effortless

Lying in bed, drinking beer, and listening to Patsy Cline.  I am always struck by how effortless affect in her voice.  She is the white Ella Fitzgerald to me.  Patsy could sing the phone book and I would be reduced to tears.

This song always breaks my heart.  The way she sings “I’ve got these little thinks…” is gut-wrenching.

no one belongs here more than you

I woke up this morning at 8am to a slightly buzzy hangover, the result of a few too many beers, chased by a disgustingly sweet gel a fancy thai restaurant deigned to call a “Kiwi Caiparinha”, combined with the stress of finding that I had left my keys inside the house and my cousin was off gallivanting with doctors who had no business thinking he was cute.  This was actually a blessing in disguise as I drunkenly zigzagged to the nearest Starbucks (the “Bearbucks” as it were) and sat for two hours, wherein I embarrassingly nodded on and off quite a few times while drinking copious amounts of  water and iced tea.  The hangover could have been much worse.

After the lovely bus ride to Potrero Hill I nervously stuttered into my first poetry class.  This was basically me spending $80 to reaffirm that I hated poetry.  To the extent that was my goal, it was a total failure.  But more on that another time.

After the class, feeling energized by my new-found tolerance of poetry,  I hopped back on the bus and headed to Green Apple Books, a famous independent bookstore in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco.  Green Apple, nestled in an area that can best be described as “this is where all the real Chinese people live, eat, and shop”, is a fantastic bookstore that is built for hours of perusing.  I can get lost in the floor to ceiling shelves, slowly making my way over the creaky floor boards, through the nooks and crannies of the store, hoping that a title, author, or subject will trigger my “oh yeah, I wanted to read that!” impulses.  I went down to Green Apple with the intent of picking up two books: A Lorrie Moore book and Kay Ryan’s new book of poems.  Kay Ryan is a Bay Area native and the current Poet Laureate.  We read a few of her poems in class.  They weren’t horrible.

Of course, I made the mistake of stopping at the ATM at lunch.  This was one of those generic standalone ATMs that charge you idiotic fees to get your money.  It also displays your account balance despite the fact that you explicitly told it not to.  Well low and behold, the US Government had found my account number and decided to give back my hard earned money.  Either that or I am unwittingly part of an elaborate Nigerian embezzling scheme involving an Ethiopian prince named Mr. Jackson.  Either way, I wasn’t going to ask questions.

Buoyed by my temporary sense of wealth, I ended up with…hold on…let me count it up…13 books, 2 literary journals, 2 magazines, 2 greeting cards, and a pack of 15 postcards illustrated by Nikki McClure. Most of the books were used, so I was feeling good about that, at least.  Here were the highlights:

After the book raid, wherein I had to shoot some eye daggers at a middle-aged man who loudly told his daughter “We can just get it at Borders”, I wandered back towards my bus stop and decided to stop into Pho Clement, a mediocre pho restaurant nestled between a hipster joint and a Chinese hair salon.  My Timbuk2 back was literally overflowing with books.  I didn’t want to waste a plastic bag (I know, I know, I’m a hippie) so I tried cramming everything into my messenger bag.  I was able to stuff them all in except for three, which I carried.  As I dumped my bag onto the familiar red vinyl chairs at Pho Clement to a loud “THUD” that seemed to startle all the patrons, I set the remaining three books onto the matching red table.  Against the deep red background, the bright yellow jacket cover of Miranda July’s book stood out.  After placing my order with the overly friendly waiter, I settled in and started reading.

Unlike with music, I’m not particularly evangelical about books.  Sure, I’ll tell people if a book is good or worth reading, but I don’t get overly excited about them.  It’s not that I don’t read good books.  I do.  I read books that I enjoy quite a bit.  (AH CRAP!  I just realized I forgot to get Seth Stevenson’s “Grounded”.  Blurgh!)  But it’s rare that I love a book so much that I blabber on about it.

