Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I totally forgot about

Junebugs thumping and buzzing idiotically against the screens. Unfavorite sound of summer. On the plus side, though, is summer.

Don't try this at home.

You need some quick advice, don't you? Say you move out of your apartment and your little sister is more or less taking over your lease. You leave all your stuff, including all your actual shit, at your old apartment because, you know, you can deal with it later, when she's moving out. No big deal. Low stress for everyone. You are stoked.

My advice is: deal with your actual shit as soon as possible. Your sister will decide to move at the same time you do your next move. Result: not only are you piling up stuff in your new place, but also you are constantly removing stuff from her place because you feel bad for her and also because see above re: your actual shit. There is probably a lot of it because you tend to keep everything. This trait both comes in handy AND breaks your back because you moved into a third floor apartment.

Another piece of advice is: get the new Feist record. Bjork's new joint is also in rotation and I can't say I like all of it. But I am interested in Bjork as an artist, so I'll pretty much listen to whatever she does.

Also, and this is mostly a note to self: get some actual groceries. Ak-maks are good and everything, but they do not replace real protein. Possibly you should detour to a big chain grocery store even though Whole Foods is now your closest market. It devours your money the way you devour its grilled artichokes.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.

If you stalk my photostream, you've probably already gleaned from recent photos that my brother is a big hilarious idiot. Let me give you some background about his hair (and my history with it, why not).

When Hob was 3 or so (around the time I ignorantly accused him of faggotry), he fell off my bunk bed and landed temple-side-down on a wooden doll bed used for Strawberry Shortcake. Naturally this action split his head open and, ever-cool, I clapped my hand to the side of his bleeding head and yelled "Hobby fell." He got some stitches and a really cool crescent moon-shaped scar that kids later assumed he'd shaved into his hairdo on purpose. When he was in high school (and I was home from college), I took clippers to his head and shaved it in the backyard. In recent years, he's had a bout with stress-related hair loss (i.e. chunks falling out). That seems to have passed.

Despite the fact that he generally keeps his facial hair in check, he is not so big on the loaf-grooming, unless it has entertainment value. So several months ago he not only decided to let his hair grow, but he also permed it. We are a straight-haired people, and the perm only took well enough to give him some wave and body--not enough to yield the jew-fro he was probably envisioning.

Cut to the present, and Hob is rocking a flowing BeeGees kind of do, minus the luxuriance of the Gibb manes. In reflecting upon how we might make him look grosser--mullets always being the no-brainer here--I volunteered that I could probably give him a cornrow mullet. I pretty much thought this would be one of those hilarious no-plans that is never executed, because that's kind of how I roll. However, Hob kicked it into gear and that is how I found myself in Sally Beauty Supply buying a few wads of fake hair and a million tiny rubber bands.

The slide show below reveals the fruit of my unskilled labor. Braids, weave, greasy whiteboy and all. I suggested that upon his return to his bartending post in Pittsburgh, he could say that he'd been drafted by the NBA.

Created with Paul's flickrSLiDR.

Also, he decided to go sort of mainstream country in his musical pursuits. The result is songs that get requested at country bars. (Note please his mutton chops in these photos.) And also he and his bandmate are opening for Merle Haggard in Pittsburgh. That's an arrival of some kind, my friends.

And N.B., tall dudes with bubble asses having a hard time finding jeans: when in doubt, say G-Unit! This should have been obvious from the get-go.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

There's a duty to be done and I say "aye."

Subspace's recent post about Girl Scouts survival camp got me thinking about my experiences with that venerable organization. I have almost no good memories of being in Girl Scouts, you see, and yet I did it for nearly 8 years: weekly meetings, service projects, summer camps, the whole shebang. In one way it was an opportunity to learn things with my friends; in another, more accurate way, it was exactly the kind of popularity contest every kids' group endeavor turns out to be. Also, as a Girl Scout, I was kind of a sham. I used to go through the badge book to figure out whether I'd done any of the required badge activities and then just list the badges I'd "earned." I wanted a whole sash full of them. Which reminds me, I need to ask my mom if my Girl Scout sash is in the attic somewhere.

