Jan 31 2009

OK God Dammit. I admit it.

Uncle. I miss this blog. The little hiatus I’ve taken in order to move the blog has been no good. For starters, there has been a marked spike in my cussin’, notwithstanding my resolution, because I have nowhere to write shit fuck shit ass ho mother fucker piece of shit asswipe fucker jackass dick ass mother fucking mother fucker ass face. It has left me sitting in my hands, feeling helpless and dubious that moving the blog is actually going to work. While Rip Van Techno stokes his mojo to get me set up, I sit around and cheese myself out. And curse.

I’ve had all sorts of time to determine that there is really no point to this, that I am totally full of shit, that my writing voice is annoying and nasally, that I’m a show-off, that my flagrant exploitation of ellipses underscores what a lazy, careless, charmless writer I really am. Gag me with a spoon. Why bother? Why? Why? Trite drivel. Honeyed clichés. And is there, God help me, is there ever any smugness? I HATE smug. It’s really the only thing I hate. And I worry. Was I ever smug? Even for a few seconds? Maybe? Oh God. That’s it. No more. Spare us. Please. Beg. Total shite.

And then Red Vogue sends me an email. A tentacle from across the creek. She tells me she misses my blog. Oh jeez. Really? And then Crackerjack gives me a huge pep talk last night at the bar, only she doesn’t even know it’s a pep talk – I just chug my beer and hear it as a pep talk because I’m such a pathetic desperado. She misses my blog. Really? Oh sweetness, thank you. Because, the truth is, I miss it too.

I had forgotten why I started. I had lost sight of the founding principles. Aim low, sweet chariot – coming for to carry me home . . .

This was supposed to be for me. Not you. It was supposed to be a risk. Not safe. It was supposed to be an experiment. Not a success. It was supposed to be vulnerable and raw. Not polished and perfect. It was supposed to make me write. Not stew and doubt. It was supposed to bring me peace. Not notoriety. I never intended to make you read. I never intended to make this good. I had forgotten that this is nothing. This is a lark. This is a low stakes game – a no stakes game. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a little exercise wheel for my brain. Shallow, silly. A crunchy nothing shell with a creamy something center.

I’m not bombarding you with carrier pigeons clutching my folded up musings. I’m not sending clowns or strippers to read you my thoughts. You come here. Of your own free will. To my messy house. There’s shit everywhere. If you’re willing to pick your way through the garbage, you’re welcome to take a seat on the couch – put your feet up. Move all those toys. I love that you’re here. I cannot express how much. Thank you. I love you. And if it ever gets annoying – if I ever cheese you out – just let yourself out the back.

Jan 19 2009

Under construction.

I realize that maybe some of you are wondering if I did indeed perish during my wisdom tooth extraction given my extended absence here, on these pages. The truth is, I’m fine, thanks for your concern. My hero, Rip Van Techno, is helping me set up a better blog, so that hopefully it will be easier to navigate and generally less dumpy and amateur-looking. I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about being able to clump my writings together into categories, as I do have some themes emerging . . . and this new blog platform should help me do that. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’ll let you know when it’s up and running. In the meantime, if you’re really dying to know what’s going on with me . . . pick up the damn phone! Wish me luck. Y’all know how challenged I am in this department.

Jan 11 2009

Flights of fancy . . .

dsc_03091Yesterday I happened upon the Kite Festival at Lake Harriet. It was about four o’clock, blazingly sunny, bracingly cold, and the sight of an endless blue sky full of colorful kites took my breath away. Apparently, I am incapable of enjoying anything but vicariously, through the eyes of my family. Within seconds I was on my cell to Doctor Dash: Can you bundle up the kids and get down here? This is so cool! And bring the camera . . .

Instead of my customary loop around the lake, I made a beeline for the kites right across the middle. I crunched across the snow, digging the white desert-like expanse . . . I felt under the influence of something . . . beauty, chance, cold, sun, music, whimsy. Who flies kites in the middle of winter? En masse? Overcome, I busted out a few fierce warriors when I got to the middle, my face to the sun.

Fucking ya! I wanted to yell.

I kept walking, utterly transfixed by the kites. There was a huge dragon, a turquoise fish, an enormous striped parabola, an eagle, and countless little kites all with long streaming tails, undulating in the wind. I was listening to Lambchop, and if you’ve listened to Lambchop you’ll understand when I say the kites looked like elated spermatazoa, woozily swimming their way toward a golden shining egg . . . the sun.

Fucking ya! I wanted to yell.

