Sunday, September 4, 2016

Songs I Love in 88 Words or Less: "Let It Bleed"

"Let It Bleed," Rolling Stones

 Keith Richards has said that he's still alive today because the heroin he used was always 100-percent pure, pharmaceutical-quality. Pristine chemicals lined up in perfect order, like choirboys about to perform a slippy, drippy, depraved song just like this one… Everything about it is just so lubricated, from the oily, oozy autoharp and Mick's vocals, round and smiley-ripe at the edge of rot, to that smack-talking, back-talking loose and juicy piano, strung out with bloodshot guitars that cut you off at the knees--yes, the position you secretly wanted to be in all along.

Seraphim or incubi? It's hard to tell who's playing. Better to just sit back, have a listen and add and/or subtract the bodily fluid of your choice. This is the good stuff.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hang Ups and Tries Again

The universe has all sorts of crazy ways of keeping and marking time, and it's like we each get our own calendar of personalized holidays. A couple of mine: A week left of my freshman year in college, one of my dormmates ran up to me on the quad, lifted me up and swung me around, breaking several of my ribs. That same week a year later, our house president saw me on the front lawn during an ice cream sundae party, picked me up and squeezed me. An assortment of ribs cracked again. And for several years after I had surgery for an infection in my hand, my left index finger would feel funny on the April anniversary of its traumatic opening up and draining of whatever bad crap was in there.

Of course, they are not all somber anniversaries--some don't even get a whole day but slip echo-like through an hourglass, maybe words whispered when we made our way into this plane. Like on certain summer nights, a breeze will come through the window that I know I've felt before, like it traveled around the world and came back with stories of others in its path… It remembers me climbing out the back of a friend's car on a June night, barefoot on asphalt still warm from the day, backdrop lit with stars and fireflies…. After rehearsal for high school graduation, still in my cap and gown and flip flops as I lean over a fence to feed a friendly cow some greenage he couldn't reach…

So, with time tracked by a tricked-out rolodex remotely controlled by the moon, it shouldn't have come as a surprise when, on a run a couple of Mondays ago, I found a gold iPhone 6 on the ground by the East 6th Street footbridge--pretty much right where I lost my own gold iPhone six months prior.

I remember feeling so violated when I lost it. I'm not a big phone person--(1) you never really understand what someone wants/feels until you talk to them in person and 2) I had maybe 2 apps on there, which elicited big laughs from the nice Verizon Wireless guys who eventually programmed my replacement--but I took tons of photos for potential blogs, and a precious handful of images of high-octane moments, like my mom's hair when she was dying (it held this indescribable energy and beauty), like Ira when he was a baby and the love in Bing's eyes when he looked at me.

If this happens to you, immediately put your phone in Lost Mode using the Find My Phone app--locking it and enabling you to track it if it still is charged and online. Then you leave a special "I am lost"message on it displaying a number someone can call. I never got a call, but that day my little gold dream floated above the deep snow drifts of East River Park up to Bellevue Hospital and back to the Jacob Riis Houses, where it remained until it became untraceable.

During that time, I fantasized about going there and putting up signs, playing the sympathy card about the photos of my mom. I thought about how iPhones are quite a luxury--but are worth nothing if they can't be used. I felt like I was in a cosmic standoff with whomever stole it, because by this point, they'd crossed the line from finding to stealing. But worrying about two phones is like not knowing whether to shit or get off the pot, so, well, I let 'er rip, gradually accepting and absorbing the loss.

I hadn't thought about it much until this sweaty August morning, when I'm holding a lost phone with a clear pink cover and a Metro card tucked inside. I had just decided that I would bring it to the police station when it rang. I arranged with the caller--Rashan--to tell the phone's owner to meet me in front of the running track. As I waited, I noticed 2 cracks across the screen--could that have happened from a fall during a super-fast (for me) tempo run? Could this be my phone? My code was 4 digits, and not one of those easy ones (1234! 2222!), but no so hard that it couldn't be cracked if someone kept trying. It felt so familiar in my hand, in a way that the replacement never has…

And it rang again, and it was Rashan saying that he was coming himself. And within 30 seconds, I handed it off to a scrappy 12-year-old on a bike with a banana seat, so light in my hand and then just as tender gone, like a butterfly long free dreaming of being in her cocoon again… 

Could it have been my phone? The whole thing was choreographed so weirdly, it felt a little prankish, but I just didn't want to go there. And ultimately, it doesn't matter anyway, because I think this very personal marking of time is less about loss--save that for the big stuff!--and more about letting go.

