Sunday, December 28, 2008
Without a family or partner in your city you have to go somewhere else for holiday happy times. That usually involved a long drive, plane trip, train ride or bus situation if you don't drive. When you have barely 24 hours off from work, it doesn't seem worth it try to make it a couple states over.
People put so much pressure on having a meaningful and fantastic day, flawless and planned out as much as possible: menu, presents, itinerary, wardrobe, etc. Well, that didn't happen for me at all this year. Christmas was a bit of a bust. Thank goodness I had Harmony make the Greyhound trip to Philly for two nights. Otherwise I would've been totally alone on the big day.
I didn't foresee that grocery stores and every other business (other than some Jewish and Asian establishments) in Philadelphia would be closed on the big day. I thought there would be time to get our groceries and compose a meal. Wrong. So we walked around Philly most of the morning, in the beautiful crisp, sunny air, looking for a place to eat or buy groceries. We shouted "Merry Christmas"s to strangers who responded in kind. We almost wanted to ask them if we could follow them to their destination home and be their sad guests.
We ate at a Vietnamese join on S 11th and it was kind of alright. But Harm's body didn't think so. We ended up having a movie marathon; 4.5 movies starting at about 2pm. Juno (tears shed), When Harry Met Sally (maybe one or two tears shed), The Family Stone (many tears shed), Love Actually (no tears, I believe), and Legally Blonde 2 (was started too late and didn't hold our interest enough to keep us awake, I suppose). It was nice to blubber like a little girl. Quite comforting and relieving.
But mom and dad are coming from Red Hook tomorrow. So we'll have a little more XMas before the New Year. And I'm bartending on New Years Eve night. Another night that people hem and haw and wring their hands over to make sure everything is glorious. There's a party downtown at a hotel where tickets cost $135 for five hours of open bar, food and entertainment. No thank you. I should make approximately $200, I hope, on the night, so that's nice.
2009 should be a weird year. A lot can happen; a lot will happen. A new Neko Case record is on its way.
Friday, December 12, 2008
01. TV on the Radio: Dear Science
02. Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes / Sun Giant EP
03. Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
04. Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago
05. Deerhunter: Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.
06. Portishead: Third
07. MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
08. Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours
09. M83: Saturdays=Youth
10. No Age: Nouns
11. Girl Talk: Feed the Animals
12. Sigur Rós: Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
13. The Walkmen: You & Me
14. Dodos: Visiter
15. Wolf Parade: At Mount Zoomer
16. WHY?: Alopecia
17. The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
18. Nine Inch Nails: The Slip
19. Of Montreal: Skeletal Lamping
20. Okkervil River: The Stand Ins
21. Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III
22. Beach House: Devotion
23. Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles
24. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
25. Beck: Modern Guilt
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
24. Ra Ra Riot - "The Rhumb Line"
23. Portishead - "Third"
22. Kings of Leon - "Only by the Night"
21. Raphael Saadiq - "The Way I See It"
20. Beck - "Modern Guilt"
19. MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular"
18. Kylie Minoguq - "X"
17. Deerhunter - "Microcastle/Weird Era Cont."
16. Gnarls Barkley - "The Odd Couple"
15. Vampire Weekend - "Vampire Weekend"
14. TV on the Radio - "Dear Science"
13. Lykke Li - "Youth Novels"
12. Hercules and Love Affair - "Hercules and Love Affair"
11. Department of Eagles - "In Ear Park"
10. Santogold - "Santogold"
9. Hot Chip - "Made in the Dark"
8. Erykah Badu - "New Amerykah"
7. Dodos - "Visiter"
6. Estelle - "Shine"
5. Bon Iver - "For Emma, Forever Ago"
4. Fleet Foxes - "Fleet Foxes"
3. Death Vessel - "Nothing is Precious Enough for Us"
2. Jenny Lewis - "Acid Tongue"
1. The Walkmen - "You & Me"
Monday, November 24, 2008
Bradford Cox, the lanky frontman and curious creative force behind Deerhunter, has done it again. Upping the ante laid down by the 2007 achievement Cryptograms, Cox and Co. drop Microcastle which includes a second bonus disc - Weird Era Cont.! Though perhaps Cox's fascination for '50s and '60s pop is present and palpable, the Joey Ramones-y freak show seems to take a back seat on this rather psychedelic musical journey through reverb-heavy, post-punk, droney acid-dripping rock n' roll. Guitarist Lockett Pundt takes lead vocal responsibilities on "Agoraphobia" and bassist Josh Fauver wrote most of standout "Nothing Ever Happened." Nonetheless, the Atlanta psych-rock quintet takes giant strides with their newest sunlit noise-rock masterpiece.
Let's begin with Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley's latest LP. Yup, some songs sucked. Real, real bad. "Dejalo"? "Smoke Detector"? I'd listen to it on the way to work from Red Hook to Poughkeepsie and, in the privacy of my enclosed space, let out an audible variation of "NOOOO!!!!" when those tracks arrived to my ears. But "Silver Lining," "Close Call" and "Give a Little Love" were kind of rad, strong additions to a long list of Rilo Kiley hits that will stand on their own over time.
Concerning Rabbit Fur Coat, well, I'm a convert. There are some serious boot-stopmin' Americana jams on her first solo record and her collaboration with the Watson Twins still sometimes surprises me with its perfectness. Sometimes Jenny's voice just sounds that much better with a few other whispery voices joining her on choruses and ends of lines (like in the "Acid Tongue" clip above). Though some of the lyrics may have been a little overwrought at times, she came into a class of women in rock with that record and now, with this one, she's dared to step into the ring with other, thoughtful indie rocking women like PJ Harvey, Neko Case, Feist, Joanna Newsom, and dare I say, Emmylou Harris and Patti Smth?
I like the line that AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine opened up his Acid Tongue review with: "Somewhere along the way, Jenny Lewis decided that she wasn't an indie rocker but that she was a lady of the canyon, a singer/songwritre spinning stories on her own." It's so fitting, some of these songs feel destined for campfires, ranches, riversides and sun-baked porches. Of couse, she'd have a four-piece band and amps behind her, but including all that, her sound would fit right in. LIke a chameleon, even.
Different tracks stand out for different reason. She went way long with an amazing multi-tempoed "The Next Messiah" clocking in at just under nine minutes. But before that, the opening two tracks also set the tone for a new kind of Jenny Lewis record, one that exudes artistry, talent, poise, power and gusto. On the "Black Sand," Lewis met a beautiful boy who took her away and was never the same, on the black sand walked "a mother unwed with a scar down her chest, and on the black sand she dreams she's on her knees, being pushed by the wind to her hands. And that's really all there is to this song, just beautifully delivered and timed to a guitar part, a perfect opening to this record.
"The Next Messiah" and deeper into the record's "Carpetbaggers" are the records all out traditionally big-sounding California rock with hints of good Eagles, Tom Petty, and Jackson Browne. Though Elvis Costello has managed to weasel his way into Jenny's close, artistic circle of friends, his brief appearance on "Carpetbaggers" doesn't completely ruin the song for me (not the case for certain others). If you listen to this song the way I have for the past few weeks, you will be fighting off the phrases: "I'm a carpetbagger, baby / I'm coming to your town / I'm going to treat you kind / I'm going to rob you blind / I'll smile all the time / Whoa, yeah / Whoa, yeah." Seriously, the whole thing.
