Friday, May 31, 2013

No-Hit Wonders: 10 Iconic Acts That Never Had a Top 40 U.S. Single

Superstars like Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift make it look easy, but racking up hit single after hit single is hard work. Despite his iconic status, universal acclaim and multi-platinum albums, Bruce Springsteen has never had one of his go all the way to No. 1 (a dishonor he shares with James Brown, Credence Clearwater Revival, ELO and The Pointer Sisters).

At least he has a nice collection of Top 10s -- 12 of them -- to show for his recording efforts. Meanwhile, legends like Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin and Bonnie Raitt have only one Top 10 hit apiece on Billboard's Hot 100 ("Help Me," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Something to Talk About," respectively). The late, great Etta James didn't even have that many. That's right, her chart failures included the pop standard "At Last," which peaked at No. 47.

It's even tougher up there in the Top 40 for alternative rock acts. The likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Psychedelic Furs and Love and Rockets all managed a single Top 40 trip each (with "Kiss Them for Me," "Heartbreak Beat" and "So Alive," respectively). That's one more than the following hitless masters of pop, rock and soul.

Grace Jones Legendary status as an enduring gay icon will have to do. The woman behind the classics "Pull Up to the Bumper," "My Jamaican Guy" and "Slave to the Rhythm," none of which charted on the Hot 100, only made the U.S. hit list three times, never going higher than No. 69 (in 1986, with "I'm Not Perfect [But I'm Perfect for You]").


Echo & The Bunnymen One of the greatest bands to emerge from the 1980s post-punk movement is without a true signature hit -- not even in its native UK, where the group managed to climb onto the lower rungs of the Top 10 only three times.


The Jesus and Mary Chain Despite the Reid brothers' near-legendary status in alternative rock circles, a string of hits in their native UK, and the prominent placement of their 1985 single "Just Like Honey" in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, they only made to the Hot 100 once, in 1994, when "Sometimes Always" limped to No. 96. Even then, they had to share top billing with guest vocalist Hope Sandoval, then of Mazzy Star, a band that had just missed the Top 40 with its only U.S. hit, "Fade into You" (No. 44).


The Smiths/Morrissey Here's where things get really weird: The man behind one of the most formidable discographies in the history of rock calls "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get," which reached No. 46 in 1994, his biggest U.S. hit. Like anyone thinks of that song first when they think of Morrissey. Like anyone thinks of that song at all.


The Pixies Although Kurt Cobain's biggest influence had an undeniable knack for crafting undeniably hooky space-age alternative rock, the band never made it onto the Hot 100. Well, except for bassist Kim Deal. She barely missed the Top 40 as a member of The Breeders, whose "Cannonball" went to No. 44 in 1993, the year The Pixies split.


Peter Murphy The lead singer of Bauhaus has the unfortunate distinction of being a frontman of an A-list group whose former bandmates (as Love and Rockets) did better without him.


Tom Waits He's not completely hitless, though, thanks to Rod Stewart, who rode his "Downtown Train" all the way to No. 3 in 1989/90.


Leonard Cohen He found his Rod Stewart in Justin Timberlake, who alongside Matt Morris and Charlie Sexton, made the Cohen classic "Hallelujah" a U.S. Top 40 hit for the first and only time when they took it to No. 13 in 2010.


Blur Frontman Damon Albarn would have to create a cartoon band (Gorillaz) to land his first U.S. hit (2005's "Feel Good Inc," which reached No. 14).


Joan Armatrading Yeah, what do we Americans know?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Life Is Not a Popularity Contest!

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given wasn't intended as advice or worded as such. It was a comeback that my big brother Alexi made during an argument. I was in my terrible tweens, and we were fighting over something I've long since forgotten all about. I made a low, clumsy blow, something about how he didn't have any friends, and although I didn't let on at the time, when Alexi swung back, his response hit its mark, leaving a permanent impression in my brain.

"Life is not a popularity contest."

Can I get an amen to that?

I've carried those six words, the ones my brother has probably forgotten he ever uttered, around with me for decades, not always heeding them, but always remembering them.

One of the things I admire most about my brother is the way he never caves in to public opinion. I imagine that, like everyone else, he wants to be loved and even to be liked, but right or wrong, it's never stopped him from being who he is and owning his actions and his character.

