food, love, myth, sex

How To Eat A Mango . . .

sure, everything is good when it’s shared. especially meals. food. wine. some would argue that it’s most depressing, cooking for one and eating it alone.

i don’t know about that.

i like coming home to a clean kitchen waiting for things to be made hot and messy and for new scents to arise from the nothing. if it reads like i’m trying to make it sound sexy you’re right, i am, because – it is.

sure, everything happens in the kitchen of a house. especially conversation. food. wine. updates. but left unhelped, undistracted, i can turn on music that fills the room, sing aloud, sway about, chop through vegetables, heat butter, stir sauces, all the ever meanwhile, sipping on the vino du noir. the fine wine selection of the nite.

cooking is magic – it’s alchemy, and baking is wizardry too. you can really fuck it up at any critical juncture. souffles fall into mush, cakes plummet and become bricks, butter and flour-sifted pans scorch, eggs turn green and brown, pasta goes the other direction from al dente to dental work. it’s all very much finesse. there’s an awful lot of appreciation and pre-fabrication that goes into a really good meal. and i’ve thought and written much and ranted about it here.

and it’s easier to pay attention when you’re left alone with the matter at hand.

last nite, i had eggplant parmigiana, a salad of cucumbers, grape tomatoes, chopped cauliflower and broccoli with a Tuscan dressing, fresh olive bread and a Cabernet that’ll curl your toes. it was a meal to savor. hell, i even considered seducing myself into bed.

but before all of this, 3 ripe mangos sat, smothered in a plastic bag and i could smell them as familiar and wanton as the skin at the nape of a lover’s neck. i had to make one an appetizer.

sure, there are many ways to cut, to peel, to dice, to eat, to devour a mango. but i found the best way yet. quietly, softly and alone. everyone’s so worried about getting messy yet just as much concerned about the proper way to get the most fruit out of such a luscious creature. so i take my mango to a place where i can truly enjoy it with abandon.

here’s what i found is easiest . . .

+ take the mango into one hand. observe how it’s like a self-contained traffic light. red, amber, green. now GO! bring the skin up to your nose and inhale deeply, appreciating what’s just beneath.

+ get a good paring knife out of the drawer and slice it not around its waist, but head to tail, lengthwise, running the blade deep along its walled pit until the incision meets the stem at both sides.

+ cup the mango in your hands and gently twist the half-moons of its newly separated self back and forth without pressing or bruising the flesh just enough to yield a little juice.

+ starting with one half, you’ll find the skin wants to peel back now. do so in long slender pieces or if you are lucky, the whole side will come off leaving only light strings and a very thin layer of fruit on the back of the skin. throw these away and move towards the sink. or if you must, put a towel down on the counter for now the true and rewarding work begins.

+ hold the wet fruit in your hands as if it were a little ball, a glass ornament, an empty hand, a naked lover and bring it to your mouth and eat it as if you were just learning to kiss for the first time. bite, pull, suck, come up for air here and again and don’t worry about the juice running down your forearms as you can lick or rinse that off later. continue this, allowing yourself mutterings and mumbling mmmmmms of pleasure and succulence until you are down to the bony pit at the center.

+ wash your hands, pat them dry, drink a warm glass of water. smile.

then go eat dinner. and read some fun facts and myths about the king of fruits.

well, how do YOU eat a mango?

books, love, relationships, sex

frankenstein pinocchio

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“Shall I tell you something?” asked Pinocchio, who was beginning to
lose patience. “Of all the trades in the world, there is only one that
really suits me.”

“And what can that be?”

“That of eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, and wandering
around from morning till night.”

“Let me tell you, for your own good, Pinocchio,” said the
Talking Cricket in his calm voice, “that those who follow that
trade always end up in the hospital or in prison.”

~ The Adventures of Pinocchio –  Carlo Collodi

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“How mutable are our feelings, and how strange is that
clinging love we have of life even in the excess of misery!”

~ Frankenstein –  Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

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frankenstein pinocchio

my life is full of wooden boys,
an onslaught of Pinocchios.
liars with long noses to hang
a hundred stories on.
heads on swivels, arms and legs
bendable, poseable into human
machinations of affection,
no strings attached.
“First the Medicine
and Then the Sugar,
Oh no no, first the sugar
and then I promise…”

and me, i want a real LIVE boy.
so tired of the paranoid android
who longs to feel emotion
but expresses it in private brevity:
the mechas simulating sex
with the orgas who can sleep
delving the deep underwater
dreams of The Blue Fairy.

a motherless creation is inevitably
monstrous, so please pardon yourself
for this intrusion in advance . . .
with blinded sight i might ask, why do
i attract the transitional and not the intact?

my modern day Prometheus,
if you love like a cadaver, cool and pale,
it will take more than four elements,
more than stealing fire from the gods to
set me alight. you teach me your alchemy
then snuff me, a red taper beneath
a black bowl if the beaker should boil over.

i will not piece together flesh nor hack
a branch from a tree and call it life.
i will make firewood of you, boy,
have the cat make sawdust of your feet.

love makes a wooden boy real,
kindness makes a monster human,
i will be your Pandora, but i will not be refused.
my dowry is this box, and the last of all gifts
in it, is my hope.

~ Andrea E. Janda

death, dreams, friends, love, myth, pets

learning to fly

:::   :::   :::   :::

As the sparrow in her wandering,
As the swallow in her flying,
So the curse that is causeless
alighteth not.

~ Proverbs 26:2

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Olivia called me while driving and said, “i’m at a red light, thinking of you.”

And in my little self-absorbed funk i quipped, “Why,” and snickered, “because my signs say STOP?”

“No, because it’s RED,” she laughed.