When I was 8, I went to overnight camp for the first time. The local Girl Scout camp had a bunch of special programs that you could enroll in, and I chose Waterfront Activities. Every girl in my "unit," a group of cabins, was in this same special program, and though we dined in the main lodge with everyone else, we had our own doings all week. We were forced, for example, to belong to something horrible called "Polar Bears Club." The Polar Bears Club involved wearing a little pin, singing a little song about "polar bears never die, they just swim and play" (what the...), and best of all, going down to jump into the freezing lake at dawn's hairy crack.

It was cold that whole week, but this didn't stop us from canoeing, swimming, or attempting to windsurf (my favorite: there was really no wind, so you'd wrestle a flaccid sail into position and then inevitably fall over after drifting for a few feet). We had swimming buddies and had to get together with them quickly and count off when the lifeguard shrieked "Buddy Check!" Unlike most of the girls, I hadn't signed up for camp with a friend, so I don't remember who my buddy was. I may have latched on to the two other girls in my cabin, who were already 9 years old and therefore way ahead of me. One of them already had pubic hair, about which the other girl remarked, giggling, "when I saw that I thought you had a smushed vagina."

There are two things I remember plainly about this camp experience. One is that I got into trouble. Tubby and drippy in my swimsuit and orange lifejacket, I was walking through the boathouse to hang up my canoe paddle, and I complained to my swimming buddy: "Tina is such a faggot." Tina was older, and mean. I had no idea what I was talking about, but in my neighborhood "faggot" was about the worst thing you could call someone. No one was ever clear on what it meant. N.B. that I also got into trouble for calling my little brother a faggot, probably that same summer. That would have made him 4 years old.

Puddles, the waterfront director (the counselors--and we--all had stupid pseudonyms), overheard me and demanded to know what unit I was in. I don't remember whether there was fallout, though, because most of the week was overshadowed by the terror of the night intruders. Thaaaaat's right. At some point early in the week, some drunk dudes busted into the camp and harrassed some counselors in their tent. This led to an all-camp meeting at which we were informed that if anyone should break in to the camp, we'd hear an alarm and all be required to gather in a single place in our unit until we got the all-clear. I don't remember anyone trying to reassure us about anything, or even what the actual break-in scenario was. I just know that I was in the woods with my wild imagination and my stranger-danger education.

Let me remind you also that I was 8 years old, sharing a cabin with 9 year olds and no immediate supervisor. After lights out that night, we lay in our sleeping bags completely terrified. And naturally the alarm went off and I still remember exactly how it sounded with its A-WAHHHHNK A-WAHHHHHNK A-WAHHHHNK, and how the smushed-vag girl wailed "someone's HEEEEEERE." The counselors hustled us into faggy Tina's cabin, where we huddled on one bed. It turned out to be a fisherman who got a little too close to our dock, or something, but the damage was done. Dear overnight camps for children: please find a way to inform kids about safety without terrifying them. Thanks.

I did go back to camp in subsequent years. I did an arts camp where I made a plaster cast of my face and a foam-rubber puppet. One of the girls in my tent had brought tap shoes. There were also short overnights and mini-camping trips that weren't so bad: my dad was a chaperone on one and he took us walking through the swamp and we dug up tubers that he fried and fed to us (they were delicious). Probably that was illegal, but it was actually useful. By sixth grade every girl in my troop was at least a decent singer and we'd get up and perform in three- and four-part harmony around campfires, which was fun. I saw The Jets at some sort of Girl Scout anniversary celebration. I also gave one girl's tail a significant trim during crafts: she had a very short bob with a very long tail in 1986 and she was infuriating, poor thing. And I got a totally legitimate automotive badge for helping to change oil and a flat tire but really, what good could any of that possibly do a 12 year old?

And that cookie sales thing is a total racket, by the way. You'd have visions of selling millions of boxes and getting mad props, but the girls who always did the best just sent order forms to work with their parents. At least you didn't have to carry the boxes of cookies around in order to sell them, the way you did with candy fundraisers. My total failure as a World's Best Chocolate bar salesgirl is a whole other story from junior high. It involves me eating a lot of the inventory.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The condition my condition is in.

