"Things I Miss The Most"

wormtom (GB, 6/2.03): dan does Julie Andrews with a hint of remorse- "things I miss the most"
when the dog bites, and the bee stings

Gap Brandy (GB, 6/11/03): I detect something troubling: The hurried, almost after-thought delivery of, "The house on the Gulf Coast". Is this the new "Florida" of DF lore? Is he making fun of us? I say, "Yes".

The Audi TT (GB, 6/11/03):  One theme I find running through the album (aside from the cybersuite) is mortality and death. An interpretation I have of Things I Miss the Most is not that the narrator is divorced and bankrupt to the point of losing cookware, guitars and furniture, but that he's DEAD. In his afterlife, his spirit haunts his Gramercy Park apartment unable to interact with our world, barely able to perceive the living much like ghosts would be to us. He can't affect the living world's environment, he's got to "hunker down" to read the newspaper his adorable ghost has left by the couch. The "girlie" magazine is not girlie as in porn, but girlie as in something she would read and leave lying on the bed. He's learning to meditate (since that's all he can do) and he's (metaphorically) building the Andrea Doria out of balsa wood, passing time doing nothing. The birdie verse is literal, as in the old superstition that animals can see and empathize with ghosts. So he's resigned to an eternity of lonliness and absolute boredom doomed to remember the emotional and material Things I Miss the Most. Perhaps this is the Dan's version of hell for their more morally bankrupt characters, an eternity of suffering and longing for that which they can no longer have....
    Where would you get "sad cuisine"? Why, at the Sad Cafe of course! Yet another Eagles reference, and a song which has a lot of religious imagery and loss and resignation themes itself, including this line: "I don't know why fortune smiles on some, and lets the rest go free".

Passing Through (GB, 6/11/03): Audi TT:  Interested to see your take on Things I Miss The Most. I had thought of the play "Our Town" after a few listens -- where the dead townspeople reminisce about what they miss about living.
    "The days really don't last forever
    But it's getting pretty damn close." Eternity?

DACW (GB, 6/11/03):  AudiTT: Excellent...apres the nookyular fallout of Blues Beach...rack 'em, Oleander...yes, they're laughing AT him, not with him as well as Dave in Acquisitions...I'll have my Reuben on Wry please...

oleander (GB, 6/11/03):  Hilarious song about a pretty clueless yuppie divorced guy. Wonderful lyrics: the poker-faced chorus. You start to feel a little bad for him, and then "...the Audi TT." "My sad cuisine"--speaks volumes. "Adorable ghost." "And then ba-boom!" Mr. F's delivery is so deadpan. Best line: "I'm learning how to meditate/So far so good." Yes, the Andrea Doria was a famous wrecked ocean liner a la Titanic, but more recent. It was a lavish Italian luxe liner, which fits superbly in the imagery of the song. In 1956 it made a wrong turn in the fog and another liner smashed into it amidships. Within 20 minutes it was clear the AD was going to go down. Most passengers were saved; about 50 died from the collision. So here's our hero, a guy floating aimlessly in the fog just waiting to get broadsided by something big, building (while he's falling apart) a pointless model of a doomed 50's luxury icon, out of balsa wood, which floats spectacularly but is quite brittle and extremely lightweight. Now is there ANYBODY else who could invest an apparent throwaway line with so many layers of meaning?...  The song is chockablock with yuppie semiotics. Everyone probably knows what an Eames chair is--a modernist icon, now considered by jaded youth to be campy. The Eameses, Charles & Ray, were a brilliant design couple for whom furniture was only one creative outlet. Depending how much of a completist you are, Eames chairs are still available (as are copper pans).

luckless pedestrian (GB, 6/11/03): audi tt - great take on "things I miss the most"  kind of the sixth sense twist?  like the slant you present - although walter asks one of his cab riders if 'she's ever been divorced" when addressing this song

Howard (GB, 6/12/03): On "Things I Miss" I took the birdie lines at face value. Maybe I'm missing something, but "I had a little birdie friend, by morning she was gone, birdie good bye" more or less sums up the whole song, given the hints of sadness and darkness in the vocals and harmonies at the end of that bit.

