With her eponymous EP due out May 27, Moorea Masa will celebrate its release on May 31 at Mississippi Studios. Until then, enjoy the video for the title track. Photos by Jason Quigley
Moorea Masa has been in her studio space at the Falcon Art Community in North Portland for just over a month and she’s been spending a lot of time there lately—meeting fellow artists, assembling musicians for her upcoming EP release of Oh Mother on Sunday, May 31 at Mississippi Studios, and putting the wraps on a very beautiful, very personal, very Oregon video for the title track. All of this is to honor the passing of a dear friend’s mother, and motherly figure to Masa, Marcia Jean Barrentine.
This morning I woke from a dream where a dragon was terrorizing the city I lived in. It would cling to the parapet walls of churches, breathing fire down on the street and smashing buildings as it went. No one could figure out where the dragon lived and it would appear suddenly in random places. While on a date with a strange man at a theatre play, I discovered that HE was in fact the dragon, able to shiftshape. Somehow, his eyes and the graceful, reptilian slink in his step gave him away.
I was given a gladius from the community, a smallish sword, and instructed to murder him while he was human, which I couldn’t do because—he was teaching me things, and of course, I loved him.
I woke as he was perched at the top of a tree, leering down at me in dragon form, as I sheathed my sword, and thought to myself, “we should leave this place, we are not welcome here.”
From backing Ural Thomas and The Decemberists, the soul-folk singer strikes out on her own for the first time with a new EP of time-honored material. Photos by Tor Clausen
It’s a windy night as I climb the porch to a pale yellow house, the color of first daffodils in spring—a spring that’s come early to Portland. Moorea Masa greets me warmly and invites me into her kitchen for tea as she finishes cooking a meal for herself. A smallish cat named Hafiz, a nod to the Sufi mystic and poet, paces around, mewling for the food dish to be filled. In between bites and the wayward, headbutting affections of Hafiz, Masa tells me tales of her family, her musical travels, her new soul-folk EP, Oh Mother, and how a soul singer comes to be named after a beautiful, heart-shaped island in French Polynesia called Mo’ore’a, which means “yellow lizard” in Tahitian.
Masa’s Italian father and German-born mother both worked on a cruise ship in their youth. “My grandmother asked them, ‘Well, what was your favorite island?’” It was the one they met on—the island of Mo’ore’a—that became the name they gave their child.
I like idea of the power in a name. Special words ascribed to objects and people of significance. A name that’s handed down, borrowed, or given as an homage or blessing—a name that becomes familiar or famous. A name that implies layers of meaning and strata. A name that opens doors and breaks barriers. A name that when called or written, works like an incantation on the forces of the universe. Rockstars. Magicians. Dignitaries. Gangsters. Kings and Queens. Spiritual Leaders. Deities.
No offense to the multitude of Bob Smith(s) out there, (Robert Smith of The Cure, notwithstanding) but wouldn’t you rather be named something like, say, Robert Gerald Mondavi? His is one example of a name with power and his legacy was in the game of naming things—specifically, wine.
Mondavi “aggressively promoted labeling wines varietally rather than generically.” He believed we should know the true nature of something. Instead of us saying, “Oh, I like Franzia, Gallo, Paul Masson, or Carlo Rossi, (cheap, brand name jug wines from California) or “I like ‘Burgundy’ or ‘Chablis,’ (terms that were meant to conjure the French regions and corresponding varietals they were supposed to taste like), Mondavi wanted us to challenge the assumed knowledge of regionally grown varietals and clearly identify the grape right there on the label. This is now the standard for the way we label New World wines.
In a pinnacle move to merge the Old World and the New into one grand opus, Mondavi went to the Big Island of Hawaii and met with Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild to found the joint venture, Opus One. Their intention and idea was one they kicked around since the early 1970s—to create a single Bordeaux style blend based upon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The Baron’s name gave the Napa wine region a respectable air, and it quickly became the most expensive Californian wine during its time.
