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We’re Made For Bending

David Bowie is gone. So is Prince. And Merle. So much beauty created by these three is eclipsed by so much clutter–the election, work, life. 

True to the origins of this blog, I began writing when the first song came on. I’m astounded and pleased that Merle showed up in my music feed tonight! Merle, Willie, Waylon, The Beach Boys, and the Beatles have been a constant in my life since I can remember back to my first experiences with my parents’ hi-if.

My best friend and I a few weeks ago had one of our occasional “Best Friend Days”, which is code for her husband is out of town, and we want to drink red wine and have a dance party until 3am in one of our living rooms. So no problem. Enter my house, a lot of wine, and my record player. 
My best friend and I, for the record, met 21 (sweet Jesus!) years ago as freshman year “potluck” roommates. After all those years, we live mere blocks apart, text each other daily, and talk like we haven’t seen each other for decades. We will be those old women in quasi funny birthday cards, 50 years from now, who joke about sagging boobs and skin like a Sharpei’s backside. I’d be lost without her. No joke. 

We ended up my at my house for various reasons, but I’m the only one with a record player. 

My most frequent LP in circulation is Pet Sounds, just because it’s so damn good. But we went through a bunch, including Willie & Merle’s newest, which she hadn’t heard and is brilliant. We played The Smiths, Elvis Costello, and Rod Stewart from the early 70s. And then I came across an unopened record of David Bowie’s greatest hits. How did this happen?!

It’s a double LP I bought off of Amazon this fall, and, well, my life intercepted, and I forgot about it. It’s hit after hit after hit. On bottle of wine #2 and side 3, my best friend said, “What the hell compilation is this?!” It was NOT the Columbia House special from 1993 for $29.99. 

We inspected the cover, which was of course, gorgeous. It’s called “Nothing Has Changed” and was released in 2014. There are 2 images in the liner: both are Bowie looking into a mirror. The first is early, the second, maybe late 80s? Hard to say. But the only writing inside the media of the double album is “Everything Has Changed”, coupled with the back, which is a recent picture of Bowie and his reflection. 

We were floored. 

It could have been the wine, it could have been Prince’s early death that week, and youth’s naive gaze at eternity, but we both felt like he had, back in 2014, sent the listeners a hint about how sick he was. We suddenly were superfans again.

I have to say, regardless of my eclectic taste, I know my music. My best friend and I bonded one day over Rush. Yeah. The Canadian band. 1, neither of us knew the other had Canadian roots. 2, when I walked into our room the day I knew we would be best friends forever, I busted her for vacuuming to my Rush Chronicles CD. Turns out, it was hers.

Music is a distraction. For me, it’s like Carver or Twain or Danticat–a really off-the-charts distraction. I joke that my memory is an audio Rolodex. I wish it weren’t so, but I can remember every slow dance song (and believe it or not, there were a lot), background music during tough conversations, loved ones singing unabashedly the bridge to Simon and Garfunkel, break up words, passionate words, my own words, world crises, etc.

In spite of all the clutter in my life, especially today, music conquers all. It’s Merle, Willie and Ray. It’s Bowie. It’s Rush. It levels the playing field between two acquaintances but unlikely friends from 21 years ago in the form of Rush. It energizes, it soothes. It helps ground me and remind me to write already, goddammit. 

I’ve always said that when a song comes on, someone is trying to say hi or be remembered. Funny how that rang so true tonight. Lyrics and words on a string, floating by to say that nothing and everything has changed. How lovely.

Another Saturday Night–Sam Cooke

Ain’t Talkin’ About Love–Van Halen

My Life’s Been a Pleasure–Wilkie Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard

Barbecue–Robert Earl Keen

Your Embrace–Shakira

Bend Down the Branches–Tom Waits

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Take the Easy Way and Give In

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IMG_0785There is a spider living in my living room. In the 9 years I have lived in my aparentment, there has only been one other spider. It was when a friend subletted the place while I was in Vermont. She had stuff from storage. The spider got in. It wasn’t a Daddy Long Legs, but it also wasn’t a Brown Recluse. It was probably your average, everyday spider. No larger than a dime. It was in my shower on a Saturday morning years ago. When I pulled back the shower curtain, there it was. I was not clothed. Things got ugly. After nearly hyperventilating, I grabbed anything I could find to not provide a show for the neighbors, struggled to the kitchen, and found Clorox. I burned that bitch.

I hate spiders.

My mom was here a few weeks ago, and I asked her to kill this newly residing spider. She never really saw it in its glory. She went in with a wad of tissue, and…missed. It retreated. She stuffed the tissue in the window jamb, puffing herself up to the fact that “it’s a goner.”

That was 3 weeks ago. The damned thing is back. And it’s spun an enormous web over my entire living room window. It was there when I got home tonight as the rain came down. Continue reading

Now Let the Music Keep Our Spirits High

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It’s been since August, and for that I’m ashamed. Funny how we keep those things sacred to us in the periphery–we think about them daily, but for whatever reason, can’t get to. Like this blog. Like very ill grandmothers.

