Good Advices

R.E.M. – Good Advices

Today my best friend sent me a link to a video from some VH1 program back in 1987. It was a VJ doing the usual VJ thing with Natalie Merchant there to chat about things during the breaks. It was super awkward because the VJ clearly didn’t know anything about 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie clearly didn’t want to be there, but there she was. You can watch the whole thing if you want to but I am going to link to the relevant part at the mark here. Go ahead, watch him ask Natalie about her shoes.

Ok, it kind of drags on a bit but I want to talk about shoes. Natalie’s shoes, my shoes, people’s perceptions of shoes. First of all, I love that Natalie says they are her dream shoes. I also have had dream shoes. Shoes where you find them and you immediately feel like you are complete. Shoes that state, this is me, I am grounded in these shoes. For me, my dream shoes said to the world, everything you need to know about who I am can be read by looking at my shoes. And you should always look at people’s shoes. Always. If, like the interviewer, you are puzzled by my shoes (or Natalie’s shoes), well, sorry, you just didn’t get it. The shoes will speak to the right people in the right way. I have based my life on it. “When you greet a stranger, look at his shoes” is good advice that has never steered me wrong.

Natalie said her shoes remind her of her grandfather’s shoes. My shoes were old man shoes too. Literally, they are men’s shoes. And let me tell you, Natalie Merchant is tiny and finding shoes in her size is probably no easy task. My old man shoes were a men’s size 6. They rarely come that small. What’s great about them? They are sturdy. They are practical but not in a “practical shoe” way. There’s a tiny bit of a heel but not like a woman’s shoe heel, it’s the whole back part of the shoe so it’s stable. And they lace up so you can make them nice and snug, unlike the slip-on nature of so many women’s shoes. They are a little dressy but they are comfortable. You feel strong and confident in a good pair of shoes like that. Perhaps most importantly, you will not look like everyone else in these shoes.

When I got to college I think I had some regular sneakers, maybe a pair of Keds, and probably a pair or two of flats to go with skirts or dresses. I’m sure I had boots for the winter but after two years getting schooled up in Maine as to what is appropriate footwear for snow, they were likely nothing like the boots my classmates in Pennsylvania wore. By my sophomore year I was really on the hunt for “my” shoes. There is nothing like the conformity of your peers to make you long for something that will set you apart. I knew exactly what I wanted but I had no idea where to find it. I had looked in thrift stores and the big army/navy store I. Goldberg’s in Philadelphia, but I kept striking out. I didn’t want combat boots, I didn’t want Doc Martens, I wanted something more refined, slimmer.

My work-study job was in the theater department as a dresser. Sophomore year the spring musical was Sweeney Todd, set in Victorian London, with a large cast and a good number of male roles. We made the costumes in the costume shop ourselves but one day I came in and saw they had been to the storage space off campus and come back with shoes for everyone. There they were. MY shoes. Black, lace-up, ankle height, low-stacked heel, old man shoes. I asked where we had bought them and was given the name of a men’s shoe store down by the bus station in Philadelphia, near Chinatown. When I finally had enough money saved up I took the train into the city, found the shoe store and left with my dream shoes in hand.

I wore them everywhere with everything. Summer, winter, rain, no matter. I had to have them resoled twice and the heel repaired once. I felt invincible in them. I loved nothing more than taking some $20 bills, folding them in thirds and putting them in my shoes, then lacing them up tight and heading off on adventures; sleeping out for concert tickets, taking the train up to New York or Providence. No one was ever going to guess I had over $100 in my old man shoes. Eventually they developed a crack by my pinky toe that was their undoing. I went back to the shoe store in Chinatown and bought a second pair, though they had changed ever so slightly, now with a cap toe design, that was just never quite as comfortable as the originals. I still loved the second pair but at some point I must have allowed my mom to get rid of them because I wasn’t wearing them any more.

