Thursday, January 31, 2013

Words: Wisdom

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for. It doesn't interest me how old you are, I want to know if you are willing to risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. It doesn't interest me where you live or how rich you are, I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and be sweet to the ones you love. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments of your life." --Jon Blais

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Today in History {*Bonus Song of the Week*}

January 29, 1961

Bob Dylan meets his hero Woody Guthrie, who is terminal ill with Huntingdon's Disease. Bob sings Woody a song. 

Song to Woody
I'm out here a thousand miles from my home
Walking a road other men have gone down
I'm seeing a new world of people and things
Hear paupers and peasants and princes and kings.

Hey hey Woody Guthrie I wrote you a song
About a funny old world that's coming along
Seems sick and it's hungry, it's tired and it's torn
It looks like it's dying and it's hardly been born.

Hey Woody Guthrie but I know that you know
All the things that I'm saying and a many times more
I'm singing you the song but I can't you sing enough
'Cause there's not many men that've done the things that you've done.

Here's to Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly too
And to all the good people that travelled with you
Here's to the hearts and the hands of the men
That come with the dust and are gone with the wind.

I'm leaving tomorrow but I could leave today
Somewhere down the road someday
The very last thing that I'd want to do
Is to say I've been hitting some hard travelling too.

These two are probably the foundation of 90% of my musical world. Why there isn't a parade today, I just don't know. 

Song of the Week: Ivan & Alyosha

I knew that I would love the band Ivan & Alyosha before I even heard a single note of any of their songs. I knew that I would love them based 100% on their name. Ivan & Alyosha are two of the brothers in The  Brothers Karamazov, the glorious novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. To say that I love The Brothers K (as all the cool literature kids call it) is an understatement. I love it deeply and honestly. After I read it I just have to carry it around with me a little longer, just to feel its weight, both literally and figuratively. 

I try not to judge, but it does break my heart a little tiny bit, when I meet someone that hasn't at least attempted to read The Brothers K. I know, I know, Russian literature is so intimidating, the book is so big, there are no Broadway musical about it. But just pick it up, I'll bring you snacks to help you get through it. Promise. 

 For those unfamiliar with the book, (sigh), and in a very simplistic nutshell,  Ivan is an atheist (mostly) and Alyosha cultivates his simple faith at a monastery. Their faith and lack of faith is a constant balance and unbalance in the novel. And to me, that is life, that is art, that is every struggle and victory.  Faith and the lack of faith. So when I heard about a band called Ivan & Alyosha, it was love. Good thing they are a great sounding band too.

They are releasing a new album, All the Times We Had, in February, but a new video for the track, "Be Your Man," has been  making the internet rounds as of late. And for good reason. Listen. Love. Share.

They will be touring all spring in support of their new album (see tour dates here). A night of music that will be very worth your time. And I am fairly certain there won't be a Russian Literature quiz at the show. Well, about 75% certain.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The First Week

The first of many Midwest weeks to come . . . .

My first full day in Missouri found me at my favorite BBQ joint. Duh. DC has some amazing food, but KC BBQ it does not have. 

Speaking of firsts, the very first thing I set up, before I opened one single box or unzipped one single suitcase, was the record player. Priorities. 

I'm trying to surround myself with things that inspire me. I lugged this old typewriter out of the barn.  I am still tinkering with it to see if I can get it to work, but it is in pretty bad shape. Sometimes you have to be taken apart before you can be put back together. 

 I went to my very first Midwest show--Trampled by Turtles at The Granada in Lawrence, KS.  Music to my little heart. 

 I joined a fancy pants gym.
 "Pool" just sounds too pedestrian. Actually it is just the gym at the local community center.  I've discovered that I workout at the same time as a lot of gray hair folk, which I kinda adore. I secretly want to join the little group that sits and gossips at the coffee cart after their water aerobics class. 

On a bottom shelf at a thrift store I spotted an old slide projector. 4 dollars and 98 cents poorer I brought it home and after a little cleaning and a little work I got the 1958 magic box to turn on and filled it with some of my dad's old slides.  I knew he had a camera when he was stationed in Europe, but I didn't know that he took pictures when he lived in Mexico a couple of years before he joined the army. Seeing pictures of him, a very younger, but as hip was ever, him in his Latin American days was pretty special. 

Truth: if you want to talk me into something, take me out for tacos. It will almost always work. One of the most comforting things about cleaning the slate and starting over is knowing that there are friends out here that truly want the best for me. And tacos. Tacos are pretty comforting too. 