Yesterday, I got confirmation that this is the only way to live when, within the space of a few hours, I incited completely opposite reactions in two people without even attempting to elicit a response of any kind.

The first was from a guy who has been trying to get me to go out with him since he spotted me out with my friend Roberto at Sitges on my first Friday night back in Buenos Aires five and a half weeks ago. I did that thing I've always done too well because I have such a hard time saying no -- according to my former therapist's bullseye diagnosis nine years ago, I'm a prime people pleaser. I wasn't really interested, but I didn't turn him down, and in not doing so, I possibly inadvertently encouraged him.

It had been a couple of weeks since I'd heard from him when he messaged me yesterday.

"Hola!"

"Hola." I responded.

His next message took me completely off-guard. (No "Como estas?"?) It was probably the most interesting thing he'd ever said, but it seemed to come out of nowhere and was so way off base. He said, in Spanish, that I express myself in a negative way, like I don't like people.

"...como no te gusta gente"? I repeated his final words in my head. I was intrigued. I asked him, in English, to explain himself. Since he doesn't know me, and he was basing his review on very little knowlegde about me -- unless unbeknownst to me, he's been reading this blog -- I had no idea where he was coming from or why he was approaching from that direction.

"Maybe you don't like people. Maybe people don't like you.... You seem like someone who holds a grudge."

I told him that I wasn't sure why he woke up and decided to pick on me. Clearly he didn't have a problem with how I express myself a few minutes earlier, or he wouldn't have sent me that enthusiastic "Hola!" Perhaps he was put off by the tone of my "Hola" response. As I've said before (here), exclamation points -- and the lack thereof -- say so so much!!!

After a bit of back and forth, I told him that he was being passive aggressive, carefully choosing my words so as not to come off as being as much of a jerk as he was revealing himself to be, and to not make him right by coming across as being negative. Ultimately, I dismissed him, but I didn't dismiss his words. I was still considering them a few hours later when I walked into the local panaderia.

After I made my selections and approached the counter, I noticed that the ladies behind it were being more animated than usual. They were giggling, whispering and looking at me. Clearly I was the topic of their conversation. The ringleader, who was a little older and not at all the giggly type, the one who made sweet small talk with me whenever I came in, spoke up.

"You are always smiling," she said, first in Spanish and then in English. Then after a dramatic, pregnant pause, continued. "That's good."

Now I knew how Mariah Carey feels, such mixed reviews in one day. I went home and updated my Facebook status:

"Here's another reason why you shouldn't care too much about what other people think of you: Today, within the space of a few hours, I was told by one person that I express myself negatively and by another that I'm always smiling ("That's good," she added). Neither comment is going to change my life, but it was interesting to receive such mixed reviews. I think the reality probably lies somewhere in the middle."

I got some interesting responses. One of the first ones came from Alexi:

"What other people think of you is very important but it is not the whole picture. One must weigh the opinions of other people with all the rest of the data that is available."

Then my cousin Patricia weighed in:

"Can't be swayed by people's opinion of you but you will take the information apply the truth you need in seasons and things you don't apply you don't have to."

Then Connie, my former high-school classmate:

"is it that your negative or a realist? People generally want things sugarcoated and rolled in sprinkles before you feed it to them, but sometimes plain is just what they need!!!"

More from Patricia: 

"Negativity and TRUTH are two different things... Negativity gives you no WAY out to IMPROVE yourself or HOPE of improving yourself.. TRUTH and REALITY assist you in a way out by saying things not out of HURT or CONTROL but genuine LOVE for someone.. I can't RESPECT someone's opinion or implement it if I don't feel the VIBES of their genuine concern for me.. I will LISTEN if it is appropriate other wise I will just BLOCK THE NOISE and have them DROWN in the Red Sea... But for someone who is a stranger when they have an OPINION I will listen and file accordingly depending on my MOOD and SEASONS.... Words are spirit and they are LIFE and you have to be very careful about opinions you allow in your SPHERE OF INFLUENCE....."

And finally, my close friend and former colleague Cara:

"The type of person who is going to offer unsolicited criticism and tell you that you always express yourself negatively is likely the kind of person that inspires that reaction."

Another bullseye!

