Saturday, October 27, 2007

Variations on the Theme of Bitterness

Some people I love and confide in have fucked up things happening in their lives right now and so do I. Leslie commented that the adage that God never gives you more than you can handle is bullshit. I am heavy with my own burdens but also with the burdens of stalwart and courageous friends who swaddle me in comfort and in love. We reach out to each other in grief and terror and unspeakable fear about our selves and our families. To my sweet friends who tap to me in the dark, I send this Sabbath day an extra blast of pure and healing love.
I sent Bob a happy birthday note rhapsodizing about my discovery of The Hold Steady and received a note back almost immediately that he thought of me when he heard the band. I will often hear a few notes of music or a beat and think of Bob, whose ear I think yearns for what mine does, except for a certain "Bobness" which I can identify but not describe in mere words. I had lamented suffering through Bright Eyes and hearing a certain callowness when I attempted to revisit Jackson Browne, who did craft some gorgeous songs, but perhaps a greater number of cringe inducing ones. I have been listening to Kanye West with Leo and Spuds and I totally get it but I continued to be perplexed by lack of an equally compelling voice within my own musical pigeonhole. Craig Finn, of the Hold Steady, has written the most erudite lyrics about recreational drugs since Lou Reed. The band will be compared to Springsteen and while this is apt, it might trivialize this razor sharp yet infinitely listenable voice. I hope they fare better than fellow Minnapolisites, The Replacements.
Fellow rock’n’roll chick and vigilante, Mimi Pond, picked me up for lunch in her very groovy vegetable oil eating Mercedes wagon. Mimi revealed to me a Google function that alerts you if anyone mentions you in a blog. This seems to have infinite diabolical potential for sucking people in. I wonder who knows about this? I wonder who uses it? I don’t think I’m gonna use it. I suspect that whatever anyone writes about me I will either find out about it or I don’t want to know.
My incriminating photos of the week would have been wallowing in the gnat filled muddy chill of Griffith Park doing calisthenics, which except for no napalm, must resemble the Viet Nam paratrooper experience. I’m sure I also cut a dashing figure doing yoga. I asked my teacher if there were some sort of beginning class I might attend while he was away and he said, "no." Spuds and Himself are veritable pretzels but I continue to slog away. Last night Himself was boondoggled by me into a Partner Yoga tape, rendering us all twisted together and stretching and breathing. He still walks ahead of me and we haven’t solved the cell phone stand-off but he really is an awfully good sport my husband.
Our personal chef Spuds had a rough week with his steak stolen by Fido and I suspect he is getting bored with the limitations of the microwave oven and the Foreman grill. Brother Leo is out celebrating his 15th birthday with mostly the same pals he’s had since nursery school. I guess all teenagers are supposed to be shitheads to their parents most of the time and Leo is certainly fulfilling this contract in that respect but when I see how sweet he is with his friends or hear him on the phone comforting his Grandma Aliki, I know that he’ll be o.k.
When I get really low Leslie makes me do this "worst case scenario" exercise which is excruciating and I will spare you and cut to the chase. It is unlikely that I ever have dirty hair and push a shopping cart filled with trash bags through downtown Glendale. There are many fucked up things in my life and other lives that intersect with mine. God will inevitably give us more than we can handle in a world of tender mercies. Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Sadness Less Pure

I returned from Seattle planning to formally end my period of bereavement and stepping back into my yoke. Didn’t work. I retreat to my bed for hours on end. This accounts for my quietness here. Words came more easily right after my father’s death. Perhaps because the pure love from which my sadness came made it easy to focus. Now it is one month since the death of my father. He was the man we eulogized. But he was my father. He loved me but as a human being, he failed me a number of times in his life time. Several of my father’s failings have come to light since his death. At first it was shocking, after all of my pure grief, to feel angry at him. Then I laughed at how familiar it felt.

Sadness about friends with breast cancer is also familiar and fucked up. I reach out to the families who navigate these seemingly godless waters and pray for healing and comfort. And for us all.. Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Packin' Ashes

I had two teaspoons of my pop’s ashes in a baggie in my handbag when Himself and I traveled to Washington for an Irish Studies Conference in Tacoma. Our issue were most adequately and warmly attended to by the Smith Family (as in Brian, Clara, Riley, Addie and Granny), Marlene and good ol’ Uncle Richard, to all of whom our humble thanks are offered. Mine at least. Let Himself thank you on his own blog.

