem came on my radio, straight from the crappy 1980 film urban cowboy, a tale of a young country boy trying to make his way in the big, bad world of houston. i suppose john travolta could be just as believable as a southern dude as he might be crossdressed up as edna turnblad, though i found his stint in the latter far more believable. (but i won’t go there.) don’t you love those amurican tales, where men are men and masseuses are scared? where your worth as a human can be proven by riding some mechanical bull the longest?
honestly, beyond the bull, i can’t really remember much about the film, but i do remember this song. and while it is much slicker than ramblin’, gamblin’ man;and while i will swear he ripped off the opening riff from hollywood nights, i do enjoy this little ditty. i think what i like best: it doesn’t really get a lot of airplay, so i haven’t had the chance to get sick of it.
and of course, not making me think of travolta in a ten-gallon doesn’t hurt, either.
yes, children. a cover that kicks the original’s ass.
i love the stones. i put my 7 year old in a mick’s lips t-shirt. and there is no question how i feel about keef.
that being said, how i love the soup dragons’ cover of the stones’ i’m free. they take it to new places — a rappy, reggae place, a universe where i picture everyone dancing, grooving and having an amazing time. there are rainbows and people with multicolored braids, dancing for days. (yeah, i also imagine that there are probably people on ecstasy in the corner of that universe, but as long as they stay the hell out of my way, i will ignore them.)
when the stones sang it, i imagine mick shaking his little tambourine — or would that have been brian jones? — and the surprisingly uninspiring guitar solo winding it’s way through the middle of the song. frankly, it was fairly forgettable to me — until this cover came about in 1990. sure, it didn’t do a whole lot in the US charts, though it had plenty of airplay on my late lamented radio station WHFS. but i lurved it.
and i always loved junior reid, the guy yelling: don’t be afraid to feel freedom!
a few years back, chase used the song to advertise their freedom credit card. yeah, it made me feel old — there’s nothing worse than being obviously targeted for your age. but i decided to free my mind of that image.
i’ll just close my eyes, chair dance, and wonder what happened to the soup dragons. (yeah, i know, i know. teenage fan club. but i’m not digressing again. at least, not today.)
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