So with that caveat, let me say this: Pick up Miranda July’s book, “No One Belongs Here More Than You.” I’m familiar with Miranda July through her involvement with the Portland artists’ community.  Her name gets bandied about quite a bit by my favorite bands and visual artists.  She recorded an album for Kill Rock Stars, is best friends from high school (in Berkeley) with Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre, she directed a Sleater-Kinney video, etc.  Anyway, if you follow the Portland scene at all then you’ll recognize her name.  I had heard that she had put out a book of short stories, but I guess I buried that piece of information in the back of my head.  It wasn’t until I was wandering the aisles of Green Apple and saw that bold yellow cover that I remembered.

I’m not saying that it’s Gatsby or Infinite Jest.  It’s very simple prose.  She’s not trying to show you how many big words she knows, or hit you over the head with repetitive, flowery imagery just because she can.  You’ll finish it pretty quickly.  But her stories and her style had me sputtering with laughter in the restaurant and on the bus.  And seriously, books never make me actually laugh out loud.  It is simple, it’s clipped, and it’s slightly conversational.  Not unlike my writing style, I suppose.  But her writing has a fantastic absurdist quality to it that really pulled me in and then broke my heart.

Here’s an excerpt from “Majesty”, a short story about her dream of meeting Prince William:

I typed “royal family” into a dream-interpretation web-site, but they didn’t have that in their database, so then I typed “butt” and hit “interpret,” and this came back: To see your buttocks in your dream represents your instincts and urges.  It also said: To dream that your buttocks are misshapen suggests undeveloped or wounded aspects of your psyche.  But my butt was shaped all right, so that let me know my psyche was devloped, and the first part told me to trust my insticts, to trust my butt, the butt that trusted him.

That day I carried the dream around like a full glass of water, moving gracefully so I would not lose any of it.  I have a long skirt like the one he lifted, and I wore it with a new sexual feeling.  I swayed in to work; I glided around the staff kitchen.  My sister calls these skirts “dirndls.”  She means this in a derogatory way.  In the afternoon she came by my office at QuakeKare to use the Xerox machine.  She seemed almost surprised to see me there, as if we had bumped into each other at Kinko’s.  QuakeKare’s mandate is to teach preparedness and support quake victims around the world.  My sister likes to joke that she’s practically a quake victim, because her house is such a mess.

What do you call that exactly, a dirndl? she said.

It’s a skirt.  You know it’s a skirt.

But doesn’t it seem strange that the well-tailored, flattering piece of clothing that I’m wearing is also called  skirt?  Shouldn’t there be a distinction?

Not everyone thinks shorter is more arousing.

Arousing?  Did you just say “arousing”?  Were we talking about arousal?  Oh my God, I can’t believe you just said that word.  Say it again.

What?  Arousing.

Don’t say it! It’s too much, it’s like you said “fuck” or something.

Well, I didn’t.

Do.  Do you think you might never fuck again?  When you said Carl left you, that was the first thing that came into my mind: She will never fuck again.

Why are you like this?

What? Should I be all buttoned up, like you?  Hush-hush?  Is that healthier?

I’m not that buttoned up.

Well, I would love to go out on that limb with you, but I’m going to need some evidence of unbuttonedness.

I have a lover!

But I did not say this, I did not say I am loved, I am a person worth loving, I am not dirty anyhere, ask Prince William.  that night I made a list of ways to meet him in reality:

Go to his school to give a lecture on earthquake safety.

Go to the bars near his school and wait for him.

They are not mutually exclusive; they were both reasonable ways to get to know someone.  People meet in bars every day, and they often have sex with people they meet in bars.  My sister does this all the time, or she did when she was in college.  Afterward she would call and tell me every detail of her night, not because we are close — we are not.  It is because there is something wrong with her.  I would almost call what she does sexual abuse, but she’s my younger sister, so there must be another word for it.  She’s over the top.  That’s all I can say about her.  If the top is here, where I am, she’s over it, hover over me, naked.

That’s little bit of a taste.

I read a lot of books where, even while I’m reading it all I can think is “Dude.  You’re only reading this book because you think you’re supposed to or so you can tell people you read it.  You’re really not enjoying yourself.”  *cough*Kindly Ones*cough*  Not once did I think that with Miranda July’s book.  I’m about halfway through — I started a couple of hours ago but was interrupted by my pho slurping (not a good “reading while eating” food) and a cramped bus ride home.  The stories are short, they are alternately amusing and heartbreaking, and you never really know where she’s going.  But this has been a really entertaining read so far, which is really all I ask for in a book.

