Wednesday, December 19, 2012

End of Year Mix Tapes Special Edition: My Top 25 Tracks of 2012

You guys! It's that magical time of year again! No, not Christmas, you geeks! It's that time where I unveil my favorite songs of the year. I know, I know, it's so much more exciting than what anyone else on the Interwebs might possibly be saying.

Now, last year, I went through my top 20 favorites. This year, I felt a special need to stretch that out to 25. But can you really blame me? It's been a hell of a year, music-wise:

Frank Ocean! Sharon Van Etten! Twin Shadow! CAT POWER! Jessie Ware!

And oh holy shit, none other than my beloved, my one true love:


So without further ado, and before I basically give away the entire list, here we go. In case you haven't picked up on it, there are a lot of lovely ladies on this bizness—and you are going to love every minute of it, I swear it. (And may I just add that my other wifey, Alicia Keys, recently released a fantastic new album, and it breaks my heart a little that I'm not including a track from there. But! Too late in the game to win me over this time. Sorry boo.)

Deep breath. Here we go: 

25. HAIM — "Don't Save Me"
A recent, but nonetheless amazing, discovery I found on one of my favorite music blogs, disco naïveté, who called this track "yet another perfect slice of 2012 pop-but-not-pop." I quite agree. Also: "Baby, don't save me (if your love isn't strong)."

24. Lianne La Havas — "Lost & Found"
This beautiful young lady is one of the many, many examples of how the Brits were killing it this year with some soulful shit. On top of that, I spent one rainy Sunday in April listening to this over and over, finding solace in the fact that apparently I wasn't the only person who could feel all of the feelings she sings in this song. I'm not ashamed to say that I did. The good thing about feeling lost? Eventually you find yourself again. Sometimes that's with the help of beautiful music. Without further weeping:

23. Grizzly Bear — "Sleeping Ute"
Pitchfork called this first song from Grizzly Bear's latest album "an unusual explosion of energy," with Daniel Rossen's guitar a "knife slashing through thick sheets of percussion as he croons amidst the clamor." I called it, "ohholyfuckthisisamazing" and I think that is equally accurate ("and I can't help myself").

22. How to Dress Well — "& It Was U"
This. Beat. Over at NPR, Frannie Kelley wrote that this song is "irrepressible, the kind of song that makes you push your partner away on the dance floor so you have enough room to really move." Yes, exactly. 

21. First Aid Kit — "To a Poet"
Right from those opening "ooh, ooh, oohs," this song gets me every time. But in particular, "Now I miss you more than I can take/and I will surely break"—but, "there's nothing more to it, I just get through it." It's a lovely, lovely song.

20. THEEsatisfaction — "QueenS"
Discovering THEEsatisfaction this past March was the perfect birthday present. And the takeaway from this track? "Whatever you do, don't funk with my groove." I won't, I swear I won't.

19. The Mountain Goats — "Until I Am Whole"
Because all two minutes and 49 seconds of this song just fucking kills me. Every single part. And that's all I can really say.

18. Kwes. — "bashful."
Back in March, my brother tweeted, "calling it: @alisoncomposes has a new crush." He was talking about Kwes. And boy, was he right. On top of the fact that I didn't stop listening to this song on repeat for about a month straight, well, dare I say that if I was stuck on an elevator with this Brit, I might be...bashful? Yeah, I went there.

17. Santigold — "Freak Like Me"

16. Kathleen Edwards — "House Full of Empty Rooms"
I knew Ms. Kathleen would get a spot on this list, but I had one hell of a time narrowing down my favorite from her latest album, Voyageur. Ultimately though, there was something about the way her voice (almost) cracks during these sad confessions, "And I'm far from perfect/I'm far from anything/but I swear when we started/I used to make you happy" that spoke to me the most. Because I think it takes a lot of guts to admit that "I don't know you, not the way that I thought I did," and she does it beautifully.

15. Kendrick Lamar (feat. Dr. Dre) — “The Recipe”
I don't even know where to begin with how much I've been loving Kendrick Lamar this year. Here, paired with Dr. Dre, he just doesn't get any better for me. Women, weed, and weather, amiright?

14. Azealia Banks — "212"
Of all of my many, many lady crushes this year, the one I have on Azealia is possibly the most serious. Is it because no one else has ever declared, "Ima ruin you, cunt" while bouncing around in a Mickey Mouse sweater? Or is it because this song is just thebestthingever? You tell me:

13. Cat Power — "Ruin"
Chan, darling. You came back to us with this magic, and for that we are all grateful.

12. Bear in Heaven — "The Reflection of You"
Because pretty much all I did in the month of May was read Bon Iver Erotic Stories, watch Lost, and listen to Bear in Heaven. True story. I got to see Bear in Heaven play at Lollapalooza this year, and even though I was sweating my face off, I loved every single minute of it. This is why:

11. Miguel — "Use Me"
Just when I thought no one was even going to get in Frank Ocean's league this year, Miguel had to release Kaleidoscope Dream. I think technically I'm supposed to say that "Adorn" is my favorite track from the album, but I'm not gonna lie. As I described this track the first day I heard it: This song is the sex. I'll leave you with that.

10. The xx — "Chained"
Back in August, this song felt like perfection to me. It's no longer quite as poignant, but I'll be damned if it still isn't almost perfect. It's everything I love about The xx. "It's not a secret you should keep."

9. Twin Shadow — "Five Seconds"

8. Yeasayer — "Longevity"
Ian Cohen reviewed Yeasayer's new album, Fragrant World, giving it a measly 5.4 on the ever-important Pitchfork scale, and wrote of this song in particular (with what I can only assume was a self-satisfied sneer) that "the only real friction is that of a square peg plugging into a round hole." I'd just like to say: Whatever, Ian. What the fuck ever. Decide for yourself, guys:

7. Bat for Lashes — "All Your Gold"
Natasha Khan has completely stolen my heart with The Haunted Man (and the fact that I discovered she's a Roald Dahl devotee!). With this song, she makes me feel wistful and defiant and sad and hopeful all at once. And as if it wasn't already devastating enough, she had to go on and dance around on the beach wearing a black-and-white bodysuit.

6. Dirty Projectors — "Gun Has No Trigger"
Because "you'd see a million colors if you really looked." I love this song with every ounce of my being, and don't you dare tell me I'm being dramatic.

5. Jessie Ware — "Sweet Talk"
You wouldn't believe me if I told you just how much I love this song, and Jessie Ware in general. Because: I LOVE HER. This song is exactly what I want from a pop/r&b song. Then there's this video, which is just the cuteness. Yes, the cuteness. It's the right word, trust me:

4. Alabama Shakes — "I Found You"
Brittany Howard might as well be singing about my feelings for this band with this song. Bless you, Alabama Shakes, I finally found you! Well, in reality, I found them last year, when "Hold On" made it to my 2011 best of list. Whatever. Mere details. The point is, we all found the Alabama Shakes this year, and thank Jesus for it. This song makes me want to shake my fist and jump around and weep and scream. All in love, of course.

