Wednesday, December 14, 2016
"Silent Night," as sung by my dad to my mom
When my mom was dying, something told me we had to decorate her hospital room. Even though she couldn't see it--she'd had a massive stroke and was unable to talk or open her eyes--I could feel she was so present, so with us. And something hit me as I was sitting there and crying and literally giving her grief... it was so selfish and controlling, like--and sorry I can't think of any prettier, less smellier way to say it--I was literally shitting all over her. There was too much of a contrast with the glorious outside (the most beautiful bird-loud August ever) and inside her room, tubes and plastic and beeping like some laboratory where bad things get invented because someone was careless. I didn't want that for her, my mom who still planned out theme birthday cakes for us way into adulthood, vanilla cats and baseball diamonds and rocket ships. I wanted us to give her a party with the moon and stars, the pink-laughing-with-yellow of a new day.
So I strung a string of butterflies across the window and played the songs on my iPod that seemed the most appropriate--I love loud guitars so there weren't too many, but I did have Burt Bacharach, The Carpenters, Vince Guaraldi's theme from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (it sounds great in the summer, by the way). Not sure if it was the combination of the decorations and the music, but for whatever reason my dad--brain shrinking from dementia, heart growing because the theory of relativity--started singing "Silent Night" to my mom. And we all joined in, my sisters and brother-in-law. I'm not sure how many times we covered the first verse, but it was just the right amount.
There are no stars in your eyes when they're closed
We stumble behind you, dim to your inner constellation,
singing you home
Monday, December 5, 2016
Under tissue sky I
the end-of-the-season sale.
All the leaves, crackling bloodless arid,
you can fit in one paper bag.
A dozen seed pods--a bargain!--
everything within on chelonian lock-down.
Then by the river, so
foolish and tender,
a yellow rose I grab to hold in my hibernating
This song by the way is just Ray being Ray. And I suspect the caterpillar is buttoned up in a cardigan.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
"Care of Cell 44," The Zombies
When I graduated from college and moved to the city, I looked for jobs in the New York Times like everybody else. Only I started my search under "P" --for Philosophy. Surely there was a job where I could make a difference by sharing the secret similarities between Russian Marxism and the Clash ("All Lost in the Supermarket," natch)! As my blush faded--color me Pink Pollyanna--I landed at Teddy Bear Review, editing classified ads peddling googly eyes and doll wigs.
I can't help but compare it to the Zombies, who pinned all their hopes for a big hit on this song. No surprise, it's beyond gorgeous. If I were a piano, I''d want to play it at the thought and expression of every sunrise. Who knows for sure why, but it totally flopped. I'm theorizing people felt a disconnect, when there really isn't one, between the music and the lyrics. And the Zombies broke up.
Almost 50 years later, "Care of Cell 44" is finally recognized for the piece of art it is, and the remaining Zombies reunited and sometimes play it. So here's to late bloomers--'cause for me, I know now that your dreams can lead you to a prison or a key. And ain't no one locking us dreamers up except ourselves.
P.S. Ballerina Cow postcard copyright Barry Downard 200. I added the quote.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
"Don't Stop," Fleetwood Mac with the USC Marching Band
Say you’re a sound. Are you a fizz, a plop? A stop then a pop?
As for me, I’m honk-y. Born of horns that, in spite of their ability to go low and dark, ultimately want to bust out and fly skyward, taking everyone else along for the ride. If you know me, you know I’m a clapper. I spent most of my first half-marathon cheering on fellow Team ASPCA runners (yeah, that’s a little weird; screaming /shouting takes up a lot of energy, and most people would wisely save it for their own performances), and long ago I implemented the now-traditional practice in our dance class of applauding those who bust a move.
Pretty corny, for sure. But when the USC Marching Band brass section starts talking on this already way goopy song, it’s total magic. They sound so familial, like my sonic tribe has come to kick me in my sorry ass. They’re so freaking positive and encouraging, writing notes in bluebird-colored ink that they toss wildly yonder, all of them reading the same thing—“You can do it!”
My favorite horn moment on any song I’ve ever heard comes at 2:01-2:06.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
I see the moon and the moon sees me
High up over the apple tree
I can still hear my mom and dad singing this to me,* and with it that vague, buttery feeling that all little kids should have that everything is good and everything is connected. Like, if you can see the man in the moon (and yes, you want to see him so bad when you're 3, so you do), you're pretty much set.
Here in New York City, I'm embarrassed to say I don't even know if the moon is supposed to be visible to telescope-less eyes every night. It's like that in many other urban areas, where most of the time you can't see stars because of light pollution. The glare and clutter from street lamps and lights in and outside office buildings spills into the sky like frat boys at Santacon, peeing in the street and such.