I’m trying to remember the last time I saw my grandmother–5 years ago? Six? All I know is that I said goodbye to her 8 years ago after my Gram died. I went by myself, for selfish reasons. You see, my Gram and Grandma were great friends–somewhat of a rarity, so I’m told. When I called my grandma the week after my gram died, she told me how sorry she was to hear of the passing of a great woman like Vicki. My mom. That was August. That’s when I noticed. She wouldn’t forget my Gram.

In December, I took a day off work to see her. I flew to San Diego for just for the day, and rented a car. Hoping that seeing her would feel closure for my gram. Dementia is horrible. It replaces the one you love and have fond memories of with a complete stranger. There had been warning signs, but I had always had my parents as buffers. I won’t go into unpleasantries, but I had to take an unexpected day off to recuperate.it was rough.

Fast forward to a week ago. It’s getting closer, my grandma’s departure–93, outliving every friend and family member except the generations left behind. I hoped it would be fast. This woman who took me to my first musical. And second. The woman who was so different from my gram, who loved the arts almost as much as her friends and family. The grandma who traveled to Russia. And Romania, and France, and Norway after my grandfather died. She was the quirky one. The one who got why I sat crying at the revival of Showboat in New York City, when she took me for my graduation of a week-long theater tour to the Big Apple. I wish today I could remember what she said to me when Michel Bell sang the hell out of Old Man River and I cried. I think it was just her smile and an eyebrow saying, “told you”.

She said goodbye to this world today. All I know is that I loved her, even despite the lack of cards and calls on my end. It confused her. But what I remember is music. Billy Joel and Bing Martin and Neil Diamond. Her love for Cheers. And Vanity fair (the magazine), all things San Francisco, her Irish granddaughter, and the list goes on.

i personally darken the lights on Broadway for you tonight, Grandma D. For you are the one who helped me love the sound of music in so many ways. I love you, and I’m so glad you’re at home now. Jackson Brown says it best tonight. Let the music keep our spirits high. It’s how she would want it.

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Sneaky Feelings–Elvis Costello

Flyin’ Shoes–Lyle Lovett

Before the Deluge–Jackson Brown

Rock me Gently–SuperHeavy

That’s the Sound of Sunshine–Michael Franti

At the Zoo–Simon and Garfunkel

Open Your Big Eyes, Take in the Sunrise

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When I was a little girl, maybe 6…7, we would have Sunday night dinner at my Gram’s house. We would drive home at the end of the night, 2/5 of the car asleep, and we would suddenly fall above something I used to call Fairyland. Not sure if my parents or I coined the term, but it was at the top of the hill, where all the lights of Almaden would shine, and it was Fairyland. It was my favorite thing. I was reminded of it when I landed at SFO last week: Magic.

You see, lately, I feel very small. Not like I’m minuscule, or powerless, but as I’m always reminded, I’m just a piece in the puzzle we call life–a contributor.

I had several ups and downs this summer, from moments of helplessness, to feelings of being on top of the world. And I’m so happy to have experienced them both, along with the nuances in between.

It makes me human.

I’ve been thinking a lot about being human lately. Feeling very small. Friends have had babies, friends have dealt with loss. I was on a boat in the Chicago River in July with my mom, looking up at the great American Skyscraper, and I felt tiny. I was pulled inside the circus tent I bought my 2 year-old Goddaughter last week, and once again felt like a child. This summer, I experienced water balloons with 5-year-olds, a car break-in, and weeping like a child at the news that one of my students was finally in remission. I felt very small.

But not in a bad way.

When I was 22, wet behind the ears, fresh from college, I set out one morning to Clement street, a few blocks from where I lived, following rumors that I would run into Robin Williams, a “neighbor”. I was selling books back to Green Apple, one of the finest independent bookstores, which have always been close to my heart. Continue reading

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Half of the Time We’re Gone, but we Don’t Know Where

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Godzilla Attack!

When I was 15, I experienced Mean Girls. Ok, we know that’s not true–I definitely experienced Mean Girls way before I was 15, but they didn’t associate with me. They were usually the cool kids, and I wasn’t. But when I was 15, that changed. My circle of friends branched off, and the newly cooler half tormented the rest of us. Maybe they didn’t, maybe that’s just how it felt.

The closest thing I have felt to that since was a few years ago, when a grown up Mean Girl, a co-worker, belittled me frequently, often in front of her students. Behind closed doors, she told me that the reason my students (who were one of those groups that simply complained about everything, and never turned in any work) didn’t turn things in was because of me–that I was a bad teacher. I was back to 15 years old again, when someone–my peer, made me feel inferior. And I was so overwhelmed, and stressed, and baffled that I began to believe it.  Continue reading