3. Frank Ocean — "Pyramids"
After falling head over heels for Frank Ocean last year, thanks to Nostalgia, Ultra (and more specifically, "Novacane"), he then decided to go and make channel ORANGE, which was one of the highlights of my year. When I first heard this song, after I got over the beautiful mind fuck that happens over the course of 9 minutes and 53 seconds, I shook my head in amazement and played it again. And again. And again. "Set the cheetahs on the loose."

2. Sharon Van Etten — "Give Out"

You know when I write a damn poem about a song, it's pretty likely it'll end up on this list. (See last year's list for your proof.) The night before I saw Sharon Van Etten's show at Lincoln Hall, I wrote one, largely inspired by the song "Give Out." To reveal how many times I have listened to this song since February would only serve to embarrass me and make you nervous, so I won't. You can figure it all out with the damn poem, probably.

1. Fiona Apple — "Anything We Want"
Hi, have we met? This should really be no surprise at all. FIONA! (You can read all the feelings I feel about Fiona in this previous post.) This July, all my dreams came true when I got to see Fiona Apple perform at the Chicago Theatre. Of all the amazing songs on her new album, this one kills me the most, particularly when I saw her perform it. Oh, holy shit. When she sang, "I looked like a neon zebra shaking rain off her stripes," shaking her whole body, I think the entire crowd died a little. There's something about the way Fiona says, "I wanted you to kiss me when we find some time alone" that is perfection. So I'll leave you all with this, my favorite song of the year. And guys? Just remember: "Look around, it's happening, it's happening, it's happening now."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: Fierce as a Dog

By Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: In the Light and the Dark

In the last two days, I have watched 15 episodes of Freaks and Geeks.

I had to make myself stop just now. And not because I feel bad about watching 15 episodes of a television show within two days. Because I only have 3 episodes left!

So, taking a break from thebestshowever Freaks and Geeks...

I fell in love with Eddi Front last week after I stumbled across her EP, which happens to include an incredible Nick Cave cover, and more importantly a track called "Texas," which happens to be my personal favorite.

Maybe you've been hip to Eddi Front since July, when I somehow missed Pitchfork talking up her song "Gigantic"—if so, lucky you. Because, this:

Just a tad melancholy... but I have just the thing to perk us all up!

You might not believe that anything could possibly be better than watching 15 episodes of Freaks and Geeks in two days, but I think I've found that one thing. And that thing is Jessie Ware (with a little help) singing a cover of Brownstone's "If You Love Me". That's right. Jessie Ware. Brownstone!

If you love me (say it):

It almost feels like 1994 again, doesn't it? I mean, I'm still wearing dingy flannel and freaking out over a Brownstone song. The only real difference that comes to mind is that now I have boobs. And back then I had no idea why someone wouldn't like you regardless of whether it was dark or light.

Meanwhile, here comes a lady wearing an outfit much more stylish than dingy flannel. (More on Wild Belle, a brother-sister duo from Chicago, here.) And if you don't find this tune catchy as fuck, well then I don't know what to do with you (in the light or the dark).

Happy freezing cold Monday. Maybe next week we'll throw some male musicians in the mix. And that's a big maaaybe. Just kidding, of course we will, cause girls can't be musicians! Oh WAIT...I almost forgot...we still can! We can do whatever we want!


Now that all THAT is off my chest...I gotta go find an old military jacket now...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Long Overdue “To Do”

I write a lot of “to do” lists. They’re pretty much always the same—and I pretty much almost always still forget, or neglect, to do half of the things on it. But I still get a little thrill when I draw a line through one of them, marking it off: Yoga. Laundry.

One that I haven’t marked off in far too long is one that makes the top of the list nearly every time. That “to do” is “Write Grandma E”—that is, my Grandma Exckhardt, my mother’s mother. Aside from the fact that I’ve run out of stationary for the first time in a decade, I don’t have one good reason to not mark this off the list every time. Especially since every time I do mark that off the list, and drop that letter in the mail, I feel really happy.

This evening, while on the phone with my dad, he rather politely reminded me of this neglect, hinting that maybe I hadn’t been in touch with Grandma recently, and that maybe, just maybe, that might hurt her feelings. My heart lurched as soon as I realized he was right: When was the last time I had written Grandma?

It’s been months.

When we got off the phone I paced around my kitchen for a minute, feeling awful. Should I call now? But no, it’s too late—I’ll probably just wake her up. Then I thought, I’ll write her a letter right now. I’ll mail it tomorrow; she should get it by Saturday.

This plan didn’t seem good enough, either, so I vowed to myself that I’d call tomorrow, either on my lunch break or as soon as I got home from work.

Whether your line of thought right now is either “Wow, calm down” or “Geez, can’t you even take the time to call your own grandmother?”—I don’t really blame you for either. On the one hand: Calm down. I can rectify this. On the other: Can’t I take the time to call my own grandmother?

I’m bad at keeping in touch. If it weren’t for Facebook and email, I’m sure plenty of people would forget I even exist. I’m that bad.

But: my grandma doesn’t use the Internet. She also doesn’t live in Chicago. She lives in Muncie, Indiana, and she and my grandpa spend the winters in Florida with my aunt. Hence, the importance of the letters or phone calls. Neither of which I’ve been doing.

You should know something about my Grandma E: She is thoughtful.

And when I say thoughtful, I mean thoughtful. One year I told her how good the birthday cake she made for my party was, and she made the exact same cake the following year. Based on one offhand comment! Because she knows how much I love devilled eggs—and hers in particular—she makes some every single time she knows she’s going to see me. Every time. Even if she’s not hosting the get together. She does it because she knows I love them. She has done this for years.

There’s nothing that’ll really make you feel worse than acting less than thoughtful to a person who is always thoughtful to you. Know what I mean?

But it’s more than that. Because there’s another thing you should know about my Grandma E: my mother adored her.

Well, duh—that’s her mother. But, whenever my mom talked about her, whenever my mom was around her, even as a kid, I could feel not only the love between them, but also the respect that my mother had for her. They had a special bond, perhaps not unlike the bond I felt with my mom.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: Casual As You Are, Gets Hard to Say

Last night, Maps & Atlases and White Denim played at Lincoln Hall. I hesitate to call a show perfect—what does that even mean, perfect?—but this show felt perfect, to me. Both bands sounded excellent, and the bar was stocked with $3 Budweisers and Halloween candy. Clearly, key elements to reach perfection.

I loved how humble the lead singer from Maps & Atlases was, thanking the crowd after nearly every song and just coming across as genuinely grateful to be playing.