It's not just that we can't see the night sky. it's that as a result, I think we're out of whack, oversolared and overexposed. If you're like me, you'll feel especially overstimulated in summer, when the sun is biggest and loudest. A real scheister who won't get off the stage until gravity forces its departure, the Donald Trump of things-in-the-sky (HELLO, you shouldn't look at him directly either). Even the sidewalks glare at you, and riding the subway is like licking a moist underarm (Eeww! Sorry).
Fortunately, there is hope--and it's made of green cheese. Okay, it's actually more like rocks, but Ayurvedic experts and others recommend moonbathing as cooling and calming, a way to balance the sun's yang energy with some loony (as in lunar) yin. I found a blog post on this practice that blows my mind (and P.S. if you wanna dig a little deeper you can find the author's body and spirit analysis of various world leaders).
So this past summer I started watching the sky in earnest. At first, it was like some bad crush, with me practically salivating as I'd catch a glimpse of the moon over the East River. I'd be close to panting as I'd get off the bus and throw my groceries or bag upstairs and run outside again, only to find the ghost of my beloved taunting me from behind a pack of dirty-tricking clouds. Some nights it would seem like the moon was tracking a cubist path, now a cut-out hanging atop a tree with Scotch tape, then minutes later a papery disc holy communioned between two apartment buildings.
But slowly, somehow my aim just got better, and me and the moon had some quality time. In Texas in September, she (she? Yeah, she's a she for sure in Texas) acted as a tour guide for a leg of our sunset cruise around Austin's Ladybird Lake, as a million bats emerged like butterfly shadows to greet her.
And these past few days, whoa…it's like the moon's on 'roids, swinging big and low and bulbous, precisely timing orbit and phase in order to be his biggest self. (Yeah, this Supermoon's a total shock jock). On Sunday night I turned off all the lights, opened the windows and did my before-bed meditating while gazing at the moon; I'd close my eyes and see the Kodachrome version like a glowy doorbell on my third eye, then woke up the next morning thinking, The moon is a prodigal sun.
On Monday night I had to lie on the living room floor to get a good view, Ira looming over me from the coffee table, a la Supermoon, Siamese Cat edition. I'd close my eyes and see the moon waning into tomorrows, then woke up this morning and knew, Love is the moon looking at the sun. Or, love is that which flows between the moon and the ocean.
I also knew, like it or not, this is the story I have already been and have to start telling over and over, no matter that others have already told it better, no matter what a crappy or not job I do of it. I tell mine with cats and girls, and moms and brothers, and sacred beings and freshwater pearls. I wish it were a little easier to tell, like the story of the first kitten to do a pirouette (that's still on my list!), but it's kinda the one thing that explains everything to me.
Love is the moon thinking about the sun.
* I didn't realize until this writing it's an actual song! One of family members must have changed the words from "down through the leaves of the old oak tree" to "high up over the apple tree," in homage to the tree outside my window. To this day no Macintosh has been able to raise the bar set by this tree.
And then there's this.
While writing this, my inner juke box cued up and busted out "Sunrise, Sunset," and I'm in the backseat of my family's light blue Caprice Classic again, forced to listen to this borderline creepy and way-too-depressing-for-a-kid song--sorry, Tony!--on 8-track.
Monday, October 10, 2016
"Oh My My," Ringo Starr
When you're a kid, Ringo's your Beatle. The name! The nose! The rings! Octopi and submarines!
When you're a kid, you also have questionable taste. I ate pats of butter and pink Betty Crocker icing by the spoonful. I liked Shaun Cassidy. I also loved this song, so I wasn't prepared for how freaking good it actually is when my 7-year-old self recently nudged me to listen in…
Billy Preston pounding on the keys like he's riding a unicorn with a rainbow mane. Ringo and the other drummer (they needed 2!), dancing bears doing the cha cha on the moon. And the saxophone, notes shooting out of my ears and riding the up elevator like a band of angels headed home...
Sunday, September 4, 2016
"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
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.
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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'"
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
"The Ballad of El Goodo," Big Star
Oh, this song! Alex wrote it about the Vietnam war, and though I wouldn't pretend to know or understand it in that context, I do know that the world is full of El Goodos…whether they're planet-sized ones with lightning hands and the courage to speak for a nation, or smaller, quieter ones with much less significant impact and little power, whose most resilient act is to look at the world day after day with gentle and kind eyes.
P.S. President Clinton says it way better, but heck, he had more than 88 words : ) Please read his beautiful tribute to Muhammad Ali if you haven't: "In the second half of his life, he perfected gifts that we all have: Every single solitary one of us has gifts of mind and heart. It’s just that he found a way to release them in ways large and small."