Though, this record does give us Jenny in a delightfully welcome turn: she appears as an aimless, hard-rockin', boozin', acid-trippin' road-tripper with her hobo bag and guitar as her only friend, ready and willing to throw down a rip-roarin rock show to any bar and saloon along the way kind enough to put her and her band up and pay for their share of bourbon. But then there's the later, tenderer part of the night, up in her room after all the liquor's been drank, the shouting over the crowd, the stolen cigarettes and all the blues of past break-ups and future heartaches strummed away, when all she's wearing is a billowy, white nightgown and she sits you down to chirp out "Sing a Song for Them," "Trying My Best to Love You," and "Bad Man's World."
It's on these gems that you feel like Jenny has put something out simply because she believes in it. She hasn't not put this on a disc so that you can buy it and she can buy a fancy car in L.A. She has written a gritty, personal, inspired rock record in the late 2000s that somehow manages to seem like it's striding into the forefront of indie rock womanhood, and yet, at the same time, she's just made this little thing and wants you to have a listen. "What do you think?" she'd shamefully utter with her hands wrapped up in her dress, her knees together and her flats a foot and a half apart on the living room floor. You wouldn't be able to wipe that wine-colored, uncontrollable smile off your face and say, "You did it."
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Weird poem that was brewing in my head for a couple weeks.
A few stools down
I keep thinking about you, for some reason
You were sitting a few stools down from me
At Alex's, on the Corner of Main and, shit, Civic Center Plaza turns into...
Anyway, you were eating something, laboriously
Did you have your teeth in? Or, well, what's going on in there?
It's a motion of the jowls, the lips, like they're loose
Old men and women in cartoons talk and eat like you do
Flappy cheeks, awkward chewing, are you gumming your food?
Then I waited on your sister the other night
She had a grease stain on her morbidly large tits
The broccoli cheese soup was "not what I thought it would be"
I know she's penny-pinching, but she's not getting it free
She ate half of it, after eating two small mountains of salad bar
All the more reason to find some serious dental coverage
I've got some cavities and, sorry but, I don't want to end up like you
No offense, but do you have a job? Do you brush your teeth?
You must have some source of income
You and your sister are dining out
I guess I should feel lucky to be sitting in this office
Business casual, making $10 an hour
But I hate it - you want it?
Cycling in Portland.
I wrote this story. I never got it published or defended it as a project. Maybe it should be availble to be read somehow. So here it is. It's really fucking long:
Once upon a time cars were the wave of the future. The mobility they provided Americans, to travel the country and commute to work great distances, was intoxicating. Automobiles were to revolutionize cities, towns and the way we thought about the capacity of our daily life. In the 1970s, a golden era of flourishing car ownership and highway development, Portland, Oregon was a city that chose to proliferate its transportation options and see beyond the power of cars and trucks. There are only a few cities in United States that make it easy for its residents to live and work without owning a car. In Portland, however, it's hard to live without a bike.
With almost 300 miles of bike-friendly roadways and paths, Portland has been awarded the title of the Best Cycling City in the U.S. by Cycling magazine. Portland didn't become an urban cycling Mecca overnight; the city has been perfecting the objective of becoming a bicycle-friendly city over the past thirty years. A strong commitment to cycling from a variety of public and private organizations over the last few decades has established PDX as the best city to commute and play on two wheels from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
There are many ways in which Portland proves itself as a city that pleases the most avid and dedicated cyclist. From the commuter that rides 30 miles a day to the fifty year old car driver out for a weekend ride along the Willamette River on the East and Westbank Esplanades, there's something for everyone. The City of Portland has put in a steady conscientious effort, at every given opportunity, to improve the city's infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians.
"We're concerned whenever we put anything new in or we do something 'Is there an opportunity to add bicycle lanes?' said Maria Tia-Mai, a senior policy director for environmental concerns at city commissioner Sam Adams' office. "Is there an opportunity to add separated bicycle lanes? What can we do to make things more bicycle-friendly?'" Several city officials have been strong contributors towards Portland's evolution as a cycling city and Sam Adams is certainly one of them.
However, one of the first city commissioners to really take the reigns, Earl Blumenhauer, is now pushing the cycling agenda on a more national scale in Washington, D.C. But back before he left Portland for Capitol Hill, Blumenauer started the ball rolling with an idea that would stick with Portlanders for years and years to come – livability. "And then in the late 80s is when the city of Portland had a commissioner in charge of the transportation department, his name was Earl Blumenauer and he had this vision for livable communities and biking, cycling, was one of the legs of his platform for livable communities," said Jay Graves, owner of the highly successful Portland cycling retail chain The Bike Gallery and longtime cycling advocate. "He hired 5 or 6 people for the City of Portland Bike Program that was housed inside the larger Transportation Department." Blumenauer may have ignited the second wave of significant steps towards becoming a bike city but it was citizens who took the bull by the horns almost twenty years earlier.
Robert Moses was a man that some would say destroyed a lot of communities. Moses was a man who had a vision that featured miles and miles of highways in the sky and neighborhoods were generally considered in the way. His designs for New York City freeways are said to have destroyed the South Bronx as well as the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was this design philosophy that threatened Southeast Portland in the late 60s and early 70s with the watershed proposal of the Mt. Hood Freeway. The freeway was to be eight lanes wide and would tear up most of the neighborhood south of Division St. along Clinton St. But some grassroots organization and the impending leadership of a budding Portland political leader, Neil Goldschmitt, put an end to the Moses-inspired highway.
Perhaps inspired by Jane Jacobs, an influential writer and activist whose "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" (1961) critiqued urban renewal policies for destroying communities, the Mt. Hood Freeway was to be met with very strong opposition. Al and Kayda Clark, a couple in their mid-30s, organized against the freeway at night and soon Goldschmitt came along and carried the torch all the way to the freeway's demise in 1974 with a 4-1 vote of the City Council.
"The Mt. Hood Freeway was supposed to go out here and the people living along it just rose up and said 'You have got to be kidding us, this is our neighborhood, we live here, you're not building a freeway through here,'" said Michelle Poyourow, Events and Outreach Director for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. "Freeways have been fought before and prevented, but the change was this time, they got the money, they argued in court and got the federal government to give them the money they would have spent on the freeway and then they got to spend it however they wanted. So the City of Portland said 'You can't tell us how to spend our federal transportation dollars and you can't build this freeway, so give us the money.' And that's how the MAX got built. I think that was pretty watershed right there."
Not only was the Mt. Hood project demolished but Portland was on its way to achieving its variety of transportation options; options beyond driving a car. Taken from a note on European culture, especially Amsterdam, bikes would soon fit right alongside light rails, buses, and streetcars. "And this is my vision of Heaven," said Graves pointing to a picture of a three-level parking garage, a bike parking garage, next to a train station in Amsterdam. Graves likened the marriage of several Dutch transportation options to an orchestral performance, and in some ways Portland is hitting a lot of the same European musical notes.
