Monday, April 30, 2007

those conversations you have, you know, those

So I went to the Jacpot! tonight to meet with two of my standard writers and divulge to them my hopes of their output for the next few months. I think they are a little cowed b/c I asked them to start thinking about 3,000-5,000 word pieces for the music issue in the fall. Oh well, that's why I asked them to start thinking now, as opposed to then. So anyway, I got to have an excellent, dorked-out, music nerd conversation with Shaun Taylor, one of the new writers, about albums in the last year or two that moved us, and shook us and why everyone else is wrong. I couldn't help going on and on about Joanna Newsom's Ys (pronounced yeesh like the sound I make when my parents start hounding me about finishing school when they haven't given me money for school since 1998). I know I haven't written about it here, but I did write about it in my best of 2006 for the Hatchet.

If you haven't heard this album all I can say to you is: Go. Buy. This. Album. Right. Now. Seriously guys, It's my O.K. Computer for this decade. (when I was a freshman at Guilford I made the mistake of dating a guy who graduated the year before and lived off campus who was also a huge music nerd. Maybe even worse than Jeff, my current paramour. Anyway, he hated Radiohead, and despite my (many) declarations that O.K. Computer would change music and was even more important, in a way, than Nevermind, he scoffed and blew me off.) How are you Doug Grigsby? Okay, last I heard he was accepted at Breadloaf, a very prestigious writer's workshop but whatever, he was still wrong) A long story about Ys, Jeff and I were driving to his parent's house in Egypt (read North North Raleigh) the day after we heard Joanna perform in Greensboro, where I bought the album (I wanted to buy a copy there so she would get the majority of the profit seeing as how I didn't get an advanced copy from her label, Drag City). So we put it on for the 30 minute drive to Egypt and I heard the album rendition of "Sawdust and Diamonds", the most amazingly naked and vulnerable song about the love and poetry and history and imagery about dedication and memory and desire I have, in my entire life, ever heard. It made me weep. Seriously. Not because I was sad or PMSing or upset, but because, the way weddings and graduations and births and deaths make you cry, it struck a chord so deep I didn't know what else to do. In moments of unbearable beauty, and in moments of unbearable pain we all do the same thing in different ways: we grieve. Hearing this song, I longed for closeness with my mother, and I missed my best and dearest friends, I ached for sex and drunkenness and the voices of lovers past (though, not, I can say, Doug Grigsby), I wanted to see the faces of my children, I wanted to run toward a future I could not see and believe that it would be awake and ready and willing to receive me. This song alone made me want to believe in God in a way I haven't been willing to reexamine since I read Killing the Buddha. (future post, I swear.) So, needless to say, I felt powerfully about this album. What was great, and what I haven't experienced in a long time, was that he took me seriously, Shaun did. Jeff and I have fabulous conversations about music nearly on a nearly daily basis, but whenever we get worked up about music it always devolves (or evolves, I'm sure he would say) into sex. No surprise, really, as sex and music have always been tangled inextricably from one another for me. It was amazing to have a conversation about music where someone really listened and didn't threaten to maul me. Not that I'm complaining, exactly, it's just I miss friends, you know, the people you don't have sex with after conversations like this, and I miss having these conversations you have, you know, those, that make you want to drink all night and light fireworks and dream of something bigger than yourselves.

So, I talked about Ys and I told him one of the things that made me crazy about the concert was to be forced to listen to music that was all about this one woman's passion, about being raw and open and kind of nuts and outside the box, and still sit in these wooden seats meant for assemblies in high school and not be allowed to run to the front of the stage and cry and tear my hair out and sweat next to strangers' bodies. Because I am a big believer that when you listen to live music, half the experience is standing next to fans who are just as crazy/ dedicated/ obsessed as you are and getting the desperation and essence of that crowd all over you as you stand and watch and gape at the performers who change your life. I mean, how lucky are we?

So, anyway, he promised to go home and listen to Ys which he downloaded months ago but hasn't listened to, tonight and remember that it came with my highest and most deranged recommendation. I think I've written about this before, about how when you love something and you want the people you love to love it also and in the end they don't like it or don't even bother to try it hurts you so deeply, b/c it seems like a rejection of a part of you. When I hear that people don't like Ys b/c they think it's "too cerebral" or "indulgent" I want to break something that means something to them. There is a guy who I have become friends with in the last few months, he is the Music Editor for The Independent here in Raleigh, and he speaks about Joanna Newsom in the most concise and clear terms. He told me that the reason he loves her, and the reason he loves Ys and why he chose it for his top album of 2006 (as I did) is b/c he can believe everything she says. B/c when she sings it is true. Not only do I agree with him, but I think he has hit upon what is "wrong" with music today: there is nothing wrong with it, per say, I just don't believe it.