But the stars didn’t always align . . .
When Robert Mondavi Winery went from a private family named estate into a publicly traded corporation (a move that Mondavi stated regret over), The Robert Mondavi Corporation ballooned into a behemoth that owned several wineries at home in North America and partnered with prestigious wineries abroad. A succession of unfortunate events came on the heels of the Y2K panic—the economy tanked, 9/11 happened a year later in 2001, and wine sales were way down. In a hostile takeover bid of more than $1 billion, Mondavi scrapped the whole sordid plan and sold off his luxury brands to Constellation Brands, the hydra beast of beer, wine and spirits who gnashed at and absorbed his legacy.
Mondavi left his own board as ambassador and partnered back in with the family. With his youngest son Tim and daughter Marcia, they created a single wine from a single estate at the highest level. The family partnership Continuum Estate is still run by Robert’s son, daughter, and grandchildren Carissa, Chiara, Carlo, and Dante Mondavi (how about THOSE names?!). Thus in the continuum of things, he tried to get back to to the original idea of good food, good wine, and good family to share it with. His name was on the label of many philanthropic ventures—he donated millions to his alma mater to create an institute dedicated to the food and wine sciences as well as the performing arts. In the end, he was back to where he started and among those closest to him who shared his name and his passions. He died peacefully at home at the age of 94.
Having a background of wine knowledge myself and having drunk (and been drunk) on a wide array of wine, I know that even a name doesn’t guarantee standards, flavor profile, consistency, anything really. Terroir is just as crucial in plant genetics as it is in humans. We are built, or damaged by our biology (geology), geography, and the climate of the place and people we interact with. The way we express ourselves and the way we grow is dependent on all of that plus the weather. We are also subject to those pesky, but necessary insects and undesirable diseases. Although some diseases, as in the case of Botrytis infection known as “noble rot” in full-ripened grapes make for a kinder boon. The wine made from grapes picked at a perfect point during the moldy infestation can produce a fine and concentrated sweet wine said to have an aroma of honeysuckle and a bitter finish on the palate. We as humans, can choose to be either sweet or bitter from our miseries.
But isn’t it nice to think, we can remake and reinvent ourselves or even return to ourselves? Or just reNAME ourselves, like most young people who flirt with the idea of running away or changing their name—we want to have our names roll of the tongue, thick as honey, golden and royal. Penetrable as common knowledge. As rich and well-established as old vines grapes. We start out and continue searching for our own power and control over our lives and destinies. We break and change and reconfigure. We try to escape who we are, where we come from. Sometimes to come back and sometime to never look back. Women take a name, add a name, hyphenate a name, or leave name behind when they join forces in love and marriage or business. We set out “make a name for ourselves” like it’s a rise to fame, or a numbers game, and perhaps, we discover our true nature along the way come to peace with a name that suits us well.
Now, getting briefly back to wine . . . of course, you must be a certain percentage of a varietal (with an allowance for some mixing) to be considered “authentic,” and claim your name, so I got to thinking about what kind of math goes into being 100% Andrea Janda and the numbers in my name.
So—here’s a fun little witchy exercise in frequency and numerology on the power of my name from nameanalyzer.net
A (4x) • N (2x) • D (2x) • R (1x) • E (1x) • J (1x)
Influence of the letters in Andrea Janda name:
Numbers and Tarot cards are behind each letter of Andrea Janda name. A brief description, explanation of the meaning of each letter:
Short description of meaning
Creative, Inventive, Intuitive
Determined, Persistant, Idealist
Wise, Crafty, Daring, Inventive
Wheel of Fortune
Optimist, Opportunist, Enterpreneur
Healer, Wise, Survivor, Crafty
Patient, Determined, Strong
HEARTS DESIRE NUMBER Andrea: 1+5+1=7. Reduced: 7 .
Janda: 1+1=2. Reduced: 2 .Hearts desire number for Andrea Janda name (calculated from vowels) is Nine.The hearts desire number represents your innermost desires and longings. This number closes the gap between how you feel people see you and the way they see you. It also relates to the subjective, inner aspects of your life, and improve relationships.
