Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Of Tears, Trains, and the Spirit of the Radio

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

I went to bed in a cloud of melancholy. I woke up the same. I cried my way to work. (40 minutes is sometimes just the right amount of time to think. Sometimes it is way too much time.) I usually am really good at compartmentalizing, but today I did a terrible job. I ended up crying in the grassy area behind my building, choking sobs back, rubbing at my eyes with my sleeve, pacing, giving myself the pull-it-together talk. I am really good at pulling it together; I was not able to do so this morning.

I somehow made it through the day. I sat in an hour and a half of traffic. I called two friends and two cousins. I left messages for them. I thought of people I desperately wished I could talk to about everything. I didn’t call them. Part of me thought I should. I called my Mama instead. She picked up, just like always.

I came home and I ran 2+ miles. It was my fastest pace in a long time. I must be running from something. It is like a soothing drug. Squats and crunches and planks are not soothing, but I did those too, because I don’t know what else to do with myself.

It was my turn to do kid duty. I took T. and her friend, M., to eat. It was about 8 pm. They were excited to tell me about their day. They gushed about Cars 3, which evidently has a female protagonist. I guess I will have to see it now, despite the fact that I wanted to shoot myself over all the Lightning McQueen stuff R. loved as a little boy. I miss that age now. I miss Mater, that old goofball.

The girls talked about how to pick a college. (My take was go in state, try to get some scholarships, and avoid loans, if possible, but mostly to just learn everything they can now, and make the best grades they can, and seek out the things that interest them. That would give them options, and the rest would fall into place, and that not everyone decides to college and that is okay too, but it is important to give yourself the option.)

Then we talked about financial security, and about how money isn’t about new shoes or how big your house is. It’s about freedom. Money sometimes = freedom. I also had this talk with my first love’s mother, right after we broke up, in maybe 1993. She liked me, I guess. She invited me to lunch. She gave me Gloria Steinem’s “Revolution From Within.” I may have frightened the girls when I told them that being financially stable was important for women, so that they never had to stay with an *abusive man. That they could always take care of themselves. Sorry, Megan and Andy – #notaprofessionalguidancecounselor

I talked to the waiter about his breakup with his boyfriend. He is maybe 21? I told him he’d live, but it might hurt like hell and feel like death.

We paid the check and walked out into the near-dark. It was cool for June, and we sat and listened to the quiet on main street for a minute. Tiller ran around and up and down the ramp and stairs with her arms out like an airplane. She laughed as she ran. She snorts when she laughs.

The train track signal lights started flashing and the crossing bars went down. The girls yelled, “Train!” and we walked to our car, next to the tracks. I gave both a leg up onto the hood of the car, and they sat on top under the quarter moon and we waited for the engine. It parked and we sat. (I stood. I am too old to jump onto a hood and not fall immediately back off and the whole patio of the restaurant was watching; I only made one attempt. I am going to practice that, though.)

And then it started. Just a single engine, alone, pulling no cars behind it. The girls waved. The driver waved back, not 15 feet away. He blew the whistle. Twice. We all clapped and cheered. The crossing opened back up and the bells went off. We got back in the car, now in the dark. We rolled the windows down.

Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio” was on. I’m not a big Rush fan, but I talked to them about Neal Peart and we rolled the windows down and opened the sunroof and they both put their faces out the windows as I turned onto the main road, as we drove past each streetlight, in and out of alternating darkness and light.

And somehow, at that moment, I realized the day had turned out alright. We would be alright.

* Hypothetical. My husband is not, nor has he ever been, abusive. He is the person I respect most in the world.

Of Tears, Trains, and the Spirit of the Radio

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Pop Music: I Get It. Everyone Needs a Big Mac Once in a While

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Radio, video
Boogie with a suitcase
Your livin’ in a disco
Forget about the rat race
Let’s do the milkshake, sellin’ like a hotcake
Try some buy some fee-fi-fo-fum
Talk about, pop musik
Talk about, pop musik
– M

(Oh, yes. Yep. I sure did.)

I read this article, Hit Charade, in The Atlantic this morning. (Oddly, it was written last year – not sure why it popped up today, or where I saw it.) It’s a fascinating and disturbing discussion of the songwriters behind huge pop hits. Interestingly, the majority of this crap is created, via a fairly precise money-making formulaic process, by a handful of men (who are primarily middle-aged, white, and Scandinavian.) Finally, an article that kind of sums up why my eyes involuntarily roll when I have to hear this shit.

As producer Louis Pearlman put it:

. . . the Backstreet Boys went from playing in front of Shamu’s tank at SeaWorld to selling out world tours. Millennium, released in 1999, is one of the best-selling albums in American history. Pearlman then decided to start an identical boy band, performing songs by the same songwriters. “My feeling was, where there’s McDonald’s, there’s Burger King.”

That’s it! It’s fast food. It’s not good for you. They’re feeding you Big Macs.

No one can live on Big Macs.


