Parenting

Can’t Hardly Wait

The Replacements – Can’t Hardly Wait

Now that my son is into having physical copies of the music he likes, he gave us a list of things he wants for Christmas that is all records or CDs. I managed to get out by myself for a bit today and went down to our local record store to pick up one or two things.

I was hoping to find something used that wasn’t too much money to go along with the new (reissued) album I grabbed for him. Something he wouldn’t know to ask for but that he might like anyway. Then I spied the small section of cassettes and since he has that Walkman, I thought maybe I could find a stocking stuffer. Much to my surprise, there was a cassette of R.E.M.’s Document and The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me. All cassettes were $2 a piece or 6 for $10. I didn’t see six that I wanted so I just went with those two.

I brought them up to the counter and told the owner that I was getting the cassettes for my son’s stocking and he said, “oh, I’ll just throw those in for free. He’s a great kid, smart. He’s been down here checking out all the things he’s interested in, took pictures so he could make a list, it’s great to see kids still getting into it.” I’ve got to say, that really made my day. Parenting these days is a real challenge and I’ll take any signs that the kids are alright.

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.

Everything in Its Right Place

Radiohead – Everything in Its Right Place

Sometime during this never-ending quarantine life we find ourselves in, my son got really into music. He had been expanding what he listened to over the past year, as one tends to do when you enter high school, but something about not being able to go out and do other things, or maybe it was burnout from too much screen time, kicked it up a level. One day he told me that he’d begun listening to whole albums, start to finish. Previously he’d just listen to songs in a playlist on shuffle.

While he certainly knew that I would go to see bands fairly often, I didn’t play a lot of music around the house. I would usually listen to my music during my commute because once I got home there was dinner to fix and eat, things to oversee that the kids were doing, picking kids up from this or that activity, etc. Generally not the kind of atmosphere that I like for listening to music. I do like having music on in the background while I’m doing things, but what I don’t like, really don’t like, is having my listening be interrupted. I don’t want to be asked a lot of questions, I don’t want to miss a chunk of a song because I have to use some noisy appliance, I want to listen (and maybe dance/sing along).

So I think it came as a real surprise to my son one day when he proudly announced, “I found an album that’s an hour and a half long and it’s only got four songs!” and I replied, “oh, is it by Godspeed You! Black Emperor?” His mouth fell open and he got a look on his face of shock and confusion. It was, in fact, their album, “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” and he sure did not expect that his mother would know anything about it. It was a door creaking open in his mind to a view of his mother that he hadn’t really seen before.

We got him a Walkman for his birthday in the summer, something he’d been asking about since he came across a box of my cassettes when helping his sister look for some things she wanted to take back to college with her. The Guardians of the Galaxy movie had put the idea in his head, though he had expressed an interest in making tapes all the way back when I first got a used car that had a tape deck. I took him down to our local record store and he bought his first album. He found my stereo setup to be too uncomfortable so he took the money he received from his grandparents for his birthday and got a turntable he could have in his bedroom. Now he has about eight or nine records, plus I dug out my old CD Walkman and let him have that as well so he can listen to music in any format.

We get into the chats about bands he is excited about. I suggest some others he might like to check out, he gets jealous when I say, yeah, I saw them last year. He now understands that I am someone who will get this newly found importance of music in his life. The other day he asked me about Radiohead. He’d heard of them, knew they had this reputation for being a hugely influential band, but wasn’t sure where to start. Ah, my son, I have just the thing for you. Remember when I did that make-a-CD-of-this-band-like-your-house-was-on-fire challenge from a friend? I did one for Radiohead and I thought this would be the perfect introduction for him, rather than just listening to one of the Spotify playlists with all the big hits. It took me a few days to find it and today he got to listen to it. Here’s the playlist:

Radiohead – House on Fire CD

Stop Whispering – Pablo Honey
High and Dry – The Bends
Street Spirit (Fade Out) – The Bends
Airbag – OK Computer
Paranoid Android – OK Computer
Subterranean Homesick Alien – OK Computer
Let Down – OK Computer
Everything in Its Right Place – Kid A
The National Anthem – Kid A
Pyramid Song – Amnesiac
Knives Out – Amnesiac
2+2=5 – Hail to the Thief
Where I End and You – Begin Hail to the Thief
Bodysnatchers In Rainbows
Reckoner – In Rainbows
Morning Mr. Magpie – King of Limbs
Codex – King of Limbs

(this was made before Moon Shaped Pool came out)

He’s definitely going to do a deep dive into their discography now, like binge-watching a show on Netflix. Based on the CD I made, he thinks Kid A is going to be his favorite but I said, you can’t start with Kid A! You have to have some base knowledge of the band first. I allowed as how he could circle back to Pablo Honey some other time, so he started in on The Bends. He’s really looking forward to Kid A though, and I have to say, this is a great first track to get it started.

