Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — Seeing the Day

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. 
                                                                                        ~ Albert Einstein

Keep moving. It's been that kind of week. In Boston's Chinatown this past Wednesday everything seemed to be moving. Holding balance. People crossed busy streets when traffic walk signals told them to do so. Pedestrians hummed over street vendors' bins of fresh vegetables and fruits. Chinese willows shook themselves out in the breeze. In Mary Soo Hoo Park, locals huddled and swayed around small groups of men playing Chinese chess with brightly inscribed wooden pieces. Sirens flashed and swung in the air, in transit, to and fro Tufts Medical Center. 

And then there was the muted sound and movement of a pretty bicycle secured to a pole at the corner of Kneeland and Tyler, which stopped me in my hurried tracks. The gentle downward slope of the top bar of the dark frame, the woven basket, the leather saddle, and bowed fenders caught my eye. A city bike. A woman's city bike. I wondered if she, the rider, had ridden the bike to work, or if she had met a friend for dim sum, or if she was simply taking her Miniature Schnauzer, whom she had carefully tucked in her basket, for a stroll through the park. Had I seen her poking through the glossy Chinese eggplant? Was she wearing a knee-length wool skirt, cable-knit sweater and long linen scarf? Maybe she was a resident at Tufts and had come from her apartment in Fenway. In the hospital she was dressed in scrubs and listened carefully to patients.

I stayed a while by the bike, and took several photographs, feeling as if I were in a state of inertia in the center of a mob of exertion. I didn't want to leave. Yet I did want to leave. On the bike. I wanted to ride it around the whole damn city, like I'd done all those years ago on my raised-seat touring bike, racing around Beantown, through its emerald parks, or to the office downtown. On a mission. But this particular bike, the city bike, was not meant for mission. It was meant for hanging back, for diddling, for loitering, for which, I realized—simultaneously with those leisurely thoughts—I had no time.

At the Craniofacial Pain Center, Dr. Correa asked me how I slept. 

Not well.

Next time, we'll talk about sleep, he smiled. 

And then I was off with my thrice-adjusted mouth guards, racing to my car, maneuvering the slow-lanes/fast-lanes of 93 South, open throttle toward another city where I was to pick up the kids, all the while wishing I'd done what I ordinarily do: take the commuter train. 

It's a balancing act, life, though I don't feel like I ever truly keep balance. I lurch to the left, wobble to the right, and sometimes, on a lucky occasion, center myself amply enough to see a day as less than overwhelming. It's all right. I'm happy to see the day. See it right through.

*  *  *

And now, ballads and jingles that I like to call, well, loiter music.

About singer/songwriter/pianist Joe Purdy, from thesixtyone:  
Purdy, an independent singer/songwriter from Arkansas, put in his time working at a loading dock and as a counselor at a private high school before his song "Wash Away" became synonymous with the 2004 season of ABC's Lost. Purdy left Arkansas for California in 2001, where he learned how to play the piano and began writing songs. He went on to record several homemade albums, breaking into the L.A. music scene with 2003's StompinGrounds. It was around this time that Purdy was contacted by J.J. Abrams, the executive producer of Lost, who asked Purdy to write a song for the show. Purdy, who at the time was visiting an island on a river in upstate New York, wrote "Wash Away," which went on to chart in the Top 25 on the /iTunes country charts…
In addition to his music heard on Lost, his songs have also appeared on the soundtrack of the TV series Grey's Anatomy, and the motion picture Peaceful Warrior.

From Last Clock On The Wall:

And, one of my favorites from Paris In The Morning:

In total, Purdy has self-released a total of twelve CDs, the latest being This American.

All of Purdy's music can be listened to for free, on his website, available on album playlists.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Temerity of Light


If it is real the white
light from this lamp, real
the writing hand, are they
real, the eyes looking at what I write?

From one word to the other
what I say vanishes.
I know that I am alive,
between two parentheses.

~Octavio Paz, from Selected Poems (©1984 by Eliot Weinberger)

It's been so dark lately. I wanted big light today. Fierce light. Shouting, screaming, raging light. Light with claws, barbed teeth and a tail of burs. But today's light won't fight like that. Today's light plays demure, like a child who won't perform on demand. Oh, come on now, what's wrong? You know how to do this, you just did it the other day. Show us what you can do, don't be shy. (Baby blushes with a big-dimpled grin.)

Upstairs, in my room (the only room in the house that hasn't been finished, never mind re-finished), which faces east into the morning sun, I'm writing, trying to make sense of a certain citrus-scented light that has left this planet. Marks—the parentheses—of this fruity light are set with dates on both sides of the dash. My good friend Sheila: born and died in March. I don't imagine, though, that she is gone.

Death is the only certainty, we are told. It should be of no surprise, especially when we're prepared—as if we can prepare—yet, we're surprised. Events following take on a surreal aura. Death cannot be real. It's a trick. Smoke and mirrors. Like the Botanica print hanging on the wall above my desk that appears, in the picture, to be a mirror. The things reflected: an old yarn winder topped with magazines and an enormous, inherited, "Authorized or King James Version" of The Holy Bible. The Bible has so many bookmarks and notes tucked within its pages that it's nearly twice its original size and its spine is reinforced by duct tape.

Honey-haired Sheila was all light, as refreshing as orange essence; her zest for life, her insistence upon positivity, palatable. You could scrape her sideways and she'd smile. An orange spritz. Effervescence. A concentration of sweet and light. Peacemaker. Where there was darkness, she brought light. Orange glow.