I have a group of neighbors (and beloved friends) that I hang out with a lot. We joke about our differing tastes in music pretty often. I am the self-proclaimed music snob. They will play a song, or the radio will be on in their car, or they’ll be discussing pop music or the Billboard awards show? (I don’t know, I muted that conversation, ladies) or mention a song (or sometimes an artist) and I will say that I don’t know that song or artist. Years ago, they were in complete disbelief that I might not know a Beyonce or Drake or Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift song, or whatever, but I think they actually get that I REALLY DO NOT KNOW THAT SONG. NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE. I REALLY DO NOT LISTEN TO THE RADIO. (Okay, occasionally NPR or 97.1 THE RIVER, but I’m not talking classic rock here.) Now, to be fair, we can usually find some middle ground in classic rock or some eighties stuff. And also, so as not to be painting them all with the same brush, some also like stuff that I consider good. (You know who you are. Get over it. I am not painting you with my sweeping brush.)

This is not at all limited to that group, either. My own children like this pop crap. Nicky Minaj, and Selena Gomez, and other “artists” that all sound the same to me. We have a rule in our car that the driver gets to pick the music. I took my son and his friend to a baseball game one time and played my music in the car and they proceeded to toss me such insults as, “Pop music rules” and “Rock and roll sucks.” (My heart broke. The saving grace is that he actually has come around on that, and while he still listens to crap, he also has a nice appreciation for the harder stuff.)

Sometimes I think, “Well, I guess this means I’m really old now.” Other times I think, “Was this how mom and dad felt when I bought that “Like a Virgin” 45, or when I turned over the Some Great Reward cassette again and again for hours on end? There is no doubt in my mind what they were thinking when they saw this album come in the house.
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I still remember. Dad did what Lisa and I refer to as “Cat Face.” It’s akin to Grumpy Cat; Cecil was the original grumpy cat. Cat Face was derived from Cecil getting the look my cat, Scully, had while riding in the car.


Super-tangential side note: I picked this album cover for its’ memorable parental shock value. Shocking at the time, but later, even more ridiculously fun teenage shock value moments of memory include the following:

  • My dad’s disgust over a Lubricated Goat CD lying in my car
  • A particularly heated discussion over dinner about whether Jesus might have masturbated, somehow precipitated by my recounting tidbits of a My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult show I had seen at Masquerade the night before.

I also used that album because it is one of those albums that I remember studying over and over, sitting in my room, looking at all the pictures while listening. It’s right up there with being a really little kid in our Alpharetta playroom, looking at the people on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s, or a few years after that, sitting in a den in our NY house, playing Rumours, and looking at the cover, wishing I had an outfit like Stevie’s, and wondering what the deal was with Mick’s weird dangling balls belt thingie. [/end tangent]


By the end of The Song Machine, readers will have command of such terms of art as melodic math, comping, career record, and track-and-hook . . . One term remains evasive, however: artist. In the music industry, the performers are called artists, while the people who write the songs remain largely anonymous outside the pages of trade publications. But can a performer be said to have any artistry if, as in the case of Rihanna, her label convenes week-long “writer camps,” attended by dozens of producers and writers (but not necessarily Rihanna), to manufacture her next hit? Where is the artistry when a producer digitally stitches together a vocal track, syllable by syllable, from dozens of takes? Or modifies a bar and calls it a new song?

The reason I can’t get into radio pop shit, but which i’ve never been able to put into words, is this: Where is the artistry? (Not lost on anyone is that the magical outpouring of Prince grief from every corner of the universe was due to his artistry, right?) This article, with its discussion of templates, and magic, proven formulas, and hooks, and emulation. . . gah. It almost made my head explode.

I fully admit that this is a rambling, quickly-penned-in-20-minutes-mess-of-a-post, devoid of it’s own artistry, but this article really struck a chord with me, based on a few recent discussions about my (supposed!) music snobbery. After reading this article, though, I think I am going to stop calling myself a music snob and just start saying that I like music that doesn’t come from a template cranked out by a machine. It seems I’m into Artistry. (Watch out, y’all. I’m now totally highbrow and fancy and stuff. Also, I like lyrics with ideas. Real ideas. And poetry. And imagery is nice, too.)


Small disclaimer:

  1. Some of this pop crap IS on my running list. Particularly, I’m thinking about that Kelley Clarkson song that is mentioned in the article as a Yeah Yeah Yeahs ripoff. But running is different – I like that dissociative feel of the repetition of a beat and the rhythmic pattern of my feet pounding the pavement.
  2. I am not really judging people who listen to the radio stuff. We like what we like. I just don’t feel like there is much about pop music that feeds my soul. But I get it: Everyone needs to eat a Big Mac every once in a while. They taste good, even if it’s not worth it, because you end up in and out of the office bathroom the rest of the afternoon.
  3. There are songs that my kids latch on to, radio songs that make me cringe, but that they cannot help but love. And I get it, those songs are like candies, little gum drops fed right into their sweet little cherub mouths. And so, let it be stated, I am not above a dance party with R. to Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”; I may have gotten down with the girl to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” And yes, she adored that GODAWFUL ABERRATION of a song by Florida Georgia Line song, “Cruise.” It has been played in my car with the windows down, and damn it, yes, I sang along. Because when your 8 year old wants you to sing it with her, damn it, you sing.
  4. I really like Ryan Adams. Like, I love him with pink and red hearts that cry and expand and fly into the air and stuff. I will not apologize.

The real point of this post? Gratitude. I’m glad there are people out there still making the authentic, true, whimsical, beautiful, and terrible sounds of the individual and the experimental collectives of people coming together and creating original things of amazement and shock, even if it means that I have to make some effort to find them. And I’m thankful that I still feel compelled to seek them out. Just put a bullet in my head when I don’t want to find them any more. I’d rather be dead than live on Big Macs.