So. It is January, like cold middle of the winter January, and it was in the 70's today. There is a chance of snow (please! please!) later this week. Weather, you crazy.

 But sadly this warm weather is just underling the fact that the middle of the country is still in a bad draught. No water in the dusty rain gauge and the grass is so crunchy. 

This week I also had to come to the realization that 90% of my photos are going to be photo bombed by a cat.
I was trying to get a picture of the rain gauge shadow, but got this instead. 

I was at the gym today running inside on the treadmill looking outside and thought, "Holy cow, it is so warm today." Then I got off the treadmill, went outside and did a lap around the lake.  Show off. 

And finally, after I couldn't put it off any longer, I got out a blank piece of paper and started to makes some goals.
We'll see how this goes. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finding Music: Live Music

{A new little, hopefully reoccurring, series about discovering music}

When I first moved to the East Coast I kept  missing concerts. By the time I found out my favorite band was sashaying through the Capitol City, tickets would already be sold out. Heart crushing. I guess I was still living in the stone age of hearing about shows from fliers in record shops.   So I spent the next little while perfecting my online show finding and ticket procuring skills. By the time I said so long to the E.C. a couple weeks ago I had a great system. I not only was on top of all bands/musicians/one-man jamborees coming to the area, but I also had no trouble getting tickets before shows sold out, and I never, ever had to resort to going to a scalper or resale sites like Ticket Stub.

Now, I am in a new town and trying to use all these skillz to make sure that all live Midwest music gets to my ears.  Below are some of my super secret/not so secret tips to getting into shows. I know that some of these may seem a little obsessive, but live music not only is the butter on my toast, it's my bread on my  . . .toast? It's what I do.

1. Find the music venues in your area. There are a couple of different ways to do this. If you read a city paper (congrats! you are a dying breed), there is usually an entertainment section that comes out on Thursdays or Fridays.  This will give you a good idea of the different clubs in the area and what music they spotlight.

Look up the tour schedules of some of your favorite bands on their websites and see where they play when they tour through your area. Also think about how far you are willing to travel for a show (to the moon!) and look at venues in nearby cites. You can also listen to that talking box the old timers call the radio. Radio stations will usually promote upcoming shows.

2. Use social networking to your advantage. If you are a Facebook type person, "like" the local clubs and your favorite bands and bands you want to see live. Bands and venues will release tour schedules and upcoming shows (and new music) on their Facebook pages. Accessing all this in one central location, your Facebook newsfeed, is a lot easier than randomly checking each individual regular website for each band and each venue. Many venues will post "Low Ticket Warnings" on FB  alerting you when  certain shows are about to sell out. Many bands will also post set lists from shows so you can figure out the name of that one song at the concert that you just loved. If you are in the DC area, you should at the very least be a FB fan of the 9:30 Club, not only was it my favorite club in the area, but they also promote many other venues in the area.

 I don't use Twitter, put many bands and venues do, so if you live your life in 140 characters or less, consider following venues and bands that way, just know they usually cross post on both Twitter and Facebook. Also, if you are in DC you should probably be following Bob Boilen of NPR Music on Instagram (he's @tinydesk).

3. Mailing lists. A little old school, but if there are bands that you OMG have to see and especially if tickets to these OMG bands are hard to get/sell out quick (I'm looking at you, Mumford & Sons), I would suggest signing up for their email mailing list (via their website) and the venue they are going to perform at. This suggestion boils down to one magic word: presale. Bands and/or venues usually will offer a very limited number of tickets via an online presale to mailing list fans the day before tickets go on sale to the public. A few days before the presale, the band or venue will email the presale password you will need to use to able to get into the presale.  Sure, scalpers might be sneaky enough to get hold of the presale password, but at least you will double the chance (the presale and the regular sale) of getting hold of some tickets. After figuring out the magic of the presale, I never ever missed a show because it was sold out, even uber popular shows. And in the case of not getting tickets to a sold out show,  additional tickets might be released the day before or the day of the show. The quickest way to find out about newly released tickets is via the social networking tips above.

Now that you got your magic ticket, let's talk a little bit about show etiquette. Short and sweet this means don't be a jerk. Follow all rules of the venue, be nice to those around you (chances are they're awesome  music nerds like you!) and  don't be extra chatty while the bands are playing, especially if you are up front close to the stage.  Talk all you want in between sets and even in between songs or if you are at the bar, but if you are loudly carrying on some ridiculous conversation while some amazing band is playing my favorite song, then so help me George, I will eye evil curse you.

