Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Night Frolic — To Hadestown and Back

“We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.”
~Louise Glück

She'd been there twice. Once, in her early twenties, on a cocaine and booze fueled road trip to Florida. Later, as a mature mother with children in strollers. South of the Border is as grey and wonky as it looks on the thirty-year-old postcard whether one is stone-cold sober or stardust-spangled high, and she tries in vain to remember the man who sent it to her that briny-breezed May of 1982. 

She was in her senior year of collegethe year she lost her bearing and went astray. Her housemates worried. Up 'til then, she had merely flirted with drugs and alcohol. Or so she thought. Evenings were often equal part studies and getting stoned. She'd close the books and walk down to the beach with a pitcher of kamikaze mix, sit on the seawall and dreamy-stare at the curly waves frothing at the shore. Or she'd slip into a happy hour, which was as easy to find as the steepled churches that hugged nearly every street corner of her Franco-American hometown. There, in those sticky, beer-crusted shrines, or on the beach with her pitcher, she found hollow comfort from the demons that haunted her. 

But this guy, where had she met this guy? Why had he sent her a post card? She'd hardly known him. And he was sure to have been as much trouble as the man for whom she'd left the nice guy. She must have known this, somehow, in those hazy days of painful insecurities and indecisiveness, she must have sensed a danger. Even then, a doubtful girl, she was determined in her ways.

Blond hair, on the longish side was all she could evoke. Maybe a house party, dancing to Human League's throbbing, synthesized  musicDon't you want me baby, don't you want me, ooohhhoooblack lights, cigarette-smoke and stale-beer infused furnishings... 

He went to Key West. She knew this only by the Sloppy Joe's postcard he'd sent previous to his South of the Border note. It's all she remembers. Does any of it really matter? Back then, she'd settled into a long, bleary underworld siesta from which she feared she wouldn't wake.

But she did. She woke in time to keep herself from dialing the number.

*    *    *

In her fifth and latest release, HadestownAnaïs Mitchell, with her sweet Goldie Hawn-like persona and distinctive voice (an Eartha Kittiness quality to it) sings, with her Hadestown Orchestra, about love, sorrow, regret and displacement in a refreshing rock-opera based on the popular Greek myth of Orpheus, Eurydice and Persephone, only set in a post-apocalyptic American depression. (Sounds scary-familiar?)

Along with Mitchell as Eurydice, the cast in this opera includes an impressive list of voices and musicians: Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) in the role of Orpheus, Greg Brown as Hades, Ben Knox Miller (The Low Anthem) as Hermes and Ani DiFranco as Persephone.

Find out more about the Vermont-born and based Mitchell at her official website


  1. Aah...but awake you did, as did many of us.
    I really like this glimpse...the what ifs....i occasionally do the same...what if i had done this? what if i had called the number? what if i had continued?
    Great post and great choice of music...girl, you need to be like one of those people that puts music on tv shows, you know to get the theme going, what are they? musical directors, yeah ;)

  2. What ifs always make for a great story...or day dream.

    You described Anais to a T - she is very Goldie Hawn-ish. Unique voice.

    I love The Wedding Song - Flowers and Our Lady of the Underground.

  3. You have more sense than me. I'd have called.

  4. 2 things; what if's are usually followed with whew I'm glad...
    and I'm glad to see someone else came from a "yes I inhaled" status quo.

    What a deep soul you have my Yankee friend. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  5. Oh, really good story!
    A postcard like that would have been a dare to me. "I dare me to call it." That brief message scribbled on the back is a loaded gun.
    I often wonder what saved me from my own stupidity. Thank God our brains eventually mature!

  6. It is interesting to look back and consider where things could have gone, to be grateful for good choices...

    On a side note, visiting Barnes and Noble last night I came across a book of poetry by Louise Gluck and fell in love with her writing. :)

  7. Good story. For some reason, girls girls often want to go with the bad guys (I've probably been to nice most of my life) >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  8. Dan- Thank goodness there was an awakening. I don't think I would have made it to 50 had there not! Not calling that number was one little victory in a sea of many losses, but I was glad to be reminded by that post card that at least I didn't jump off of every bridge.