Check Ignition & May God’s Love Be With You

Monday, January 11th, 2016

I just posted this three days ago on my Instagram for Bowie’s birthday.

Bowie

David Bowie, by Panhandle Slim

I’ve written about or referenced Bowie a number of times here on the blog. I wrote this about the song containing the lyrics above. (And then Todd had Panhandle Slim make this for me. Other Panhandle Slim images here – Have fun in the Rabbit Hole.) He surprised me with it on Christmas a few years ago and I cried.) There was that one time time I got drunk and made a roomful of people I don’t know very well listen to the the song twice at 4 am, because I love it so much. That one time I went down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos of Arcade Fire doing covers with various people, including David Bowie.

I loved him.

I crossposted a few of these words on Facebook when I first found out Bowie died this morning, but I think of my blog as a journal of sorts. When I read journals, I love it when I come across people’s thoughts on historical figures, politics of their time, or cultural phenomena. If someone reads my words one day a hundred years from now, I want them to know I thought David Bowie was groundbreaking and legendary and he often blew my mind.

Words won’t do justice to David Bowie’s greatness. He was a radical, an original, a true iconoclast.

Addendum: It is not recommended Bowie fans listen to “Space Oddity” this morning. They just played it on Kexp.org, and it made me sob. Beautiful and eerie lyrics on the morning of the death of the man who sang them. Heartbreaking and gorgeous.

Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.

And So We’re Told This is the Golden Age

Friday, January 1st, 2016

I often have grand ideas about end of year posts, New Year’s posts, the marking of the passage of time, and what it all means. This isn’t one of those posts.

I stayed up until 3 am with friends. I slept late in a bed fit for a queen. I awakened to coffee and bacon, and no hangover. I visited my sister and drank a cup of coffee with our families and dogs. I talked and laughed at a bar and drank a pitcher of beer with my best friend (spoiler: also my sister) while waiting on takeout barbecue, black-eyed peas, and collard greens. It was okay that this year I didn’t make them myself. I met my first stranger of the year, a sculptor named Nate who goes by Hugh, and I hit the jackpot and brought home a brown paper sack full of beer bottle caps for my son’s bottle cap collection.

I stuffed myself on beer, bbq, prosperity, and good luck while watching a movie with most of my favorite people. I am terrible about seeing movies in the theater. I always find other things to do, or to spend my money on. Even when they are on Netflix, it takes a while to get around to seeing them. So, for instance, I saw Grand Budapest Hotel in the theater, but had not gotten around to watching Moonrise Kingdom. Honestly, Lisa, Todd, and I were going to watch Love and Mercy (I was going to invite Kristin to come over and bring Danny Noonan the puppy!), but the sound was messed up, so we settled for Moonrise Kingdom.

Two things: First of all, I love Wes Anderson movies, but I find them completely overwhelming from a sensory and nostalgia standpoint. I find myself constantly distracted by thoughts like “I really need to wear more mustard and khaki,” or “I miss smoking,” or “Holy crap! My parents had that ashtray with the plaid beanbag bottom!” or “That’s totally what Tang packaging looked like when I was a kid!” or “If I were pregnant right now? My kid would totally be getting a Moonrise Kingdom-themed nursery!” Then I have to reign myself back in to even pay attention to what is going on.

Secondly, I had to watch it, because a few folks told us that our son was like Sam in Moonrise Kingdom. We spend a time or two a year yurting with friends. In the fall, we go to Fort Yargo (in Winder, near Athens) and spend a weekend on a peninsula. We have our own canoes. And now that the kids are all older, we slap lifejackets on them, send them off in the canoes, and pour a drink on dry land. This past October, our kids exercised their freedom in the natural world. And my son was a lone trailblazer. He would wake up and before I had finished my coffee, he was out in the canoe, shirtless at times, heading for the beach across the lake, all by himself. He wanted to be in that canoe by himself. He wanted to feel that quiet that you get in the middle of a lake by yourself, and to go somewhere that no one else is, and where none of your people can see you. We hear tell that he beached the canoe and swam by himself. I guess I am a terrible parent for letting my kid canoe out of my sight across an acre or more of lake, and for letting him swim unattended, but I think our kids never have enough time alone exploring nature, so I am willing to chance it. As he headed off numerous times that weekend (I think he may have done 3 or 4 trips out alone on the lake by himself each day), our friends commented that he was “like that kid in Moonrise Kingdom.” I knew enough of Anderson’s movies to know that might be a compliment, but it also meant, well, he’s kind of weird, but then the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. So, I was looking forward to finally seeing the movie to see a glimpse of what others were seeing in my son.

I saw it, too. His curiosity, independent streak, desire to explore, need to be and do things alone, and his innate craving to be in nature. I’m okay with the comparison.

After, Lisa and Dash went home, I decided to write while listening to my new records. Todd bought me a few albums: Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model; Squeeze’s 45’s and Under; U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky; Prince’s Prince; Simon And Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits; Joni Mitchell’s Hejira. (The Joni Mitchell album deserves a post all it’s own, but I’m working up to that one. Still thinking on it.)