So, tonight, what I got to do was talk to someone who buys into the power of music to change you and talk about albums that we believe.

This conversation really was two sided, I swear. We talked about the new Menomena album Friend or Foe and how neither of us have been able to remove it from our CD players/ cars/ iPods for the last two months. We talked about Radiohead and Arcade Fire too. In relation to that whole frustration at my inability to emote at the Joanna Newsom show I also told him about the Rachels' Sea and the Bells (and not to make all things come full circle but I first heard this album at Doug Grigsby's apartment the night he told me he could never love me because he was 1) slightly schizophrenic, 2) much older than me and thus wiser in the ways of relationships and love 3) incapable. Super fun!) and how at the Rachels' show a year or more after the whole Doug Grigsby affair, I cried and cried in the front row and the violinist of the collective came up to me after the show, as I was trying to get my shit together to drive home to Raleigh alone from the show in Chapel Hill, that he had never had a fan react the way I did, and I told him that this album ( The Sea and the Bells), only slightly embarrassed, was the soundtrack to all that was wrong in my life and the soundtrack to all that was righteous and beautiful in the world. I wish I had been able to embarrass myself at Joanna Newsom's show, but instead I was forced to sit in a chair, like a captured animal/ high schooler, vibrating with emotion, desperate to run to the front of the auditorium and feel the humidity of another person's breath on my neck, smell their heavy breath and feel hands reaching out, as mine would. And that's the thing, about music that moves you, I mean, is that inevitably you either feel clued in or incredibly left out, as I did that night seeing the Rachels. That was the album I made love to a man that would never love me. That was the album that taught me about loss and what it would mean to gain all in the same swoop.

I don't often write about music here, as it sort of subsumes my waking life. But I wanted to share with you all the good and bad that this conversation dredged up for me. Probably b/c I have been thinking about all of you often recently, and b/c I wish you all were here to talk about this stuff with. I wish it had been you, tonight. I wish.
So here are the lyrics to "Sawdust and Diamonds" by Joanna Newsom.

From the top of the flight
Of the wide, white stairs
Through the rest of my life
Do you wait for me there?
There's a bell in my ears
There's a wide white roar
Drop a bell down the stairs
Hear it fall forevermore
Drop a bell off of the dock Blot it out in the sea
Drowning mute as a rock; Sounding mutiny
There's a light in the wings
Hits this system of strings
From the side while they swing; See the wires, the wires, the wires
And the articulation In our elbows and knees
Makes us buckle as we couple in endless increase
As the audience admires
And the little white dove
Made with love, made with love: Made with glue, and a glove, and some pliers
Swings a low sickle arc From its perch in the dark
Settle down Settle down my desire
And the moment I slept I was swept up in a terrible tremor
Though no longer bereft, how I shook and I couldn't remember
Then the furthermost shake drove a murdering stake in And cleft me right down through my center
And I shouldn't say so, but I know that it was then, or never
Push me back into a tree Bind my buttons with salt
Fill my long ears with bees
Praying: please, please, please, Love, you ought not! No you ought not!
Then the system of strings tugs on the tip of my wings (cut from cardboard and old magazines) Makes me warble and rise like a sparrow
And in the place where I stood, there is a circle of wood
A cord or two, which you chop and you stack in your barrow
It is terribly good to carry water and chop wood
Streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed;
As I crash through the rafters And the ropes and pulleys trail after
And the holiest belfry burns sky-high
Then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
While, somewhere, with your pliers and glue you make your first incision
And in a moment of almost-unbearable vision
Doubled over with the hunger of lions
'Hold me close', cooed the dove Who was stuffed, now, with sawdust and diamonds
I wanted to say: why the long face?
Sparrow, perch and play songs of long face
Burro, buck and bray songs of long face!
Sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
Just to lift your long face
And though it may be madness, I will take to the grave Your precious longface
And though our bones they may break, and our souls separate - why the long face?
And though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil - why the long face?
In the trough of the waves Which are pawing like dogs
Pitch we, pale-faced and grave, As I write in my log
Then I hear a noise from the hull
Seven days out to sea
And it is the damnable bell!
And it tolls - well, I believe, that it tolls - for me!
It tolls for me!
Though my wrists and my waist seemed so easy to break
Still, my dear, I would have walked you to the very edge of the water
And they will recognise all the lines of your face
In the face of the daughter of the daughter of my daughter
Darling, we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
Appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes
But if it's all just the same, then will you say my name: Say my name in the morning, so I know when the wave breaks?
I wasn't born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight
No, I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright
So: enough of this terror We deserve to know light
And grow evermore lighter and lighter
You would have seen me through But I could not undo that desire
From the top of the flight
Of the wide, white stairs
Through the rest of my life
Do you wait for me there?

