Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm 40 now.

I have some things to say about being 40, and I keep meaning to write them here, but in the meantime I made you (and everyone) another mixtape. Did you know "Love Don't Live Here Anymore," which I always knew as a Madonna song, is actually a cover? I felt like a real dumbass about that, so Rose Royce's original is on this mix. If you haven't already been listening to Robin & Royskopp's "Monument" on repeat, especially on gray days, now is your chance to get on it.  And a bunch of other stuff I've been talking about all year, like Ainslie Wills and Hiatus Kaiyote and Lost in the Trees and Laura Mvula, are all up in this piece too. Please enjoy.

 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another year of pro-choice bowling!

Hi buddies. Once a year, I use this dusty space to ask for money for a cause I believe in: reproductive justice. Reproductive justice is, of course, about abortion rights, but it encompasses a lot more than that: access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care, sexuality as a human right, comprehensive sexuality education, support for parenting, support for relinquishing mothers and adopted children, and much more.

Pro-Choice Resources is a local, grassroots organization with programs that reach regional, national, and even international populations. It's not a clinic or a lobbying organization--rather, they work to reduce barriers to reproductive health access, and PCR is the only organization of its kind in the country to offer education, advocacy, financial assistance, and outreach under one roof.

So that's pretty cool, but every year they also host this kick-ass Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser where pro-choice allies from all over the area get together (and frankly, compete) to raise money for PCR's programs. We end up raising at least 10% of their annual operating budget through this event, which is pretty cool.

Every donation in any amount is WELCOME and IMPORTANT. Significant giving doesn't have to mean a large amount of money--if you are supporting something that is significant to you and giving an amount that works for you, you become a significant donor.

I support PCR because I believe that abstinence-only education is ignorant and dangerous, that education and access are crucial to reducing STDs and unplanned pregnancies, that every child should be a wanted child, and that we need to fight a political climate that has become incredibly hostile to women's autonomy. Join me!

You can donate online here. Thanks so much for considering this.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How much did that free parking spot cost me anyway? UPDATED.

I am really not a fan of going to Uptown, first of all. This is just one of the things that makes me Old, but the going to Uptown time of my life has passed and I don't miss it. Still, I can be coaxed there for good reasons, like some essential movie that is ONLY playing at the Lagoon, for example. Or for bar trivia supporting a worthy cause, in this specific instance. The trivia and the friends playing it were the only reasons I went to that stupid bar in the first place.

My car, you need to know, has been kind of a pain in the ass this winter. It starts right up, it's fun to drive, I still love it and feel perfectly comfortable in it, etc, but it is not good in deep snow. What I used to accomplish with the brute force of a large sedan, I can no longer accomplish without pushes from kindly strangers. I'm a good driver in snow and know how to use momentum and steering and such to avoid getting stuck, but sometimes you just get screwed. And at this point in the winter, I am probably not going to buy the snow tires, let's face it, even though I keep talking about it--not unless I come across a really good deal. I should have bought them on Black Friday like all the savvy tire shoppers.

Anyway, so there I was, cruising around Uptown last Wednesday evening looking for a place to park. It was about 37 degrees that day, which I admit I kind of resented. I don't want to be pulled out of my winter groove with tantalizing warmups unless the thaw is well and truly here, and the thaw is still at least 6 weeks away. I'd rather it just stayed reasonably cold until spring. I spotted a parking spot on a free street, which is a coup in Uptown, and I rolled into it. As soon as I parked, I knew I'd made a mistake. Thanks to the warmup, the snow was deep, mushy, and slippery, and I was going to be stuck in it. But I figured I'd deal with it after trivia, when I had friends to help push the car if necessary.

Trivia, which we lost by one point thanks to some illogical scoring rules, morphed into drinks at a new Russian bar that is stupidly clandestine (in the sense that there isn't clear signage outside) but fun. So it was 1 AM when I tried to rock my car out of that spot, with Laura pushing, to no avail. The temperature was dropping and I was digging myself a hole. So I abandoned my vehicle, like a young partying whippersnapper, and got a ride home.