It's like those people who are always offering unsolicited critiques. They put you on the defensive by offering something offensive, and when you try to defend yourself, they say, "Don't get defensive!" Of course, that makes me even more so. In the end, I always give up. I only have so much control over what people think of me anyway, so the best thing I can do is just act naturally (as Buck Owens sang in one of my favorite childhood songs, which was once covered by The Beatles).

I'm probably somewhere in the middle of where yesterday's two critiques placed me. I'm not always smiling, but in that panaderia, it's hard not to when I'm surrounded by all those sweets and sweet-natured people. And there's probably no more negativity in the way I express myself than in the way the average person does, but if someone is going to make harsh, unprovoked character judgements about me -- which are nothing if not negative -- how would I be expected to react?

In the end, I decided to dismiss that guy's comments, too. I'm not interested in spreading phony cheer. Life is not a popularity contest. And if it were, I'd have no desire to be crowned the winner.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

10 Two-Hit Wonders (in the U.S.) Who Peaked with the Wrong Song

Newsflash!: Many one-hit wonders are actually two-hit wonders. Often, their biggest hit ends up overshadowing their other one -- whether it comes first or last -- to the extent that the casual Top 40 pop fan might forget the lesser hit even exists. Did you know that Vanilla Ice, Snow and Eddie Murphy -- who bought us the No. 1 singles "Ice Ice Baby" and "Informer" and the No. 2 "Party All the Time," respectively -- all returned to the Top 30 of Billboard's Hot 100 one more time with, respectively, "Play That Funky Music" (No. 4), "Girl I've Been Hurt" (No. 19) and "Put Your Mouth on Me" (No. 27)?

So you can also think of this as a list of one-hit wonders who actually weren't, not just me stretching, grasping for material. It's actually been in the works for quite some time, if only in my mind. I start to mentally compile it every time my iPod shuffle selects a certain beloved track, and I press repeat over and over, which brings us to the first two-hit wonder...

Level 42
Biggest Hit: "Something About You" (No. 7, 1985)
Best Hit: "Lessons in Love" (No. 12, 1987)
Once again, UK pop fans knew best, sending "Lessons in Love" to No. 3 and making it the British band's biggest hit on its native shores. As enduring as "Something About You" might be, Level 42's "Lessons" resonate more today. Its musical syllabus was even resurrected by T.C.S. for a 2007 dance hit, credited to T.C.S. Vs. Level 42. I'm still totally schooled -- and enthralled, more so than I ever was as an official student -- every time my iPod goes there and class begins.



Londonbeat
Biggest Hit: "I've Been Thinking About You" (No. 1, 1990)
Best Hit: "A Better Love" (No. 18, 1990)
The British R&B-pop outfit's turn-of-the-decade breakthrough was the pop song equivalent of Amy Adams, a perfectly ordinary thing that became a global sensation, topping charts in multiple countries. At least the band injected its follow-up with a bit more flava and edge.



Icehouse
Biggest Hit: "Electric Blue" (No. 7, 1987)
Best Hit: "Crazy" (No. 14, 1987)
Given a choice between sunshine and pain in song, I've always been and always will be a shameless, hopeless masochist.



Was (Not Was)
Biggest Hit: "Walk the Dinosaur" (No. 7, 1988)
Best Hit: "Spy in the House of Love" (No. 16, 1989)
Maybe the silly dance that went along with "Dinosaur" made me biased against it (I generally hate song-and-dance combos), but despite the somewhat cartoonish aura that (to my eyes and ears) surrounded super-producer-to-be Don Was's band, its first hit was straight-up '80s R&B-pop that lacked even the faintest whiff of novelty foolishness.



Donna Fargo
Biggest Hit: "Funny Face" (No. 5, 1972)
Best Hit: "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." (No. 11, 1972)
When I used to listen to my mother's 8-track recording of Fargo's The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A. album as a kid, I had no idea that the title track, Fargo's first chart single, wasn't the massive crossover hit. Despite its undeserved lower ranking on the pop chart (both were No. 1 country hits, the first and second of Fargo's six), it remains her signature song, the one for which she's best known today.



Soul II Soul
Biggest Hit: "Back to Life" (No. 4, 1989)
Best Hit: "Keep on Monvin'" (No. 11, 1989)
Yes, "Back to Life" remains a classic, but it was the smooth lilt of Soul II Soul's first hit that had me declaring it the future sound of pop at the time. For a few short years, on a few hits -- Lisa Stansfield's "Around the World," the remix of Madonna's "Keep It Together" and fellow two-hit wonder Tara Kemp's "Hold You Tight" and "Piece of My Heart" -- it was.