"The fact that bikes are an integral form of their transportation [is inspiring], from the time that they're little to the time that they're really old," said Graves. "It's just that people don't think of bikes as fun or toys, they think of bikes as transportation over there and what I call it is it's a symphony of different transportation choices that just flow together: they have cars and trucks and scooters and taxis and trains and bikes and the trolly…and they all just blend together so smoothly." One way in which Portland's transportation options compliment bicycles is TriMet's placement of bike racks on the front of their buses.
A bike rack on a bus is a simple and yet amazingly convenient perk to commuting in Portland. In a city that is not flat and goes downhill towards the Willamette and uphill away from the river, being able to take a bus for the more physically demanding portion of your commute is a blessing. Furthermore, if riders are not adequately equipped with a waterproof jacket, pants or shoes, bus bike racks are essential. It is very easy to simply signal to your bus driver that you're going to pull down the bike rack and throw your bike up on the front of the bus and board. Bus bike racks were one of the first accomplishments of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), a strong and enduring force in the bikability movement.
"Their first major accomplishment, before they even had a paid staff person, was to get the bike racks on TriMet busses. I don't think Portland was the first in the country but we were one of the first," said Poyorouw. "It's huge. Especially in a place that is not flat and not necessarily dry. A lot of people really need that option." If the 70s were a milestone for the defeat of a Portland highway culture, the early to mid 90s were the beginning of a revitalized effort to make PDX the premiere urban cycling destination.
Earl Blumenauer was elected to the Portland City Commission in 1986 and in the early 90s he hired Mia Birk to write up the Portland Bike Master Plan. "In the early 90s when I was at the City of Portland Bicycle Program, I spearheaded the Bike Master Plan effort and it was adopted in 1996. It was a blueprint for making the bicycle an integral part of daily life in Portland," said Birk, a partner at Alta Planning, the premier pedestrian and bicycle planning firm in the country. "We had a vision of a 630-mile bikeway network of different kinds of bike lanes and paths, and bike boulevards… Lots of bicycle parking has been installed, bike transit improvements, tremendous efforts on encouragement and outreach to get more people to bicycle and it's really been very effective to a large extent. We've seen bicycling increase tremendously." Indeed, cycling has gone through the roof and only continues to do so.
Portland has many nicknames and one of them is Bridgetown for the seven bridges that cross the Willamette; but the crown jewel for cyclists is the Hawthorne Bridge. Bridge traffic is an indication of the volume of cyclists entering the city and leaving. Bridges are an easy way to gage cyclists making trips probably for work or events but there are also thousands of cyclists riding to their local grocery store or to their friends' homes within their neighborhood. But for the past two years bridge traffic has been higher than it has ever been before. Cycling in Portland is flourishing and only picking up more steam.
"It's raised 33% in the last 2 years, 15% two years ago and then 18% this year. And that's just huge, and that's just part of the culture that Portland has been able to develop," reports Graves on bridge traffic. "So as bikeway miles got up above 250, they're currently at 263, they've gone from 2,800 trips to over 12,000 trips across the bridges. So it's like 6,000 into town and 6,000 out of town. But that's 12,000 people using a bridge on a bike everyday." The word is out that not only is it enjoyable and healthy to ride a bike but it many contexts biking is actually the most reliable and convenient form of transportation.
City Commissioner Sam Adams sees this as one of the primary reasons why Portland is a cycling city: "Portlanders are practical people," he says. "It's about a competetiveness of commuting options. With cars you have to get your car, drive it, park it and fight traffic. With a bike it's free, reliable and you can avoid traffic. In many ways cycling is the most reliable, the fastest and possibly one of the safest modes." The secret is out that for young professionals, students, moms, dads and politicians, cycling just makes sense in Portland; more sense than driving a car, and sometimes more so than riding the MAX or taking the bus.
Michelle Poyorouw had a very insightful explanation for why it might take a bit for drivers to realize that cycling is ideal for getting from A to B. When you think of driving a car, how often do people think about sitting in a hot, sticky car at 5pm rush hour on I-5 or in downtown Portland? Even more so, auto drivers often feel entitled to zip across town or arrive at their destination with anything more than a few stops at red lights. "We assume that there will be room and that they have the right, like it's a fundamental right, to go quickly places in your car and to not be in congestion and to not be stuck behind a bicyclist," she said. "And I can't blame them because that is something we are taught by the U.S. government, by car ads, by car manufacturers. You look at car ads and there are cars freely speeding along empty country roads." As Portland's population continues to grow so do traffic concerns.
"As this city becomes denser and as traffic becomes worse, and it's already getting a lot worse just in the couple years that I've been here, people will start to get used to the idea that you don't have the fundamental right to zip across town in your car, nobody does, it's a public space and we're all sharing it," Poyourow adds. Cycling can sometimes strike you as ultimately satisfying when traveling faster than cars or passing by a line of a dozen cars waiting at a red light. It is one thing to enjoy riding a bike for the sake of riding bike, but it seems another thing to ride a bike because it is so much more satisfying than driving a car. However, there's still a significant portion of Portlanders who are not comfortable enough with the way things are to get on a bike.
A BTA "Blueprint for Better Biking" publication shows a pie chart breaking down Portlanders into four categories: Fearless (<1%),>
"I think a lot of times…you get a perception that something is a lot further away than it actually is and so you don't think of it as something that you can actually bike to," says Roland Choplowski, Sam Adams' cycling policy advisor in the city commissioner's office. "But getting people out of that really car-centric view of the world, and getting people to see the reality that actually it's not very far [is] important if we're going to be a truly bike-oriented city."
It is a testament to the City Commissioner's office that providing cyclists with the ideal city layout and favorable traffic control is not quite enough. Turning non-cyclists into cyclists is no easy task. Choplowski suggested that as people get older they become resigned to certain ideologies of transportation. But that does not mean he and his peers have given up on conversions. "Hopefully, [we will] figure out 'How do we get more people more comfortable biking? What facilities do we need to provide? Do we need to de-emphasize bike lanes and start looking at bicycle-only facilities that don't have cars? What sort of issues, when people make the decision to bike or not, what can we do to give incentives?'" he asked.
Smart Trips caters to citizens who have responded to a mailing list asking for more information about safe cycling. Interested citizens receive a kit showing them nearby grocery stores within biking distance, nearby bike boulevards and bus paths that would discourage driving a car. Actively creating more cyclists is reasonable because the roads can handle a glut of cyclists. But is Portland's cycling popularity peaking or only just beginning? It seems that once many cyclists or would-be riders get a taste of the Portland culture they are hooked.
When asked if Portland's biking population is building or peaking, Jay Graves said this: "I think there's a lot of synergy that's coming together. One of the big reasons I feel is that there is a sense of 'Well if all of these people are doing it, then I can do it.' It used to be when I rode my bike downtown, I'd be the only person, maybe one other person on the bridge at the same time. And now I frequently find myself, even in weather like this, I'm part of a six or eight bike group that's going over the bridge at the same time."
