50s

Psycho Killer

Talking Heads – Psycho Killer

Do you realize that we are not even a week out from the first presidential debate? What the fuck. What the Fuck?! In those handful of days, Trump tested positive for COVID, went to the hospital, had a kitchen sink of drugs injected into him, had doctor’s lie about the timeline of his illness, went for a joyride to visit his “fans” lining the streets outside the hospital, and then demanded he be released. There is a psycho killer in the White House, no way around it. How else can you describe an evil, narcissistic, fascist, hopped up on steroids, while infected and contagious with a deadly virus, leaving the hospital and returning to cough and breathe all over every surface and everyone in the building?

That would be bad enough but first he tweets to all his cult members, “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.” Fantastic. It wasn’t hard enough to deal with all of the anti-maskers before, it’s going to be impossible now. More assholes with guns will show up on capitol steps demanding to be allowed to infect their neighbors because Dear Leader told them not to be weak and believe in science. Own the libs. Catch a deadly virus and extend the damage that’s already been done.

I’ve lost count how many people in his administration and other high ranking GOP members now have tested positive for the coronavirus. That superspreader event to celebrate their Supreme Court coup is like a cruise ship in February. I just can’t imagine being so arrogant as to think that there’s no chance you might catch it and to just roll the dice and forego any safety precautions that most of the nation has been living with for over half a year now. 210,000 people have died and millions more have been sick, some with debilitating, lingering health problems, but no, it won’t possibly touch me. I’ll just sit here next to these people who have been god knows where and with whom, not wear a mask, watch as people hug and touch each other, touch their noses and then hug some more. Let’s celebrate the impending decision to strip health insurance away from millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions during a pandemic. Couldn’t happen to us. Cheers!

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Every single one of those adults at the ceremony deserves what they get. Same with the people at the golf club fundraiser. No, they didn’t know he had the virus, but they knew they were spending $250,000 to hang out with a lying con man who knew from the beginning how contagious and deadly this disease is, yet deliberately sought to downplay it’s severity and deprive the nation of information and medical supplies. I saw this great Twitter thread that summed up this moral failing, “Finding a non-white supremacist reason to support a white supremacist still aligns you with white supremacy. Finding a non-authoritarian reason to support an authoritarian still aligns you with authoritarianism.” to which I would add, finding a non-science denying reason to support a science denier gives you COVID. 

It’s all so bizarre that I can see how people are inclined to believe the whole thing has been staged. His breathing looked really labored on the balcony of the White House though. Time will tell. 

Youth Against Fascism

Sonic Youth – Youth Against Fascism

Welp, these are some pretty fucked up times we find ourselves in, friends. Staring down an election that should be a slam dunk but Cheeto is causing chaos left and right, not to mention there’s a global pandemic and we’re trying to stave off another theocratic fascist from taking the seat of the most beloved supreme court justice of all time. Meanwhile the planet is burning, cops are still killing unarmed black people at an alarming rate and facing zero consequences, and millions of people are unemployed.

Not like I need to summarize for anyone reading here today, but I like to look back and remember just what kind of crazy shit was going on. I have toughed my way through several years of November NaBloPoMos and while I mostly can go back and figure out, or remember, what the details were of the issue of the day, it isn’t always obvious. Muddying the memories are things like this song, eerily as appropriate in 2020 as 1992!

The past six months have been unbelievable and at the same time, not a surprise at all. No, I didn’t see a pandemic coming but if one was going to hit while Twitler was in office, then you knew it was going to be an utter disaster. I really hoped RBG could have held out until 2021 but was anyone besides maybe Susan Collins surprised to see old Turtleface change the rule he created about having hearings for an open SCOTUS seat during an election year? The man has no scruples whatsoever and nothing would make me happier than for him to lose, and lose big. I don’t think it will happen but if ever someone deserved his comeuppance, it’s him.

A week ago I put out a Biden/Harris sign in the yard, along with one for a local candidate. This is not the ticket I dreamed about but if we are to have a constitutional republic rather than an autocratic dictatorship, this is no time to be picky. By the end of the week, two of my neighbors had followed suit, then another couple of signs popped up down the street. There is strength in numbers. I encourage you to declare your support. Maybe you’re in more hostile territory than I am but I guarantee someone will pass your house and feel just a little bit better knowing they’re not alone.

My Problem

Say Sue Me – My Problem

In an effort to not make myself too depressed and anxious about only having two problematic old white guys left in the primary race, I decided to shift my attention to preparing to quarantine my family for two weeks if we are told we have to do that. Because that’s not paranoid or stressful.