A few dream cycles ago, the reddest of thoughts wended their way through the white matter that is my brain in a state of sleep, and i awoke, emitting pink smoke and in a haze from the most fantastic visions. my signs lately, they stop other things, they cut them off, they shine dark red warning light into my face: a submarine submerging, a whore advertising, a dark room for developing images, distant galaxies red-shifting, moving away from each other and then the signs switch and i turn right and the color begs me to go, go be green, be verdant, to grow. to GO! and i do.

i dreamt i was taking a shower in a brightly lit bathroom with a huge window in the shower stall. on the wall outside of the shower, where a medicine cabinet or mirror should hang was instead, a large vent recessed deeply into the wall, slatted for ventilation, as in a factory. i could hear birds chirping, chattering, squawking, and scratching around inside. it sounded like nest building, like an argument, like a rusty gate swinging in a storm.

a small blackish bird got loose and slid between one of the slats and out into the bathroom where i stood naked in the light. it was brightly yet darkly colored, iridescent like a Raven yet smaller, like a grackle. In Norse mythology the god Odin (for which i named my cat) kept a pair of ravens called Hugin (thought) and Munin (remembrance). Even Odin himself would occasionally shapeshift, becoming a raven. But his pets, they took flight in the morning and scaled the earth, asking questions and begging secrets of people, even of the dead before returning to the shoulder or the throne to whisper all they had seen and heard into the ear of their master.

The raven symbolizes solitude, gratitude, affection, wisdom, light, hope, longevity, death, and fertility. In alchemy, it represents change and the advanced soul dying to this world. Conversely, the grackle is typically a sign of Spring, perhaps of re-birth, the dark keel-shaped tail sailing in just before the Robin’s red-breasted return. But this bird was smaller and something about it was both sweet yet sinister. i bent down to push my finger against its chest to scoop it onto the ledge of my finger and it pecked me lightly. The grackle is an omnivore, which means it will eat almost everything that doesnt eat it first, so i thought it might take my finger off, but instead, it turned its head sideways at me and glared then clamped down onto me with its talons before flying out the window. Was i dying to this world or was i becoming new?

somehow from contact with the bird i developed a curse. i was new by design but i brought death instead. any man i touched, any man i put my hands upon out of love would turn ashen and grey, then disintegrate, like burning incense. with one boy i learned i could touch him with my toes and so we held feet under the table during dinner, but when i got too comfortable, when i forgot myself, when i curled into the crook of his arm as we watched a movie, i placed my hand gently on the outside of his forearm thinking it wouldn’t harm him if i touched him through his clothing, through the sleeve of his maroon jacket. he turned to me, he grew stock still, his eyes grew wide as tears welled in my own. a wave of frightening, sure knowledge crashed over us as he turned a grey replica shape of himself, then fell into a soft pile of silver ashes below me.

i went to see a bruja, a Mexican witch and she drew a curse book from a dark drawer in a table. “You have the Blackbird’s Curse,” she told me. “You must trust and they will remain. You must love openly and it will pass. The bird will come to you again and you will be safe and your lovers safe from harm.”

do i mistrust so much i withhold emotions and never give myself away – both betraying and denying myself? or do i flay myself so wide open that i bleed a murder scene, make a mess of things until my lovers evaporate, leaving only a chalky outline?  or will everything i touch simply dissolve while i am waiting to hear his call above all others? will i understand him when he calls, will i know him when his feathers brush my cheek or feel him when he finally reaches out and clutches me?

love, nature

song bird

something moved, sparkled
and i began untying knots
nimble fingers rifling through
the jewelry box, digging
deftly sorting rings, hoops
and chains and things with teeth,
gathered them up and plucked
them out, separate as harp strings.

the stories came tumbling then,
and ghosts breathed out, back
into incarnate skin, turned to
dance but stumbled and i went
yellow then green and mango red
to the tango hidden in the licks of violin.
that quick taste masqueraded as a kiss
and burned my mouth like cinnamon.

gypsies know each other by flavor;
we send blackbirds and grackles,
recognize the dark eyes, otherness
and cats with raised hackles, wearing
question marks on their tails as
they approach and sailor, i’d answer you
if i knew who you aren’t, if i could
coax you in by your wind-torn sails.

so make way love, if that isn’t
your name; i still have room enough
to draw the moon-shaped blade
from the stocking top, from the boot
strap, from the winter warm place
i’ve saved for the never-met familiar
whose passion precision hands are
safe enough to draw the down pillow
away from the small of my back and
cup me cozy as an egg with a spoon
as i am so very ready to crack.

i will welcome you in knee-high socks
with garden dirt under my nails, guitar-
scaled, blistered fingertips, blustery-
weathered eyes, laughter on my lips,
arms/legs moved apart, ribs split, ready
for reaching heart. and our language
will whistle-chirp, a bird-like canter
begging to borrow breathing fleshtones
and breaking wanton bones against
that long-dead banter.

i will put my pretty things away, untangled,
become them instead, take tea and call crow,
unblacken the day with blackberried jam bread.
digging deftly sorting rings, hoops and chains
and things with teeth. i will gather you up and
let us be plucked, separate as harp strings
thrumming one warble, liquidly sung.
let me move against you like water . . .
and moisten your avian tongue.

~ Andrea E. Janda

dreams, family, friends, gardening, health, love, nature, pets, photography, psychology, travel

Lust globally, make love locally

Listening to: Let It Die – Feist

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I’m tired of screwin’ up, tired of goin’ down,
Tired of myself, tired of this town.
Oh my, my, oh hell yes
Honey put on that party dress.
Buy me a drink, sing me a song,
Take me as I come, cause I can’t stay long . . .

Last Dance With Mary Jane ~ Tom Petty

:::   :::   :::   :::

My first act of 2006, at the stroke of midnite, I chased my birth control pill with a glass of red wine. I sure hope that is some funky premonition for love, protection and celebration. 2 weeks into the New Year, I saw a Friday the 13th followed by a Full Moon Saturday – what a witchy week! And no winter white in sight. It’s been strange weather in the high 50s to 60s some days, rainy with a thin veil of fog and this strange wind coiling, whispering around the boat masts, whipping the lines to into clanging night bells, making the canvas into flapping voices. Then this wicked cold moved in, more high winds and sleet, but NO snow. Global Warming anyone?

Seriously, we just don’t have winters like we used to, but the Farmer’s Almanac claims it’s coming . . .

