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July 3, 2018

David McGlynn's Playlist for His Essay Collection "One Day You'll Thank Me"

One Day You'll Thank Me

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

David McGlynn's One Day You'll Thank Me is a heartfelt and funny essay collection about parenting.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Each brutally honest chapter is filled with heart and humor as McGlynn shares his most tender and most trying moments as a parent . . . All parents will relate and enjoy, but fathers of sons will most certainly relish this charming and hilarious tale of fatherhood."

In his own words, here is David McGlynn's Book Notes music playlist for his essay collection One Day You'll Thank Me:

One Day You'll Thank Me is a book of lessons about fatherhood, specifically about parenting boys. It begins when my sons are 5 and 2, and concludes when my oldest is about to start junior high. In a nutshell, it’s a story of good intentions gone awry, of parenting lessons I was forced to learn, and of making a home in a new place – in our case, in Wisconsin, a place where neither my wife nor I knew another living soul when we arrived in 2006.

The book started in 2010 with a short piece about my father’s awful Christmas presents. He’s easily the worst gift-giver I’ve ever known. His gifts wouldn’t fly at a white elephant party. Every Christmas, from the time I started high school until I graduated from college, I received, no lie, a sleeve of spaghetti noodles and a jar of marinara sauce—and not from some fancy gourmet store; I’m talking supermarket fare here. One year, I also got a two-foot Hickory Farms Beef Summer Sausage, which my college roommates used as a prop for gestures so obscene that afterward I couldn’t bear to eat the thing. My favorite—and perhaps the all-time worst gift ever—was the year my dad emptied all the change in his car’s ashtray into a Ziploc baggie, dropped the baggie in a box, and wrapped it. $17.30 worth of dimes and nickels. Merry Christmas, kid.

My parents had divorced when I was young, and my dad had moved to California while my sister and I stayed with our mother in Texas. My dad and I saw each other for only a few weeks a year, including about a week at Christmastime. So the Christmas morning suckfest was compounded by the fact that we only had a few days together. But on some level my dad also knew that the gifts themselves were beside the point. What we both wanted was the one thing we couldn’t have, which was more time. As an adult, and as a dad, I’ve come to appreciate the value, and the gift, of time. Far sweeter than any loot beneath the tree was fact that every morning my sons woke up in a house that had their father in it.

I’d always known I’d someday want kids, I just didn’t expect to have them when I did. Despite my precautions and faith in modern medicine, my sons were each conceived on different forms of birth control—which is likely evidence that I was a grave sinner in a past life and am paying for it in this one. But after growing up so far away from my dad and then being caught so completely off guard by parenthood, the rights and obligations of being a dad have always felt like a bit of a puzzle. I want to do right by my boys—like buying the right Christmas presents—but I often find myself worrying that I’m inadvertently handing out baggies of spare change.

In that same vein, my playlist is sort of a mixed bag, a wrinkled Ziploc of guilty pleasures, old-school dance party faves, and sweet, schmaltzy waltzes. If compiling a playlist has anything in common with fatherhood, it’s this: you figure out pretty quickly that you’re no longer cool. And then you realize you don’t care.

1. Brandi Carlile, “Josephine.” Seventh track on her 2007 album, The Story. My older son, Galen, learned to ride his bike to this song when he was 5. The first few times I tried to teach him, he dove for the grass whenever I let go of the seat. After he bloodied his hands, he left the bike lying on the sidewalk and vowed to never ride again. I tried to talk him into giving it another shot, but he said no way. Eventually, he taught himself to ride by leaning against the wall of the garage, clenching his fist, and declaring, “This is the ride of Angry Galen.” In his fury, he found his determination. And when at last he pedaled down the street, I heard him singing the chorus of “Josephine.”

2. Macklemore, “Thrift Shop.” When you have a young family, especially boys who consistently outpace the growth charts at the pedestrian’s office, you go through clothes and shoes pretty fast. Not to mention spoons, books, backpacks, lunchboxes, gloves, socks, clock radios, lamps, and Halloween costumes. We’ve been Goodwill and thrift store shoppers for years and we’re not afraid to admit it. Once, we even had to detour from the highway into a small town, in the middle of winter, in search of a clean pair of underwear, and the local thrift shop came through. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose. “Thrift Shop” has long been a family anthem for keeping the budget in check. And it’s fair to say the boys learned to swear from Macklemore.

