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Currents, December 2015

12.04.2015

Drink: Two parts eggnog, one part spiced rum.

Project: December sort of feels like non-stop projects. Event projects, gift projects, decorating projects! I feel busy in the best way. I'd really like to make one of those Christmas trees made out of brooches.

TV Shows: Jessica Jones was great, I'm so happy Bindi Irwin won DWTS, and I'm happy to report that Minority Report is getting better! Last night I caught my first ever episode of Maude and now I want to own the whole series! 

Movie: Spectre was so good. I love those movies. I could watch Daniel Craig do pretty much anything.

Food: I buy Lean Cuisines and add enough Tillamook cheddar cheese to make it no longer qualify as lean nor cuisine.

Celebrity Crush: This asshole.

Book: Carly Simon wrote a memoir!

Indulgence: I bought a mini Christmas tree and decorated it for my cubicle. 

Achievement: I sold my first ever items on Ebay! Joel Hodgson was an asshole to me when I met him at an event, so I sold all his MST3k episodes I owned in individual slim cases. I started the bid at $20, but there was a bidding war and they went for $60!

Fashion: I slipped and scraped the same knee twice within one week, so chucked my UGGs (they got ripped and were stained from a Bailey's spill back in 2010) and got some slip-on boots with serious traction (gently used on Ebay because these days I no longer pay full price for anything if I can help it).

Thankfulness: I am forever grateful to affordable online eyeglasses retailers. The number of glasses and prescriptions sunglasses I've accidentally sat on, left for Stevie to chew on, or knocked into various hard surfaces like car doors and doorways, is far too high to be able to sustain several hundred dollar eyeglasses. To be able to buy pairs of sunglasses and eyeglasses--that I frequently get compliments on--for about $15-$30 plus shipping is so great. I've realized my life is too hectic to deal with glasses cases, and I love having a fresh pair when trends change or evolve. I even have a pair right now that perfectly match the purple tones in my hair!

Music: My new favorite Christmas album is All On A Wintry Night by Judy Collins. 

Wishlist: Um, Baryshnikov Nutcracker, please.

Reminder: "How to Survive: Fall so madly in love with yourself that you won't let anything destroy you, not even yourself." (x)

Unacceptable Behavior:

12.02.2015


"When Maryann likes something...she really likes it."

11.18.2015

I went to a college that--at the time--forbid its students from drinking, even when they were 21 or older. My junior year I was an RA, which not only meant I couldn't drink, but I also had to police other students' drinking. 

Cut to: my older sister and I decide to go to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico before Christmas. All-inclusive, those two wonderful words, mean OPEN BAR. At this point in my life, I had never tasted (non-Communion) alcohol. But, I would be old enough by Mexico's standards to drink, and far, far, away from my college and its administrators, most of whom I think would not have worried for my moral fiber if I had drunk in moderation on vacation with my sister in another country during winter break. 

Now, before we left for the trip, I was later told that my mom pulled my sister aside and told her, "Please look out for Maryann when she first tries alcoholic drinks. I'm worried because...when Maryann likes something, she really likes it." When I heard about this, I was hurt. Every day of our trip, while my sister sipped on Margaritas and Tecate, I ordered--over and over again--a juice mix of orange, pineapple, and guava. Or passion fruit? I can't remember. Even though I was out of the country, and well within my legal rights, I abstained, much to the ridicule of every waiter at our resort. Looking back, I totally regret it. "Integrity" is so overrated. It was ALL-INCLUSIVE. I will never get that back all that free booze money...

I bring this story up because as my mother implied, I am what's considered by many to be a serial enthusiast. When I find something I love--be it huichol Mexican art, members of the Jackson 5, historical cartoons, Broadway shows, or cats--I REAAAALLY like them. To the point of financial ruin, in too many cases.

So back in 2003, I was shopping for a duvet cover for my first ever feather down comforter I was taking with me to college. I told the lady at Macy's I was going to college in Canada so she sold us the comforter that could stand up to arctic levels of cold. I was just going to be outside Vancouver, but we decided to play it safe.

Wandering the clearance section of Target like one does, I spied a comforter so fantastic, so original, so colorful and intricate and beyond my wildest dreamings, I could hardly believe it. And it was $19.99 instead of its original $99! I know what you're thinking: a $99 twin duvet cover at Target? But it was Isaac Mizrahi brand. Thus began a lifelong mission to find and own anything and everything bearing this print. Which leads me to these photos:




Turns out, with the glory that is Target, they made not only duvets (and yeah, I bought a queen-size one as well so I can double up, also because I hope to never sleep in a twin-size bed again in my life), but shirts. And CORDUROY BLAZERS. This is my first corduroy blazer, and likely the only one I'll ever need. As I shout out Target, I also need to shout out Ebay, and the sellers who decided they no longer needed super-busy Russian (?), almost Christmas-y paisley duvet covers, shirts or blazers. Their loss is my tremendous, weird, obsessed gain. 

