Parenting

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.

Trash

New York Dolls – Trash

My daughter called me at work when she got home from school and said the house smelled like trash, strongly. I told her to check the potatoes in the pantry, look around (smell around) and open the windows. She checked, she looked, she smelled, opened the windows, but she couldn’t find the source. It is trash night so I thought maybe my husband had taken some stuff out of the fridge and put it in the trash before he left for work and then forgot to put it outside. There wasn’t much I could do about it while I was at my office though.

As soon as I walked in the house, I could smell it. It was bad and it got worse as you walked through the rooms. I couldn’t hang around though because I had to turn right back around and go pick up my daughter from her club meeting. I told my son to start looking around and walked out the door.

While I was driving, it occurred to me that there were some apples in one of those paper totes that were leftover from when I made some apple butter a couple of weeks ago. Once I got off the highway I texted my husband and told him to check the apples. One of them was bad and so he tossed it, but come on, they must all have been bad so I told him to trash them all.

I felt pretty good about having figured out the source of the trashy smell without even being in the house. When I got back home we started getting dinner underway. Even though I’m a vegetarian, my husband isn’t and every once in a while, he likes to make himself some fish. He was rummaging in the fridge, taking out the parsley he bought, the butter, lemon, but he couldn’t find the fish. We bought it this weekend and I remembered putting it in the grocery bag so I told him to move out of the way and let me look for it.

Guess where he found the fish? In the grocery bag. Still. It never made it into the fridge. Since Saturday evening it had been sitting there, just wrapped up in that brown paper they use at the butcher/fish counter but not refrigerated. Gross.

So was it the apples or the fish? A deadly combination of the two? May we never repeat the experience to find out. He went off to the store to get himself something else to eat and I opened the windows and burned some candles. I don’t notice the smell anymore so I hope that it clears out completely before my mother arrives for Thanksgiving.

Crazy (live)

R.E.M. – Crazy (live cover of a Pylon song)

A friend of mine recently posted about being taken to a concert by her parents when she was very young, a toddler really, and how you don’t see that happen these days. The very next day she saw Robyn Hitchcock at a small venue where a couple had brought their two young children under four to the show. It didn’t go well.

This whole situation reminded me of this one time at work a few years ago, when we had an office lunch outside in the summer, and the conversation turned to concerts we’d been to. A younger guy in our department, he was maybe 30 at the time, mentioned that he had always felt kind of cheated because he’d never been able to see some of his favorite bands when they were still touring. For example, he lamented that his mother could have brought him along to see R.E.M. play when he was a toddler. The very idea horrified me. I didn’t even like having frat boys at R.E.M. shows because of their lack of maturity, I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted actual pre-schoolers in attendance. Hoping to end that line of thought I said that as a mom I so enjoy going out on my own, to have a break from the kids, and would never want to bring them along because I wanted to enjoy myself and not be worried about my kid.¹

But the nightmare didn’t end there. Somehow the subject changed to what was the best concert you’ve ever seen. I can’t remember what most people answered because I was gripped with panic. What was I supposed to say? My best concerts are the best I’ve seen because of how they left me destroyed and exhilarated at the same time. I couldn’t reveal anything like that to co-workers. Of course I wouldn’t have to say that but I was afraid that even just naming the show would betray a level of privacy that I would then never be able to regain. I debated lying, just pick some show that everyone would nod about and move on to the next person, but I worried that my body language would give me away. I am sure I am the only person at the table who was overthinking this thing to death. Probably because of the young co-worker’s earlier mention of having been left at home with a babysitter instead of at an R.E.M. show, I was really sweating it. If I said the best show I’d seen was R.E.M. at a 3,000-person, beautiful old theater in Providence, Black Monday 1987, would he press me for details?² There in front of everyone? I would probably have suddenly been a much cooler person in his estimation but I have spent decades obfuscating my devotions and this hardly seemed like the opportune moment to trash it all.

Just as it was nearly my turn to have to come up with something, our boss arrived and the question was to put to her. She was in her mid- to late-sixties and she answered without hesitation, “The Beatles!” I immediately declared that no one could top that so we should all just stop trying. Crisis averted.