3. Lorde, “Royals,” arranged and performed acapella by the Florida State AcaBelles. The YouTube video of this college group performing Lorde’s hit went viral in 2013, when the boys were 8 and 6. That same year, we tried—and failed—to sell our house and move into nicer, larger digs. The deal fell through and we worried that we’d live in our small starter home forever. But at the end of that summer, we went to the western Ireland—a part of the world full of “torn up towns . . . with no post-code envy,” as Lorde sings, and had the time of our lives. The bigger house no longer mattered. Five years later, the boys are twice as large, the house feels twice as small, and we don’t think any more about moving. We crave a different kind of buzz.

4. Blackstreet, “No Diggity,” remixed for the 2012 film Pitch Perfect. We watched the famous “Riff Off” scene from the movie while standing in the kitchen in the late fall of 2014. Pitch Perfect had, by that point, made it to cable, where we happened—by accident—to catch it. When Anna Kendrick busted out with the opening lyrics to “No Diggity,” the boys froze in their tracks and stood transfixed before the TV. We watched the entire movie the next night, and have seen it at least a hundred times since. If we’re ever scanning through the channels and stumble upon the movie, it takes hardly a second for us all to get sucked in. And the “Riff Off” always gets us on our feet.

5. Ian Hues, “With Me.” Ian was my student at Lawrence University, and a member of a scholarship group that I mentored from 2012 to 2016. Ian and I, along with the other scholars, grew very close during his college years, and my wife and sons loved them all deeply. Ian began to record during his final few years at Lawrence and he’s still at it today. This song is the family favorite. Another member of the same scholars group, Danny Card, directed the video (shot at the college), and Kenneth Herrera, Kevin Marin, and Gintu Kottarathil appear in it as well. I couldn’t be more proud.

6. Randy Travis, “Forever and Ever Amen.” I’m not much of a country music fan, or of Randy Trvais, but my wife loves this song. We danced to it at our wedding, and every few months we turn it back on for old time’s sake. But the song really matters because my wife taught the boys to slow dance to it, in the backyard, on a cloudless summer night beneath stars. Young men need to learn a lot of things in the course of growing up. Slow dancing to a sappy song is chief among them.

7. Mungo Jerry, “In the Summertime.” Legend has it that lead singer Ray Dorset wrote this song in ten minutes on a second-hand Stratocaster. I first heard the song the summer I turned thirteen, my first summer visiting my father in California. My dad had bought a decommissioned mail truck for $250, sawed off the roof, and welded in a roll bar. Because it was a mail truck, the driver was on the right. Riding shotgun on left, where the driver ordinarily sat, as we bombed down the Pacific Coast Highway in the August sunshine, the summer felt both limitless and far too short. Wisconsin summers are exactly like that: sublime to the point of feeling spiritual, yet gone in a flash. This song stays in constant rotation between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

8. LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out,” the original 1990 version from the same album. It’s the perfect compliment to One Day You'll Thank Me's penultimate chapter, “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting.” The boys are only two years apart, nearly equal in size, and constantly in each other’s spaces. We’re always on the verge of a fight. On more than one occasion, I’ve grown sick of the petty squabbling that I’ve shoved the living room furniture out of the way, made them strip off their shirts, shake hands, and have at it until one of them cried, “Uncle.” Was this the right thing to do? At a certain point, I no longer cared. Someone’s ass was getting kicked.

9. “Rich Girl” by Lake Street Dive. A cover of the Hall and Oats Classic. The college where I teach boasts a pretty well-known conservatory, and the members of Lake Street Dive are all conservatory trained musicians. It also turns out that one of my colleagues had previously given some music lessons to Bridget Kearney, Lake Street’s bassist and principal song writer. We’d been listening to Lake Street Dive all summer when we found out they’d be playing in Milwaukee. The boys had never been to a concert before, so I bought tickets. The show went late, they couldn’t see over the jerk in front of us, and were mad that I wouldn’t spring for a second round of sodas. But they danced and sang along and to this day they’re still fans of the band. Before I know it, they’ll be going to concerts with their friends and won’t want me anywhere near them. But when it comes to concerts—as with most things in life—you never forget your first.

David McGlynn and One Day You'll Thank Me links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Los Angeles Review of Books review

WGN interview with the author
WUWM interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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