Fast forward to middle-age and not being able to wear heels but not wanting to wear what look like orthopedic shoes either, I started looking for my dream shoes again. I had a couple of different attempts with women’s shoes that were ok and I felt sufficiently comfortable in them, but they were a compromise. I tried a pricey pair of Frye boots that looked online as if they might be close enough to work but when they arrived and I tried them on they were not right. Too pointy, the heel just a tiny bit too high. I sent them back and resigned myself to my sensible mom shoes but couldn’t stop hearing, “Oh, how do I feel about my shoes? They make me awkward and plain, How dearly I would love to kick with the fray…”

Then just after Christmas of 2019, I was looking for something on Etsy and lo and behold, someone was selling my shoes. They were a tiny bit too big (a men’s 6 1/2 now being the smallest they make), a little bit too shiny, and they had the cap toe that my second pair had, but they were the actual real Stacy Adams shoe that I wanted, at less than half the price. I was trying hard to not let myself spend the money on them but my husband said I never spend money on myself and I should get them.

They arrived in January of 2020. I wore them to the office a few times but they were on the stiff side and the leather sole on the carpeting coupled with being a bit too big meant I kind of felt comically slippy in them. I was determined to break them in but not really sure how to go about it. When the pandemic arrived and shut everything down, I put them away and didn’t really think about it for a year and a half. I wore almost no shoes at all during the 18 months I worked from home. I was either in slippers or flip-flops around the house and sneakers if I went out for a walk or the infrequent forays to the store. Once we were ordered back to the office in the fall of 2021, the other shoes I used to wear all the time to work had become so uncomfortable I could barely walk in them. It was time for my old man shoes to come back out.

While I would prefer to be working from home full-time, on the days I have to go to the office I lace up my shoes and look down at my feet and it gives me the little boost I need to get out the door. The snug fit around my ankles shoring me up both physically and emotionally. I see them and I see the memories of my old shoes and all the places and things I did in them. I feel like I have my armor suited up for the day, my trusty shoes ready for anything. I may be a middle-aged mom at a desk job but you can look at my shoes and know that’s not the whole story.

Still Life

Flasher – Still Life

The weather is gross tonight, it’s only rain here though my daughter just sent a picture of snow outside her apartment at college. It is likely snowing up at the office too. Three days ago it was 73°F. We still have the air conditioners in two windows.

I really feel like I could use a vacation to someplace warm and sunny but this time of year is crazy for travel what with Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention it is college application time and then there’s the whole cost factor. But apart from the handful of visits up to see my mom, the occasional overnight or two with a sister or friend, I haven’t taken any vacations in the past five years at least. I had time off from work but I kept within a day’s drive of home that whole time. The pandemic was part of that but I don’t think I would have gone anywhere even if it hadn’t happened.

Does the travel muscle atrophy if you don’t use it? Getting on a plane, unfamiliar beds, eating out all the time, it just doesn’t sound that appealing. But, man, I would love to get away from this still life. See different kinds of trees. Smell how the air is different. Instead I guess it’s time for bed.

Expert in a Dying Field

The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field

This past February I was supposed to go see The Beths up in Boston. I’d bought the ticket as soon as I heard they were coming to the US because it’s not every day a band will make the trek from New Zealand. The show sold out and I hatched a plan to make a weekend out of it. Three or so weeks before the show, The Beths added a show at one of my usual venues, closer to home, but as I’d spent the money on the Boston show and had this whole plan, I stuck with my original Boston ticket.

My daughter had a concert she had bought tickets for, also in Boston on the night before the Beths show. The friend she was going to go with wound up having a conflict so I said I would go with her. She had been having a rough start to the semester and I was trying to give her a fun break, get a hotel room and have a girls weekend. But then a big snow storm pushed the Dodie concert my daughter had been waiting and waiting for to the same night as my Beths show. The two venues were probably a distance that you could have walked in the summer but in the snowy, below freezing streets of Boston in February, there wasn’t a viable way to do both. Dodie is my daughter’s favorite so I had to forego The Beths.

