Apr 16, 2014

Song of the day.

"Acid Tongue" by Jenny Lewis.

to be lonely is a habit
like smoking or taking drugs
and I've quit them both
but man was it rough

Apr 15, 2014

#169: Live at Leeds by The Who

Live at Leeds by The Who (1970)

Favorite Tracks: "Young Man Blues" and "Summertime Blues" and "Shakin' All Over" and "My Generation" and "Magic Bus"

Thoughts: (Pre-listening) This is our 3rd Who album! We've heard Quadrophenia and The Who Sings My Generation, and I'm impressed that a Who live album I've never heard of has made it so close to #1. I mean, I've never claimed to be hardcore Who fan. It's not because I don't want to be, but because I have yet to put in the time/work/energy. But I imagine it's only a matter of time. For now, I'm excited to see why this live album gets such a prestigious ranking...

The Rolling Stone website says "there's no finesse, just the pure power of a band able to play as loud as it wants." And according to wikipedia, New York Times music critic Nik Cohn calls it the "definitive hard-rock holocaust" and "the best live rock album ever made." No pressure!  Let's turn it up.

(Post-Listening) The album opens with "Young Man Blues" and gets things rolling. One youtube commenter said: "I think this song was described as, "What happens when your bassist, drummer and guitarist all play lead at the same time," and it's true. Everyone is giving their all from the get-go. I turned up the volume as loud as I felt was more-or-less safe for my ears and...it is just pure rock.

Next up is one of Pete Townshend's songs (I will always want to spell it 'Townsend'), "Substitute," which has a much more 60s pop feel. Next is their cover of "Summertime Blues" with gives the song more energy than I think I've ever heard it have. And of course in each of these songs I can just picture Pete shredding and Roger's golden locks whipping around the mike. Next is another cover, "Shakin' All Over" (which reminds me that The Who have a song called "Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand" whose lyrics I've tried not to ever read too deeply into). This is the first song where Roger's vocals really seemed to take center stage and demand attention away from the instruments.

On a side note, as far as live recordings go, the crowd was either very reserved and respectful during the songs or the sound mixer/engineer did an unbelievable job just getting music to show up on the tracks.

Side B opens with a fourteen minute and thirty second version of "My Generation." I wasn't sure how it wouldn't get annoying after a few minutes, but they tricked me by adding in a song from Tommy mid-way through: "See Me, Feel Me." At about 4 minutes and then again at 6 minutes in, there's beautiful guitar solos that took my breath (ears?) away. So really it's more of a medley than just "My Generation" but it's the kind of live track you could see people starting a church as a result of hearing it.

The crowd finally seems to get rowdy (or we finally hear their rowdiness) in the last track, "Magic Bus." We can hear them clapping and yelling along with the woodblock (right?) that opens the song. This is, I believe, my first time hearing "Magic Bus" and it is a freaking fun song, and excellent track to end the album on. I love hearing Pete and Roger sing back and forth with each other.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells a Story?: Since it's a live album and not original work, I won't compare the two. Suffice to say, it rocked my socks and shoes and pretty much everything else off. I highly recommend a listen or three!

Apr 10, 2014

Around the House: Latest additions

With 3 cats and a dog, I have officially made my home a death-trap for people with pet allergies. Which is sad, because then they don't get to see my place! But that's where the internet comes in. Bringing people with animal allergies into my home!

[Mythical Scandinavian Fabric Map in a record album frame.]

[My newest faux succulents.]

[Clay fat diving lady I found in Eastern Washington.]

[Small golden frames everywhere!]

[Vintage Hallmark 'Keepsakes' folder.]

[The stunning French easel my dad found me for Christmas. I need to get to work!]

[This poster is currently my favorite thing in the house. My dad likes it too!]

[Some of the mementos/art on my desk wall.]

[My Russian salt box]

[The gorgeous original painting Bridget gifted me with for my birthday.]

[My fat ballerina kitchen timer on top of some awesome cocoa my mom got me for Christmas. EDIT: It's from my sister! Ack. SECOND EDIT: My sister got me a different kind of cocoa for Christmas. It was my mom who got me this cocoa after all.]

Apr 9, 2014

"One cat just leads to another."

- Ernest Hemingway, 1943

The problem with giving yourself two different positive outcomes from results not in your control is...you might end up wanting both outcomes. But in some cases, I don't think it is a problem!