Also, check out her website for the book.  It’s adorable.

nurturing nature

I had my first writing class today. It is a nine week class called “Introduction to Creative Writing” and it is supposed to be a survey of all the different genres of creative writing (fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, personal essay, memoir, etc.), wherein we deconstruct and analyze poems and writings to learn what makes them good and then apply those lessons to our own writing via in-class exercises and homework. Aside from the rather precarious dance with public transportation that takes me to Potrero Hill, a neighborhood that for no good reason has scared me during my entire tenure as a San Francisco resident, I’m excited. I never took an English class in college and aside from high school, I’ve never had any formal instruction or training in any form of creative writing.

The class started with our instructor asking us to read the following quote from Katherine Anne Porter:

“I started out with nothing in the world but a kind of passion, a driving desire. I don’t know where it came from, and I do not know why — or why I have been so stubborn about it that nothing could deflect me. But this thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had — stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work that I have done.”

I stared silently at these words as the class droned on, their voices dissolving into white noise that I easily ignored. I know this quote is supposed to have a profound effect on me. It is supposed to trigger something in my writer’s soul. “Aha! A kindred spirit,” I should say.

It didn’t.

Because I don’t feel that way about my writing. At least, I don’t think I do. When I read that quote I immediately thought, “Well, replace “my writing” with “music” and that’s dead on. But writing? Writing, interestingly, is not necessarily something I enjoy. I don’t revel in wordsmithing or crafting stories. I don’t carry a journal and a pen with me everywhere I go in hopes of crafting the next great short story. I don’t ride an emotional high when I complete something I’m satisfied with. In fact, I find writing to be a chore.

I write because I feel compelled to do so. I write because, to put it simply, I can’t not.

Riding the bus home tonight, music of course blaring into my ears, this stark contrast between my feeling and connection with music and writing perplexed me. In class, as we sat in deeply tufted couches amidst the police sirens and ever-present smell of chai to deconstruct the intent, meaning, and greatness of a particular piece of writing, I couldn’t help but think “But this is what I do with music.”

I can hear a song and let it wash over me, marinate in it, live in it. I can spend hours deconstructing the meaning of that song, both lyrically from the writer’s perspective, lyrically from my perspective, the intention behind the song structure, melody, or riffs. I hear things that other people don’t. I know this because when I try to explain it to others they stare back blankly. When I hear a great song I can’t help but tell anyone who will listen about it. It is a gift and a curse. A great song becomes a part of me. It changes me. It can destroy me and move me in a way no piece of writing ever has.

But here I am. I’ve quit my job to pursue my writing. I’m considering going to school for it. I’ve shelled out $350 and am risking life and limb every week in order to learn more about it. I am consciously forcing myself to write more.

Why?

Like I said, I can’t not.

So this is where I come down on it: Music is my best friend. It has never failed me. It has always been there for me. I could “talk” to music for hours and I always walk away feeling better about myself, about life, about the world in general. Music is nothing but good times. But if you were to take music away from me, I could go on. I might not enjoy life the way I did with it in my life, but I would be ok.

Writing is love. Something that I am drawn to despite my own protestations. Something that I try to love on my own terms but fail. Writing commands me. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. And if you were to take writing away from me, to be honest, I’m not sure I would be ok. I quit my job because I did not like the person I had become and I did not like where I was headed. And a lot of that had to do with the fact that my job did not give me the space and the personal resources to address my compulsion to write. I know that I was headed down a very negative path and something had to give. Money and prestige or my sanity? I choose sanity. And Chaka Khan.

“But this thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had — stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work that I have done.”