Poem: What Music Does

11.12.2015



At night something whispers,
Go wild to the green maple
and by morning it's gone so far
it's redder than the reddest
fox--about to spring.

Its transformation startles,
leaps inside you,
yet you see it every fall,

know it the way you
what music does
to sadness, its deepest
listening, disturbed.


- Lorna Crozier, Small Mechanics



(x and x)

I Won't Regret the Lives I Didn't Lead

11.06.2015

This week I was so lucky to see Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, and LaChanze in the national tour of If/Then, a musical with book by Brian Yorkey and composed by Tom Kitt. Not every song was perfect, and the majority of the choreography was flat-out ridiculous, but this show--even before I saw it--really sparked an interest in me regarding alternate universes, fate, etc. As I wrote about in my long-ass post about that Jim Gaffigan Show season finale that I'm positive no one took the time to read, I love thinking outside the confines of there being one best way to live life, our an ideal that's been set for each of our lives, as well as the concept of 'having it all.'

I've decided to share my top 5 favorite songs from the show. The first one I fell for after googling the soundtrack last year was "Learn to Live Without."



Favorite lyrics:
You learn to stand alone at last
So brave and bold and strong and stout
You learn somehow to like the dark
And even love the doubt
You learn to hold your life inside you
And never let it out
You learn to live and die and then to live
You learn to live without
Then I stumbled upon "Some Other Me" and I obsessed over it like crazy. Usually it's sung with Anthony Rapp but I really enjoy her version with composer Tom Kitt:



Favorite lyrics:
Look down each road left untaken
Trace every turn and twist
The lives that we just let go by
The dreams we might have missed
Now we're old enough to know that
One road ends where one begins
The moment where the what-might-be's
Turn into might-have-beens
And "Always Starting Over"--her song from the 2014 Tony Awards--crept in as well, a total blast to sing (and emote) along to.



Favorite lyrics:

Thank you for finding me 
And thank you for the care
And fuck you for making me think that this life might be fair
You promised to love me
A promise you kept
And I won't be sorry that you said
To leap and I leapt

That was all of the soundtrack I knew until seeing the show, where two more songs stuck out. "Here I Go" with James Snyder:



Favorite lyrics:
I'm not one for fortunes
Or wishing on a star
And I've studied all the stories
And what our chances are
Then my heart starts beating faster
And it makes this disaster worse by far
Still, here I go
Oh here I go
And "No More Wasted Time" with LaChanze and company (which I unfortunately couldn't find a good video performance of). I recommend listening to this one while working out or cleaning the house:



Favorite lyrics:

No more wasted time
No more time for doubt
You say you're not sure you're a hero?
It's time you should find out
So say you've made a few mistakes
Heroes know that's what it takes
To find their way
No more wasted time
Not one more day
We've got no time for playing nice
There's only time for strong
We've got no need for good advice
We've listened far too long
It's gone too wrong

Angel of Loneliness


Of course there's no one,
especially not an angel
though the air seems overly receptive
as if it's leaving room for something
to arrive. The only tracks in the snow
are her own, leading from the back door
to the birdfeeder where wind above the drifts
fashions wings of such a force and size
she can feel the muscles
underneath the pinions as they push her back
and sweep across the yard.

There's no one here
but her, a lone woman breaking
a path to the feeder, her body
all these years untouched,
unfeathered. It's the cold--
this winter there's too much of it--
that makes its presence known,
inside and out. She can feel it
blunt her skin, grip the morning
and all that's tethered to the earth
in its boneless fist.



- Lorna Crozier, Small Mechanics

Elsa Embroidery

11.04.2015

It's been waaaay too long since I embroidered something. But the plan with the weather getting colder is to do more, though I've made that promise before, I'm sure...

Dear friends of mine had a baby last month and I was bringing them dinner. I thought about their older daughter--a toddler--and how the arrival of her baby sister must be changing her life, in great ways and in perhaps difficult ways. It's a big transition! I myself have never been an older sibling, so it's never a transition I've had to make, but I tried to think about what I would have wanted at her age.

I remembered that she was really into Frozen, and had an Elsa dress. So I decided to embroider an image of Elsa for her! (Please allow me to now state I do not own the image of Elsa. Please don't sue me, Disney!)




In retrospect, I might have opted not to satin-stitch her skin, and just leave it as the white fabric with pale skin color in outline. Minimalism has never been my strong-suit.


what war are you fighting, where the spirit meets the bone?