Life Expression number (DESTINY NUMBER) Andrea: 1+5+4+9+5+1=25. Reduced: 7.
Janda: 1+1+5+4+1=12. Reduced: 3.Destiny number for Andrea Janda name (calculated from all characters) is One. Also known as Name Number. It relates to your vibration in this world; how you express yourself in the many outer experiences of your life, birth given talents to be developed, and tasks you must achieve in this life.
Joined by Storm Large, Erika Moen and friends on her ‘The Art of Asking’ book tour, Palmer’s stop at the Wonder Ballroom featured heartfelt book readings, musical performances and humorous, insightful and delicious discussion. Photos by Chelsea Gaya
The wildly decorated people stood in the bleak cold, queued up in what could have been a fancy beggars breadline and looking as if the circus or the Comic Con had just let out for the night… but the show was just about to start.
The warm and eclectic crowd, smelling of musk, fur, incense and leather, pushed their way into the Wonder Ballroom on November 19—a gorgeous herd of afghan covered gypsies, finger-gloved and lip-pierced, wrapped in kimonos, wearing peacock feather fascinators. They were darkly clad, tribal-tattooed, bustiered, crow-black coiffed and mohawked. Some wore layers of tablecloth hiked up for skirts, some sported jackets fit for a white linen dinner. One girl, a bony bride in a skeleton sweatjacket, paraded past with a mass of cotton candy magenta-colored hair crowned by a headband of black flowers with a flowing, spidery veil. They came in pageboy and bowler hats armed with ukuleles. They were circus beauties and sideshow outcasts, a fanciful, freakish canvas of carnival color, and they were all here to see the woman who they were imitating in their costumed incarnations of her many looks. Miss Amanda Fucking Palmer.
The inventory here says, I hang pictures and fix broken glass. I solder and glue gun, wrap twine and staple. I illuminate things, measure them, give them power. I can calculate, paint, and highlight. Nothing can come loose or get away—I’ve got screws and nails and velcro for days. Oh, a Kazoo and emergency chocolate! I have change to spare, and yes, I will put down some glitter glue on shirt or a stocking. Maybe it’s just a poorly kept mad woman’s toolbox, but I think we should rename the junk drawer to something more amazing like “utility treasures” or “arsenal of the imagination,” for everything I’m able to do.
… our phones used to be bells
our photos used to be paper
our paper used to have words
and we used to spin each other
the way our music moved
in dark and dazzling circular grooves
only a needle could interpret.
we used to mend our clothes with needles.
and we used to pick up the phone
and the pen to mend ourselves
and our friends.
we used to take our time,
try to know each other better.
2 geese in perfect duo
over the bridge together
back from winter.
A false Spring,
a lovely start.
A woman’s pair of beige dance shoes
hangs from the powerline
outside the theatre.
She always wanted to be
a tightrope walker.
We often throw ourselves higher,
sooner than we think we’re able to go.
Ostara, in her haste,
drops a white-washed paintbrush
on the robin blue eggshell sky
leaving a smatter of
pulled apart cotton cloud.
The birds still wait to be warmed
To fly or to burrow?
Cannot take the sky
before I know how
to go to ground.
A strange circular rainbow appears
behind a triangular treeline.
Not yet. Still, more rain.
I take a wrong turn into a dead end street
and the Ouroboros symbol appears
on a glassblowers garage studio door
at the end of the alley,
and it’s no longer the wrong way
it’s the right symbol,
I turn around again
bite my own tail,
face the sun
waiting, turning from the dark
for two to agree
and become one.
I sat waiting for my lunch to be ready. Closing my eyes, the sun warming me, honing in on nearby conversations.
“It was just awful!”
“Do you want to meet later?”
“We have to get back soon.”
“What are you hungry for?”
And then, “Think of a Chinese word you’d like to see written.”
