Monthly Archives: February 2014

That’s My Jam

I have satellite radio in my car. It is one of the best inventions of our time. You can cruise to about any genre of music you’re in the mood for. No commercials. Even news (bleh), comedy, live concerts, and interviews. No commercials!

Today I was running errands under a cloudy sky when Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven bounded from The Bridge and out of my kick-ass Prius factory speakers. Yes, despite that I named my car “the Blue Vagina” the sound system really kicks ass.

Listening to Stairway’s melody on a sunless morning reminded me of my mom and days when we drove thirty miles to her parent’s house for a visit. That trek from Nashville to Murfreesboro was flat like these Florida streets. Except in my memory those Tennessee trees were barren of leaves. I looked out of the passenger window as a teen and caught a glimpse of the train track running parallel to the monotonous roadside. Sometimes a train would slowly lurch forward, never quite keeping the car’s pace. Most of the time the tracks were empty. But the flashes of naked-limbed oaks and maples blurred by as if they were a locomotive. And many times a Zeppelin song would resound from Nashville’s premier classic rock station. Mom has said Stairway is her favorite.

When I hear a Doobie Brother’s song, which sometimes plays from the satellite radio and sometimes from my phone or TV on Pandora (another fabulous invention) I think of my dad. I always have this vision of him washing his rust-colored El Camino in the driveway of the first house I really remember. I must have been four or five. Don’t know why this one instance has stayed with me so long. I can even see his dark blue jeans, slightly flared as the bell-bottom style was hanging on for its last days of glory. He had a Burgundy mustache. He sudsed the car with military precision. Later I would come to despise this meticulous way of washing the car. But damn if his cars never bore a water spot post-dry.

Thank God my parents introduced good music to me and my brother. When we weren’t listening to it in the El Camino or the Minivan we were in the basement scouring their old 45s. My love for the Beatles flourished early. Doobies, Zeppelin, New Wave and Alternative rock were to follow.

Remember the Walkman? I distinctly remember pacing my driveway with it, waiting for the DJ to play Karma Chameleon. And when it finally leapt through the headphones I was completely ecstatic in my knee-highs. “They’re playing my song!”

Now with iPods and whatnot we don’t have to wait all day. We can listen to any song any time we want. And this is a great invention, too.

But there is something to be said for having your jam played just at the right moment when you don’t expect it. That’s how it was when I heard Stairway. A happy surprise mirroring my now life with my past.

Music reminds us of people, places we’ve been, seasons, eras. It’s the soundtrack we drive to as the scenery passes by like a long train runnin.

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Threes

It comes in threes. That’s what I’ve always heard and that’s what we seem to experience when it comes to deaths. First it was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Now Harold Ramis. Who will be next? I dreamed last night there was only one remaining Beatle. I didn’t have an image of Ringo so it must have been Paul. I’m hoping this is not a prediction dream. I’m hoping it has to do with perseverance or honing in on my creativity or whatever the cerebral cortex is having me work through at 3am.

A few days before Hoffman died I watched The Big Lebowski. Hadn’t seen the film since it came out in ’98. It was even better than I remembered. I could relate to the main character “the Dude” played by Jeff Bridges in his passive way of dealing with the world and the fact that my choice of drink in the late 90’s was also a White Russian. Another facet I loved about this movie was the way Hoffman made this little sidekick character, a personal assistant named Brandt, a memorable part to this cult classic. It further reiterated what an intensely talented actor he was.

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A few days before Ramis died I watched Ghostbusters, one of my favorite childhood movies of all time. I’d been craving to giggle to Bill Murray’s kooky Dr. Venkman and Harold Ramis’s droll witty nerd banter. I turned on the cable (which I rarely do anymore) and there was my early evening fun snack. I could recite every line in this movie and still crack up seeing a gigantor apocalyptic marshmallow man.

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Lately I’ve been singing “Let it Be” to myself. A lot. I don’t think this is because one of the two of the fab four is gonna travel to his star in the sky. At least I hope not. It’s just a damn good song to sing. And the lyrics “When I find myself in times of trouble/ Mother Mary comes to me/ speaking words of wisdom/ let it be” and “When the broken hearted people/ living in the world agree/ there will be an answer/let it be” really ease the anxiety of many a despair-induced circumstance. And perhaps it gives some kind of solace when the question is asked, “Why did this person have to leave us so soon?”