And then there is picture taking. Most venues allow picture taking on camera phones or point and shoots, but not professional cameras, which usually means any camera with a removable lens.  However, if the performer has issued a no picture rule, just follow it. Take a picture in your mind, go home and draw a picture of it, whatever, just don't anger the performer by being a jerk.  So if allowed, go ahead and take pictures, I do. However, never, ever, ever, ever, use a flash (super distracting/blinding to the people on stage), and don't spend the entire show taking pictures and video.  Remember the music is why you're there (hopefully!) it's hard to clap with a camera in your hand and the people behind  you don't want to view the show through your little camera screen.

And lastly, if you know that drunk girl that keeps falling down and embarrassing herself, be a pal, and take her back to her home and let her get some sleep and keep a little bit of her dignity.

See you at a show!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tips of the Road

1. Even if you have a GPS, you should probably look at a map if your trip covers a great deal of unfamiliar territory. Doing this will alert you to the fact that said GPS is going to go trixie on you and throw you randomly on curving and steep mountain country roads. These may be fun scenic views on a normal Sunday drive in a normal car, but in a U-Haul with every possession you own in it, not so fun. And on such roads you will find "Dangerous Mountain," signs. I know this signage is referencing steep inclines and sharp turns and all, but I like to picture the mountain trying to steal your lunch money. Hooligan mountain.

2. Always save one of the billion cup holders in your car for change for toll roads. If not, you will be the car backing up the "Cash Only," line of the Pennsylvania turnpike while you try to cram wrinkled dollar bills into the machine. I knew I would be going on a toll road, but I assumed that there will be a person there to make change and not vending machine like money collecting boxes that spit out your wrinkled dollar bills. Hooligan machines. 

3.  Specially made road trip music mixes are great, but sometimes you luck out with out local radio stations. In rural Pennsylvania I found a station that only plays Slovene polka music. You might think it strange to be hearing Eastern European polka music in the hills of PA, but a lot of folk from the former Yugoslavia settled in the Quaker State. I know this for a fact, because my great grandparents were some of them. And our love for the button box, is deeply rooted.

Speaking of radio finds, I love driving at night, and actually prefer it if I have to drive through a lot of open road and barren landscape. And it is also at night that I can usually find either a marathon of "Prairie Home Companion" or other old tyme style radio programs, which make great traveling companions if you are driving alone. If I am super lucky and it is super late, I can usually find some conspiracy theory talk show which is best, especially if UFO are mentioned, and they usually are.

Other favorite music of the trip were anything classic rock (Led Zeppelin and CCR were played on repeat) and REM's Monster album.

4.  Even if you know that big changes in your life are needed, it is still OK to be scared and cry for the last little bit of the trip as you drive into the unknown. 

5. America is beautiful. The sunset that I caught going from West Virginia into Ohio was one of the most fabulous one I have ever, ever seen. I also saw bridges and rivers and mountain passes,  and red barns, all in their own way, took a little bit of my breath away. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Song of the Week: Wardell

Wait . . .today is Wednesday. Not Tuesday, the normal Song of the Week day. Darn you "calendars" and "time" and your limitations and boundaries.

I'm still unpacking, taking naps from unpacking, making lunch dates with long last friends, forgetting what day of the week it is, and craving red meat like no other. Why is it that I only crave red meat when I am in the Midwest? Bloodlust usually isn't my best look.

So, maybe I should wait until I can string a lot of beautiful words together about this beautiful song. It's worth lots, and lots and lots of beautiful words. My brain has a very limited vocabulary right now as it detoxes from the last year of my life.  So, maybe I should wait.  But I just can't. You have to listen to this song right now.  Right now, so put down that sandwich. Sharing is caring and I'm just looking out for you and your music needs. That's the kind of friend I am.  "Opossum"  by Wardell has been on constant repeat for the last couple days as I search for that one box with my harmonica in. Moral of the story: this song is fantastic, and always keep your harmonica close by. 

Now, I am off on an hamburger quest and it isn't even noon yet. Meeeaaatttt.

Friday, January 18, 2013


"You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You
 see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument,
 who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really
 not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality
is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and 
these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like.

If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. 

Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping,
 gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why 
you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and 
be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who 
makes a difference.

Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago
 Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything
 that isn’t necessary. ” 

--Julien Smith
Post Script: the blog may be quiet for a few days while I figure out 
where  and how to settle in and settle down. But don't you take me 
out of your
 reader just yet. I've got big plans. Big-o plans-o.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sea to Shining Sea Road Trip Mix Tape

I will be driving across the country in the next couple days. ROAD TRIP. Well, driving a big old truck across mountains in the middle of winter (what is this snow thing the weather folk keeping mentioning? Stop it.), isn't exactly the funniest of road trips. But let's focus on the bright side; bulk peanut M&Ms and road trip tunes. 

Because I love to over think most things in my life, and maybe needed to take a break from packing, I imposed the following rules for this play list: Start on the east coast, and go all the way to the west coast. All song titles must either include a name of a state, or city. The song order follows a make believe route (not the one I am taking, because I am not insane), with all songs/states sharing a geographical border with the previous song/state. 

(All links go to You Tube videos of the songs. I take no responsibility for ads or comments)

1. Virginia --Chris Merritt
2. Baltimore Blues No. 1 -- Deer Tick
3. The Weight -- The Band.  
And here is where I break my own rules. Pennsylvania songs are hard to find, and how can I pass up this classic road trip song that begins with, "I pulled into Nazareth . . " Nazareth, PA that is. 
4. New York, New York -- Ryan Adams
(Now, hop on a boat across (Lake Erie)
5. Michigan--The Milk Carton Kids
6. Back Home Again In Indiana -- Louis Armstrong
7. Chicago-- Sufjan Stevens
8. Kansas City--The Beatles. 
And to be clear, they were singing about Kansas City, MO. For sure. 
9. Arkansas-Damien Jurado
10. New Orleans--Trampled by Turtles
11. Living on the Edge (of Houston)--Reverend Horton Heat
12. Oklahoma Hills--Arlo Guthrie
13. Colorado Girl--Townes Van Zandt
14. Nebraska--Bruce Springsteen
15. Song of Wyoming-John Denver
16. Idaho--Josh Ritter
17. Portland, Oregon--Loretta Lynn (featuring Jack White). 
If you haven't clicked over to any other song on this list, you must (MUST!) listen to this song. 
Purrrrdy perfect. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Song of the Week: Blind WIllie McTell

File this under things not to talk about on a first date, I maybe should see a professional for, but I totally feel OK blogging about on all the Internets: I have a slight fear of dying in my sleep. As far as fears go, it's not that bad, in the sense that it isn't a constant thing and doesn't affect my daily life. I've had it ever since I can remember and really don't think about how or why it started. Like I said, it isn't constant, but a couple times a year, it does freak my soul out enough that I make myself stay awake until first light. Phew, still alive. 

So, if you ever get random emails from me at strange hours, especially with the caps lock seemingly stuck on, it is probably one of those nights. If you ever catch me in the kitchen peeling potatoes at 3 AM in morning (true story), it is probably one of those nights. Saturday was one of those nights.

I spent most of the night (after sending a series of random emails) laying on my bedroom floor listening to old blues and jazz records;  Papa Charlie Jackson (blues banjo!), Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, and Blind Willie McTell.  Now, listening to the Blues in a moment where you fear death is both incredibly sad and incredibly beautiful. 

Blind Willie McTell:  Searching the Desert for the Blues

Saturday, January 12, 2013

All Roads Lead to Bob Dylan

I am still working on making 2013 resolutions. There has been a resolution-ish post in my draft folder for 2 weeks now and I'm pretty meh about it all. At this point, maybe it is just best to copy everyone else.   I figure us human all basically want the same thing--to be happy. 

But if I do end up making a list of ways to be even more awesome, um . . uh . . .I mean resolutions, 'finding a boy to sing me Bob Dylan songs' will probably be on it. And by probably, I mean definitely. 
(Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers covering Boots of Spanish Leather)


I can just learn those songs myself. My guitar has been lonely for too long. 


All of the above.  

Faraway Adventures: Venice

Last stop on our little Italian holiday was Venice (Venezia!).

The first day the weather was beautiful and my soul felt so much joy being surrounded by water.
 Getting off the train for our last bit of adventure

We spent most of the first day in the famous St. Mark's Square, touring the church, looking into all the little shops, trying to stay away from the pigeons, and just taking in Venice.  
St. Mark's Basilica, there in the background, is remarkable church. I don't know if I can do justice with words all the beautiful mosaics that cover the walls and ceiling.  No photography is allowed in the church, but just imagine beautiful mosaics with golden backgrounds telling the stories from the bible.

