Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Crowding Out the Loneliness

A couple of weeks ago I saw punk rock legend Henry Rollins speak at the National Museum of Natural History. Here is where I really want to put some joke about of course it was at the Natural History Museum, because there are dinosaurs there and Henry is so old, or how a whole Hall full of minerals is so rock n'roll. Get it, minerals, rocks, rock n'roll. But if I have to explain the joke, well then, um, *cough* awkward silence. 

Thankfully, I didn't go to a museum after hours to audition for a stand up comedy gig. Now,  Henry Rollins is one of those types who I don't agree with %100 of everything he says, but man, can he ever talk about music.  He is an internationally known musician, spoken word artist, photographer, activist, columnist, radio and television host (he is the one on the History Channel in the black t-shirt), but here in DC, where he grew up, he is still a hometown kid. His public persona can often times come off as intense or aggressive, or many people just always equate punk rock with rowdiness, but as he talked with us folk, he was funny and engaging, and there were a couple of moments, when he was talking about his younger years in DC that you could hear the slightest bit of a lump in this throat.  I loved how he talked about music as community and a saving grace and an element of change.  But there is something else that he said that has stayed in my head all these days later. He recalled when he was young, he would play records up in his room to crowd out the loneliness. 

My life is pretty good, in the midst of all the everythings in the world, I have very, very little to complain about. I have a job that allows me to support myself, I have food in my cupboards, my lungs, legs, eyes and ears all work, every single day.  I live in an amazing area that provides so many opportunities. I have a family that unconditionally supports and loves me even though often times they have no idea what I'm talking about. I have friends who encourage and inspire me to be a better person, and let me rattle on about pie and tambourines way past what is socially acceptable. But every now and then, loneliness pushes its way onto my calendar.  Such a rude and inconvenient house guest. 

So when Mr. Rollins mentioned how music crowds out the loneliness, I totally wanted to jump up in the sold out auditorium and shout AMEN.  Not all loneliness can be solved by standing in a crowded room. Often times, in lonely times, what is needed is connection; to know that you aren't the only weirdo kid or that the unknowns of life don't have to be so scary, and that there is purpose in both the happiness and the pain in life.  Connection is finding your own personal story within the stories of others, and knowing that they all matter. We all matter.  And in music, I have found all that throughout the years, I still find all that. 

So on those days where loneliness comes calling, I know I can turn up the volume, and be like, "nope, can't you hear loneliness, I can't hear you. Go away." Plan B on those same type of days: call a friend to talk me out of watching that Lifetime made for tv movie. Friends, don't let friends walk down that dark road. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Song of the Week: Samantha Crain

I saw Samantha Crain this last weekend as an opener for the Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit (more on them when I get caught up with my Adventures in Audio. Spoiler Alert: SO GOOD).  It was definitely a night of women who rock.

Samantha Crain started the night off in the best possible way. She walked onto the stage alone with just a guitar in hand, and when the Oklahoma native started to sing her songs,  her delicate, strong, lovely voice filled the entire auditorium.  Before many of the songs, she shared with us the stories of those songs, stories of her life and times, trips to big cities and fortune cookies. It was the simplest of music, one voice, one instrument, one microphone, one brave soul spilling and singing mighty melodies and strumming guitar strings worn by the living of life. But sometimes the simplest things can right the world as much as the biggest army. 

I saw her play a solo set, but she is also pretty rad with some friends:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Song of the Week: Duke Ellington

I'm on a quest to make the perfect homemade hummus, you know, the kind that takes 2 days to make. I'm just like a knight of old searching for the holy grail. My latest batch was the perfect creamy texture, like velvet, but I think I added a touch too much tahini, and maybe a touch too less of garlic (more garlic, more garlic!). I still ate the stuff, it was still good, but it could be better.  Good thing that hummus is super cheap to make, because I see a road full of good, better, best tries.  But I did discover the best soundtrack to listen to get that smooth texture: Duke Ellington: In a Magenta Haze.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Inspirations

We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down. 

