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Setting Times stories to music: From Johnny Cash to Morrissey

April 20, 2013|By Kari Howard
  • Marilyn Haynes, 19, left, is greeted by Peggy Turner Cansler, a family friend. Haynes and her brother Aubrey, 18, were given up with adoption and reunited with their birth family years later.
Marilyn Haynes, 19, left, is greeted by Peggy Turner Cansler, a family friend.… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

I'm at Coachella this weekend, where maybe I'll try to do the story-song combo in reverse order: hear a song, and try to think of a story that fits it.

My mind is already full of possibilities. For the Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" (probably my all-time favorite song title), just about anything involving a Hollywood actor would work, no?

I'll keep you posted on Twitter.

In these roundups of the week gone by, I’m offering the first paragraphs of each Column One--maybe they’ll buy your eye and you can settle in for a good weekend read. And you’ll also get the songs that inspired me while editing the stories, or reading them later. 

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Monday's Column One

Passing thoughts at L.A.'s first Death Cafe

If you're going to talk about a subject most people don't want to talk about, why not do so over tea and cake and cookies?

Why not gather in a sunny living room looking out on a lush tangle of green, where you can watch the breeze ruffle the leaves on the trees as you eat forkfuls of blueberry tart?

Death comes to each of us, to everyone we love. Couldn't talking about it in a safe, comfy setting make the prospect less frightening? 

This is what Betsy Trapasso thinks. This is why she's asked friends to come — why on a Sunday afternoon, they've braved Topanga Canyon's twists and turns and climbed the dozens of wooden steps to her end-of-a-rural-road front door. 

Together, they will make history at Los Angeles' first Death Cafe.

#storysongs combo: "Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound," Johnny Cash. But anything from "American VI," his last collaboration with Rick Rubin, would work. Cash clearly had his own mortality on his mind when making this.  

Tuesday's Column One

We held the Column One to make room for the coverage of the Boston marathon bombings, but as a New Englander I offered a song that had been on my mind since hearing a boy had been killed in the Boston attack. "Stolen Child," by the Waterboys. It's a Yeats poem set to music. "For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."

Wednesday's Column One 

Given up for adoption, but not for Lost 

Almost from the start, it was just the two of them. 

When Marilyn was 4 and her brother Aubrey was 3, she packed peanut butter and they ran away from their abusive foster home. Racing across California desert roads, they imagined reaching Barbie's house and a world of play and safety. But authorities returned them to the home a few hours later. 

Their foster families changed frequently after that, as well as their surroundings. As they packed and unpacked, Marilyn carried a few fleeting memories of her real family. Aubrey had none. 

Sometimes when they played in a Georgia subdivision, they pretended to be explorers discovering new lands, fighting goblins, trolls and giants.

They called it the Adventures of Marilyn and Aubrey. 

Thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, a young mother named Meredith Kensington loved to create stories for her daughter. Their favorite one was about two special children who were split from their family by an act of cruelty and led a royal life full of adventure, peril and triumph. 

The plot changed, yet one theme was steady: The weak were rarely bullied for long. 

They called it the Adventures of Marilyn and Aubrey. 

But the story never had an ending. 

#storysongs combo: "The Part Where You Let Go," Hem. Just a beautiful song about being there to break a fall.

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Thursday's Column One 

All you can't eat, pigs will 

With a satisfied grin, farmer Bob Combs watches the big truck slowly dump its greasy load, a Niagara Falls of yesterday's kitchen leftovers that sends off a sickening spray as it splashes into a metal bin.

The greenish-brown concoction — with hot dogs, corn, bright-orange carrots and bits of lobster bubbling to its surface — is ready to start a new culinary chapter. Just 24 hours earlier, these food scraps, albeit in decidedly more appetizing form, were served up to customers at lavish all-you-can-eat buffets on and off the Strip.

Now a new, less finicky clientele awaits: 2,500 pigs on Combs' hog farm, a ramshackle spread of pens just 10 miles from the resort city's gleaming hotel restaurants. A nose-insulting stench permeates the air. 

"What smell?" the farmer asks with a wry smile. "Ahhhh, that's good. It don't bother me. To me, it's like walking past a bakery." 

#storysongs combo: "Life Is a Pigsty," by (famously vegetarian) Morrissey. Classic Moz: gloom, gloom, gloom, and then a burst of hopefulness.

Friday's Column One

Hitting the MOOCs instead of the books 

The public health class got ready for its first lecture: Attending were the pharmacist from Pakistan, the psychologist from Brazil, the dietitian from Louisiana, the journalist from Los Angeles — and 4,500 other people. 

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