Last year I told myself that if I had pre-cancerous cells in my lady area that I would get another cat, but if I didn't I would get a dog. The results were non-cancerous, and it meant I could get a dog! But a tiny part of me was sad to not get another cat. Here's WHY.

If you know me at all, you know Norm and Oz are my world. It is my goal in life to make sure they have the happiest, comfiest, loveliest lives that (indoor) cats could ever hope for. I love their quirks, even the annoying ones, like the fact that Oz prefers to poop on the floor or that Norm's main love language features his claws. And I like to think that despite all my crazy, they're pretty big fans of me too. Not only that, I think they're pretty obsessed with each other as well. Who knows what gives me that impression...

Bottom line: I love them, just as they are (Bridget Jones' Diary quote!). And I love Stevie, too. Bringing her into my life has brought amazing new challenges and experiences. I love that her foot pads are ticklish, how she likes to parade around the condo with my clothes in her mouth, and she's my favorite 'conversationalist' in the house.

Oz, Norm, and Stevie fill my days and home with humor, entertainment, comfort, companionship, and caring for them is pure pleasure.

So, you ask, why would I need another cat?

Here's why I think I couldn't stop looking online at shelter cats, and finally found one to bring home.

1) Oz and Norm love me...but they love each other more. They're both fiercely loyal and love to be fawned over, but they are independent too. Like most cats, they like affection and cuddling on their own terms. Since Norm grew out of being a kitten, he cannot be held for longer than a few seconds. He's squirmy and when he doesn't feel like sleeping, he will not sit still. Oz is lazier, older, and a little less crafty. When I want to snuggle him he'll allow it for a little while, quietly biding his time until he thinks I'm starting to drift off, and then he'll bolt. Since I bought the cat tree, both cats really prefer to sleep in it at night, and not with me. I know I shouldn't take it personally, but I do! I've wanted a cuddlier cat for a while now....

2) What about Stevie? you ask. Stevie is still a puppy, which means she also doesn't like to sit still. Sometimes we'll snuggle, but she really prefers to be in her crate at night, and let's be frank: many people love their dogs, but don't want said beloved dog sleeping in their bed. Stevie is the best partner ever for walks and tussles and playtime. But not for sleeping and cuddling.

So, I wanted a cat I could pick up and put in my lap...and it would stay there. I wanted a cat who'd sleep not just on my bed, but next to me. I wanted a cat that needed physical affection and closeness as much I as do! Honestly, I was convinced I wouldn't find one. I wasn't just going to go to a shelter and pick out the first cat I saw. Getting another cat would greatly disrupt the lives of my other pets, and I've lucked out so well with them, that a bad egg would be catastrophic. I needed a cat worthy of Stevie, Oz, and Norm.

Here was the criteria:

1) I would only adopt from a shelter, and I would only adopt an adult or senior cat. You can't know what kind of personality kittens will end up having, and shelters are so full of adult and senior cats that need good homes.
2) The cat needed to like living with other cats.
3) He or she needed to be okay living with a dog.
4) The cat would need to be confident, to like people and kids and being touched and held and picked up. (I get sad when my friends' kids come over and Oz gets grumpy and Norm hides under the furniture.)
5) And to top it all off: I wanted a long-haired cat. Like, Colonel Meow-long.

In one weekend I went to 3 different shelters and didn't come home with a cat, convinced my requirements could not be met. But there was one more shelter I wanted to check out, and that's where I found him.

He was more than what I'd imagined: he was HUGE. I looooove big cats. Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest Cats: fluffy and large. And he's large. Do you want to meet him?

This is Mulder.

He's 10 years old, a touch overweight, furry as hell, and a total snuggle-bug. We're still getting to know each other, but I can say that he's a talker, has a little kink at the end of his tail, and drools a bit when he purrs, which might sound gross but is actually super adorable.

So far he's been a really good sport, putting up with the requisite introductory hissing and growling from Oz and Norm, as well as the wildly curious and space-invading Stevie. He might never be best friends with them, but that's okay as long as he and I are good.

I mean, he's still a cat. I can't carry him around like a stuffed animal. He has his own attitude and dislikes. But when I pick him up, he goes limp! When I put him on my lap, he gets comfortable and stays there. I can't quite believe it.