Cycling is infectious and once cyclists get a taste for the perks of riding around Portland, sometimes that's enough to make the move to the 1 cycling city in America. Many cyclists get frustrated with a lack of cycling in their home city or that the cycling is dangerous. Sometimes visitors are amazed at the quality of life that a cycling city offers and that's enough to take the plunge.
Michelle Poyorouw said she's seen friends fall for Portland's cycling climate: "I also just know some people who are my age pass through town visiting friends or something, or come to Pedalpalooza in the summer, and are so blown away by how much fun it is to be a part of this community that they stay. I don't know if they'll stay for a long time but I definitely hear about people who moved here either because of the biking or got here and knew that they wanted to stay because of it."
With a City Commissioner's office improving an infrastructure that already supports cyclists everyday, a robust presence of bikes on the road everyday that auto-drivers accommodate, plenty of retailers, hundreds of miles of shared bike paths and bikeways, and a public transportation system that allows riders to bring along their bikes on board, it's no surprise cyclists have been coming to Portland to experience a new brand of urban livability. Portland is a thriving city growing everyday and so many of its newest arrivals are active, young, liberal professionals eager to consider alternative forms of transportation.
Many young people are looking for cities that offer something far different from the residential diagnosis of suburban sprawl that so many car-oriented cities require of a working class. Portland may have its suburbs (Gresham, Tualatin, Beaverton, and Hillsboro) but even the suburban commuters have the opportunity to ride a bike into the city along bike lanes or split their commute half way with the MAX rail or a bus. Even Portland's suburbs don't need to be a prescription for car commuting everyday.
Over the past 35 years Portland has gained more and more momentum in its goal of making the bicycle one of the most significant forms of transportation. Mia Birk, one of the creators of Portland State University's Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI), is trying to secure research funding because Portland is a living, breathing model of success. "We are the living model here of a city that has transformed itself into one that is pedestrian and bicycle friendly…we have tremendous leadership here in every way: in our city governments, in our private firms, in our advocacy organizations, [and] in our universities," said Birk.
This city has transformed itself into a city that embraces cyclists and that's why it has earned the title of the 1 cycling city in America. Cycling enthusiasts are converted with one visit, a weekend of riding around the city or along the river. There's nowhere better in America to shun a car culture and pick up a bike and forget about what it was like to feel trapped by the isolating effect of highways and freeways. Robert Moses would be so disappointed.
You said something... that I’ve never forgotten.
Thanksgiving was yesterday, as curious an American holiday as any other. We perpetuate this mysterious turkey-oriented family holiday without really knowing why, I say. I keep citing this statistic I heard on NPR that I heard: 96% of Americans will eat turkey on Thanksgiving day. "What is wrong with us?" I propose to people, "where are the vegetarians? Do they cave on Turkey Day? I bet at least 40% of that 96 don't even like turkey." My grandmother, of all people, tried to rationalize it to me. "Because the pilgrims killed a turkey on this day!" she actually attempted to justify. We got a laugh out of that one at our table, me, my mom and aunt BJ, witnesses to her earenst attempt to explain my intellectualized theory of mindless sheep-mentality behavior.
But you can't really complain about the whole getting-together-of-family thing, can you? Even if you hate your family or don't even really have many relatives nearby to eat with; you end up creating one out of friends or neighbors, don't you? There may not be any 'Giving of thanks' involved, but usually there's a moment where you do enjoy the romanticized notion of what it means to be thankful for what you do and do not have.
It was pretty bizarre, though, how drastically it seemed that my extended family T-Day seemed to perpetuate certain gendered stereotypes when it comes to the expectations and duties of men and women on holiday day. While my host and godmother aunt BJ was a-bustle in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother gabbing non-stop about the food, the timing, relatives, the house, the way things should be put out, etc., the men watched football and drank beer on BJ's massive sectional sofa next to the kitchen. I didn't know what to do. I don't pretend to feign interest anymore, about football to fit in. Everyone knows I'm gay but I'm not going to trash-talk football-watching or invest in the family gossip, either. So I milled. I ate a lot of shrimp cocktail and Tostito Scoops with a Southwestern cream cheese dip and mostly took it all in.
After the big meal was when it got even worse. The women continued to talk and clean, while the men took naps on the couch and generally looked like beached walruses in the living room. Again, where do I stand? I stand with my 5-year-old cousin Kelly in a closet and do whatever she tells me to. She leads me all over the house. I oblige her in her 'Follow me' game and do whatever she does, spins, stepping into BJ's giant jacuzi bathtub, crawling on all fours, rolling off the bed, etc. Then I suggested a piggy-back ride and that's where it started getting extra physical. I took her all over the multi-bedroom second floor on my back and we 'explored' opening every door. We closed ourselves into the coat closet downstairs and she crawled all over my shoulders and head for whatever reason, reading off coat label tags and ocassionaly making them fall to the ground, only to pick them up, stand back on my shoulders and hang them back up, "There" she'd mumble after grunting and heavy-breathing through an attempt to hang a coat back up. She never wanted any of the games we played to end. She insisted on playing Hide n' Seek after dinner but soon enough it was time to leave and she was whining and clutching to my leg. "I love you, Bill, don't leave" she protested. So cute.
I drove to Albany from Springfield at about 5 to make it to Mike's house before Jack's bedtime. It was totally worth it. My nephew is precious and I wish he weren't so shy, because I would like to hug him and kiss him ravenously but I think he doesn't really like it. He's surprisingly smart now, for not speaking in more than grunts and gestures. You ask him to bring you the fire truck puzzle piece and he does, you ask him for 'the bear' and he brings it to you, etc. I met Christa's gay brother Kenneth finally, and sure enough, he is cute but partnered, naturally. We watched "Blades of Glory," enjoyed it immensely, then some Ali G episodes while I had a couple bottles of classy beer.
On the way home I enjoyed "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea" as much as I always do. PJ Harvey released it in 2000 and it is one of the records in my life that I can count on to distract me from my thoughts, to engage me from beginning to end, and to somehow make my spirit simultaneously be filled with optimism and dread in a beautifully complementary way.
She says this about "Stories": "I wanted everything to sound as beautiful as possible. Having experimented with some dreadful sounds on Is This Desire? and To Bring You My Love - where I was really looking for dark, unsettling, nauseous-making sounds - Stories From The City... was the reaction. I thought, No, I want absolute beauty. I want this album to sing and fly and be full of reverb and lush layers of melody. I want it to be my beautiful, sumptuous, lovely piece of work." The record has these beautiful moments of oscillation between soft and melodic songs of longing, desire for men she's in a fucked-up relationship with, appreciating rare moments of beauty and peace in a chaotic and often isolatingly brutal world, a world in general (perhaps humanity at large) and a specific world of New York City and Brooklyn. There are also cathartic releases in the form of balls-out rock jams like "Kamikaze," "This is Love" and "The Whores Hustle and the Huslters Whore." Her voice effortlessly goes from gentle and serene to anxious and angry in her most genius of moments. All along the way, of course, is some inspired guitar playing, incredible drum work and ominously beautiful piano tinkles, crashes and rumblings. I haven't listend to much else from her catalogue but I'm not sure I want to. "Stories" is like one of those records that means so much to me because it's so perfect and nobody can fuck with how great I think it is. And if I listened to her other records I would probably find myself forcing the listening and pleasure out of a sense of obligation. Then finding her previous and subsequent records not as satisfactory would imbue that dischord into my reverence for "Stories."