And his voice! His beard! It's a win. So here's a song, not from last night, clearly, as I was not in Seattle:

In contrast, White Denim came on, and did not stop. Like, to breathe. There was no time for multiple thank you's. They just kept going, one song into another, sounding incredible on every track. The lead singer managed to have his glasses on for probably two songs at most before he was too sweaty, and they all just played so hard and put their fucking all into every song.

And then this happened (to clarify, this is also not from last night, but another great live version):

It was so beautiful, I swear I was hearing it in my dreams last night. I could still hear it when I woke up this morning. I will say, the dudes were dominating the audience last night, but the women I did see in the crowd were feeling it. And by feeling it, I mean the chick who was full-out spastic dancing, hair everywhere, for the entire set. I loved it. (And no, I'm not talking about myself, here. I was more subdued in my joy.)

In completely unrelated music listening, I fell in love with this song today and have listened to it probably 10 times already. Is Lulu James the most beautiful woman ever, or what? But more importantly: her voice. The beat doesn't overpower, either. It's just enough.

"Use me as your guide to the right path without the cracks (don't be reluctant to)":

And finally, because it's always best to end Mondays on a sexy note, let's listen to The Weeknd be really fucking blunt:

I like a man who gets right to the point. "Just don't call tomorrow asking what did I do."

How Do You Know Who You Are?

“How do you know who you are?” asks artist and author Maira Kalman in her book, The Principles of Uncertainty. I’ve not read the book, but I’ve been a fan of Kalman’s work since I first saw her blog, “And the Pursuit of Happiness” for the NYT. So when I saw this post about her at Brain Pickings today, I was once again struck by her musings.

It’s something on my mind today, this question, “How do you know who you are?”

Ten years ago today, my mother died. I dread the approach of the 29th of October like nothing else. It’s coming up, I think. Is there any way to get out of it? It’s silly, really. Well, it is silly and not silly all at once. On the one hand, it is only a day. To be blunt: my mother is still dead, every other day of the year. It’s not really any better or worse on this particular date, now is it?

Nonetheless, it is still a day—the day—that, ten years ago, marked the worst day of my life. At one moment, she was here, and the next, she was not.

So every October 29th, at some point—sometimes at multiple moments throughout the day—I feel it all over again. I feel the exact feeling in my stomach that I felt 10 years ago, when I heard a nurse say, “Her heart did stop.” It is a swift kick in the stomach. When it happened this morning, I was rubbing my eyes, convincing myself to shake off my sleepy feeling. And then: BAM. I felt it.

Thanks, October 29th. I’m awake now.

After my mother died, I began thinking of my life in two parts: before Mom died, and after. Things were one way, and then they were another. I also began to think of myself in two ways: how I was before Mom died, and how I was after. It’s really no wonder one day can seem so monumental! I’m thinking of my entire life split in pieces from it.

How do you know who you are, when you are mapping so much of your identity from this loss? I hate it. I want to stop. I think of ways to stop. But it doesn’t really work that way—instead, the elaborate daydreams begin. It’s a little game I play in my brain, where I wonder what my life would be like, what I would be like, if my mother hadn’t died.

It’s a dangerous game, this game of what ifs and if onlys—and I’m tired of it, quite frankly. Of course, it might seem completely self-absorbed that, on the day of my mother’s death, I’m asking all these questions about myself, and not her. But while it’s about me, it’s still about her, all the same.

Of course I am not the same as I was when my mom died, and thank God for that! After all, I was a teenager—18, just starting freshman year of college. Now I am closer to 30 than 20. And so when I think of the question, “Who am I?” it ties into this day so perfectly because on this day, when I particularly miss my mother and feel the utter finality of her absence, I think, I never knew my mother as an adult. She never knew me. And who in the hell am I, anyway?

I don’t always have the answer to that, but I have an idea. Sometimes it changes. Sometimes I like the answer. Sometimes I don’t.

But if my mother taught me anything, it was this very important lesson:

You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself.

So what if I don’t have it all figured out. So what if I can’t always exactly pinpoint the answer to the question, “Who am I?”

Today I am a woman who misses her mother. Tomorrow, I will still be that woman, but it will no longer be this day, and maybe I can think of something else. All I can really try to do is be pleased with the honest answer to the question, “Who in the world am I?” and maybe, just maybe, if I’m pleased with it, it’s not unlikely that she would be too.

Like Kalman says:

What would happen?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Mouse

Someone wise—maybe my cat, or more likely Eleanor Roosevelt—once said to "do one thing every day that scares you." 

It really is a great idea. So that's why I'm doing it, right at this very moment. No, no, that one thing that scares me isn't blogging. (But maybe it should be, and then so many of my thoughts and feelings over the last several years wouldn't be splashed all over the Interwebs.) 

Here's what I'm doing: I am typing this while sitting on a cushion on my apartment floor. 

Why is sitting on my floor scary, you might ask?

I'll tell you why. It seems I have a new roommate. 

This past weekend, I was having a rather terrific Saturday. I slept in until almost noon for no reason, other than the fact that I am a GROWNUP, dammit, and I do what I want. I talked to my dad on the phone. I did some laundry, which always leaves me feeling smug and pleased with myself, because that's a perfectly normal reaction to an everyday task that I put off for no reason every week, RIGHT?

My wonderful Saturday continued when I decided to try a new, more advanced yoga routine. I was having so much fun with all the crazy angles and falling down on my mat with side plank variations that I was grinning as I stepped back into downward dog. What a great day! I was thinking—yes, I was actually grinning, thinking positive thoughts while doing yoga on a Saturday, what the hell—and I looked back at my feet. 

Right at that moment, a mouse scurried out from my front closet, across the room and into the utility closet.

So I did what any reasonable adult would do in that situation.

I yelped, grabbed my phone off the coffee table, and immediately texted several people. While perched on a stool with my legs in the air, of course. I'm sitting in my sports bra and yoga pants on a stool, sweating, and texting people that I saw a mouse. 

Uggh. And I thought I was annoying with all that positive thinking before! Now it was official. WHO AM I?

I got off the stool, because this whole thing was stupid. It's a mouse, Alison! I'm now thinking to myself. Don't be a fucking ... GIRL ... about it. 

(GASP. I know we're all shocked by that sexist rhetoric that went through my brain. But: It happened. Dammit, society! This is your fault! Gender! Ok. Moving on.)

So, I got off the stool. And I promptly put on my boots that were sitting by the door, because I was scared to be in my bare feet. 

That's right. I was now sweating, grasping my iPhone for dear life, staring at my utility closet in fear—while dressed in a sports bra, yoga pants, and boots. To make the situation more ridiculous, I started chastising my cats.