In my mind, there is no downside. Another homeless cat has a home and I have a snuggle buddy. The 'cat lady' term can get thrown around all it wants. I don't care! Some of the coolest people are 'cat ladies' (like her and her). If people want to think I'm lonely and trying to get love from cats (or whatever a cat lady is), that's their opinion. I'm fucking happy. Now back to season 11 of Murder, She Wrote! :)

Currents, April 2014

Current Project: I FINALLY decided on how I want to decorate/design my bathroom. I bought a mirror, I'm stenciling, I'm picking out a sink--things are happening. Slowly, but they're happening!
Current Movie: I saw Captain America sequel on Friday (sooo much better than the first one) and Sebastian Stan gives Tom Hiddleston a run for his money as Super-Hot-Brit-Marvel-Villian-Who-Steals-The-Movie. God, he was so graceful and pained. 
Current Food: One night my dad was staying with me and he called me at work first and asked if I needed any groceries. All I could come up with was celery and a red onion (for tuna salad). But when I got home I saw he had bought me a box of Cocoa puffs and half a gallon of 1% milk. It was so randomly sweet, but of course I read into it. Growing up my sister and I weren't allowed to eat cereal with more than 9 grams of sugar, except once a year on our birthdays. Also, we only ever drank non-fat milk. So my dad buying me cocoa puffs and 1% milk out of the blue (I still exclusively buy non-fat because I prefer the taste for drinking, but everyone knows it's not the best for cereal-eating), was like this sweet "You deserve sugary cereal and fatty milk" moment. I don't know if he meant it that way consciously, but that's how I'm interpreting it. So moral of the story: I'm eating a lot of cocoa puffs.
Current Drink: Sometimes I don't drink things I like at bars, because I forget all bars have Bailey's, and I can just have that. I'd rather be publicly shamed than drink something I don't actually enjoy. That should be Bailey's new ad slogan.
Current Celebrity Crush: Duh, Sebastian Stan.
Current Obsession: To be revealed soon in a separate post...
Current Book: I just finished Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson. I've never read her blog, but this book had me coughing with laughter each night I read it. Now I'm starting the e-sample of Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked and then I'll try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Current Time-Stealer: Listening to the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast and playing the following categories on the QuizUp app: romantic comedies, spelling, and name that celebrity.
Current Thankfulness: It's strange, but I used to be so stressed out about driving to places and areas I wasn't familiar with, but now having GPS mapping on my phone makes me virtually fearless. I used to print out directions, plus use my GPS machine, and still be nervous about ending up lost, always hoping someone else could drive me. Now I search for a location in the app and just go, and I've begun to realize how much courage that's given me.
Current Fashion: I'm obsessed with Gap Inc.'s Athleta line. I don't buy their workout clothes, but they have a lot of street clothes that are super soft and stretchy and comfortable, while being well made. My dream wardrobe is high quality, fashionable clothing made exclusively of modal.
Current TV show: I'm in season 10 of Murder, She Wrote, LOVING this current season of Hannibal, hopeless about future of The Good Wife, and can't get enough Broad City. Also, season 2 of My Mad Fat Diary rocked my world and hit impossibly close to home, as usual.
Current Music: I'm slowly discovering The Mountain Goats discography, and I heard "Up the Wolves" the first time when it was on The Walking Dead and I can't get over how perfect it is. I love how John Darnielle writes about apologies and forgiveness (see reminder below).
Current Wishlist: Like, 6 different tattoos. 
Current Reminder: "There's bound to be a ghost at the back of your closet / No matter where you live / There'll always be a few things, maybe several things / That you're going to find really difficult to forgive."

Apr 1, 2014

"Heartbreak, looked at through the wrong end of distance's glasses, is trivial, and quickly passes..."

Last year I went on a walk with my friend Chelsea and her adorable dog Bingley through our very hilly neighborhood. I recognized that I wasn't in the best of shape, but by the time we'd climbed to the top of our hill to the off-leash dog park, I could barely talk. My vision went white and my knees began to buckle. Before I entered the dog park I had to sit on the ground and catch my breath.

I was immediately reminded of the three times I had to relearn how to walk after weeks on zero-exception horizontal bed rest. That feeling of not being able to support my own weight, that I couldn't run if I needed to, and if someone asked for my help I couldn't give it...was miserable.

I was nervous before both spinal surgeries that I might become paralyzed. Even though the chances were low, accidents can happen. So I considered myself very lucky when I was able to walk again, and then with time, do all the things I was able to do before the surgeries. So to have a similar physical feeling of weakness 4 years after my last surgery was very unsettling.