There are no cars or scooters in Venice and I love the calmness and quietness of it all;  walking through the maze of narrow streets, alleys and little bridges, hearing singing gondoliers in the distance, and even the quiet little sounds of the water in the canals. 

We spent our second day in Venice under a thick layer of fog that covered the city. We had planned to go out to some of the outer islands, but because of the fog, boat service was extremely limited. We decided to just hop on the water taxi (we had a day pass) and tour the Grand Canal getting on and off whenever we wanted.  It turned out to be one of my favorite days of the trip. So relaxed. So open to the unplanned and unexpected. 

Waiting for the water taxi

 Flood markers

One of my favorite unexpected moments was the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health). We entered the church just as a mass was ending. We quietly sat on a little bench outside the chapel area. It was so nice to just pause and listen to the priest's words of faith (in the lovely Italian tongue) fill the space in the church. And then the congregation started to sing and it was so beautiful.   I felt tears roll down my cheeks. I have had my struggles with faith and church, but when you feel a moment of uttermost peace it is overwhelming, in an unbelievably good way. 

Note: I am sensitive about taking pictures in places of worship; photography was allowed in the church, and I waited until the mass was completely over to take out my camera. 

The church was built in the mid 1600's after Venice was hit tragically hard by a plague outbreak. Over 1/3 of the population died. It was fairly common in Italy during that time period to build churches to demonstrate righteous dedication in hopes of salvation from the plague. This church in particular was dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, who was seen as a protector of Italy. 

We  got back on the water taxi and explored some more. There are many fine places to eat in Venice, but my favorite meal was at a little place called  Trattoria Alla Basilica. It is found down an alley behind St. Mark's (in my head I still say San Marco, but in my head I tend to be a little fancy). It is a ristorante run by the church and all proceeds go back to the church and the community. It is isn't fancy food, but it was warm and hearty. There is also a little bit of warm kindness giving back to this beautiful city, even if it is just the price of carrot soup and spaghetti and meatballs. 

We thought the fog would burn off throughout the day, but it got worse. Remember the above photo of St. Mark's Square, my favorite one with the naval cadet in his cape (a cape!)? Below is a picture taken about  from the same place, at the same time, the next day. 

My mother wanted a quiet night to rest before our trip back to the States, but I just couldn't sit still in a hotel room when the whole city of Venice was alive. I talked my sister into going out for a little walk, and we got to witness the fog and streetlights setting the city a glow.

We also passed this little cafe that had a violin player serenading the night with "Let It Be," which just so happens to be my favorite Beatles' song. I took it as a little goodnight lullaby from the universe.

And FYI, Tom Waits is alive and well in Venice:

Other Italy Adventures: Rome, The Vatican, Ancient Rome, Pompeii, Florence.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sounds: New Dropkick Murphys

It's harder then you think to write a little review of a new album from a band that not only you love, but everyone and their cousin already knows you love. People roll their eyes, skip to the next post. We get it. You love them. No surprise. Next.

I have written many words about the Dropkick Murphys on this blog, usually after seeing them live. This week they released their newest and 8th studio album,  Signed and Sealed in Blood. With new music, like any type of love, there is love at first sight (or listen) and love that takes a while to grow on you. That second point has proven true with even DKM albums. When I heard the first couple of chords of the first song on this new album, "The Boys Are Back," I knew this was love at first sight. The album, although completely new to me, felt so warmly familiar, like it has always been part of my music vocabulary.

Like most of their other albums there are plenty of sing-a-longs, but with this album there is also, at least for me,  this sense and feeling of nostalgia. I think a lot of this has to do with being an Irish influenced band, which Dropkick Murphys are usually referred to as such. So much of Irish history and culture is through music and this continuing ballad we sing of ourselves. I claim heritage from the Emerald Isle (County Derry represent!) , so Irish music is in my blood and when I hear it, it always awakes some of that old blood. And within this music you will always, always, find themes of the past and of family--folklore or reality. . . .and maybe whiskey.  But you know, the Irish.  Woven into jigs and in the shadow of bagpipes is the idea that holding onto these things is not only a way to remember the past, but also a way to endure the present. Remember who you are. 