Two young women, students conducting a written language experiment, held a small, dry-erase board and the woman in the steel-grey wool skirt looked sheepishly to the man-in-tow standing next to her, scanning his face for a word, for approval.
“Tomato,” she smiled and shrugged.
“What an uninteresting word,” I thought to myself. Clearly, hunger and condiments dominated her thoughts to choose such an oddly simple thing.
The student began to draw the two characters, then handed the board to steel-grey skirt and asked her to draw it, to copy the lines in her own hand.
“Like this?” She fumbled through and the student asked to take a picture of steel-grey skirt holding up the sign, which she obliged after being assured it wouldn’t end up on the web or Facebook.
Steel-grey skirt and man-in-tow collected their lunches and wandered off back to their meetings and spreadsheets and before the students could walk away, I volunteered, “I have a word I’d like to see.”
“Great! What’s the word?”
“Oh—I’ll have to look that one up, it might be kind of difficult, the Chinese don’t really have an expression for that. Well, depending on the context I guess.”
“I suppose weakness is not a good emotional or political stance,” I mused.
She typed it into her phone where there must’ve been a pinyin and symbology translator of sorts and she mumbled, “Ah, hmm, that’s really pretty.”
She sketched out what looked like two number 5s, curved, bent and spooning, little animals with two quick hatchmarks in the coils and crooks, something warm in their bellies perhaps. The second symbol, like a little house on stick legs, or a bird laying in a field of short reeds or soft, matted grass, or a boat on uneven waves jutting a mast with no sail attached.
She handed me the board and it was my turn to draw.
“Very good!” She encouraged. “You could do calligraphy.”
And I suddenly thought of my high school art class, how I attended my prom for free because I volunteered to hand write every student’s name in my graduating class and their respective date’s name on folded white cardstock for all the seating arrangements at the dinner tables. How I painstakingly wrote every letter with a copper pen tip, sinking the nib into a bottle of crow-black ink, scratching out letters and then with a glue gun, affixing a black bow-tied ribbon and burgundy rose in the corner of every one.
She took my picture holding up the board with “vulnerable” written twice and asked, “Why are you so interested in this word?”
I considered the tomato. Heart-shaped, red, plump, viscous inside, thin-skinned, vulnerable and thought perhaps, it wasn’t such a bad word after all and I said, “I think objects are fine, but I am more curious about concepts, especially emotional ones that are difficult to describe with one word. Like love or home or wonder.” I thought about how big ideas cannot, should not easily be boiled down, compartmentalized, or compressed into a single word or worse, an acronym. Americans are really fond of acronyms and especially mnemonics, trying to make big ideas memorable, and easier to digest, when really, what must be done is some digging, some spelunking, some serious unpacking followed by a gentle examination of all the parts.
I thought of other languages where speakers might have cultural differences and difficulties expressing emotion. For instance, one way of responding to the everyday greeting of “How are you?” in Russian is to say ” I am not unwell.” As if, already expressing in the negative was a way of conveying strength. Things could be worse. I’m not dead yet. My friend told a story where in high school, a Russian exchange student staying at his home was being chastised for taking her host family’s young son out to play in his school clothes on a rainy day. His mother wasn’t at all happy that they had returned so filthy, caked in mud and muck, but the Russian girl sweetly explained to the mother, “he is not unwashable.”
What does it mean to be vulnerable? To be “accessible, assailable, defenseless, exposed, liable, naked, on the line, on the spot, out on a limb, ready, sensitive, sitting duck, sucker, susceptible, tender, thin-skinned, unguarded, unprotected, unsafe, weak, wide open, open to attack.” Why is there no strength in vulnerability when it takes all the courage in the world to allow yourself to let something, some ideas, someone in? To yield with grace to the often terrifying, ever-shifting locus of love, of home, and of wonder.