I’m not actually that concerned about getting the coronavirus, but the way things are playing out, it seems entirely possible that someone in my house will have found themselves at the same place as an infected person and then we’ll all have to stay in our house for two weeks, even if you never get sick yourself. And then if you do get sick, you’ll be stuck there even longer.

Usually I do a big grocery store trip on Sunday to get the basics for the coming week, my husband will fill in during the week if we need something in between, but there isn’t really room to stash a lot of stuff. There are no real closets in the house and while we do have cupboards in the kitchen, space is limited and storage is at a premium. I just haven’t been in the habit of buying in bulk because I don’t have a place to put 20 rolls of paper towels, and I don’t usually buy a lot of things in cans so the appeal of the big discount stores, Costco, BJs, has been lost on me.

I figured if I just make a point to buy two or three extras of things I normally buy, then put those in a separate spot from the food we eat on a regular basis, that could be our reserve for the end times. However, while I was out shopping, I saw an update that made me think, hmm, I’m not sure there’s going to be enough time for the slow acquisition of enough food to last us for two whole weeks. What if my husband or I come home from work tomorrow and one of us has been told to “self-isolate” there won’t be time to go shopping.

So after getting four pounds of pasta and several cans of beans and tomatoes of different kinds, 12 rolls of toilet paper, 6 rolls of paper towels, cheese for several pizzas, and a few other oddities at Aldi, I then went to our regular grocery store for the usual stuff. I’m cruising the aisles and the in-store ad comes on the loudspeaker, “It’s cold and flu season! And with the coronavirus spreading, make sure you’re prepared with all the cleaning supplies you need to keep your home safe. On sale in aisle 3!” Then I turned the corner and saw someone coughing half-heartedly into their hand, so I made a bee-line for aisle 3. Also in aisle 3? More toilet paper. I didn’t understand the run on toilet paper at first but then someone at work said, “Well, there’s really no substitute for it so you don’t want to run out.” Especially if you’re living off canned beans for two weeks.

I bought more pasta, some milk that’s been ultra heated or something and has a date of April 5, and as many bags of frozen vegetables as I thought I could fit in my freezer. I really hope we don’t lose power for any reason or that will be a huge waste. 5 pounds of potatoes, I’m not sure why. I just thought we’d get tired of rice and pasta, and if we did get sick, I’d probably want to make vegetable soup and then I’d want some potatoes. I also bought four cans of vegetable soup. It won’t go bad. Two boxes of Bisquick, because if we’re all home together, my son is going to want pancakes and I could make biscuits if we run out of bread.

Two weeks seems simultaneously not that long and a really fucking long time. It’s only 14 dinners, that’s not too bad. But not leaving the house for 14 days straight? I think my muscles will start to atrophy. And what if part way through the two weeks, my daughter’s college sends everyone home? How would we get her? And then would we reset the two week clock? I didn’t buy food for four people, I bought for three.

I do, however, now have 44 rolls of toilet paper.

I discovered Say Sue Me from some Instagram videos of their shows back in December. Luckily they finished their tour of the US before heading back to South Korea because they’re really stuck there now.

I Was Home

Sunflower Bean – I Was Home

I should be en route to the Sunflower Bean show/beer tasting that I excitedly bought a ticket for a couple of months ago. But instead I am home, doing nothing.

Not that I need an excuse but I have a few. 1) It’s actually over an hour away. That’s a lot of driving there and back. 2) I had some small cysts removed on Friday and while it was a very simple in office procedure, it actually was surgery and it hurts more than I thought it would (sorry for the TMI). 3) The friend I was going to meet up with texted me that she was thinking of bailing. She lives five minutes from the venue so if she wasn’t up for it, I feel less obliged. 4) It was only $15.

It bums me out because I just feel old and like a loser but I also felt like I’d feel even older at the show, standing there with a sore back and not enjoying it as much as I could and what if people bumped into me where the incision was, blah, blah, blah. Getting older sucks.

If I lived five minutes away I would have rolled on over there at 9 and seen what was what. I could easily have done an hour, maybe a little more. But basically four hours? Sadly not tonight. Hopefully Sunflower Bean comes back through in the warmer weather and I will be more up for it. I haven’t been to a show since September and I miss it.

Hungry Child

Hot Chip – Hungry Child

I’ve been trying to be better about exercising but it isn’t something I enjoy doing. After I’ve been to the gym I tell myself, hey, that wasn’t so bad, you should really try to fit in one more gym day during the week. That never happens though so the week goes by and any motivation I had has gone. I had a doctor’s appointment in the summer to follow up on my ultra low vitamin D levels and she congratulated me on losing a pound. “One whole pound!” she asked, “How did you do it?” I lied and said I added one more day at the gym. Really it was probably just that I had on lighter weight clothes and shoes but I didn’t want to own up to my couch-to-5k-but-only-on-Sundays fitness regime. She advised that I just, you know, come home from work and bang out a mile. That’s an idea, I said.