Will to Power
Biggest Hit: "Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medly") (No. 1, 1988)
Best Hit: "I'm Not in Love" (No. 7, 1990)
As brilliant as their pre-mashups mashup of '70s hits by Peter Frampton and  Lynyrd Skynyrd was, I prefer the freestyle duo's second hit because I prefer its source material, a 1975 No. 2 by two-hit wonder 10cc.



'Til Tuesday
Biggest Hit: "Voices Carry" (No. 8, 1985)
Best Hit: "What About Love" (No. 26, 1986) 
I know, I know, "Voice Carry" is an '80s standard, but it was the second and final Top 40 single by Aimee Mann's former band, so haunting and haunted, that haunts me to this day. It's so timeless it still sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.



Club Nouveau
Biggest hit: "Lean on Me" (No. 1, 1987)
Best hit: "Why You Treat Me So Bad" (No. 39, 1987)
For it's No. 1 hit, Club Nouveau plundered pop's past, and with its next hit, the group directed its future. Sampled on numerous hits over the decades (including Ashanti's "Only U," Puffy Daddy and R. Kelly's "Satisfy You" and Jennifer Lopez and Nas's "I'm Gonna Be Alright"), it also inspired the musical direction of Love. Angel. Music. Baby., the debut solo album by Gwen Stefani, who had a musical epiphany about how she wanted it to sound while listening to Club Nouveau's second and final Top 40 single.



Julio Iglesias
Biggest Hit: "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" (No. 5, 1984)
Best Hit: "All of You" (No. 19, 1984)
Have you ever actually paid attention to the lyrics of Iglesias's duet with Willie Nelson? What a load of sexist crap. His duet with Diana Ross, in comparison, is classy and elegant, steamy and sexy, a far more enticing musical representation of endless love than that 1981 Ross-Lionel Richie duet that inexplicably spent nine weeks at No. 1.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Is This the Smiling Face of Passive Homophobia?

“To each his own. I’m not with it. I have relatives that are gay. I’m not biased towards them. I still treat them the same. I love them. But, again, I’m not with that. That’s not something I believe in. But to each his own.”

So said Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson during a May 23 Sirius XM NFL Radio interview, making what must be some of the most contradictory, muddled comments I've seen on the subject on gay marriage.

First of all, I think he meant to say he's not biased against gay people (though he clearly is -- more on that in a second), but I'm not here to correct Peterson's grammar. I've got bigger fish to fry.

I don't want to take a giant leap and say that to be anti-gay marriage is to be homophobic, too, though I do suspect there is a strong correlation. Homophobia, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals." To seek to deny marital rights based on sexuality is the epitome of discriminatory, in this case, against homosexuals. Draw your own conclusions.

It's not Peterson's lack of support for gay marriage but the way in which he expressed it that troubles me most. He's not biased against gay people (in his intended words), yet he clearly has issues with them. It wasn't enough for him to say he's "not with it [gay marriage]." He had to reiterate, "I'm not with that," adding, for extra discriminatory emphasis, "it's not something I believe in."

So why don't you tell us how you really feel, Peterson? Except he left out one important piece of information: Why is he against gay marriage? The implication is that he just is. It is what it is, right? Gay marriage is just wrong. No explanation necessary. Unspoken like a true homophobe.

Not only is what Peterson did say incredibly biased, but it was pretty dismissive, too. He couldn't be bothered to present a compelling argument. He's just not with that. If he was trying to make himself seem like less of a jerk by not saying too much on the subject, he failed. I'd still give him an A for asinine.

As for his kicker, "to each his own" is a cliche whose very non-committal ambiguity makes such a crystal-clear statement (while underscoring a dismissive attitude). He wants us to think he's a swell, accepting guy, but "to each his own" reeks of disapproval. It's tantamount to saying, "I don't get it, but I'm willing to tolerate it." I'm so tired of straight people who treat homosexuality as something to be tolerated. That indirectly implies that it's bad, since you generally "tolerate" something that's negative, an annoyance.