I put on U2, because I’m obvious like that. Rollie sat down next to me with his Sherlock Holmes book, and he let me play with his hair. (He’s 12. I don’t get to play with his hair much longer, so I’m trying to take advantage of times like that.) We talked about U2, and we looked at the album cover, and I showed him photos of Red Rocks online.

I wrote some more while he read at my side. He asked if I would play “Cecilia” and I said “Yes, but we’re listening to the whole album.” His two favorite songs right now are Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” It is not lost on me that this is fucking awesome. I told him how much my mom loves Simon and Garfunkel, and how much I love them, and how we would listen to Simon and Garfunkel on 8-track, and when “The Boxer” came on, I told him that one made me cry, and he said “why?” and I told him to just listen to the album, and one day it would make him cry, too. I didn’t tell him that it is a sad song on its own, and it reminds me of mom, and makes me feel like a little girl, or about my friend telling me that his father loved the song and one of his kids played it for him on his deathbed, but I thought it all, because I think it’s beautiful in the way that only a classic song can be as it infiltrates our memory and thought and intersects with bits of our lives like a puzzle piece.

Todd has since asked if he can watch Black Mirror, so the music is off and the tv is on. The cat is snuggling up next to me on a blanket and the dog is asleep in the chair next to me, and we’ve cleaned up spilled prosecco by turning over the wet cushion to the ugly ripped side.

All of that is pretty much what life is like in general. We turn over the cushion to the more comfortable side. The less wet and dirty side. It still might be a little torn up. We have to choose which side is better.

This was me last New Year’s Day, early on the beach at Cape San Blas.
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And here is me last night, laughing and giving the finger to 2015. (Okay, I’m actually giving the finger to my friend Jason’s parents while I sit on the toilet, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

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I know nothing of what this year meant. It may mean nothing. Things I know: I know that whatever I think is normal will change. I know that whatever happens, I will be okay. Whatever happens is what is supposed to happen. I know I need to think less about it all, and that I need to put one foot in front of the other and try to enjoy the small, beautiful moments.

I thought that this wasn’t one of those posts, a post about the year past and the year to come, and what it might all mean. But then again, maybe it is one of those posts.

Top Five Christmas Songs. Maybe.

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

I have had multiple conversations the last few days about favorite Christmas songs. I generally am not a fan of Christmas music. I think it would be okay if we stuck to a week or so of holiday music, but the fact that we start having it shoved down our throat in public at Thanksgiving just ruins it. It makes me crazy.

And no Christmas song makes me see red more than Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” is a very close second. I have a moment every. single. year. when I get “The Little Drummer Boy” stuck in my head all day, and that is usually the point that I’m officially ready for January 1st. I would say January 2nd, just to miss the hangover, but then I’d miss the beans and greens and God knows I will not tempt the fates in such a manner. (And yes, I admit that the Bowie/Crosby version is good, but in general, anything with that many Pa Rum Pum Pum Pums is automatically on the naughty list.)

 

That being said, I do like some Christmas music. I am okay with traditional versions of many songs, and even have sweet memories of singing “Silent Night” at candlelight church service growing up, elbowing my sister and cousins to sit as far away from my dad as possible. (Let’s just say that my, ahem, melodious voice is genetic.) Truly, though, I attribute most of my fondness for Silent Night to the fact that I was so damn excited to get home and go to bed and wake up to find out what Santa brought. The dark and the singing and candles were all just part of that magical eve experience.

I concede to Scott Shankman that anything Sinatra for Christmas is okay. Anything Mannheim Steamroller is most definitely not.

I will admit that seeing Patti Smith doing “Oh Holy Night” just this morning was pretty great. (Thanks, Annie, I hadn’t seen that one.)

But which ones do I like? Well, yes, I’ve given it a good amount of thought, and I came up with a top five of sorts. Everyone I know who likes the same kind of music I like tends to pick The Pogue’s “Fairytale of New York” as a favorite. (One even used part of the lyrics in his Christmas Eve proposal to his wife – a very cool story that I had not heard before, and which I admit made me get a little weepy – way to go, Doug.)

And yes, it is in my top five. Depending on my mood, it might be number one. So, when a number of my friends posted the song on Facebook today, I commented that it was in my top five. One friend (The Negative Split) questioned what could possibly top it?

It turns out that the best Christmas songs for me are secular in nature, are not that common (in that you are not as likely to hear them continuously in Target), and they either have a sense of humor (a la The Pogues) or they are wistful, sad, or melancholy. This is not surprising, as I value those qualities in much of my music year round.

So, without further ado, Nat, here is my top five, in no particular order:

No need to explain this one. It’s fucking brilliant. Absolutely funny, witty, fucking brilliance.

Elvis Presley: “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is probably the most traditional on my list. I love Elvis, grew up listening to him with my Mom, and it keys into my homesick, yearning for childhood magic kind of feelings. As an adult, you know you can never go back again. Half the people you’d go home to are not even alive anymore, and the homeplace is gone. It makes me sad as hell, but with a silver lining; Let’s be honest. Elvis is hot. It’s hard to stay too sad when you think about smokin’ hot Elvis Presley.

The Pretenders: “2000 Miles”

I’m a Pretenders lover anyway (high five to John Sabol for helping me kill hours in homeroom talking about them in high school.) And this song has Chrissie’s beautiful voice, a gorgeous melody, and it seems to vacillate between melancholy beauty and an almost accepting happiness over the Christmas season. Completely in my wheelhouse. It is just gorgeous.