The Oxford English Dictionary is my Friend pt 2

SO maybe you'd like the definitions too? Okay. All definitions from unless otherwise noted.

\Ac"ci*die\, n. [OF. accide, accidie, LL. accidia, acedia, fr. Gr. ?; 'a priv. + ? care.] Sloth; torpor. [Obs.] ``The sin of accidie.'' --Chaucer. (Websters' Revised Unabridged Dictionary)

a·pos·ta·sy /əˈpɒstəsi/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[uh-pos-tuh-see] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun, plural -sies.
a total desertion of or departure from one's religion, principles, party, cause, etc.


su·ze·rain·ty /ˈsuzərɪnti, -ˌreɪn-/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[soo-zuh-rin-tee, -reyn-] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun, plural -ties.
the position or authority of a suzerain.
the domain or area subject to a suzerain.

su·ze·rain /ˈsuzərɪn, -ˌreɪn/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[soo-zuh-rin, -reyn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
a sovereign or a state exercising political control over a dependent state.
History/Historical. a feudal overlord. –adjective
characteristic of or being a suzerain


con·cat·e·na·tion /kɒnˌkætnˈeɪʃən/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kon-kat-n-ey-shuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1.the act of concatenating.
2.the state of being concatenated; connection, as in a chain.
3.a series of interconnected or interdependent things or events.


–noun Architecture.
a shallow rectangular feature projecting from a wall, having a capital and base and usually imitating the form of a column.


par·a·pet /ˈpærəpɪt, -ˌpɛt/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[par-uh-pit, -pet] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
a defensive wall or elevation, as of earth or stone, in a fortification.
an elevation raised above the main wall or rampart of a permanent fortification.
any low protective wall or barrier at the edge of a balcony, roof, bridge, or the like.


cam·pa·ni·le /ˌkæmpəˈnili, -ˈnil; It. ˌkɑmpɑˈnilɛ/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[kam-puh-nee-lee, -neel; It. kahm-pah-nee-le] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun, plural -ni·les, -ni·li /-ˈnili/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[-nee-lee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation.
a bell tower, esp. one freestanding from the body of a church.

Okay, so half of these were architecture terms so I am not feeling that bad. Onward to Double Jeopardy! !

My Top Ten High School Albums (pt 1)

This is actually my column for the May Hatchet so it might seem redundant and weird to those who currently read my blog (all seven of you)I have expanded some things and let others be. Also, I would like to say that one person in particular helped me understand the lasting beauty and depth of most of these albums/ artists: Jenny. Without you I never would have heard the rubber bands behind the voice of Leonard Cohen, or understood that "Hallelujah" is not a song about the greatness of love, but of the gravity and pain of love. "A castle for a kiss upon your shoulder" is the line that always reminds me of you,though, really, all of his songs do. GLB really was our house band but your dedication far outweighed mine in the last ten years. So I owe you thanks, all of you I mention here and the many I don't. A

