Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — The Low Anthems of a Dysfunctional Winter

A Scene on the Ice -  Hendrick Avercamp 

No ice
not even snow
on this island
that sits low
by the sea

Ponds long
to be cut
with silver blades
a fishing hut
or a puck

No such luck.

Where has winter gone?

Suburban soliloquists
take trains
stare out windows
at city's winter rains
dreaming of frost

Skis of copious length
on which to mount
a field of firn
to linger, scout
a winterland struck

But fuck.

Where has winter gone?

To the Dutch
they've it all
ice, skates, kolf
snow wonder they stand tall
on glacial ivory

The brilliance
of a Vermeer
Jan Davidsz de Heem's
flowers, oh dear!
Steen's palette instructs

Winter's not amuck!

As it should be:

Swirling, whirling crystal
fleecy drifts severe
white-out hypnotics!
The island's absent pearlescent smear
and Khione's heart despairs

So to Avercamp
the scenes he'd deliver
lustful heads turn
toward his frozen river
away from this muck

What's known as winter yuck.

A dysfunctional winter.

* * *

The north wind blows and brittle branches scratch against the clapboards, yet I don't hear the siren calls of winter. Temperatures have dipped (somewhat), but the blizzards of last year seem merely a dream. How can that be? The last time we Rhode Islanders saw snow around here it was cavorting with fall, just before Halloween. That was the trick. The treat has yet to follow, and I fear my friend snow may not remain as it should: a going concern. 

In a corner of the garage, my cross-country skis sit lonely, and I almost want to curse our pulsating sun that fights the brume for attention. This is not as winter should be. Not here. Not in Lil Rhody!

What we do have, thougheven during abnormal wintersthroughout the year, is a vibrant music scene, and a history of serving as a launching pad, or at the very least, sowing seeds, for several remarkable bands. Members of the Talking Heads met at RISD. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lisa Loeb, Duncan Sheik, Jesse Sykes (Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter), and Chris Keating (of Yeasayer) graduated from Brown University. And let's not forget one of my very favorites (especially when he's with his partner, Gillian Welch), David Rawlings, who grew up in the very next town from where I was born and raised.

In Providence, the local music scene includes, among others, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, Deer Tick, and The Low Anthem:

Ghost Women Bluesas well as other songs from The Low Anthem's most recent release, Smart Fleshwas recorded in an abandoned pasta sauce factory located in Central Falls, RI (home to Stanley's famous burgers), which is, like most places in R.I., barely a stone's throw away from my home. 

Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (2009) was recorded on Block Islandin the midst of its deep-freeze winter months. TLA is known for using locally found materials as percussion instruments, as well as its album sleeves and art. (Aha dumpster's treasures.) And I wonder what charms they dug up along the bluffs of one of the Last Great Places.

On My Space, TLA describes its music as minimalist, psychedelic and comedy. I think it's beautiful. (Or, wicked awesome, as the locals like to say.) And hope for more treats from them, as a going concern.

Now, please, Khione, bring on the snow!


  1. As a southern transplant, I have to say I am loving this weather, sorry Jayne!

  2. Ahh well we have the opposite down here....whilst Boreas seems to have locked up Khione, Notus has gone to sleep as it has been cold cold cold, well for an Oz summer at least....strange..
    anyway more important things....dig the poem J girl...a barely restrained scream at living in that confusing weather netherworld...
    know the rather it fucking hot or fucking cold....just like my favourite online weather predictor hehe ;)

  3. We got about 6 inches of the white stuff last night. It was 55 degrees on Wednesday!

  4. There's nothing as sad as a winter without snow. I'm going up to the slopes this weekend. Not much skiing for me, since I'm on duty as gate judge in a kids' slalom race. Little boy is ready for racing >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  5. Bill- Strap on some skis (any kind!), or snow shoes, and you'll wish the entire winter was brimming with snow. :)

  6. Dan- The gods are fickle beasts, aren't they? I'm not enjoying the weather netherworlds. Like you, I like less ambiguous seasons, and I fear the gods are having too good a time playing with us. This winter they seem to be favoring Alaska. ;)

    Global warming?

  7. Loree- Very odd weather patterns. Chilly and warm here. too, but we've yet to be graced with sweet snow this winter. :)

  8. Cold- Looks like I'm going to have to go straight to the mountains for the good stuff. Which I'd be quite happy to do (once my skis have been conditioned).

    Enjoy the races!

  9. Like your winter post; strange how we both did one this week. We've had it easy this winter and although it's cold outside tonight, it's been so mild overal. Can't wait for spring though and the return of the long, late evenings.

  10. One of my most admired friends was from Providence. Hi! Just dropped by via Elizabeth's site and found yours also interesting. What an amazing concept to record in that abandoned building! Nice to stop by! :)

  11. We had frost this morning - finally. It hasn't felt quite right having mild weather in January.

    I hope you get to use your skis before spring comes.

    Wonderful poem too!