Let me tell you about a few things I have ingested in unusual quantities while staying with my parents. For awhile it was buttered toast. Now, suddenly, it is hot and my dad seems not to have baked bread in awhile--or maybe it's just that he's turned his attention to the musical fruit. Burritos have become his primary cuisine lately, which I can totally endorse and relate to, because at many points in my life I have mused upon the burrito and how, without it, I might have no cuisine of my own. This was especially true in grad school. Then came the white flour/carb scare, which I totally bought, and my burrito consumption declined.

So my dad has been making his own beans lately, the refried kind. I almost took a picture of the bean bowl after the most recent batch, but then I realized you'd have no way of knowing HOW HUGE IT WAS. The sheer weight of frijoles refritos in the massive old-school tupperware bowl could almost throw your back out. Dad came home from the grocery store a few days ago and announced "I just spent $50 on beans and hot sauce." So yeah, I been eating a lot of damn burritos.

Another thing: Diet Sierra Mist. I know! Gross! I am not a drinker of sodas, generally. I basically drink water full-time, and I'm cool with that. But my folks keep Sierra Mist in the house and guess what? It's kind of light and refreshing. It tastes citrusy. For the first few cans I even labored under the mistaken assumption that there was no nutrasweet in it because it did not have that nutrasweet taste. I'm not saying I'm going to run out and buy my very own case. I'm just saying I've probably had ten cans of soda in the last 6 weeks and that, for me, is a lot.

Also, raisin bran.

All right, you're through caring about what I've eaten, so let me throw THIS at you. This Stereolabrat character seems to be hilariously bitter about a lot of things, and it makes excellent reading, I mean if you're into vulgarity. Which I am. I scrolled through the first page of entries this evening and was, like, crying. For example: "No, no we are all lonely sometimes, he says, we are all lonely, you must be lonely sometime. I'm like fine OK I am lonely sure and I'm thinking please someone stick a dick in this guy's facehole he is ruining my jam, and you know how hard I worked all night to get this jam, with the Jameson's and the wine and the whatnot?" Yeah. You should read it. Or maybe she'll offend you or be too one-note, but whatever, because: "Things are mischievously vegan here. I say this because I ordered this cake and it was so fucking good I almost cried and then I found out it was vegan and was like WTF and then I fed it to my friend who was like TOTES OMG WTF and then when I told him it was vegan it was as if I had ripped open his ballsac and butterflies and fairies had flown out."

I woke up at 4:30 this morning to pee and then, and then, it was all over. There was no more sleep to be had. You know why? Because I signed a lease on a place that HAS NO CLOSETS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING. And in the pearly light of dawn I could think of nothing else, what with the birds tweetling me ever more alert. Except maybe this: the place is on the third floor. This is fine if you're in some modern industrial apartment complex but I will be in a giant old divvied-up Victorian. Guess who is going to have awesome(r) quads? The stairs from the second floor up to my apartment are, bonus, extra steep. I am seriously contemplating adopting a design aesthetic based totally on beanbags because I can't fathom getting furniture up the stairs. I know it can be done because the filthy people who lived there before had rudimentary furniture (that is now next to the dumpster).

Naturally the first thing I did in the service of moving in was unroll my new rug and also slap some wall decals from IKEA all over a kitchen wall. I need to buy and do so many things it's stupid.

Meanwhile, I ran directly into the face of one of my doctoral committee members. I actually wondered if I was in a movie, because I was running late and I opened the door to the building and there she was! All in my face! And we exchanged surprised hurried pleasantries and I kept running. But now I am in the position of shit, she knows I'm still alive. Really, I know these people don't particularly care that I am delinquent on my thesis. They have other things to do. But you know when you've just been out of touch to an embarrassing degree, and you find it almost impossible to get in touch because then you'll have to justify the last 3 months or whatever? Yeah. I smell a confessional/apologetic email.