10.28.2015

Earlier this month my friend Jenn invited me to a house concert performed by Kelley McRae and her husband Matt. I'd never heard of Kelley, but I left the concert aglow with her folk singer/songwriter songs, particularly their lyrics. Much like Patty Griffin or Lori McKenna, when I hear her songs they feel instantly familiar.

I loved her short cropped hair, so I image googled her, and this photo came up:


I recognized the photo instantly, as it's been living in my 'haircut inspiration' folder on my work computer since 2007. That's eight years! I had no idea who the woman in the picture was, and then almost a decade later I not only met her, but I discovered her amazing music. And I continue to be inspired by her hair. :)

Below I've embedded a few of my favorite songs of hers, in case you'd like to check her music out (she's on iTunes!):

"Sparrow"



"Alone"



"So Fine"



"When the Evening Comes"

#157: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

10.22.2015

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

Favorite Tracks: "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" and "Tower of Babel" and "Bitter Fingers" and "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and "(Gotta Get) A Meal Ticket" and "Better Off Dead" and "Curtains"

Thoughts: If you've been following along with my journey through this list, you know Elton John has been one of the artist's whose discography I thought I was fairly familiar with before I began, and since have discovered again and again new gems waiting for me on album after album. I tried counting and is this really only our 4th Elton album? The three we've heard so far (#460, #455, and #353) were so rich, it felt more like 5 albums.

But I've got a terrible admission: I'd never even heard of this album before I saw it on the list, which made me feel ashamed. On the other hand, it's like undiscovered treasure that I get to savor and experience with full appreciation.

I looooove when Elton does anything resembling folk-country, and the title track does not disappoint in this respect. (Plus, it's a pop-rock album from 1975--what were the chances it would disappoint me in any respect?) Apparently this is a concept album, meant to detail the history of Elton and Bernie Taupin's early career and relationship together. And the lyrics of the song give a poignant beginning to the whole album's journey:

For cheap easy meals and hardly a home on the range
Too hot for the band with a desperate desire for change
We've thrown in the towel too many times
Out for the count and when we're down
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
From the end of the world to your town

And all this talk of Jesus coming back to see us
Couldn't fool us
For we were spinning out our lines walking on the wire
Hand in hand went music and the rhyme
The Captain and the Kid stepping in the ring
From here on sonny sonny sonny, it's a long and lonely climb

Uhhh, yeah. Usually I listen to each song once and give a gut reaction, but there was so much to this one I had to listen to it 3 times before moving on to "Tower of Babel." "Bitter Fingers" is a fun piano-driven rocker, and I was grooving along to "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows."

The first side ends with the classic--and only title I recognized on the original track lising--"Someone Saved My Life Tonight." I've heard this song tons on the radio and in my own music collection, and while the overall meaning of the lyrics eluded me, everyone can relate to:

Someone saved my life tonight Sugar Bear
You almost had your hooks in me, didn't you dear
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar-bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You're a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly*
Fly away, high away, bye bye

The idea of being in a toxic relationship and the relief when a good friend or wise person recommends you not to move forward with that person in life is fairly universal.

In Elton's case he was still a closeted gay man, and about to marry a woman named Linda Woodrow, and his 'sugar bear' was an English-Canadian singer named John Baldry, who advised against the marriage for his career's and personal life's sake. Linda Woodrow has later stated that she thought the desire for the marriage was mutual, and suspects that the attitude towards her came more from lyricist Bernie Taupin than Elton himself--who was living with the couple before they spilt-- but it's said that Elton was considering suicide at the time due to doubts about the marriage, so I imagine he felt similarly to Bernie's lyrics. (Not that Elton feeling suicidal is Linda's fault, but any relationship that makes you feel trapped is no good.)

But I've got to say my absolute favorite part is:

I never realized the passing hours of evening showers
A slip noose hanging in my darkest dreams
I'm strangled by your haunted social scene
Just a pawn out-played by a dominating queen
It's four o'clock in the morning
Damn it listen to me good
I'm sleeping with myself tonight
Saved in time, thank God my music's still alive

The conviction with which he sings "DAMMIT, listen to me goood!" gives me serious chills. If you'd asked me to guess which decade this song was released in, I would have thought at least as recently as the 80s. Something about it felt much more modern than 1975. Listening to it again for this post made me fall in love with it all over again. I definitely replayed it about 10 times. God, even just the opening piano notes...glorious.

Side 2 opens with the raucous "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket" and then the super fun "Better Off Dead" that I listened to again and again. The percussion by Ray Cooper is a blast and it's obvious Elton enjoys playing the song. Watch him perform it in Moscow in 1979 (in HD!):



"Writing" is a sweet, breezy ode to Elton and Bernie writing songs together, and the albums ends with the building, almost psychedelic "Curtains." Bonus tracks--two by Elton's friend John Lennon ("One Day at a Time" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"--and the fun "Philadelphia Freedom" were added in the 90s, so I don't count them as tracks in this post, but they're of course excellent.