On Thursday, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to goddamn Uptown. But there was a blizzard coming. I rode my bike to Emily's (why?), where I borrowed a shovel, ate some banana bread, postponed the inevitable, and finally called a cab. By the time the cab arrived, the blizzard was happening for real, and the cab could only crawl along with its rear-wheel drive (WHY?). But the cabbie was very kind and spacey and he just turned off the meter, since there was so much RWD-related rerouting. We were having a hard time getting up hills and turning corners. "Let's call it $10," he said. He dropped me off at my car, all concerned for my fate. I paid him $13 (total so far: $13) and commenced to digging.

After about 15 minutes the cab circled back around the block, where I was still resolutely not moving. "I wanted to make sure you got out," he said. He tried to push my car; my car dug itself deeper into a nice little ice rut. Another dude stopped to help push and we got absolutely nowhere. I thanked them and sent them away, determined to use the roadside assistance that came with my car warranty. Well, guess what? The roadside assistance only covers towing for warranty-covered mechanical breakdowns. Otherwise you can roadside-assist your own ass, or pay $85 to get winched out. The person on the phone was very apologetic, and I told her I better explore my options. The snow fell. The minutes ticked by. I was paralyzed by indecision, and immobilized by snow, so once I determined that I wasn't parked in a place where I'd be towed, I decided to go home and deal with it the following day. I bought some gatorade and dill pickle chips to help me retain water ($3) and took the bus home ($2.25). Running total for the free parking: $18.25.

When I got home, I added roadside assistance to my insurance policy--about $5 for the remainder of my policy period. The only reason I declined it in the first place was because of the stupid Mazda roadside assistance. Stupid! Running total for the free parking: $23.25.

On Friday, it was cold as hayull. I bundled up and got on the bus again ($1.75, off-peak, booya!). I got to the car, cleared it off, and ordered roadside assistance with the insurance company app. After a half hour I got a call apologetically informing me that because the roads were such a nightmare in my area (thanks to the thaw-blizzard-freeze trifecta), all tow trucks had basically been commandeered by the police for emergencies and they wouldn't be able to send anyone to me. Roadside assist your own ass, part deux! This is when I finally cried a little bit and started posting sad things on social media about my plight and considered just letting my car be towed to the impound lot, fuck it. Then I googled hardware stores in the area and walked over to the nearest one to buy a shovel with ice-smashing capabilities ($13). I took my new shovel to a coffee shop to soothe myself with treats ($4.50). And then! Friends texted to say they were coming to rescue me! I hustled back to the car and started manically chopping the ice, snow, and slush that had engulfed my front tires. I was manually lifting 20 pound icewads out from under the car and chucking them in the snowbank. Functional fitness!

The rescue operation that ensued involved two friends, a prophylactic call to AAA on their card (estimated time: 2-4 hours), two strangers, some cardboard (useless), my floor mats (equally useless), two shovels (one useless), a costume change (I was way overheated), and pushing out the van in front of me before we all united to push my car out. Grand total: $42.50, plus a ton of goodwill and tire rubber.

Another sign you're Old: you don't drive around trying to score free parking. Next time I'm paying to park in a fucking ramp.

ETA: Oh my god, I can't believe I forgot to add one of the most offensive/sad costs. Thursday night I was supposed to go see Lucius, a show I'd had tickets for for AGES. Guess who couldn't face going back out immediately after getting home on that exhausting/demoralizing Thursday? Add $20 to my tally for the ticket no one could use.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Future ruins.

When we last checked in with our heroine, she was failing at NaBloPoMo. Since then, there has been one lone earnest request for an update. And I truly aim to please, so a month or more later, I am writing in my blahg. It's a snowy day, one of those where the earth and sky are the same color and the monotony is broken up by sloppy asphalt and bare trees. And one lone red icehouse on the lake that briefly disappeared into the flurries this morning and is now a bright spot again, like a cardinal.