Labor Day is a United States federal holiday that takes place on the first Monday in September. The holiday began in 1882, originating from a desire by the Central Labor Union to create a day off for the "working man". It is still celebrated mainly as a day of rest and marks the symbolic end of summer for many. -Wikipedia
Today was Labor Day. I guess that means summer's over and it is strange to not be going back to school. Makes me feel a little old. Both of my parents are teaching. Mom, fourth grade, dad at Dutchess Community College. Mom starts tomorrow and dad started last week. My dad's class was assigned to write a journal entry, one of many they'll write – an academic autobiography. I read a few as he was reading them tonight. Well, they were pretty bad. It made me feel like a genius.
It didn't necessarily make me think about my Hamilton or U of O writing education. It didn't really make me feel any superior, just particularly in tune to the way that language, as it comes out of people in written form, reflects our minds, our maturities. As I write now I'm mildly conscious of the fact that some people might read this, and that my word choice, punctuation and thematic flow is to be consumed and processed by friends and strangers. I might also try to keep my reader compelled by building tension and conflict. I'm not sure I feel like much of a journalist these days, even though I work at a newspaper.
I've been thinking that it would be fun to write about this particular stretch of River Road. River Road is a beautiful, scenic, but also very helpful driving route to my job in Kingston. It is a curvy, tree-lined, rustically picturesque and secluded spot that I find to be symbolic of the Hudson Valley. There's a house, an estate really, on a bend just beyond Poet's Walk and close to the road that takes you to the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge that I take to cross the Hudson River at least four times a week.
Poets' Walk is located in Red Hook, New York, USA on the scenic River Road (just north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge). It is a "romantic landscape", intended to celebrate the connection between landscape and poetry. The classic wooden vistas, sunlit fields and thick forest were the main focus of landscape architect Hans Jacob Ehlers' vision for the property in 1849.
The park's mown and gravel paths are variously lined with wooden hand-crafted benches, and provide access to the 120 acres of fields and forest, as well as spectacular river views. The park's walls of foliage and stone evoke outdoor "rooms" that reflect the 1849 landscape aims of Ehlers. -Wikipedia
I envision myself walking around the grounds of this estate that stretches across this bend of River Road with a mysterious owner. I have no idea who owns this entity; a person, a company, a strange public organization, I don't know but I'm very curious. There have always been whispers of mob connections in the area, but I've never really had them confirmed. There's a house on Rt. 199 beyond any resemblance of a town before Rock City that people say is mob-owned, but who knows? Even more reason to be curious about the ownership of a fucking gorgeous estate on River Road. I think a pretty cool story could be there somewhere; it must've been passed down or inherited. All you can see from the road appears to be a Barn-type building, an impressive gate/entrance and there's an additional entrance with a nice porched-house closer to the road. I can only assume there is a nicer, bigger and more radical house elsewhere on the property and I want to see it. I want a tour. I wonder if I had backing from a local publication that someone who works there would get me talking to the owner about a professionally-photographed feature. I wonder.
I also wonder about my strange impulses. I've been drinking. I'm on my second cocktail. And I'm not too terribly concerned with what people will actually think of my character if they read what will follow. Most people who'll read this know me fairly well and will know that I am not a malicious person. But I will admit to some weird fucking thoughts that pop into my head regularly throughout any given day. They usually are, frankly, quite violent. I will not admit to feeling actively compelled to follow through with them, and, strangely, these impulses sometimes make me shiver with amazement that I actually just thought them up. But, obviously, I never act on them.
Examples: when I'm driving to work in Kingston on said River Road, I'm often trying to sip something, or sometimes munch a Pop-tart or bagel. When I do this I try to control the steering wheel with my knee and naturally I try to do this on the straightest stretches of road. But my car's natural steering inclination, which I hope to have fixed some day, veers me off into the middle of the road, or off the side of the road. I wonder what it would be like to be in a head-on collision or to slam into a tree. I've heard stories of people doing this as a veiled suicide attempt; please do not get the wrong idea, I am nowhere near suicidal. But I wonder what my car would look like after the crash, what angles would just destroy my car and not me, what the impact would feel like if I were to emerge safe and sound. There's more. At work, at the restaurant, they pop into my head all the time. It could be because a lot of people just lament the workplace atmosphere and dream up aggressive, as opposed to passive-aggressive, behaviors that would be so satisfactory. But that's not necessarily true of these thoughts because I actually quite enjoy serving on many occasions. So why do I keep thinking about slapping, in an upward motion, trays that are full of glasses and plates that other servers have bussed, servers I care for and enjoy the company of, are carrying? Things like this haunt me. But I've been meaning to try to write this paragraph out for weeks now. It doesn't really disturb me; it kind of entertains me in a morbid way.
I'm watching "Heroes," a DVD box set my dad bought and it is quite intriguing. I'm on episode 3 and it is very intriguing. It's 1:32am and I have to be at the Journal at 8am tomorrow morning, which means a potentially 40-50 minute drive at 7am or slightly thereafter departure time. I'm not a morning person. I'm a night person. And it's really hard to transition into morning-ness which seems to be the professional and adult thing to do. But even after a long day at either job, getting up fairly early and everything, I can't seem to put myself to sleep before 1am. I've also been drinking and that disturbs me a bit, how much I too enjoy a nice alcoholic buzz or sleep-induced-bedtime boozeyness to put me to sleep. OK, that's enough. Goodnight.
Heroes is an American Emmy Award-nominated science fiction drama television series, created by Tim Kring, which premiered on NBC on September 25, 2006. The show tells the story of several people who "thought they were like everyone else... until they realized they have incredible abilities" such as telepathy, time travel, flight and instantaneous regeneration. These people soon realize they have a role in preventing a catastrophe and saving mankind. The series emulates the writing style of American comic books with short, multi-episode story arcs that build upon a larger, more encompassing arc. Kring said "we have talked about where the show goes up to five seasons." -Wikipedia
Early Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Dear NEXT Magazine staff,
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my letter and resume. I hope a PDF version of my clips is a satisfactory way of showing you some of the pieces I've had published. I don't really have any way of copying and pasting them into the body of this email. Format concerns, anyway.
I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Bill Chenevert, I'm 24 and I live with my parents in the Hudson Valley. Let's be frank, here. To live at home at the age of 24 when you are a young, gay man is a challenge. Especially after living in Oregon for two years and dating like crazy. The Hudson Valley is a barren wasteland for young gay people. Hudson and Poughkeepsie are the nearest gay oases – 30 and 45 minute drives respectively.
I went to high school in the town I am currently living in, Red Hook, NY, and had my first male fantasy in the eighth grade but feigned outrage and surprise at accusations of homosexuality over the next five years. It was not really an option to be out and gay in Red Hook. There were hicks who drove pickup trucks to school that carried sharp weapons and brandished confederate flags on their rear fenders. It was frightening.