All three of these ideas have changed greatly for me in the last several years. Losing a beloved pet to cancer, losing a home by being priced out of the neighborhood, losing a job and a marriage; and all of these losses and changes at nearly the same time. It was like witnessing all the love and home and wonder I nurtured suddenly evaporate out from under me. There was a serious unpacking. There was a gentle examination of all my parts. Especially the ones that went missing, where I identified myself.
I thought of many loves lost in my youth, how some of the most tender pieces of me were carried off by wild wolf boys and buried like edible treasure to devour later. How sometimes there were wounds I ignored and over and over I had to revisit the same old traps that closed upon them to extract myself very carefully so as to not lose more pieces still. Sure, I came out licking my wounds, scathed and dirty. But I emerged whole.
Turns out, I am not unwahsable. I am not unwell. I am still hungry and I am getting reacquainted with wonder. I have redefined home. I still don’t fully understand the nature of love, but I am very much an eager student and believer of it in all of its necessary function and beautiful, new forms.
Euugghh . . . plumbing. Whenever something leaks or makes noise or backs up, it conjures up the old SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd fixing the fridge for Mrs. Loopner (see the sight gag at 3:15 into the video). All I can think is, “great, this is going to be super expensive, the tech is never on time and they’re going to send some half-wit with his coinslot hanging out of his work pants tromping through my house and leaving a foul mess behind for me to clean up.”
A few days ago my bath sink and tub were both slow to drain and I thought the liquid / gel plumber bottle I dumped in had them fixed. I think I only made the drain rat living down there more hungry and angry. I woke up one morning to Amityville Horror–dark clots and water rising OUT of my bath tub drain that filled to about 4 inches then gurgled and swirled back down slowly. I think I heard something chuckle menacingly at me once. And I don’t know about you, but not having a working shower / tub / sink / dishwasher when it’s all installed and should be working is maddening. When I’m out in the wilderness, fine, but I don’t like camping in my own home. Joe & I had to shower at friend’s houses and our yoga studio for a few days.
Turns out my neighbor had the same problem; it seems our drainage pipes are, uhh, intimately connected. We live in a house broke up into 4 independently owned condos built in 1913, i have an old, but nicely refinished claw foot tub, thus I fully expect plumbing nitemares. You should see our basement. The ceiling is a labyrinth of duct work straight out of Brazil and the pipes and plumbing are a recursive, confused tangle with no beginning or end. M.C. Escher would be proud. This is what my tech had in store for him.
When Craig called to say he had a job postponement & would be by shortly in the am instead of the afternoon when I expected him, I said, “Well, that’s fine but it will have to be jammie time, I’m just waking up for the day.” He remarked that he didn’t bring his jammies but he’ll still do the job. This made me laugh. We were off to a good start.
Let me just say Craig was kind, conscientious and efficient. While here he even took a call from an irate woman on the phone and handled it with utter grace and diplomacy. He bravely navigated the clusterfrak that is our way old school plumbing. He went between both my place & the neighbors to track down the blockage and make sure that our tubs weren’t backing up into each other and worked until both drains were clear and :: GASP! :: he even cleaned up after! My tub was free of devil spawn after-birth and my floor didn’t look like a military parade march came through. Double Rainbow All The Way! Win! Win!
Extra Bonus Points: Craig even diagnosed an unrelated plumbing problem I asked him about. I mentioned a loud banging sound from the pipes I get whenever I run the clothes washer. He said the “shhh-CHUNK” and rattling of the pipes that occurs is called water hammering and can be cheaply and easily remedied with something called a water hammer arrester (go figure).
I read that water hammering is “a pressure surge or wave resulting when a fluid in motion is forced to stop or change direction suddenly.” He pointed out where it does this at a tight bend just out of the hot water heater as well as just before our washer junction. Now that I know this minor annoyance can be fixed I’ll get on it, because what I don’t want is that pressure wave from the noise and vibration to cause the pipe to collapse. We have enough water problems around here.
I got a few of his business cards and the next time the plumbing gets possessed, I’ll ask the Property Manager to call Craig back!