This feeling of nostalgia plays very much into some of my favorite songs on the album. Number one on that list is the song, "My Hero." My liking of this song is a surprise to no one. It is about advice you get from your father. Every time I write about my dad and his still pretty recent passing on this blog I pause and have a little bit of internal conflict.  Sometimes I feel I talk about and refer to him too much. This blog is very public and I have to consider the readers and knowing that death is uncomfortable to some, and maybe I have become too repetitive and mopey about it all. But there is another side of me that is struggling so much to hold on to my dad. There is a fear that I am just going to forget it all, forget about him.  I figure that I if I keep talking about him, I can hold to him a little longer and putting him and his stories down in black and white makes his legacy more tangible and permanent. This song, in small song way, helps me hold to his memory a little bit more,  echoing many of the same sentiments that he wisely told me through the years: work hard, hold your head up high, it will all be OK.

Another favorite song, for the which the video below is for, is "Rose Tattoo". And there is no mystery with the tittle, it is about tattoos. I don't have any and probably won't ever get any tattoos, but I do understand why people get/have them. I have many friends that have quite a few tattoos and I have had the privilege to be there as many of them were inked. This song takes me back to all those times.  There are many reasons why people get tattoos, but I think the idea of having a memory so dear to you that you want to make it part of your body and being is beautiful. Agree or disagree with me on that point, but the this song, at least in my ears, is fundamentally about how we make memories and the special people and places in our lives a part of ourselves. We all are made up everything that has become before us and everything we experience, some are just more visual about it. I also can't wait to hear this song live and see and feel the crowd explode into a raucous jig for the last minute of the song.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Song of the Week: Michael Kiwanuka

I've been listening to a lot of loud, fast pogo dance around the room music lately.  It's been the fire beneath my feet as I try to get things done as I wrap up my DC life.

But today I hit a snag.  We have all moved we know it how overwhelming it can be, so not to throw myself a pity party or anything, but I have I changed my U-Haul reservation like 5 times in last hour.  I had to just close down all 7 windows on my computer and take a moment. 

Soon I hope to get out of this --my life is so overwhelming-- rut. But sometimes making big changes leads you second guess every single small decision. 

"Valentine," I said. Valentine is my computer, named after Ender's sister, duh. But let's not make this about how I name most of the major inanimate objects in my life.

"Valentine," I said opening up iTunes, "Play me something nice. Something with soul. Something to fill my head." Now, it wasn't magic, it wasn't the first song that came up, it was a little bit down the list in the DJ list, but as soon I saw it, I knew it was definitely the song of the day, week, and maybe month.

Home Again by Michael Kiwanuka

I know that I have been posting lyrics more and more frequently, I don't if this helps or hurts. But these words. That voice. No need to pull out your dictionary. This is the definition of perfection.

Home again
Home again
One day I know
I'll feel home again
Wrong again
Wrong again
One day I know
I'll feel strong again
And lift my head

Many times
I've been told
All this talk
Will make you old
So, I'll close my eyes
Won't look behind
Movin' on
Movin' on
So I'll close my eyes
Won't look behind
Movin' on

Lost again
Lost again
One day I know
Our paths will cross again
Smile again
Smile again
One Day I hope
I'll make you smile again
And I won't hide

Many times
I've been told
Speak your mind, just be bold
So I'll close my eyes
Won't look behind
Movin' on
Movin' on
So, I'll close my eyes

And the tears will clear
Then I'll feel no fear
Then I'd feel no way
Bypass what we made straight

Home again
Home again
One day I know
I'll feel home again
Wrong again
Wrong again
One day I know
I'll feel strong again
And lift my head

Many times
I've been told
All this talk will make you old
So I'll close my eyes
Won't look behind
Movin' on
Movin' on
So I'll close my eyes
Won't look behind
Movin' on

I first heard about Michael Kiwanuka via the Communion music collective. It was started in the UK by Ben Lovett (of Mumford & Sons) and some friends to promote not only music and musicians, but the sense of community within our musical world. If you are akin to lovely folksy tunes, their mailing list (sign up here), delivers a free song each week to your inbox and introductions to new singer/songwriters bravely sharing their words with us. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

So. This Is Really Happening.

All the words that have been sprewing out of mouth have finally caught up with me. All this talk about moving, and getting on with my life and leaving and going and coming and becoming and all the other ---ings, all have suddenlly become more then just sounds and symbols and words.