My preferred mode of exercise is bike riding but for a number of reasons, it hasn’t been practical for me for several years. That makes me sad. My last concerted effort to get back in the saddle a few years ago only served to convince me that I needed to get in better shape before I could even think about resuming that as a regular hobby. Of course there are bike machines at the gym and those spinning bikes are all the rage, but I hate that they are stationary. And probably half of my enjoyment on the bike was tied to the feeling of the wind rushing against me and the music in my ears. It was really more like dancing or skating. That last time I tried to ride for exercise my legs felt like lead and the bike was heavy and the shoes were wrong. I decided I would need to be more nimble before I could go out again.

So that’s how I have found myself laboring along on the treadmill at the gym. I don’t like running, never have. But I was successful at the c25k program once before and I hate those elliptical machines even more than the treadmill—they just feel like you are doing some pointless hamster on a wheel thing. With running I can at least see that it’s a useful thing to be able to master. I can’t do it without music though. I mostly forget that I want to make a playlist for this activity until it’s too late to pull it together so I wind up picking a more dance-y kind of album and just skip any slow songs if I’m supposed to be running instead of walking. Some albums, like this one, have some kind of video going the whole time if you are using Spotify on your phone. This one is just some swirly colors and it makes it easy to just tap the phone to skip or repeat a track. If I ever get past Week 6, Day 1 of this running program, I may need to put a bit more effort into the song selection but this is six solid minutes at 120bpm, which is about my limit.

 

 

Courtesy Call

Omni – Courtesy Call

I think that the last few years I have always started out November with some kind of apology in advance about my NaBloPoMo participation. I’ll probably miss a few, some entries will be lame, etc. Why do I even still do it? I really thought about just skipping it this year.

I do know a couple of people actually look forward to my November posts though, and it’s kind of like you get to hear from me, even if what I’ve got to say is mundane. What can I say, middle-aged mom life is not all that exciting. At least it comes with music!

 

Meet Me in the Street

Sheer Mag – Meet Me in the Street

After a long hiatus, I finally made it out to a show earlier this week. This school year is my daughter’s last in high school and it has been jam packed with activity, much of which required me, or more precisely the car which I was driving, to be around in the late evening hours. That meant it really wasn’t possible for me to go to any weeknight shows and my weekends were often spent prodding her to finish her homework, study for the SATs, do her college applications, taking her to look at schools, etc. But now things are wrapping up and, miracle of miracles, we acquired a second car.

It had been nearly two years since my old Toyota’s clutch called it quits. What started as a way to save a little money and hold off on getting a new car until after the summer, turned into a two-winters long slog with just one car for a family of four people. I’m sure this is not that uncommon and even having one car is a level of privilege millions of people in this country don’t have. But I was also driving that one car 120 miles a day just to get to work. When I also had to tack onto that taking my daughter to three different after school activities, often requiring picking her up, dropping her off and then going back out to retrieve her later on, the time and miles I spent in that car was draining. I hit the trip counter on one of those longer days–170 miles. That wasn’t every day but it wasn’t that rare either.

Back in February, a friend at work mentioned that a woman in her department was thinking about selling her old car. It was in good condition, tiny, had good gas mileage and not a ton of miles. It wasn’t my dream car but she was practically giving it away, and it was too good a deal to pass up. So I became the owner of a 2008, noisy, bright red, two door Toyota Yaris hatchback. Things I like about it: I can park it anywhere, it gets pretty good gas mileage, it had less than 130,000 miles on it when I got it. Things I would change about it if I could: its weak engine, automatic transmission, manual windows and door locks (I would much prefer the reverse – a stick shift with auto locks and windows), a slightly weird odor like too much cleaner or a lifetime of air fresheners, and a non-working CD player. I got it to work once but mostly it just refuses to load a CD. It’s just pushing as hard as it can against any disc you try to insert. Because my previous Toyota was from the last century, it had a tape deck, as you might recall. This new-to-me car is at least modern enough to have an aux port so I picked up a cable and can stream whatever I want through my phone, but I still wish the CD player worked.