I don't want anyone's tolerance. There's nothing wrong with me, so I don't need to be tolerated. I do demand acceptance, though. Either you accept me, or you're against me. And you're against me if you feel the need to qualify your acceptance: I love you, but I don't truly respect your relationships. Well, no thank you.

When I was younger, I remember hearing certain white people taking the same approach to mixed-race marriage. "I don't believe in interracial marriage," they'd announce, before trying to protect themselves from accusations of bigotry by insisting, "Some of my best friends are black." It sounded as racist to me as the whites of the '50s must have sounded when they rallied against desegregation while, as Peterson did, declaring their love for the very thing they were trying to keep separate.

It might be shocking to some to find out that being against interracial couplings was at one point a perfectly acceptable point of view where I come from (and for all I know, might still be). I wonder if Peterson, who once compared the NFL to slavery, sees the irony here or the parallels between the antiquated black and white point of view that I grew up hearing and his own ideas about gays and gay marriage.

Of course, he doesn't. He's just not with that. Clearly his thoughts don't go that deep.

Is That a Fact?: 10 Things I Can't Believe I Didn't Already Know

1. Melissa McCarthy and Jenny McCarthy are cousins. I had no idea until earlier this year when Jenny came to Melissa's defense after Rex Reed wrote a review of Identify Thief that took some low blows at Melissa's wide girth. (Before stooping to calling fat people "hippos," Reed really should research how badass deadly -- and fast! -- those wild beasts are, which is something else I recently learned.) Was the familial connection between the two funny ladies common knowledge to everyone but me?

2. Roquefort is a blue cheese. A little new knowledge I gained from mi amiga behind the counter at the local panaderia when I asked her to identify the strange looking stuff between the ham and bread in the sandwiches de miga above the ones with queso y atun. She acted like I must never have heard of or tasted Roquefort before, offering the "blue cheese" description after identifying it, but in truth, it's my favorite empanada filling after atun (and apparently everyone else's: they're always the first to go at the Dioso supermercado a few blocks from my rental, the one that, like too many vendedores de empanadas, either doesn't even sell empanadas de atun or runs out of them before I get there). I just never realized it was a blue cheese. I always thought I hated blue cheese anywhere outside of salad dressing, but perhaps not so much, after all.

3. Jacob, Jakob, Jake, Jack, Jacques, Jeb, James, Jimmy, Séamus, Hamish, Jaime, Santiago, Diego, Diogo, Iago, Thiago, Giacomo, Koppel and possibly Kobe are all variations of the same name in various languages and dialects. (Which would mean that San Diego, Santiago de Chile, and the Saint James apartment complex that I recently called home in Melbourne are different places, continents apart, with the same name.) I once read a book on the etymology of names, and I learned so many interesting things. For example, the "Mc," "Mac" and "O'" Irish prefixes serve a similar purpose as the "son" suffix in English, the "(s)son"/"(s)sen" suffix in Scandinavia, the "ez" suffix in Spanish, the "van" in Dutch names, and the "de" in various languages -- denoting parental or geographical lineage. Of all the first names I've looked up, Jacob probably has the most unexpected variants, but I never would have guessed that guys named Ivan are just Johns with a cooler name. (P.S. There's no link between John and Jonathan. Jonathan is a longer form of Nathan.)

4. Cape Town is at roughly the same latitude as Buenos Aires and Sydney (and the Southern equivalent to Los Angeles and Casablanca in the Northern Hemisphere). I found this out recently while doing some research on Cape Town, which is likely to be my next new home (when spring arrives there). Interestingly, it will be my fifth time living in a country, continent or region with a word in its name that begins with an A -- after America, Argentina, Australia and Southeast Asia -- which doesn't seem quite so strange once you realize that Europe is the only continent that doesn't fit that description.

5. Mick Jagger, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh once struck a pose together. A few weeks ago when Nacho pointed out a framed photo of Mick Jagger, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh hanging in the window of a vintage-picture shop, I stopped and stared at it for at least a minute. I felt like I was looking at a Mount Rushmore of musical icons, only with then-living, breathing people (Marley would be dead three years later, and Tosh, nine), not images carved in stone. "Haven't you ever seen that photo before?" Nacho asked. "No, should I have?" "It's very famous," he said, explaining that The Rolling Stones are extremely popular in Argentina, hence the local popularity of the picture, which was taken in June of 1978, backstage at a Stones concert at the Palladium in New York City. "Really?" I'd had no idea. I guess you do learn something new every day, and if you're lucky, two new things.