 

Low: “Just Like Christmas”

This song. It’s beautiful. Melodic. Not really about Christmas at all. And yet, all about the feeling of Christmas. I love it. I want to be in Oslo.

 

Joni Mitchell: “River”

So NOT a Christmas song. But probably my favorite. All of Blue kills me. This song kills me. And to me, it’s about Christmas, and longing, and it is probably my favorite.

Update: I am terrible at this. I totally forgot about this one:

So, top six. Maybe bump the Low song. Or maybe Elvis. GAH.

Update #2: I should not write while in the wine. I forgot to ask – What did I get wrong?

A Sloan Kind of Morning

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

SloanI’ve been listening to so much sad and melancholy music this year, but I think I’m pulling out of it. Not that I will ever stop, because I love the sad and melancholy beauties more than any of the others, but I hear variety is also supposed to be good.

A few things have been a catalyst for this . . .  (more…)

Girl in a Band: A Memoir

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band: A Memoir came out last week, and I snatched it up as my next read. Actually, Gordon read it to me. I debated buying the hardcover or the audiobook. I chose the Audible version, because a) I can listen in the car and office and b) Kim Gordon talking to me. No-brainer, really.

I liked listening to her voice. I’ve heard her talk before, but when I think of Kim Gordon’s voice, I think of her voice on stage:

I just want to know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?

Or her playful voice joking around with J. Mascis in the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke. Instead, I am immediately struck by the quiet, introspective, sweet voice reading her own story.

Gordon opens her memoir by telling the story of the last show Sonic Youth played. It’s intense. You feel the tension and pain she experiences during the momentous show. It is a compelling moment, and her vulnerability comes through immediately. I expected bombast or effortless cool (and we do get effortless cool later in the book), but what you get right out of the gate is a sad, overwhelmed, angry, heartbroken girl. A number of reviews of Girl in a Band mention that her discussion of her divorce with fellow Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore and her feelings about the affair that caused it seem petty or small. I didn’t feel that way. I felt she told her story and that was a small, but important, part of it.

As she delves into her childhood, I am repeatedly surprised by her shyness and sensitivity. I’m also surprised by her intelligence. I think of her as cool, yes, but I never took her as being super cerebral. I also didn’t realize until reading her story that she is very much an artist first and a musician second. Sonic Youth was just a side project to Gordon’s life as an artist.

I won’t spoil the book by revealing all the interesting little tidbits, but I loved hearing where she was born, where she grew up, the music she listened to as a kid, and the people and things that influenced her. I find her relationship with her brother and its influence on her fascinating. She discusses fashion, music, and art in a smart, accessible way. She met or worked with a number of interesting and influential musicians, artists, designers, and writers over the years, and I love hearing those stories, particularly mentions of meetings or friendships with bands and authors whom I admire. At times, it feels a bit like reading UsWeekly for cool people. (“They’re just like us!”)

Honestly, though, the book is lacking in some ways. I came away slightly dissatisfied, as if she’s not quite telling the whole story. She is definitely a person with a very private side. That shines through in the book, and what she omits feels almost as if it is it’s own character in the story. Maybe that is due to writing in the ruins of her marriage; Perhaps with some distance, the book would not feel quite so overshadowed by her heartbreak.

All of that being said, I loved her story. It meets me at the perfect intersection of my life: I’m going through some depression, a bit of an identity crisis, and a disillusionment with middle age and all that comes with it. Who am I? Is my life what I thought it would be 15 or 20 years ago? Am I living the American Dream? Why do I feel so lost, frustrated, and bored?

In other words, If Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have fallen apart, what hope is left for the rest of us.

Here is a female rock icon, one whom I love, admire, and put on a pedestal as one of the coolest of The Cool Girls, and yet the voice speaking to me is sad. Vulnerable. Sensitive. Disillusioned. Resigned. She writes her story down and tells it to the world. This venerable Indie Rock Goddess is a hell of a lot like me.

I think what I love most about this book is not all the punk rock insider information and not what it’s like to be a Girl in a Band. No, what I love is hearing Kim Gordon tell me what it’s like to be a girl. It’s validating to hear she experiences the same struggles: Self-doubt. Sensitivity. Being informed by place of origin. Finding outlets for emotion. Figuring out who she is in her teens and 20s. Family dynamics. The ups and downs of marriage and friendship. Job stresses. The I-Just-Got-Hit-By-The-Mack-Truck-That-Is-Motherhood experience. Family scheduling. Deciding where to settle one’s family. Guilt. Being let down by the ones we love. Heartbreak. Parental pride. Aging parents. Mental illness. Figuring out that everything is not black and white, and that there is a whole lot of gray, and we have to figure out how to survive there, and how to pick up the pieces when things change or if we lose everything and have to start over again.

The real reason I love this book? Moving forward, I can always think to myself, “Even 62-year-old Kim Gordon of Sonic fucking Youth struggles with this shit.”

Recommended for: Gordon Lovers, Sonic Youth fans, Music Junkies, Biography-Readers, Artists, Life-Examiners, Searchers.

This is 41

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

A week ago yesterday, I turned 41. It was a Tuesday. Why does it seem like birthdays always fall on Tuesdays? It fell on Tuesday. I got up at 6 am at my mom’s house, put on my Dad’s underwear*, and went to work. My own mother forgot to wish me happy birthday before I left. (No hard feelings. I don’t remember that stuff either.)