It took several trips to the DMV to transfer the title and get it all squared away so I spent my time in line buying concert tickets. With the freedom of a second car, I no longer have to be home to fetch or drop off anyone! The first of these shows was Sheer Mag the other night. Such a fun band. I encourage you to go if they come to your neck of the woods. It was great to be out dancing in a club again. We need that more than ever these days. I feel an impeachment playlist brewing. I’ll throw my poster board and Sharpies in my car’s tiny tucked away storage space, hook up the phone to the aux cord and blast this song as I strain my car’s engine and hit the streets. See you out there!

There She Goes, My Beautiful World

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – There She Goes, My Beautiful World

What a dispiriting weekend. While I had high hopes for the Mueller report actually documenting some of the total chicanery of the current mob in the White House, I had little expectation that those in a position to do something with that information would do so. Anyone who believed for a minute that a Twitler appointee would do the honorable thing and expose his lying ass has been living in a fantasy. I really hope there is someone in possession of the report who is willing to follow in Deep Throat’s footsteps and leak it all to the press.

I am so fucking sick of all the lies and bullshit and gaslighting. And there are never any consequences. None! At least the various House committees have started investigations, finally, but it is all taking way too long. The sheer volume of things that we have to put up with on a daily basis is more than I can keep track of so I’ve basically sworn off of Twitter. There will never be a day of reckoning for Mayor MAGACheese or that treasonous turtle currently serving as Senate Majority Leader. Lord, I hate that fucking fucker and I will never understand how anyone can vote for him.

In the midst of all of this unfolding, we were also navigating the whole college application process with my daughter. Between that and the deluge of crap coming out of DC, my eye has been twitching so badly that I was starting to wonder if I had a brain tumor pressing on a nerve or something.

It’s all so exhausting and all we can do is continue to shout and make a fuss. I’m afraid that it will take massive and consistent demonstrations before anything (if anything) would begin to make a difference and even then, elections are still 18 months away and that’s a really fucking long time.

I just want to be able to go back to thinking about art and music. I want to feel like going off to college is a worthwhile and important pursuit for my daughter so she is prepared for her future. That is really fucking hard when each day looks more and more like some dystopian novel. Everything is awful. We need to triumph. We need to restore sanity, decency, and normalcy. My beautiful world, we need to get it back.

You Can Close Your Eyes

James Taylor – You Can Close Your Eyes

This past Christmas, all of my siblings and I were up at my mother’s house in Maine. My brother lives about a half hour away from her but the rest of us came from near (me at 4 hours) and far (San Francisco was the farthest). It was great to all be there, all of our kids got to see their cousins, which given their ages (13-19) is probably the last time they will all be together in one place until one of them gets married.

On Christmas Eve, someone suggested we sing some Christmas carols so my youngest sister, the one with the Yale music degree, played the piano and many of my siblings, my two brothers-in-law, one niece, and my daughter, all joined in. Very festive. On Christmas itself, my brother brought one of his guitars over (I think he has close to a dozen, he started making them himself some years back) for a late night jam session in the kitchen. My mother expanded her kitchen and turned her garage into a dining room thirteen years ago so when we are that many people, it tends to split into the younger generation hanging out in the living room and the grown-ups in the kitchen, taking care of meal prep or doing dishes. So after that was all done, out came the guitar.

Inevitably, there were the six of us, sitting around the kitchen table, singing James Taylor songs. The in-laws and the children drifted elsewhere. They would have been welcome, of course, but they aren’t as well-versed in the James catalog, and by that I mean, have the entire thing, with all the three-part harmonies and all the oh-nos and yeah-babies, committed to memory.

My oldest sisters were huge James Taylor fans so from the time I was probably about 8 years old, there was a heavy rotation of James’s records on the family stereo. My younger sister doesn’t remember life without James Taylor songs on in the background. So deeply ingrained are these songs in my brain that if I ever suffer from amnesia or lose my ability to speak from some kind of head trauma, I think I would still be able to sing these songs. Up until, say, 1985, when I went off to college, I know every song on every album of his. My first real concert* was James Taylor at Jones Beach. He is completely responsible for my love of three-part harmonies and for guys from the south with long hair and slight accents. Even my mother, who normally only listens to classical music, loved James Taylor (probably those harmonies) so he was long-car-ride approved. There we would all be, my mom driving and six kids jammed in the back and the way back, singing along, splitting ourselves into the different parts.

And so it was again in my mom’s kitchen. This song lends itself particularly well to this kind of sing along. I used to sing it to my kids when they were babies and I was trying to get them to go to sleep. I debated about which video of this song to use, the one from him in London in 1970 (so dreamy!**), or the one with Carly Simon (the cheesy mustache, so 70s!), the studio version, so you could hear the original standard, but then I saw this one. Stephen Colbert is so visibly thrilled, like he just can’t believe that he is getting to sing this song with James Taylor, in real life, that I couldn’t resist. Colbert is from an even bigger family than mine, and from South Carolina, and I can just imagine that his childhood was likewise spent singing these songs with his siblings in three-part harmonies.