Which is why it meant so much to me last week when I walked Stevie up our hill to the very same dog park with relative ease. Walking her 3 or more times a day since mid-February has already made me feel stronger and healthier than I have been in many years. That isn't to say I wish I'd gotten a dog sooner, because I feel the past few years of sedentary comfort were important to my emotional well-being and self-care. When the time to get a dog came, it was because it finally felt like a kind thing to do for myself, rather than a forced, obligatory change. This was also for the dog I ended up adopting's sake (bad grammar, I know), so I wouldn't resent him or her for making me go on walks when I didn't feel like it and just wanted to stay huddled under my covers with the cats.

As I've written about before, my relationship with Stevie has had its growing pains even though I believe we've bonded very well. Yesterday I woke up to the sound of her chewing on what sounded like one of her antlers, but turned out to be pair of my eyeglasses. I scorned myself for thinking she was ready to be out of her crate at night, and then called the vet. They said I could bring her in and they could do an x-ray to see if she swallowed any big pieces of glass from the missing lens (the other was still in the frame), but apparently it's hard to see glass in an x-ray. So they told me another option was to give her a big meal and hope the food absorbed any glass pieces for their 'passage' out of Stevie. It was up to me to decide either way.

Now, I don't know if it was my frustration with her eating the glasses, or the fact that she's a dog and dogs eat all kinds of things and live through it, but I didn't flip out. I decided to just stay home with her, feed her lots of food, and keep an eye out for any abnormal behavior. I didn't even cry! So I worried, "Does this mean I don't love her? When Oz had fleas I moved heaven and earth and practically had a psychotic break! For FLEAS."*

So this morning we went for a walk, and I was in a daze thinking about some nonsense while Stevie trotted 26 feet ahead of me (thanks for the new long leash, Jenny!) when I suddenly lost my footing on our trail and quickly fell to my left. As I tried to break my fall the leash lept from my right hand, and since it's retractable it raced 26 feet away from me, down to where Stevie was. My left knee hit the ground hard, scraping and bruising it badly.

All of the times I've dropped Stevie's leash in the time we've been together, I've never been sure she'd come back to me when called (and sometimes hasn't). She lived alone in the woods for God knows how long, and is easily spooked by all kinds of things. In that instant I knew I physically couldn't jump up and try to get the leash back, I was totally depending on her to come back to me. I quickly looked at her and asked in less-than-alpha and more of a oh-God-don't-run-away voice, "Stevie! Come!"

And for all my questioning of our relationship and how deeply I felt our bond, she raced back to me at full gallop, tongue and tail wagging. She flew right into my arms and stayed put until I could get hold of her leash and my balance. As I limped after her for the rest of the walk, I felt proud but mostly humbled that this dog I met 48 days ago trusts me. Or at least trusted me in that moment, when I needed her to not just for her sake but mine as well.

When we got back home I opened my first-aid kit to look for a large bandage for my bloodied knee. I found some kind of large, clear, adhesive dressing that I had no memory of purchasing. I halfheartedly wondered if maybe it had come with the first-aid kit? But as I opened the packaging and looked at the dressing I recognized it immediately. It had been sent home from the hospital with me, either after my back surgery or later after my third hospitalization when the incision from my back surgery had started leaking. It was transparent so my mom or medical staff could see the incision to make sure it was healing well while keeping it covered. With mixed emotions I put the dressing with some gauze over my clean new knee wound, received from a nothing more than a tumble walking my adorable dog in the woods on a sunny Tuesday morning.

*Later that evening I spoke to my dad and he told me that eyeglasses are no longer made of glass but actually acrylic, which is much less sharp. "Did she have a bloody mouth when you found her eating the lens?" Me: "No...I did think that was weird." So in retrospect I'm really glad I didn't freak out and spend hundreds of dollars on tests and hospitalization. Though I am a bit surprised the vet didn't think of that too... Regardless, they were super great about not guilt tripping me for choosing to keep her home and observe her, which I appreciate. I think my freak out about Oz's fleas had a lot to do with my old vet I was seeing at the time.

(Post title from A.E. Stallings' amazing poem, "Written on the eve of my 20th high school reunion, which I was not able to attend.")

Mar 30, 2014

Mar 27, 2014

"To make you smile, I'd like to be there for you": Stevie Update

Nicknames: Goofy, Honey (her shelter name), Boo-Boo, Silly Girl.