wormtom (GB, 6/12/03):  I can understand the car and beach houses but what does the ex want with the 54 strat - sounds like pure spite

Hutch (GB, 6/12/03):  Wormy - A '54 Strat in good condition is probably worth about 20 Grand. That was the first year Fender made that model.

wormtom (GB, 6/12/03):  hutch - yes a 54 strat is big greenola
so did he loose it to the ex wife in spite?
or did he have to sell it in the post divorce downscaling???
not something I'd ever wish on anyone

enimen (GB, 6/12/03):  My first impression of EMG was that it was unflinchingly about death. We're beyond mid-life crises here (Hey 19, What a Shame), we're deep into endgame with the guy in the black robe carrying the sickle.
    I didn't like Things I Miss too much for that reason--it seemed to be a more mundane break-up song. I liked an early poster's comment about the narrator being dead; although I didn't buy it, it was an attempt to tie in the theme.
    But this is no ordinary break-up. The narrator is facing the things he misses and is probably never going to have again. When she left, he was not about to jump back to the mate market. He's too old, or too withdrawn.
    The litany is a funny yuppie gift list, yes, but it's also reminiscent of all the things that go when you age. Death comes in stages.
    The Audi TT and the house on the Vineyard remind me of the list of things the old man loses at the end of the "All the World's  a Stage" speech from "As You Like It."
             The sixth age shifts
             Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
             With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
             His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
             For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
             Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
             And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
             That ends this strange eventful history,
             Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
             Sans* teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Hank Silvers (GB,  6/12/03):   Here's an early whack at it: In "Things I Miss the Most", the protagonist is alone in the aftermath of a failed romance, but he doesn't sound as though he's about to break down. Even though she cleaned him out, taking 2 houses and a car -- and, perhaps  for spite, his prize guitar -- he doesn't sound particularly bitter or despondent. Instead, he dispassionately lists his former possessions as though he was itemizing the losses for an insurance claim. Perhaps he's just numb, or maybe it's a positive side effect of those meditation lessons.

DACW (GB, 6/12/03):   I can't believe this...as a child I vaguely remember, from a couple visits to the Empire State, that my mother's 2nd cousin's husband (are you still with me?) in NY was the President of an Italian ship corporation...but what I didn't know until last night (the balsa wood crack came up) that his company owned the freakin' Andrea Doria! Mum said he was never the same after that...
    Hey, what if Things I Miss the Most is a post-Nookyular Last Mall lament - then the "birdy" could be a "Canary in a Coalmine" If it doesn't come back...then things could get a whole lot worse before falling apart in the merciless fallout rays of Blues Beach...or whatever...

Hank Silvers (GB, 6/12/03): In "Things I Miss the Most", the protagonist is alone in the aftermath of a failed romance, but he doesn't sound as though he's about to break down. Even though she cleaned him out, taking 2 houses and a car -- and, perhaps for spite, his prize guitar -- he doesn't sound particularly bitter or despondent. Instead, he dispassionately lists his former possessions as though he was itemizing the losses for an insurance claim. Perhaps he's just numb, or maybe it's a positive side effect of those meditation lessons.

Bill (Blue Book, 6/16/03):  While hunting for that last quote I glanced at some 11TOW lyrics and was struck by the similarties and contrasts between the reclusive protagonist of "Girlfriend" and the guy in "Things I Miss The Most." WB's tune is considerably darker in tone and the black humor is mainly conveyed by his delivery and the wisecracks about his faithful companions, TV and liquor.