I worked all day. Got home at 5pm or so. Started my period. (HAPPY-BIRTHDAY-TO-YOU-HAVE-CRAMPS-AND-BLOOD-AND-WANT-TO-EAT-YOUR-YOUNG-AND-CHOCOLATE-ITS-AWESOME.) Turned back around and got back in the car to go to the Japanese steakhouse, because that’s what you do when you are middle-aged and it’s your birthday. I’m not saying that it didn’t taste good, but sometimes after a long day at work, you are tired and you just want to have your cramps and wine in peace without someone throwing shrimp at you or singeing your eyebrows.

It was actually really nice, and my husband gave me a lovely necklace and my kids were good. (Okay, one was kind of a jackass, but he at least contained it until the end.) So, we came home, and the kids went to bed, and then Toddler and i decided we should watch “This is 40.” I totally didn’t get what people liked about this movie. Other than Paul Rudd is cute. That wife’s voice makes me want to jump off an overpass after about ten minutes. It didn’t really matter, because I ended my birthday by promptly falling snoringly dead asleep in the middle of the movie. Todd woke me, i wiped off the drool, thought “Huh. So this is what 41 feels like,” and went upstairs to fall asleep in my own bed in order to be able to start all over again at 6 am the next day.

So, I woke up and kind of felt. . . a letdown. I felt old. There’s a lot more to it than suddenly turning 41 and feeling old – aging parents, bad stuff happening, marriages around me on rocky ground, a general feeling of being tired all the time, change, change, and more change, and not having DONE anything with my life – more than I can recount here. But i woke up feeling old.
(Happiest wake up feeling old song ever.)

So, I finished out my week, with this . . . oldness. . . hanging over my head. I wanted my sister to have drinks with me on Saturday. She didn’t feel like it. God, I’m so old, i can’t even get anyone to go have a drink with me on a Saturday night. So, she says, “You and Todd should go.” And todd heard her, and suddenly, he is hellbent on going to see Camper Van Beethoven that night. And i was like, okay, i guess I’ll go. And my husband, when he decides he wants something, he is damn well gonna go after it. So, he managed to procure one precious ticket, which he just about wrested from the jaws of a giant EAV possum, and we went to the Earl, thinking, well, at least you have a ticket, and if I don’t get one, you can just take a cab home. But for some reason, i got out, and I sat at the bar, and i thought it would be a good idea to hang out there while he went to the show. So, i sat there, and I only had a couple of drinks, and I talked to some guy who knew about ten people that I know, and I talked to a few folks I hadn’t seen in a long while (we used to live in the n’hood, you will remember), and then I talked to some young people from out of town on a road trip who had just been to the Clermont for the first time. One of them thought i was a Crip. This was the funniest thing i ever heard. I actually think he might have been serious. And then the show was over (never did get a ticket) and then suddenly, i was heading off to the house of a friend of my friend Terri, and then we were drinking beer in a basement and listening to records. We were all of an age, and we listened to Beastie Boys and The Pixies, and the Meat Puppets, and I had to listen to this TV on the Radio song:

No idea why i love that song so much, but it always makes me feel good to listen to it. And one of the guys there, whom I didn’t know, told me as he was leaving that he thought i was “a rocker” and maybe he was making fun of me, but I took it as a compliment.

And then there were four of us, and I’m pretty sure that Terri and Todd were completely ready to go, but me and the vinyl guy were geeking out on Bowie, and we listened to my favorite Bowie song twice in a row:

And I got home at 4 am. And then it took me like two days to recover, but it was totally worth it. I didn’t really feel old anymore. I felt tired, but not old.

So, I already had plans to go see Ty Segall with my sister on Tuesday. I have turned into a person that listens to music all day long, at home or work or in the car, but who never has the time or energy or money or babysitters to go see music live anymore. I had mentioned in passing that I loved him and wanted to see him live, and that we should go, and then she kind of twisted my arm. I don’t usually go out and see bands on school nights. It’s just too painful to stay up til 1 am, and then get up at 6 am and then . . . think . . . for a paycheck. (It’s really the getting up that’s hard – not so much the thinking.)

So, there I was, downing coffee at 8 pm on a Tuesday night, one week after my 41st birthday, in hopes of being able to stay up until 10 or 11, or whatever time these young whippersnappers go on stage these days. And then we got there, and . . . wow. It’s been a long time since i’d been to see a “current” band. I usually go see bands, and there are some young people there, but it’s mostly people in their 30s and 40s. Let’s just say that I almost cried at how good the people watching was. You know when we were 20? I am pretty sure we were stupid. We looked stupid, we acted stupid, we acted cool, we thought we were hot shit. We were not. We were stupid.

I was amazed at how they all looked so much like people i knew. People I knew in 1991. You know. When they guy I was going to see play was about five. There were people wearing shirts for bands whose albums were released before they were born. There was a guy wearing silver sequined pants. The only things different were that you couldn’t smoke inside the establishment (Terminal West, by the way, which is a GREAT venue – i thought it was nice and the sound was great, and it was a really good size. Kind of 40-Watt-sized, actually.) and that they had craft beer. In cans. Tons of craft beers in cans. And when you’re 41, it ain’t that easy to pick out what beer to order when you can’t see the cans across the bar. Also, no bottles? In my day, you drank out of bottles and chanced the glass breakage! Oh. And in my day, we just watched the damn band. I wanted to shove everyone’s iPhones down their throats, what with all the video and camera flashes. Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone. But it stayed in my pocket.