In an interview with Cameron Crowe in 2006 Elton said this about the album: "I've always thought that Captain Fantastic was probably my finest album because it wasn't commercial in any way. We did have songs such as 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight,' which is one of the best songs that Bernie and I have ever written together, but whether a song like that could be a single these days, since it's [more than] six minutes long, is questionable. Captain Fantastic was written from start to finish in running order, as a kind of story about coming to terms with failure—or trying desperately not to be one. We lived that story." This is isn't my favorite Elton John album, but I'm certainly thrilled to have come across it and added it to my music library.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: Yes. This is the new standard of excellence!


* Was this a reference to the 1969 Leonard Gershe play/1972 movie? I've always wondered.

The Ghost Ships That Don't Carry Us

10.16.2015

(Mostly this a post about a TV finale, but it's also about being single or married, child-free or a parent.)

I just finished watching The Jim Gaffigan Show finale, and I was so pissed off and offended by it I thought for sure I would find scathing reviews of it online written by smarter, better writers than I, but my google search proved fruitless. Possibly because no one who would write such a review is actually watching the show?

I wanted to give it a chance, as I've enjoyed seeing Jim live and watching his specials with my parents. I've always liked the way he talked about the fact that he and his wife had 5 kids, as he kept it self-deprecating and invited us to laugh at that particular choice in life, just like I enjoy laughing with comics like Amy Schumer about her dating/sex life. In all art forms, I personally find it really important that the artist/comic/musician whatever gives a window into a part of the human experience--with it's ups and downs--without becoming too preachy about how their choices in life are better than others.

And unfortunately as I kept watching TJGS, I had a hard time finding humor in the family life portrayed (though that's a different blog post), and it culminated in the finale, "Wonderful": your standard It's-A-Wonderful-Life homage episode complete with guiding angel (Steve Buscemi) and fantasy of what the world would be like if Jim hadn't married his wife Jeannie and had 5 kids.

It begins with Jim getting angry about the restrictions having a wife and 5 kids puts on his career, finances, health, and personal space/possessions. He storms off and exclaims in frustration: "I wish I'd never gotten married and had kids!"

He then pushes Steve Buscemi out the way of a bike accident, and gets conked on the head. Steve tries to help him and Jim declines and goes home. And this is where I get angry. I was hoping for a nuanced, complex view at the way our choices change our lives, and make us who we are. I would have been fine with Jim missing his wife and kids, of course, and feeling like a different person, with a life different than the one he chose, and then the final act being he likes the choices he made and who they made him become and he wakes up to appreciate his family and how he lives into the roles of husband, father, caregiver, provider, etc.

But I guess that wouldn't have made very good television, or Jim and his wife (who write the show together) want it to be much more black and white, with extremes and--in my mind--false dichotomies. And where It's A Wonderful Life (1946) fails Mary, TJGS's "Wonderful" fails its characters too.

Mary (Donna Reed) is given "The Spinster" trope treatment, moving from a character in the first half who is bubbly, warm, vivacious and feminine, to a severe, scared, 'mousy' "old maid" in the second half who works--gasp!--at a library.

(x)

This issue with the film has already been explored by other, more qualified critics, but it's an important reminder before we move into the finale. The idea that Mary, as a person who wanted to be a wife and mother, wouldn't have found someone else to marry is...unlikely. We could argue forever about whether or not she would have been happier with George than with another man, but this gets into "The God Who Loves You" territory, as if there's one master plan that our choices either lead us to or away from. No one has that certainty: that you're marrying the BEST possible person for you out of all 7 (or 3.5) billion people in the world, or you've picked the right city, house, job, that gives you the more satisfaction than any other possible city, house, or job.

As Cheryl Strayed says about major decision-marking in "Tiny Beautiful Things" (x):
"...There will likely be no clarity, at least at the outset; there will only be the choice you make and the sure knowledge that either one will contain some loss."*
She's writing back to a man who loves his childless life but also wonders if he should want/have children. I love her response:
"If I could go back in time I'd make the same choice [to be a mother] in a snap. And yet, there remains my sister life. All the other things I could have done instead. I wouldn't know what I couldn't know until I became a mom, and so I'm certain there are things I don't know because I can't know because I did. Who would I have nurtured had I not been nurturing my two children over these past seven years? In what creative and practical forces would my love have been gathered up? What didn't I write because I was catching my children at the bottoms of slides and spotting them as they balanced along the tops of low brick walls and pushing them endlessly in swings? What did I write because I did? Would I be happier and more intelligent and prettier if I had been free all this time to read in silence on a couch that sat opposite of Mr. Sugar's? Would I complain less? Has sleep deprivation and the consumption of an exorbitant number of Annie's Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies taken years off my life or added years onto it? Who would I have met if I had bicycled across Iceland and hiked around Mongolia and what would I have experienced and where would that have taken me? 
I'll never know and neither will you of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore."
For the TJGS finale, I wanted a look at the ghost ship of Jim's life had he not met Jeannie or had 5 children with her. I was fine with it not being ultimately what he wanted, but I didn't want the ridiculous caricature that they ended up writing. 