This weekend I started packing. Like for real. Like actually putting things in boxes.
And for the record, I do believe in packing in Dewy Decimal order, more or less. 

Packing is a quick and dirty landscape of your life.  All your literal baggage from the last months and years and adventures and pitfalls. All the treasures, all the crap. What do you keep? What do let go?

I have a little over a week to pack, so I have the benefit of time. Each day I focus on one thing, or one group of things. One day it is my books, or my papers, or my kitchen things or my tambourines. Today it was my clothes.  The sorting wasn't that bad until I started pulling out my t-shirts. Good Golly Miss Molly.
If you want to know me and the loves of my life, look to my t-shirts. Trips, concerts, educational pursuits, jobs, they are all there. I wear my heart of my sleeve (Geesh-- too much?).  There were a couple, maybe 3 or 4 that I could get rid of, but soon the piles of the ones that I just couldn't give up grew and towered.  One of my housemates came in as I was  on folding marathon. "I should be embarrassed by the amount of t-shirts I own," I said, "But I'm really not." "Don't be," she said pointing to all the piles, "Look at all the fun things you have done with your life."

Look at that indeed.  

Since I will, in all reality, be a vagabond for the next couple months (can I come sleep on your couch? I'll make you pancakes.) I am trying to be conscious in my packing. Somethings are going to be in storage for awhile, so bubble wrap had to be procured .  So grown up. 
You're Already Home Where You Feel Love.
Home. Love. Still trying figure out those words. 

But packing hasn't been all toil and strife. In such a short time I have been quite well verse in daytime television.  And that me tell you, there are a lot of cray-cray people who find themselves in front of a camera between the hours of 9 and 6. So many train wrecks you just can't stop watching. So bad.  Thank goodness that  are our magic tv rabbit ears have sudden picked up a new channel that only plays UK shows.  New soap operas, new cop shows and best of all, lunch breaks with Dr. Who.
Don't tell #4, but #10 is totally my favorite (if you understand this, HIGH FIVE). Also my favorite, Genoa salami and banana pepper topped pizza. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Faraway Adventures: Florence

I know that I hate it when bloggers drag out posts about trips. I get it. You went there and did ALL the things. Hopefully my Italy series hasn't been that annoying, and hopefully you guys are still with me. I am determined to do Florence all in one post, but it is hard, I fell for that lovely city so hard. The minute we stepped out of the train station, I could feel the difference between Rome and Florence. In Rome, there is a hustle and bustle that took me a little bit it fall into, but Florence, oh Florence, it's city flow was so much easier to adapt too.  So  much easier to fall in love with. I have a friend who told me that she never really wanted to go to Florence, it just seemed so overrated. Oh no, I corrected her. It is  positivity worth the hype. It positivity worth a trip there. Good ahead and book your trip now. I'll wait.

I guess now that the trip is a little further away in the past I don't feel the urgent need to tell you about every single detail over every single day.  But here are some of my favorite moments.

Where We Stayed.
Our little apartment was perfectly situated between the main train station and the Medici Chapels. Florence is a very walkable city,  and it doesn't take long to get into the pattern of stepping out the way of the all the bicycles and scooters that buzz all the city. The building that our apartment was in  dated back to the 15th century. Our apartment, and the rest of the apartments on this floor are owned by and restored by our very charming landlords, a husband and wife team. When they were renovating the space they discovered frescos on the walls and had them dated back to the 17th century. It was like sleeping in a museum. Also, there was a small grocery store two doors down, totally convenient for late night cheese runs. This happened more than I should freely admit.  One of the few arguments my sister and I got into was when she wanted to buy Swiss cheese. Pish Posh, we are in Italy, we buy Italian cheese. 

What We Ate.
Gelato originated in Florence, so when you visit you must eat it everyday. It's a law, I am sure.  If you ever visit Florence you must, must, must, (that 3 musts, so I am serious) go to the Gelateria Santa Trinita, and get the strawberry gelato. It will change your life and give you superpowers and I am sure that if everyone would just eat it we could achieve world peace. We tried a couple other places, but always came back to this place. You could taste the quality of ingredients, and I melted into a pool of joy with each bite.