  12. Maybe you need a snow globe for your desk, cure the writer's yuck! And dare I say in a year totally crazy weather... be careful want you wish for; look at Alaska. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  13. Dicky- I do love the long, late evenings. But mid-winter, I want mid-winter weather! I don't ever remember a time that I didn't enjoy bundling up to head out in the snow--not even in the years before I learned how to ski (which wasn't until my early 20's). I'm one of those folks who likes to wear wools, hats and boots. ;)

  14. Michael- Thank you for stopping by. There's many wonderful people in RI. It's a fairly laid back state, and its great universities bring young, fresh perspective, ideas and energy to our city's and towns.

    R.I. is home to many, many abandoned warehouses/factories. There's a big push to revive them as art centers, and fortunately, this is starting to happen in the Providence area. :)

  15. SF- Nothing like investing in a new pair of skis and not being able to use them. Gggrrrrr. Not to mention the lack of exercise from my failure to get out in the snow. Although, I suppose there are alternatives, but I loath the gym and can't get much done in the house with the kids around. (Oh, the excuses!). ;)

  16. Jules- I'll take Alaska! A snow globe is a great idea. I think my daughter might have one--think I'll go and steal it... ;)

  17. My grandson thinks the word for snow is "crap," because that's what we say when we open the door and realize it's snowing.

  18. It is a peculiar winter, though I have to say that, while I ordinarily much prefer to see snow cover on the hills, this year, after our disastrous Halloween storm, I have turned phobic. Your poem, however, I love--a sprightly, clever combination of high and low art. Hard to achieve.

  19. I should think that a dysfunctional winter would suit me very nicely, if was adorably dysfunctional instead of psychopathically dysfunctional.

    I love the old painting so much that I made it my desktop. I'm hoping it's not copyrighted somewhere.

  20. Boreas blows only shy
    at Waterhouse's hand back home.
    Just rain again for poor R.I.
    For all the snow has stayed in Nome.

    How I love de Heem's flowers! I try, but I cannot love the Dali's like I love the Dutch. Here'ssome of both with a nice Little Rhody lobster theme and some pink snow that falls when you move your cursor around the page. 'Tis the least I can do for the gift of "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin."

  21. 'Ghost Women Blues—as well as other songs from The Low Anthem's most recent release, Smart Flesh—was recorded in an abandoned pasta sauce factory'

    I like.

    I love what you did with the rhyme scheme, my dear.

  22. Nessa - Ha! I still get all discombobulated, though, when you refer to your grandchildren. Wha?

    No one in this house would confuse snow for anything else. Not an option. Snow's snow and you make friend's with it. Especially when it keeps you home from school. Outside everyone! ;)

  23. Susan- You didn't like that fall storm? It cleared up here quickly, so the kids were easily able to get out for Halloween. I was afraid that early storm was a sign that our winter would be less threatening, and now I feel like I've jinxed myself!

    Glad you enjoyed that silly little poem. Often, when I don't get what I want, I end up speaking in verse. Must be some kind of a rain dance. ;)

  24. Snowbrush- Dysfunctional is not always a bad thing, eh? Dysfunction winter's though--not good for me--messes with my biorhythms.

    Those Dutch masters are remarkable. Mesmerizing. And yes, makes for excellent wallpaper. Good idea. :)

  25. Nance- Oh thank you! A Nance original, and so very clever. I love how you worked Waterhouse into it. (We're on the same HSP wavelength lately.) I think you ought to add that one to your Poems page.

    Love what's going on over at Strawberidge. Dali's lobster series, well, I don't even know what to make of that (andI've seen it before but that doesn't help). But de Heems still life's with lobsters? A feast! And snow! Being one of those HSPs, I don't ordinarily like sparkly distractions on websites, but it's well done here. Thanks for sharing the link. :)

  26. Suze- I like, too, Suze. I like what's going on in RI in terms of the music scene (not the weather). We'll soon be opening, if you can believe it, a music Hall of Fame here in Lil Rhody. I've got to get myself to the opening of that big event. :)

  27. When snow is falling in town, this is what kids do; they call it urban railing >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  28. Cold- Wow, that's one way to enjoy the city mid-winter. I've watched my son hop on snow park rails with equal parts terror and delight. Not so sure, though, about urban stair rails, though it does look like fun. I would imagine that the building/property owners wouldn't take to kindly to it. ;)

  29. Oh, what a great post. Did you actually war it that poem? What a riot. And so true, where the hell is the snow? At least it was seasonably cold hair didn't frizz as it has been all winter like in August for Pete's sake...
    Thanks for dropping by my blog. Mi asked you!

  30. Sandra- I think you asked if I wrote the poem. I'm almost embarrassed to admit I did, but not embarrassed enough to have published it! Anyway, I'm glad you found it humorous. (Any writing that is not original here is attributed to its author.)

    My dear, I believe you've found the one redeeming quality in this dysfunctional winter (well, for me, any winter, with the exception of apres ski): my hair is frizz free!

