Monday, November 25, 2013

49 years old today.

One of my Favorite Singers Ever and I share a birthdate. A love of the 90's Big Four from Seattle inevitably led to explorations of the secondary sounds of the time and place and the Screaming trees have held up better than some.. There are other good bands from that era but something about that voice that's only gained in gravitas and gravel over the years. Others prefer Nick Cave or Tom Waits for those melancholic moods associated with hard drinking and general curmudgeonliness but this is where I find it.

The Screaming Trees were my entry band, dinged-up library copies of Sweet Oblivion and Dust. I'm assuming they never got as big due to not being as poster-boy-ready as the heavier hitters, but ten years past my late teens, I'm still listening to these, the comforting chord progressions, the misanthropic psychedelia, and lapsed Catholicism striking a deep chord that only continues to reverberate.

Last year's odds and sods comp was welcome for its additional tuneage and I have yet to figure out if anyone else besides me and Randal cares that it's floating around. Thankfully the Best Record Store Ever had a hard copy so I didn't have to resort to the evil that is itunes.
In the meantime, there were the collaborations, with Queens of the Stone Age, with Brits doing electronica.

The Soulsavers rekindled the love of that voice once again and on their jaunt through the States, I caught them at the Grog Shop, standing there a few feet away as we collectively swooned to the depth of that voice, and the corroding guitar courtesy of Spiritualized alumni.
Revival made it onto every mix CD for a few years. It still melts me. Kingdom of Rain led me back to the solo albums I ignored for so long as they weren't grungy enough for my teenage ears.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

on the edge of 30

I've been helping my mom clean out my great-uncle's house, as he's in a nursing home and so is his daughter for reasons that are more sad, and the house needs to be sold, and I've ended up with a lot of stuff from there, including a pile of old photographs, some of which are really beautiful and from the times when life was hard because you were in the Great Depression and then sent off to fight in the Pacific and then came back to some degree of relative prosperity but domestically things didn't work out so well, when the wife wasn't all there and the daughter had disabilities that were maybe not dealt with the best.

There are photos of him doing island-hopping,  looking a little shellshocked, and then his daughter's friends from the deaf school's senior pictures where they're all wishing each other things that everyone writes in high school and I wonder if their lives turned out any better than hers and somehow this really gets to me because it's so sad.

And then one of my Kentinistas picks me up and we drive down for the annual pre-Thanksgiving dinner we all have together, or all of us who can make it, because some of our number are now saving orphans in Liberia and teaching in Japan and re-enacting the Civil war with the girlfriend and working at national parks in Alaska and Colorado, and I mingle with some friends of friends who've been similarly adopted into this circle. We've been getting together for dinners and revelry for years now, Thanksgiving feasts in college once punctuated by the "record parties" on Sunday night where the guys would experiment with tandoori chicken and grilled peaches and we'd listen to Queen and Deep Purple and the The Clash.

I realize about halfway through the night that I'm buzzed enough on one Christmas Ale and everyone else is has had way more food and drink than me and eventually it reaches the point where there's much less to say. Me and J drive home through snow that's blowing like crazy until we hit the county line, listening to old school hip-hop on satellite radio and pondering the use of the metric system as a measurement only used for drugs and guns, and maybe this is my favorite part of the night, because I'm learning all sorts of interesting stuff about banks and terrorism and we have a year's worth of stories to catch up on.

In between, I hover between feeling awesome and badass on the edge of 30 and also depressed as heck. The other night I was trying to counsel a friend through his dark nights of the soul and then I get my own the next two days and find the only thing I can do is lay down in a dark room and sleep for half an hour or so until it all goes away and get some homework done and realize that I totally melted the people I'm housesitting for's teakettle because the whistle never went off. So it goes. And goes.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

on girls in bands.

so if you're into some kind of indie rock, you either play pretty good for a girl or it doesn't matter how well you play as long as you look like Zooey Deschanel or that girl from the Smashing Pumpkins and there's the possibility of romance inherent, and also you really should be going along with what the man says because he's all visionary and stuff, because his heartbreaks are the greatest and deepest and most profoundly sorrowful in the world and so are his songs and it'd really help the band if you're nice to look at and appeal to the young male demographic because even though he would describe himself as a feminist, it's completely different when he objectifies a woman as opposed to when a fratbro does it.

The ideal bandmate is not one that can play well and with whom you have musical chemistry, oh no, you want a submissive yet manic pixie dream girl with really cute hair, a well-placed facial piercing or some kind of artsy tattoo, and an urban outfitters wardrobe who is adorable and twee and won't argue with you. If you are into the heavier end of things, you want a skanky metal chick with long hair, preferably in a bustier playing keyboard or some other nonessential instrument so you don't get shown up, who has to look good even if you look like you haven't left the house in ten years and have subsisted on a diet of Doritos and videogames.

