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):

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.

Monday, November 18, 2013


A friend of mine recently gave me her fancy cable channel password and I am now tempted never to leave the house again. Already I feel more pop-culturally literate, having finally watched GIRLS (verdict: I think it's great, I get why some people would hate it). And I started VEEP, and Enlightened, and I'm going to watch The Newsroom, and I might rewatch 6 Feet Under. I might even watch Sex and the City, a show I've never really grabbed onto. See what I mean? And it's about to be deep dark winter, so.

On the flip side, I'm thinking about joining one of those 24 hour a day gyms. There's one less than a mile from home, there's a Groupon, etc. I'm actually into the proximity more than the open all day thing, but who knows, I could turn into a midnight gym rat.

Totally unrelated to either of the above, I still don't feel like dating, and I think as a result I am wearing an invisibility cloak, albeit with purple hair and a bunch of eyeshadow, where dudes are concerned. If I feel like emerging from it I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I need to visit more states.

Here is a map of states I've been to. Since I haven't been to Hawaii or Alaska, those don't show up on the map.

Make your own map here. Choose
  • red for states where you've not spent much time or seen very much.
  • amber for states where you've at least slept and seen some sights.
  • blue for states you've spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
  • green for states you've spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013



Someone should invent a cat toothbrush that you can attach to a cardboard box and then cats can just rub their little faces all over it and brush their own teeth, since they want to manically rub the edges of cardboard boxes anyway. I'm not going to invent it, I'm just putting it out there for you.

There is an insurance company in MN using the slogan "Live Fearless" and every time I'm subjected to one of their ads, I say "UGH" out loud. It's totally involuntary (and necessary).

As part of my ongoing effort to make Move Yer Ass a way of life, I'm working on establishing the habit I'm calling "Walkies!" when I write it on my calendar. Walkies! is a 25 minute loop from this lake over to the next one and back and I would like to do it every day, even the days I am running or biking or whatever it is I'm going to do when we're in the deep freeze, like possibly joining one of those 24 hour a day gyms because there's one less than a mile from here. It'll be me and some dudebros lifting weights at 11 PM.

I have no idea how I missed this post until just a few days ago, but here is an oral history of Wet Hot American Summer. Quoth Paul Rudd on his character: "You just try and have fun within those parameters of douchebaggery and bandanna-ism." You can thank me later. This movie is one of my classic texts and I own this print because of it (and also because the print is cool. I bought it at that gallery, even!).

Today the cat has been called Beastie, Beefsteak, Choplicker, Fluffbutt, Poo-face, Win Win Situation, and Sweetheart.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cat lady.

One of the weirdest things I do when I'm reading--as a single internet-dependent cat-lady living blissfully alone--is to occasionally break out into reading aloud in a generic, RP-type British accent. It's partly just for fun and partly to see if I can immediately get a plausible sound. I wouldn't normally confess something this stupid, except that every single time I do it, Winnie Cat gets up from wherever she is napping and comes over next to me, mewing a little. Just now I started reciting a Shakespeare sonnet in the kitchen and she did it again.

So obviously I'm going to be doing it more often.

Saturday, November 09, 2013


Hoo boy, this "post every day" thing is eluding me. Yesterday I even missed my daily personal writing, which is particularly painful because I'd been on a streak of writing every day for over a year.

But let us talk of happier things, such as music, because it's been a long time since I posted a string of youtube videos for you.

Epic. That is all.

Please don't try to deny this groove.

I can't endorse the creepiness of this video, but the song is ace and the whole album is really great, and quite diverse. I described one of the songs to my sister as "like if Natasha Khan was singing a Kate Bush song" and she said "that sounds basically tailor-made for you."

I'm about two years late on this and Tristen has released a new album just recently, but I don't like it nearly as much as the first, from which this track is drawn.

I've been all over this song for months. It has elements of Rufus Wainwright and Burt Bacharach and the voice is a little bit Edith Piaf and the whole effect is just right up my street.

Also, you should listen to Ainslie Wills and I'm linking to the track I can't get over, but the whole album is fantastic. It feels like Jeff Buckley to me, but without any of the 90s duderock elements.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Voices from the past

While I was cleaning out my grandparents' house, I came across two mystery records, with weeks and several rooms separating my discoveries. The first one was marked "Marty 1949" (Marty was my grandmother's nickname) in pen, and looked like any old 45. There were no clues as to what might be on it, and I put it aside to try listening to it at some point when I was near a functioning record player. The second one was stuffed inside the old 1970s Curtis Mathis console, along with a stack of children's 45s and some defunct 8-tracks. This one was in an old mailer that said "phonograph - do not bend" on it and said that it had been recorded at the San Diego Army and Navy YMCA. It was addressed to my grandpa's mother, in his handwriting, so it seemed pretty clear that he'd recorded himself and sent it to her. I couldn't make out the date on the postmark. Once I got the console fired up and found that it worked, more or less, I tried to play both records and found out they were 78s, so I had no way to listen to them.