No, seriously. All I could think was Everyone. Was. So. Young.

Then I ran into this guy, and i was like, oh, awesome, you are old too, and he was like, “you’re never too old for rock and roll!” and i loved him. Also, he was like ten years older than me. And he was right. Because as soon as the music started, I was super happy, and it was loud, and it could have been 2013 or 1993 or 1963. I wasn’t tired any longer, and people were stage diving and it was so fun to watch, even though they just seemed a little . . . weak. I mean, it just seemed very safe compared to ye olden days. It bordered on polite. Someone through a beer at a guy in the band and Ty was like, “Please don’t throw things at us; we aren’t a punk band.” And he was so polite. Mom me took over a little, because i really don’t want my babies being thrown around over concrete floors, and these kids, the ones around me, who were born when I was like 20? They have moms too, and I might have gone to college with them. But then I decided that hey, my sister was there, and she’s a nurse, so we were all fine.

It was something like this, but a lot less people.

And then I let go and i rocked out. I did that awesome thing where you watch live music and you just get lost, and sometimes it’s so loud that it almost affects your vision for a few seconds. I had forgotten that if you hold an empty beer can to your chest while the music is loud that the drum and bass will make it vibrate in your hand. And I smiled. I couldn’t wipe that damn smile off my face if I had tried.

And after a while, it ended. And I was sad. But also happy.

And I did not feel old. I remembered what it was like to leave a show all sweaty and feel the cool air outside, and feel complete and total release. I remembered that I can sleep when I’m dead. Or at least the next night. I felt like I should go see more bands I love. I felt like maybe I should learn to play guitar. I felt inspired to write again, because I’m happier when I write.

When you grow up, your heart doesn’t die. It just gets really tired.

And then I was thinking tonight, I am old. I am tired. But I should write. Because I did fall asleep on the couch on my birthday. And I did rock out last night. And Saturday night. And I don’t get enough sleep. But I need to seek out the things that make me happy. I need to love them and nurture them, even if I feel too tired. You know. To keep my heart from dying.

And so that I will remember, when I’m 60, that this is what it is like to be me now. That this is my 41.

*Follow me on Twitter, and I make more sense.

My Memories as Fairy Tale, or Once Upon A Time I May Have Touched Curt Cobain

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

I was laid out on the couch today, with strep throat. Todd took the kids to R’s baseball game, and I was flipping through Netflix, trying to find something interesting. The good thing about being sick is that I can watch tv that I wouldn’t normally watch. Guilt free. Because i’m sick. I can watch four episodes of British teen dramas. (Skins. I can’t quit you.) Then, I can totally decide to switch over and watch music documentaries, which I used to watch all the time, but never seem to find time for these days. Because of the aforementioned guilt.

And yeah, the music is early 90s. Got all nostalgic after seeing facebook photos posted by college pal Jasonaut. Black and white photos, fresh faces, wrinkled, lived-in clothes that didn’t really fit, Athens porches. Beautiful photos that make me think of the past with wistfulness, even as I realize that photos don’t capture heartbreak, heat, humidity, night breezes, the smell of smoke, or the feel of old couches, or what it feels like to have so. much. time. to. think. About everything. To death.

So, there i was, laid out on the couch, watching a documentary about Nevermind, and the kids walk in from post-game pizza at Felini’s and Tiller is looking all cute, with a pony tail on her head, wearing mary janes, polka-dot leggings, a madras plaid patchwork skirt, and a shirt that can only be described as “riotous” (it had a zebra print, at least five colors, including hot pink, and sequins) – she is Belinda Carlisle on acid. And she walks in, puts her hand on hip, and says definitively, “This is my favorite song.”

It’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And i though to myself, “novice.”

And then I said, “Really? I didn’t know you liked this song.”

And she said, “Yes,” her hands out to me, palms up, making a point, and cocked her head to the right, nodding. “We listened to the Nirvana in the car with Daddy.” Weird. Synchronicity. Also, this is good, because it means he might have been actually listening to me when I was saying that it was sad the kids don’t hear full albums more often.

“Oh. Okay, well, would you like to watch a documentary about the album?” And I totally thought they would say no, while giving me that “fuck no, i want to play. Why would I want to watch this boring shit?” look, but instead, they both said, “Sure!” in unison, and curled up on the chairs, and there wasn’t even a fight about who would sit where.

And then they started asking questions:

Tiller: “Who’s that? Is he the dead one?”
Me: “Uh, did daddy tell you he died?
Tiller: “Yeah. How did he die?”
Rollie: “He got old, Tiller.”
Me: “Well, actually, no, it’s sad. He killed himself. Have you heard of that?”
In unison: “No.”
Oh. shit.
Me: “Well, he did. It was v. sad. Always remember that no matter how bad it might get, Mama and daddy are here, and you can always talk to us, and it’s never bad enough to kill yourself. It is a selfish, terrible, heartbreaking, sad thing.”
Rollie: “How did he do it?”
Me: “Uh, i don’t remember.” Total lie.
Tiller: “Why?” Uh, shit. Too early to discuss drugs and depression.
Me: “Sometimes people are in pain, physically, or they are so sad that it hurts, and they don’t know what else to do.” SHIT.
Rollie: “Was it a gun?” Shit.
Me: “I don’t know baby. Let’s watch. maybe they will tell us what happened.”