     "Alone in my cave
     It's corn flakes and Camels
     And the long restless shadows of my life
     None but the brave
     Jim Beam and Jack Daniels
     Channelhopping these empty days and nights
     Glued to the screen
     Rerun by rerun
     At the dark outer limits of my soul
     Stranded between
     The Green Acres of my good intentions
     And the Twilight Zone of zero self-control
     Dust and despair
     Cobwebs and confusion
     Collecting in the corners of my room
     All of my dreams
     Bitter illusions
     I just can't be rid of them too soon
     Tired of my brain
     Tired of this movie
     Too tired to get up and shut it off
     The time that remains
     What good can it do me
     Now that I know that too much is not enough"

     (Of course the prototype for both songs may be the Statler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall," [http://www.lyricsmania.com/soundtracks/pulpfiction/008.html] which was used as the basis of an essay by another favorite curmudgeon of mine, Kurt Vonnegut)
     And in the same song you get something that sounds a bit like the overarching theme of the entire EMG project:

     "I'm pullin' in a picture now
     Up off my back pages
     And all at once am privy to
     The entire grim design
     Of a great civilization
     In the terminal stages
     Of a slow but steady mental moral spiritual decline"

Rajah of Erase (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  What must have gone down when they came up with, "I'm building the Adria Doria -- out of balsa wood"? I don't know how Don is going to bray out that line on the tour without cracking up. Personally, I almost fell out of the Barco-lounger when I first played it, lyrics in hand. It's soo whacky and far afield but soo right on. The poor schlep in TIMTM reminds rings with an incredible degree of truth and honesty. And I seriously wonder about his values.  Then again, men just don't handle break-ups well at all. We're basically spineless in that arena.

Peter Q (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  Actually there's a bit of trickery in the lyrics of TIMTM. What appears to be psychological explanation is not - no reason for the disintegration of the relationship is provided at all, and the actual things he misses are not in and of themselves the things that make a difference in a relationship ( maybe sex, but obviously that can exist for itself just like a car or a chair ). We could actually make the case that this guy is a shallow boob and B & F are saying this is what love and relationships have become in our society - cars, houses on the Vineyard, talking, ie superficiality and not real emotional connection.

Lady Bayside (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  Maybe it's just with TIMTM that when it comes down to it, if the singer/writer's ending a *bad* relationship, the things you do miss the most may not have much to do with the person with whom you were involved.
     The human contact, the sex (is bad sex better than no sex?)--those are expected. I love the line "the Audi TT". It is so sly, so snide.
     And so classically Steely Dan.

Rajah of Erase (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  The only thing that seems to convey some modicum of true regret from this guy in TTIMTM is "somebody to trust." You can be able to talk to lots of people satisfactorily, of course have sex with anybody, it being one of the basic of human functions, but, that trust thing. Now you can truly trust relatively very few people in your life. What do we make of the "trust" element here? Does this schlub have a saving grace?

Peter Q (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  Of course the point being - and this is another stalwart in the SD lexicon - the gal is the source of his misery, emasculating him to the point where he can only curl up with girlie magazines. The guys in these songs are so weak!   And their women - only bitches, whores, cannivers or runaway Lolita types. The lyrics are eternally incapable of embracing a normal, healthy female at all, a rather bleakly misogynistic viewpoint.

Man with no face (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  The protagonist in TIMTM is perhaps another in the line of put upon male characters as in Black Cow or Negative Girl.  He doesn't miss her funky attitude or their fights, but he does miss their talk and the trust he had for her, and he still calls her adorable. From the depressive way he's reacting, it sounds like she ran off with another guy and then cleaned him out in the divorce settlement, even getting his prize guitar. I read the "Birdy" verse as a girl. Donald sings it really plaintively, as if he wanted more than just casual sex out of his birdie friend. Maybe he couldn't even perform. Anyway, he sounds like an emotional wreck, wallowing in self-pity.

Duke of Earl (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  I think it's a song about losing your lover, but not just any loss. It's the death of his "Sugar Mommy"...the guy married (or maybe didn't marry, just a physical relationship) a wealthy old lady because he had a thing for old ladies (an old bird, per se). He enjoyed the talk, the sex, and all of the great amenities of being married into money. They didn't have the greatest of times (fighting with the kids and about the kids from her first marriage who are entitled to the inheritance), but he enjoyed a few of the things. Now that she's gone (sees the adorable ghost), he's lost it all because her children were in the will and he wasn't. He quit his job when becoming associated with her, and now he's basically got nothing. Also Birdy bye-bye could be a reference to her dying in her sleep (by morning she was     gone).