Then I went to a WASPy and conservative student-bodied liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere central New York called Hamilton College. There were only 1,800 students on a Hill with the nearest metropolis being Utica, then Syracuse at an approximately 45 minute drive. There were a handful of gay students and they were the subject of jokes, taunts or harassment. I came out to a few friends and my parents after meeting my first boyfriend at a camp where I taught journalism and poetry; he, architecture and urban design. It was so exciting.
I moved to Oregon three weeks after obtaining my bachelor of arts in English and American Studies to pursue a masters degree in Magazine Journalism. In Oregon I went to my first gay bar, went on my first online date(s) and had my first non-long-distance-boyfriend. It was heaven. I spent a year in Eugene and then a year in Portland which is a fabulous young city.
In Portland I interned at the Willamette Week as a music intern and it was a dream-come-true. I'm an aspiring music writer but relished every minute of being a part of the Arts & Culture section of the paper which included "Film," "Words," "Dish" and general culture features. But after two years being so far away from family it was time to return home but, well, I'm broke. So to save up money, here I am, full circle, back in the house I grew up in and figuring the next step.
I currently work 30 hours a week writing obituaries, wedding, engagement, and anniversary announcements and type legal notices for the Classified section of the Poughkeepsie Journal (Metro-North station nearby) and wait tables at Ruby Tuesday. I'm busy. But I'm pulling in the money and saving it. But I need more in my life. I can work my schedules around interning. I can. I can give you ten hours on Mondays and Tuesdays. I promise. I could also occasionally make it down to the city for coverage of a Friday or Saturday night event. I have a car, train stations are nearby, and friends to crash with in Brooklyn and Manhattan. What do you think? I'd love to come work for you.
I just want to write. My parents are away today, babysitting nephew Jack in Albany then going to a party in Agawam; possibly staying the night in Longmeadow. Funny how they actually expressed not wanting me to be innapropriate while they were away. I think that meant don't throw a big house-destructive party, at which I laughed and exclaimed "I know two people in Red Hook." One of them is in New Jersey this weekend; "Naomi and I will try not to throw a two-person party that will destroy 3 Beech Street. Promise." I took the liberty to wander in my unders and cook a delicious breakfast of toast with a scramble of my creation including onions, little garlic, and 'Mexican' cheese (the idea of 'Mexican' cheese blends from Kraft always makes me cringe and giggle at the same time). I ate it while watching the end of "Ghost" with a can of Pepsi on ice and reading the weekend section of the Poughkeepsie Journal which featured three late teenagers writing about books, film and birthdays. The film writing was mostly about "Transformers" and an upcoming Ethan Hawke production which has the word "State" in it somewhere. I ran up to my computer to write. Those little shits get the front page of the "Verve" section? Whatever, I'm a better writer.
You could say I'm on a movie kick and that's undoubtedly because of the environment I'm living in. I'm just now reminded of "The Glass Menagere" and how, if I'm not mistaken, one of the main characters is always going out to the movies but that seems to be code for I'm getting the fuck out of here and getting shitty so that I don't think about what I have to return to. I'm not saying that my life is shitty and that I need movies to get out of the house, or my mind, but there is that aspect in movie-viewing and movie kicks, as I mentioned earlier, for everyone I'm sure. For two hours or more you can choose to focus all your mental energy and focus on someone else's life and other more abstract themes.
As many of you may know, my employment at Exploration Summer Programs in New Haven came to a sudden end and now I am back in Red Hook with my family with countless uncertainties. In the middle of it all, while I was waiting in New Haven for the verdict to come in, I saw "Evening" by myself. It destroyed me. I was already emotional going into it but, no lie, I got blubbery about four times. I just really appreciate a movie that dives into those grand questions that I like to wring my hands over: what makes a fulfilled life? do we have one great love in our lives? what happens if you somehow pass it by or let it go? how will I die and when those days come, will I have children or a husband at my bedside? I like a little melodrama here and there, in a film of course, not in my own life. I wouldn't really spend two hours thinking about those things otherwise but because whoever made "Evening" wanted me to I did so. I left the theater shaky, my eyes still a little watery and wanting nothing more than to be with my own flesh and blood. So that kind of did it for me - I'm going home.
Of course, my idealized 'home' was not what I was hoping for. My dad is always on my side and supportive, rarely if ever combative in any way. Then my mom is the shouter, the instigator, the cynic and the tyrant, manages to test my will on the daily. But I'm doing my damndest to be the appreciative, grateful and obedient youngest son I can be while biting my tongue and taking the rollercoaster for a ride and trying to run with the rough spots. I have no idea what's coming next for me. I'm applying to jobs in New York City and thinking and talking very seriously with Naomi about Brooklyn come September. But right now I feel like when I send emails out with my resume and cover letter that I'm just sending intentions out into space and there's so little I can do, short of badgering employers and therefore earning some demerits, to get those jobs that I want. I'm chugging away though, no use whining about the process.
So then last night and the night before I've seen two films in the theater: "Transformers" and "Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix." I only saw "Transformers" because the Harry showing we wanted to see was sold out about ten minutes before the show/previews were supposed to start. Both of these movies were pretty long, about two hours twenty, but both of them were pretty highly satisfactory. My experience at the movies tends to be dictated by my level of expectations going into the process. Typically my expectations are very, very low. Rarely do I ever watch a movie after the hype has been so built up that I just feel disappointed afterwards. As was with "Evening," where I just wanted to not think about myself for two hours, and with "Transformers" I was prepared for an all flash and no substance movie that should hopefully satiate my latent love for the toys as a child. And with Potter, well Daniel Radcliffe rarely disappoints and I've watched "The Goblet of Fire" probably ten times because it's on HBO non-stop, same with Azkaban and its predecessors; Home Box Office loves its Hogwarts. As a result, so do I.
It's funny to hear generic Nays about movies, I heard several for both of the blockbusters I took in yesterday and the day before, but I wonder whose pens or fingers these negative reviews are coming from. "Transformers," perhaps, is said to be unemotional or that humans are an afterthought, but I felt pretty invested in Shia LeBoeuf's character and his would-be Miss Popular lover (I found it uncanny that her ex, the jock, looked just like Brad from "Home Improvement" - who also played a jock dick in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"). And even the autobots like "Bumblebee" and "Jazz" take on personality that an audience can't help but empathize with. I was worried that I would feel visually overwhelmed and I was at moments - there were times when there were blurs of machines fighting, I didn't know what I was looking at and consequently almost felt like I was going to seize - but those were few and far between and the moments where the autobots actually transformed were surprisingly gratifying. I did kind of hate that little boombox robot that also became Miss Popular's cell phone but I got over that pretty quickly and it was all the more enjoyable to watch him eat it.