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bits & Pieces

** Today I was suppose to be in KC to run the KC Marathon as part of a team relay.  I had to pull out of the race due to a lot of reasons, and I thought I was OK with it all until  all my would be team mates started to post finish line pictures.  And a couple of these fine people are some of my favorite people back home, who made all the difference to me last year, and honestly, I let them down and I think that is what hurts the most. Failure and disappointments are part of life, this is breaking news to no one. We can beat up ourselves all our lives for these lackluster moments, but that just leaves us all beat up.  I know that we shouldn't dwell on our faults until they eat us live, but today I was weirdly glad that failure--especially when it is caused by our own choices--does hurt a little. Hopefully it kicks in the --let's not do this thing again-part of our natural defenses. 

** Whenever the little shop at work doesn't sell peanut butter M&Ms, I'm like, why are you even open?

** So. E.bola. Right? Now, I don't want to make light of deadly diseases, but the news coverage has been out of control.  Oh wait, that should be "news."  I feel all cable news is basically more parts entertainment and fear mongering than exactly facts. But, I mean, 1 person in the US has died of it. How many people in this country have died this year from heart attacks, or gun violence, or cancer, or basically any other thing? A whole lot more (exact scientific numbers there for you folks).  I hope we can contain this disease (throughout the world, not just in these states of ours), and I do think it is a very serious thing, but aren't there other epidemics that we should be worrying about a whole lot more? Also, a huge part of me wants to shout "I watch the Walking Dead, I am totally prepared for this. First, get me a sheriff's hat, and second, we need to start to stockpile chocolate pudding . . "

** In other TV news, the other day, an episode of the Golden Girls came on where Sophia was getting married and due to a mix up by Rose, the entire wedding audience was made up of Elvis impersonators.  Obviously, my first thought was: how can I make this part of my mythical wedding? Maybe that is why I haven't gotten married. My wedding would end the world. So it's like I'm saving the world by staying single. You're welcome.  Also, I have to watch a couple episodes of the Golden Girls, after watching the Walking Dead to calm my nerves a little bit so I can sleep. Every part of this is worth it. 

** I just walked to the store, for the second time today (shopping lists are for suckers), just so I wouldn't have to give up my parking place at my apartment building. Big city living, y'all.  

** The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series? Glee! Amazement! Joy! Who's a fly over state now? BBQ stained-Show Me State-Charlie Parker style-jazz hands all around! 

** "Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress." --Kiera Cass. 

** Anytime I can turn a serious work meeting into a discussion about punk rock, I consider my work on the planet one step closer to being complete. 

** I nearly tripped on the sidewalk because I was staring at this beautiful tree on my way to the market this morning. Oh burning bush-tree, tell me what I should do with my life! Unless the 'doing' involves wandering around the desert for another hundred years. That gets preeety old after awhile. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adventures in Audio #6: Route 29 Revue at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

I have been delaying this post for a while now, wow, for  almost a month.  It’s hard to talk about one of your favorite things, when that favorite thing has a bad day.  This concert really wasn’t my favorite of the year. Don’t get me wrong, the lineup was great, and all the bands sounded good. But the day just felt off. Maybe it was because it raining and my shoes got wet and never really got dry, or maybe the set times for the bands seemed incredibly short, or maybe even with my dazzling personality I couldn’t talk anyone into going with me, or maybe because the concession booth milkshakes were $8 (whiskey tango foxtrot!), or just maybe with my old bones,  a full day festival, especially by yourself, leads to a little bit of burn out. By the time the last band, Trampled by Turtles, came on, I was pretty much done.  And that is such a sad thing to say, because I love seeing this band. But they seemed a little rush in their set and then it was over.  It was like everyone involved was just pushing through until those last minutes when we could all declare the day was done . But they played, “Victory,” “Alone,” and “Wait So Long,” and that is really all I ask from our Minnesota friends.
It’s a good thing that I didn’t give myself a deadline for this 50 venues challenge. After coming home from this concert a little, well, unfilled, I felt like I needed a little bit of a break to make sure that seeing live music is still one of my favorite things and not just a chore.  And now my heart and fan girl squeals are all rested, I am getting ready to shake my tail feathers a little more.

And though I may be a little down on the experience itself, I still highly recommend all the bands:
Hurray for the Riff Raff:


The Devil Makes Three

Iron & Wine

Trampled By Turtles

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Song of the Week: Benjamin Booker

Yesterday was a holiday here in the States. Well, it wasn't a holiday, holiday, with parties and decorations and greeting cards, it was Columbus Day, the day we celebrate the work of the movie director Chris Columbus and watch The Goonies on repeat for 3 days straight. Or something like that. Anyway. I had the day off, and wow, did I ever wake up in a cranky mood.  The whole weekend was full of frustration because my completely unrealistic expectations (especially of people) weren't met. I know, I know. Welcome to life.