"Layla! Mufasa! There's a mouse! Go get it!"

Layla was hiding, likely because all my frantic jumping around and perching on a stool freaked her out. I looked at Mufasa. 

"Mufasa! THE MOUSE!"

From her perch on the living room chair, she looked at me, blinked, yawned, and stretched out on her back.

Thanks a lot, assholes. 

To make a long story short, I called my landlord, and he came over and set up some traps for me. There have been no more mouse sightings as of yet. But I'd be lying if I told you that I haven't been taking giant leaps past the utility closet, or if I pretended I didn't yelp in bed last night because I was convinced the mouse was on my pillow. (It wasn't a mouse. It was my cat's paw.)

Yesterday evening when I was doing yoga I think I was actually holding my breath for the first 15 minutes, looking back every other pose to check for the mouse. What did I think it was doing, hanging out behind me and eating popcorn? And as it turns out, breathing is sort of, you know, important when you're doing yoga. So I cut that shit out and just focused on my yoga.

I was getting a little tired of the nonsense. Specifically: my nonsense.

Because spotting the mouse came at the end of a weird week for me. I was feeling out of sorts for the better part of last week. Insecure. Moody. Anxious. Then I see this mouse, and my first reaction was, well: "EEEK!" and then, heart still pounding, I'm already judging myself. Telling myself I'm not supposed to react in a certain way. Good lord. Of course I was a little freaked. Does anyone anticipate seeing a mouse run across their 2nd floor city apartment in the middle of the afternoon? 

What did I think I was supposed to do? Immediately catch the mouse, then release it to the wild, all without feeling at all nervous? 

Enough! Let's all give ourselves a break once in awhile, shall we? Because in all seriousness, I think it is a wonderful idea, to do something every day that scares you. It's just that sometimes, that thing is simply recognizing that you're afraid of something in the first place. And after recognizing it, just accepting it. Here goes: I was afraid of a mouse. WHEW. We all feel better now, right? (I hope it's at least somewhat clear that I'm thinking about other aspects of my life than just a mouse at this point.) 

So tonight I sat my ass down on this pillow on the floor to write. My butt hurts. But dammit, I am showing that mouse who runs this house. Since I've done this, maybe tomorrow I can do something really amazing. One day at a time.

Of course, I'm directly facing the utility closet. If that mouse comes out, I'm ready. And we're gonna have a chat about this living situation. 

This post is part of a little writing experiment inspired by Ray Bradbury, to "conjure the nouns"—read more details here. Or, just wonder why I wrote so much about THE MOUSE.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poetry Slam: At the Same Old Stand Buying Bagels

By Frank O'Hara

In placing this particular thought
I am taking up the cudgel against indifference
I wish that I might be different but I am
that I am is all I have so what can I do

as the hero of the hour I might have one strange destiny
but it is all mixed up and I have several
I can't choose between them they are pulling me aloft
which is not to say up like a Baroque ceiling or anything

where is the rain and the lightning to drown or burn us
as there used to be
where are the gods who could abuse and disabuse us often
when am I ever in the country walking along a lane plotting murder

you would think that the best things in life were free
but they're the worst even the air is dirty
and it's this "filth of life" that coats us against pain
so where are we back at the same old stand buying bagels

I think it would be nice to go away
but that's reserved for TV and who wants to end up in Paradise
it's not our milieu
we would be lost as a fish is lost when it has to swim

and yet and yet
this place is terrible to see and worse to feel
along with the purple you have contracted for an awful virus
and it is Christmas and the children are growing up

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: With the Lights On

So, it's Monday! Who feels like weeping? I know you do:

I first heard this two weeks ago, when I was spending my typical Wednesday at the coffee shop, and I do not exaggerate when I say I listened to it six times in a row. I sneaked a glance over my shoulder by the last few times—does anyone know???

Finally, I had to stop it. Those final, "I know you care!" repetitions were making me want to start slamming things around and yelling.

"I know it wasn't always wrong, but I've never known a winter so long..."

It's a beautiful song. And maybe it won't make you want to slam things around your neighborhood coffee shop, but I think it's a safe bet that pretty much all of us could relate to it on some level.

Anyway, now that we're done crying, let's listen to something a little sexier, shall we? And I promise it's not the new Lana Del Rey.

Oh wait, it is!

Now my main question is, is my girlfriend singing, "You can be my full-time daddy" or "my photon daddy" or "my futon daddy"— or is it none of the above? I kinda hope it's futon daddy, but I think that's unlikely.

Either way, I just love it when she sings, "Been tryin' hard not to get into trouble, but I've got a war in my mind" but especially when she sings, "I'm tired of feeling like I'm fucking crazy," because girl, I feel you, I really do.

Finally, and speaking of sexy:

Yep. Happy Monday!

The True Test is in the Doing

Wow, the Rainbow Chronicles are looking sad as fuck lately, aren't they? Two posts in July. Five posts in August. One in September! One! Inside, my soul is dying. I’m totally failing my role as the narcissistic essayist if I’m not inundating the Interwebs with all my thoughts and FEELINGS on at least a weekly basis. My man E.B. would not be proud.

I’d like to say that I’ve just been so busy chasing my rainbow lately that I haven’t had time to post, ha, HA. Or, we could talk about how I haven’t had an internet connection for about a month. Apparently, one of those helps when you’re trying to, you know, WRITE ON THE INTERNET.

But hmmm...that doesn't really excuse the lack of posts in July or August. Anyway, I’m a terrible blogger, blah blah blah, etc. etc!

In the meantime, with all the non-blogging, I spent a week in Cape Cod last month, and have been doing all the reading I apparently do when I’m not spending hours dicking around on tumblr, reblogging photos of macarons and cats and yoga poses. (But seriously: tumblr! Neat! I like it!)

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about writing, which is not nearly as good as actually writing, but I suppose it’s a start. One new trick I’m doing is writing on my phone notepad every day, writing really silly things that probably no one should ever see, but I’m a glutton for embarrassing myself, so here’s an example:

So yeah, mostly just rambling weirdness, but at least it's keeping me from tweeting every thought that runs through my head. (But seriously: twitter! Neat! I like it!)

I also read Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen in the Art of Writing, which is just jam-packed with great ideas that I should really do, and not just think about doing. I posted about it on my tumblr last week, speaking of how much I love tumblr. It’s short, so I’d like to repost it here.

Conjure the NOUNS

Ray Bradbury, in his book Zen in the Art of Writing, recommends that writers put down a list. Lists of titles, long lines of nouns. He said that “These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface.”

His list went something like: THE LAKE. THE NIGHT. THE DWARF. THE ATTIC.

Lots of circus themes. Lots of old people and creepy shit.