Bill (Blue Book, 6/20/03):  I suggest there are some parallels between the newly-impoverished schmuck in TIMTM and an even shallower character in "Fall of 92" (a Becker/Fagen composition), you know, the guy that drives his beloved dog to the pound in his Beemer cause he can't afford the dog food after losing his cushy job but somehow can keep the fancy vehicle....

Peg (Blue Book, 6/20/03): As I see it, the protagonist in TIMTM is a comical loser who is such a schmuck he got taken not only to the cleaners, but got stripped down to his virtual skivvies after a divorce. Classic use of exaggeration to create humor.

Javier (6/25/03):  In "Things I Miss The Most" I can find the same character I met 10 years ago in "Tomorrow's Girls". Obviously, he left his wife and kids for some young and beautiful girl. The girl now took the Audi TT and his house in the Vineyard. Now he jerks off with a girly magazine like, let's say... Penthouse. He could be Bill Clinton, don't you think?

Chief of Theory (Blue Book, 6/25/03):  I think TIMTM has the following problem: it's SD winking at us, saying Look at us put the screws to these yuppie bastards. It makes you too conscious of listening to a song. The only thing I know how to compare it to is when you watch a Godard film and you can see the boom mike hanging over the actors' heads, drawing you out of the fictional story in the film and bringing attention to the fact that you're watching a movie. Anyone else have this feeling? I am curious to know.

wormtom (GB, 7/3/03):  I love the melancholy of this song
             It even has that nearly quiet apologetic opening stanza
             like someone who's world has come crashing down and is resolved to resignation while everything else is busy around them

             obviously the big divorce - and the world is oblivious

             "I don't mind the quiet
             Or the lonely nights
             I don't miss the funky attitudes
             And I don't miss the fights
             I lie on the couch 'till suppertime
             And hunker down and read the Post
             And that's when I remember the things I miss the most"

             our protagonist looks backwards to fill his void
             he doesn't mind the empty house, the isolation
             but he realizes there was a lot of strife he could gladly have done without
             his old companion's qwirks are obvious - but he isn't having to deal with them now, so fond reminisence sets it
             he's got more time on his hands, and nobody placing demands on him
             hence the relaxed spiraling pace to dinnertime
             the paper harkens to leisurely sunday mornings with old beau

             "The talk
             The sex
             Somebody to trust
             The Audi TT
             The house on the Vineyard
             The house on the gulf coast
             These are the things I miss the most"

             love this chorus
             sparse, direct (maybe too direct)
             he longs for the positive things she brought him
             and misses that core element of trust fundamental to it all

             then things digress to the adult toy chest
             materialism ala mode
             cars and houses - big ticket items
             my take is he married into bigger money and prestige
             and those things stayed in the family

             enjoyed Dr Mu and Angel's Kennedy correlation
             but I prefer it more vague

             "I kinda like frying up
             My sad cuisine
             Gettin' in bed and curling up with a girlie magazine
             But sometimes in the corner of my eye
             I see that adorable ghost
             And then ba-boom I remember the things I miss the most"

             dinner for 1 - sad cuisine
             probably an easy stir fry - doesn't feel the effort to cook (espec for 1)
             girlie mag - his ex's old evening reading material
             Martha Stewart or Cosmo? reminding him of her abscence
             (the Heff and Larry Flynt end doesn't work here
             it's less the physical than the emotional)
             adorable ghost - his departed love
             ba-boom - a honeymooner "I got it" moment

             "The talk
             The sex
             Somebody to trust
             The comfy Eames chair
             The good copper pans
             The '54 Strat
             These are the things I miss the most"

             second chorus strays to the exotic materilistic
             thy shalt covet
             Eames was an expensive designer 60's chair
             the strat priceless and again acquired with ex's abounding affluence
             and stays in the family
             (he can't be taken to the cleaners when they weren't his to begin with)
             the tit for tat of divorce possessions is all in her favor here