6. The cause of death in crucifixion is suffocation. Not the most obvious tidbit, but it made perfect sense when it was explained in a documentary on Jesus that I recently watched on YouTube. And there I was thinking that the worst part would be having your hands and feet nailed to a cross. Just thinking about it makes me squirm even more than I did a few months ago while watching a documentary on the French Revolution in which guillotine beheadings were depicted a little too graphically.

7. Somebody doesn't make it out of a snuff film alive. I'd heard about them all my life, but I never really knew what a snuff film actually was until I looked it up after a sex trafficker on All My Children threatened to make one of his female captives the star of one. I don't know what is more shocking: that people actually make snuff films or that there might actually be an audience for commercial releases depicting actual murders. That's entertainment?

8. Residential elevator etiquette in Buenos Aires requires one to say "hola" upon entering and "chau," "nos vemos" or "hasta luego" as you exit. Unless you're riding alone, of course. Either the people who lived in the building I used to call home just weren't very nice (a distinct probability), or the neighbors in my current rental are polite to an unnecessary degree. Come to think of it, the friendly hello/goodbye gestures seem to be mostly a female thing. The one person I actually wouldn't mind saying more to (the cute guy who lives right next door) is always in and out without a single word.

9. Celebrities bore each other, too. Though I couldn't imagine ever nodding off while Sir Michael Caine is speaking. Respect, Morgan Freeman! (Extra fun fact: After appearing with Freeman in Now You See Me, which Caine was discussing when his The Dark Knight Rises costar started to drift away, Caine will star as a character named Matthew Morgan in Mr. Morgan's Last Love.)

10. Kelly Clarkson needs to be back on TV every week. Not as an American Idol judge (I read somewhere that she's already declined that offer), but on a sitcom. The laughter that ensued during and after those screenings of From Justin to Kelly in 2003 may not have been the intention, but Clarkson has more than redeemed herself with her music, and now she's getting another screen shot, though on the small one. She's my favorite thing in the teaser for the upcoming Robin Williams-Sarah Michelle Gellar CBS comedy series The Crazy Ones, as much of a natural singing, "It ain't the meat, it's the motion," before rubbing up against James Wolk as she was winning Simon Cowell's approval every week during Idol's first season. If series creator David E. Kelley knew what was best for the show, he'd make her fictionalized Kelly Clarkson a regularly recurring character, sort of like Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23's James Van Der Beek.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blake Berris Reacts to Our Buenos Aires Encounter on Facebook (and He Tweeted Me, Too!)

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Climate's Control: How the Weather Is Running My Life -- and My Travel Plans After Buenos Aires (Plus 10 Great Hot + Cold Songs)

I can't believe it's come to this. I used to dismiss discussions about the weather as the ultimate in undesirable small talk -- and I certainly couldn't imagine ever devoting an entire blog post to it. Meanwhile, I was perplexed by people who let so many of the important decisions in their lives revolve around hot or cold, rainy or dry, cloudy or clear: where they lived, where they went on holiday, what they thought of a city in general, if they went out or stayed in. I couldn't believe it when anyone criticized London, my beloved favorite city, because it was too overcast and damp.

Now I'm one of them. I still love London -- at least I did the last time I was there three years ago. But that was then, before Bangkok destroyed my tolerance for cloudy and cool and made me the sunny-weather lover that I am today. Friends haven't started calling me Heat Miser yet, but it's probably just a matter of time.


Yes, it's often unbearably hot on the streets of Bangkok (even Heat Miser would sweat a torrential downpour and probably pray for a blast of draft), so much so that I once wrote an entire blog post about it. But after spending 16 months there, I became pretty accustomed to extreme heat and humidity. I could still live without the humidity, but bring on the boil!

When I arrived back in Melbourne in January, it was at the end of a heatwave. It was even more steamy than it ever had been in Bangkok (over 40° C, which, I was told, never happens in Melbourne), but I may have been the only person in the city who wasn't complaining. The next day's high dropped by at least one-half, and signaled too many days to come. I believe I spent much of the next three and a half months, summer and early autumn, wearing a jacket -- outdoors and frequently in.