Across from our apartment was a ristorante called Circo & Sons. Our landlord recommended we go there for the pizza, and who could turn down pizza recommendations in Italy? Now, this wasn't just your ordinary pizza this was Neapolitan style pizza, as in from Naples (Napoli), where they take their pizza seriously. The family that owned the restaurant not only is from Naples, but their pizza is certified by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, (True Neapolitan Pizza Association) which is a non-profit association that 'defends and promotes the culture of the True Neapolitan Pizza in the world. ' Defenders of the true pizza. Truth. And just like the magical powers of the gelato, I swear that the first bite of this pizza made the world turn upside down.  I am not really a foodie, so I can't really explain why it was so good, but you could taste the ingredients, the fresh tomatoes in the sauce, the quality of cheese, even the crust was perfection.  I use to be a frequent patron of the frozen pizza aisle of the grocery store, but now I just go there to mock the frozen pies. "Italian style?" Whatever.

And can we have a moment of silence for Italian pastries? Golly, I miss them.

What We Saw.

I almost well up with tears when I think about everything we saw in Florence. The city itself is just so enchanting. We went on a guided tour of the city and heard stories of the Medici family who ruled the city for so long, all the artists who flourished there, and even an author or two (I now what to learn Italian, just to read Dante in his own tongue).

Can we go back to the art? You can't take pictures of all the famous art, so I will just have to use words. In Florence there is the Uffizi Gallery, which houses one of the greatest collection of Italian art in the world.  Completely awe inspiring. I am pretty picky when it comes to how museums/galleries are curated. You can have great pieces, but if they aren't organized and labeled well, then you really have nothing. The Uffizi is probably the best curated museum I have ever been to.  The way they have the paintings laid out, you can actually see how art progressed through the ages. There is early art, and let's be honest here, that means A LOT of Madonnas, churches were usually the only ones who could afford to commission art, and most of these early pieces are flat, two dimensional. But then as the so called Dark Ages ended and the Renaissance began, you see almost a new light in the art, new techniques are beginning to be used, dimension is starting to take shape and then everyone's favorite boy comes on stage, Michelangelo. His paintings and sculptures are unbelievable. Unbelievable. His Madonna was actually one of my favorite pieces in the gallery. For instead of showing Mary as the ideal, he showed her as she was, a young peasant, maybe on the brink on being ordinary, but called to take a place in history. His realism, had such a profound effect of me. Which takes us to one of his most famous pieces, David.

David is not at the Uffizi, but at the Accademia. We have all seen pictures of the statute, but to behold it is something else. How the artist was able to turn stone into flesh is unbelievable (have I used the word enough?). There are veins in the hands that look like they pump blood, the hair looks like it could blow in the wind.  Michelangelo had the habit of painting and sculpting people with not so much clothes on. But it never came off as awkward or obscene. It was truly a statement on the beauty of the human body.  It was a little eye opening to me. I think in American culture we are taught to hate and despise our bodies, to torture them into perfection or destruction. I loved seeing all this art, a counter argument to all that, that it is OK to celebrate the human form. Beauty comes from our creation and being, period.

Back to the pictures. We also saw all of this:
This is one of the first pictures I took in Florence. An old man with his bicycle on a bridge. So beautifully Florence.

 I really couldn't get enough of the bridges and the river and the reflections. Obviously.

 I thought this sign in the Pitti Palace was a little much. Do people really try to bring guitars and picnics inside a museum?

 The Duomo, or the The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, if you are wearing your fancy pants. It took over 140 years to build this massive church, and has the largest brick dome every constructed.

Can you see the little person in the picture below? Like I said, this place is mass-ive.

I wanted to get a picture of the reflection of the dome of Duomo, but so many tourists.

The market. I couldn't get over how beautiful these artichokes were.

For the best view of Florence you had to climb up a gallizion steps. This is about half way up. There was bench and a cat.

From the top of the world.

 There are several David copies all over the city, but this one was my favorite.
 On our last night in Florence.

Post Script: I've gone back and forth about commenting on the fact that it was in Florence that I had a little bit of a melt down. But here we are.  Traveling with family is always stressful, at least for me. And this trip was also suppose to be our first merger attempt to testify that our lives can go on without my dad. But one day it just got to be too much. And I huffed and puffed all today until finally the tears came. And then things started to tumble out of my mouth, and kept coming and I couldn't stop them. Things I had been holding inside not only for months, but for years and years. I cried, I made my mother cry, I made my sister cry. No one goes through life without scars, and maybe closure didn't completely come that night in Florence, but acknowledging leads to understanding and understanding leads to healing. And that's a start. 

Other Italy Posts: 
RomeThe Vatican, Ancient RomePompeii