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
“Someone’s Looking At You,” The Boomtown Rats
With less than 2 hours to fulfill my New Year’s promise to write 2 of these entries a month, I’m down to the wire… Luckily, this isn’t the only time Jayne Mansfield makes an appearance on ssspunerisms!
No one stares like New Yorkers riding the subway do! From that flabby man who leered directly at the bosom of a young woman whose shirt was missing a button in an unfortunate location to the bitchy ladies who size each other up, lingering on each other’s weak points (smug smiles should they spot a doughy lump, a cankle, thighs with no space in between)…this one’s for you--thanks for making the rest of us feel rotten. May your cup never be empty.
(And we still didn’t get to talk about how underrated Bob Geldof’s lyrics are.)
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
"Blood on the Dance Floor: TM's Switchblade Edit," Michael Jackson
Ira has a toy with a rainbow-colored tail he's obsessed with. It's in a cabinet, duct-taped shut because he kept opening it, rifling through like a burglar. When he gets it, it's like he still wants it. That's how I am about dancing to this song.
How it starts! There's no way to stop
your rotting shadow come out to play,
sweat blossoming into the inky stains of your shame.
You choke on air as
listing in releve
on a stiletto heel.
Thank you to whomever put this video together! Click to hear song : )!
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Number one with a bullet on Pollyanna’s playlist—ladies and gentlemen, I give you the happiest song ever!
"The Loving," XTC
A friend of mine once said that all songs have balls—some are enormous, some are small, some are hardly there at all. This song boasts a veritable bunch of balloons, big and birthday-colored, filled to a breath below bursting and delivered to you by a troupe of Siamese kittens. In lederhosen!
Seriously, though, I’m blown away by that big, fat ujjayi-breathing guitar chord in the chorus that makes you feel all oceanic. Freud might’ve really dug it if he could get past the whole ball-sizing thing.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
“Salvation,” Elton John & Bernie Taupin
The latest installment in my little series—for my mom on her birthday. (It’s not the first time my card has arrived a day late. )
At the bottom of the hill I met a man with a cane, carrying a pack of Dunhill Blues.
“I’m going to quit,” he said, "when I get to the end of the street."
“Good luck,” I said.
“I’m going to quit today.”
I saw my mother fall at the bottom of the hill.
She couldn’t talk, eyes shut to light
She squeezed my hand when she got there:
A developing Polaroid of a shy ingenue,
a violet on her first day in the world.
I don’t think I’ve shared my own video here before—it was a limited release, and supposed to be as close to a minute as possible : )
Sunday, March 27, 2016
“Glam Slam,” Prince10 years ago or so I performed a solo completely of my own design to this song in a student bellydancing showcase. I was so naive that at the time I didn’t realize my teacher disliked me, even when all she said when I was done was that my hair was nice (super-high pony tail like Pebbles Flintstone).
If songs were flowers, this is what grows when you plant horny goat weed in the Garden of Eden. Comes up something whose name I’m not sure of, blooming and blushing in the moonset, dropping her petals like a stripper and shaking butterflies out of her efflorescent ass.
P.S. In that dorky musical genealogy tree that traces everyone back to the Beatles, this is the Spandex-wearing cousin of It’s All Too Much.
Here’s the video for Glam Slam--I don’t know how to embed this one, ping me if you do!
Saturday, March 19, 2016
“Jesus Children of America,” Stevie Wonder
I’ve listened to this a gajillion times, and I’m embarrassed to say I thought he was doing a call-and-response type thing with some back-up gospel singers. Turns out he did all the vocals and played all the instruments on this song, and most of the album it came from, himself. Genius stuff going on, and I hear something different every time.
At 18, I stole my grandmother’s crucifix, pink-purple stones blushing like sunrise, and wore it to a club I lied to get into and hitchhiked home from. Alas, a fool and her crucifix soon parted…if only I’d heard the delicate tingle-jangle when it fell from my neck.
This song is that loss,
the loss of a hundred mumbled Hail Marys,
the loss that I can’t ever go home and see my mom and dad…
and the mystery that a different iteration of them will always be there.
More in my lil' series here:
"Songs I Love in 88 Words or Less: All the Children Sing"
"Songs I Love in 88 Words or Less: "Rock And Roll"
Sunday, February 28, 2016
"All the Children Sing," Todd Rundgren
A muttering, stuttering woman in Riverside Park once called me a “grinning idiot” as I passed by, wearing a smile big as a dinner plate.
This one’s for you, Muttering Woman, and all grinning idiots out there—a song written by an overgrown baby in the key of Kitten. Clowns and puppies, you’ll like it, too!
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras believed a bell was the sound of a daimon—a tiny spirit-god inside going ding-dong. This ain’t the first Todd song with bells ringin' in heads. Coinky-dink?
