Blogtober (Redux): #25 and #26

Two posts, since Sunday was packed and found me super busy. 

  
I was tired the day I snapped this photo, taken while walking in London on Oxford Street. I was exhausted from walking all over the city, I was irritated from walking all over the city, and I was incensed from walking all over the city. And here it is, folks: traveling and touristing isn’t always fun and amazing. It can be exhausting and irritating. But you know that. 

So while in my foul, bratty-because-I-ached-all-over mood, I happened to look up and I saw those lanterns hanging in their criss-cross formation against the dimming sky. I saw that golden horizon off in the distance. And I was promptly humbled. I’m of the mind that nothing really matters when you get the chance to look up and see something bigger than you. Sunset, sunrise, whatever–there’s more to life than aching backs and a swell of people around me. I snapped that photo because I snapped back to what was far more important than me.

  
Abbey Road. Not the infamous shot across the street, but Abbey Road nonetheless. As a Beatles fan by birth, being here was pretty momentous.

Music? [The Soapbox Series]

Since I was knee high to a grasshopper (always wanted to say that), music has been a significant part of my life. I mean, my father was playing Simon and Garfunkel and Aretha Franklin records until they scratched and wore themselves out. I grew up hearing all the greats in my household, from Sam Cooke to the Rolling Stones, from the Bee Gees to Michael Jackson. Not only was music significant for me, but I strongly believe that hearing so many different art forms expressed through music blissfully exposed me and my siblings to a sea of unique and different perspectives and emotions. albert

With all that said, here’s my opinion: the current musical landscape, as we speak in 2015, is lamentable. Just today, I read an article where the singer Pink mentioned how let down she was by the MTV Video Music Awards. (Note that I haven’t watched that spectacle or MTV since I realized that the “M” part had become optional.) She stated that music saved and inspired her as a child, and was saddened to see that the acts and performers on the program weren’t doing anything of the sort. I agree. I can think of maybe 2 or 3 performers right now that mean a hill of beans to me musically. Adele. Sam Smith. Emeli Sande. Yeah, that’s about it. Honestly, I don’t even listen to the radio that much anymore, unless there’s an off off off chance that I’m going to hear a new artist that amazes me. Rarely happens. What happened to those moments when you heard music and wanted to scream because lyrically, sonically, and emotionally, you were soaring and being taken on an incredible journey? And hey, I certainly don’t want to diminish the people that may experience those things while listening to a girl group repeat “Give it to me, I’m worth it” about 1,000 times, but come on. Are you kidding me?

I have a memory. I’m in the kitchen. I’m holding a broom, as I’m supposed to be sweeping. But the radio is on so my attention is diverted. I stand in the center of the kitchen, my eyes closed, singing along to the song on the radio with the broom as my microphone. I don’t remember the song, but I distinctly remember how I felt standing there: joyous. That’s music to me. Pure joy. Sitting in a car and hearing lyrics that bring me to tears. Excitedly telling friends about a new, talented artist that I happened to discovered on those rare moments when they are found. Like my father, playing a song over and over again and hearing/feeling something utterly new each time. Moments like those aren’t necessarily gone, but I’m getting them from artists I’ve loved for decades. Not really anyone new. To me, current musical acts are playing up their visual content rather than focusing on songwriting and the sound. And while they’re at it, these are visuals that require a bleaching of the eyes after you’ve seen about two seconds. Throw in a bit of auto-tune, some canned lyrics, and round-the-clock plays on the radio and there you go: stars are born.

No, these are no longer the days of Like a Bridge over Troubled Water and I don’t expect them to be. I am quite content listening to artists I’ve always loved and the few current ones that I’ve come to thoroughly adore and admire.

I just miss the joy.

Two James Taylors on a Seesaw.

Because he is my favorite singer-songwriter (no, seriously; of all time) and because I thought it was silly and cute: here are the real James Taylor and a fake JT (Jimmy Fallon) performing a silly and cute song on The Tonight Show. Fallon is great with imitating his musical guests, by the way, and I love how he got James to reprise his long haired look from the 70s (which I, unsurprisingly, call the Dreamy JT). Enjoy and tell me who your favorite singer-songwriter is in the comments.

“are you wearing pants?”

Last night, me and my younger brother attended a concert starring none other than the Man, the Musical Genius, a member of my Top Five Favorite Performers of All Time, Stevie Wonder. This was my second time seeing Stevie Wonderful, but I was no less thrilled, excited, and happy to share the event with my bro, who is also a big fan. For what I wore, I decided to keep it simple/dressed up but dressed down: (p)leather leggings that had been lounging in my room for almost a year, still boasting the tag, a blouse, and some short boots.