And since apparently I also can’t enjoy anything without my crazy monkey mind plucking the experience right out of the air, tucking it under its hairy arm and running around in frenetic circles . . . I thought: What if one of these kites suddenly hit a rogue current that caused it to plummet and spear me in the cranium? I put my hood up. The headline in the Southwest Pages would read: Mother of Three Killed in Freak Accident at Lake Harriet Kite Festival. There would be all sorts of heartfelt testimony by kite enthusiasts, evincing their deepest sympathies . . . but affirming that kite flying is really one of the safest sports there is. Meager consolation for me, however. And my surviving brood.

I eventually hooked up with Doctor Dash and the kids, but by that time the kite flyers were all pulling down their kites with frostbitten fingers. I was only able to get one picture and it certainly doesn’t capture the magic of a mere twenty minutes prior. I was disappointed that they missed it. We tramped to the car to, me feeling cold, morose, plagued by death.

My first mistake was calling Dash. Why didn’t I just indulge in a little unexpected beauty on my own? Why didn’t I just let myself do that? My second mistake was letting myself get jostled out of the moment by my ridiculous mental peregrinations. Can’t I do anything . . . experience anything without thinking?

Why do I do this? This catastrophizing? This calamatizing? I know I have an active imagination, but this is such an incredible waste of mental energy. Even I, of the relentless inner chatter, realize that. Tomorrow I’m getting some wisdom teeth pulled. I have been putting this off for nine years. I know it has been nine years because I was pregnant with Saint James when I first heard that I needed my wisdom teeth pulled (which wisdom teeth are, incidentally, not bothering anyone, except, apparently every dentist that lays eyes on them). Enough different dentists have told me to get this done that I have finally been convinced that this isn’t just some evil plot to hoodwink me out of my pearlies and my benjamins. This is happening at ten a.m. tomorrow and I am certain I will choke on a piece of gauze and that will be it for me. (Not funny, this has happened . . . to a teenage boy, making it even more tragic, if that’s possible.) I am not looking forward to being sedated and having my mouth mutilated by a man with hairy arms holding medieval torture implements. I suppose I should forgive myself if my thoughts are awash in black right now . . . Just please, no . . . no . . . accidents . . .

Quite frankly, if I had to choose, I’d rather go by way of a well-placed kite to the skull.

Jan 8 2009

Music (Part II): Stirrings

dsc_00155Saint James sits at the laptop in the kitchen, scrolls through hundreds upon hundreds of songs, clicking – listening – clicking – listening. Perched like a gargoyle, he listens with his whole body. He listens with his ears, his eyes – his shoulders tensed up, his toes tightly curled around the rungs of the stool. When he finds a song he likes, he leaves it on and flips over to the internet to google cool soccer moves.

He’s been lingering in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, memorizing song titles and lyrics with that steel trap brain of his. The brain that memorizes multiplication tables I’ve long forgotten, legions of Pokemon and all their powers and evolutions, piano scales, the birthdays of his friends and teachers, the habitats and life cycles of obscure Australian rodents, the relationships and power struggles of countless clans of Warrior Cats, and myriad other boy esoterica. I am humbled by the power and elasticity of the young brain – and now, it seems, he is turning his attention to music, at the ripe old age of eight. What a lucky little dude.

Saint James: This is a really good section. It’s Dani California, then Snow, then Charlie. 

(Hmmm . . . so the lad likes Stadium Arcadium . . . good man.)

Me: Are those your favorites?

Saint James: I don’t know yet. (Scroll, click, scroll, click . . . measured, like his father . . . withholding judgment until he’s sure).

It’s equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching to watch this little development: the subtle spike in interest in music. He’s inching ever so slowly toward adolescence, when music and friendships will be everything. (Gus Van Sant said: “I think that when you are sixteen and seventeen years old, you’re making the most important connections with the world that you will probably ever make in your life. If you ask a seventy year old what his favorite song is, it’ll be a song he heard when he was sixteen.”) Saint James is shifting from responding to music like a child, by jumping around like a clumsy happy marionette, to being way more still and aware, to listening with care and curiosity, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of angst.

To me there is a correlation between starting to love music and starting to love. I’m not talking about the amorphous selfish fuzzy blanket love of a child. I’m talking about love love. Real love. Big love. Love that can take you over the moon. Love that can leave you dead in a ditch.

Saint James is still young – I don’t think girls are really on his radar screen yet. As far as I can tell, there are no snot addled crying into the pillow histrionics on the near horizon (or maybe that’s just a girl thing). But something IS happening. Movement, stirring – in that deep seated spot where soulfulness resides – in that space that exists between the guts and the heart that aches and throbs and churns when lyrics and melodies and bass lines just happen to coalesce in a certain way. Saint James might not yet understand that music can be a ticket to fantasy, to possibility, to shelter, succor and relief from heartache and loss. That it can be a way to celebrate, a way to mourn, a way to feel turned on, a way to feel understood, a way to pass the time because time moves so very slowly when we’re young. I think he’s just located that thick artery that runs between a good song and the soul. He’s gently probing it with his finger, starting to feel that pulse. He might not know it yet, but I’m watching it happen. Right here in my kitchen.