A music video before there were music videos! Made, like the entire album, all by his own self!
Here are the other 4 posts in this series:
Monday, February 22, 2016
“Rock Around With Ollie Vee,” Buddy Holly
The third installment in my bimonthly series. Some songs are good to dance to, some songs you have to dance to. Buddy and the band are doing some serious gravity-busting here that gives me the same kind of dance-y cosmic jitters I've only ever gotten from a couple Michael Jackson songs. Weird, but for reals.
This ain’t no sock hop, bud. The punch is spiked, the pants are tight and your corsage is a black dahlia and bleeding hearts…
You dance—squirm, a thrust, gasp—until your palms are pomade-wet. Dreams thump and grind to a hiccuping guitar, caress curves of the stand-up bass. This is the realm of the half-man, half-boy, and I’m just along for the ride because sitting still for 2 minutes 18 seconds is impossible.
P.S. Ollie Vee’s twin baby sisters: future muses for "Teenage Head" and "Orgasm Addict."
Well, I sure hope you want to listen to it now! Here you go.
Also in the series:
"Rock And Roll"
"Over the River"
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Remember the day of Mom’s funeral? It was glorious, mid-August, and if you wanted a word to describe the space between the sunrise and the sunset as a noun, I would say exultation. Butterflies and hawks, all things light and bright and airborne, accompanied us, the yang to the yin of your day…
How many times did you say it doesn’t snow like it used to? Well, you got a beautiful, magical nor’easter that shut down the town. I walked around the block in the morning before the funeral Mass, the first to make tracks along Main Street in the kind of snow that whispers and sparkles.
As we drove to the cemetery, we were the only ones on the road, save for your distinguished guides lining either side of the street—those elegant old East Hampton trees, heavy and proud with snow like kindly wizards.
Three members of the Honor Guard were waiting for us at the cemetery, standing at attention in their dress blues, snow on their eyelashes. I can see now the white gloves that folded your flag with such love and care…I bet you know, of course, it takes 2 officers and 12 different folds, ending in a triangle of white stars on a blue ground, a sliver of starlit sky to guide you on your way.
And their faces, so full of reverence for a member of their Navy family. I saw in their eyes what your service meant to you—and I’m sorry, and kind of embarrassed, I didn’t understand sooner. My feelings about the military were colored more by what I had seen about Vietnam, but everyone says, and you should know, how special the WWII veterans are. My friend Kathy told me that her father, who would have been 91, enlisted in the Navy when he was just 17. “You probably didn’t get it back then," she said, “because these veterans didn’t talk or boast about their service at all.” I am making you a promise that I will submit your name and a photo to the online World War II National Registry.
I can see you nod and smile… I think that means I have the go-ahead : )
After the flag was presented to George, a bugler played Taps. I also think you told me, though I mustn’t have been listening, how beautiful and perfect that song is. The notes shimmered through the snow like golden leaves becoming, swelling, not wanting to leave quite yet, the first notes ever played of the last song in the world.
Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
And the snow, it kept coming, swirling and whirling like we were inside that most beautiful mystery with you. It fell on the white roses that we left for you, blossoming in the middle of winter in your enchanted forest. Each snowflake a koan, and each petal an answer..
Is being the same as to be?
Or is becoming bigger than being?
Was the first song heard by the listener or the musician?
Did you hear the roses bloom in the snowfall?
One easy answer: What we decided to sing to you in closing after Father said the prayers. We sang loudly. We sang strongly. I sang it like I always sing this song, like you’re right there next to me and singing it with me…
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if we never get back.
For it’s root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game!
So you know, we were also joined at the cemetery by a couple who was wandering by the church and attended your Mass. Afterward they came up and hugged me and said that even though they didn’t know you before, they felt like they did now (Confession: During Mass, several of us kind of talked a whole lot about you and shared some of your best stories.)
Leave it to you to make new friends at your funeral. : )
All my love,
I love this song, and especially this version. A honky-tonk cellblock “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” kinda.
Saturday, January 30, 2016
“Over the River,” The High Llamas
Number 2 in a new series, this instrumental is like mainlining emotion, sad and sweet, tho some jerk on Amazon called it “kitschy.”
Is that a bird I heard? Yes, yes, a little brown one dressed in houndstooth decoupage, wandering forlornly through a crackly film strip on the wintry day his best friend moved away… On the path he finds a stray piece of yarn, rusty orange like a secret patch on a magical calico cat, leading him home.
True fact: This song is played by a quintet of chickadees who talked incessantly during the recording, their blip-chirps and tweet-beats perching like arpeggios on the sheet music they pretended to follow.
Oh yes, I’ve used this song here before.