All answers come in their own time. Although it can be grueling to wait for them. Do deaths always come in threes? I don’t know but it sure seems to happen that way. I’m hoping no more news is good news. These legends of film, theatre, screenwriting, songwriting, and music will always live on through their art. And they make the 3rd rock from the sun even brighter.

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Ode to the G.O.D.S.

Far removed we were
and dancing on stones
Days of the gods and goddesses
took us to where we are
A pen on paper
a long walk home
hugs last forever
never coming undone
in the mind
from the soul
We trudged on
sometimes slipping on stones
one falling off
the rest left wailing
but carry on
we did
All you poets
never forgotten
All you friends
you are love.

GODS

Written as an ode to a group of friends who
not only helped make high school more bearable
but also cultivated our creative endeavors together.

Twenty-five years later I will never forget
what they meant to me and still do.

Carpe diem G.O.D.S.

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The Charm in the Unsightly

There’s this back of a building I pass on my morning bike ride that makes me smile. Even though the dull white paint is chipped and molded and weeds flank the edges there is something poetic about it. But I’ll have to give its spray paint graffiti the credit. Right next to a red, boyishly printed “I love Julie” there’s “Life is Beautiful” in sweeping purple letters. On one of my rides I thought to stop and take a photo in case I need this affirmation when I’m not pumping the pedals on my favorite trail.

I’ve thought of this space very often. Who is the artist who thought to display this work? What was their motivation? I give them a nod and thank you to the atmosphere when I pass by.

Today the graffiti was gone.

The building was coated in a sandy beige that gleamed in the morning sun. Even the weeds were trimmed. I’m sure the owner of the building meant well while refreshing its facade. But I wasn’t too happy about it.

Blank Space

Don’t get me wrong. I love a manicured landscape, fresh paint, neatness, organization. But some things have more character when they aren’t, well, perfect.

Take people for instance. I’ve often said if you put all my ex-boyfriends in a row you might think you’re at the circus. And that’s not because I dated a bearded lady. I guess I’ve found attractiveness in all kinds. I never thought Tom Cruise was particularly hot. He’s just too damn normal. Give me a guy with a crooked (but clean) tooth, an unruly brow, or a laugh that makes the walls vibrate.

In college I had this dull and depressing drive from home to classes. Especially in the rainy winter. I saw no beauty in anything around me. My eyes only saw the dark, the dead, the sad. There have been other times in my life when this negative thinking took precedence over the glass-is-half-full mentality. Depression and anxiety were at their height. I think it all goes hand in hand. And even if I saw the most gorgeous of artwork on a wall in an alley I would not have recognized its charm.

My New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to continue to see the world in wonder instead of fear. So far, so good. Some of us have to train our brains to think this way. I’ve been in this training for many many months now. I sometimes get engulfed in the unsightliness of my surroundings when the dopamine is barely dripping. And I don’t live in an ugly place. But there is fear and unattractiveness all around if that is what you see. There may have even been times I thought a scarred Keanu Reeves wasn’t so hot. Okay, yeah, not really.

A field of weeds brings forth a bright yellow dandelion. A strip mall includes a shop of happy Vietnamese ladies eager to refresh tired tootsies. A junk yard is a photo-op. A scribble of tasteful graffiti is a mantra burned into a retrained brain.

And Julie, I’m sure you’re still loved. Just as life is still beautiful.

Beautiful Graffiti

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I Heart Pie

The first six months of my life I cried incessantly. My mother was beside herself. She dreamt of me since she married my father five years prior in a ceremony she always complained about. The two of them, a justice of the peace, her in a simple frock.

When I came along her world was becoming somewhat complete. Until I began my wail-fest that left her guilting me about it for decades afterwards. The only thing that consoled me was the bottle. And I wouldn’t even hold the thing myself. She had to hold it. As soon as the liquid emptied the glass and filled my little belly I began cooing and waving my arms at the ceiling like a stoner grooving to The Grateful Dead.

