Monday, December 30, 2013


so there was dogsitting and holidays, and the infinite social dynamics of interactions various and sundry. We've pretty much stopped doing gifts for each other which is fine and much easier. I've been catching up with old friends and new, drinking too much coffee and pots of tea because my apartment's really cold and I'm layering grungy even more than usual, cleaning out the drawers and listening to music extra loud because the landlady's gone again.

I played music with some fellow Clevelandians at their place on the east side, felt so out of practice but it sounded decent, funny how suddenly these things are opening up right and left and being an unknown factor is a good rather than a bad, played two hours of Lemmy-related material on the airwaves on Christmas Eve, and caught up with friends I don't see enough, and got some much-needed solitude and reordering of the living space.

This time of sleeping in and not having to be somewhere every morning is making me spoiled and I don't know why I feel so tired nonetheless. Maybe that's what relaxed feels like and I haven't been there in awhile.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

now it's over and I'm coming home

so I've been back almost a week from Californistan. It's amazing how fifteen years go by and yet there's some people that you reconnect with instantly. I haven't seen the girls since they were preschoolers and by the end of the five days I felt like I had younger cousins or somesuch because we got along so well.

They picked me up at the airport where the warmth felt almost unreal on my Decembered skin, and we got Mexican food and then drove to Los Angeles (how weird is it to have the girls you used to babysit driving you through one of the biggest cities in the country while rocking out to Bikini Kill?) where we had a heck of a time finding parking in Hollywood and watched their cousin's one-woman show that was really, really good and then stayed at her house in Santa Monica where I promptly fell asleep given my body being accustomed to a different time zone.

Her cousin cooked us amazing breakfast and then we walked down through Santa Monica, which I fell in love with, with its beautiful pastel buildings, palm trees, and flowers everywhere even though I know I couldn't afford to live there, and I finally got to dip my feet in the cold Pacific ocean and we walked around eating fresh mandarin oranges and pomegranates which were a whole new kind of delicious before driving back inland, making a stop at the Cabazon dinosaurs for giggling tourist trap purposes.

We went to Joshua Tree the next day, and while I would have loved to get up there earlier than we did, it was incredible to see, those iconic trees, the rocks everywhere that are a completely different landscape, the cactus garden beneath the sunset sky, with the moon rising over the mountains on the other side. We were only here about four hours but I could spend four days here. We drove back through the dark mountains with the luminous moon as jackrabbits darted across the road and I felt damn near euphoric surrounded by all this stark beauty. This was the soundtrack theme for pretty much the entire trip.

The next morning we took awhile to wake up but me and the oldest went out to Whitewater to hike around because I am a Kyuss fangirl and wanted to see the landscape documented in one of my favorite songs. Of course it was desolate and beautiful, with the mountains rising up on either side, the stream running through, the scrubby terrain and the dead century plants. Of course I could have spent longer here too. I don't know why this landscape has such a hold on me even though I could only live near lots of water.
The last day we spent in downtown Palm Springs before heading to the airport and I understand Coupland's generational rage so much more after seeing a town full of rich retirees spending their childrens' inheritance on $20 salads, golf courses in the desert, crystal healings, and cubic zirconia pins spelling out titles like "Queen Bitch" "Pageant Mom," and "Cosmetics Lady." Most of the women had obviously gone through Botox injections and various plastic surgeries and it's surreal to see this other part of America that's so different from your hometown where people eat lots of stick-to-yer-ribs food and it shows.

The plane ride back was full of golf guys coming from some convention, I was still happy to be home even though it was cold and icy, because the hearts in my city are still warm. My body still hasn't adjusted to the time change, my holidays went by in a blur, but now there's a week off and possible new musical opportunities on the horizon with some friends who dig Bad Brains and Faith No More, and the snow makes all things quiet and beautiful. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

a slacker's guide to the year's tunes

Very few full-length albums thanks to my lack of Internet connection and trips to Ye Olde Publick Bibliotheque for new tunes and the glut of milquetoast indie "rock" at the radio station. I listened to a lot of previous-year stuff this year, like I always do, but here's some new things I dug.

Subrosa: More Constant Than the Gods

dude. How do I even start with this, or, as I attempt to explain the other night at a party after two drinks, "Uh, well it's like uh PJ Harvey doing doom metal like uh something really heavy but like estrogen heavy not testosterone heavy and uh violins like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and uh they're from Salt Lake City and yeah uh some of the band members are Mormon or something and uh, it really is the best album I've heard this year."  Political, emotional, those damn beautiful violins and harmonies and deep sorrow and long songs and pretty much when people call my show going "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT IT SOUNDED AMAZING" it's usually this band. Even if you don't like metal, give this a listen.

Throwing Muses : Purgatory/Paradise
I still need to actually pick this up, and given its two-album, bits-and-pieces structure it's not quite that solid halfblast of awesome sugary grungy fury like the 2003 reunion, but Kristin can't seem to put out a bad album, and there's a lot of awesome on here, as her voice gets lower and the catharsis hits in different places. 

Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood - Black Pudding
I didn't bother with Lanegan's album of standards because standards are boring, but this is a good chill bluesy late night record, good and sparse with that voice and that acoustic guitar.

Palms - (self-titled)
So the Deftones came out with White Pony when I was in high school and the lyrics were creepy and they were one of the few of that batch of late-90's nu-metal bands that had a little more going on with their washes of shoegazey crunch and Moreno's high sweet croon, and I've always loved the sonics of Isis even if the vocals weren't so much my thing. I wish this record had a little more crunch but it's a beautiful listen.
Ummm... and this is where I have to admit I haven't been listening to a ton of new shtuff.

