Tuesday, June 30, 2009

tuesday night

I was standing by the kitchen window, talking on the phone and looking into the dark, when I heard a child's cry. This neighborhood is thick with little kids, none of whom seem to play on the sidewalks. I'm always worrying as I hear their echoing yells and screams from a distance, knowing that they're most likely alright. Some days I stay indoors, and shut window to keep out the sound -- I know they're only playing, or fussing over the injustices that plague their small minds, but some times the worrying is too distracting for me.

So I opened the front door on this occasion, anyway, wondering what child was outdoors at 10 o'clock at night. The paperboy's convertible rattled past, and down the street I could hear Margarita's mother chewing her out at the front steps. Out late on a weeknight evidently. Margarita walked past the house the other day, and at 15 or 16 she is nothing short of sin in shoes -- she's gorgeous, in an expertly disheveled and thoroughly Latina sort of way, and I imagine she has her pick of them if she likes. The child's voice would probably have been one of Margarita's nieces -- her sister lives at home with three children under the age of 5, and I suppose Margarita's mother lives in fear of another baby. Hopefully the younger sister is smarter given observation at close hand, and she won't tie herself down. But it's no fun to sit on your steps on a summer night, when you have to hear every word of someone's mother bitching up and down the block. So in I went.

Grant's done, after three days of juggling childcare and paperwork. Thank goodness. I hope we get it. It's just a small grant, for improvements at the food shelf. But it took some time to prepare. I'm glad to be done with it. The next one, due in December, will be much more involved and much larger in scope and potential.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

on the perhaps untimely demise of Michael Jackson

Here's the thing, and I don't mean to sound callous. Michael Jackson is better off wherever, however I can believe he would be now than he was in life. Particularly in the last fifteen years of his life. His icon status will canonize well and we are all adjusting nicely to his transition into legend. I am not particularly mournful. I'm just sorry the mercy couldn't have come a little sooner.

He was an incredibly talented, incredibly messed-up man. No one can claim to know the full scope of his problems with his life, his physical self or his identity. I doubt anyone can claim to know the real truth of his complicity in any of the situations in which he stood accused. The man did not live on this planet in any healthy sense, and so it's difficult to make sense of the life he lived off-stage.

But of course, what he brought to the world of entertainment was nothing less than a seismic shift, over the short span of his career, and a rising tide floats all ships -- he brought a million other very talented people with him on the journey. We can be thankful for his art.

But I was oddly relieved when I heard the news. Because he always seemed so very unhappy, a man in pain. So we'll remember what he gave us, and get on with the show.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

miracle whip

I'm just fascinated by the new Miracle Whip commercial. (Check out the first web link - Kraft has their own social networking software.) I can't find the video on YouTube, but it is in fact available on Facebook -- the Kraft people are clearly hoping to educate "hip" young consumers (white consumers, by the way) to the power of "the Miracle" -- the commerical theme is "do your own thing, don't be boring" -- as though the versatility of Miracle Whip could somehow convince the up-and-coming kids of today to stay at home and prepare their own food.

(Note: the movie "Undercover Brother" contains a very funny bit about one black man's take on the evils of mayonnaise, as wielded by seductive White She Devil Denise Richards.)

Kraft bought Miracle Whip in the 1930s from a small town chef, and marketed the product to Depression-era consumers as a cheap alternative to mayonnaise, calling it "salad dressing." It's nothing like what we commonly think of as a salad dressing today, but you can still use it to make a mean tuna salad, if that's your thing. The commercial airing now contains ZERO references to the actual material substance that is Miracle Whip -- it could just as easily be a Sprite commercial, and I don't doubt the producers used the now-trite formula for Gen Y success as a model. But lets look a little deeper.

"Miracle Whip?" Huh? What's the miracle? Turns out the phrase originally and informally referred to the machine that makes the stuff, rather than the product itself. They produced the salad dressing in the "miracle whipper" -- a machine that continuously churned out perfectly blended salad dressing, or "Miracle Whip" as it came to be called. This makes sense --mechanized inventions were still referred to with an air of awe and mysticism until well into the sixties. The real miracle of course is that the stuff has essentially supplanted mayonnaise in most Anglo-American pantries.

And if you're HIP you will jump on your skateboard RIGHT NOW and score some TODAY!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Margarita & the paperboy

I hear a car outside. I'm sitting in the chair in the living room, watching the ball game. The car has a particularly loud sort of grumble -- might need a muffler -- and it misses here and there. I look at my husband and say, "D'you hear that car outside? It sounds like...." and he says "Don't even start!" And I say "Yep -- 3:30, four in the morning. It's the same car." It is, in fact, the car driven by whomever delivers the newspapers in our neighborhood. Ron and I have both been awakened by this car, many many times -- from a distance as it approaches on the next block, pausing near the intersection for a moment -- stopping again a few houses up the street -- stopping just past our place by the Mormons' house, whereabouts there must be several subscribers. Because he just SITS there. As we lay awake, wishing that car would go away.