Favorite Ways to Say Her Name: "Ste-he-he-he-he-VAY!" ala Eric Matthews saying "Feeny" in Boy Meets World, and "StevieStevieStevieStevieStevieStevieStevie" ala Miranda Hart in Miranda.

Quirk: when she's excited she doesn't jump up, but does a kind of downward-dog while trying to pin your feet with her front paws. On walks she likes to go up and down each house's front steps, as if she'd like to tell everyone in the neighborhood 'hello!'

Surprise: I bought two pet gates to use to keep Stevie in the dining room when I need her contained but it's not necessary for her to be in a crate. I left the little cat gates at the bottom open and one time she managed to get through it! This exact gate:

She can fit through that little square! I tried to get it on camera but she was not up for performing the trick again at the time. :)

Phobias: she's almost completely cured of her fear of cars and strange people. Other dogs are still scary until they leave her alone--THEN she wants to make friends with them. 

Obedience: she's excellent at "drop it!" but still working on everything else. She knows which door is the door to our condo, and has established her favorite bathroom area outside.

Areas for Growth: I'm still having a hard time getting her to eat her food regularly without me sitting there next to the bowl with her. 

Progress: she finally feels comfortable being on the couch or bed with me!

Current Favorite Toy: reindeer antlers.

How Am I Doing?: Even though we're doing really well right now, I'm still having a hard time knowing what to with Stevie when we're home. Outside on walks are going so well: I'm getting more exercise and we have fun together. But when we're having down time at home or I'm busy with something, I'm still at a loss at how to entertain her or how much supervision and attention she needs. With the cats we have such a chill routine, and what they expect from me is clear and low-maintenance. Stevie's like a little kid where I feel like I'm not doing a good job if don't observe her and engage her often. I don't resent her for this and slowly but surely we're learning a routine, but I worry that dog ownership isn't coming as naturally as I expected it would.

Mar 21, 2014

Counting Sheep

one morning you will still
be asleep and
I will awaken you
take you to a country we've never
before seen together
and by dusk we'll swear
this is where
we've always been and everything
is the same
your clumsy French or Spanish
and the waiters laughing
the footbridge where light
paints the water
tower a peculiar shade of orange
and I'll try on rhymes
that fail to capture the hues
the smell the salt
"orange" you will
say "never
rhymes" and just before we turn
in for the night
I'll kiss you once for luck
another for no reason
and we'll go back to sleep
into dreams
that no longer keep us awake

- Colleen J. McElroy, from Here I Throw Down My Heart

Mar 20, 2014

#170: The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds

The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds (1968)

Favorite Tracks: "Goin' Back" and "Wasn't Born to Follow" and "Get to You"

Thoughts: I've finished reading Graham Nash's Wild Tales. In the past I've stated more than once on this blog that Graham Nash is my favorite member of CSNY, and I need to retract that statement now that I've read his memoir. Even though this is a Byrds album, I'm not here to declare the new favorite is David Crosby. Far from it. Neil Young--despite his grumpiness and flaky devotion to the quartet--is now the best of the group in my mind. Not that it's a competition. I used to think "Gosh, why couldn't Neil keep it together and stick with the band?" Now I know why.

This is actually the album during which Crosby left (or was fired) from The Byrds, which made more sense when I realized that he wasn't in the cover photo. (Apparently the other band members have denied that the horse represents Crosby. Don't you think it looks photo-shopped in? I do.) Despite his dismissal/departure mid-production of the album, 3 of his recorded songs made the final cut.

Maybe if I read a memoir by Crosby himself I would like him better, but that certainly hasn't been the result of reading Wild Tales. Nash talks about admiring the fact that (adult content ahead) he once walked in on Crosby getting a 'job' from two women at once. The whole book treats the women in these men's lives like shit. (Except for Joni, which I appreciate. Graham refuses to say a bad thing about her, which I didn't expect but really respect.) Not to mention the endless amounts of hard drugs and huge egos that makes one imagine how any music got made at all.

Anyway, the Byrds. I know very little about this band, aside from "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)" covers I heard growing up with the Oldies station in my hometown (neither of which are on this album). It looks like this record is during the psychedelic stage of the band's discography, though I didn't really get that vibe until the 3rd track in, "Natural Harmony."

There's a song called "Dolphin's Smile" by Crosby which from the title sounds like it should be right up my alley, but really I wasn't that into it. It felt like a parody of 60s folk pop. The album ends with the trippy "Space Odyssey," overall leaving me quite unimpressed and uninterested with this album.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: Not even close!