I hope that over time I am able to internalize this, acknowledge it as a truism and wear it as a badge of honor. But for now I am pleased and somewhat proud of myself that instead of letting the writing rule my life, I am taking active measures to learn how to control this compulsion. Because at the end of the day, I know that writing and I will be together forever. We might as well start learning how to live with each other.

rsd 10

Loved this.  From Sub Pop’s packaging of the Dum Dum Girls’ limited edition 7″ singles for Record Store Day:

At long last…We at Sub Pop Records have finally devised an expensive, fragile, heavy and clumsy way of packaging and shipping mp3s.  The popular, invisible, tasteless, odorless music files are offered here on a piece of paper tucked safely within a handsomely printed cardboard sleeve (sometimes 7″, sometimes 12″, rarely 10″), and accompanied by an easily damaged plastic disc that, when push comes to shove, could, with the proper, expensive and temperamental equipment also produce this same music.  We believe this to provide a superior, conspicuous listening/ownership experience and hope to sell them to you in great quantities.  Enjoy!

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at Record Store Day.  My independent record store of choice is Amoeba Records in San Francisco.  I love Amoeba because, unlike the small record shops made famous by High Fidelity, you can be completely anonymous.  The store is so huge and the selection so vast that you don’t feel self-conscious being the only person without a penis, piercing, or tattoo rummaging through the punk section.  The staff isn’t so “gear head” about music as to judge your purchases (e.g., today I bought The Pixies, 2 Jacksons LPs, a John Steinbeck reading on LP, ABBA “Supertrouper”, and Heart “Dreamboat Annie”).  I can lose myself in Amoeba for hours, and today I did.  I lined up at 10am (they didn’t open until 10:30) and was pretty much in the store, give or take 2 hours, until 4pm.

This was not necessarily a good thing.

Amoeba, much like Target, kills your pocketbook the longer you stay there.  I had a specific list of albums that were released specifically for RSD (and therefore in limited print) I was gunning for.  I memorized that list, made my way around the store and pretty much got what I wanted.  I checked out around at around 11:30am, $220 poorer.  “Meh.  Support your local record store” I told myself, and I left to sit down and grab some coffee.

But Amoeba would call me back with Charlotte Gainsbourg signing and Jonsi performing in the afternoon.  I headed back to the store and, in need of something to do to kill time, wandered through the aisles.  Well, four hours later I had met Charlotte Gainsbourg, bobbed my head to Jonsi, and handed over another $180 to Amoeba.  WTF?  How did that happen?  Shit like this only happens at Target.

Oh well.  But I was happy with my haul.  Here were the highlights:

  • “The Snake and Johnny Bear” ready by John Steinbeck
  • “Hits Are For Squares”, Sonic Youth
  • “Super Trouper”, ABBA
  • The Flaming Lips, Henry Rollins, and Peaches covering “Dark Side of the Moon”
  • “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, The Byrds (original 70’s pressing)
  • “Live at Kelvin Hall”, The Kinks
  • “The Purple Tapes”, The Pixies
  • “Dreamboat Annie”, Heart (picture disc)
  • “The Jacksons: Live”, The Jacksons
  • “Dirty Things” 7″ single, Telekinesis
  • “Flume/Come Talk To Me” 7″ single, Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver
  • “The Book of Love/Not One of Us” 7″ single, Peter Gabriel and Stephin Merritt
  • The Thermals/The Cribs, 7″ split
  • John Lennon Singles Bag (3 45s with “Mother”, “Imagine, and “Watching The Wheels, only 7000 printed for RSD)

Anywho, I’m stoked not just for my swag but also for the opportunity to support not just independent music stores, but also independent music.  I’m not sure if people really understand how rough it is for indie labels and the bands that sign to them.  It’s not as glamorous as people think.  Not everyone can (or wants to) sign with a major label that has the resources to make life pretty sweet.  And the smaller “true” indies, like Kill Rock Stars (Bikini Kill, Elliott Smith, Quasi) or Jagjaguwar (Bon Iver, Okkervil River, Lightning Dust) don’t make a shit load of money.  But they live music and they sign amazing acts and give them the creative freedom to do what they want.  There’s a lot to be said about that.  There are a lot of acts that made the jump from indie to major labels and it hasn’t always been that successful.

I’m looking at you, Modest Mouse.