Concert2  Concert3

When I came downstairs to twirl and show the ensemble to my Mom, she uttered the question you see above. My reaction: I laughed until I could no longer breathe. I then explained that yes, I was wearing pants; in this case, leggings. She commented that they looked very “close to my skin.” (Mom-speak for tight.). So close that it didn’t seem like I was wearing pants. Assuring her that it would never be my choice to leave the house pantsless, I then explained that leggings were made to fit. She gave me the Mom side eye. I smiled and sat down to put on my makeup. That was that. Back in the day, I would have likely changed, believing that I appeared half-clothed and not wanting to incur that look of disapproval. But…

1) the leggings were actually kinda loose.
2) I was very comfortable in them.
3) they looked great!
4) I’m not 14.

Regarding #4, I love and respect my Mom’ opinions, but gone are the days when she dressed me and/or had that kind of significant influence on my fashion choices. That’s not to say that I don’t take her style advice (I’ll share of her gems in another post), but at the same time, I recognize that some of her advice is inspired by a different generation and culture. And, quite frankly, my mother would rather clip her toes with a rusty wrench than put on a pair of leggings. (My friends don’t refer to her as The Diva for no reason.) I get that. But I was (and am) OK with them, and I loved my look. So there you go.

Me and my bro.
Me and my bro.

She wasn’t going to let it go that quickly, though. She also mentioned that she would have chosen jeans, and warned that I may get cold. I took it all in stride, kissed her face until she playfully pushed me away, and left for the concert with my bro. A good time was had, Stevie was amazing, and it was an experience to remember.

How was your weekend?

Restart. (Blogtober #24)

My love for him knows no bounds, as you know. That said, if you assumed that I’d heard every song Sam Smith had sung so far, you’d be right. But, you see, I didn’t buy the deluxe version of the album. So, when perusing YouTube yesterday for something to play on the headphones that would drown out the cacophony of the people I share this office with, I naturally went to In the Lonely Hour with plans to just listen to some of my favorites from the album all over again. That’s when I saw the deluxe album and song titles I obviously wasn’t familiar with. I clicked on Restart. And went a little crazy.

It’s not just Sam’s voice, or the melody, or the rhythm, or how the song takes me back to that awesome feeling of dancing in the kitchen when I was supposed to be doing my chores. I think my passionate response is also borne from experiencing what he’s singing about. Those times in life when you finally get over a person who didn’t want you, when you finally move on, and while resting in the sweet relief that comes from leaving those feelings/people behind…boom. The past calls, and the individual you finally buried back there reaches out to you. The desire to communicate what Sam sings (what do you want from me? Let me restart) becomes acute. I’ve heard many “I’ve moved on/let me go” songs in my lifetime, but there’s something just really powerful about this rendering. Or maybe it’s because I love him more than sliced bread? In any case, listen to the latest song on my autumn playlist and think of all the weirdos that came calling back and how grateful you were when, eventually, they were booted back to the past where they belonged.

 

It was a Monday night when you told me it was over babe
And by the Friday night, I knew that I would be okay
Don’t say it was a good thing
Don’t say it was the right thing to do
Don’t say it was the best thing for the both of us
When I’m the one playing the fool

What do you want from me when I just wanna restart
You keep coming back for me when you’re the one who tore us apart
And the truth is I’m better on my own
And I’m the one to leave it apart
So let me restart

You’ve been lightin’ up my phone
Worried that I’ll be alone tonight
Wanna make sure that I’m fine
But baby you’re not on my mind, no more
I know it was the best thing for the both of us
Cause you’re the one who looks like a fool

What do you want from me when I just wanna restart
You keep coming back for me when you’re the one who tore us apart
And the truth is I’m better on my own
And I’m the one to leave it apart
So let me restart

What do you want from me when I just wanna restart
You keep coming back for me when you’re the one who tore us apart
And the truth is I’m better on my own
And I’m the one to leave it apart
So let me restart

change

“can’t start a fire without a spark…”

From the initial strains of that heart-thumping, powerful melody, I feel like becoming a welder, writing three novels in succession, declaring my love to someone underneath their window, and building 100 cabinets. Joy, inspiration, fist-pumping energy–all from the moment that music starts.

Although I have many favorites by The Boss, I think this one perfectly captures that feeling we all get sometimes: just wanting to do something, no matter the hurdles, the potential obstacles, the dark. Per music lore, Springsteen wrote the song out of frustration from trying to write a hit single for the Born in the USA album. Music lore is music lore–and therefore largely unverifiable–but I think knowing that only adds to those incredible lyrics. The narrator wanting to simply make things happen despite himself, his own limitations, the world around him.