What the World is Waiting For

Stone Roses – What the World is Waiting For

Our internet is still out so this morning, after briefly checking the news, I was trying to help my son get in touch with his teachers to explain why he wouldn’t be able to turn in assignments or even take a scheduled test. I figured I could delve into the minutiae of the House and Senate races later. I had a meeting at 10:30 so I moved the laptop into my office corner to get ready and that’s when I realized … my mobile data wasn’t working.

It’s one thing to be without the wifi for a day and a half but when I was actually cut off from the internet completely, I started getting pretty anxious. I could still send and receive texts but nothing else. Now is not the time to be unable to immediately bring up whatever news story I want from whatever source. And I couldn’t even do any work to take my mind off things because I had no mobile data and therefore, no hotspot!

So I got outside and went for a walk. It was warm compared to yesterday and the sun was out, everyone’s Biden signs were still out. It felt like we still have a few days to get through before the final tally and no one wanted to jeopardize our chances by removing their sign. As I’m writing this we seem to be just 6 votes shy of winning enough electoral college seats to clinch it. I am keeping my fingers crossed and going to bed. This waiting is a killer.

The National Anthem

Radiohead – The National Anthem

Since I want to believe that the absentee ballots won’t all be counted tonight, and that means we will not have answers for a while, I am not investing my emotional strength in watching the returns. I’ve glanced at social media a bit for our local info but I don’t think it will help me to sleep if I just sit here doomscrolling all night. I did my shift outside the polling place this morning, holding up the signs for the Democratic candidates and I went to the grocery store, liquor store, and pharmacy, made ratatouille in the Crock-Pot, and then pasta sauce later in the afternoon, all an attempt to keep myself occupied and not fixating on the results.

I looked at my son after dinner and I could see the dread washing over him. With our internet down he can’t even get online to play games with his friends to distract himself. Luckily we got some blank CDs in the mail today so I told him we could burn some of his recently purchased albums for the car.

It is getting harder and harder to maintain the older formats, new cars don’t come with CD players anymore and even new laptops tend not to have a disc drive. Our oldest laptop was the only computer in the house that I could wrangle into performing this task. Were it not for the goal of keeping his mind off election results, I might have gotten frustrated with all the failed attempts and waiting for it to finish, but we killed a good two hours, maybe more. We also managed to rig up my phone to the printer with an old cable and a little USB-C to USB converter so we could print out album covers. I’m so glad I never fell prey to the internet of things because what happens when all of your appliances and your door locks or whatever, are dependent on the internet working? It sucks to be without internet, don’t get me wrong. Maybe having it out isn’t all bad, though. I successfully steered my son back from the edge with this little project. We’re holding on, hope you are too.

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.

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.

High Pressure Days

The Units – High Pressure Days

I am really not sure what to do about the stress levels lately. It’s affecting everyone. More sleep? Exercise? Therapy? Drugs? We just had five days off for Thanksgiving and it didn’t even make a dent, in fact, it might have made things worse. There’s not enough time in the day, nor enough days in the week, to get everything done that needs to get done. My daughter tells me frequently that I am stressing her out. I am stressing her out because she is stressing me out! It’s a lose-lose situation that I don’t know how to fix.

Then there’s the general anxiety caused by having a narcissistic, pathological liar in the White House, out to enrich himself and his cronies at the expense of democracy. They are hell bent on the complete destruction of the economy, the environment, the educational system, the free press, diversity, truth, justice, and the American way. NBD. I drive around with my Mueller protest sign in the car because who knows when Mango Pol Pot might decide to have his unconstitutionally appointed AG fire the special counsel and we all hit the streets.

Tomorrow we find out if Mississippi can pull itself together and elect a black man instead of a woman who would gladly be in the front row at a public hanging. WTAF. 2018.