The nitelife here in my “home-for-now-town” is, umm – interesting. I am living in (as the locals paste on t-shirts) a drinking town with a sailing problem. Midshipmen on the wander, plus drunken, bloated congressional types and supposed professionals making laughable passes at me, wearing striped shirts and power ties, riding power boats, power mowers and eating power lunches while I try to escape and go take a power nap.

But there is an artist conclave here – some of them are advertising successfully, playing music, photographing, sculpting, painting, recombining, pack-ratting, twisting and forming new shapes. Some of them have already slept with everyone of the same ilk, hacking the local six degrees of separation down to a fearsome three or two.

Then there are people like me, or what I imagine to be the way i am perceived by the way I project myself. Living in Maryland eight years, a few interesting jobs, a little bit of recognition in the photo department via contests and small tea house for sale hangings. I garnered a good collection of friends and acquaintances, spurned a few, stalled a few others, gave more still gigantic berth and avoidance and still, I don’t feel like a townie—like I belong here utterly. my sense of here and now and then owing only to the people I love and who love me in return. When I wander down the street, we familiars nod to each other. We may not have broken bread or put down a bottle of wine or shared a secret, but we know each other’s faces.

I know I’ve been less involved, but as I’ve sort of stated prior, my real life outside of my online community involvement has been so full, full of changes, and engaging.

changes and growing bring in new things while simultaneously initiating a whole exodus of others. also, i have come to realize, though it has pained me to be so upset, that i have had to go inside and question myself about all of it – particularly the recent issues i’ve seem to run up against with personalities and people whom i’ve previously counted as friends. i have concluded that it is largely THEIR problem and not mine. all the little insults i’ve been experiencing in my life recently, the little setbacks, i now view as some sort of cosmic insistence nudging me to get out of my brain, to finish my journey within and start implementing the change without. That is to say, recognize the things i have been and gone without and the necessary psychic changes i need to achieve balance again: such as a job where i feel appreciated, friends who i respect and who love me as i love them, the places and people with which i conduct business and pleasure. some of these things have changed or evaporated or fallen away or have demanded my immediate attention over the last 6 months since my life imploded last June. oddly enough, most of this inspirational need for balance arrived as a sort of vision as i lay in shivasana, or corpse pose, after a very hot and strenuous yoga practice. during meditation, the instructor encouraged us to find and practice strength and balance both on the mat (in here) and off the mat (out there) and to remember to breathe deeply through the difficult places and painful times.

i have allowed myself the time to heal, to adjust, to date, to make a mess of things and to make sense of others, to get my head screwed on straight and the new self-focus has been challenging, but re-defining in a good way. it has been mind-blowing at times, mind-bending at others, and still mind-numbing further on. it has been terrifically magical. it has been terribly lonely. it has been encouraging. it has been disheartening. it has been more living than i have done in quite some time and i am grateful for whatever force took my little snowglobe world into their hands and shook the unholy fuck out of it to see how i would deal with the fallout. it has snowed powerful weather down on me. it has grown still. i have begun digging out and winter isn’t nearly over. i don’t want to be cold when i stand up. i don’t want to have to lay down and curl inside to feel warm. i am weary of turning on my side, of laying between two pillows like an infant with bumper pads in my crib bed to prevent me from hurting myself or in my case, to feel like no matter which way i roll over, there is always someone there. i fall asleep clasping my own hand in front of me like a prayer to myself, like a pleading gesture to the world. i find myself waking in tree poses, with one leg drawn in and knee cocked out forming a triangle, a branch to crawl up on. i’m tired of sleeping just so i can dream.

i am not utterly disenchanted with my beloved Maryland, but lately, i have toyed with the idea of moving far far away from here and wiping everything clean to get that needed change. and why not just change everything? i don’t have a mortgage, i don’t have children or a mate. i have no real ties. i can travel, i can make a plan, i can set up shop and re-invent life anywhere. i can succeed so long as i define success by tangible, meaningful terms.

Hope explained to me once that black flies, those things that are dark and draining are attracted to the light. i have always tried to maintain my childlike approach to things, to live lightly and to be a beacon of positive energy for myself and for others, to truly believe that i lead a charmed life no matter how high or low i exist, and to understand that all things come to me and through me when they are needed, even minor and major tragedies are blessings and have reasons. this is so much easier and sweeter than spitting in the face of fate and choosing to NOT imbue my life with meaning. people who don’t appreciate my honesty, my kindness, my bluntness, what i consider my lucky charm, my good fortune, my powers of gentle persuasion and genuine openness, my willingness to accept, to forgive and also – my occasional quick-snap judgment when i remove someone from my life because they cause me grief or harm me – i do this now to protect myself. like a mantra i have to tell myself i am not a bad person. i do not need to be punished. i am good and worthy and deserve more for myself and i expect others to treat themselves the same way. anyone who chooses to be a victim, to victimize themselves, to victimize ME and to make anyone in their surroundings miserable as a result needs to get the hell out of my way and off the path i’m cutting.

I have no need to take on broken people as pet projects, as I am my own work in progress. I studied psychology to understand human behavior, to avoid the pitfalls of lower thinking and feeling and to learn to be more human, more flexible and better adjusted, and how to recognize when someone is NOT and to escape those trappings. Though I often attract friends and lovers who need fixing by some general impetus that drives me to help and to heal, I still prefer people who can swing with it and be happy in themselves, and NOT blame me for their own social/emotional shortcomings when things don’t work out for them.

People are generally uncomfortable with bearing their emotions and being honest with others, especially themselves. There are, however, exceptions to the rule . . . there is a website that updates every Sunday called Post Secret. Frank Warren, the man who created the interactive art project began by printing 3,000 postcards with a message that invited their finders to write a personal, anonymous secret on the blank side and mail it back to him. He left the postcards in art galleries, restaurants, between pages of library books and on subway seats. And as the postcards started trickling back to his mailbox, he began posting a few of them each week at what has become one of the web’s most popular blogs. (Ranked 55th among BlogPulse’s top 10,000 blogs.)