When I was trying to arrange a viewing of Potter with Adam I texted him "When are we going to go see Daniel Radcliffe?" My intentions for seeing Harry Potter are not entirely pure. I haven't read the books, I just like the movies and I have a slightly disturbing hardon for Daniel, perhaps after seeing supposedly doctored images of him in the nude from his production of "Equus." Nevertheless, these movies seem to be getting better and better, more and more disturbing and dark and I was pretty pumped for the newest installment. And hopefully there was finally going to be some making out in this one. And Ron! Whoa! Ron looks like he grew up quite a bit even since Goblet of Fire. It's mostly in his face. But my instincts were confirmed by Naomi as during the movie I made a few comments to her: "A lot of this movie sure seems to be concerned with Harry's dreams," and "Why is he being such a bitch?" The dreams turn out to be important and his feelings of constant anger and alienation are also attended to later in the film. But all in all, two enthusiastic appendiges up - very sastisfactory special effects, Harry growing up and showing some balls all be them adolescent nuts, and a new character, Luna Lovegood, who is fantastic in her shoelessness and space-cadet nature.
I've also got "The Science of Sleep" and "Kinky Boots" rented downstairs. Not to mention the pile of books I'm trying to get through. Oh, maybe I should be working on that pesky Terminal Masters Project. I think I'm going to go out by the pool and try to plow through more of "Never Let Me Go."
This is for Julie. I beg you, please, please do not leave any smart-ass comments.
He sits with a personal computer in his lap
And turns things over and over
Wondering, worrying, wondering more
Does it ever slow down?
He sits and feels very far away
Feels and feels and feels
A simple engagement
But it borders, it teeters on something?
He sits with modern advances
Temperature control, digital music, electric light
Enjoyed three squares
But it's never really enough, is it?
He sits and wishes he could be in Portland
To simply exist in her city
Because this just won't do
What occupies that brain at this moment?
He sits and thinks and moves his fingers
Who the fuck do I think I am
Writing such mediocre prose
Seriously, who the fuck do you think you are?
He sits and alternately hates and loves himself
Close your eyes but just for about thirty seconds
Now close them for a minute
Did anything make you want to cry?
He sits and wishes he didn't just write the previous 24 lines
And then thinks about writing 24 more
Billy Collins comes to mind
Does he dare make a poetic allusion?
He sits and tastes the beer and tobacco on his breath
Looks at the clock and
It's way past your bedtime, young man
What will she think about this because it's for her?
Humans are funny.
Welcome back to my brain. I still can't seem to figure out in my head whether or not I find blogging to be an inherently egotistical enterprise. But sometimes I like the practice of forming sentences, picking out words and trying to explain things the way I would want to convey ideas to friends. There are so many subtle nuances in a sentence, a letter, an email or a quick message. Here, in a blog, brevity, time constraints or manual/physical challenges are not as much of a hindrance to approrpiate grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalization. That's why I'm so hesitant here. You have every right to believe that each idea, suggestion, claim or value judgement expressed are well thought out and firm. There's also no excuse for anything short of perfect, unblemished, prose because lord knows I hate me some typo-ed, misspelled, un-readable mess. The other night I was sitting with Harmony on her bed and I noticed that the first draft of an essay she'd written had had its first paragraph slashed and she showed me the comment. She performed an excellent Art History professor accent and read "I call this clearing your throat - get rid of it." That's what this paragraph is, I believe, a quick little philosophical throat clearing.
I've been thinking about people a lot lately. They're so funny. Everyone on this planet seems to have a vastly different idea of what they're put on Earth for, how to live a fulfilling life and the appropriate way to interact with other humans. Now, this is a good thing, this realization. I think it's making me a lot more at peace with the world in a certain kind of way. Each person has an unfathomable set of thought processes that determine the way that they think a life is lived. There are so many extremely different ways of life, even just in our country, state or zip code. And I think I truly believe that we are mostly powerless when it comes to preventing or promoting any one culture from being assigned associations for better or worse. That doesn't mean that apathy is the only logical response to this belief because certainly I admire activist minorities righting undue wrongs. What I mean is that it all boils down to the soul within each person and whether or not, if put in front of a different person from themselves, they will exhibit suspicion, fear, aggression, hostitlity and protective resistance, or if they show openness, warmth, curiosity, encouragement and empathy.
I could try to have a life-changing conversation with as many hatefully ignorant, actively opposed to homosexuality, abortion and obscenity, Republicans as I can in one lifetime, but it would be wasting my breath. Maybe I would get a better understanding of where they were coming from after a few interactions but it seems to me that just knowing there's almost no use gives me the ability to acknowledge the variation in people's social consciousness as a wonder of life to appreciate, explore and study more intently. Somehow I came to this from a recent fascination with eyes and eye contact.
When you live in a city there are thousands of opportunities each week to pass strangers, sometimes in large public spaces and other times in intimate more private spaces, and look into their eyes. However, a human's willingness and ability to make this eye contact with a human, dressed in clothes and maybe carrying some things, other than themselves is one of the most amazing phenomena I can think of. Example: I work at this kitchen store, and we have a rest room that pretty much anyone in Portland could use, if they wished to enter into our retail establishment. And here comes a probably 17 year old white boy, in all black, ultra baggy pants with some kind of straps dangling or connected to other locations on the leg of the pant, black t-shirt, probably 5'6" and 140 pounds so a little solid, some crazy black backpack and I think some fingers-cut-off gloves and asks, with the most puppy dog sweetness in his eyes, if he can use the bathroom. "Sure," I said, "there's a key right over there that you can grab." He thanked me and used it, and put it back on the counter when he was finished with an equally sweet countenance and salutation.
In a matter of minutes I had made an unnecessary assumption that he was going to be weirdly innapropriate or a nuisance to the functioning of the store, that he would reek and that he might hate on gay people; to have it demolished. I love it. I stand at a door for about four to six hours a week and greet people and bid them a good day on their way out. You would not believe the variation of response I get. I love it when strangers ask each other how they're doing. Ellen Degeneres has performed some pretty funny stand up about this topic: since we're usually so on-the-move we tend only to go as deep as "How are you?" "Good, you?" "Great thanks." It's funny to think of responding to that question differently: "Well, funny, because, now that you ask me, I'm a little depressed and I think I might benefit from some therapy. Do you know any good ones specializing in young gay men?"
But the eyes really have it. There are so many fascinating eye-contact experience opportunities downtown, on the bus, Hawthorne on a busy afternoon, in the Kaboodle, in a mall of any kind, in a bar or club, even on my bike. Beyond that there's the rich resource of your friends' eyes to wallow in. It's so interesting how drugs and alcohol effect the clarity and nature of eye contact. When you run into a friend at a party and their eyes are halfway shut, glazed over and somehow clouded, you can probably safely assume they won't remember running into you and having an hour-long conversation, or that they intiated a makeout session. Oppositely when you bump into a friend and their eyes don't stay in one spot for more than two seconds or they're engaging your eyes but there's no receptive warmth, there's only cool calculation until the next time they get to talk, I can realize that this is a friend who I might not want to invest too much time or energy in.