As I said, we both know exactly what that car sounds like, but of course we've never seen it. So up I get, and go stand in the front door, staring down the street as the paperboy's car idles loudly in the middle of the road. It's about three in the afternoon -- what's he doing down there? The passenger side door is open. It's a two-door Volkswagon convertible, red with a white top. Someone's feet seem to be dangling out the door. What the hell?

I stand and watch. "Sweetie, be careful." Says my husband. He says it again. "Huh?" I respond. Is he worried the paperboy is a gangster? "It's your skirt," he says, "You really need a slip under that." Ah. "What's he doing?" Asks Ron. I speculate -- maybe he's changing a fuse under the dashboard, and had to open the passenger door for his feet. "With the engine running, in the middle of the road?" Good question. Hmm.

Then suddenly, a body is attached to the feet. And it's... a girl. It's Margarita! The neighbor's teenaged daughter, who attends a Catholic school during the week. This apparently hasn't dissuaded her from snogging the paperboy, though, which is obviously what she's up to. I can see her playing a little slap-n-tickle with him on the driver's side. He's dropping her off, on a Sunday afternoon, on Father's Day. She is not in a hurry, and her hair is a mess. Yipes. Whee.

Finally, Margarita shuts the door and heads up the stairs to her front door. Paperboy watches her backside for a moment (clad in tight sweatpants), then revs his crappy little engine and putters up the road. I try to imagine how this relationship got started. Is it purely incidental, the fact that he delivers the paper on our street? Does she lay in bed at 4am, knowing she has to be up at six, and smile at the sound of his Volkswagon convertible? Did she meet him in the small hours of the clock, sleepless, sitting on her steps in a white nightie when he appeared out of the darkness in his rotten automobile -- roaring out of the dull gloom of yearning adolescence, a paper rolled up in his oversized paw?

Do her parents know? Parents of teenaged girls can't possibly sleep peacefully enough to miss the sound of the paperboy's red convertible at four in the morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bird on the Wire

The song by Leonard Cohen was written the year I was born, incredibly -- it's hard to believe the man has been writing music, defining the canon, my entire life -- but of course his cult-like following is completely justified by his talent as a songwriter. I think JH recently responded to one of my posts with a quote by Cohen who in turn was acknowledging his great debt to musicians like Hank Williams Jr. "A hundred floors above me in the tower of song" -- I wonder if it's not helpful to think of the way in which great people, often artists, bow to one another -- as a creative person constantly striving for a balance between the search for knowledge and the effort to respect my own voice.

Long paths of thought are opened onto through the lowliest doors though -- humble gates. I saw a sidebar over on Yahoo depicting various stationeries one could choose as one's email background, and the top image, labeled "Suburban," is a silhouette of several songbirds perched on lines above the ground. So unbidden I hear the song, though it's Jennifer Warnes' version from the 80s, playing in my head. And I want the line "bird on a wire" to have acquired some colloquial meaning -- want it to be an expression that stands commonly for some situation that I can relate to -- but Google didn't toss anything my way on that except lyrics and lots of information about Cohen (and about the dumb movie by that title with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson, but anyway.)

Interesting tidbit -- Kris Kristofferson wants the first three lines as his epitaph when he dies. "Like the bird on a wire, like the drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free."

What's it mean, bird on the wire. To be something frail and temporary suspended in a moment, something seemingly inconsequential, someone anonymous -- yet possessing the power of flight, the ability to project oneself far above the ground. To be wild and puny at the same time. Not the hero, but the sparrow. What's it mean?

Monday, June 15, 2009

After Midnight

Where I can be found most nights...in the sewing room. Though to be fair the laptop is in there too. Just hangin' out in the dark.

Ripped my various new cds onto the work computer after arriving an hour early this morning. Whoo hoo! I mean, whoo fucking hoo. This is some great stuff. Who can I share it with? Hmmm. Wish I knew how to post music files -- is there a way to do this? Anyone?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

changing times

People are getting tired of hearing about church here. I used to write more about lots of other stuff, and the church thing (particularly my church thing) is losing its appeal for some. So I've started a new blog, over yonder some, and I'll reserve that space for my church-y musings and existential angst as manifested in the life of a church secretary. Those of you who actually like that stuff, go ahead and check it out. Those of you who know me from church, be warned: I'm giving myself permission to talk smack how and when I want over there, and I don't guarantee the results one bit. That said, it's a free country. Meanwhile, I'll endeavor to focus my thoughts about life outside the church (there's life?) right here -- who knows, maybe it'll provide some much-needed detachment for me. We'll see won't we?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Music! & old music

Went to the Electric Fetus for the first time in kind of a while, and it was good.