I'm sure there are more to uncover, but some of the the things I learned while on Lost Phone holiday:

1. Don't get all testosteroned when you need to do anything faster--instead, go all loose and easy. If I hadn't been so tense during my speedwork, I may have  heard my phone hit the pavement, but no way it could compete with my pounding heart. As one of my favorite yoga teachers, Erich Schiffman, has said, everything is easier when you relax…and it's so true, especially the hard stuff!

2. Inspiration has a shelf life--and it's much better added to the recipe when first picked rather than squirreled away in the freezer for later. And you don't need to hoard it, because it will always be there. Otherwise interpreted as: Use those photos right away!

3. You don't need a photo to keep a memory alive. If it's important, it will always be inside you like a shy smile. (P.S. I've also taken the practical step of backing them up on iCloud.)

4. Declutter joyfully. There's really nothing but your soul and your heart you can't afford to lose.

What's in your datebook? Would love to hear what the universe has you celebrating/commemorating.

"People take pictures of each other
Just to prove that they really existed"

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Songs I Love in 88 Words or Less: "Apple Scruffs"

"Apple Scruffs," George Harrison

I definitely hail from the same lineage as the Apple Scruffs, the quirky group of fans who'd wait all night in the winter for a glimpse of the Beatles. Even when invited in, most times they preferred to hang outside, on the edges like shy cats in half-shadows. Not to be confused with the fans who stole Paul's pants, or groupies like Penny Lane, these muses were looking at the same thing that Mona Lisa was, if you can imagine Leonardo a Liverpudlian.

In looking for a video to share I found this demo version that gave me chills. And George sneezes like a happy dog at one point.

P.S. As a kid I also sat in mud puddles (scruff factor 23) and, a few years later, waited every Saturday for my Afghan hound friend from down the street to visit. His name? Apple, of course.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Songs I Love in 88 Words or Less: "The Little Girl I Once Knew"

"The Little Girl I Once Knew," The Beach Boys

For those who wish to understand the forces with which flowers bloom, this song is the pop quiz you've been studying your whole freakin' life for. It's the sacred pause in the Beach Boys canon, a sleighbell bridge from the sand to the stars. Not the masterpiece, but the knock on its door so divine.

It has no home, a lone single between "Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)" and "Pet Sounds," complete with a few fat full-moon seconds of silence that got radio stations so irked and confused they wouldn't play it. But for dreamers like me, if we listen hard enough we can hear the petals unfold, a tiny cantata echoing inside a sideways sinistral shell.

P.S. I took that photo on a chilly run by the river in February, knowing I'd need it for this series in the summer.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Songs I Love in 88 Words or Less: "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'"

"These Boots Are Made for Walkin,'" Nancy Sinatra

From the get-go--flaccid guitar descending into droop--you know somebody's about to get kicked to the curb, and with more than a pinch of bullet bra-brandishing glee. During my shining moment performing a dance to this in college, I was so excited I grabbed the grapefruits stuffed into my 48quadrupleD brazeer  (over a floral housedress, natch) and threw them at the audience a gloriously full count ahead of "Ha!" 

I missed my cue, but the joke's not on me here--or any betty who has the balls to shimmy her way out.

Thank you to my friend Petra for getting my copy of Nancy's book extra-specially autographed : )

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Free to Be You and Me... Or a Tree

Ever since I saw my privileged dormmates down the hall repeatedly puke all over the bathroom at Connecticut College and leave their beer-and-pizza vomit for the cleaning staff to take care of*, I carry around a bias against others who look like them, or used to before they grew up. You may know the stereotype--conservative, WASPy, probably, though I'm not even clear on what that means anymore. But whenever I get the slightest whiff of button-downed, deck-shoed, freshly shaven entitlement, I feel small and threatened.

Or plain old grossed-out, thanks to the strange sit-com phenomenon known as Gas Face. Above right is just one example (and know that I have no idea who this is or what the show is about, I'm just zeroing in on that fake-uncomfortable bean-fueled expression). But I promise you, if you start looking at signage and commercials, prime-time news and print ads, you'll see this mug everywhere. From what I can tell, it's mostly adult men in Oxford cloth shirts who are making it.

What the heck is the entertainment industry/media--because, really, those to me are the wheels that make our red-white-and-blue world turn---getting at anyway? "I  was once large and in charge but the demographic revolution in this country has gelded me and now I'm trying to be relatable and relevant by making a flatulent fool of myself?" Reading into it much?! Yeah, probably, but ultimately, this face says, "I'm a tool."