He said he would run through his lists, pick a noun, and then write a long prose-poem-essay about it. As he was writing, this THING would turn into a story. Brilliant stories, as a matter of fact, because he is—was—Ray fucking Bradbury and of course they were brilliant.

I decided to give it a go. What would be on my list? I had a few ideas, a few NOUNS.

Things that were on my mind, that were “hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.”


So far I have written about the air mattress and the dentist. Both are a little creepy. Both started as a poem-prose-essay thingy, and both ended as such.

It’s hard to be brilliant when your NOUN is AIR MATTRESS. And when you’re not Ray Bradbury.

Still, I love the idea. I’m gonna keep trying it.

“Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness,” wrote R.B.
Now that this idea, to conjure the nouns, has been planted in my head, I can't stop thinking about it. As I'm locking my door when I leave for work in the morning, I think about it: THE STAIRWAY. THE APARTMENT. THE MAN ON THE BICYCLE. 

So that brings us to the next aspect of R.B.'s advice: the doing. The actual writing.
The seemingly obvious tactic a writer should take in order to produce great creative work: A writer should write, duh!

He wrote: “You have been working, haven’t you? Or do you plan some sort of schedule for yourself starting as soon as you put down this article?

What kind of schedule?”

When I read this, I felt so sheepish that I actually put the book down and looked around, as if I’d just been caught naked at work or something. The cat stared at me, yawned, and rolled over. No one was there. No one cared that I haven’t been putting in the work!

Nobody but me, that is. So I went on to read:

“Something like this. One-thousand or two-thousand words every day for the next twenty years.”

Planning for the next twenty years feels juuust a bit daunting, but ok, R.B. I can write one-thousand or two-thousand words every day. Watch me!

So, last week, I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual, vowed to myself I wouldn’t hit the snooze button for the entirety of that 30 minutes, and went to sleep blissful, ready to wake up and write something genius.

Well, it’s nothing genius by any means, but I did sit down to the computer, and I wrote something.

At the end of his essay, R.B. really hit me over the head with why it might be useful to take his advice. He wrote:

“Let me assure you I speak of all these things only because they have worked for me for fifty years. And I think they might work for you. The true test is in the doing.

Be pragmatic, then. If you’re not happy with the way your writing has gone, you might give my method a try.

If you do, I think you might easily find a new definition for Work.

And the word is LOVE.”

I’m not always the best at following advice, but I guess now is as good a time as ever. So, I’ve started my R.B. Training, as I’ve decided to call it, right now, this very minute as I type.

He’s right: ‘The true test is in the doing’—so I am done with the restlessness, the days and weeks pass by that I create nothing.

I’m ready to put in the work.

So every day, I plan to write some more. It might just be a run-on sentence typed on my phone about pigeons. It might just be a silly little blog post like this one.

But sooner or later, maybe something wonderful will appear on the page. I only have about a thousand words left to go.

Every day.

For the next twenty years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Letting Go, The Shaking it Out

[via teen vogue]
One of the many things I love so much about yoga is how, after a long day, unrolling the yoga mat and doing the practice isn't just a workout—it is a great workout, but it's also a way to let go of everything that happened that day.

I recently started this new yoga routine in my "studio" (aka my apartment) and my favorite part so far is at the start of the practice, when you move into a forward bend, and the instructor—Kathryn Budig, pictured here on the left—tells you to let go of anything and everything that's causing you stress or worry. To do this, obviously one part is focusing on your breath, yada yada yada, but the real kicker is that she suggests shaking your head around, as if you're literally shaking all that shit out of your body, and out of your head.

What's bothering you? Shitty job? Neighborhood dudes sexually harassing you while you walk down the street? (Or is that just me? Grrrr.)

Shake it out, as Florence Welch might say.

As I lean over, grab my elbows, and start shaking my head back and forth, it's like it's actually all falling out of my head, and away from me. All of the stress, all of the anxiety... all of the feelings of RAGE from getting called a "cocky bitch" for not smiling at some dude CLUCKING at me and following me down the street ... just gone. (Side note: Men, don't do that. Don't follow women down the street. You will not get smiled at. You will get scowled at as I imagine dropkicking you in the nuts for annoying me, insulting me, and flat-out scaring me as I try to mind my own business and walk down the street.)

Bye, asshole! You're no longer in my brain. And then for the next 30 minutes, it's just me, my yoga, my breath, and most likely, tripping over the cat a couple of times and falling down.

I highly recommend it. And if you don't want to do yoga, then probably dance around your living room to this. Should have a similar effect.

Shake it out, cause it's hard to dance with the devil (or some punk ass on the street) on your back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Feministing's So You Think You Can Blog? Contest

I've already been yammering about this over at Dating While Feminist, but since I think Layla is the only one who stays up-to-date on the happenings there, let's just repeat it here!

So. Feministing is running a contest to pick their next contributor. I want that person to be ME. Here are some details:

Feministing is looking for a new Contributor. We’re looking for someone to join the Feministing team and blog for us once a week — someone who’s smart, funny, insightful, reliable, and raring to go. To that end, we’re holding a little contest.

Here’s how it’s going to work.

Next week, contestants who want to be considered must write two blog posts on the Community blog between Monday the 20th and Friday the 25th. Each of them should say “A SYTYCB entry” at the top and include the SYTYCB logo. Then, the Feministing team will pick several finalists, and those finalists will have another chance to show us their stuff before we pick a winner. It’s just like So You Think You Can Dance, except we don’t care how many fouettées you can do.

I’m relieved they don’t care how many fouettées I can do, as I don’t know what the fuck that is.

So! I’ve submitted my two posts. They're both on the site now, waiting for someone to decide that they're brilliant. Ha, ha. Wanna read them? Of course you do!

One is about Todd Akin (barf, groan, etc.)

The second is about vulnerability, and Fiona Apple, and some other badass women who make my little feminist heart roar.

If anything happens with all this bizness, like, say, I'm a finalist, of course I'll keep blabbering about it here, and there, and everywhere else on the Interwebs. If not, we'll just pretend this all never happened! Or something. 

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One Week in Rome

The week we were in Rome, each morning we walked up to the hotel's rooftop deck, where we sat and ate croissants. I drank a cappuccino each morning and E drank orange juice. The sun beat down, hot, but I didn’t mind at all.

Afterward, we’d circle down the steps, and head out to the street.

Everything was ahead of us.

I don't remember the name of the hotel. But I remember that rooftop, and swirling my sugar into my foamy cappuccino each morning, and the way crumbs from the croissants flaked all over the table.

I’d look over E’s shoulder, and at the city, and think, Remember this.

The most wonderful part of it all is that I do.

I thought about this today as I stared out the window during a work department meeting. I could barely hear anything that was being said; I wanted nothing more than to be far away. I thought about this one week in Rome, now six years ago, and how so often, the things we expect to happen, that we might even plan to happen, don’t.