Or, you're the spouse or significant other of someone in the band. You can't just be friends. And as I think about this, there usually seems to be some kind of romantic connection between the female in the band and one of the dudes, even in totally awesome bands that I like. And if you're a single girl, if you take charge, if you don't play up your sexuality, you're probably either a total bitch or a crazy chick or you're not into dudes.

This has been my constant complaint as long as I've been a musician, that the same attitudes keep popping up no matter the genre, no matter the personalities, no matter whatever.  Maybe it's just the way it is, but I don't like the way it is.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

liquid tension

Strange how a sense of detachment evolves into the existential panic. There's no way for me to be numb for too long, and I wish I could dial down the intensity at will, sometimes I am jealous of these people who can shut down their emotions and humanity and pretend that the world isn't so messed up. I explain it to someone as throwing a big giant teenage temper tantrum at God because there's things that are just so unfair, things that I just don't understand, and so on and so forth.

In the meantime, there were beautiful things... museum and pizza and chasing wild turkeys through the cemetery with a partner in crime, wandering down to the lake last night with the neighbor when there was a tornado watch, which we didn't know at the time, but we were euphoric on the beach as the wind spun leaves in spirals around us and the wind howled like it was the end of the world and the lightning was panoramic and glowing over the dark water and the transformers were exploding like fireworks on the other side of the tracks.

I wish I had my camera even though it was so dark, and the flash does it no justice.  I wish I had a kite, I get such a rush from stormy weather. Somehow we didn't get rained on until we were almost back and I dried out in his apartment, sitting on the couch in my sopping jeans, stripping off my sweater and hoodie and jacket and we talked about things various and sundry, and since we swing different ways, there's not that romantic tension, there's an ease there that I've been missing because I'm used to girl drama but boy drama is another thing entirely and we can both relate on this. there are other things afoot, but that would be oversharing and I don't know who all reads this in my big little town.

And I played a bunch of punk rock this morning

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

it doesn't mean that much to me to mean that much to you

Our station's doing its radiothon this week, and it's Neil Young's birthday, and had I planned better and grabbed my copy of "Live Rust" from home and not sold my copy of "The Bridge" for grocery money in college, I may have had a slightly smoother show. Still, people called in and were happy and pledged money, so yay.

Monday, November 11, 2013

inner city interlude

I drove out to the usual study spot for my cardamom-laced coffee and fix of art-schoolers and Saudis mingling in the old Italian neighborhood. I'm working on a paper and chilling out massively, booking tickets for a trip in December but then start getting text messages Saturday night from the neighbors asking if I'm okay because someone got shot in front of my house.

well. I'm okay.

The phone calls and messages keep coming, that the street is blocked off, that someone ran up my driveway, that someone got taken away in a stretcher, that the police are all over my yard. Meanwhile, studying is not going to happen, the coffeeshop's closing in ten minutes, I'm giving a friend old lady relationship advice, and I'm glad at least I'm prepared for the chaos that's going to be there when I get home.

The street is still blocked off, there is crime scene tape in my front yard, so many cop cars, one tells me that the guy who got shot is dead, that the shooter ran off, that I can't go in my back yard because there's evidence back there so I go through the front and can't do anything but pace around because this is all just too weird, and then a friend getting off work who has no idea calls me and I tell her what's going on and say I'll drive out to see her, because I've had too much coffee and I'm not going to sleep with all this going on. The irony of driving through the sketchiest parts of the east side to see her because I don't want to be around where the crack deal went bad happened in my own yard is not lost on me. 

So evidently this is how I cope with homicides in front of my house, I eat pancakes and get morbid and then talk about other things because it takes me a few days to process things. When I come home, everyone's gone, it's like nothing ever happened. I'm still a little shellshocked and numb but strangely peaceful for reasons I can't explain other than invoking spiritual things. The songs I sing on Sunday morning beating the heck out of my guitar feel more meaningful, it's grace that's brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home, this my glad commemoration that til now I've safely come... melt the clouds of sin and sadness drive the dark of doubt away... 

I go to the beach afterwards with my camera, to gather my thoughts and take pictures of blowing sand and autumn leaves and the debris that washes up on shore, driftwood and bones and shells. There's no one out but me and the windsurfers and I'm sure I look a little strange wandering around by myself taking pictures of dead things with homie's keffiyeh scarf wrapped around my face to keep out the blowing sand and the sunglasses I only use while driving. But I feel like being anonymous especially when I come home and am standing on my porch talking to the neighbor across the street and there are news crews on my tree lawn.

Since neither of us were home, we have nothing to say to them which is a relief and I go over to my parents' house for a family function where I refrain from spouting off political opinions and strangely enough, my folks aren't nearly as freaked out by this as I thought they would be. It wasn't like things didn't happen in our neighborhood either, but this is a whole other thing.