  I really like this song on this album, never got huge into Russian Circles or Chelsea Wolfe more from neglect than anything else but this is gorgeous. I'll have to listen to the whole thing, just haven't yet.
Also, we got the new Superchunk, which on initial listen, is pretty punky and solid for a bunch of older indie folks. I remember when some friends went to see the Getup Kids when I was in high school and they were talking about this band of "some bald dude and some girl" and it was Superchunk. I used to listen to way more of them in the college days, but this little blast of fast is close to my heart.

Also, Tomahawk, because all of the guys in this band are in bands I really like, and there's a couple cuts off here that are awesome in that curmudgeonly my-alt-rock-can-beat-up-your-alt-rock way.
Also, I haven't given the new Monster Magnet the deserved listen it requires, but it's highly recommended, a slightly more mellow but pleasantly psychy return to form.
Vista Chino, or, Kyuss sans Josh, also put out a record this year. What I've heard I liked but I should be spending more time with it too rather than constantly revisiting Welcome to Sky Valley.Also, we drove by the street they named themselves after this weekend and that was cool.

Friday, December 13, 2013

from rust to sun

I''m going to California with a banjo on my knee/with an aching in my heart/ for a few days to see some old friends and bought my dad a ticket because I suck at getting him Christmas gifts and this year I could get him something really cool. He needs it too, he's been unusually depressed which may or may not have to do with Teamster fuckery, my sister being in rehab and not wanting to talk to them, and just being older and tired and all that comes with it. I don't blame him, that rehab place is dismal, and while I've seen people strung out on heroin before, it's still devastating to watch and to see my sister there completely miserable (because it's like a culty AA nursing home and she's the only one there for booze, a soft suburban girl who's not nearly as hard-bitten as her floormates).

I haven't seen these friends of my folks for at least fifteen years. They were the most liberal of my parents' circle (he dropped out of seminary, she went to Oberlin, and I inherited a bunch of their books and Persian rugs and Ravi Shankar records when they moved), and while political arguments would come up, it was never enough to torpedo a wonderful friendship. Through the wonders of facebook I got back in touch with their dad and took them up on the annual Christmas card offer to come out and visit. 

I used to babysit their kids who are now old enough to vote. The two girls both have serious 90's nostalgia and love bands that I thought The Kids didn't care about, like Pearl Jam. I didn't know My So-Called Life was still a thing, but I guess it is. The girls are taking me to Los Angeles to see their aunt's play, and then after my dad gets in, there's plans of going hiking in Joshua Tree. It's going to be strange to be in the land of stoner rock, the first Douglas Coupland novel, and a lot of rich hippies, but it's good to see good people and get some adventure.  I could use the change of scenery because the obnoxious yuppie gentrifers are getting on my nerves and me and a friend's observation that we're hitting "the rust ceiling' here is feeling all the more acute.

So this week has been packing and sleeping and PMSing, recovering from finals week, trying to stay warm, being glad that the snow and the flu is cancelling all my plans, pretending like I don't have holiday consumeristing to do, and trying to figure out how to pack for a climate completely different from here. I plan to take loads of pictures and soak it all in for a few days.

Monday, December 9, 2013

not dead yet

so this class and the paper-writing needing to be done and all the reading I hadn't done because I was having too much fun caught up with me, hence the absence of internets commentary on various and sundry.

But the birthday was spent with my lovely folks in demure fashion, and then the next night, we got pupusas at a place on 105th and resumed cinema at the record store and I find I can't even watch campy samurai gore, preferring the more arty stylistics of Kurosawa instead, but it was good resuming the weekly ritual over dates and fruity Lebanese non-alkies. Thanksgiving was beautiful with the extended family, the babies and the cousins, and then me and band-homie drove around for awhile afterwards and ended up eating diner food and I got a lecture from the waitress about how to properly wear high heels and she seemed to be hitting on him, but it was so late and absurd I just laughed, because we're not together anyway.

I was petsitting all week for friends out of town, which afforded the chance to take long wanders around the neighborhood with the Jungle Puppy through the neighborhoods where I once lived, and the parts that I'd never walk through alone.There is so much more to see on foot and I relished the crisp mornings and the slight crunch of snow, and waking up early to go grocery shopping at the west side market before the onslaught, and sitting on the balcony eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and watching the world go by.

My neighbor and partner in crime calls me to see if I want to go down to the 'Winterfest' festivities downtown, which I know are going to be corny but it's not super-cold so we ride our bikes to the square and wander around the mall that's part flea-market-made-in-China feeling and part unaffordable corporate upscale. There is a giant cow advertising Udder Cream in the square and we watch the fireworks underneath it being shot off to Motorhead's "Run Rudolph Run," before wandering around to snark.

The whole effect was vaguely dystopian, like Brazil meets Potterville or something, an appeal to nostalgia and consumerism, tacky holiday displays, and Clevelandia's finest big shiny new toys like the bomb squad truck and the guard tower outfitted with security cameras. No, not creepy at all right? But we beat the traffic and ride back through empty streets to drink hot chocolate at the coffeeshop and listen to punk rock in his apartment.

It's strange how there can be so much beauty and revelry and then so much heartbreak at the same time, though I guess that's life, and sometimes the intensity of both only serves to highlight this. The semester's finished, the apartment is finally cleaned after really looking awful, most of the windows are plasticked over, and my class is done for good so now I can read for fun again. Never a dull moment.