Today, instead of looking at Rome from the top of a hotel whose name I don’t remember, I looked out at the Chicago River, Navy Pier, and the shadows each beautiful building cast over the next. From the 27th floor, the traffic crossing Michigan Avenue seemed to be moving in slow motion. I could see the tops of heads in the boats on the river, and people crossing the bridge. Lake Michigan stretched out in the distance. It wasn't Italy. But it was something, and suddenly I didn't mind being exactly where I was: sitting perched uncomfortably on a windowsill in a meeting where I could barely hear anything.

Six years from now, I won’t remember a word that was said in this meeting, and it won’t matter at all. But it's a safe bet I might remember looking out the window, and thinking, and day dreaming, and the way a city can be so beautiful when you really look at it.

It’s good to remember, but it’s even more wonderful to be present.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Telling a Very Simple Story

After a day spent staring at a computer screen, trying to form words into coherent sentences, I sometimes—or maybe five times a week—leave the office feeling completely brain dead. It’s not just because of all the words, of the mind-numbing yet still sometimes wonderful aspect of copywriting, but it’s because of the sheer overload of possibilities. I'm at a computer with an Internet connection. Anything is possible: a new album to listen to, a beautiful essay to read, a horrifying piece of news to discover. The wondrous thing that is the Interwebs is also a never-ending distraction!

It all gets to be too much.

When I left the office tonight, I had to go to CVS to refill a prescription. (And guess what, Paul Ryan? It was birth control! Ha, HA, you dickhead!) Sorry. Paul Ryan being the antichrist isn't the point, here. The point is, I could barely even communicate with the pharmacist. Words suddenly made no sense. I think I might have actually been growling at him rather than speaking English. It’s all a blur. I really don’t know.

Thankfully, I have my walk to the train to help clear my brain, and help me return to being a human. Then, on the train, I started reading Maya Angelou's interview with The Paris Review, and it was like waking up from a good nap.

Maybe you're not also a geek who likes to read about writers discussing writing, but I bet it's safe to venture that all of us feel a little brain dead after a long day at work. And while she's talking about writing here, it's about so much more than that. It's about dealing with the "serious business" that is life, about growing up, and the utter scariness of "the truth about the human being"—and I find it brilliant and refreshing.

I hope you do, too. Here's the excerpt I'm referring to (all emphasis is mine):

Aren’t the extraordinary events of your life very hard for the rest of us to identify with?


Oh my God, I’ve lived a very simple life! You can say, Oh yes, at thirteen this happened to me and at fourteen . . . But those are facts. But the facts can obscure the truth, what it really felt like. Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.


Aren’t you tempted to lie? Novelists lie, don’t they?


I don’t know about lying for novelists. I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.


James Baldwin, along with a lot of writers in this series, said that “when you’re writing you’re trying to find out something you didn’t know.” When you write do you search for something that you didn’t know about yourself or about us?


Yes. When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.

Sometimes it's nice to step away from the computer, put the phone away, and just be reminded that, like the brilliant Maya Angelou, all of us share something (or at least I hope). Because aren't all of us, whether we're writers, or pharmacists, or politicians, just trying?

"Trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we're capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up..."

I know I am. And like she says, "It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story."

That's exactly the kind of story I want to write to live.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: In Misery Park

If the new The xx song isn't perfection, then I don't know what is.

Separate or combine
I ask you one last time
Did I hold you too tight?
Did I not let enough light in?

It captures all the reasons why I fell for The xx—the beats, both of their voices, and how they're so lovely, separate and combined. Just like this song.

We used to be closer than this, we used to be closer than this...

And then it's just over. 2 minutes and 45 seconds. And then it's just over.

It's not enough, so I listen to it again.

The same thing happens to me with this new Twin Shadow song, "Run My Heart":

He keeps saying he's not in love, but I'm not sure if I believe him or not. What do you think?

I know I like to get all teenage girl over my music, but fuck! The chorus! The refrain! And these verses:

You want to meet me out in the dark
You want to meet in misery park
By the moon , so low and lovely
With the gloom that's above me

You couldn't know what makes me dream
And I couldn't wear the things I've seen
Like the shake, the trembling fiends
Like ache of unused wings

Then there's this live session, plus this handwritten letter penned by George Lewis Jr., via Yours Truly:


Monday, August 6, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion: 'It's Never Too Late' for HelloGiggles

[image by Marco Nelor]
I wrote about my love affair with yoga, and HelloGiggles was kind enough to publish it! I'd love it if you check out the entire post, but here's an excerpt:

A few years ago, I dated someone whose mother was a yoga instructor. He’d be a ball of energy after doing mysterious stretches in his living room, saying strange things about “sun salutations” and “downward dogs” — I’d think how weird the notion of a “down dog” was, then go back to reading my book and feeling annoyed by his energy. A couple of times, he tried in vain to get me to attend his mother’s yoga class (if I remember correctly, my stubborn refusal led to a rather embarrassing argument in Border’s). No way. I was not going to a yoga class. I was not going to sun salute in the effing living room.
But then, I would see lithe, calm-looking young women on the train, a yoga mat rolled up and nestled in their bag. I would scowl at them. Yet inside, I secretly wished that I could be the type of woman who commutes across the city with a yoga mat in her bag. Later, further evidence about the magical powers of yoga happened when one of my co-workers started strolling in the office with a grin and energy levels that seemed almost manic as she hopped on my desk where I sat slumped, drinking instant hot cocoa. Her face was glowing. It was actually glowing.

“I’ve been doing hot yoga!” she would squeal. “I’ve been getting up at 5…”

And then I tuned her out. Getting up at 5 in order to take a bus halfway across the city, only to enter a steaming, 98-degree-heated room packed with all those lithe, calm-looking young women I’m seeing on the train? No, thank you. I will stay in bed and sleep. So when I thought again this fall about how much I wanted to be active, I said nothing about it. I just decided to do it. [read more...]

Hope you like it, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meanwhile, at Dating While Feminist...

I've been writing about my love of Louis C.K., bossing up with Nicki Minaj, and most importantly, helping reveal some really great news.

And while we're on the subject of other writing endeavors, posts around here have been scarce not because I no longer have anything to say, but rather because I've been focusing my efforts on freelance work. (err, attempting freelance work, that is.)

Don't fret, though, my loves! I'm working to channel all my limitless energy fueled by yoga—and more accurately, falling face first on the floor while doing yoga—so I can keep up with my one true love, this blog, while also trying to be, like, A REAL WRITER.

Wish me luck, and hope you enjoy Dating While Feminist as well!

alisoncomposes (aka, "God's Creation")
yep, this happened. all of it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: Fiona! Feist! (And More!)

I'm coming off a pretty big week, music-wise. And by "pretty big" I actually mean FUCKING EPIC.