And isn't waking up in a bad mood the worst? Aren't you suppose to wake up refreshed with a clean new slate, ready to take on the day? C'mon orange juice commercials, don't lie to me now. So after tossing and turning and gnashing my teeth a bit, I  found my iPod on the nightstand (pro tip: always, always, have music within an arm's reach) and sought refuge in music.  The first song that came one was a Tom Waits song, and I hit that big old next button the second that song came on. Nope. That song was too fitting. Salt in the wound, man, salt in the wound. The next song however was perfect:  "Have You Seen My Son," by Benjamin Booker.  This song got me to put my feet on the floor, jump out of bed, shake off the dust of a wasted weekend, have a blurry eyed, pajama wearing dance party, and then get on with the rest of the day/life. This was the song I needed, and holy moly, what a song it was.

I've have become such a huge fangirl of Benjamin Booker's self titled album that came out earlier this year, easily one of my favorite albums of 2014. It's bluesy and grungy, and raw and just perfect. And the songs are so beautifully layered. At first listen all you hear is an assault of sound and energy, but as you keep listening, there seems to so much more in all the songs, lots of roots of truth in there.  It's one of those albums that makes you hopeful and excited for all the new music that is being created in the world.

He is electrifying all plugged in, but even acoustic he is still fantastic and full of grit:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Inspiration

"We don't learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right."

--Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hey You Guys!

Oh hey, hello! I’m so glad you’re here. Don’t mind me as I dust off a few cobwebs and shoo off some tumbleweeds around here.   I have been thinking about blogging a lot lately. And not just I should probably blog so my mom will stop asking me about why I haven’t blog.  But I’ve been thinking about the whole phenomenon of blogging and social media . I’ve been questioning if the day of personal blogs have come and gone in the shadow of lucrative commercial for-profit blogs and social media that allows us to and maybe even pressures us to condense our complex stories into short status updates, tweets and links.  I’ve been thinking about the desire to connect with people, but without all the constant and sometimes fanatical need and again, pressure, to always be connected to people.  And down to the root of it all, I have been pondering (picture me longingly gazing out of a window onto a field of flowers, that’s pondering, right?) about how I want to tell and share my story. 
 One of my favorite quotes that often gets kicked around in my old noggin is" Happiness is only real when shared" (Christopher McCandless). There is a lot of power in sharing our stories and our happiness. And I don’t think that happiness is always those typical easily identifiable photo shoot moments, like birthday parties or vacations or chocolate cake. Ummm. Chocolate cake.   Happiness can be moments of much needed honesty, or bravery, or overcoming. Happiness isn’t always shinny and new, but it’s often a little worn and has well-earned scars from the sadness or disappointments, or battles that had to be dealt with and fought before happiness was a possibility.  And when thinking about sharing my happiness, I, for at least right now, come back to blogging.*  So I thought I would take this long weekend to pen some new posts, and see how this whole writing my history because I AM a victor thing goes.**
* I am a frequent soap box ranter on the idea that there are many different platforms to tell our stories:  words, music, poetry, painting, dance, photography, heck even a perfect apple pie can be a thing of art and say so much about the creator/baker. I believe that we are given talents as vehicles for sharing our stories.  So, even though, right now,  I feel  that writing and blogging may be the right platform for me right now, I know it’s not for everyone in every phase of life, but I do hope that you all are telling and sharing and preserving your stories in whatever way you feel is right. I will always be one of your best fans (but not the creepy kind of fan that they make lifetime movies about, I promise).

 **I went through a couple of drafts of this post, one was super wordy and focused on the idea that history is really no longer just written by the victors, but on a more rag and bone level, it is written by people that actually write it, as in those that have or take the time and means to write it.  And in a lofty and dreamy, but still pretty realistic way, we are all victors, even if that just means surviving until tomorrow.  That draft kinda got out of control and a little too preachy, so it got left in the drafts folder. However, when I was writing that last sentence I apparently thought that victor thing was still in this posted mess of words.