But it bothered me for days afterward that I had been so tormented about it. I still don’t know what I would have answered. Why should it be so difficult for me to say what my best concert experience was? I toyed with the idea of telling him separately later but ultimately decided against it. I am still plagued by the fear that this knowledge in the wrong hands would be my undoing. Whether through cluelessness or maliciousness, I never wanted anyone to be able to unmask me. If people don’t know what your buttons are, they can’t push them.

When your favorite concerts are life-altering events, intensely personal defining moments, giving that away is too hard.

1. I would take my daughter with me to a show if she showed any interest but it’s only been in the last two years or so that I would have felt comfortable doing so.

2. Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the largest single-day crash in stock market history. Also, now a Showtime series. Something tells me they don’t include the awesome R.E.M. concert that night in the series.

P.S. Coincidentally, today (11/18) marks the 10th anniversary of the last R.E.M. show ever. My own last R.E.M. show was, holy shit, more than 29 years ago.

P.P.S. While I have bootlegs (tapes) of a number of the shows I went to, so far this is the only video I’ve found from an R.E.M. show I was at. Not the last, but close to it. Even sharing this video here is hard for me and I’m only doing it because it’s on YouTube and there’s nothing preventing you from finding it on your own. Dodgy quality but what do you expect for 29-year-old video filmed on a smuggled-in video camera?

Campus

Vampire Weekend – Campus

Today my daughter and I toured another college campus. She’s a senior in high school and while we visited a bunch back in April, I had felt there was plenty of time to do schools in New England when we both had more time in the fall.

There is never more time in the fall, I don’t know what I was thinking. But summer isn’t really a good time since many college campuses don’t have much going on and work was super busy for me, she also had a summer job, so here we are.

I’m sure you all remember that I was not enamored with my college experience. While I have tried really hard not to make this whole process be some kind of attempt to re-do my own college search, I think I have some valuable knowledge and if I can help my kids have good options available to them, then I’m going to do what I can to make that happen.

I was talking with my mom this evening about the campus we toured today and she surprised me by saying that she feels badly now that she didn’t take me around to look at schools. I told her she shouldn’t feel that way because how could she have taken me anywhere, when we were living in Maine and I was determined to go south of the Mason-Dixon line. Plus, my junior year grades were, shall we say, not my best work so it probably would have just made my disappointment greater when I got all those rejection letters. Besides, with my oldest sisters at Yale, and my mother’s job at a small liberal arts college, it’s not like I didn’t already have an image in mind of what college should be like. Therein lies the problem; nowhere I could have gotten in was ever going to match up to my expectations.

My daughter is less specific about where she wants to go. I think it still feels so far in the future to her that she hasn’t been able to put herself in the mindset of being done with high school and away from home. Going on campus tours definitely helps. With the deadline to get her applications finished looming, I thought reminding her about the end goal might motivate her a little. If that backfires, I’m moving on to bribes.

The Gold

Manchester Orchestra – The Gold

I don’t know what it is about this song but it’s like a slap in the face whenever I hear it. It’s like a shock to the system and my face starts to sting and tears well up in my eyes. Maybe it’s the harmonies in the chorus. It could be the lines, “What the hell are we gonna do, black mile to the surface, I don’t want to be here anymore, it all tastes like poison.”

What the hell are we going to do? I feel like it’s a critical week. The Senate race in Alabama, the fight for Net Neutrality, the tax bill, the continued attacks on Mueller. It’s the fifth anniversary of Sandy Hook this week and the House just passed a bill to allow concealed carry nationwide despite whatever stronger state laws may be on the books.

Black mile to the surface. All of these horrors raining down on us every day makes it feel like we’re drowning in bad news, constantly. I can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel it’s just black all the way. Even if 45 resigned or was impeached tomorrow, there’s still Pence. There’s still Ryan and McConnell, there’s still Bannon, there’s still the Koch brothers and the Mercers, there’s still Kim Jong-un and Putin. They still stole Merrick fucking Garland’s seat on the Supreme Court. I don’t want my children to grow up in a fascist state.

I don’t want to be here anymore.

It all tastes like poison.

“You can’t open your eyes for a while you just beat that moment down.” I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing for the whole past year. Holding my breath and knowing but not letting myself feel the full weight of what we’re facing. It’s all been just as bad as I expected and it won’t surprise me when it gets even worse, but I still feel like not enough people are paying attention.