I could have probably made it to the closer to me Beths show that happened a couple of days later but by that point I’d already driven well over 500 miles in just two days and I was wiped.

So when I saw The Beths were already coming back, almost exactly a year later, I was torn. Again, just Boston or New York for the options and again, there is actually a perfectly timed hole in the tour dates when they could swing through and play that same venue. But I knew it would sell out! Risk it and end up missing it again or buy the ticket and possibly go twice if they add the date? Argh! Not to mention it will again be February in New England. The whole thing could be upended just like last year.

My Music League friend texted me and said, hey, did you see The Beths are coming back to Boston? She’d gone to that show at our regular place and encouraged me to get a ticket for the upcoming Boston show, she and two other people I know would also be going. So I bit the bullet and got a ticket. Here’s hoping my third chance to see them will be the charm.

To Hell With Poverty

Gang of Four – To Hell With Poverty

Last week, a bit reluctantly, my son and I attended a FAFSA night at the high school. They promoted it by saying there would be people from colleges there to help you fill out the financial aid form. I kind of figured I already knew what to do since this is not our first rodeo, but the prospect of having someone from a college, rather than the clueless high school counselor, on hand to answer questions made me think it might be worth it.

Now I’m not so sure. I kind of think we may have entered something incorrectly but when I tired to go in to verify it, the stupid form kept timing out after we logged in so I gave up on that for tonight. Instead I thought I’d get started on the CSS Profile. Oh happy day! We are broke enough to not have to pay any fees for filing that one!

It still amazes me that people can be so easily misled into believing that their problems are caused by whichever minority group the far-right would like to blame today. I mean, we all know how it has happened, but I can’t imagine being so willfully ignorant, so incapable of following basic logic, so completely incurious about the world, that you would look at the two ghouls pictured in this video and think yeah, I’ll trust them instead of my neighbors. I’m avoiding mentioning any of the current crop of fascists on election eve but Ronnie and Maggie really got that party started. Here we are, 40 years later, and I think they would be thrilled to see the state of things today.

World of Pots and Pans

Horsegirl – World of Pots and Pans

A friend invited me to take part in her Music League back in the spring. It’s an app/website where you and some number of other people are given a theme and have a few days to anonymously submit a song that fits the theme, then a playlist is generated (this all syncs up through Spotify) and you have a few days to listen to it before voting on the songs. You can leave a comment on all of the songs but at least in this league, you are required to up vote six songs and down vote one. Then the votes are tallied and there are weekly first, second, and third place finishers, as well as a cumulative total for the overall winner.

I can’t remember if I ever wrote about Turntable.fm but most of the people in this league are people I know from that app/website. Turntable was forced to shut down when it ran into problems with streaming and copyright issues, but it reemerged two years ago or so using YouTube as its streaming source. I loved the first iteration of Turntable. I have met up with several of those people in real life at concerts; they’re good people who listen to great music. But I don’t really have the time? energy? something, to keep up with it now. So when this friend (one of the original Turntable crew) texted and asked if I wanted to be in the Music League, she said up front that it wasn’t a huge time commitment, you have several days to submit and vote, I figured I could give it a try.

The themes have been things like post a song by a band with siblings, or a song with strings, a song released in 1989, a song in French, a song released since June 2022, etc. Someone in the league is the admin and sets up the weekly themes so you can see what’s coming up and plan ahead. If two people try to submit songs by the same band it will warn you that there has already been a song by that band submitted so try something else. There have been a bunch of times when my first, second, and even third choice bands were already used. But you can’t see what other people have submitted until the cutoff time (or all submissions have been made).

Anyway, it is a lot of fun, easy to keep up with, and I have heard a lot of new music that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have discovered. Like Horsegirl. They appeared a couple of times in the line up and were talked about in the accompanying chat in the app. Plus, it has been good to “see” these friends again, even in this very minimal way. I highly recommend it!