    Wouldn't that be a fun job? Oh yeah, I like to get the theme going! Musical director... I think I'm living on the wrong coast for that though. ;)

  9. Loree- I remember my dad reading a "what if" book. Actually, I quick look at Amazon reminds me that it was called "What If" written by military historians exploring alternate histories. My dad enjoyed the read.

    Isn't Anais darling? She was in RI last year, not far from where I went to college. Sorry I missed her!

  10. Nessa- Let me tell you something: that was an aberration, though I do think it was somewhat (but not altogether) of a defining moment, even if I don't remember it well. Up until then I let a lot of things just happen to me without really controlling the situation. So, it may have been my first step in making some smarter decisions.

  11. Jules- Ha! Those early 80's were just wild! Even back then, though, when I was in the thick of it, Jiminy Cricket was whispering "just say no" in my ear. Vay, the things we do! I'm hoping my daughter won't catch hold of this blog post--she'll see it as the green light to run astray!

    Yet, I'm not much of a writer if I can't be honest with myself. I'm glad I've reached a point in my life--I mean, that I've miraculously made it this far-- where I can be more in tune with soulful thought.

  12. Leonora- I'm sure it was meant to be a dare. Maybe a double dare. And how I loved a dare back then. Come to think of it, I still love a dare--but only the healthy sort.

    In my case, late-bloomer that I am, I think it took longer than most for my frontal lobe to fully develop. Honestly, becoming a mother is what really pushed it. And I don't miss those crazy days one lick.

    As a parent, the really scary thing is watching your kids mature, and hoping, that they will take a smarter path--at least in my case. I'm a little worried about the gene pool. (Though Hubby was much tamer than I.) ;)

  13. Jade- Grateful, indeed.

    Have you read Gluck's Meadowlands? In it are a whole series of her poems based on Homer's Odyssey--regret, anger, grief, frustration, going home, not being able to go home... And can't we all relate to that? I couldn't help but think of Gluck when writing this piece. Keep reading her! And pick up "Meadowlands" if you didn't the other night! :)

  14. Cold- Ha! Ain't that the truth. I tell my daughter, always, stick with the smart ones--at least in terms of her girlfriends. I'm hoping she'll heed the same advice when it comes to the boys. Which had better not be too soon! ;)

  15. I love these old postcards and bits of paper you're digging up. Great piece about your past; I think we all do a bit of that at some stage, just some people don't escape again.

  16. Dicky- Yes, escape is what we must do unless we never again want to see the sky! I think about all the great artists (without drawing any comparison to me, mind you!) that we've lost to darkness. Like poor Amy Winehouse. Drugs and alcohol take such a toll, and some of us, sadly, never escape the demons. Every once in a while I have to sort of wipe my brow and remind myself of my good fortunes. ;)

  17. this story has so many of our names on it. the drive from Canada to Vermont on a Friday night to party and ski. so many Tories waiting not to be told.

  18. Margie- So true! Oh the stories I could tell about my weekend trips to the mountains, apres ski and... if only I could remember...

    I'm happy to be skiing with my kids now. :)

  19. I've been catching myself lately daydreaming about past memories and the turns they could have taken. This was a great read. And what a sweet comment by your daughter you left on my blog...that really made my whole day!

  20. As i change diapers and drink coffee this morning i couldn't disagree with Ms. Gluck more...

    and i've answered those phone calls and knocks on the door more times than i care to count, of course my specialty was notes left with little drawings on them, worked like a charm, and for the record i don't think i've ever been accused of being the nice guy...

  21. Elizabeth- There are some roads that one oughtn't really ever follow, but some of us are prone to learning by experience only, and not at all by sage advice.

    Daydreaming is a useful tool, it allows us to safely wander down many paths, and reminds us, especially in your case, that, wow!, we're so happy to have taken that right--exactly where we were supposed go right!

  22. Kono- Illustrated notes--that would have captured my heart (with that kind of attention it's hard to believe that you weren't the nice guy)--oh, the charm!

    When I posted Gluck's quote, I wasn't sure if I agreed with it either, but I think it reveals just how dark some of her poetry is. I wonder if she even agrees with it. Hmm...