In the last few months I have been addicted to reading my friend’s blogs: I surreptitiously check them at work, I make us late for movies, I obsessively try to talk everyone into visiting them (usually all for naught.) But lately I have had more luck because of a simple idea that has many reminiscing, blatantly laughing at and more often than not, slowly nodding our collective (yet separate) heads in agreement with the bloggers. It all started with Marco, whose blog, How Not To Blog, ( listed his top ten high school albums. (Marco is also the progenitor of the iPod shuffle game (which everyone should do) and also spurned many blog entries from people barely connected anymore.) Is it better because I knew him then? Maybe. Is it better because we haven’t had a real or pleasant conversation since those times? Definitely not. I can say that he is the reason that I fell in love with mid-career Dinosaur Jr., on Where You Been. Especially "Goin Home", which Sara and I played over and over trying to figure out what the fuck J. Mascis was saying, the song we both considered to be our song about Marco, but for drastically different reasons. To find out that this album is on his top ten made me miss him for the first time in a long time. Even though it’s small town Raleigh, and we see each other across the smoky Jackpot!, or at the Raleigh Times (often with his girlfriend who is the sister of my brother's former best friend whom Sasha and I both "dated" (i.e. made out with a lot) the summer we were fifteen. The brother, that is, not Marco's girlfriend. Shaking fist:Small town Raleigh! Again!). To read his blog and find out that he grew up into this smart, funny, slightly less self-righteous but overall lovely and graceful person is the best thing about reading blogs of people you know/ used to know. You don’t even have to be close to them anymore to feel like you are. High school albums are the ones that changed your life, the ones that decided who you are. I buy into What You Like Matters, I bet a lot of you do too. These are albums that determined what you like, at the very least they decided where you would go, who you would grow up to be. These are the albums that you lived and died by, the albums you listened to when you got your heart broken the first, the fourteenth, the one hundredth time, the albums that you spent summers driving to, longing for home away from your home, the albums that made you choose your friends and your enemies, the albums that told you you were capable of great and disastrous things. These are the songs that built a civilization and destroyed one at the same time. So here are the first five of ten, in no particular order, to be continued later.

Jeff Buckley
I was fifteen. It was the day after the 1994 Lollapalooza where I met (and kissed! On the cheek! And talked about aliens and the bigger meaning of Lollapalooza and music and sex and summertime! Oh yeah, baby!) with PERRY! FARRELL! Okay, let’s stop here for a moment. The only reason I did not include Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual on my list is because I started listening to it in 1990 due to my older broham’s excellent and influential taste in music. It changed my world. It was the first album I couldn't stop listening to. From the Spanish introduction and merciless drumbeat of "Stop!" to the gorgeous wandering wildebeest of a song "Three Days", to the great symposium on love poetry that is "Classic Girl" it was my First Album That Mattered. Fast forward through four years of watching The Gift, (over and over and over) of watching every interview on MTV News, (whassup pre-Internet and YouTube!), of reading every article in Rolling Stone and Spin (ugh). Four years, y’all. For real. And then I meet him. Perry. Perry! Fucking! Farrell! It was almost too much to take. You see Sasha and I were out of town when tickets went on sale and it sold out before we could get them. So, dressed in Catholic school girl skirts and converses and, I shit you not, a little boy’s Jurassic Park shirt from K-Mart we went to the parking lot of then Walnut Creek and planned to scam our way in. It did not work. We tried the period excuse. We tried sneaking in through a faulty place in the fence. We tried being cute. It did not work. We sat on a curb, dejected, hearing the bass and picturing the spectacle of George Clinton. It sucked, okay? I was in a little boy’s size Jurassic Park T-Shirt and a plaid wool skirt in fucking August, okay? So I thought I was hallucinating when I saw this man, this beautiful, beautiful man, walking towards us. I hit Sasha over and over again on the shoulder trying to get the words out. Sweat ran down my back but I felt suddenly chilly, faint-headed. I rasped out, "It’s Perry. It’s Him" (I was on a first name basis with my obsession to my friends, so she knew what I was saying.) He came over to us like an angel, asking "Hey girls, what’s the story?" We quickly informed him of our hi jinks, the scamming of the security dudes, the fact that we were out of town when tickets went on sale. He talked to us for twenty minutes, at least, about bat-shit crazy stuff, as mentioned above. Eventually he told us that we should just walk in with him. We did so obligingly, and with two forties and a bottle of Mad Dog in our rainbow embroidered, hippie backpacks. The ones they sold ad nauseam at places, well, like Lollapalooza. We entered the gates. And he kissed us both on the cheek and said, (seriously) "Run free girls!" We did. We screamed as we ran up that big hill just as the Beastie Boys came on stage playing "Sabotage" and it is one of those indelible moments. The ones you die with. The ones that remind you that you lived. So the next day. Sasha had alcohol poisoning (we ran into some older boys we knew and spent the majority of the night after the concert at the Art Museum, lying on wet green grass, exhilarated with our caveat, craving some kind of closure to an unbelievable day. The kind that can only come from making out with future movie stars and Army vets on the pastoral green of the Art Museum hill.) We were both exhausted. I really wanted to go to Cup a Joe’s (Hillsborough) to see this guy that some music writer at the Independent would not stop going on and on about. I went with my older brother, the same one that gave me RDLH, and poor, sick Sasha. I will say that I never saw a band play at Cup a Joe’s before or since this show, but it happened. Before the show we saw this gorgeous man wandering around in a white T-shirt and well-worn jeans, bare foot (!) tapping on the various mics. My friend and I told my brother stories from our unbelievable night before, alternately laughing and groaning. We were in near hysterics when his band began to quietly play. And then he began to sing. He was five feet away from me, maybe less. And that’s when I heard Jeff Buckley sing the opening, haunting notes to "Mojo Pin". The world fell away from me. I could have touched him, I wanted to touch him, he was so close. Instead, I sat, mouth gaping, watching him, feral and musical in his body in a way that I had never seen, I could smell him. He smelled like sex and coffee and misery and Old Spice. He smelled like the future. "Born again from the rhythm/Screaming down from heaven." Talk about a church revival, I was a fucking believer. I bought my copy of Grace from him, personally, after the show. I have since owned at least three copies. When I think about this album I think of so many things, (obviously). But most of all, I remember hearing him sing the whole thing to me. Barefoot, beautiful, damaged and dangerous, the greatest boyfriend I never had and yet, that everyone had. An album you can make babies to, or live and die a thousand times a day as any teenager can, to. The Next Album That Mattered, and too much for me to ever contain here.