Even after they 3,000 were in, they still kept coming. They arrived from all over the world in many languages – even in Braille type. The project combines art, poetry and psychological candor in ways that few other endeavors have, and that’s what makes it so fascinating to Warren, a self-described “accidental artist.” (Some secrets on the blog, where about 20 new cards are posted each week: “By the time you read this, I’ll be drunk again.” “I’ve been giving oral sex to a pastor for the past 5 years. He’s married. I don’t believe in God.” “I am a breast cancer survivor. Sometimes I wish the cancer had killed me.” And on a New Yorker subscription card: “I think it makes me look smart to subscribe. But I only like to read the cartoons!”).

He still collects them, and continues to invite people “to anonymously contribute … secrets. Each secret can be a regret, hope, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything – as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before..”

Instructions are to “Create your 4-by-6-inch postcards out of any mailable material. If you want to share two or more secrets, use multiple postcards. Put your complete secret and image on one side of the postcard.

Please consider mailing in a follow-up email describing the effect, if any, the experience had on your life.

Tips

Be brief – the fewer words used the better.
Be legible
– use big, clear and bold lettering.
Be creative
– let the postcard be your canvas.”

Post Secret Exhibit

I go to the PostSecret website every Sunday like a newfound religion. Recently, the cards were assembled into a book: PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives and then put on display as an exhibit in Washington DC.

Getting into Georgetown on any given evening around happy hour to park and entertain oneself is always a logistical nitemare. And the nite was already a carpool all over town posse, picking up friends who had other commitments for dinner and nonsense later in the evening. But I rolled up and got rockstar front row parking, then we looked at the 2 block long queue stretching around the building. The two women I was with who lived 30 mins away in Annapolis balked at the fact we’d probably wait over an hour to get in and move through the exhibit. I frowned and said, “right, well, I’ll take you all home and come back myself.” I was dead serious. This was my mission now.

This mission had a hitch when I realized I was low on fuel and got a little twisted around on the way back (DC will disorient you). I coasted into a station on fumes, got back on track and continued my necessary & epic journey. I tore ass through the neighborhoods, made rolling deliveries of my stunned friends who were muttering soft apologies as i waved my hand away and dumped them at their doors. Then I high-tailed it back for the last hour of the exhibit and by then, the line had become manageable.

It was a moving exhibit beginning with cards posted 3 deep and many across on two stretches of wall, then hanging on clothesline, snaking around like dirty laundry left out to dry in the open air, some of them were printed big as billboards, 4×6′ canvases hung in adjacent cubbyhole-like rooms, shouting at you along the way. in these rooms people sat at a line of tables under the big canvasses and wrote down thoughts and talked together. this opened up to a squared off area where the secret postcards hung four or five high on string and several deep, twisting in the air as people walked in between them, turning the cards to read them, looking up at them, into them like a dark rainy sky full of questions and answers. Finally there was a wall crowded with all the envelopes the secrets had arrived in to protect the artistically done post cards. There were two tables nearby with flipboxes full of post cards that people sat at, looking through them like recipes from their grandmother’s kitchen.

Near the exit, there was translucent mailbox created by Washington DC artist Mark Jenkins where people could hand deliver a personal secret. And at the last long table, a book where you could leave thoughts and reactions to the exhibit just as fascinating as the display itself. Frank Warren himself sat there. It was the last day and the last hour of the exhibit and i don’t think anyone recognized him as who he was. I wandered over, said hello and he struck up a conversation with me about the bag I was carrying.

I have a black and red tote bag bearing the picture of a little girl yelling “F*CK F*CK F*CK!” He asked why I had an angry bag and “where are all the joy bags?” so I explained myself.

My sister, Racheal had sent me the tote after after Brooks broke up with me. Inside was a card she had sent that reminded me how we all carry baggage but should do so lightly and instructed me to “Carry your anger inside the F*CK bag. Leave your shit in there, not inside.”  I carry a regular purse most other places, but I take the anger bag to Yoga with me, where I unload the little daily insults, bad thoughts, pains, pressures & residual griefs and so I thought it would be appropriate to take it with me to the PostSecret exhibit where I could air out and relate my emotions to some of these brave, beautiful and creative people.

Frank Warren inscribed my book for me. It reads:

To Andrea,

Sometimes art and healing are the same thing.

Be Well,

Frank

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Creativity and sharing love with people is what makes life purposeful for me. Through a friend, Andreas, I had the rare opportunity to go see Bono speak on Friday, February 3rd at the Washington Hilton & Towers as part of the 2005-2006 Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series. His theme was The Future in Front of Us: Living a More Involved Life.. He shared the cover of TIME magazine with Bill & Melinda Gates as Persons Of the Year. He didn’t sing, but instead took the stage to talk. the blurb i read about it on the informal side stated, “His topic is quite simply the future of the planet. This is nothing new for the U2 lead singer. He regularly consorts with the Pope, the President of the United States and other dignitaries. He is that rarest of rock stars, one who can change things in the real world too. Bono’s activism is directed against the AIDS epidemic and reducing the debt burdens of the poorest countries. Like a rock and roll Robin Hood, Bono doesn’t take money from the rich and give it to the poor. Instead, he tries to assist the rich in changing their world view so that they realize that to help the poor is, in fact, to help themselves. Join him at the Hilton where he will talk about how one can have more of an impact by living a purposeful life.

He said he had come to talk about three things rarely in balance with each other: “music, politics and business.” And also of “tragedy, opportunity and adventure.” He described the “kafka-esque labyrinth of NOs” that we run into everyday of our lives an what we can do to turns those walls and boundaries into YESes. he talked about the situation of starvation, poverty, AIDS and death in Africa, likening it to the Holocaust and how we can choose to effect change on such issues. He was very specific to differentiate that it is not a “cause” but an “emergency” he is discussing and advocating. he said that all the attention of the death toll in the recent tsunami happens every month in Africa – one tsunami a month worth of deaths and it goes uncovered in the news. he was funny, serious, compassionate, told anecdotes about Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Michael Gorbachev and snickered, saying that when sitting between President Bush and several priests, monks and holy figures he ordered a Bloody Mary. he talked about Ireland, about his love for America not just as a country, but as an idea, about ways we can make ourselves shine again in the world community.

