Stupid Girl Revisited

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journalsI’ve spent the last three weeks transcribing my old journals. For twenty years, these scribbled steno pads and composition books have been shoved in the bottom of a box.  I always mean to throw them out, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do so. What if there was something I needed to know, or remember in those pages? I hated the idea of reading them, of being reminded of what a stupid girl I was then. There are so many things I can’t forgive her for and yet I knew that I needed to make some measure of peace with her eventually. I don’t know if I thought of that when I decided to tackle the journals, but as it turns out, that’s what’s happening.

On the way to work I tell my sister what’s going on with the poor sad fucked-up stupid girl in the journals.

“Who are all these Nates and why don’t I remember any of them?” or  “She’s so excited and she’s about to be utterly crushed. I kinda feel sorry for her.”

“It’s weird that you’re talking about yourself in the third person,” my sister says.

“I get that I was her but I’m not her now. Ya know?”

And it’s easier to like her when I think of it that way, to recognize how she is struggling instead of just cataloguing her failures. But like an audience shouting advice to the final girl in a horror film, I want to shake her and scream every now and then.

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Anohni ; #amlistening

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anohniI have been haunted by Anohni (aka Antony) since I first saw her exquisite performance of “If It Be Your Will” in the film Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. With the depth of Nina Simone and delicacy of Keaton Henson, her voice is at once, ethereal and soulful.

Antony & the Johnsons third album, The Crying Light became a soundtrack to my grieving after the savage loss of my daughter in early '09. Like some kind of ancient magic, this music could simultaneously break my heart and heal my soul.

listen: River of Sorrow

listen: Divine

I wrote much of The Complicated Geography with I Am a Bird Now on rotation. More than one song from that album mademe want to crush Anohni to me. it's going to be okay, one of us would whisper, though I was never sure who would be comforting whom.

listen: For Today I Am a Boy

listen: Bird Gerhl

While Antony & The Johnsons remain on an indefinite hiatus, Anohni has been busy writing, recording and turning her attention to the world around her rather than the one within. I have been remiss in not carving out time to fully absorb her new work.

“Hopelessness is no less vulnerable than her previous records. Its sense of fragility, however, is situated not between soul mates but between citizen and state.” – (read the  New Yorker review here)

The sense of mourning in the dreamy lyrics of her days with The Johnsons takes a darker turn on Hopeless – scathing indictments served up on a bed of fluffy electronica. The opening song “Drone Bomb Me” makes for an eerie ballad while the track “4 Degrees” is awash in self-recrimination. Harnessing her distress and anger at a world out of control, Anohni has crafted a powerful, overtly political work.

Stream on Amazon: Hopelessness (2016) and Paradise (2017)

 

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Mouse’s Piano

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Mouse's Piano

Ever since he wheeled it up the driveway on Monday night, Mouse has been obsessed with this century-old piano, and he’s not the only one. Before dark, we shrouded it in an old blue tarp to shield it from promised rain and I circled it five or six times throughout the evening, using the flashlight on my phone to examine its scars.

By Tuesday afternoon, Mouse's Piano was tucked in under the eaves on the back porch and had acquired a bench. There, we took stock of its three missing hammers, a pair of chipped ivories and cigarette burns on the ledge above the keyboard. Stamped into the cast iron plate over the pinboard it reads: THIS PIANO IS GUARENTEED FOR TEN YEARS.

On Wednesday, I look up details on the instrument’s maker (A.B. CAMERON), and print out some repair guides and diagrams. While Mouse is at work, I steal a series of moments at the piano – a hymn while the dogs are eating,  half of Heart & Soul at dusk, and after dark my fingers find a pair of songs I wrote half a lifetime ago.

Thursday morning, Mouse gets up early and records a Facebook Live video, playing and singing three of the original songs from his (for lack of a better word) space opera. After listening to it, I feel my fingers itching for the opening notes of Für Elise. Later in the day, I wonder if I can find sheet music for Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Rachmaninoff that haunts me.

For Jay, this dilapidated piano is a tolerated object cluttering up our already-cluttered porch. For Mouse, it is a project worth undertaking and an instrument for his artistic expression. For me, it is a doorway to a part of myself long abandoned – a part I would like to have back.

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Doing The Work

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doing the workEarlier this year, I started receiving child-support checks from Ashlie's father, twenty-four years after she was born and eight years after her death. It seemed perverse, accepting this money and the accompanying monthly reminder of a man I prefer to forget. I shoved the first check into the bottom of my bag, and tried to forget it. The second one soon joined it.

It occurred to me on the day the third check arrived that I could donate his money to some worthy cause, charities Ashlie would have supported. The fact that they'll likely be causes he hates is just icing on the cake. 

I started off with the local Pride Center, a Domestic Violence recource center in the town where he lives and a Trans Support org in Arizona. A FB call for suggestions of other organizations in need of support got my list going, but I want to spread that jackass' money far and wide. So feel free to give a shout out to your favorite non-profit/charity in the comments below, especially those doing the work focused on social justice, domestic violence, suicide and mental health or LGBTQ youth.

(image via charityspring)

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A Clusterfuck of Sorrow

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Ben's EdwardHalfway through the 2nd episode of s-town (the newest podcast from the producers of serial), the enigmatic John McLemore ends a rant with these four words: a clusterfuck of sorrow.

I write them down immediately, planning to use them in a review I’m working on for please like me, this little Australian show that delighted me and then broke my heart a few weeks ago.

But it becomes something else a few hours later, when I open the scrolling stream of noise that is Facebook, to seek out a friend I haven’t checked in with for too long.

The thing is, you don’t notice the silences anymore.

My friend’s most recent post is a year old. It is moody and cryptic – always his style – and for a moment I think perhaps he’s in one of those abstaining-from-social-media moods.

It’s not until I see 50+ comments that dread creeps in on me.

a clusterfuck of sorrow.

Ben is gone.

Not wandered off, but dead.

Ben is dead and I didn’t know for a whole goddamn year.

You don’t notice the silences anymore because they’re crowded out by everyotherfuckingthing.

In the decade I knew him, I visited Ben just once – lunch at a brewpub in his beloved hometown – but we talked sometimes, late at night, while Fat Lola and I walked the cliffs over Capitola Village. There was an intimacy to our friendship, drawn as we both were to the shadows, and tangled up in personal mythologies we built without escape hatches.

He was a man who struggled to see the beauty in this world, but see it, he did, and spreading cheer became some kind of mission. When the basset hounds Roscoe & Rufus came into Ben’s life, something beautiful blossomed in him. It was a brilliant love story – that man and his hounds. But love necessarily opens us up for pain, and the loss of both his boys in too short a time was heartbreaking. I worried more for him after that. We all did, I think.

In the last few years, I thought of Ben often and fondly but those thoughts rarely translated into action. I didn’t maintain that connection like I intended to. Ben made his exit on his 52nd birthday in early 2016. There is no condolence to be given at this late date, save the awkward apologies.

a clusterfuck indeed

I was lucky to have known him.

 

 

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