It's been cold as hell this winter, you know. It's always pretty cold up here, but this year there have been unprecedented school cancellations because of windchill (and also plenty of snow). There was a lot of bellyaching about that on the social media among parent-friends I know, and I get it, but those were mostly folks who had to arrange childcare and take personal days to deal with the kids being at home--inconveniences, in other words, but they were all able to take care of it one way or another. There are plenty of parents who HAVE to go to work in order to get money and don't have any personal days or sick days or whatever, and plenty of kids who won't get fed if they don't go to school, and plenty of immigrant kids whose parents have no context for this type of cold and no appropriate clothes for standing at a bus stop or walking to school when it's below zero. So I did a lot of scrolling past all of that even though I truly feel for the stir-crazies, I do.

Hooo, I didn't mean to get into that rant! What I was going to say is that without the enforced exercise/winter recreation of biking to a stupid office most days, my way of dealing with winter this year has been to snowshoe or ski almost every day. And if I don't put some weird equipment on my feet to get recreational, I just go for a walk. And it's been really good, even on the days when we were enveloped by the rage of the polar vortex. It makes you feel tuffff. Walking on a lake makes you feel powerful and small at the same time. And I have discovered the joys of being out in the dark in the snow, which was something I avoided when biking was my main winter jam. When it's overcast, there is so much light trapped between the snow and the cloud cover that you can walk at 10 PM on the golf course and see your way and feel safe, no problem. And when the sky is clear, there is a thin bluish light reflecting off the snow that is equally easy to see by. And when the moon is full, you cast a distinct, dark shadow, and almost feel conspicuous out there.

In about a month all of these things are going to feel like very small consolations but as of mid-February, I have not yet had it with winter, which I feel is pretty good.

Another update is that I started volunteering with an organization that supplies meals to people living with HIV/AIDs, MS, and breast cancer (and their families), no strings, no income requirement. Just people making and delivering food to other people. I had been wanting to do something with food justice and this way I get to be in a big commercial kitchen and meet a lot of interesting people while I slop food into trays or, you know, chop onions for two hours (truth). As a bonus, they keep a fridge just for the volunteers and it is always full of frozen meals and cookies they've made in-house. I'm looking forward to working a bakery shift one of these days, but maybe that won't happen unless I take a really early shift (so I guess that means it probably won't happen).

I also randomly got a very part-timey job that is quite amorphous at the moment, but basically involves working as an assistant to some very lovely people on their donor activism (meaning they do a combination of both big-ticket giving and working on the ground stuffing envelopes and door-knocking etc) for radical, progressive social change. It's going to be very collaborative and fun, I think.

And the voice students do trickle in, though it is a very slow trickle and I often wonder what on earth I am doing with myself and why. Then I have a good day of teaching, and I think "yes I do love this," and it's all better for awhile. I wish I knew what it was like to have clarity of vision and purpose because this is not something I have really ever experienced personally. Or, like, vocational passion. I don't seem to have much of that either. I truly think that what I like best is hanging out, either alone or with my peoples. My most contented-to-transcendent moments in the last several months have quite honestly occurred on snowshoes.

I think 2014 is likely to be mostly about vocation, though--not that other years haven't also been, but this year it's probably going to be much more specific than in years past. It feels more important than it has in years past. And it's the central thing in my life right now, because I've recuperated from my marriage/divorce, and have made a number of personal changes that seem significant--living alone, getting a furry companion, buying a new car that feels like me, quitting a job that didn't feel like me at all--and my preoccupation has to be how I am spending my mortal life. And how I inhabit myself completely, whether that is as an artist or a teacher or a compassionate human being or a reliable and wonderful friend/family member, etc. And also how I inhabit my physical body, frankly. These are the things I think about whilst snowshoeing.

I also think of stupid things while on snowshoes, like I finally came up with my roller derby name after observing many gnawed and felled trees creekside: Beaver Damage. Or maybe it's Beaver Damn. I don't know.