Night and Day

Johnny Marr – Night and Day

When the alarm went off this morning, I was in the middle of a weird dream. My husband and I were sitting at a kitchen table with Johnny Marr, all eating sandwiches. I guess we’d been talking about how things were going for him financially and my husband said, “Well, as long as you can take care of your aging parents, that’s good enough.”

Friends, we were Johnny Marr’s parents. He had just taken a bite of his sandwich and froze with this look on his face of total disbelief, as you might expect. I tried to soften things by making a light-hearted remark to the effect of, don’t worry, dear, he’s only joking. Sort of. Johnny Marr continued to stare, still not chewing that bite he’d taken. Then the alarm clock saved him from more of this awkward encounter.

I can easily see the combination of factors that contributed to this dream; I’d just talked to my mom last night and talked about our finances (hers and ours), a recent dinner time joke my husband made to our son, and Johnny Marr’s Instagram. Recently, he was out on tour with the Killers and would post stories where he’d turned up at some guitar shop or studio somewhere and play some classic riffs from a Smiths song. I just watched one yesterday.

I checked Instagram this morning and he posted a new picture, probably at just about the same time I was having that dream, and the look on his face is almost exactly like the stare he was giving us. The title of his most recent album is Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, so really, I think it’s his fault my subconscious has him funding my retirement.

We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings

The Smile – We Don’t Know What Tomorrow Brings

It has been a day. And a year. I don’t know if I am going to do NaBloPoMo this time but I thought if I didn’t post something today, some of you might have worried that I dropped off the face of the planet. Especially since the last post I made was at the end of last year’s run and was titled “Say Goodbye.”

What can be said about these last eleven months? And why would anyone want to read it anyway? I feel like everyone has just been going through it. Getting by. We’re still here but, eesh, the less said the better.

So, I hope you’re hanging in there, and maybe there will be posts but maybe not. We don’t know what tomorrow brings.

Be Sweet

Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet

Japanese Breakfast played at this new outdoor venue back in the summer and I had wanted to go but I’d been up in Boston for the day and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull off all that driving. Based on how tired I was this morning and how lethargic I was throughout the day, I think that was the right call.

I also read Michelle Zauner’s book Crying in H Mart, which I think is a good read even if you know next to nothing about Korean food or her band (like me).

Anyway, off to a slow start here on the old NaBloPoMo.

No Time for Love Like Now

Michael Stipe & Big Red Machine – No Time for Love Like Now

When this song came out back in the spring, there were a couple of different performances, varying only slightly by where did Michael seem to be? What was he wearing? Glasses or no glasses? There were interviews where he said, yes, it fits this moment really well but I actually wrote it back in the fall before we had an inkling of the pandemic to come.

The couple of songs he had released prior to this one didn’t really do it for me. I listened/watched the videos, but they weren’t going to be songs I put in my regular rotation. No Time for Love Like Now was different. I’m sure being cooped up in our houses, working from home, doing school from home, afraid to go anywhere, definitely contributed to my feelings about it. Here was Michael, just Michael, singing directly to me. Like a private little concert from his home to my living room. In the middle of a pandemic, in lockdown, in the midst of political turmoil, he was reaching out with a song that felt like a steady hand. Calm reassurance. And yet, at the same time, the power to completely destroy me. We were so fragile. I was trying so hard to hold it together, be strong for the kids and try not to let the worry show (I don’t think I succeeded well at that at all, btw). When his voice has that particular Michaelness about it, which not all the songs do, he still has the ability to just cut right to the very center of my being, exposing all those things I normally keep buried deep beneath the surface.

So now it’s November. We’re heading into winter, which you all know is my hardest season in the best of circumstances. Though we know more about the virus now, it’s still just as random who suffers greatly from it, who dies, and who doesn’t even know they have it. My worry about the pandemic is less panicky but my concerns about our ability to get through this winter, in round two (or whatever number it is) of COVID-19, are weighing on me. I don’t want a repeat of those first couple months from the spring. Everyone is weary after nearly 9 months of just holding on and nerves are frayed, tempers are short. I think this song will be even more important to me for the next few months than it was when it first came out.