So support your local record stores and support indie music labels.  Of course mp3s are way fucking easier.  I buy most of my music through iTunes and Amazon, too.  But whenever something really hits me and I want to get the CD or LP I usually go and order it straight from the label.  I guess it’s my way of saying thanks and making sure the money gets back to them.

i wanna be your dog

“take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love.”

Iggy Pop wrote those words in his response to a fan letter.  I read the letter a few days ago over at Monitor Mix and these words, along with his salutation (“all my love to a really beautiful girl. that’s you laurence. iggy pop”) have stayed with me all week.  They’re beautiful, sweet, and make me love Iggy even more (an artist, mind you, that scared the living shit out of me when I was a kid).

More so though, I keep imagining what it must have been like to get those handwritten words from an idol when you were an awkward adolescent who felt all alone, awkward, misunderstood, an outsider.  You shoot this letter off to a music idol who, presumably, you feel is a kindred spirit, someone you can confide in, who might understand what you’re going through.

And you get those sweet and encouraging words back.  Something like that can be life-changing and, depending on where you are emotionally, life-saving.  Four days later I’m still moved by it.

Really sweet, Iggy.

slow down, you move too fast

As I disembarked from my regular train this morning at the Montgomery station, I saw this ad for the new Palm Pre.  I normally ignore ads but this one struck me because it seemed to run counter to another mantra, upon which, as a dutiful child of the 80’s, I had been raised:

So Ferris told me that life moves quickly and if I don’t slow down, I’ll miss it.  Palm is telling me that they have a machine that allows me to keep up with the speed of life so that I don’t miss anything.  OMG!  You mean I don’t have to miss that awesome tweet from my friend telling me she’s late for work?  Where do I sign up?!?  I mean really, Palm.  Do you think people are that dumb?  You’re trying to trade on Ferris’ name yet your product is the anti-Ferris.

I’m not one for schedules.  I don’t like my days packed with things to do.  In fact, I hate to-do lists.  To the extent that I have any social life whatsoever it typically involves, at the most, one “event” in a day.  I have no tolerance for running from thing to thing, feeling rushed or otherwise stressed out that I am running late for something.  I don’t wear a watch, I rarely ever know what time or day it is, and keeping a calendar is a complete waste of time for me.  I just really hate being told that I have to be some “where” at some “time” to do some “thing.”

But obviously I’m a functioning adult, trained in the social norms and mores of the world.  I know I can’t take my “you can’t tell me what to do” ethos to it’s logical extreme, though believe me, I try.  So I keep a to-do list.  I check my phone for the time and date.  And I very reluctantly keep a calendar that I very rarely ever check.  You know, because you need to do these things in order to have a roof over your head, remain gainfully employed, and have friends.

As I think I’ve made clear in previous posts, I love song lyrics.  Song lyrics speak to me in the way that great prose speaks to readers and seminal philosophy texts speak to philosophers.  As such, I downloaded an app for my iPhone, PowerLyrics, which allows you to look up the song lyrics to any song currently playing on your phone.  It’s a great app, though not perfect by any means (sometimes the lyrics are wrong and it’s not great for obscure music).  One of my favorite things to do on weekends is to get some coffee, take Chase to Dolores Park, cop a squat, and just watch the lyrics scroll by as I listen to my tunes.  It’s meditative to me and often times, it’s like having a conversation with an old friend.  At least that’s how I feel an hour later when I get up to leave.

For the past week, I have been taking the F train home from my job in the Financial District.  By way of background, the most direct and quick way for me to get to and from work is the J Church train, which picks me up a half block from my house, runs underground and only has six stops.  It takes less than 20 minutes.  But on Monday, for some reason, I thought “well, I’m not in a hurry to get home, the sun is still out, and I’d like to just sit and listen to my iPod for a bit.”  So I’ve been taking the F, which is horribly unreliable (you can wait upwards of 45 minutes between trains), stops at Every. Single. Block., takes 30 minutes to ride, and then requires me to walk another five blocks to get home.  On average, it triples the length of my commute.

But I don’t care.  Because the F gives me more time with my music and, since it runs above ground, I can access PowerLyrics and just sink into the words of a lot of my favorite songs.  It makes a difference for me to both hear the songs and read the words.  I absorb so much more as a reader than a listener.