Meanwhile, everyone I know was griping that it was too hot in therre. Their fragile bodies, accustomed to Melbourne's capricious weather and big chills (even during the spring and summer) -- couldn't bear anything that went over 30° C. Meanwhile, there I was, sitting in my apartment with a jacket and the heater on when it was something like 25° C outside. Marcus explained that the stone walls of my apartment building, like many that were built in the 1960s and earlier, were so thick that heat had a difficult time breaking and entering, hence the unseasonable coolness inside of my studio.

I can actually handle a frigid apartment. Despite my newfound appreciation for heat, I'm still someone who lives for AC. I'm likely to turn it on in the winter because I like the background noise it makes, I like to bundle up inside, and I like my indoor chill to be artificial (which gives me total control over it). Since I'm not prone to prancing about my home in the nude, it works out fine.

Outdoors, though, it's a different story for me, one in which a shining sun and a high temperature can turn a scowl into a smile. It's also the perfect setting for an excellent run. Unfortunately, in Melbourne, even on a pleasantly warm day last summer, there always seemed to be a chill in the shade.

How could I ever expect to live in New York City again? Recently, I've occasionally thought about going back, but then I remember that the Big Apple only offers a few months of heat each year -- from around my birthday in May through the end of August. That's simply no longer enough for me.

In about a week and a half, I'm leaving Buenos Aires to fly back to Australia. It couldn't be happening at a better time because the summertime highs of my first weeks here have turned into autumnal lows, and the dropping temperature has taken down my mood with it. I don't plan on sticking around Australia for long, though. It's heading into winter there, and if summer gave me the chills, I don't even want to think about what winter will do.

I can fly a straight line from Sydney to Cape Town, which has always been at the top of my what's-next list, but my friend Adriaan just confirmed my worst fear that June, which is the beginning of the Southern winter, might not be the best time to come:

"If cold weather is not your thing, avoid winter in Cape Town as your first acquaintance with the city... it gets STORMY and WET (Mediterranean climate, winter rainfall, etc...)."

It's at the same latitude as BA and Sydney, so I wouldn't expect to be hitting those beaches Cape Town is so famous for and that have become a huge part of its appeal for me -- yes, Thailand turned me into a beach lover, too, though I prefer to be in its vicinity as opposed to sitting on sand.

"Come in spring or summer, land at the airport, drop your bags at the hotel/guesthouse, and head for one of the Clifton beaches before sundown. Take some bubbly. The sun, and as a result, the sky, mountains, and your bubbly, will be the most beautiful pink you've ever seen."

Apparently, spring in Berlin, though lacking beach-side retreats, can be just as spectacular, or so I was told the other day by my friend Cara, who was just there and praised both the weather and the city itself.

"Berlin actually had really great weather. It was warm, sunny, and I felt like the whole city was out and about in the streets. It had a really good vibe. I was thinking of you!"

That's sounds like quite an improvement over the time I went to Germany in the autumn of 1995. I've always said that holiday in Munich and Berlin were the coldest I've ever been, and although I loved Munich anyway, I think it was part of the reason why I didn't take to Berlin. Will nicer weather in Berlin change the way I feel about the city?

And then there's option No. 3: back to Bangkok. It's rainy season there, but I'm always up for a hot shower. Which reminds me, since the mercury has dropped considerably in BA, so has the temperature of the running water in my rental's shower. I've always lucked out with great water pressure and temperature control in the showers of the apartments I've lived in. For the first time in my life, though, every time I step into the shower, I can't wait to get out of it. The water never seems to get warm enough (though, oddly, the water that flows from the sink faucet almost always manages to burn my hands), which only serves to hasten my departure. I haven't felt 100 percent clean in at least a week.

If I'm going to be running around town feeling a little dirrty, I might as well be sweating while I'm at it.

10 Hot + Cold Songs

Hot Heat Music

"Melting in the Sun" INXS 



"Red Summer Sun" Third Eye Blind

 "Sweat It Out" Elton John 


"The Heat" Toni Braxton

"Sunshine and Ecstasy" Tom Tom Club


Big Chills

"Cold" Annie Lennox



 "Cold" Tears for Fears


"Cold" Elton John


"Cold" The Cure


"The Freeze" Spandau Ballet