And then, my stomach kind of clenched, because they had Butch Vig talking about recording the song “Something in the Way,” which is just depressing-as-hell, a haunting song, and i was thinking, why am i letting them watch this? Crap!

Rollie: “This one is not so loud.” He says this, not with distaste, but with thoughtfulness.

Butch Vig talks about how he recorded it with Kurt Cobain laying on a couch in the room with the soundboard, and he was just lying on the couch, playing the guitar, and singing, and it was so quiet, and so moving. I was waiting for the kids to get bored and start fidgeting, but they are both staring at Butch Vig, talking about doubling up vocal tracks, like Lennon did, and i see R. jerk his head towards me, like, “Lennon! I know him!” but he turns back to the tv. And they just . . . listen.

Rollie whispers, eyes not leaving the screen: “I like that song.”
Tiller: “Me too.”

And then they start talking about Smells Like Teen Spirit and how they made the video, which, well, you know. You’ve seen it. And Tiller says, in a Barbara Walters-gonna-get-you-to-fess-up-voice: “Mom, were you there?” And I laugh and say no.

And then the documentary starts talking about Nirvana playing live. They show all sorts of footage that makes me smile: Cobain wearing a white coat, beating his head into his amp, and Novoselic throwing his bass in the air, and Cobain leaping into the drum set. I am smiling and I look over at my kids, and they are looking at me, like, “Why are you smiling? Aren’t they gonna get in trouble? Isn’t that bad?”

Tiller: “Why are they making that mess?
Me, smiling a HUGE, guilty grin: “For fun. For entertainment.”
R: “Are those people on stage dancing in the band?
I laugh. “No,” more laughter, “they are people in the crowd stage diving.”
R: “What’s that?”
Me, with a lot more laughter. “It’s stupid. People got so excited and they would jump on stage and dance with bands, and then they would jump into the crowd, and the crowd would catch them, usually, and then they might carry them around. And that’s “crowd surfing.”

Complete silence in the room, as they both sit watching this footage of . . . what i remember going to see bands like that was like. And i realized that they are watching people at a Nirvana show, and it must seem like a fairy tale to them, like my dad telling me he met the Rolling Stones, or if my mom up and told me she was at Woodstock.

Tiller: “Were you there, mom?”
Me, more laughter. Laugh out loud laughter. A happy laughter. “Not there, baby. But i saw them twice. One time in a really big place, like the Georgia Dome, but it was called the Omni. But the first time I saw them, i was in Athens and I saw them in a little small place, smaller than the place where we took you to see They Might Be Giants.” The crowd on TV is pushing and shoving.
Tiller: “Was Daddy there?
Me: “No, baby, i didn’t know Daddy yet. I was there with my roommate and another friend.”
Rollie: “Did you get pushed down?”
Me: “No!”
Rollie: “Did you get pushed?”
Me: “yes.”
Tiller: “Were you scared?”
Me: “No. It was fun.”
Rollie: “Did you get up on stage and jump off?”
Me: “Oh, no, baby. Not my style. Remember I don’t like heights or being the center of attention.”
Rollie: “Did anyone jump off?”
Me: “Yes, Curt Cobain did! But not with his guitar like that.” On the TV, Curt is jumping off a huge stage, with his guitar, at some festival into a sea of people. “And there were not that many people there.”
Tiller: “did you catch him?”
Me: “Yes, everyone caught him. He jumped off, and people caught him, and he grabbed a hold of this movie screen, you know the kind they set up for movies at school? That pull out of the ceiling? And he grabbed hold of it, and he pulled it down, while the crowd was holding him, and it came right out of the ceiling and he wrapped himself up in the screen while the people held him up.”
Tiller, eyes as big as saucers: “Did you touch him?”
Me: “Uh, yeah, i guess so.”

And they both just stared at me.

And I gotta admit . . . I felt like a complete and total bad ass. I really did have a life. Back in the day. And what’s more? I’m pretty sure they thought i was a badass. That will probably never happen again. At least until they have children of their own. And then they will know that keeping a kid alive for 8 years is pretty badass in and of itself.

p.s. Mom? Dad? Y’all aren’t perfect, but I do think you’re pretty badass.

post-post script: Interestingly, i found this site, because I was curious if anyone else had written about the show online. I would have keeled over in happiness to find a photo of that night. Not even a complete setlist.

10/05/91 – 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA
Set (incomplete)
Smells Like Teen Spirit • Breed • Endless, Nameless
Notes
The band was drunk and out of tune, but the show was apparently incredible, according to attendees.
During “Endless, Nameless,” Kurt vaulted up to the movie projection screen and ripped it out of the ceiling, inciting the crowd to get onstage with the band and trash everything. Meanwhile, Dave kicked his drums over, then piled them up in no particular order and played them with microphones. After the noise and destruction, the band piled their instruments onto the drums, wished the crowd a good night, and left the stage, according to an attendee.
Other Performers
Das Damen

So, yeah. . . i guess i didn’t totally dream it.