Check Your Head (newly remastered) w/bonus cd
the new Eels, Hombre Lobo
a new Quantic presents, The World's Rarest Funk 45s Volume Two
last year's Verve Remixed 4
and replacing a long-lost disk, Joni Mitchell's Night Ride Home

...I give thanks for inspiration it guides my mind along the way
A lot of people get jealous, they're talking about me
But that's just cause they haven't got a thing to say.

Alan is in Love

Alan reminded me today that most of what I've written here in the past few months has been negative, and reflective of stress more than anything. "Write something positive, it will make you feel better!" he said. Well, sure, why not?

Alan is in love. Alan has a girlfriend, and it's working out so well that he doesn't even CALL me anymore! Or keep our lunch dates. But it's love, and about time I should add. It couldn't happen to a better guy. Congratulations Alan! (Al's new love isn't the dog, by the way -- this is just my most recent picture of him, with Dash, lounging on his beachfront property in San Diego.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

all, or nothing at all

I have a gold ring on my right hand, sort of a wavy line with a small ruby, set between two little silver dots that are incised to look a bit like tiny diamonds -- they glitter, but are so small that one has to peer closely in order to see they're fakes. It's the engagement ring I was given when I was sixteen years old. My boyfriend Tony -- my "First" -- was about to leave for California where he would be finishing high school in Carpenteria. And he made me promise to wait for him -- he promised me we'd marry -- and he gave me a ring. It was very sweet, though even I recognized that marriage was pretty unlikely. We were young. He'd forget about me soon enough.

I was wrong of course, or at least I didn't wait long enough before breaking his heart, but he was pretty friendly about it in the end and let me keep the ring.

Though I'm suddenly assailed by doubt -- because in fact, I have another engagement ring, one with a sapphire and two cubic zirconium -- and I can't recall if that sapphire came from Tony, and the ruby from another boyfriend, Dirk -- or if it was the other way around.

I think I'm mistaken here. I think the ruby was from Dirk. Which I would have received in about 1993, when we were living together in south Minneapolis, in a last-ditch effort to be a Successful Couple as opposed to two people who were easily bored. Boredom won out, and Dirk married another friend of ours as soon as her divorce was discreetly mourned and dispensed with. I instigated the last break-up, though; and when my third and final engagement conflicted with their housewarming party (I had a little wingding of my own), Dirk and his gal decided I was too awful for words and refused to have anything to do with me from then on. Awkward, since we shared numerous friends. Nothing that couldn't be fixed by running away to Athens for five years though.

All of this is more interesting for me to write about than the shit that keeps me up all night nowadays -- the dwindling checking account and terrifying budgeting process at work, the question of whether I'll have either a job or a church home this time next year, the anxiety over long long lists of unknowns -- the problem of my kid having been assigned half-day kindergarten next year when we can't afford after-school daycare -- the problem of my mother and I not speaking -- the problem of my best friend and my husband being in the middle of a terrible standoff that prevents me from having them both in the same room -- and on, and on.

I'd rather think about the hearts I've broken, and lay awake on the couch while my husband rattles the windowpanes with his snores, imagining happy endings to lives I'm not currently leading.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Much more astounding and awful than anything in "Twister" -- the tornado footage recently captured by Weather Channel crews is certainly beautiful, seen from the safest possible distance -- on Hulu. I used to be fascinated by tornados, having never experienced one first-hand, but it's impossible to get too excited given the recent memory of mayhem and loss in Hugo MN.

I sometimes imagine what tornados might have seemed to be, seen from a distance across the prairie in say, the year 1740 or even 1860. What would Native Americans have seen? Wonder what it would be like to see the whirlwind cross a vast landscape inhabited by nothing larger than a jackrabbit -- no twisted metal left behind, no uprooted telephone poles, no collapsed houses or foundations scraped bare. I wonder what the track of a "twister" on open ground looks like, when it doesn't represent impact on lives and local economies.

It would be something to see the tornado's beauty with a clear conscience, the way I suppose no one really can anymore. It's a reminder of the scale of creation.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

sloppy weekend

Sick kid, sick mommy, lots of rain and cold. Rain is good, rain is incredibly good right now; cold not so much. We'll be all right in a couple of days.