  23. Dark times, dark sides. It is a luxury you cannot afford. You leapt willingly into the rabbit hole and then dug yourself out, bit by bit. Dirt in your nails, dirt in your hair.

    Good thing, isn't it.

  24. Sitting on the seawall with a pitcher of kamikaze mix and staring at the frothy waves sounds amazing to me. I love this post Jayne. I can see it all; your words weave a scene that is alive and packed with emotion. I felt myself being transported back to a time when I was so absorbed in everything me.

    The demons and the men who now seem blurry and subdued once held such a stronghold. I think that there are some demons that never really leave. Perhaps their not demons at all but messengers sent to stir us up. Sometimes, when I’m feeling all grown up, I’ll laugh at these demons, feeling I have somehow outgrown them…graduated from their sticky influences on my life. But then lightning strikes and I feel their exaggerated powers wrapping around my heart and mind, stirring old emotions and thoughts, and claiming their influence anew. “How can this be?” I ask myself, startled with the intrusion. But then I smile because it feels so good to be alive and to know that I’m still me.
    This post is one of my favorites so far! I love your music choice.

  25. Hi Jayne, I've mentioned this post over at my place.

  26. Man- Ha! Willingly, blindly and stupidly! (I think my body is paying for it now--or is it just aging?)

    It's a good all right, but there's still dirt under my nails. ;)

  27. Leah- Remember that luxury? Absorbed in all things me? Or was it a curse? That's the blessing of children--no selfish luxuries. And as I get older, I want so much less. Yet, I still want to know more.

    Yes, I think "messenger" is a good synonym for demon. There's a foreboding sense that we're going to learn from them, and hopefully we do. Time does weaken the stronghold, but they are still there--however for the most part, thankfully, powerless. ;)

    (The power of sitting on wall, huh? :))

  28. Dicky- Thank you--I'll drop by. :)

  29. Do you have any "wish I hads"?

  30. Munk- Wish I'da mastered that dang banjo by now.
    Wish I'da never quit piano. That's about it. ;)

  31. Oh Jayne. I have missed this place...

    By nature, I'm a sucker for that sort of teasing "I wonder what might happen if I just followed up..." note, email, whatever. Luckily I too have awoken (although it took me waaaay too long, and two too many marriages). Weighing short term gain against long term pain and opting not to cross the line is a miserable reality, but it IS reality. :)

    I wouldn't be surprised to find Tina Weymouth among Anaïs Mitchell's stage-presence role models, y'know?

    Lovely sounds. Thanks as always for introducing them to me.

  32. JES- So glad to see you back here and on the interwebs. We've missed you!

    It is the upside, I think, of aging--having those years behind us, of which we can, and hopefully do, learn from. Boy am I happy I finally got (least I think I have!) that certain habits are wholly counterproductive--t's mighty freeing to replace old vices with, shall we say, more virtuous addictions. I only wish I'd gotten that a lot sooner. (One of those what ifs....) But cheers to awakenings!

    Tina Weymouth, stars!, you are right! Yet another notable artist educated in little Rhody (RISD). Tom Tom Club put on a great Tiny Desk Concert at NPR last year. (And I'll bet you've already seen it.) They sound as fresh and funky as ever. ;)

  33. I did see that Tiny Desk performance, yes. Thanks for the reminder -- re-enjoying it now. (Here's the "Genius of Love" segment from Stop Making Sense for comparison. Love that bendy knees-together thing she does.)

    Ha -- you'll laugh, but it suddenly occurs to me that these Friday Night Frolic posts are teasing South-of-the-Border postcards that land on my screen every weekend. It's like there's this little thrill: Hmm... Dare I comment? Am I about to get drawn into something I'll regret??? So much for self-control!

  34. JES- Great video. Tina had Gumby legs!

    And Yes, you dare! And No, you won't regret it. You know, self-control isn't all it's cut out to be. Unless you're young and foolish and in great need of a good dose of it. But as most of us have already taken some big swigs of it, I think it's all right to hit the nip bottle every now and than. ;)

  35. Hence the appreciative phrase "long cool drink of water" to describe certain blogs. ;)