The past few days I actually didn’t end up accessing PowerLyrics.  I stood patiently in the chill evening wind on the little island in the middle of Market Street and Montgomery for 30 minutes, just people watching.  Men in questionably coordinated suits (really, I can’t think that GQ rubberstamped the blue blazer/olive slacks look) trying to hail cabs, women who could easily double for Banana Republic mannequins rushing to the underground stations with their purses, laptop bags, and small Kiehls/Banana Republic/Anthropologie paper bags that earlier this morning housed either their lunch or their heels, and the weary East Bay commuters, who slowly walked their way to their public transportation of choice, mentally buckling in for the additional hour and a half commute home.

Upon boarding the antique F trains, many of which have been beautifully restored, I took my seat, cranked my music, and stared out the window with an odd expression of bliss on my face.  I am the odd man out.  Everyone else on the train looks either lost (lots of tourists take the F to get to Union Square or the theater), weary, or just flat out annoyed at how slow the train is moving.  Not me.  I’m loving it.  I could live on this train.  “Take your time!”  I scream in my head.  I’m all good right here.

I love watching the City pass by as the train slowly makes its way down Market Street.  You get the hurried rush of workers lining the streets in the Financial District, annoyed drivers trying desperately to fight their way through traffic to get onto the Bay Bridge (thank God we’re not a honking town), the confused yet excited tourists walking at a glacial pace in Union Square, gawking at every damn window, the grimy Tenderloin, where things that I am totally unfamiliar with and have only seen on The Wire are happening all around, and then the fantabulous Castro, where the boys are just getting ready to do it up.  That’s where the F ends and that’s where I hop off, happily strolling to my house amid the faint smell of pot, bears walking their tiny dogs, and neighborhood locals circling the block, head on swivel, attempting to secure a parking spot.

These have been the best hours of my days.

Today, however, I had to work a bit late.  Not because my job was particularly onerous.  As it happens, it only took me seven days of work, wherein I’m kind of supposed to be in by 9am, to get back to my regular sleeping pattern of falling asleep between 3-4am and waking up at 10:30am.  In other words, I was late to work so I had to stay late to log my hours.  And, since I was up late, I was quite tired by the end of it all.  Walking back to the train I considered just taking the J home.  I was tired, I wanted to see my dog, lie down, and catch up on all the internet related stuff I missed all day.

Thankfully, something stopped me.  The F was calling my name.  So again, I waited in the cold for twenty minutes (keeping myself warm by dancing to “Turn It On” and even doing the handclaps — no really) and finally boarded the green and yellow car that finally pulled up.  I didn’t have the energy to marvel at the nuttiness of my city.  So I plopped down in a distractingly warm seat (seriously, dude who sat there before me, you should get your temperature checked), fired up my go-to playlist and settled in for the ride home.

The first song that came on was “Burn, Don’t Freeze” by…wait for it…Sleater-Kinney.  A perfectly fine song, but never one that I remember as a favorite.  As I sat and listened to the familiar guitar intro, I realized that I actually don’t know the words to this song.  And despite turning up the volume and straining to listen in, I couldn’t make out the words in any meaningful way.  Sometimes this doesn’t bother me.  I can listen to a song and not have a full understanding of the lyrics.  It doesn’t necessarily bother me.  But something about this song was bothering me.  Well, “bothering” is probably not the right word.  But in that moment I was drawn to it.

“Burn, Don’t Freeze” is written in a style that Sleater-Kinney perfected: It is literally two songs at once.  Carrie and Corin sang on top of each other with melody and counter-melody, each with different words.  That in and of itself wasn’t enough to compel me to crack the song.  But two elements stood out: (1) I always want to know what Carrie’s singing because I think she has a way with words and wit and (2) Carrie and Corin’s vocal affects were flipped.  Normally Carrie has a very disaffected and unemotive way of singing and Corin, even when she belts it, has a sweetness or emotion to her voice.  But even though I didn’t know what they were singing about, on this song, Carrie sounded like she was purposefully singing rather sweetly and Corin sounded, well, pissed or bitter about something.  Hence my curiosity peaked.  As their disparate vocal styles, melodies, and lyrics intertwined I realized that purely listening wasn’t going to help me solve this song.