There are big family changes happening in 2014 too. My sister Emily is getting married in April, which is very soon and I have things to do for her. I'm making her bouquet and I need help from the Thrift Army: find me some more non-shitty vintage enamel flower brooches in pinks, reds, and pale oranges for under $5 apiece. Sighhhhhh I do like a thrifting challenge but this one is slow going. I don't think I even have half of what I need yet. The problem with these pinteresty crafts is that they drive up the price and drive down the availability of the raw materials. We're also planning the shower and bachelorette stuff right now, too, which drives home how quickly this is all coming up. And most important of all: what on earth am I going to wear, and which color should my hair be?

Once that's all over, we'll be manically awaiting the arrival of my brother and sister-in-law's BABY this summer. It will be so good to have another baby in the family. These kids here are getting too old. Henry is going to be TWELVE in April.

This whole thing is turning into like one of those coffee dates you have with someone to catch up on the last 10-15-20 years (I had one of those recently too, with my high school English teacher). Disjunct, bonkers, overly newsy. Maybe I should just write more often.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A list.

Oh hey I didn't post for a week, sorry. Is this thing on? New since last time:

1. Purple hair (a different shade of purple): http://instagram.com/p/hSFli1Kd3X/

2. Thanks was (were) given! Did you have a good time yesterday, US-ians? We did a very early meal because my parents busted Grandpa out of the nursing home for the holiday and we needed to dine on old-folks' time. It was nice, but I think I should start contributing pie because it's the only way I can ensure that I have pie for breakfast the following day. Instead I made a kale salad, as I often do (Molly was not there to make fun of me for this), and invented a grain salad of barley, black eyed peas, braised brussels sprouts, roasted carrots, and dijon mustard vinaigrette. Thanksgiving is also my vegetarianniversary, so huzzah, I've been meat-free for 18 years now!

3. I intended to engage in no commerce today, except horrors, I am out of contact lens solution. I don't know how I let this happen, but it does mean I'm going to have to face the hordes at some point, like probably around 10 PM. Ugh.

4. I took a print to be professionally framed--a first for me. It's this one, by this guy:


I hope I made the right decision about matting and framing and I also wish I had a lot of money to spend on this kind of stuff so I could go somewhere proper instead of a craft store. Even more than that, I wish I knew how to frame stuff myself: it's something I would really like to learn to do, and I think I would be good at.

Anyway, this has been on my to-do list for a few months, so I get to cross it off, which is always good.

5. I had an interesting encounter with a new age-y young woman at the gas station this week. A whole series of boring little events arranged things so that we would be there at the same time, I have to admit--had all these boring little things not happened, I would have been there and gone before she even showed up, so make of that what you will. But I was putting air in my tires when she wandered over and said hi and told me she just had a feeling she was supposed to talk to me. This in itself is interesting because if I have a sign on my forehead it generally says "don't talk to me." And for whatever reason, I was up for some extended interaction with a stranger, and she didn't seem to be going anywhere, so I chatted with her. It probably helped that she appeared to be a non-threatening young woman. If it had been a dude, he would have had to be radiating an unreal amount of goodwill and benign sexual magnetism for me to talk to him.

Anyway, she told me that that particular gas station is at the intersection of some energy lines, and that she knew when she woke up this morning that she was supposed to go there. "Weird!" I exclaimed. "Have you been here before?" She hadn't, but friends had: "I just know that this is a place of freely giving and openly receiving." ("Well that just sounds like a sex thing," Emily said when I told her about it later.) There was a lot of stuff about vibrations and "what people would probably call magic," but we also had a deep little exchange about the fact that I teach singing, which is all about vibrations, and helping people be their authentic selves, which is frankly more interesting to me than music. I do feel like teaching voice just happens to be my medium, you know, and personal growth for the student is the actual objective.

I now have this stranger's phone number in my cell phone--she wanted me to drop by sometime and work with a friend of hers, who helps people be their more authentic selves too ("How," I wanted to know. "Well, mostly by Sight," she said, clearly capitalizing the word)--and I probably won't use it, but the whole thing was unusual enough for me that I felt like I should probably have a way to get in touch with her. Maybe she was just a very pleasant cult member, though.

6. I decided to do an audition next weekend, even though I'm totally out of shape right now. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rosemary / remembrance.

