“Nothing could be sadder, than a glass of wine, all alone.” — Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
Beg to differ honey, but i’ll miss your music…
Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
“Nothing could be sadder, than a glass of wine, all alone.” — Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
Beg to differ honey, but i’ll miss your music…
Solomon Burke, Cry To Me
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.
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 @ 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.
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!
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.
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 . . .
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 . . .
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
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Good Night And Good Luck
Walk The Line
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
::: ::: ::: :::
Calendula comes from the Latin “calends” meaning “throughout the months” and became the English “calendar.” The calendula is also the word for marigold as it typically blossoms according to the calendar, either once a month or at the new moon. And it has been many months and plenty of moons since i have been back where i came from.
Bittersweet should be a description reserved for terrible confectionaries, and not the visit home. 4 days since i’ve returned from Detroit . . . such a strange thing it is to go back there now. It was once thought that placing garlands of calendula or marigold under a bed would cause the sleeping person to have prophetic dreams, but the dreams refuse to visit me in the old bed now. The house – a museum, a shrine to a deceased mother/grandmother, a storage facility for nest padding. Life in concentric, obligatory circles of work, sleep, shopping, sustenance. My mother is still deeply depressed and heartbroken over the loss of her mother more than a year ago and it really destroys me to see her like that.
My youngest sister is 12 now, 13 in December and is a masterful soccer player, a beautiful girl, and wildly sarcastic. She still thinks that strapping down her developing breasts in a sports bra built like a duct tape prison is a workable solution to putting off womanhood. Good grief – then she’ll menstruate and it will be Judy Blume all over again. She is a thoughtful, occasionally reserved girl, but quick-witted and i think, surely, a survivor type.
They told Jimmy when he was 17 he had third stage Hodgkins Lymphoma and that he would never father children after chemotherapy and radiation. He dated my sister and lived with us for a year while we were all in high school. Had his sperm samples frozen, met some not so nice girl Rhonda and now, he is expecting his second child . . . without the help of his cryogenic progeny. His voice has changed from too much cigarette smoke and his face is as weathered as the carpenter’s belt he wears at his too slender waist. Is he cured? Possibly. Is he happy? You can’t tell from his smartass tales of drinking and sex 12 times a year when he gets horny and his wife will permit. Stories of falling off roofs and friends who drank themselves to death. A kiss on the cheek before and after and he is out the door. The same whirlwind of strange energy as he ever was. Not even cancer slowed him or toned him down any.
Travis dropped by. His wife going back to grad school, possibly here in DC or Maryland. Is she pregnant too did he say? Either way, she called looking for him. He politely ate the baked brie i made even though he already had dinner and beer. He just lost his father a week or so back. Says i haven’t changed a bit, still deeply sarcastic, but in a nice way – just as he remembered.
I learned one of our friends recently drove himself to a funeral home and shot himself. Perhaps out of convenience or practicality. Perhaps he saw that episode of Six Feet Under. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity to see if he could really go through with it and what they would say in the papers. Not that he would know in any event when the light went out. They found him on a Monday morning.
On the way out of town i ran into Katrice’s mother in front of the liquor store. Her husband, the locally celebrated and revered fire chief (and drunk known to grope you at the fireman’s ball) dropped dead of a heart attack while he was quite young. Barb had Katrice’s son in tow who looked up at me and smiled mischievously. i only knew about her first daughter who had multiple surgeries and illnesses in her infancy. Katrice had to leave the father – he was actually what we call, no joke, a crack addict. She finally decided it was time after he sold the vacuum cleaner.
Michigan’s death rates continue on a downward trend – more every year than live births from what I’ve learned. Alcohol and drug addiction is high and Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has declared September as Michigan Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Depression and suicide rates are high. There are health advisories against eating some of the wild game and fish in certain areas due to environmental pollutants. Factory wokers fall out from poor work conditions and accidents. And don’t get me started on obesity . . .
i wondered as Zoey and I drove and made pit stops at rest areas for food and fuel – where do these people LIVE that work in these places? I cannot imagine driving from some outlying area to see the daily influx of road stragglers: tired, irritable, hungry, perhaps unshowered. (Pardon the sweeping judgmental stereotypical guess) but if some of them weren’t so simple, they’d probably be amazingly accomplished writers. There must be so much to tell about seeing so many different people and never having to travel far yourself to see them.
It was after midnite on one stretch of the trip. We saw a sign for a rest area that included Starbuck’s, Cinnabon, Sbarro (pizza/pasta) and McDonald’s. Well – all or some of that sounded good to us both – save the golden arches. Of course, we arrive and ALL of it is closed EXCEPT for McDeath.
“Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?”
“Do you know of any restaurants in the area that are open?” i politely asked the smiling, rotund creature behind the counter.
“What’s wrong with Mickey D’s?” she asked earnestly, grinning wider.
“Hasn’t she seen the damn movie?” Zoey whispered to me as we walked away.
i was very proud of myself for NOT enumerating precisely all things that are indeed WRONG with Mickey fucking D’s. We grudgingly selected some snacks from the metal coffins that dispense garbage swaddled in plastic and drop them in a dump bin from corkscrewing silver pigtails. We selected Pringles and the ever popular road food – beef jerky, which we found to be tasty but unusually tough. So much that it misaligned our teeth and set our bite out of whack for a few hours. “Tiny sour gummy spider of death?” Zoey jiggled a sugar-coated purple and red sour candy spider at me and we tried to find the best way to eat it: leg by leg and belly treat to finish? Or fat round abdomen and legs last?
On the return trip, we stopped at some place where as always, the music is horrible enough to make you want to hang yourself in the LYSOL doused, Pepto-Bismol colored, “faux-citrus mingled with old urine” scented bathrooms. But what am I talking about – we actually busted out the Macarena on the way there to see if we could stomach it. This and some “Mmmm-Bop” from Hanson sent us into fits of laughter.
This particular rest stop had the oddest open room full of copper-colored mirrors reflecting from all four walls from the floor to the enormously vaulted ceiling. Everything looked rusted and sickly and you couldn’t tell where one room ended and another began. The girl behind the counter here announced everything that each person carried with them to the counter as she rang them up. Or rather – instead of asking if that would be all, she asked if that’s what they had, as if the items might be an optical illusion.
“Is that a cinnabon?”
“Is that a coke and bagel?”
“Is that a bottled water?”
We showed up and were asked, “is that a slice of pizza?” i had the mad urge to pet my pizza lovingly and reply in my best brit accent, “Why no, this is a tiny kitten, do you mind if i eat it here, then?” I told Zoey this and we had a good laugh and remarked how glad we were that we weren’t high and trapped in this room.
i brought her back a small orange and red marigold from a vase in the bathroom and instructed her to let it dry so we could pluck the crumpled blossom, which when pulled from the stem become the seeds themselves. This was something my mother showed me. We saved them at the end of the season – snipped off their crowning heads and put them away in envelopes as seedlings for the next season.
Despite all the deaths, all the emotional hardships, my mother’s garden is still the most impressive one on the block: wild, tall, almost overgrown, but in a beautiful way. Marigolds, petunias, morning glories, double impatients, miniature rose bushes, daisies (her favorite).
Despite its beautiful, sunny appearance, the marigold remains a mythological symbol of pain and sorrow, closing its petals daily when the sun goes down. It can be meant for joy or sadness when given as a gift and is a reminder of the acceptance of both.
It’s still drying on the dashboard of my car . . .