He arrives home to see he lives with crass, misogynist friend Dave because, who could conceive of a single person in their 40s having their own home?



Then a strange woman comes out of the bathroom, joking about how much she pooped before grabbing a turkey drumstick out of the fridge, pulling out her wedgie, and asking Jim to come back to bed with her. Because if Jim didn't marry a 'clean' Catholic 'classy' woman like Jeannie, he would have meaningless sex with drunk, crass strangers.




Dave asks about Jim's half of the rent, implying he's financially irresponsible:



Jim continues to act confused and assumes it's all a joke, Dave then reveals that to top it all off, Jim does hard drugs as well:



The overall impression is Jim--without a wife and kids--is a mess whose personal life is unhealthy, empty, and out of control. Single people, ya know?!!

When he tries to go to his favorite deli, he's upset to find it closed: "This is where I go for alone time away from my wife and kids!" Steve arrives (and calls him Nathan because he's also been guardian-angeling Nathan Lane and keeps conflating them):


"All you have is alone time" is the clincher. A) 'Alone time' is assumed as depressing and unfulfilling because you're all alone! B) You couldn't possibly have any valuable relationships outside a spouse and children, like for instance: parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc. 

The weirdest 'upside-down' choice the show makes is with Blanca, the family's nanny. Apparently in a world where Jim and Jeannie don't marry and have kids, Blanca ends up not--as you might think--a nanny for a different family, but rather an angry drunk in fishnets and thigh-high boots who gets thrown out of comedy clubs:


When he gets inside the comedy club, everyone is afraid of him, and then three young men compliment him on his comedy albums, called "Moms Are Crazy Old Bitches" and "Bitches Are Crazy Bitches." So because he's single and childless, he became a raging misogynist?

Of course we come to the "Where's Jeannie?" moment, where Steve doesn't want him to see her in the alternate world, just like Clarence didn't want George Bailey to see Mary as a Spinster Librarian. In a hat tip to It's A Wonderful Life, he tells her she's "closing up the library": The Library being the name of the bar Jeannie owns. "Jeannie works in this bar? What about the kids?" Jim asks. Steve: "She never had kids." Also, incredibly unlikely. A woman eager to have 5 kids in one life would probably try to have or adopt at least some children in her other lives.

Like Blanca, this 'other' Jeannie is another humdinger:


The former domestic goddess is a butch bartender with--as Jim calls it--"David Beckham" hair, sleeves of tattoos, piercings, bold makeup, a deeper voice and angry/rude attitude. When Jim tries to remind her of their children, the show chooses a classic childless stereotype:


She punches him, he wakes up, it was all a dream. He goes home to find his real-life wife Jeannie and their actual 5 kids, breaking the fourth wall before bringing out all the actors and crew to sing "Auld Lang Syne."

I know it could be said that I'm reading far too much into this little comedy show, and that hyperbole is a key comedic device, but what I can forgive as misguided and careless in 1946, I cannot in 2015. I love Michael Ian Black and Adam Goldberg, but this finale was the final straw for me watching this show. Too much of our culture already holds marriage and children as the be-all-end-all to a fulfilling life. I want to find books, movies, TV shows, music--all kinds of stories and art that reveals all kinds of lives, without worshiping one as the ideal. Finding stories and art about being single that don't end with a coupling or focus on how being single is an attempt to avoid intimacy can be hard to come by.

Before I left for Italy I decided to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir Eat Pray Love audio book. I'd avoided the book for ages because I'd heard the author can come across as unlikable and self-centered. I know, I know, it's a memoir--how could it not be self-centered? But I suppose it's in the way she sees herself and her worldview. Despite this I decided to listen to the first third of the book, since I was craving more Italian travel writing after listening to Frances Mayes' Every Day in Tuscany.