Me personally? I'm realizing that for some reason, at the same time that I'm truly inspired by the range of eye contact permutations and effects, I'm mildly terrified of making it myself. Primarily, of course, with boys that I think are really cute and that I want them to want me back, but also with straight males and older ladies altogether. Also, sometimes with the best of friends because I'm unsure of the connotations that arrise from my speech and phrasing. I think what it is is that I am aware that my eyes are highly communicative and for the most part, I'm incapable of harnessing them. So I divert my eyes and try to speak with the rest of my face. I've been told that I speak volumes with my eyebrows. It makes me think that people who draw it out of me, who really get my eyes and not just body language, are the real keepers. Only then, when you're communicating to another person with all of your physical faculties (which, come to think of it, would make sense as to why I suspect the best sex would be intensely pleasurable physical satisfaction equal to your ocularly engaged, and therefore psychologically engaged, pleasure) are you truly living the human experience. Most of the other times you're resisting it and keeping it brief and painless.
Congratulations to you, friend, if you have read thus far. And thank you for caring about the words I have to spew foreward. Please do not take any of these statements, thoughts, reflections, ideas or suggestions very seriously. I have too many thoughts in my head at all times. This is a productive way of clearing some out to make space for some new stuff.
I wrote this concert review for a friend, who shared a passion for The National with me, very drunk.
If it wasn't for this damn vodka in me I'd probably write a better and longer blog. I thought about trying to write something for Localcut.com but this is almost exclusively for Julie.
The National was tonight. "Alligator" is an album that I will forever associate with Oregon. It is so fucking good. And after tonight it has been permanently seared into my mind as one of the best shows I've ever seen.
I guess what I'll just do is dictate some of the sloppy notes I took during the show. Now, let me set the scene. Berbati's Pan is a place I'd never been to as a show venue. I got my ticket on Thursday and kept thinking about Saturday night as the night I would finally get to see one of the bands that has moved me the most over the past year or so. It paid off.
To begin with, I needed to hang out with Josh. And he called me back at about 7:30pm, telling me that I needed to go with him to his friend Rob's house for food and drink. I thought that I would just drink the few Sessions that I had left in my fridge and head over early to make sure that I caught the entirety of The National's set. Josh convinced me to meet him at his house so that we could bike over to his friend's house on Alberta and 17th for drinks before I left for the show. I obliged.
The ride over was an event in itself. He thought it was 30th and Alberta. No, it was more like 17th and Alberta. So we did some extra huffing and puffing, pumping and sweating. But, alas, we made it and the payoff was glorious. I had a couple PBRs, a beautiful tequila drink (neat? I guess that means straight, no ice and no mixer, just tequila with some lime) and some kind of funky Belgian beer that was popped like a bottle of champagne. I don't know.
So I leave Josh's friend's house at about 10:30pm so that I could get there for 11. I got mildly lost and it was a long ride anyway. I rode down Alberta to N Vancouver, down that for a ways, got lost a little, found my way back onto the Broadway Bridge (thanks to ample signage), and made it to the venue by 10:50 or so.
I had a smoke, grabbed a Ketel One on the rocks and positioned myself pretty close to the stage for greatness. Wow, my writing is sloppy. The first song was a song that I'd never heard but the lyric I wrote down was: "If you walk away now you're gonna start a war." Alright, I'm not walking away. Bring it on.
They bust into "Secret Meeting" for their first song and, my God, it was so fucking good. I had listened to "Alligator" so fucking much that I was super-ready for every song on that album. "Secret Meeting" was precisely the song that I wanted to hear early in the set.
Next, "Lit Up." "Lit Up" was the song that, when I first listened to the album I thought would be my favorite song, the single, and the most memorable. Wrong. "Secret Meeting" probably wins that prize. But how perfect that "Lit Up" follows "Secret Meeting." I wrote down the lyric "I know you've put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, I know." What the fuck does that mean? I want to know. Every time I listen to that song I wonder what the fuck he's talking about.
Then they played "Geese of Beverly Hill," or something like that. I only know the title because one of the guitarists said so. I do, however, recognize the lyrics that move me most. They are, "We'll run like we're awesome, totally genius." Wow. I don't know why that makes so much sense and beauty to me. Just the use of the phrase awesome in a song in such a way that it doesn't feel trite or inappropriate. There's also this line, "We'll fight like girls for a spot at the table / a room on the floor." What? Who are you? What could you possibly mean by this? This band seems so very sensitive and emo in a distinct way. How could they use the phrase "fight like girls" and get away with it. They do. Unexplainable.
Next they played a song that continued to blow me away. I wrote down some lyrics. They are: something about taking "a 45 minute shower / Put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile." The chorus sings "I'm so sorry for everything." My God this song is so fucking good. It has a nice drum beat, a bouncy lead guitar and the presence of the violin player is felt like a ton of bricks. This violin player could fucking wail. I wrote down that during this song he managed to play his violin like a guitar; no bow, just strumming. I was told by some mysterious friends I made whilst smoking before the show that in one of their previous shows they'd caught there was no violinist. This show's effectiveness hinged on the amazingness of this violin player. Well done, dude.
They played a great song I'd never heard next in which a magnificent crescendo was achieved with the help of the violin player. A whispery lyric was repeated over and over and I knew I wanted to listen to previous records at that point. But, much to my pleasure, they plowed through an unbelievable versoin of "Abel" next.
It was just amazing. It was here that you realized it was just fine with everyone that the lead singer didn't play an instrument. His scream, strained, emotive and powerful, was particularly important for this version of "Abel." It was just so fucking good. There's a screaming/yelling part on the record but until you see him strain and stretch for the best screaming moments, you don't realize how much he puts into each song. It was brilliant.
At this point I wrote down "I'm a perfect piece of ass." This is from a song that I can't remember the title of but I always remember that lyric. It just seems to go against and yet celebrate everything that I love about The National. The lyrics, the sound, it's always clever and trendy, yet not over the top, just right. I can totally imagine that phrase being applicable to many young Portland people but the saying of it in a song is just mind-blowing.
My last page begins with "We're out looking for astronauts." This song is amazing. It has some very, very compelling lyrics. The lyric that I wrote down, in big, sloppy script (I'm sure the Ketel One was affecting me at this point), were "You know you've got, a permanent piece, of my medium-sized American heart." This one blows me away. First of all, the romanticism is hard to ignore. Someone having a piece of your heart is almost too cheesy. But then when he says "my medium-sized American heart" it just seems to make so much sense. I imagine a heart being ordered at a fast food chain: "I'll take the small heart, please."
Then I have, "Break your arms around my love, I'm here to take you." This is from "Daughters of the SoHo Riots." This is such a heartbreakingly, beautifully slow song. I always remember that "break my arms" lyrics. In fact, it sometimes repeats over and over in my head when I'm not listening to music at all, like at work or when I'm just riding around on my bike with no music. I find it hard to understand. "Break my arms around my love"? What is he saying?
Lastly, "I used to be, carried in the arms of cheerleaders." Very, very cramped are the other lyrics on the bottom of my last page: "I won't fuck this over." They knew every lyric to every song.
After two vodkas-on-the-rocks I was ready for a cigarette and my voyage home. I went to the 2nd and Alder #15 bus stop and dialed TriMet to hear that I wouldn't be getting a 15 home. I re-organized my shit and got my earbuds in to listen to that Hot Chip record, "The Warning," to get me riding home and now I lay in bed trying to finish up so that I can get to work by 11am tomorrow. I love you, Julie, and I can't wait to see you in New York.