In 1995, the British pop duo Everything But the Girl released “Missing”, a song that would become their greatest hit. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt paired up 40 years ago to create EBTG. They found their title in the slogan of a store in their home town of Hull that promised to sell shoppers “everything but the girl”. I feel they’re one of the most underrated musical acts of recent decades. There was once a time – before the internet – when people could vanish from our lives and we relied on music like this to fill the void. Music always seems to fill the void of whatever or whomever we’re missing.
My old friend, Paul Landin, had discovered EBTG in the late 1980s and became instantly fascinated with them. He was especially enamored with Thorn. I know he traveled to England at least twice in the 1980s, but I don’t know if he ever saw EBTG in concert there or anywhere. Paul died in April after a year-long battle with liver cancer. Shortly after his death, a mutual friend, Mike*, sent a Tweet to Tracey Thorn advising her that “one of her biggest fans” had passed away. Paul and Mike had met at New York University in the early 1990s where they both studied filmmaking and found they had a mutual love of EBTG. They couldn’t have been more different: Paul, a Mexican-American born and raised in Texas and Mike, a traditional “WASP” from upstate New York.
A few days after Paul’s death Mike told me he’d dreamed of our old friend. “It might have been the edible I had last night,” he said via text, “but I felt his presence sitting across from me in the living room. He was smiling and he said don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.” Still, Mike lamented, he feels Paul had been cheated out of fulfilling his dreams of being a successful filmmaker/screenwriter.
Paul and I had a strange friendship; almost a love/hate type of interaction. I supposed that was because we were so much alike in many respects. Our fathers grew up together in East Dallas. Paul and I even attended the same parochial grade school in the 1970s (I vaguely remember him) and were altar boys at the accompanying Catholic church. We shared a love of good food and good cinema. As fraught as our friendship could be at times, I still miss him and his quirky nature.
Tracey Thorn’s reply to Mike* back in April
I miss a lot of aspects of my life. But isn’t that what happens to us as we get older? With more years behind than ahead of us, we sort through the intricacies and chaos of our lives and wonder how we managed to make it this far.
I miss the gatherings my parents and I used to have at this house. There often wasn’t a particular reason. Third Saturday of the month? Good enough! Family, friends and neighbors would convene upon this simple home and have the best time imaginable. We had food – real food! Not just chips and dips. People often brought dishes out of courtesy, but everyone knew they could actually have a meal. Ours became the fun house; where people could gather and always feel they were loved and appreciated.
I miss Sunday lunches with my parents. It was always a special occasion – even when I moved back here in 2007. We talked about anything and everything. Like music, food helps people bond.
I miss the 1990s and the excitement of heading into a new century and a new millennium. In some ways I miss the apartment I moved into in May of 1991; a relatively small one bedroom/one bath abode. For the first time in my life, I was truly on my own. I miss happy hours with colleagues at the bank where I worked in Dallas at the time. I still relish the period from 1996 to the spring of 2001, when most everything in my life seemed to go right. I know I can never go back (past perfect is only possible in grammar), but I wish I could recapture that feeling of freedom and happiness. I miss my blue and white lava lamp.
I miss the German shepherd, Josh, my parents and I had from 1973 to 1985. When we moved to this house in suburban Dallas in 1972, my parents had promised they’d get me a dog. Somehow I’d become enamored with German shepherds. My mother had a phobia of big dogs. As a child in México City, she’d seen a man attacked by a Doberman. But she swallowed her fears for my sake. Early on I noticed his eyes seemed to be tri-colored: mostly yellow-gold, but also green and blue. We didn’t realize how big he was, until we brought him inside the house. We would bring him in during the torrid Texas summers and (in his later years) during the occasional harsh winters. Putting him to sleep on Easter Saturday 1985 was one of the most traumatic experiences we ever endured. It’s not that we expected him to live forever, of course; we just never prepared ourselves for the end.
I miss my last dog, a miniature schnauzer I adopted from a former friend and roommate and named Wolfgang. I loved the sound of his breathing at night, as he slept. It remains one of the most soothing sounds I’ve ever heard in my life. My parents also fell in love with him, after I moved back here in 2007. My father especially developed a deeply personal relationship with Wolfgang. I realized how strong that connection was on the day my father died in June of 2016, when the lights flickered, and Wolfgang ambled down the hall. He stood before my parents’ closed bedroom door and turned to me. I knew my father was gone. Wolfgang died less than five months after my father did. I still maintain my father returned and got him.
I miss my father, George De La Garza, Sr. I love and miss my mother and everyone I’ve ever known and lost, but I miss my father the most. We had a unique bond that couldn’t be matched by anything or anyone. In my worst moments, I often wish he’d come back to get me. But then, all the plans I’ve made for myself wouldn’t come to fruition. And when I call to him and get no response, I realize it’s just not my time. I know. We could communicate without words.
So I continue and recollect the best moments of my past years and look forward to what I have left. Still, I’m always missing someone or something.
We all miss someone or something from our lives. Who or what do you miss?
It’s been 30 years since the group SNAP! released their signature song “Rhythm is a Dancer”. It remains one of my favorite tunes and was a favorite of one of my closest friends, Daniel, who died of AIDS in 1993. Another close friend, Paul (who died this past April), also liked it. It’s so emblematic of the 1990s.
Looking back – as I have the tendency to do – things were pretty good for me in 1992; a time before cell phones and personal computers were common and when the future seemed wide open, as the world moved closer to the new millennium.
My sentimentality may be getting the best of me now, as I’ve been going through some times these past few months. Still, music always has a way of soothing the troubled mind.