I got my shoes in the mail and they are almost as life-affirming as I'd hoped, but I think the Campers are destined for ebay. Damn you, tiny Euro-shoes.

Also, here is an open suggestion to price-sticker wielders at garage sales:
I'm not joking. No one wants to go to a garage sale that is in your garage and spend $75 on a chair that you think is an antique. I am also looking at you, holders of the price guns at Savers and Goodwill. Except sometimes you totally have my back, like today when I picked up yards and yards of mint condish gorgeous screenprinted linen from the 70s that is destined for my closetless walls for $3.

I've been up since 4:30, it's true. Time to bring this day to a close, even though my brother is due to roll in from Pittsburgh any minute.

Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tender niblets.

First words I heard yesterday:

"Everything is beautiful (in its own way)." Announced pleasantly by my mother, as my parents walked in the door from their morning workout. She was talking about all the floral burgeoning going on outside.

First thing I heard this morning:

My dad playing blues music out his computer speakers. He found Pandora and the Music Genome Project today and commenced to geeking out immediately.

Most depressing t-shirt slogan I saw at Goodwill today:

"Just remember: we're all in this alone." Maybe it's supposed to be comforting.

Yesterday's scores:

1. This rug:
I done bought this rug.
Formerly $175 at Pier One, snagged for $33.

2. An REI backpack, suitable for actual backpacking, for $7.99. When my mom looked it over, she said "I think you win." Then she spread out her Goodwill by-the-pound finds. You see that I come by this thing honestly.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bass! How low can you go? Zaire; water buffalo.

Here's what it's like to be writing my thesis right now:

Seriously. It's just exactly like that.

In addition, I would very much like the thrift gods to send me one of these:
I'm kind of crying over this.

There's a freaking gazelle on that skirt.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Have to believe we are magic: Thursday Thirteen.

Here are Eight Recent Real Life Events I Would Use as Portents if I Were Writing a Midwestern Magical Realism Novel, plus Five Things I am Selling on Ebay This Week.

1. We see a crow flying away from the lake at sunset with a whole fish in its mouth.

2. I walk into a thrift store and the first two things I happen to focus on in my beeline for the shoe section say the name "Tommy" on them.

3. I'm singing a Feist song as I unlock the car and when I get in, a song from her new record, which I've not yet heard, is playing on the radio. Note: I am not singing the song I've never heard.

4. My zen driving leads me to two garage sales, one in a neighborhood I don't know at all but which felt very homey and simultaneously like I was in a different city, and another on the suburban extension of the street I grew up on. (This would be a better portent if the sales yielded any booty, but they don't.)

5. I screech to a halt just before hitting a bunny and I actually shriek/wail "BUNNY!" as this is happening. My car window is open, so I sincerely hope someone hears me.

6. There is a feather in my path, twice.

7. In my old neighborhood, I nostalgically think "this is such a nice place" and then I see new graffiti on the railroad bridge. It says "UR BITCH ASS" and makes me laugh out loud. "Bitch Ass" was once my number one insult/synonym, as in "I haven't seen his bitch ass in days. Where was your bitch ass last night? That woman across the hall is such a bitch ass."

8. We see a heron standing in the lake, silhouetted in the light trail of the full moon. The frogs are singing.

9. This, which is so not me but which I'm tempted to keep:
Grey secretary blouse; red wool pencil skirt.

10. Also this, which I really would have wanted in the 80s:
Vintage Laura Ashley gown.

11. This, which is so insane I hope someone buys it:
I pledge allegiance to this fabric.

12. These, which are not my size, to my chagrin:
Black Circa Joan & David mary janes 7.5

13. Aaaaand, these, ditto on the size issue:
Red Nine West mary janes 8.5

Plus all this other crap.

I know, I copped out on this list. Why aren't there more portents in my life?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bringing sexy back.