It never occurred to me much to discuss Washington lore with my dad while I worked beside him for over twenty-five years. I made a mental note to get facts and addresses back when we booked this trip several months ago but I never got the chance. I remembered that his earlier years were spent in Port Angeles, where his dad ran a hotel and then the later years, after his father died of suicide, in Seattle. The only real geographical clue I had was Garfield High. Pathetically and embarrassingly scant details but I did get a feel for the hardness of the place and perhaps a bit of a sense of how man’s love/hate relationship with mother nature particularly plays itself out there. Chilly dark wet days make for obscenely spectacular green of nearly psychedelic intensity.

We strolled genteel Pioneer Square, where the first "Skid Row" was named for logs being dragged through streets that were rawer when my dad walked them.. We sought out Garfield High, now gutted entirely and as an historic monument, undergoing a spectacular refurbishment. A construction worker snuck us in and it occurred to Himself afterwards that I should have sprinkled a few ashes in the foundation but I sure wouldn’t want to have my ashes spiritually connecting me with high school through all eternity. I’d rather die.

I did get my mind around what it must have been like for Dad at the age of 22 when he left the cold stateliness of Seattle, where he’s sought comfort from poverty, and undoubtedly from being, in movies and music. There was family strife hinted at too but I never took the time to broach this with him. My dad traveled South, to Hollywood , by train, in 1940, to have three wives and three homes and an obit in the Daily Variety. He returned to Seattle perhaps three or four times in his life. I saw the roughness and hardness of the place. I tossed a teaspoon of ashes from the Space Needle and the rest into the harbor, near the ferry port in Port Angeles and was glad that the rest were home warm and dry with Aliki.

I haven’t traveled by air in several years and you will be happy to know that America is safe from terrorism now because my lip gloss is in a plastic bag. Himself and I had calamitous near flight- missing adventures on both legs of the trip but in-between he read a beautiful paper about little known writer’s writer J.F. Powers and his even lesser known wife, Betty Wahl. We traveled on a WWII amphibious duck vehicle, blasting rock n’ roll, on a land and water tour of Seattle. We were close and warm, although he persists in tailgating and I continue to be unfairly inconvenienced by his dogged refusal to use his cellphone and of course there’s the walking ahead of me business, although that, at least, has considerably improved.

Tess Gallagher, poet and wife of the late Raymond Carver and native of Port Angeles, read and signed books at the conference. She is an elegant voice for the sacredness of connection between lovers, and I thought of her, sleeping a night in their bed together with dead Ray when I learned about Aliki pounding on the door of the morgue and I think about it when I lay naked with my husband and we flail and cry and touch and are reminded of the sacred bonding of our spirits as we worship each other’s immortal souls and their temporary vessels.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The I in I-5

I remember my mother’s face reflected in the mirror through the crack in the door of the steamy yellow tiled bathroom on Fulton Avenue. I must have been about Leo’s age. Tears streamed down her cheeks. A new lavender scented lotion had triggered a memory from childhood of being somewhere in the country in the middle of a field of the stuff. I pictured her in long pigtails and a white middy blouse. A sweet memory of a mother who seldom recounted sweet memories.

Recently I purchased at the Body Shop a peach scented lotion and the aroma shook me back to the early seventies and indian bedspreads and boys with long hair and pretty faces and I was washed with the sweetness of yearning and reminded, that for all my loneliness there was beautiful music and hippy fragrances and some dear friends and I was just discovering food and learning to cook it and reading good novels and going to revival houses. There were jeans that didn’t fit and boys who didn’t call, my narcissistic mercurial mother and other sad sorrows. But the weird, near saccharine scent of the lotion reminded me to grant this time justice in my memory.

I took a car trip by myself this week and listened to music, trying, without much luck, to find some younger talent with an authentic voice and also listening to some talent that was younger when I was younger and I sadly found much of it inauthentic and thin as well. I know there are others out there but the two albums that come to mind, from that era, as always feeling fresh are Astral Weeks and Moondance by Van Morrison and alas, I realized on the road this week that the best of Jackson Browne just wasn’t all that good. I am scheduling Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan Neil Young and selected Paul Simon for the jubilee acid test smackdown. Stay tuned.
I visited a little mission I love in San Miguel but the lovely chapel was closed so I prayed in the car and a voice described the Grapevine as I drove through it at magic hour and then it faded away. Voices and songs and scents fade away and drift off and sometimes it makes me weep that I cannot hold them in my hand but only trust to God that these comforts will drift back some day and wrap me warm.