Tori Amos

Under the Pink
Shut up. I know it’s not cool but I don’t care. When I thought of high school albums this was one of the first to come to mind. I listened to this album every night for two years, listening and listening until Boys for Pele came out. I did American History homework to this album and wrote WAY too many journal entries to this album. I listened as I pined for Andy, a boy who lived in Ohio that I spent one crazy magical night at the beach with. Sara and I listened the night we found the Sheraton, having just deposited Laura off at the airport, unwilling to let summer end, green bean bag frogs on our heads as we accidentally on purpose got lost on the roads behind RDU. We hummed "Yes, Anastasia" as we grabbed salt and pepper shakers from room service trays left outside hotel room doors and took pictures of one another wandering down deep, hushed, carpeted hallways. We listened in the Ford Tempo, paying $.25 a mile for very mile that could not be attributed to school or work, the night we picked flowers form a median on forty for our mothers the night before Mother's Day. I listened the night my parents wanted to put me in a mental hospital but couldn’t agree which one. From the isolation and postcard imagery of "Pretty Good Year" to the razor-sharp, icily tongued "Waitress" to the overt and welcome celebration of female masturbation and religious ecstasy of "Icicle" ("getting off, getting off/ while they’re all downstairs/ singing prayers sing away/ he’s in my pumpkin p.j.’s/lay your book on my chest/ feel the word/ feel the word") this was an album meant for serious and angry women. The shoe was fitting. There I was. One more thing, there is a live recording of Tori in Raleigh, on the tour to support this album. She starts to play her cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Cobain having died just a few months before. I scream, recognizing that melody anywhere, even on piano, even as she plays it. There is a recording of that concert that got released as a bootleg, and it’s funny and weird to hear myself screaming for that song, in the hands of her, at that moment. I’m glad it was captured, I’m glad I can’t ever deny my love for this album, or that time in my life.

Grant Lee Buffalo
Fuzzy/Mighty Joe Moon
Slash, Slash/ Reprise
I know I’m cheating, but fuck you. I first saw GLB on a cable access channel here in Raleigh, on a show that played Music Videos that weren’t ever going to see MTV. "Mockingbirds" was the song, the video all black and white Wim Wenders imagery and the first lesson in the dark arts that we came to know as that most Southern of magics, nostalgia. I was at Sara’s house, and her little brother, affectionately referred to as Dog, was the one to hear/see the video first and point out how awesome it was. We immediately took on GLB as our "House Band", if you will, in that, in our friend group, all us loved them unequivocally and no one "owned" them more than anyone else (except Dog, of course, whom we never gave credit to until now, I suppose). GLB was the sound of our crumbling innocence, the sound of the South under Reconstruction, filled with dread and hope and adolescent confusion and lust. Procuring pictures of hopeless convicts, log cabins filled with desire so great the building threatened to collapse, tattoos and handy-cams and birds on a wire, it shook all of us. The sound of buying books from Reader’s Corner at midnight off the donation shelves, of ordering delivery waffle fries and roast beef subs from Sub Conscious so I could flirt with the cute (thirty-something) delivery guy. It was the essence of adolescence, with a better vocabulary. I still get drunk and listen to these albums, and often cry for all that went wrong, for all that songs like "Stars and Stripes" made us want, for the beauty and despair in "Mockingbirds", the strange folksy beauty of "The Last days of Tecumseh". It’s like licking a sore place on the inside of your lip, painful and private and glorious in that in the end its yours alone.