Same thing happened as I got older and ate a piece of pie. Or doughnut. Or my grandmother’s coconut cake. I have always had a sweet tooth. There are brownies baking in the oven as I type. But they are for the three fourth grade boys here playing Nerf war. I will longingly look at the pan, probably eat a few crumbs (cause as we all know crumbs have negative calories), and walk away.

The face of a happy girl.

The face of a happy girl.

In high school I would come home and bake– brownies, chocolate oatmeal cookies, potato chip cookies, gingerbread, chocolate pie. But when I ended up eating half of what I baked I decided to get another hobby.

Writing is sugar and gluten-free.

When I was nursing my son I made up for all the ice-cream I didn’t eat while pregnant. I would have a large peanut butter custard shake every single day. But when the baby weaned and the pounds started creeping back I had to quit that hobby, too.

Now the sweets are occasional indulgences. I do make a mean gluten-free dark chocolate chip cookie. The last pie I made was a “disaster” according to my mother-in-law as she shoved a handful of the crystallized chocolate into her mouth. I haven’t made brownies in at least ten years so I hope I can satisfy these hungry little soldiers.

The house smells like chocolate cake goodness.

Success. The brownies are not stuck to the edges of the pan and the boys just asked for seconds.

I’ll scrape the remaining little shards and lick the knife. Then maybe just do a little hippie dance with a big grin on my face.

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Flight of Me

Could I be an eagle today
and fly so high
these truances would
fall away
Could I be an eagle tonight
and fly so far
out of reach
out of sight
You would remember
the good I gave
and all the bad
would soar away
Could I be an eagle tomorrow
and rise with the sun
not burning not yearning
No tears of sorrow
If I were an eagle
would you let me
leave
And welcome me back
when these grievances
freed
Can I be an eagle one time
and leave these mortal
trials behind?

Eagle
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Harry Connick Jr. and a Bubble Bath

I remember the loneliest of Valentine’s Days. I was in high school and just been dumped by a boy I adored greatly. This was one of two boyfriends my mom ever liked, so she was a bit heartbroken too.

I must have trudged through that day with a scowl on my face, watching all the couples holding hands in the halls. I’m sure I made some cynical remarks to my poet friends (what other friends were there, really?) about the absurdity of Valentine’s Day. I probably talked about how all it did was make us single, busted hearted people feel more alone and gave everyone expectations not even the prettiest of couples could live up to. At least that’s what we imagined as we saw the two most popular kids, both gorgeous, both from well-off families, both athletic, and well liked by all the staff skipping down the hall like in a slow-mo coming-of-age rom-com montage.

Cue pantomime gagging.

So the school day ended and it became early evening. No date night for me. No phone call (from a dial-tone phone with a swirly cord). No flowers delivered. No love note. No pinch on the bum. No soft kiss on the lips.

My mom suggested I take a bath.

“Baths always make me feel better,” she said half-reassuringly and half cocky. She was the bath expert. At sixty-five years old I think she’s maybe taken two showers in her life. We even switched motels once on a family road trip because they didn’t have bath tubs. Or it could have been because the beds looked like they’d been slept in by a hobo. Anyway, the woman loves baths.

Since my mom had a walk-around-the-upstairs-naked-while-getting-ready mantra, it was no big deal for her to see me soaking in the tub in all my slight baby-fat nakedness. She made sure there were bubbles. She brought three floral-scented candles, placed them at the edge of the tub, and lit them. She brought my boom-box into the bathroom and together we picked out my Harry Connick Jr. CD. She gave me a knowing look and left me by myself to wallow in my lovelorn misery.

Oh, if only Harry Connick were here to serenade me in person. If only Keanu Reeves would knock on my door and ask to use the restroom. If that heartbreaker of a boyfriend would have stayed a little longer. But alas, none were meant to be.

As the suds saturated my soft, fair skin and my heart cried a little, I realized I was OK. I was still breathing. I was with the only person who truly knew me at the time– myself. I wasn’t in a horrible relationship. I wasn’t making compromises. I was encased in warm water, safe, listening to gorgeous melodies. And although my mom and I had it out a time or a thousand during my teenage years, that night she came to my rescue. She showed me a kind of love that is not as passing as the late winter wind.

I can only hope to be that safe harbor in my son’s life one day when his heart gets broken.

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