We're doing another estate sale on Saturday, so I've been back at the grandparental ranch the last couple days, rearranging things and cleaning things up and finding new stuff to sell (want a vintage 50 X 50 projection screen from Sears? mint condish). My grandma was a Shaklee dealer and listen, there is SO MUCH Shaklee stuff still in the house, even though she's been gone three years and hadn't sold anything for several years before that. I threw out a lot of stale lipstick and fiber supplements when I was first going through the house, let's just put it that way. Even now there are still metering spray bottles for soil boosters and all manner of other organic gardening supplies. Do soil supplements go bad? For 25 cents you can find out.

My memories of the supplement-boosted life go way back: we would sprinkle protein powder on cereal and be plied with multi-vitamin syrup as kids, and when we were visiting my grandparents we would sneak down into the supply room--they ran the business out of the basement--and eat energy bars, which felt like candy to us, and probably cost my grandma a lot of money.

Anyway, yesterday I was emptying out the remaining stuff in the supply room--it had become a catch-all storage area in recent years--and pricing some giant tins for the sale, when I noticed that one of them wasn't empty. I pried the lid off. It was full of paper lunch bags, labeled in my grandma's handwriting--tarragon, basil, sage--and inside the bags were herbs grown in her garden and dried in her house ("don't throw out," she'd written on the bag of basil). I don't remember when she stopped gardening, but I'm sure they were from years and years ago. I can just picture her putting them away in the storage room and then forgetting about them. I crushed a little of each between my fingers, and they were still pungent, especially the sage. It was one of those estate-cleaning moments when you have to muster up all your ruthlessness, knowing that the herbs aren't as good or efficacious as something grown more recently, and that only sentimentality would cause you to hang on to them. I think the thing that made it most difficult is that Grandma's hand was in all of it: the growing, the harvesting, the drying, the labeling, the storing, the forgetting.

One of the last conversations I had with her, actually, on a day I went to sit with her while she lay in her hospital bed in the living room, was about some flowers that had been brought in from the garden. She couldn't remember what they were called, and I was no help, talking too loudly, enunciating too much. Maybe it was the stuff that just grows without any tending. I hope whoever moves into the house wants to bring the gardens back to life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I like to move it, move it.

I think I broke my streak of sluggishness today, THANK GOODNESS. With most of the estate cleanup work behind me, and the darkness of winter descending, I've been feeling really inert. I make to-do lists and they pile up, and speaking of piles, there are always dishes in the sink, no matter how many I wash. Also, my face has launched some sort of rebellion, and I can't decide what to do with my hair: do I buzz it again, do I grow some glam-rock fronds in the back, do I let the top get long and do a Pink-Miley undercut? And until today, my summer clothes were still not completely put away, meaning I was living amongst rubbermaid tubs, and then piling more stuff on top of them. I'd stop short of saying I've been plagued by self-doubt but it's not that far off. I re-read The Writing Life and thought, not for the first time, that I don't have anywhere near the dedication required of an artist. I felt like a dilettante.

But this morning I worked up a head of steam and I washed the dishes, and scrubbed the sink, and hung a bulletin board that I liberated from my grandparents' place. I took the measurements of all the arty stuff that I need to frame, and emailed them to myself. I ate some foods besides granola. I sawed in thirds this cardboard quik-tube I bought for the cat to run through like 6 months ago--it has been standing up between my shelves, looking shitty and taking up space. The cat may not take to it, but that's beside the point. I cleaned all the cat toys out from under the stove. I took the greasy knobs off the stove and washed them. I vacuumed. I set my laundry ball in a sunny window to regenerate (is it bullshit? who knows, but I haven't used detergent much in the last two years). I went for a quick, extremely windy bike ride and showered. I bought the Groupon for that gym (sadly, the 6 month memberships had sold out, so I guess I'm just trying it for 2). I emailed a bunch of parents of former students to say HEY WHAT ABOUT TAKING SOME MORE VOICE LESSONS? and then I taught 5 lessons. I still don't feel like much of a musician right now but I'll get there.