Frustrated, I fired up PowerLyrics.  As I read the lyrics, a slow grin crept across my face.  Remember, Carrie and Corin are singing simultaneously.  You can listen to the album version here.

Carrie: I’d set your heart on fire, but arson is no way to make a love burn brighter.  Always thought that the devil was the only one who knew the ins and the outs of the ways of love.  So I sold off my heart to see how this would end.  Now I can’t move an inch for fear it will begin.
Corin: When you saw me on that first day, said I’d blossom under your care.  Wrap me up tight inside your wing.  Is it safe now, is it safe to breathe?

Carrie: You come in between me and the darkness.  Please don’t you ever leave.
Corin: I force my eyes open and now who has changed?  You look different, so different today.

Corin: Holding your eyes in the hardest stare.  Running around like you wanted me there.  Looking at me like I’m the hottest in town, then turning your back when you’re moving around.
Carrie: Backwards, forwards going out of my mind, spinning way off time.
Corin: I ain’t gonna listen to you no more. Breaking outta this place throwing open the door. Use me up just to fan the flame.  But you’ll be sorry as I’m walking away.
Carrie: Fire to water, baby’s putting me out.

Carrie: You’re the truest light I’ve known.  But someday I’ll learn I don’t need your fuel to burn.  Always thought that hell was the only place hot enough to melt our hearts into a locked embrace.  There’s something so safe about a lack of air.  It’s the only way to make sure that you’ll always be there.
Corin: I’m the one who decides who I am.  I’m the one who will shed this old skin.  I force my eyes open, and now who has changed?  I feel different, so different today.

Carrie: We’re buried underground.  That’s where these hearts are found. Devil spins this world around.  Only Love can save us now.  Do you want to go underground?  Lay buried underground?
Corin: I’m gone!  I’m gone!  I’m gone!  I’m gone!
Corin: Don’t you wanna
Carrie: Did you really change your mind?
Corin: Ain’t you gonna?
Corin: Was this fire way too bright?
Corin: Don’t you wanna?
Carrie: Could this be your only crime?
Corin: Ain’t you gonna?
Carrie: Did you really change your mind?

 

I listened to this song on repeat at least 6 times, scrolling through the lyrics on each.  I would listen to Carrie’s part all the way through.  Then I would focus on Corin’s.  Then Carrie’s.  Then Corin’s.  Then try and process both together.  It was so much fun and it turned, what was otherwise a minor SK cut, to one of my favorite SK songs.  Because I had only caught bits and pieces of the lyrics on my prior listenings, I had no idea this was a love on the rocks/break-up song.  I had no idea how poetic Carrie’s lyrics were.  She sounds so desperate and needy (“You’re the truest light I’ve known.  But someday I’ll learn I don’t need your fuel to burn.  Always thought that hell was the only place hot enough to melt our hearts into a locked embrace.  There’s something so safe about a lack of air.  It’s the only way to make sure that you’ll always be there.”) and Corin’s so fucking bitter (“Looking at me like I’m the hottest in town, then turning your back when you’re moving around.”).  It’s so awesome.  I was feeling the high I get after discovering a new band or song that I never knew existed.  I literally skipped home, I was so excited.

I never would have experienced this had I just lazily taken the J home.  But thankfully, I broke my usual patterns and habits and my penchant for meandering about by myself, wanting to feel the pulse and rhythms of the City, not feeling wedded to a timetable or what was “sensible” created this moment for me.  I’m really grateful for that.

With the developments in technology there’s so much pressure to compress as much as possible into our waking hours.  And while that might work for some people it doesn’t work for everyone.  I am constantly amazed at how heeding that not-so-small voice in my head that screams “HOLY SHIT! SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!  WHAT’S THE RUSH???” often leads to those moments where I feel most alive and at peace with my life and with myself.  Getting caught in the race, I’m definitely guilty of  thinking that to do = doing something = living life.  Thus I must “do” as much as possible.  Otherwise, what evidence is there that I was here?  But sometimes, not doing anything, relaxing, and letting life take you wherever it goes *is* living.