At the end of his speech, there was a short question and answer session as taken from a box left out front of the venue. He was very delicate about religion and politics being in the nation’s capital, made jokes about lobbyists and when asked what the role of god and religion took in his music and activism he said he didn’t trust anyone who talked about god too much, that it is a private matter and that he wasn’t particularly the poster child or advertisement for such things. “what if i were snapped crawling out of a club my hand and knees, I am after all a rockstar.” his comments were met with loud applause and laughter.

A question came from a 14-year old girl who asked what young people can do to bring awareness to AIDS, poverty, Africa free market trade, and debt forgiveness of poorer nations. Bono asked her to come up onto the stage, he kneeled, kissed her hand, hugged her to her great surprise and told her and the rest of us about The One Campaign. whether or not you agree with Bono, his vision, his politics, his movement to help, whether you see him as a saint or an annoyance, a rockstar with a big mouth or a person who is using his position to inspire goodness and action, indeed, he is leading an exhaustive and purposeful life.

I bought tickets to go see Feist on Wednesday, February 8th at a club in DC called The Black Cat. I also won tickets from my local radio station, WRNR to see her as part of their Emerging Artist Showcase. it’s an afternoon, pre-show private performance before the concert that evening. Feist’s big song is called “Mushaboom,” and she’s also played with Broken Social Scene.

lately i’ve been dreaming of kissing strangers, of sitting on the curb while i watch my house and all the things in it burn in leaping, licking, gorgeous, garrulous red flames; i’ve seen myself changing faces by pulling them out of white porcelain basin, a bowl of water. clearly – something needs to move in my life. something is requesting to push through. something is asking to be destroyed and to be set anew.

Odin in the Ivy

I started with my houseplants. I cut a few back pretty hard and they responded with new, bright growth. The space around my desk looks like a little jungle now. Even Odin leaps out from around the pots and green plants, stalking like the wild thing he was and still is, somewhere in there.

me and the orchid

I also bought a beautiful orchid. it’s an Oncidium Intergeneric called “Pacific Sun Spots.” brick red, deep orange and butter yellow.

Oncidium Branch

Pacific Sun Spots

like a California sunset . . .

. . . which brings me to my trip to Los Angeles February 17th-21st to see my sister, Racheal. I’ve never seen the Salton Sea or a Joshua Tree in real life. It’s time I took some of my own photos. I’ve never taken a wine country tour as an adult, and this time, Ithink we will go not to Napa, but some place small and eclectic—to Santa Barbara. Nothing sounds finer to me in the midst of a cold winter month than to take in some breathtaking visions of desert sand, sea foam, waving palms and sun glinting off all things while I sip wine and release the shutter, both on my self and my camera.

family, film, food, friends, holidays, love, marriage, music, nature, photography, travel

ThanksLiving

Listening to: In The Round – The Cardigans

I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
. . .
Squelching and squelching
through the beautiful red.

~ Sylvia Plath from Letter In November

It’s not a typo. i read it on a billboard that encouraged me to “Try ThanksLiving,” and it gave me pause, thinking on the implications of living graciously, happily . . . thankfully. In the last few months my reality has been superseding reality TV. This is not to say that i actually watch any of that garbage, but more that i have traded in cultivating my online life for actual life. This is also not an indictment on anyone spending inordinate hours here or copious time on the net blogging, posting photos, chatting, emailing, taking quizzes, general surfing and shopping – as i, of course, partake in all of the aforementioned activities.

But i offer here a pastiche of the sights, sounds, sighs, and movements in my life since September . . . those moments, amusements and muses i am thankful for:

i loved my Autumn . . . i breathed it in deep. That first bit trickled in the window, red and orange and gold and whispering . . . talking some liquid breathy jive about pumpkins big as carriages, soft-bake melt-mouth doughnuts, and oh yeah —- cider like Eve sucked into her mouth on that first bite that day in the garden . . . slightly sin. mostly cinnamon. the cool crush of the weather to come, burning wood, the crunch of leaves, apple cider, cinnamon, brown sugar, gourd vegetables carved out into crescent shapes, stew/goulash boiling, rolling over in a pot for hours in the kitchen, an afternoon nap in a chair, warmed by a slant of sunlight, and a fire in the hearth and in the heart. And there is the settling in: turning a tender eye towards the dying off of things. Pruning, scaling back, simplifying, bedding down for sleep, hibernation, preparation for renewal.

Barnyardpastoral perfection: Plymouth Orchards, MI

in September, i made a pilgrimage to Michigan to drink apple cider and eat fresh baked donuts, and also to see Imogen Heap – a woman whose music i have listened to and couldn’t pass up the cool venue in my hometown. i had my camera with me and the doorman just assumed i needed a press pass so i spent the concert in the pit, mostly just to the right of the stage where all her gear was set up.

Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap @ St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, MI

all that time i have spent in my car driving, thinking, working, relaxing, entertaining, sleeping to her music it was so rewarding to see her perform and be at her feet with no obstructions, just awash in her sound. and even moreso – a real treat to be able to tell her so and take photos with her and chat coolly and comfortably like old friends. immi was friendly and warm and told me to come visit with her after the show. later, after most of the people met her and took pictures and she had some time to unwind, when i asked if i could impose for a few pictures myself, she sweetly obliged and invited me to sit not just AT the bar with her, but ON the bar. we hopped up and she flagged down one of the other guys on tour to hand her the Toasted Head Merlot, a wine that features a fire-breathing bear on the label which she drank straight out of the bottle! she asked if her lips or teeth were wine-stained and i assured her she looked fine and we snuggled up for some nice photos together. You can see a collection of my photos from the show HERE.

the drive out to Michigan was interesting . . . i got out of work that nite much later than i anticipated, got home, finished packing, dumped ice into my cooler, burned a long mp3 disc for the car, did my little walk through and checklist, then, at 2am, hit the road.