             "I had a little birdy friend
             By morning she was gone
             Birdy good-bye
             Birdy bye-bye"

             a non fullfilling aquaintance
             younger, none of the sophistication of his former spouse
             she sees the state he's in and is quickly out of there
             he sees the meaninglessness of the encounter

             "I'm learning how to meditate
             So far so good
             I'm building the Andrea Doria out of balsa wood
             The days really don't last forever
             But it's getting pretty damn close
             And that's when I remember the things I miss the most"

             self help 101 - get in touch with one's real self
             that guy you lost in the relationship
             a project will keep me busy
             the irony - cheap balsa and a tragic leasure liner
             a freudian mirror of his less plush surroundings and sinking esteem


             just love the next line's double innuendo
             days don't last forever - meaning that relationship is gone
             but they do drag on too long - my current painfully dreadful situation

             timtm - the what a shame about me of EMG
             a ghost of his former self
             self absorbed,longing for that good life
             not the more substaintial things that might make it truly significant

Atreides (7/5/03):  I think you guys are being a little harsh on this guy.  Consider this:
    His wife/lover/whatever leaves him.  The first things he thinks about are the immediate losses he suffers and the weird feelings: the talk (or rather the odd silence), the sex (when you’re used to getting it and it dries up, well, you guys should know what I mean…), someone to trust (and that feeling of disconnection after the trauma).
    As a few weeks pass, he starts tripping over little losses, things that didn’t register immediately because they were below his radar after the breakup or were things he just took for granted.  I can even see his thinking.  “I’ll make some pasta.  Damn!  I can’t!  She took the good pans!”  “Time to lounge in front of the TV…but the good comfy chair is gone. :( “
    Months pass.  He’s getting his life back together and really analyzing it all.  And he finds that the things he misses in the long term are closely tied to the earlier immediate losses.  He hasn’t had a really good discussion in a long time.  He hasn’t been able to bring himself to go out and find a woman for any reason.  And he can’t really get away from it all because all the things he used for escape are gone like the Audi TT and the vacation houses.  He’s caught in his own little purgatory until he can find a way out.
    So where does he go from there?  Blues Beach!  Where else?
    I think this fits in with my idea that the album is about a man losing his woman and the stages he goes through trying to get over her.  The Last Mall is her packing up her stuff.  Godwhacker is a manifestation of his anger.  Since he’s been learning to meditate, maybe he’s leaning to Eastern religions and rejecting the Judeo-Christian stuff he paid lip service to all his life.  Slang of Ages is him trying to get back into the dating game after so long.  Green Book is him getting comfy and hitting the clubs.  Pixeleen is about how he uses technology to try to fill some of those empty spaces (playing video games, downloading porn, stuff like that).  Of course, he’s filling empty space with empty images and distorted idealized crap so when he starts messing around with Gina, she seems crazy in comparison.  By the end, he’s not the same man.  He’s gone from a family man and husband to, well, a character in a Steely Dan Song. :) All he can do is surrender to the malaise and ride it rather than fight it.  His sorrow has beaten him so he closes the shop that is his self-esteem AND his old life.  He has to start over again.  It’s sad, but it’s also happy because he’s liberated from the shadows of the past.  His new life isn’t going to be the caliber of his old life, but at the same time, there’s the possibility that he might be able to find a way to live with it all.  A sad ending, but one could argue that a new crappy life is still progress from his old sad one.