In the past few days, the Brit and I have been getting into discussions about The Sexy in music. He maintains that most American music is, ultimately, kind of boring because it lacks frisson, or maybe just friction--an ineffable thing that can make sloppy, rowdy music by a bunch of lower class British dudes co-opting American blues (for example) into something magical and transcendant, something better than it has any right to be. I maintain that he is looking for something different in rock music than many people are, and also that he brings a giant cultural weight to bear upon the way he listens to music. I can't argue with him that American bands (that he likes) such as, say, Pavement don't have that extra something: there's something sort of distant, disaffected about their music. Then on the other end of the spectrum you have punk bands whose music is exciting but is maybe more about an ethos, a lifestyle, than about The Sexy. Probably there's just too much irony and simultaneously too much earnestness floating around in America. Earnest music ain't sexy. Neither is ironic music. Both can be entertaining, though.

I dunno. I'm no cultural critic, but I have some ill-formed theories about the cultural superiority/inferiority complex that's endemic in England, and I think that has a lot to do with both how Brit bands make music and how Brit music lovers, or at least the one I know well, listen/s to it. In a culture that is admittedly uptight and still completely mired in the idea of class, music sort of has to be transgressive or epic in some way in order to mean anything. I do believe that this is where The Sexy comes from. It's always about the whole being more than the sum of its parts. Well, and frankly, that's just what makes a good band, no matter where you're from.

You probably shouldn't even try to debate me on this because my house of cards will fold. I totally don't know what I think about it, except that I proposed the other day that The Sexy in American music shows up much less in the straight-up rock world and much more in R & B (that nebulous blanket term for, basically, black music). I was thinking about that again in the car today, as I listened to the radio, and my idea was writ large when they played The Pixies followed by James Brown. I think I may have said out loud "now see, THAT'S what I'm talking about." Because James Brown was by all accounts a messed up, autocratic, misogynist freak and his music is sexy. It has The Sexy all over it, and that's in the voice and the personality and the element of danger that surge electrically through the music.

I did come up with Bruce Springsteen, when we were talking about American rock music, and the Brit admitted that it was a good call. I really don't think you can fault early Springsteen and I think his music has The Sexy, even though his music also has the country-roots vast landscape thing that usually compels the Brit not one iota (I think this is also cultural--I think landscape is huge in music. More on that another time. Maybe). One thing about The Sexy is that it has to be authentic. If it is adopted as a pose, then it doesn't count, even if the music is compelling. So it could probably go without saying that current pop music can't really enter this discussion. What about it, internets? Sexy American rock music of the present and past: discuss.

There has been a lot of post-Kaya discussion on the part of the children. I don't remember if I ever recounted this story, but when Henry was about two or maybe even a little younger, he got into a discussion with my dad about death. Who knows how it came up. My sister's family lives near a cemetery, so that may have inspired it. Basically, my dad was breaking it down for Henry: that bird will die, that flower will die, it's normal, it's part of life. Henry thought about it and then took my dad's face in his hands and said, "We will all die." The kid is deep.

So he gets it and has gotten it for a long while. "Why did Kaya have to die?" Jude wondered, matter-of-factly. "Well, because she got very old and things stopped working and her heart stopped and she stopped breathing," my dad told him. (Euthanasia is for a different Learning Moment.)

"Everything dies," my dad continued. "All living things die. It's part of life."

"I will not die," Jude announced.

"Yes you will," Henry countered. "What if everyone got old and died at the same time?" he asked, a little saucer-eyed.

"That would never happen," my dad assured him. "Babies are being born all the time."

"But what if it did," he said. This is just like Henry, to get philosophical and hypothetical. Jude, meanwhile, is like: not me, suckers.

"I will not die," Jude insisted.

"Jude," Henry said reasonably, "everything gets old and dies."

"I will not die," Jude maintained, deeming the entire idea bullshit.

This is all very consistent with their personalities.

I believe I had more to share with you, but look, it's 2:15 and I have to shower and go teach. It's another fabulous day. Oh, I know: My sister's Em's friend El Presidente has a blog, along with another friend of theirs. They take on such topics as Black Babies vs. White Babies, "Am I racist for being pretty sure that Barack Obama is magic? Because from where I'm sitting all signs point to he's magic," the crazy/beautiful as an aesthetic category, etc. You will laugh AND cry.