a little after 5am and just outside of Breezewood, Pennsylvania (nice of them to FORCE corral you through that place to get onto your exit) i stopped at a rest area. my dumb ass forgot the all important pillow and blanket but i crawled over my backseat, folded some clothes into the shape of a pillow, pulled a sweater jacket over my legs, curled into a kitty ball and called it good. for 3 hours. when i woke up it was misty and cool and a light fog was moving through. my mother asked me where i slept and if i was worried about being broken into and raped. i’m pretty sure i just looked like a pile of dirty clothes crumpled into the corner of my backseat, so i had no fear. Besides, my kung fu is superior to most and my ninja style is superb.

i made crazy time, just under 9 hours. This is discounting the 20 minutes it took to get fuel at one stop off the Ohio Turnpike. To clarify – i pulled off because my reserve light didn’t give me quite enough warning and i stalled out directly in front of the toll booth as i remarked to the attendant, “i sure hope they have diesel up the road from here.” Lucky for me, there was hardly anyone pulling off where i had, she and her supervisor pushed me to the side of the road and she indicated the way just down an exit ramp and embankment about 2 blocks up where i could find a diesel pump.

i carefully scaled the hill full of really nice wild flowers and across the gravel and rocks lining an underpass (in my stupid flip flops) and managed to laugh a little as i informed the little old man there behind the counter, “i ran out of fuel at the toll booth, i need to use a gas can if you have one please.”

he grabbed up this big red can and shuffled out to the diesel pump. “how much do you want?”

“oh – i imagine about as much as i can carry up that hill in that thing,” i motioned to the impossible place my car was. he told me that normally someone was hanging about and he would run me up, but not this morning.

he smiled, filled the tank with a gallon or so for me and squinted at the display for a bit. “how much is it?” i asked.

“i can’t see so good, i just had cataract surgery last week,” he laughed. i gave him $6 for what looked like $5.88 and $10 deposit for the tank, told him i’d be back to fill the tank and walked back to my car.

i filled up, primed it and had to crank it for awhile to start it. when you run these things ALL the way out of fuel, they tend to get some air in the line so you have to open the hood, unscrew this little metal circle with teeth that looks like an oversized bottle cap which releases a plunger type thing you must push a little to get the fuel primed, close it off and crank it hard with the pedal to the floor until it roars into life and keep it revved until it no longer stalls when you allow it to drop down into idle.

i drove back and as he placed the 22 cents in my hand he said, “you’re lucky you got it started, most people don’t.” i explained to him the above procedure that most people fail to do with an old Mercedes, thus pissing the car off and NOT getting it started. after that fun adventure, i got underway again. i’m so glad i was not on the side of the highway flagging down a ride.

autumn skin

my photo Autumn Skin finished in the 2005 Maryland Department of Natural Resources Photo Contest with an Honorable Mention, a place in the 2006 calendar, and a $25 Gift Certificate to Ritz Camera.

By mid-month October, my roommates were craving baked pumpkin seeds, so they went and procured some pumpkins from a patch. i told them to bring me home a weird one. they succeeded. it was sort of squat but lovely, like an elliptical planet. and it was nearly RED, with green stripes through it. bravo!

Renaissance Festival Girls
Megan, Tracey, Me, Tiffany, Sally
Ren Fest October ’05

i managed to get to the Renaissance Festival, TWICE, the first time i procured some great thistle honey. as always, lots of good food and beer was had, including some evil dessert: cheesecake on a stick, in chocolate. on the second trip it was Oktoberfest and so for the occasion and for breakfast, i ate a spicy sausage with sauerkraut and onions and mustard that came on what looked like a loaf of bread sliced down the middle. when i ordered it ‘loaded’, the clerk yelled “BURPER!” i also had a big scoop of rainbow sherbet, one of my favorite things. we saw Johnny Fox, the sword swallower again, and i saw something i’ve never seen at his performances. a boy child of maybe about 4 or 5 was standing at the side of the stage and as Johnny swallowed the first sword, the boy moved close, curious, with his hands out and Johnny moved toward him, motioning and pointing at the hilt, and he bent close to the boy as the audience gasped and the boy bravely pulled the sword out of his mouth to the wild applause of the crowd! it was one of the most innocent and tough things i’ve ever seen a child do.


Johnny Fox, sword swallower and audience of 1 . . .

Monday nites have been dubbed Wine Nite ay my house . . . me and a bunch of women get together. We also joke and call it the “menstrual hut.” Sometimes men are invited and we call them the “manginas” and encourage them to get in touch with their “inner vagina,” a phrase that is accompanied by a hand gesture (formed by making a prayer-stanced diamond out of pointed hands and planted against one’s barren abdomen.) Sometimes we dance in front of my desk computer (entertainment altar) while iTunes spins a sexy mix. We’ve also danced in my living room to salsa and slow Spanish ballads. As Halloween fell on a Monday this year and we called it HALLOWINE and had Sangria and Spanish wines and tapas of cheese, breads, olive tapenade, dips, tortillas and chocolates. Olivia noted that one Tuesday as she left early, my half-open mouth looked like i’d eaten through a blackberry patch all nite. good times and good girls sprawled on my floor like tinsel torn from trees in the morning.

In October, i spent some time being haunted and walking about town like a ghost, scaring people, scaring myself a bit, but all my reflections showed up in the mirror and i came back, fully fleshed . . .

i met a boy who lives on a boat just south of where i just moved from in June from out of the woods. a graduate research assistant in marine biology. oddly enough, he was from my hometown, in fact – half a block away from my mother’s house and we shared stomping ground though we never met. we spent one glorious and oddly magical evening that led to a morning, proceeded to conquer our muses and write to each other everyday, until – well . . . it’s only slightly complicated from here. he made me recall that kissing is like learning a new language, rolling it around, becoming accustomed to the feel of it in your mouth. sometimes the accent is bad, the pronunciation improper; it can be a disaster. but he and i took to it like naturals – we spoke a very similar if not the same mother tongue. and in many other interesting, puzzling, gorgeous ways. but his life was full – maybe even too full for me. it would be a morning of slow breakfast and desk work, followed by rock climbing in the afternoon, boat maintenance early evening, a film on the wall of his boat and dinner with friends then swing dancing, and finally, as a late nite thunderstorm got underway, the fumbling steps through his new interest in yoga and meditation until he crashed on some random person or friend’s couch.