There was a particular passage that--to me--felt like a great way of describing a single life without children within the context of a family tree. This past year I did a lot of research on ancestry.com, and finding a relative who--at least within public record--never married or had children was like discovering a lost gem. What happened in their lives that led them to live an unconventional life? Usually: they died young. But not always! Here's the passage:
To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. I rediscover this truth every time I go to a big reunion of my mother's family in Minnesota and I see how everyone is held so reassuringly in their positions over the years. First you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, then you are a grandparent--at every stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion. You sit with the other children, or teenagers, or young parents, or retirees. Until at last you are sitting with the ninety-year-olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction. Who are you? No problem--you're the person who created all this. The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate, and moreover, it's universally acknowledged. How many people have I heard claim their children as the greatest accomplishment and comfort of their lives? It's the thing they can always lean on during a metaphysical crisis, or a moment of doubt about their relevancy--If I have done nothing else in this life, then at least I have raised my children well.
But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? What if you step out? Where do you sit at the reunion? How do you mark time's passage without the fear that you've just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant? You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't have any? What kind of person does that make me?
For me, these questions didn't arrive at a reunion, but at a funeral: similar in guest list, but of course much, much sadder. My grandma had passed away, and we were holding a small memorial service at my parents' house, just family. I sat in the very back row while a pastor (who I don't think ever met my grandmother) talked on and on about what a wife she was, what a mother, what a grandmother. And it made me wonder, what is said about people who die of old age who were never wives, mothers, or grandmothers? What would be said about me?

While parts of me do resemble 'alternate universe' Jeannie: I have tattoos and short hair and piercings, I like to hope no one would be remembering me as an aggressive, angry person who hates kids. Maybe Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan don't actually know any single, child-free adults, or they might have written their finale differently.



*I have to say (this is me, not Cheryl), that of course if you make a big decision and there's MAJOR loss, like your safety, dignity, self-esteem, then you maybe need to make another decision to get OUT of that first decision.


I'm back from Italy! (Snapshots: Part 1)

9.24.2015

Sorry for the radio silence. I was pretty all-consumed by preparation and research for the trip, that blogging just fell to the wayside. But I missed it, and now I've got loads of pics to share! I was gone for two weeks, and while it was hard to be away from my pets, it was incredible to be in such a beautiful country.



















#158: Alive! by Kiss

7.29.2015

Alive! by Kiss (1975)

Favorite Tracks: "Strutter" and "Hotter Than Hell" and "Firehouse" and "C'mon and Love Me" and "Parasite" and "She" and "Watchin' You" and "100,000 Years" and "Black Diamond" and "Rock Bottom" and "Rock and Roll All Nite" and "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll"

Thoughts: Okay, let me start by saying that the album cover image is stellar, and I love it. I loved the cover on the other Kiss album we heard way back 2011: Destroyer. I think these are the only two Kiss albums on the list, so this is my last chance to get 'hooked' on this band. I mean, of course I like Kiss because they're a 70s rock band, but I'm still sort of waiting to love them like I now love Meat Loaf: wholly.

The album opened with "Deuce" but I found the second track "Strutter" more exciting. The next song I liked was "Hotter Than Hell"--made me want to sing and dance along, and "C'mon and Love Me" would be an epic number to karaoke. I wanted to listen to "She" more than once--Ace Frehley's guitar and Peter Criss' drums demanded my attention again and again. And the drum solo in "100,000 Years" took to an even more amazing level: totally insane. The best drum solo I can remember ever hearing.

But it wasn't until I heard "Cold Gin" that I decided I needed to own this album.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: This is one of the best produced live albums I've heard on the list, and was a blast to listen to, but I probably won't want to hear it in my day-to-day life as much as I would EPTAS.

A Day for Love & Equality

6.26.2015

Today the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 United States. I am so excited to be not only alive, but relatively young, when this moment in history FINALLY arrived!

A bit over a decade ago this was an issue that I viewed through narrow, bigoted, and ignorant eyes. In the years since then through education, experience, and learning from people around me I found myself becoming an ally and supporter of the LGBTIQA movement and rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. This is such an exciting day and there's so, so, so much to celebrate. For me, this 4th of July will be especially patriotic, as our country has given our LGBTIQA brothers and sisters (and non-gender binary individuals) "equal dignity in the eyes of the law."

I'm so pleased and tickled and excited for all the LGBTIQA people in my life that have fought and dreamed for this day.

I kept trying to think of a song I wanted to post to celebrate, but none felt celebratory enough to be the ONLY song. So I made a playlist.

June 26, 2015: Historic Day of Love and Equality Playlist!

  1. "Brand New Day (Everybody Rejoice)" from The Wiz
  2. "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles
  3. "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers
  4. "God Rests in Reason" by Jason Mraz 
  5. "I'll Cover You" from RENT
  6. "Something Inside So Strong" by Labi Siffre
  7. "She Keeps Me Warm" by Mary Lambert
  8. "Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
  9. "Power of Two" by The Indigo Girls
  10. "Chapel of Love" by Elton John 

(Photo cropped by me, taken by 2 Brides.)