It started on Tuesday with Fiona Apple at The Chicago Theatre, and ended Friday night at Pitchfork with Leslie Feist.

There's so much to say about all the feelings I felt during the Fiona show that, for now anyway, I'm actually not going to say anything at all. (Gasp!) This doesn't nearly capture it, but here's a glimpse of some of my favorite moments at the bestconcertevvver:

As for Feist, it was a great time. My friends and I staked out spots close to the stage, while also still in great view of the Dirty Projectors, so we also caught their kickass set before Feist's. (Swing Lo Magellan! Have you heard it yet?!)

Prior to all that Feist and Dirty Projectors goodness, Willis Earl Beal blew me away with his gravelly, goddamn beautiful voice (and a lot of pelvic thrusting and mic swinging). He also took off his belt, verrry slowly, and then started beating it against the stage. Talk about a one-man show:

Meanwhile, amid all the concert-going, Frank Ocean released Channel Orange, and I've had it pretty much on repeat ever since. He performed "Bad Religion" on Jimmy Fallon recently... Frank Ocean backed by The Roots? Yes please. Check it out.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"But What Will I Write?"

I’m reading Simone De Beauvoir’s roman à clef, The Mandarins, right now—and I say roman à clef partly to sound superior, snotty, and French, and partly because, well, that is what it is. In it, she fictionally depicts the lives of some Parisian intellectuals at the end of World War II. And, because I looked it up on Wikipedia, and Wikipedia knows all, I can break it down for you a little bit more: the character Henri Perron is thought to be Albert Camus; Robert Dubreuilh, Jean-Paul Sartre; and Anne Dubreuilh, Simone De Beauvoir.

Et voilà!

So, now that we’ve gotten this far, perhaps I can get to the point. Henri, who is also the editor of a leftist newspaper called L'Espoir, has recently published a critically acclaimed novel and has announced his plans to write a “light novel.” Of course, the more he talks about this, the more everyone gets excited and asks him a lot of questions about this “light novel.”

Too bad he doesn’t have the first clue what it’s about.

Now, bear with me, as I’m certainly no French intellectual—I know, I know, you’re shocked!—but my favorite aspect of the book so far is Henri’s inner struggle with self-definitions. Is he political, or is he a writer? Is he both? And his bigger question, considering how much he and everyone he knows has changed since before the war, is:

What in the hell will he write about, the past or the present?

So I might not be a post-WWII French intellectual, but anyone who defines oneself as a writer could likely identify with these nagging questions. You ask me what I’m writing, right now, and while on one side, the honest answer is, I’m writing Groupons five days a week and some blog posts here and there; the other, equally honest answer in my mind, is that I’m writing much more. I am writing scribbles of thoughts in a journal; I am constructing ideas and sentences in my head that may or may not ever make it on a page; I am questioning multiple times a day, “What will I write?”; and yes, I am writing Groupons and blog posts.

Yet still my head alternately feels too full to narrow down an idea or too empty to write anything at all. This has been driving me absolutely out of my mind, until I read the following passage, and I suddenly calmed the fuck down.

An excerpt from The Mandarins:

Henri imagined a solitary country home, pine trees, the smell of the scrub. ‘But what will I write?’ He continued walking, his head empty. ‘The trap is well laid,’ he said to himself. ‘Just when you think you’re escaping, it slams down on you.’ To recapture the past and preserve the present with words is all very fine. But it can be done only if there is someone to read them; there’s no sense to it except if the past, if the present, if life counts for something. If this world has no importance, if other men mean nothing, what point would there be to writing? There would be nothing left to do but yawn in boredom … Only there isn’t time enough for everything, that’s the tragedy of it. Once more the refrain began repeating itself insistently in Henri’s head… What was he to do? Give in? Not give in? Get involved in politics? Write?

He went home to bed.

I can only wonder if this “light novel” of Henri’s will ever even happen. That’s the problem with questioning yourself so much, isn’t it? After awhile, the only thing you have energy to do is go to bed. But maybe, later on, all that questioning will lead to action, and you’ll write something better, and more worthwhile, than you ever imagined.

After all, Camus wound up winning the Nobel Prize in literature. But it wasn’t for his novel. It was for his political essay, Reflections on the Guillotine.

Maybe I should start telling everyone I'm in the midst of writing a light novel. Next step, the Nobel Prize!

Just a thought...

Monday Mix Tapes: When We Inflate a Thought Balloon

It's Monday! Don't be blue. Let's just get a little weird.

I'm a smiling alligator. 

And for the finale, the new Twin Shadow video! Be still my heart!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You're So Sensitive!

so many feelings.

Have we met? If so, you might have said the above to me. It's highly likely. After all, I've been hearing this phrase my entire life, or some variation of it:

You're so sensitive!

Don't be so sensitive!

and my personal favorites: Get over it. Chill out.

Believe me guys, I'D LOVE TO.

I realized recently that while I do a lot of joking about feeling a lot of feelings,  I've never actually addressed the fact that I am oh so sensitive. 

The issue of sensitivity has plagued me forever. I kid you not when I say that one of my earliest memories involves being called out on it. The scenario: watching TV in the living room with my parents and brother. No idea what happened, but I remember getting upset about something my brother had said (thanks a LOT, Jay) and whining to my parents about it. I was immediately told not to be—you guessed it—so sensitive. (In response, I threw my beloved sheep blanket over my head and pouted.)

So it was with utter delight that this evening I opened my new issue of Women's Health and found an article that begins with: "Ever been told you're just 'too sensitive'?"


I like the article in particular because it addresses the bad and the good of being sensitive (yes, there are some good things about it!).

The good:
Emotions are also a good source of data, which means that sensitivity can make people more insightful and open-minded, says David Caruso, Ph.D., coauthor of The Emotionally Intelligent Manager. And those who carry the gene linked to sensitivity are better at making complex decisions, especially ones that could result in either big gains or losses.
Sensitive people could be more aware of and empathize better with other people's feelings, says Mary Rothbart, Ph.D., a distinguished professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon. 
 I read that part and was like:

And then I got to the BAD.
Of course, you can't act on your sensitivity all the time. Getting wound up and crying at work, for example, can come across as manipulative, dramatic, or weak ... Sensitivity-spurred behavior can also be hard on relationships ... When sensitive people experience rejection, they can become super-solicitous, anxious, withdrawn, angry, or sad—to the point where they become annoying or even unbearable. As such, they tend to go through more frequent breakups.

Annoying or even unbearable? Moi? 

Alas, I agree with it all. But whatever. I'd rather feel a lot of things really intensely than feel nothing at all. Being emotional/sensitive is not the same as being weak. I really am a lot tougher than I look when I'm sobbing (or pouting underneath a blanket). I swear. Just ask me, and if you're lucky I'll get overly defensive and possibly sarcastic! Oh. Shit. (But the good news is, I'll never, ever get uncomfortable if you cry around me!)