i admired his passion but eventually, his contact dropped off; partly owing to student life, sailor life, and largely the love life with his ex. his car broke down, he cancelled a date and avoided most future ones then messaged my phone one early random morning where he was in town and i was invited to meet him for coffee. of course, i drink tea but opted for hot chocolate as some strange compromise. we took a walk and soon enough, it was time for both of us to get on with the rest of our days. apart. it was so curious how from our beginnings we held pinkies under the table at dinner on the first date, nearly got arrested in public shortly after making out atop the granite steps and marble columns of a city courthouse, then his hands in my hair, pulling it in several directions and smiling at me half-asleep in the morning and that day, we could only manage an awkward embrace in a circle on the street. he emailed me finally and explained himself and what i already knew. he went back to her. sure darling – no regrets, but there is one sting . . . if his heart was still spoken for, he should’ve reserved his words, his mouth and other parts as well. and thus, so should have i.

i met another boy somewhere in my haunted travels who talked fast and lived even faster. he was a bruised beatnik in black and red, exuding sexual energy from every pore, a quick study who spoke my language, ate my candy, drank my favorite libations, was seemingly versed in the same food, films, books, music. Cocksure braggart, infamous destructor, people collector, devil on a walkabout, too topped-up martini meniscus threatening to spill out over the edges, a dark crescent dangling like broken glass in a shattered window pane, destined to fall, certain to slice, with a predilection for death and discomfort and drug addiction and ready to tell you all the fuck about it . . . he tore at my jeans and broke the zipper – eventually, i had to replace them both . . . some things are far easier to sew up than others, only one of them came back clean and fixed. i still wear the pants around town, but not the boy.

Love is a many-splattered thing so it should be used in good measure, not just tossed around, slapped up, glossed over and painted with a fresh coat over a tired one. i am in no haste to make waste of good stuff and redecorating is a real bitch. i’ve had to do a whole lot of it since June, so i know. i’m not on the fast track to love, but i have realized now, it is possible to love almost anyone in the world if they simply invest, if they simply follow through and keep on doing it. and more than ever, i am far less tolerant of the missed phonecall, the cancelled date, the thoughtless comment, the scattered lifestyle, the broken promise, the hidden agenda, the other woman, the thankless acceptance, the brusque or reserved affections, the little and constant freak-outs and the need for definitions. i now approach love and sex like a Jedi fucking Master and with Yoda’s advice, “do or do not, there is no try.”

but this brings me back to the title of this beast i am laying down for you and me to read here . . . Thanksgiving. i flew out to Detroit at my mother’s insistence and on her dime. my sister Racheal flew in from Los Angeles, me in from Baltimore and both of us WAAAAY earlier than we liked. it was frigid and snowy as we arrived, but after some hot breakfast and some peaceful sleep, me, my two younger sisters, my mother and her husband Frank assembled at the dinner table in the late afternoon for dinner. no one dressed or combed their extreme bed heads sporting hair bent in several directions. we simply shuffled to our chairs, all of us in our pajamas, ate slowly, laughed, talked about sex and food and the wedding we were to attend the following day, went through three bottles of wine, took a nap, had seconds, ate dessert, listened to music and watched a movie, had thirds and went to sleep late, never having to fuss over driving anywhere or getting fancy. it was utterly relaxing.

a bit of the bubbly . . .
Racheal enjoying a bit of the bubbly . . .

the next day we attended my cousin Crystal’s wedding. At first – there was concern over family spats and feuding that had been going on behind the scenes, including an escalation that might’ve precluded the bride’s mother, my aunt from attending her own daughter’s wedding. But all turned out well and we had the most popular table as we seemed to be having the most fun. at one point, the 3 sisters, me, Angel and Racheal, ran out in the snow and snapped some photos against the backdrop of twinkle-lit hedges. Even the blind date my sister and her friend Cody set me up with ended up being a lovely person who i am still in touch with . . .

3 sisters
Racheal – Angel – Andrea (me)
All three sisters together for one picture . . .

shooting, but not heroin
Mike Cody on camera and my sister Racheal being filmed . . .

the rest of the trip was spent hanging out with these two boys, Cody (aka Mike Cody) and his friend since grade school and my blind date Kevin. Cody is a film maker and Kevin is/was as well though he now finds himself composing music and taking photographs more full time. One nite involved much beer, Racheal’s limbs being made up like a heroin addict while Cody did some shots for a film project he is calling Ever Happened, some tinkling on the piano and plucking on guitars in Kevin’s basement studio setup and some general horsing around ’til the wee hours. Nothing quite like getting a bunch of creatively talented people in one room with plenty of alcohol, just enough energy to watch the sun rise and with phasers set to “stun.” And then there was the 2am trip to White Castle Hamburgers but i will omit THAT story. some of the evidence is on cell phone cameras . . .

Kevin Knox
Kevin Knox

And now . . . the mini-list of vision and sounds . . .

:::   :::   :::   :::

MOVIES i have seen and liked:

The March Of The Penguins
Kung Fu Hustle
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
In The Mood For Love
2046
Chungking Express
Garden State
Sideways
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Batman Begins
Good Night And Good Luck
Walk The Line
Capote

MUSIC i have acquired and played to death:

Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine
Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself
Tegan and Sara – So Jealous
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
The Cardigans – Super Extra Gravity
Feist – Let It Die
Zero 7 – Simple Things
Bertine Zetlitz – Rollerskating
Télépopmusik – Angel Milk
Peaches – Fatherfucker
:::   :::   :::   :::

health, love, myth, psychology, sex

tapioca

lap at pudding
and self-beauty
because sometimes,
hero-worship is healthy
and you can paint yourself
in new, glorious colours
like bruise-purple
and green
and concrete, statuesque
white.
make certain to be
an audible soul.
take great strides to be pure
and god-like,
exalt in your pleasure precision
use your fingers as eyes . . .
throw back your
silk-lined neck
with the laughter of nymphs.
. . . be sure to taste like tapioca.