Wu-Tang Clan

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Melanie’s white Tempo (I rode in a lot of these in the early to mid nineties). Wu-Tang on the stereo, skipping school to get Mountain Dew freezes at the Wolf Mart. Rescuing turtles at the man-made lake by Enloe, scamming the security guards (another theme?) with Krispy Kreme doughnuts or stories about going to Planned Parenthood (seriously going to Hell). Being in awe of her and Sasha going to the (very rough) show at the Ritz, being as they were ninety pound white girls in a crowd of serious hip hop guys and holding their own. "M-E-T-H-O-D Man" ("Hey! You! Get off my cloud/you don’t know me and you don’t know my style") "C.R.E.A.M.", "Protect Ya Neck", "Tearz", "Can It Be All So Simple", "Bring Da Ruckus", smoking cigarettes, saving our souls, having serious fun and exploring the best that hip-hop had to offer. This is the cruising album, the drunken cigars at Luke’s house, the angry and tearful from break-ups but mostly the celebratory I’m feeling like a bad-ass album from high school, and it still holds up.

Leonard Cohen/ Nick Drake/ Morphine
The Best Of/ Five Leaves Left/ Good
When I was 17 I traveled by train with Sara up to Rochester, New York, so that she could see her New York friends and also so she could fall in love with a boy, Michael, who now is soon to be her brother-in-law. (She married Dave and then she introduced Michael to Dave’s sister and now Michael and Jess are engaged and the world grows smaller and I start to lose my mind). This makes small town Raleigh look like The Big City.
Anyway, Michael is like another big brother to me, one that turned me on to Television, the Magnetic Fields, Mathew Sweet, Luna, Richard Hell, XTC, and countless others. But then there are the albums of that summer, the magical summer in Rochester when Mike’s parents were gone, it seems, the entire time, though I definitely ate Chicken Vermouth with them at least once. The summer Mike turned 22, with a beer ball (basically a pony keg in a weird plastic ball-like sleeve) and us girls from N.C. there to visit him and fall in love (Sara) and fall in like eternally (me). More than anything I remember listening to records with Mike, on his bed with the blue bedspread while dusk fell on Northern New York in late summer and the fireflies collected at the end of the street. It was all so beautiful we thought it would last forever and also knew it could vanish immediately. Ashing cigarettes into a Pepsi can, while night took over day, waiting for cover so we could lay on the 18th hole at the country club down the street and drink warm Budweiser in a can on the wet green grass and dream of the next day, of something better than that moment, knowing it didn’t exist. I’ll admit that for the first six days I was there I was in love with him. How could I not be? He was and still is one of the most beautiful men I know, dark and angular and all hip bones and long leg strides. Not to mention, he had the most amazing taste in music of any person I had ever met. I was used to being the go-to, queen bee of music in my friend circle, then I met Mike, and I have been trying to catch up ever since. I mean, look at this entry alone, and I found all this in one summer, sitting on a single bed in a barely man’s bedroom in Rochester, New York, believing that the fairy tale couldn’t get any better. I’m glad I fell out of love with him and fell into terminal like, as it has been one of the greatest and most challenging relationships of my life. I inevitably fuck it up, but he forgives me, and I love him for it. The smoke filled rooms of Leonard Cohen’s lyrics invaded my brain like heroin, leaving me helpless and sad upon many beds and couches in my lifetime. If you know him you already know the power of hearing your first Leonard Cohen song. Not to mention, Neil Diamond covered "Suzanne", so that makes it a classic no matter what. (more on that soon). When I hear this album I am lost amid the green wax candles dripping and the fact that you can hear rubber bands boinging in the background to "Master Song" (I know it’s not on this album but come one), the realization that Jenny got Leonard Cohen better than all of us, and I hope she finds him soon. Nick Drake, however, remains mine and Michael’s, the one artist and sound that remains completely personal no matter that he’s been featured on a VW commerical. When I hear "River Man " it still makes me shake in my boots, if you will, still makes me remember discovering Rhino, discovering music from before me that was amazing and personal and relevant and not sold to the McCulture. I remember putting in Five Leaves Left in the CD player in the car on the way down to Florida on my last family vacation, at least ten years ago, my brother upset that I was taking out his Phish CD (how the mighty brohams do fall!) or some such horseshit, and then he and my mom completely wowed by the shear vulnearbility and beauty in Drake’s voice. And then I told them the story of how I came to love him and they fell quiet and we grew closer as the sun set in Georgia and I thought of Michael and Sara and our summer and how it couldn’t get any better. Do you choose Pop music? Or does it choose you? When I am sad and listening to Nick Drake and Cohen over and over I wonder but don’t care.
Morphine is the last band whose albums changed my life that summer. I still hear them everywhere, in the new Menomena album, on the angry sax of Sweep the Leg Johnny, literally on the soundtrack to Spank the Monkey. The heavy bass/sax combo combined with the detached, ironic story telling ability of Mark Sandman (how can you not love them?) all contributed to my never dying love for this band. Pre-White Stripes or Comets on Fire or any other band I dare you to think of, these guys were doing it stripped down and heavy and strikingly beautiful. I remember coming back from that summer and winning the respect of one of the many indie-rock kings of Enloe by my professed love of Morphine and he burned me all of the rest of their albums. Vincent Chung thank you, wherever you are, hopefully I’ll see you at the reunion this summer. To say the least they complete the triumvirate of bands that decided who I would be because they were truly good music, some of the first that would continue to color the palate of my life, for the rest of my life. That summer would not be complete without the picture, the sound of "Good" on Michael’s stereo as we debated about love, the nature of it, the inevitability of it while we were all, unaware of it, in the middle of it: living, dying, breathing, eating, sleeping music for the first time in our lives. Do you choose pop music? Or does it choose you? As Lloyd Dobler would say, I don’t care, it doesn’t matter, I’m just glad you’re here.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary is my Friend