There’s a girl just down the aisle,

Oh, to turn and see her smile.

You can hear the words she wrote

As you read the hidden note . . .*

Oh, son, go, explore . . . just take care with that sweet heart of yours.

*From Sugar Mountain by the great Neil Young.

Jan 6 2009

Music (Part I): First Loves

It was 1980. My family had moved so I was starting at a new school part way through fourth grade – George P. Way Elementary. My teacher was named Mrs. Hood and she had crazy green eyes – possibly early incarnation, rudimentary, not very subtle color contacts. Every day I rode the bus with a mixture of trepidation and wonder. I sat alone those first days, hoping not to be noticed, warily observing these strange new kids, trying to intuit where I would fit into the pecking order, hoping it would be anywhere but the bottom. It was winter, and I began to identify different kids by their brightly colored ski jackets and hats, by their chapped lips or perpetually runny noses.

I remember two things from those bus rides:

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with Jeff Borglin.

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with music.

Jeff Borglin was a tall fifth grader who ignored me at the bus stop. He kicked the snow. He threw snowballs at tree trunks. He stomped on ice to make it crack. But he didn’t talk to me. Not that I tried to talk to him either. We waited for the bus in silence, tiny puffs of white air holding no words hovering in front of our mouths.

One day he sat up on his knees with his back to the steamy bus window and pull off his ski hat. I gasped. I was smitten. That’s all she wrote.

He was blond. His face was dark – I had just assumed his hair was dark. But he was blond . . . I silently pledged my nine year old heart to him and spent the next few years pining for him, spying on him, concocting cockamamie schemes to put myself in his path. I took bogus surveys with my best friend Susie, furrowed brows and official looking note books in hand (favorite food: hotdogs, favorite sport: soccer, favorite subject: math). I rode by his house relentlessly on my aqua Schwinn ten speed, cooly sitting back using my arms for carefully choreographed moves to Electric Avenue instead of holding the handlebars . . . until my dog, Ginger, ran in front of my bike and I wiped out right in front of him. We’re gonna rock down to Elec-tric Aven-ue. And then we’ll take it higher. BAM! Stupid golden retriever. Stupid Eddie Grant. One time I even played the damsel in distress card. There was a frog in our pool (horrors!) and I quickly dispensed my little brother to go get Jeff Borglin to help us. When Jeff silently lifted the frog out with the skimmer in two seconds and threw it over the fence, I felt pretty lame . . . and I’ve never played the damsel in distress since.

You live, you learn.

The other love I found on that bus came wrapped up in these words:

We don’t need no educa-tion . . . we don’t need no thought control . . .

Someone in the back of the bus had a little radio and I remember peering over the seat and wishing so badly I knew what it was. It is absolutely my first memory of any kind of rock music and I was completely enraptured by the tinny, scratchy sound I was hearing.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom . . . Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

My parents only listened to classical music, and in those days of cumbersome turn tables and gigantic speakers, even that was a rarity. I felt my stomach churn with longing as I watched, greedily hoping against all hope that one of the kids might blurt out “Hey, I love this BLANK!” Even then, what would I have done? I had no idea how to find music . . . how to get music. And I certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to touch the stereo. I was the oldest child and I had inherited nothing by way of musical heirlooms from my parents. I was a tabula rasa. If I wanted music, I was going to have to find it for myself.

All in all you’re just a – nother brick in the wall!

I loved how they said “wall” and I innocently mimicked the Cockney accent when I scrunched my face and sang those couple lines to myself in the mirror, over and over. Wohl. What was I hearing? What WAS it? Powerful beautiful angry confusing. I needed to know. I don’t think I even knew to ask “who” . . . I don’t think I even knew there was such a thing as bands . . . singers . . . rock stars . . .

When I was twelve I bought myself a little tape player/radio with forty dollars of my babysitting money. I spent all my time listening to the top 40 station and trying to tape songs off the radio. I would get so angry when the dj talked into the beginning of the song, ruining my Abracadabra, my Jack and Diane, my Eye of the Tiger, my Hard to Say I’m Sorry, my Tainted Love, my 8675three-oh-niyiine.