I read a really depressing essay about how this segment of society has always been with us and probably will always be here, even if we beat it back with the next election cycle (or two). The supporters of 45 have an outlook on life that’s just so removed from the way I see things that I can’t wrap my head around how we reconcile with this destructive element. They truly want to destroy the very things I always believed our country stood for. They have straight up contempt for the freedom of the press, the rule of law, due process, equal rights.

I am bruised and lisping but still able to spit out truth, justice, and the American way.

 

Maybe Partying Will Help

Minutemen – Maybe Partying Will Help

For the past year, I have found it difficult to really crack the whip when it comes to my kids and things they should or should not be doing. I think they would say I am still a pretty strict parent and that I have high expectations. On the outside that is probably true. On the inside, however, I feel like there is so much we used to take for granted that is now in jeopardy and what good is it doing my kids to be told they can’t go here or do that? How important are good grades when financial aid budgets will be wiped out if the tax bill gets through?

I got really annoyed recently at something my daughter had done. I went to pick her up and she wasn’t where I expected her to be. Since teenagers now have their cellphones with them at all times it wasn’t like I was panicked because I couldn’t get a hold of her or that I was worried, really. She was with friends and they were nearby, but she had deviated from our agreed upon plan. And I had had to wait for her longer than I had wanted. I tried not to overreact, at least in front of her friends, because doing so usually doesn’t have the desired outcome. When it was just the two of us in the car I let her know I was annoyed and that I thought they had not been smart, but I restrained myself.

When I thought about it later that evening I realized that when I was her age, I did things that were pretty similar. Honestly, the things I was doing at her age were way riskier, much less smart, and I felt like they were perfectly fine. Of course parents are there to tell you why those things are dumb or dangerous, and kids are going to be clueless. The world was ever thus.

What’s different for me now is that I feel like there’s no way to predict what things will be like in another year or two. Everything feels tenuous at best and we’re all still holding on to this notion that what we are living through today is hopefully a blip. A really nasty speedbump on our way forward. The paranoid freaker in me is back there though, saying, live it up while you have the chance. Let the kids go to the football game on a school night without enough warm clothes on. Trump could insult Kim Jong-un on Twitter tomorrow and trigger a nuclear war. Life is crazy and stressful. Maybe partying will help.

 

The Great Beyond

The Great Beyond

From before Twitler took office, I have felt that he would get us all killed. Today we dropped a massive bomb on Afghanistan, apparently, and are making threats to North Korea. So it seemed like maybe I should not keep holding on to my memorial service playlist but that the time is right to share it. After all, if we’re going to have World War III, I may as well make sure this is out there.

However, the caveat is not all of these songs are available online in the versions that I would actually like to use and it varies between Spotify and YouTube which ones had to be substituted. For that reason, I’m running down the list below. I also can’t help the visuals on some of these videos, which is why I prefer an audio only experience for this, but life could be short so I’m over it. YouTube above, Spotify below.

The Great Beyond
1. Angelika Suspended – Poi Dog Pondering (Spotify has the preferred version)
2. Just Breathe – Pearl Jam
3. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out – Cat Stevens (here the YouTube is worth it for the Harold and Maude clips since that’s key to its selection)
4. Belong – R.E.M.
5. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead (Spotify for the studio version, though I like the Scotch Mist version fine, it’s not the “right” one)
6. Treefingers – Radiohead (optional – serves as a transition but could also be cut or used as music while people are milling about before things get started)
7. Blood of Eden – Peter Gabriel (YouTube is the correct version from Until the End of the World)
8. Calling All Angels – Jane Siberry with k.d.lang
9. Heaven – Talking Heads
10. Wendell Gee – R.E.M.
11. Untitled – R.E.M.
12. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – Talking Heads

While there are a lot of songs that you might think I would have on a playlist for my memorial service, this is meant to be something you can actually play for assembled grieving friends and family and not bum people out too much. It shouldn’t make people feel worse. At the same time, sometimes it’s good to cry and let it out. The idea is that this should be in place of any hymns or prayers since I am not religious, though there are some songs that gesture toward that, after all I have a number of church-going family members, including my aunt the nun.

In the days to come I’ll take each one as a separate post with more details but for now I’ll let it speak for itself.