I had them put on CD yesterday, though. A friend with whom I've kept in touch thanks to facebook--we all have so many of those now!--is a record hound and general fan of *media*, and he digitizes old recordings just for fun. He saw my post about the recordings and offered to transfer my grandparents' records for nothing, which was amazing, and I paid him in beer. I went over to his boho apartment, a 4th or 5th floor walkup in a former (very former) luxury hotel, nestled into a couch in a room filled with records and CDs and laserdiscs and scores and guitars and an old Nintendo, and got to hear these voices out of the past. Surprisingly, I did not burst into tears. But it was still an incredibly cool thing, to hear these young, high voices coming out of the speakers, talking blithely, just as if these wouldn't end up being their only audible artifacts of that era.

I put the recordings on soundcloud for the family to listen to, and I'm linking one here. Grandma took a Dale Carnegie class when she moved up to St Paul to work, and I'm guessing that's where this was recorded--they had to give little speeches, I think. The record had deteriorated some at the center, so we lose the end of the story, but I love that she talked about something borderline scandalous, or maybe that most people would keep hushed up, and talked so obliquely and tactfully about some of it, and then basically made a plug for daycare. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Other "problems" that scream "I'm a complete asshole"

1. Opening Bota Box just now was really hard
2. Cat chewed through cord of my white noise machine at 5:30 this morning, subjecting me to horrible peaceful silence
3. "Genius" at apple store had to take my lappo away for 5 days to do $900 worth of free repairs (why are $900 worth of things failing in the first year? discuss)
4. Lack of fine snacking cheese in the house
5. Beat the last level on Candy Crush, representing one million hours of my free time, and there are no more levels to play on mobile app
6. Fancy Sephora nail polish "system" received for free from most excellent friend/employee of aforementioned store is total bullshit, yielding manicure that took a long time, never dried properly, and then peeled off in sheets
7. Only harem pants that meet my rigorous specs are $178 at Eileen Fisher and out of my reach

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Hilariously, I've already fallen down on the job here, but it's probably best if I keep your expectations very low, right? You know what else is hilarious? It's snowing right now. I finally switched out my wardrobe yesterday (after basically wearing the same "transitional" clothes for about two months) and--I don't know how to say this without sounding like an asshole--it really bummed me out. It bummed me out to pack up one extensive wardrobe and replace it with another, is what I mean by "sounding like an asshole"--talk about a made-up problem. But the truth is that I hate all my winter clothes except for like two skirts and a hoodie, which is not the reaction I was expecting--usually when people do the great wardrobe switchout it's like "yay, all these different clothes, and I didn't even go shopping!" So weep for me, basically, is what I'm saying.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Hey remember NaBloPoMo?

Yeah, me neither, which is why it's November 3 and you're just now hearing from me. I was musing at some point today, and not for the first time, that the long-form personal blog is dead, and that I seem to be spending my best material on Facebook, and I was wondering if blogs are going to come back around. NaBloPoMo did not even flit across my consciousness during this musing, but it did later, and now here I am, planning to titillate and bore in equal measure for as many days as possible this month.

Yesterday I ran an estate sale for the first and perhaps only time in my life. One thing I've been doing since I quit my job is a massive cleanout project at my grandparents' house--my grandma died 3 years ago and my grandpa has just recently, at 94, moved into a memory-care facility, so there was the house, packed full of the evidence of not just their life together and their own particular collecting habits, but also the remnants of the lives of their parents and those siblings that died without descendants. They had an unreal amount of stuff--every closet and drawer in the house was packed--and saved every receipt from every purchase and every manual from every appliance and on top of that, my grandma loved to go to thrift stores and buy tchotchkes or things she thought might be collectible and then bring them home and maybe set them in her china cabinets but more likely box them up and put them away in a closet with a masking tape label baroquely describing the contents.

So it was a big job, but I was the right person for it: I could be both ruthless and nostalgic, so that some days I would fill twenty trash bags and boxes with either junk to throw out or goods to donate to the same thrift store where Grandma did most of her shopping, and then other days I would be completely done in by all the photos or pop culture or family history I was unearthing, and I would just do a little work and then look through and instagram stuff all day long.

Also, I was newly underemployed and free as a bird. The project gave focus to my newly-unstructured days.

My mom and her siblings decided rather late in the game to do an estate sale and asked me to put it together. At that point I'd already gotten rid of a houseful of stuff, but there was still a houseful remaining. So I priced stuff and staged stuff and researched the value of all the glassware and the endless figurines and plates and lead crystal and my dad dealt with the giant, packed garage, and the family came over to help, and we let people in to wander through the house and buy things.

It went okay, but there is still a houseful of stuff left. We might need to have two or three more sales.

So that's what I've been doing with myself. It has been interesting, at this point in my life, to have a key to my grandparents' house, and to come and go as I please, to show up and help out and rehome things and clean and hang and look at stuff, when that is never the kind of relationship I've had with them--the drop-by, the let-yourself-in. They were always loving and supportive and showed up to all of our performances and games and we gathered for all of the holidays and birthdays, but the closeness that I have with my parents, or that my parents already have with my nephews and niece, just wasn't in the cards. But now I am free to wander, and to rifle through their stuff, and to decide what does and does not have value. And I am free to piece together the family history I didn't know from letters, and photographs, and scrapbooks, and receipts, and hospital records, and funeral programs.

It's put off the question of what exactly I am doing with my life, but there's time for that. Especially now that it's dark, and winter is coming.