And no, I have no plans to move, no plans to buy a gun or a security system or a dog or whatever. I don't lose sleep over this. I grieve the loss of life and wish it didn't feel so necessary to have a guy friend walk me home from the bar at the end of the night. But I have neighbors who care about me, friends who offer me places to crash and listen to me process all this out. I may be vulnerable but I feel strong, because I've realized even more now that I'm not alone. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013


I know I overthink it, I overthink it all, I tell someone last night on the phone outside the coffeeshop down the street where I'm writing a paper and drinking green tea to stave off a cold. I didn't go to work yesterday, woke up too exhausted and feeling terribly for no real discernible reason, just bleh, and thinking too much about how wrong I probably am.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

of revelry and rest

A dinner out with one of the smart ladies, showing up a little lightheaded at the next party, not dressed up, late and noshing on vegan sushi and egg rolls and having absurd conversations, leaving at 2:30 in the morning, waking up at the usual time, time with the parents, time at home cleaning and attempting Halloween costume greatness, I haven't dressed up much since childhood, still feeling somehow that this holiday is for the kids and not me. An attempt at dyeing hair black to go with the rest of the ensemble left a lot of keratin in the bathroom sink and black smudges everywhere leading to it being washed out. 

What are you anyway, someone asks, and I don't know, decided to glam and goth it up I guess, ample eye makeup, black lace and black velvet, leather jacket and black angel wings. I didn't listen to the Cure all afternoon for nothing, after all. 

The Halloween party was extra-chaotic this year, given that one of my companions had a dizzy spell and needed a ride home so I had to bail out and come back, and then there were more people than there was room, and then the power went out right before the headliner played, leaving a lot of angry punkers in its wake, thankfully it didn't get too dramatic. The Dead Milkmen bravely soldiered on, leading a singalong with vocals and drums, and while it was kind of a bummer that it happened the way it did, I found it strangely magical to be watching people crowdsurf during an unplugged drunken singalong of "Punk Rock Girl."

People I knew were heading up to the bar up the street so I walked up from my house and met up with Neighbor and Homie and sundry other folks, but I was hungry, cold, and didn't want to drink so me and Neighbor walked back to my place, made pasta and taquitos and hung out til the early hours. It was the most chill I've felt all day as we laughed about our teenage anarchic flirtations and this and that and the other.

My sisters had birthdays to celebrate and I had time to kill so I wandered the woods by my parents' house a little freaked out at the friendliness of the squirrels, ducks, and deer, but the colors were beautiful and epic.

Friday, November 1, 2013

if I could throw this lifeless lifeline to the wind...

It was easy to be spouting this philosophy when you're not old enough to drink and the libations available are Natty Light and cheap wine, and then you get older, and you realize there are things you like the taste of (why hello hard cider and Irish coffee!), and you laugh when you offer to front the beer money and come out to your car to find Gorilla Biscuits and Minor Threat CDs in your console, because you have this love/hate relationship with the opiate of the masses that isn't religion.

But you saw too many girls stumble home drunk and half-dressed from fraternity row and wonder if it makes you a bad feminist for agreeing with Prudie that the ladies should be careful. Yes, men shouldn't rape, no shit, but they do, some of them, and for the last few thousand years of recorded history they have done so.

That's no excuse, but I know I saved myself a world of pain by maintaining possession of my mental faculties and sticking with the "one and done" approach unless with those I really trust. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that.

And I've lost family members to booze, seen marriages break apart, see the girls in my world messed with, seen friends struggle. I always tell people I'll bail them out if they can't make it home, designated-drive, do whatever so they can get home safely but most people don't take me up on this because they feel guilty or whatever. I beg my sister to do this because I know she drives drunk a lot but she never wants to. And last night I get my first call where someone does.  On the one hand, I'm kind of cranky, but on the other, I am glad that I can be there but hope this does not become a regular thing.

You probably hate seeing me like this... the mumble between the incoherent conversational threads alternately existential and ridiculous and I say, yeah, yeah I do, but you've seen me in bad spots so it's okay. I'm here. You're lucky I had too much coffee tonight and I was awake enough to pick up the phone and pull on some pants that weren't pajamas to drive out in the rain and hope you are where you say you are.

And I'm past the point of sugarcoating problems. I'm sick of all this. I'm sick of excuses and being complicit by being silent, I say all the things I wish I could say to any of my drunk friends, I probably say too much but know most of it won't get remembered anyway. That I feel like someone's mother, that I care and that it pisses me off and what were you doing, you know what this does to you. And by this point I don't need to yell, even though I want to scream, because we're tired, and our souls are weary, it's just I have a place to rest my own, and we hug, and I wish I could pulse healing energy into you and know it doesn't work that way, that there is only so much I can do, you can call me your savior but I can't save you.