Richard Melnick, author of Parents Who Don't Do Dishes, talks Breaking Bad and clairvoyance
Music is obviously a big part of your life. What's the most spiritual experience you've ever had while listening to music?
I feel like whenever I'm really engaged with the music that's playing, it's always a spiritual experience. There's something about the music that quiets my mind. It's all-consuming. I just let my mind go with the melody and am consumed by the silence of my mind. When I was sick there was something about music that was especially healing for me. I think there's always a song for you, whether you're happy or sad.
So, do you have a certain favorite song of all time?
There's a couple. U2's "Mothers of the Disappeared" is definitely one of them. I think all of Joshua Tree, actually. That's an album that just really holds up. And it's not a coincidence I'm so fond of it. because it came out just after my best friend Marco was killed. It was so especially healing for me and definitely spurred a lot of tears. And then lately I'm listening to a lot of Martha Scanlan and Gillian Welch. In particular there's a Reeltime Travelers song, which was Martha Scanlan's old band, and it's a song she wrote called "Higher Rock." It has these verses that are deeply moving. I'd actually like to meet Martha Scanlan and ask her about this song. But definitely "Mothers of the Disappeared." It just puts me in such a reverential mindset and state of being. Also, I've been listening to a lot of Townes Van Zandt over the last few years and I feel he's the best songwriter that America has produced. I don't know, he just made sure all his songs worked on paper as well as musically. His writing was just so strong. His words packed so much emotion. I really think he's up there in the pantheon with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as far as gifted songwriters go.
You've lived everywhere from Denver to New York, to California and Crested Butte. What do you prefer now, big cities or small towns, and why?
Right now I have the best of both worlds. I'm able to get to New York City frequently because I have friends there and do some business there, yet I enjoy all the benefits of a small-town life, too. I heard a quote from Mother Teresa, maybe thirty years ago, and she said something along the lines of, "bloom where you're planted." I thought that was great advice.
Cooking is another huge part of your life. You even have recipes in the tail end of your book. So, million-dollar question: If you could order or cook anything in the world, what would you want to eat for your last meal?
Wow. Oh man. I guess it would be beet chips, asparagus vinaigrette and my strawberry pineapple ginger beet smoothie. And maybe some of Brian's Potato Salad, which you can find in the book. [Laughs.] You know what? Here's the real answer: My final meal would be whatever local, non-genetically modified food was available. That's really what I want to eat.
Is there anything else you'd like to say regarding this book or life in general?
One of the most important things I wanted my kids to learn was to develop a playful relationship with disturbance. You can't chose your life to be all Skittles and unicorns. You can't just selectively feel the fun stuff. You have to be willing to feel whatever comes up. I wanted my kids to learn to be willing to feel anything. If it was anger or anxiety or whatever -- I didn't want them to have to find someone or something to blame for the way they feel. I wanted them to learn how it's a fantasy that life should be free of disturbance. Don't organize around avoiding disturbance in your life, just allow it to happen when it comes. This might be something outside or an internal conflict. It might just be contradictory feelings. If you want to really get honest with yourself, you have to ask if you want to even be alive or not. I wanted my kids to be willing to appreciate being alive. I think once you have this understanding, this foundation, it allows you to have a more playful relationship with whatever life brings. And the paradox of it all is that the more you're willing to experience pain, to that same degree you'll be able to experience pleasure.
You can purchase Parents Who Don't Do Dishes at the Tattered Cover, but you can also find the book online at Amazon.com and for a discounted price of $10 at Melnick's website.