#159: Electric Warrior by T. Rex

6.02.2015

Electric Warrior by T. Rex (1971)

Favorite Tracks: "Mambo Sun" and "Cosmic Dancer" and "Jeepster" and "Get It On" and "Planet Queen" and "Girl" and "The Motivator" and "Life's A Gas"

Thoughts: Glam-rock? Yes, please. I only know two songs off this album, but I bought it on vinyl for the express purpose of hearing it for this series. I came late (very late) to the T. Rex party. I first heard "Cosmic Dancer" when I watched Billy Elliot for the first time a few years ago. It was the perfect opener and I've been in love with it ever since. I've listened to it most when people I've loved have passed away.

I think half the appeal is Marc Bolan's eerie, intimate vocals, and even on the faster & louder songs on this album he maintains the same personal quality. He's not screaming his lyrics at me, but keeping his voice close and controlled.

"Monolith" reminded me of Rocky Horror Picture Show with its backing choir, and of course "Get It On" is a classic. "Planet Queen" had me rocking out and singing along before it was over. The horns on "Girl" give it a sweet sincerity, and both it and "The Motivator" bridge the gap between 60s and 70s rock well.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: As good, I would say! I think this is the only T. Rex album on the list, which is a pity. I'll have to dig deeper into their discography on my own.

Confessions of An Animal-Loving Milk Addict

6.01.2015

In the past year I've seen and heard numerous people express their disgust with 'adult milk drinkers.' And I get it. Kids drinking milk seems okay, with its protein and vitamins. But adults who drink milk can seem a little...off. (See: The McPoyles in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.) Why not drink water, soda, wine, or coffee like a normal grown-up?

In my household growing up there were only two beverages in the fridge: orange juice and skim milk. If you didn't want to drink water, these were the only other options. I used to lie about being allergic to oranges, I disliked them so much. So really, my choice was between milk and water. Suffice to say, I drank a shit-ton of milk. With pretty much every meal. Anything richer than skim was gross to me, and had its own 'flavor' that didn't complement food the way skim does. So as I grew into an adult, I added my own beverages to the fridge, but they would come and go--skim milk was the one constant.

I don't enjoy eating desserts without a large glass of milk, particularly anything chocolate. Even now when I'm at my parents' house and we're about to sit down to a meal I'll ask, "Anyone else want a glass of milk?" It's just a comforting, familiar, soothing beverage for me, whereas most of my friends only keep milk in their houses for kids, adding to their coffee, or for cooking purposes; not to mention the ones allergic to dairy altogether. But I will leave the house at 2am if I run out of milk. Not having milk to drink is like having my water shut off. I'm pretty much addicted to it. (As you can imagine, my nails can practically cut glass and I'll probably never suffer from osteoporosis.) 

Even though I visited a few dairy farms as a child, I never wondered where my milk came from, or how it was processed. I imagined a bunch of happy dairy cows grazing in fields, each hand-milked by a farmer. Mostly I didn't think about it at all. I didn't want to, I guess. Like most children, I loved animals. I loved our pets of course, but I also adored marine mammals and horses and all-manner of animals-not-generally-eaten (in the United States, at least). 

And then I grew up and got pets of my own. Pets I've named, fed, bathed, preventatively medicated, picked up after, groomed, slept next to, and loved. It comes naturally to me to be protective of them and invested in their welfare. The idea of anyone mistreating them fills me with rage. So I sign petitions trying to protect wildlife from poaching and puppy mills from operating and I give money to organizations that care for homeless pets. But I think that--on purpose--I've tried to ignore the welfare of the animals I eat, or whose products I eat. I like meat, I LOVE dairy, I don't want to think too hard about where it comes from. Besides, this is America! I'm sure there are laws the protect them all. Thanks, Upton Sinclair!

But then something happened. I saw Gene Baur on The Daily Show. And what PETA had long-tried to force into my purview with gruesome images and super-sexist advertising, Gene Baur hit home with just talking about farm sanctuaries. 


"They're not different from cats and dogs in their desire to be friends with us."
Well shit, I thought. So I decided to examine the tip of the iceberg, and that alone made me ready to make serious changes in the way I eat. Things I didn't know:
1) The terms 'cage-free' and 'organic' have zero accountability or bearing in animal welfare. This felt like a total cheat.  
2) Like all mammals, cows have to calve in order to produce milk. I'm not sure why I didn't realize this... I assumed that, like chickens and eggs, it was just something dairy cows produced on their own. But because that's not the case, dairy cows are basically kept perpetually pregnant in order to keep up their dairy production. Oh, but it gets worse. 
3) Most calves are separated from their mothers within hours of birth, because they create too strong a bond if it's delayed, which causes health risks to the calves. And the male calves of dairy cows are usually sent off to slaughter for veal. 
There's more, but let's move on. What are my excuses for not eating ethically treated animal products and meat? Money and convenience. The first is obviously more of an issue than the latter. Eating organic is expensive, eating ethically is practically obscene if you live on any kind of tight budget.