  31. It seems that winter everywhere has been mild. I figure it can only last a little while longer, right? Loved your poem. Love your taste in music as well. I can't BELIEVE that about your father-in-law owning the Bernards Inn before! What a small world! (And I have to take a second to brag, that the drummer from Duncan Sheik played drums on my album!!!) :) Have a great week!

  32. I miss the snow too. To me, winter just doesn't seem right without it. Snow gives some meaning to winter - gives me something to do, something to talk about other than that it's just cold!

  33. Elizabeth- Such coincidences, eh? I'm sure your work will lead you to collaborate with many talented musicians.

    My F-I-L sold the Inn in 2006. Here's a little history about the Bernards Inn. A really lovely place. I especially like the piano bar. I imagine that's where your performing. Enjoy!

  34. Linda- So true. No one is talking snow this season. Well, actually, they are talking about the lack of snow, which to me, is not talking snow.

    I hope your foot heals soon! When we do get snow (and we will, right??) I'd love to go for a few runs with you. :)

  35. I'm not much of a skier, which is fine living in Chicago.Although I am a bit of an abnormality when at home in CO. However, wwinter has finally hit here in Chi-town and the closest I ever seem to get to snowy sporting is the daily game of 'How far out the door will I make it today before falling on my ass.'

    I had to look up kolf. Thanks for that. Nice one!

  36. Beer- Well, if you are headed back to CO (which I think you are, right?), you're going to have to brush up on your carving, because it's a wonderful thing skiing so close to the sun. By end of February, early March, you'll need only a t-shirt on the slopes. Dang, you can't go to Colorado and not ski!

    And I think, each year, I get a bit worse at the game of "How far..." unless, of course, I've got skis strapped to my feet. And lucky for me my car gets a bay in the garage. Hubby's trek to his car is a bit more hazardous. ;)

  37. I'd have been bitterly disappointed if the Low Anthem hadn't appeared in this post, given the title. Loved them the first time I heard them, and haven't seen any reason to stop!

    Unwintry winters: was watching an episode of Jamie [Oliver] at Home recently on the Cooking Channel. He was visiting a friend of his -- maybe a professional greengrocer or something? -- who was taking him all around the garden to check out the herbs he had on hand. Both of them were remarking on the unseasonably warm winter -- in England! -- and its effects on the herbs' life cycles. Even if it was an episode from some years ago, as it may have been, it still introduced a sort of chill of up-to-the-minute reality into the program.

    You have to promise that if you DO get on skis or snowshoes this winter, you will beam some of those first-hand sensory impressions down Florida-wards. (Trust me, the antenna is primed.)

    In the meantime, you can always turn to hawking midwinter diet solutions. EVERYONE is talking about you, you know. *laughing*

  38. JES- Ha! Oh, that'd be just plain cruel. A bait and switch. As cruel as all those twitters talking about me. (See, this is why I was so reluctant to join. There's no immunity to spam. Not anywhere!)

    Dicky and Sensible Footwear, above, are both from England, and I've been hearing how mild it is over there. This warming trend is a little unnerving when you think about how all life cycles may, no will, be affected unless they adapt to the changes. Over at Fred'splace the other day, I followed a link to a satellite photo of a magnificent Phytoplankton bloom--what marine life depend on for food. (Not to mention all the oxygen the plants make). These blooms are wilting in warmer waters, and It makes me wonder how our seas will change, or if we'll all be able to somehow adapt to our ever-changing climate. And now he's on to bees... I almost don't want to know about it (yet, I do it's so sci-fi-like scary).

    I promise there will be vibrations, waves of them, your way should I ever get to frolic in the good stuff--as I did here on SS last winter in January and February. That was a treat. More please.

    (So glad to see you back here. :))

  39. Well, y'know, I never stopped reading. (And I'm neither the first nor the last reader of anything you'll write to say so.)

    I mentioned this someplace else recently -- maybe just in conversation somewhere? -- but I can't escape this nagging sense of foreboding about 2012. Not the OMG-the-Mayan-calendar sort of foreboding. It's more like personal foreboding... something about impending grief in unwonted forms. Maybe the global-climate thing is part of it...

    But what the HELL are we doing talking like this in a comment thread for a post in a Friday Night FROLIC series?!?

    Kick up our heels, I say. Even if neither of us is inclined to get out of the chair, hah. (Metaphors are our friends. :))

  40. JES- I wonder how many of us have that same sense of foreboding. I think it's a combination of environmental concerns, the extended depression of economy, and a lack of faith (or increased skepticism) in those who are leading this country. And then there's aging baby boomers (like myself) who see shrinking opportunities not only for themselves but for their children.

    Either way, all's good or all's not, I tend toward worry when things seem too peachy. At least, given all these negative factors, I have real reason to worry. See, this makes me feel less neurotic and a little more, well, normal. ;)

    But, yes, kick up my heels I will! :D