~Andrea E. Janda

food, friends, love, marriage, photography, relationships, technology, weather

it was all YELLOW

Mood: Very Happy sunny and warm
Listening to: Sunday by Sia
Reading: Mostly Harmless: Douglas Adams
Watching: Deadwood: HBO season finalé 5.29!

oh my god. it’s been almost a month since i scribbled down something in this little journal of mine.

i suppose getting out there and living and working sucks up quite a good stretch of time – and in this time some good things have been happening in my personal and creative life . . . where one thing closes it does sometimes, reopen.

Back in the day i used to be a rockstar.

That is to say, i fronted a band as a singer/songwriter and acoustic guitar when i lived in Detroit just before i met Brooks and moved to Maryland. One of my old band members, Jim phoned and emailed because he passed on our demo CD to a local podcaster.

In any event, this podcaster played two of my songs and it generated some positive feedback and so Jim and i are considering the prospect of me doing some more recording, first a bit of long distance track trading and PC to PC stuff via a lovely digital recording platform called SPIKE made by Mackie. This way we can trade files back and forth via the net, easy as you please so we can sketch out ideas until i can visit Detroit in August to lay down some studio tracks in the real. who knows what will become of all of this, but the music was something i never wanted to let go of completely and this is another chance to see what can happen.

The only rub is – i dislike my last name, and i need to figure on a name to record under. i rather like the idea of a single word name/idea like some of the female vocalists i’ve been into such as Esthero or Sia or Shivaree. i even like the idea of a phrase that is not quite associated, for instance a woman named Erin Moran records under A Girl Called Eddy. (this is probably so she is NOT mistaken for the actress who played Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days) SO – if any of you have any ideas, toss them out at me!

Also – flashing back to Detroit and to the time i met Brooks, i met another Andrea who just came out to visit me over Mother’s Day weekend through Thursday. We spent some nice time catching up, telling stories, shopping and eating . . . for Mother’s Day (since she is 8 months pregnant and we didn’t want to brave the restaurants) i decided to wait on her at home. i cooked scrambled eggs, 7-grain toast, cut some fresh brie, grapes, fresh strawberries in sugar, orange juice and a nice Moscato d’Asti dessert wine from Italy (only 5% alcohol and sweet as a mimosa). We had a banquet spread outside under an umbrella covered table on my deck and the weather was just perfect.

Then we took a 2-hour nap.

On Monday, we went to the most fabulous restaurant i have EVER dined at! Seriously – i am ruined for any other place . . . The Inn At Little Washington exceeded my every expectation, we asked for NOTHING the entire meal, the service was impeccable and like a synchronized ballet, the food was exquisite, the wine list was a novel you could never tackle including bottles aged from ’66 and priced everywhere from $25-$2000 and the cellar boasts 14,000 bottles. The garden terrace with fountain, pond and a wall of crawling ivy lit with a web of white lights was simply magical . . . The dessert was so sinful and delectable i couldn’t decide if i wanted to EAT it or crawl onto the table and fuck it! And all of this was a two hour drive into idyllic English-looking countryside in Washington, Virginia where the Inn resides in one of the few remaining actual “villages” in America. At my request – we were even allowed to tour the kitchen where all this incredible work happens.

These were my particular course selections:

1st course: Fire and Ice: Seared Tuna Sashimi with Daikon radish and Cucumber Sorbet
2nd course: A Fricassee of Maine Lobster with Potato Gnocchi and Curried Walnuts
main course: Prime Angus Tenderloin of Beef on Peanut Potatoes with a Pommery Mustard Vinaigrette
dessert: Seven Deadly Sins: A Sampling of Seven Decadent Desserts

The site describes the experience best with ” The Inn’s dining room is pure fantasy – a wondrous cocoon of luxury. Rose–colored, silk lampshades float above each table creating a private romantic world below. Under the watchful eye of Host Reinhardt Lynch, Patrick’s creations arrive at one of the 30 intimate tables as if served by invisible hands, course after course more dazzling than the last.”

oh daddy but do i ever appreciate food that rises to artform!

i also had the privilege of taking photos of Andrea and her beautiful pregnant belly, during our relaxing visit of eating and napping. i also managed to enter one into a contest for her, so she could win some prizes!

This is my favorite photo so far of the shots i have looked through:

glamourous mother

Oh yes – and i entered the Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2005 photo contest which calls for photos of Maryland’s “rich natural and recreational resources – water, wildlife, farms, fields, parks, forests and protected areas.” i certainly have plenty of those kinds of photos – my “wild” cats aside. Wish me luck on that!

i am 2 weeks out from my next wedding photo shoot for my friend Megan. It is a beautiful location that i recently attended a wedding at and so i am familiar with the surroundings and conditions. even so – Megan and i are going tomorrow afternoon to scout photo locations in the garden area for the formal/group shots. i am expecting a gorgeous June wedding and cooperative weather for her.

and silly joy of all joys – my vanity plates came in the mail!

In the midst of all this exciting creativity and reward . . . my dear friend Anne-Marie sent me a wonderful, heartfelt letter detailing her life and how she was so thrilled and fulfilled to tap back into her creative life after being unduly stunted from it by a (hopefully) soon to be removed poor partnership.

dreams, love, nature, photography, weather, writing

question mark . . .

Eastern Comma

woke up from a tangle of dreams
dressing in black for a party
the sounds of a baby crying
and now … the sun full & bright
the snowdrops blooming in the garden
here to stay, and not melting.

i wandered out in my robe,
hair still tangled from sleep
and what should land on me
but a question mark
a butterfly asking me
what i am asking myself . . .
can you?
could you?
will you?
it’s such a lovely day …
and you should, love.

what a lucky girl i am
to know these things:
the warm sun in my face
a melodic song in my mouth
a daunting, haunting love
and always that series
of life’s unending, unrelenting
puzzling, perfect, positive
questions.