I've been reading P.D. James' Children of Men, partly b/c I loved the movie, all dark and nightmarish and stunningly filmed, but I hated the ending, what with it's forced optimism and whatnot. I'm hoping the book will prove my theory that Hollywood execs mandated that the ending be changed to give the audience some semblance of redemption from two plus hours of prophetic visions and pedagogical life lessons. But the book is giving me a complex, as I am forced to look up a word, oh, every four pages or so. This hasn't happened to me since high school ( thank you Umberto Eco) and now I'm wondering if I've just been cruising for the last ten years and now I have a sudden obligatory stance when it comes to reading words I don't know or is this book actually that cerebral. It's P.D. James for god's sake, not Pynchon or McCarthy or a dozen other writers I can think of who are known language snobs. It's frustrating in that it is interrupting my natural flow as a reader but I also feel Really. Fucking. Dumb. So I thought I would share with you a list of words I've encountered in the first thirty pages and see whether I am alone in this or not.



Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Obituaries, and the people who love them

One of my favorite scenes ever written is in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when Tom and Huck go to their own funeral. We've all done it, imagined ourselves dead, imagined our funerals. There is something comforting and creepy about doing this. I'm reading a great book right now called The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson. I've always loved obituaries, celebrity tributes, etc. The montage of "those passed in the last year" at the Oscars is usually my favorite part. This book makes me glad that the good obit pages are available online b/c the local paper in Raleigh, The News and Observer, has a super crappy obit page. I think people like obituaries because the better ones read like this great mash up between prose and poetry. In the book there is this quote from Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate and great divider of the poetry crowd, that kicks my feet out from under me when I read it:
" In times of crisis it's interesting that people don't turn to the novel or say 'We should all go out to a movie', or, 'Ballet would help us'. It's always poetry. What we want to hear is a human voice speaking directly in our ear."
What a terrific first line of a poem, or opening line for an obit;
"Ballet cannot help you"
More than anything, I'm surprised that more people don't secretly want to write their own obit.
Check out the major London papers if you want to read snarky, funny obits. They are the most entertaining.