I looked up products in my area on certifiedhumane.org. There's only one dairy farm's milk available in my city that showed up on their list, and it's $5.99...a HALF gallon. Plus a $2.50 bottle deposit, which hurts excuse #2. To add insult to injury, two of the half gallons I bought tasted bad, even far from their pull date. Not a great start. I'm used to finding milk even as low as $2.50 a gallon (with a coupon).

So to offset the cost (and the inconvenience) I'm trying to start eating less meat and dairy, in addition to buying from farms with strict animal welfare policies. For now, I'm still eating meat when it's served to me by hosts, or when eating out (there are restaurants that are certified humane in their meat and animal product purchasing). One of the problems with me becoming a full vegan or even just vegetarian is that I don't really like grilled veggies (so I could go full-raw like some people, I guess) and frankly, I've tried non-dairy cheese, and I am willing to spend a bundle on humane cheese before I go down that route. I'm planning to try milk alternatives like coconut, almond, and soy milk, but I don't think any of those are ideal milks for drinking on their own. Whether or not I'll be able to fully wean myself from drinking milk, we'll see.

Basically, I'm going to try to do what I can in my own life. I make all the grocery decisions for my home, and all the decisions when I eat on my own. In addition to signing petitions and voting, I want to make changes as a consumer. I don't buy real fur, but giving up leather will be difficult. Maybe that will be a resolution for 2016... But even just starting small makes me feel lighter. This summer I hope to visit some of the farms I start buying from to check them out for myself, and meet the animals. Hopefully I can continue to love milk, and even more so for being from happy cows.


#160: The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

5.01.2015

The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding (1968)

Favorite Tracks: "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and "I Love You More Than Words Can Say" and "Let Me Come On Home" and "The Glory of Love" and "The Huckle-Buck" and "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)" and "Ole Man Trouble"

Thoughts: When I was younger my family visited San Francisco a few times and stayed at my great aunt Bernice's house in Berkley. Here's a (well, technically two) picture of her from 1906(ish):



Those trips to the Bay area have a very specific vibe/mood attached to them that is steeped in 1960s music like "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" by Scott McKenzie and of course, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of Bay" by Otis Redding. Eating bread bowls of clam chowder, watching sun-bathing sea lions, and of course riding the BART! I get a warm nostalgic feeling listening to Oldies anyway, but particularly ones associated with childhood memories.

I loved the horns and tambourine in "Let Me Come On Home" and "The Glory of Love" was a fun rendition of that song I've never heard before. The whole album was a joy to listen to, an obvious classic.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: Just as good!

#161: OK Computer by Radiohead

3.26.2015

OK Computer by Radiohead (1997)

Favorite Tracks: "Let Down" and "No Surprises" and "The Tourist"

Thoughts: (Pre-Listening) Well, to be honest no one should care what I think about this album because Radiohead has long-been revered as one of the most beloved bands by picky music-lovers and I'm over here on the verge of tears because Zayn has left One Direction. I mean, I think we all knew it was just a matter of time. Part of me thought Harry would be the first to go, but he's just too sweet. Not that Zayn isn't sweet, I just see him being more independent. And he's so gorgeous and talented that it makes sense to do his own thing. Being in a boy band must be grating, no matter how wonderful your band mates. Still, part of me wishes they all could have decided together to disband, but the other part of me is glad that the other four are staying together? It's a complex grief.

Anyway, OK Computer.

We heard Kid A back at #420 in 2011, and I was not a fan. But OK Computer is supposed to be their more popular work, and I'm already a big fan of one of the songs, "No Surprises." I discovered it in the lamest of ways, through a TV show. The season 6 opener of House MD features the song as we watch a montage of House in the asylum. It aired before my first surgery and I ended up listening to this song a ton between my first surgery and last hospitalization. Now obviously the only real correlation between House and I were the fact we were in hospital beds not feeling well, but at the time I related strongly to the constant pill swallowing, isolation from the outside world, and boring routine.























Anyway, the moral of the story is that I have a real attachment to "No Surprises" but who knows how I'll feel about the rest of the album.

(Post-Listening) I liked the first half of the last third of "Paranoid Android" and it turns out I did know another song, of course from a movie: "Exit Music (For A Film)" in Romeo + Juliet (2006). The lyrics of "Climbing Up the Walls" were indecipherable (on purpose, I imagine) and "The Tourist" was kind of nice.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: Nah.