Fuck Palm.  Ferris had it right the whole time.

PS — Dear dude who laughed at me when I did my little handclap dance.  I’m glad that me, my iPhone, and Sleater-Kinney were able to bring a smile to your face.

no, you may not name your band after a tampon brand

It’s Friday night, I’m marginally sober, and I have a quiet house to myself (the roommate has left to play some game called “flip cup”.  To quote Amy Poehler as Dakota Fanning, “I’m unfamiliar.”).  These are rare moments.  Rare moments that must be cherished the only way I know how — By doing the same thing I would normally do on a Friday night:  watching Gilmore Girls and surfing YouTube clips.

Wait, what?  Elvis Costello with Jenny Lewis *and* Zooey Deschanel?  Indie essposion.

A pre-Janet Sleater-Kinney, which means a pre-breakup Carrie and Corin.  Carrie puts her head on Corin’s shoulder.  In the middle of a song.  A punk song.  Oddly adorable especially because Corin doesn’t even react.  If someone tried to do that to me while I was playing I’d probably bonk them in the eye with my shoulder.  Cuz I’m warm and cuddly like that.

The New Pornographers are one of my favorite bands and they have a new album coming out in a few months.  I had never seen this 2003 Letterman performance of my favorite song.  I’ve always thought one of the biggest coups in indie rock was A.C. Newman (the lead singer and band leader) convincing Neko Case to join the band.

PS — A.C., you are way cuter now that you’re tubby and bearded.

Another one of my favorite Canadian bands, Broken Social Scene, also has a record coming out soon.  BSS are a collective/Supergroup made up of up to 17 people at a time.  Seeing them live at Lollapallooza was seriously a life-changing moment.  And this is the song “Anthems (For A Seventeen Year Old Girl)” that left me mesmerized, pulled me in, and made me a BSS fan forever.  I’ve been chasing the high from that concert ever since.  This performance, with Emily Haines (Metric), Amy Milian (Stars), and Feist is fantastic.

I bought The Stills first album “Logic Will Break Your Heart” solely based on the title.  I knew nothing about the band except that they were from Canada.  But the album title hit me like a ton of bricks.  As it turned out, that album would be on constant rotation on my iPod and in my car for most of 2004 and 2005.  They’ve had some lineup changes since then and they kind of suck now.  But that first album, along with this song “Still In Love Song” are still very close to my heart.

Jennifer Knapp.  I will probably do a separate post on Jen Knapp, who has returned after a 5+ year hiatus wherein she disappeared to Australia to work in a pawn shop to get away from making music.  She’s returned, will put out a new album in a few months, and it looks like she got a tattoo.  For a good two years of college, the only music I listened to was Jen Knapp, Jars of Clay, Caedmon’s Call, and Deliriou5, all Christian artists with amazing musicality.

But Jen in particular was, like, my voice.  She was able to channel everything that I had ever felt, wanted to feel, thought, or wanted to say about my faith.  I bought a Taylor because of her.  I started songwriting and singing in earnest because of her.  In the same way that Kathleen Hanna totally influenced me as I was going through my adolescence and learning what it meant to be a woman in the world, Jen Knapp served the same role during my formative years as a Christian.  She was a huge inspiration and still is.  I’m so happy she’s back making music and I hope that she’s doing so without the Christian banner.

Speaking of Jars of Clay.  I blame them for my default strum pattern, which is basically the strum pattern from “Flood”.  But I do thank them for introducing me to alternate tunings and creative capo work.  And to this day I can recite the prayer at 3:40-5:00.  I spent a lot of time listening to this song in dark when I was in college.

I’ve only recently come to discover Kleenex/Liliput, a Swiss post-punk XX band from the late 70’s and early 80’s.  My favorite label, Kill Rock Stars, just re-released their albums and I’m loving it.  An all-female post-punk band that sings in both German and English, toured with The Slits, The Raincoats, and Gang of Four, and was sued by Kimberly-Clark for using the name Kleenex?  What’s not to love?

And that was my YouTube adventure for the night.

I.  Love.  YouTube.