There is a female version, too. Roll your camera on the typically white-ish woman of a certain age who, feeling the urge to let go, executes 10 or so seconds of doofish dancing.

I'm sorry I'm not as generous as most of the commenters. I hate those histrionic faces she makes, and I hate her outfit, and I feel embarrassed for this demographic of which she belongs and in which I'm probably categorized.  Like the funk couldn't find her through that Stepfordian haze of feminine deodorant if it tried... C'mon, Hollywood, is this the best you can do for us honky women--pit-sniffing in a pair of khakis?!

Geez Louse. Notice how snarky my tone has become, and the leaps I made from judging a barfing college kid to judging a character on a TV show that's algorithmed-up-the-wazoo to get ratings (and that I know nothing about), and magically making that fictional character a stand-in for others who may look like him? That's why stereotypes are so dangerous--they start from a place of fear, even if it's an unfounded one, from a place of us vs. them.

I can't fault myself too much for that--it's human to judge, some leftover survival tactic from our Homo erectus days. But it is also human to seek connections and commonality, right? Why not broaden that to finding connection with everyone, not just the person who looks the same and has the same religious beliefs or eats the same thing or wears the same sneakers that you do. And by you I mean me.

If judging is too human, well, forget humans then. Trees don't seem to have this problem, and they've made it longer than we have. They don't have guns and use them, they don't organize into parties--still of color, red and blue, why only 2?--that fight within themselves and then each other. They're all over the place, in just as many and more spaces that humans are. And they not only coexist with us, but their activities completely support the planet, unlike human activity. (That green thing they do, what's it called again? Ah, photosynthesis…)

So, for the past couple weeks I've been practicing thinking about how I am like a tree. There's a beautiful one outside my window that I've looked at, really looked at, every morning for the last few years. I watch the tree in the winter, stark and still, and I watch my tree now in the busy season, green and always in motion, all that growing and changing to do. I was worried when a plastic shopping bag got stuck in the branches early last spring, and felt relieved when one morning it was gone for good, dislodged by rain or wind (I guess…or maybe a polite request?)…

How is a tree like me? Is a tree a he or/and she?
How does a tree gauge overall success, a life well-lived and a life well-gived?
Is leaves-taking easier than leaves-making?

This morning I saw the tree as green and tender fireworks, no bellicose blow-harded boom-blooms for punctuation, the only commas a few withered and brown leaves on the edges… will they disengage and blow away, too, like an unkind thought or behavior pattern that no longer serves?

This may be Pollyanna, but the ultimate goal is to see yourself and everything as one--an idea way bigger than this pee-wee blog,  older than the hills, way back when we were thick in the nucleon soup of time, when time in fact was still freaking figuring out a plan of action, when Iamheasyouareheasyouaremeandweareall together.

Many will say, in light of current events, it is not enough, that I am sheltered and idealistic, that I should get off my ass and shout about it. Maybe. But when events feel overwhelming, I gotta get grounded first, start with the basics, get that squared away, stand tall. I wish this was viewed as equally grand a gesture as others, 'cause it's not easy. But I will practice it every day. And while I don't yet have the desire to exercise my right to bear arms, I sure as sh*t want to start using my right to bear branches.

OK, so I had no idea that gas face was already a thing! It's different from mine, but still... beaten to the punch...or bidet?

My go-to song about being green.

* It wasn't just that. They did other things, too:
- Made fun of me in the cafeteria on the first day of college because I had spiky hair and wore a shiny blue head scarf with fringes (this was Connecticut, people-and The Preppy Handbook was probably still on peoples' shelves). Their unimaginative insult : "Who's this, Cyndi Lauper?" (Insults are never really about the words, so it still stung.)
- Said things like, "The last time I used a rubber, it broke and rolled down my dick."
- Laughed at my writing teacher's beautiful caramel-blond Afghan hound, Billie Jean, because they thought she was funny-looking

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Songs I Love in 88 Words Or Less: "Souled"

"Souled," Prius Commercial featuring Raphael Saadiq

Got to give it up. After almost 4 years, I still check online every once in awhile to see if Mr. Saadiq has released a full version of this song. Didn't happen, not going to happen, and I feel tricked all over, me and all the others suffering from the worst case of blue balls (note: the Motor City strain) in aural history. Even the ghost of Don Cornelius has 'em.

P.S. I know my blog is pretty under the radar (to put it nicely), but my last post was even under that, and there were some beautiful thoughts (not mine, but President Clinton's on Muhammad Ali) that I really wanted to pass on--please take a look if you have an extra moment.

P.S.S. I highly recommend "Stone Rollin'"