*Technically, my first concert was James’s brother Livingston at a bar in New Haven when I was 15 but I don’t really count that as an actual concert.

**The way James looks in the 1970 London video, that set the standard for me for many years to come.

Feeling Gravitys Pull

R.E.M. – Feeling Gravitys Pull

It is Michael Stipe’s birthday so I figured that was a good reason to finally write this post I’ve been mulling over for more than a month now. That I waited until nearly midnight just goes to show that these things are sometimes hard for me to actually commit to writing. It’s so much easier when it stays up in my head, where I know what I mean and don’t have to try to lay it bare.

Just after Thanksgiving, a friend from Instagram posted a very intriguing picture. Actually, the picture would have meant nothing to me but the caption was, “Michael Shannon and friends perform Fables of the Reconstruction.” Um, what? So many questions. 1) Who is Michael Shannon? 2) Why? 3) Why Fables? As opposed to, say, any of the other I.R.S. albums? 4) Had I known about it, and had I been able to go (no on both counts) would I have? The jury is out.

I have since looked up who Michael Shannon is but that did not answer anything for me. I also looked up the event itself and learned that not only was this happening, but the stage show was accompanied by live drawings of the songs projected behind the performers as they played them. I asked my Instagram friend what the drawings were like and she said she couldn’t see them from her angle. But then the artist himself commented with a link to his Instagram with the drawing(s)! Please go check it out.

So then I was really torn in an after-the-fact dilemma of would I have had the guts to go. I really loved the drawings and the idea of witnessing this illustration on the fly of my favorite album would have been really cool. But other people performing the songs from my favorite album of all time? I’m not sure. A number of years ago A.V. Undercover had “Driver 8” on the docket and it was the last song left in that season, meaning no one else dared to cover it and The Walkmen were reluctantly tasked with it. I didn’t make it through watching the whole video. It’s not their fault, really. I’ve often debated with myself if I were in a band and presented with the A.V. Undercover challenge and an R.E.M. song were on the list, would I say we should do it because I wouldn’t want anyone else to, or avoid it for fear of not doing it justice. I’m not sure why Michael Shannon and Friends picked Fables, unless it’s their favorite too and they are not similarly plagued by these thoughts, but I feel like some of the songs would be really hard to do. To be sure, “Driver 8” and “Maps and Legends” along with most of Another Side (as opposed to A Side) could be pretty straight forward. But where would you even start to try and cover “Feeling Gravitys Pull” or “Life and How to Live It” – songs that, to me, are so endowed by their creators with an other-worldly quality that it’s simply not possible for mere mortals to touch them.

A few weeks later, a different Instagram friend, who is in a band out in San Francisco, posted a video snippet of them at a party doing a little preview of their project to perform Fables. It was just a couple of acoustic guitars and a guy singing “Driver 8” in a living room. Didn’t I sit around with my friends in high school playing guitars and singing songs by bands we liked? Of course. My friend Tom and his band even did “Can’t Get There From Here” at a house party the summer after my freshman year of college. That seemed fine. But that was also before I ever saw R.E.M. myself. [And here I have to just interrupt this story to say that, OMG, it happened again at the office Christmas lunch that people started talking about concerts and someone asked what was the best concert you’ve ever been to and I had to just say, “we already covered this” and shut that conversation down.] It is just that no one, ever, will be able to do what Michael Stipe does with these songs. I know that they aren’t trying to do what he does. I’ll bet that at 59, even Michael can’t just summon that up on demand. After all, isn’t that why they disbanded? I guess I am just having a hard time understanding what would make people take the leap from, hey let’s hang out singing our favorite songs off of Fables, to let’s perform the whole album in a club in front of people.

Clearly, as was already known, I have issues with R.E.M. and me and being out in public. It wasn’t always this way. In college I proudly wore my pink R.E.M. bicycle shirt all the time. I spent over a year searching for shoes just like the ones Michael is wearing in this video (close-up at 1:50) and then wore them every day because “when you meet a stranger, look at his shoes.” Maybe it’s because I spent so much of my 20s trying to emulate Michael and falling woefully short that I find this so perplexing. Maybe people who are not trying so hard to be something they can never be are able to just have some fun with songs they love.

In the end, I wasn’t there, I won’t be there, and in these dark times, I feel like creative people should bring whatever light to the world they can. And I really like those illustrations.