Clean Willy (9/28/03):  I always seem to come late to the game, be it because of age of schedule, but I finally got my copy of EMG and the two songs that jumped immediately into my heart were “Pixeleen” and “TIMTM.” As for the latter, I think this is the most sincere and sentimental the Dan have been since “Walk Between Raindrops” (we count solo right?).
    There, it seemed like the Post-war nervosa and the Post-war nostalgia came to terms for two-minutes with simple results, break-up, make-up, simple. Here, the situations can be seen as similar (what with world and all), but sentiment is much more depressive. When TvN came out, I predicted that the next album would not have that level of looking back, this song certainly debunks that.
    This is definitely a song about divorce and the way of looking at it. Don’t relationships tend to be analyzed in the fourth dimension? Where instead of the breadth and length, you look at the time elapsed? The chair that came in around year ten, the scratch on the wall that happened two years later, these are determining factors. And as you walk through the environment, the reminders keep showing up, and this narrator is moving through an environment in a new way, dinner is still there, reading in bed is still there, but the other force of energy is not.
    The way Don sings the title in three parts seems to enforce the slow recognition/ coming to terms. These are the things. I Miss. The Most. Each more clarifying the one before, from material, to emotional, to inherent. I like the way the verses and bridge flow around the chorus. “I lie on the couch ‘til suppertime” into “I kinda like frying up my sad cuisine,” or “I see that adorable ghost” into “I had a little birdy” into “I’m learning how to meditate.”
    I was having lunch at my father’s office one day and he pulled out a pair of rickety salt and pepper shakers that wouldn’t even stand on their own. “This is all I got from the divorce,” he said jokingly. That brand of humor is evident here. Look at the procession of things that are gone: the talk was good, the sex was better, trust, and then what, cars, two houses (Has anyone noticed how the Dan narrator are getting wealthier with every album? Now, when you cross a diamond with a pearl, it’s in a jewelry box and not on the tenement couch, but we’ll save that for a Grand Unified Theory).
    Sting did something similar a few years ago with “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/sting/132047.html). “Saw my lawyer, Mr. Good News/ He got me joint custody and legal separation.” Hurray!
    One of the upsides of write cryptically for a living is that when you write simply, no one accuses you of being schmaltzy. I feel like, for whatever reason, this is as direct as the boys have been.

Minor Dude (5/1/04):  On a dreary Sunday afternoon alone, try this:

1.  Get out about 10 photos of your estranged significant other, kids, deceased pets, parents, faded vacation photos from childhood, cheesy prom photos. Get out your 5th birthday party photo where from a perspective of maturity, you are finally able to see your mother's love, angst, boredom and terror behind that organization woman smile.

2. Play Things I Miss The Most.

3. Notice the tears welling up in your eyes.

4. Notice the pool of tears on your shirt.

5. Rehydrate.

6. Cry some more.

    I don't know but I think that S&D (with above-noted exceptions) have always hidden their true feelings, longings, disappointments and dreams behind a steely third-person limited omniscient veneer.  Even in songs written in the first person, the singer is usually playing a character. Of course D&F are not child molesters portrayed in Janie Runaway. Donald is obviously doing an impersonation of this Gramercy Park Pervert that he heard about.  At most, D or W will inject hidden commentary or perspective into the narrative (e.g. when Donald urges her to "...Janie, run away!!")
    I think that we the listeners typically tend to assume a professional distance from the actual people in a SD song.  For example, listening to Black Friday, my perspective was not "Oh what a shame about me. My portfolio is halved in value and the world is coming to an end".  I said "Cool!!! How ironic to watch some anonymous, ruthless bastard in his Grey Flannel Suit and fedora jump from the 14th floor of one of those monster skyscrapers depicted on the cover of the Royal Scam."  From a professional distance, we
can note the irony that he dived from the 14th floor (skyscrapers typically don't have a 13th floor; bad luck).  We are free hypothesize about whether or not the financial economic meltdown described is just deserts for a decedent society.  Through the steely prism, we can experience the turbulence of life from a safe emotional distance; our objectivity intact.
    "Things I Miss..." is Donald Fagen (and hence each of us respectively identifying with Donald Fagen) singing about himself (ourselves). Our longing, disappointment and confusion is right there on the table. I feel like I'm literally looking at my own bloody heart lying on newspapers spread out on the kitchen table. There are no complex, oblique metaphors to obscure the pain. No scintillating guitar solos to give voice to anger about the evils of capitalism. No grand, hidden meanings behind these facts to justify the pain in soothing six-part radio jingle harmony. In the context of this stripped down, honest, direct album, "Things I Miss The Most" song is plainly about the end of commerce and things and the beginning of life and love. I find this song heart wrenching.

P.S. Actually do the photo exercise. It will bring the THINGS described in
the song into sharp focus from a different perspective.

 "The Last Mall""Blues Beach"