I'm really not that unbearable. I promise.

And you guys? For fuck's sake, quit telling me I'm so sensitive.

I know. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jewelry Stories

I went through a phase in college where I’d wear as many as eight bracelets on each wrist, usually beaded bracelets that would occasionally, and embarrassingly, fall apart during class, and go spilling across the floor. This was in part because I liked to sit and spin them in circles around my wrist, and partly because they were cheap beaded bracelets that weren’t meant to be tugged at, pulled at, and stretched the way I did.

The only time I managed to leave my bracelets the hell alone was the days I’d wear three of my mom’s beaded bracelets. They were purple and gold, something she’d bought on one of her “sister’s weeks” in Florida, an annual trip where she spent a week with my aunts, and from what I could tell, laughed a lot and told them way more information about me than I wanted anyone to know. These purple beaded bracelets were inexpensive too, but because they were my mother’s, and something I’d taken out of her jewelry box after she died, I treated them with better care than I would have otherwise. I wore them specifically on exam days, and would look down at my wrist whenever I was stuck on a question. I refused to leave my house and go to class until I had them on my right wrist, and the exam days I would forget them, I'd remember as soon as the test started and I'd start cursing myself and be convinced I wouldn't remember anything.

via [etymologie]

This was around the same time I never took off several turquoise rings, also scavenged from Mom’s jewelry box. The one I wore on my pinky was slightly too big, and over the course of college I lost it three times. Each time I was devastated, and reacted so dramatically that it was kind of scary, and absolutely ridiculous. Later, when I'd find it again, at the bottom of my closet, on a friend's floor, or wherever, I'd be giddy and act as if it was a sign: "It always comes back to me!" It was even more dramatic when I reminded myself that it was simply a silly turquoise ring that I had actually never even seen her wear. 

But it wasn’t about that. I had found the turquoise rings in Mom’s jewelry box the day after she died, and put them on my fingers. At the funeral home, when I couldn’t bear to look at my mother, who was no longer my mother at all, I’d look down at my hands and twist the rings. I thought of my mother’s hands, and the way they looked when she would clutch the church pew in front of her when we were singing hymns. And I twisted the rings around my fingers. Over and over again. 

A couple of years ago, for my brother Jay’s wedding, I decided to wear Mom’s wedding ring. I had never worn it before, partly because it was gold and didn’t match my turquoise, and partly because I was terrified of the guilt and grief I might feel, should I ever lose it. I kept looking down at my hands that day and seeing my mom’s hands instead.

I’ve worn the ring almost every day since. When I'm nervous or upset, I twist it around my finger, over and over again.When it's not on my finger I feel naked. I still look at my turquoise rings on my dresser, and enjoy the sight of them. Sometimes I wear them, even though they clash with the wedding ring.

Jewelry, to me, isn’t just an accessory. The jewelry I’m wearing is telling a story. Maybe no one other than me is interested, but I really don’t care. Maybe it’s part of the reason why I tattooed a book on my wrist. There’s a story there, if you care to hear it. I like to think other women feel the same way about the items they choose to put on their fingers, their wrists, or dangling from their ears or around their necks.

Today, I’m wearing my mother’s wedding ring, and a few other stories. On one wrist, a beautiful bracelet that was a birthday gift from my best friend, on the other, a turquoise bracelet that was a gift from my Aunt Linda, and a beaded bracelet I bought myself. Around my neck is a lightning bolt from Marco.

They might not all match. They might not even all make sense, worn together. But together, they piece together the makings of a story, and each one makes me smile for different reasons. Later, they might wait in a jewelry box to tell a story for someone else.

another piece found in Mom's jewelry boxes

Monday Mix Tapes: 1991

Now that her debut EP 1991 is out, it's probably time for me to come out and say it: I love Azealia Banks. This is why.

And here's where it all began. (If you're uncomfortable with a word that starts with "C" and ends with an "unt," well, maybe don't listen. Cause she says cunt a lot. Whoops. I just said it too.)

But has anyone ever looked so damn adorable (and worn a Mickey Mouse sweater?!) while doing so? Doubt it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oh, Fiona: My Favorite Sullen Girl Returns!

Seven years: It's a very long time; it is no time at all. Seven years ago, I was 21-years-old, living on 2nd Street in Bloomington, having a great time and having a miserable time. Seven years ago I was listening to Fiona Apple.

Seven years ago it was 2005, and Fiona Apple had just released Extraordinary Machine, her first album since When the Pawn... in 1999. I was giddy and talked a lot to anyone who would listen about how Fiona Apple's first two albums helped me survive high school. I loved Extraordinary Machine (but not as much as her others) and couldn't stop staring at the album artwork, with Fiona looking as beautiful as ever and really, not so sullen at all.

Besides, she was singing songs like this:

So while that album couldn't possibly take the place of Tidal in my little sullen girl heart, or When the Pawn... it didn't have to—because Fiona and I had already sealed the deal long before then.

Whether she was moaning "I tell you how I feel but you don't care"; mouthing off, "If you wanna make sense, whatcha lookin' at me for? I'm no good at math"; or asking and pleading, "Shall I release you? Must I release you?" Fiona seemed to have felt every emotion I was going through, or maybe ever would, starting from when I first heard her announce to the world as she was taking off all her clothes and staring into the camera:

"I've been a bad, bad girl"

It didn't matter that in 1996, I was only 12. Or maybe it did. Because when you look at it that way, I've been listening to Fiona for pretty much my entire life. Maybe seven years isn't that big of a deal, in the scheme of things. And so, after a seven year wait, she has released a new album: The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do

It's a mouthful, and I love it. And I love that you can stream the full album on NPR rightnow. (Like right this very second.) And I love that she released a video for the first incredibly badass single, "Every Single Night" and she's wearing a fucking octopus on her head, not to mention singing about how "every single night I endure the flight of little wings of white-flamed butterflies in my brain" because maybe, some people hear that and think, "What the fuck?" but I hear it and think, "Exactly, Fiona, exactly."

There's also a song called "Werewolf," and it's currently fighting with "Jonathan" to be my favorite track on the album.

Seven years ago I was listening to Fiona Apple, and I was listening to her seven years before that, and still before that. And I suspect that seven years from now, if I'm lucky, I'll still be listening to Fiona, having a great time and having a miserable time. I'm going to see her in concert on July 10. I'm so excited, I don't even know what to do.

For more of my favorite sullen girl, read her interview with Pitchfork. Listen to Tidal. Listen to everything. Roll around in your underwear. Put an octopus on your head. Just do whatever the fuck you want. It's what Fiona would do.