I get up in the evening
And I ain’t got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired
Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

Message keeps getting clearer
Radio’s on and I’m moving ’round the place
I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man, I ain’t getting nowhere
Just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby I just know that there is

You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

You sit around getting older
There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me
I’ll shake this world off my shoulders
Come on, baby, the laugh’s on me

Stay on the streets of this town
And they’ll be carving you up all right
They say you gotta stay hungry
Hey, baby, I’m just about starving tonight
I’m dying for some action
I’m sick of sitting ’round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
Come on now, baby, gimme just one look

You can’t start a fire
Sitting ’round crying over a broken heart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark
You can’t start a fire
Worrying about your little world falling apart
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

By the end of the song, when Clarence Clemons’ sweet saxophone wails as the song dies away, I’m typically walking around with my fists clenched and a plan to scale some mountain somewhere. Inspiration at its best, if you ask me. What song gets you moving/thinking/planning/inspired/wanting to be a welder?

The one and only time I wanted to be Courteney Cox...
The one and only time I wanted to be Courteney Cox. 

The Poetess Who Sings: Random Memory #2

It just came to mind. And so I will share.

In my junior year of college, I took a pretty memorable Poetry course. It was memorable for various other reasons, in addition to what this post is about: I was reuniting with my beloved, favorite professor, Jennifer Atkinson, after having taking a creative writing class with her in my sophomore year that pretty much changed how I looked at my writing style, my voice, etc.; my sister was in the same class with me, which proved to be an exercise in entertaining our peers with our sibling hijinks and so much more; other familiar faces were in the class, so it was even more of a reuniting. Anyway, one morning, I overheard a guy in front of me talking about a CD he had just purchased. I heard words like amazing and poetry in music and so on and so forth. Immediately intrigued and far more open about my ear hustling, so I asked him who he was referring to. “Fiona Apple,” he replied. “Get her CD immediately. It’s like poetry set to song.” Hook, line, sinker.

Fiona
The Poetess Songstress.

I bought Tidal that week.

He wasn’t wrong.

Oh, how Fiona Apple slayed me. She slayed me so easily and quickly and painfully and beautifully and deeply. She was a poetess, yes, weaving her experience and her life into verse and piano. I was a bit crazed by it all. For me, she didn’t have the intellectual rage of Alanis or the ethereal of Sarah McLachlan or the haunting beauty of my Tori Amos. She was wholly different. She had tremor and strength and fragility encased in this rich vibrato that transfixed me and transported me to my own life experiences and thoughts. I couldn’t put her in the same category as my other treasured female musicians, because I simply felt like Fiona Apple was speaking directly to me. Needless to say, I swallowed everything I could find about her. Interviews, televised concerts (her *version of Jimi Hendrix’s Angel on MTV’s Unplugged series remains an utter favorite)–whatever Fiona said or did, I read about it or listened to it or watched it.

Of course, now in my “old age”, the obsession has diminished, in the sense that I’m not minutes from camping outside of Fiona’s house, but I’m still a pretty devoted fan. Any discovery of good music thrills me, so yes, I’m glad that I totally barged in and asked my classmate what he was talking about. And speaking of my classmate, it’s no mistake that Fiona and her music/poetry moved him. I watched him fall in love with poetry in that class. His own work was pretty compelling.

Nice, random memory.

*You knew I’d post it, didn’t you? Enjoy.

…so she did.

Oh, hi.

Yes, I’m alive. I’m aliiiive. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? What I can say? I’ve been all over the place.

she

So what did she (being me) do?

  1. I made strides on that musical bucket list by seeing this gentleman in concert last month. Even better, I took my mom and we screamed like we were 16 years old because that’s how we do. Even better than better, I was happy to make my mom happy. Such good, good times.
  2. 60,000 of my family in faith traveled to the DC area for two weeks of fellowship. I can’t really describe it in words. Just know that experience can be a beautiful teacher, and to experience those two weeks taught me qualities I didn’t know I had. It was something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
  3. I dyed her hair. Whaaat? Yes. Oh, how I love it. It’s a copper bronze-y, red-y color and it just brightens everything up for me. Needless to say, my mother nearly collapsed when she saw it. She who dyes her hair on the regular. Ha! (Please note that being in my mid-30s means nothing to my mother. It means nothing.) Nevertheless, I informed her–to her everlasting, why-does-she-insist-on-growing-up chagrin–that I will be maintaining the color. But we’ll discuss hair and those changes in a  future post.
  4. I lost 20 pounds. Whaaat? Yes. Since I don’t weigh myself (to remain sane), it was nice to visit the doctor last month and get this news. Onwards and upwards, though, you know? I decided to take the weight loss thing at a normal pace. My goal, really, is to have better health. But this is a wonderful plus as we continue on that particular journey.

Just a few things going on in this life of mine.

Be back soon.

Current Song on Repeat (because it’s beautiful and I wept like a 2 year-old when I saw the video)