That little piece-of-shit radio cracked open the world for me and out spilled the blood, guts and glory of eighties rock. Just take a look at this and see if it isn’t just a bubbling stew of mushy pre-pubescent melodramatic yearnings. Or maybe the stew was me, and I was just projecting it onto the music. No. It wasn’t just me – this bunch is drenched in harmonizing male falsettos and swelling synthesized guitars -perfect fodder for a bookish twelve year old girl holding nothing but a little black box of unrequited love: her little black radio.

Doctor Dash knows to forgive me for the occasional lapse in . . . shall I say . . . taste? Most people our age were bequeathed rich tracks of musical territory from their older siblings or their parents. If your baseline is The Dead, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, The Who . . . If those are the bands you took for granted, that constitute your early consciousness of music – pre-reason, pre-choosing, then what a gift you received! What a golden starting point for your musical journey!

My baseline was 80’s rock, if you can even call it rock: Rick Springfield, Survivor, Toto, Men at Work, Yes, Aha, Olivia Newton John, Journey, The GoGos, Duran Duran, Boy George, Eddie Money . . . Eddie Grant! I started there and by early high school had immersed myself in the Cure, New Order, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Yaz, Alphaville, Brian Ferry, Thomas Dolby . . . synthesizers and effeminate men . . . then I worked my way back to the greats, and then forward and then back and around and around to where I am today . . . still peering over the plastic bus seat, wide-eyed, confused, and falling in love.

Jan 3 2009

New Year’s Resolutions

ozYesterday I walked around my lake, my love, the beautiful Harriet. I do my best thinking when I walk around the lake. Something about completing that circle makes me feel like I have accomplished something, closed a loop, tied a thread in this life of so many unraveling threads.

About a quarter of the way around, the sun was just starting to sink below the tops of the trees, puffing up its chest to let out one last roar – spilling breathtaking light of peaches and tangerines over the lake. The snow looked like sherbet. I needed a long cold spoon.

I will learn how to use my camera.

About half way around, the sky was streaked in purples and reds, oranges and blues. The clouds pulled in diaphanous swathes of pigment like the eye shadow of a drag queen after a long night – swollen iridescence, garish, hopeful, disappointed. Beautiful and sad.

I will stop swearing. Out loud.

Three quarters of the way around, the city shimmered beyond the lake, almost touchable, looking like something out of a magical pop-up book. Oz.

I will be more patient and present with my inner circle – with the little people who didn’t get to pick me – and with the one who actually did.

Full circle. I turned my back to the lake and headed home.

Jan 1 2009

I almost hated to sweep it up.

dsc_0276Beautiful detritus.  Beautiful night.  Thank you to my friends for humoring my attempt to get all our kids to eat with us at my big long Who table.  By the time the adults were done filling cups of Sprite and sparkling grape juice and getting The Nine settled at their end of the table, finally sinking into their seats with a sigh and a toast, The Nine were done eating and off like the wind.  Frankly, we were glad to see them go, but someday . . . someday they will stay and eat, they will linger and converse . . . we will hear bursts of laughter from their end of the table and they won’t let us in on the joke . . . and then someday they will . . . and someday even farther away, they will drink wine with us, help us cook, teach us new recipes, bring their babies . . . and the Who table will grow and grow and grow.

The Nine were taken home or put to bed around ten o’clock . . . and then things really got cooking.  Doctor Dash’s Holiday Bliss was working its magic . . . as was his genius DJing.  We drank and laughed and drank and danced and laughed . . . repeat.  The night flew by in a happy trippy blur.  A few times, amid the chaos, the conversation veered back to the kids . . . We love our kids.  But we also love our fun.  What to do?  How to blend?  How to hit that sweet spot . . . create the fattest overlap possible on the old Venn Diagram?  What can we do now to ensure that when the tables are turned, our kids will want us around, consider us friends, actually enjoy hanging out with us?  We think we’re fun, but will they?  My theory is: include them from the beginning, so the magic of a good dinner, a good party . . . works itself into their bones – becomes part of who they are – and if they associate their parents with good times and celebration along with the drudge of life, then so much the better.  

And then all thoughts of the children flittered away like pieces of confetti on the wind . . . We had the grown-up business of a rockin’ throw down to attend to.  Nanook, Gear Daddy, Crackerjack, Renaissance Man, Sweet Jessamine, Ivory Tickler, and I can’t forget Scratch who bravely and sweetly came solo because his wife, Hot Breeches, was still out of town at her family’s – thank you all for showing up with your arms full of lovely food and beautiful beverages, for thinking of the things that I didn’t think of, for bringing your dancing shoes and fully and completely and unfetteredly getting your groove on with us.  You warmed our house and our hearts and it was a true pleasure to ring in the new year with you all . . . albeit 1 minute 26 seconds too late.  

Oooof.  Our bad.  

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