Yellowed paper clippings are taped to the backside of the Bible's cover. I hadn't given the big book much attention, but one clipping strikes me—a passage from Olive Moore's Collected Writings:
Be careful with hatred. Handle hatred with respect. Hatred is too noble an emotion to be   frittered away in little personal animosities. Whereas love is of itself a reward and an object worth striving for, personal hatred has no triumphs that are not trivial, secondary and human. Therefore love as foolishly as you may. But hate only after long and ardent deliberation. Hatred is a passion requiring one hundred times the energy of love. Keep it for a cause, not an individual. Keep it for intolerance, injustice, stupidity. For hatred is the strength of the sensitive. Its power and its greatness depend on the selflessness of its use.
The sun, now, is willing itself to be present, and in the hall where it shines through the picture window it concentrates on the center of the rug, but it doesn't appear too concerned. It spreads across the tapestry, carefully, until the hall is fully infused with warmth. Ah yes, now it's thrashing and there's not a shadow to be seen! I think of Sheila's energy. She loved foolishly. Wildly. Generously. She still does. I feel her here now. Here. In the orange glow. Not gone at all. No sense to be made. I can smell the oranges and see her blushing. For this, I am certain.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — The Metamorphosis (To Come)

'Now my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, 
but don't go into Mr. McGregor's garden: your Father had an accident there; 
he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.'
~Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

There are forces—intrinsic, extrinsic, otherworldly, Olympian—in the preteen psyche that I hadn't anticipated. The girl is petitioning for a room makeover. Well, is it any wonder? I shouldn't be so surprised, after all, she is surrounded by storybook misfortune: rabbits captured for pie, eggs swiped from ducks, foxy-whiskered, prick-eared gentleman not to be trusted, and owls who skin squirrels alive.

Lulu, who turns thirteen in a little more than two months, has lived among the red hued toile rendering—wall covering and coordinating balloon shades—of Beatrix Potter's creatures for as many years. 

I hadn't thought about Potter's nursery rhyme characters in that light when I decorated Lu's room more than a dozen years ago. I thought, to be candid, that the paper and fabric made for a nursery design with which I could live and a wall covering that would easily grow up with Lu. Now I wonder how easily she's slept for all those years in that angelic, antique three quarter bed while Potter's beasts dallied on the walls.

I admit, the toile was for me. 

But thirteen is a coming of age birthday—a right of passage that has been known to be marked (her brother's room as precedent) by inner sanctum transformation. Hence, Lu's passage into teen-hood will be observed by the conspicuous and abrupt changes that are characteristic of any metamorphosis: a permutation of color; the shedding of layers; altered structures.

The coming transformation is for Lu.

I worry. I wonder if any morsel of Lu's youth will be recognizable in her transmuted cocoon. Or shall I enter to find a Kafka nightmare? Lu as a gargantuan pest?

Goodbye Jemima Puddle-Duck, Pigling Bland, Squirrel Nutkin, my Peter. Augmented inner sanctums take no victims. (Nor—I hope—accidents, like fluorescent permutations.)

*  *  * 

Lacrymosa is the stage name for 22 year old Brooklyn singer/pianist/composer Caitlin Pasko, whose warm, tranquil music gently fills space, time, and captivates. Her second album, Selah, was released in 2010.

Pasko studied classical piano from a young age, and quickly developed a style which she has described as whimsical forest music. Her angelic soprano lends itself well to her otherworldly sound, as well as the pastoral imagery her songs evoke.

Pasko's lyrics are peppered with fields of gold, roses, buttercups, parrots, trees, spiders and tiny horses—just the type of visuals that also might make for something really sweet, like, say...


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Goofy Stuff

And winning ladies' hearts.

A mid-seventies post card from Richie (whom I don't remember):

(Postcard text below—grammatical corrections mine.)
Hi, How's baseball? I thought maybe you would like to try golf, because your baseball isn't too hot.
Say Hi too Izzy for me.
See you both when I get back.
Hi Beth

Apparently, guys liked sending me postcards from Florida.

I'll be asking Backwoods Betty (my sister, "Beth") about Richie. I wonder if she'll remember who he is. I mean, how could I forget a guy who wrote such sweet love letters?

And who the heck is Izzy?

Where the years go...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Magnolia Monday

“Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent.”

~ H.P. Lovecraft, “The White Ship”

Last year I nearly missed the magnolia bloom. It was mid April when it was in full blossom (perhaps beyond) and Max told me that rain made him feel good. Two weeks ago the same bush fussed with buds and I've had my eye on it each day since. It doesn't last long--its innocent, blushing youth.

I don't much like March. The shrieking wind, premature flourish, spurious hope, inescapable fray and wilt. Moist, silky efflorescence plummets to its doom. Becomes earth. Anon. Sky. Heavens.

Black and white.

Grey is the illusion.

And then... 

Spring's noble, ancient magnolia persists! Sweet magnolia. Riding in like a white knight on its cloaked horse, lance clenched in hand. Awaken! Hear ye, hear ye: Spring is for the living!

Monday is for the living.

Today is for the living.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — Fair Gale (Part II)

Wheatfield with Crows--Vinent Van Gogh, from the Van Gogh Museum.

Her daughter's breathy kiss lingered in the air, aflutter, like a corvid beating its way through the evening breeze, migrating to places she'd not considered in a long while. Places saturated in deep alluvial and poseidon hues, where prismatic skies swirl and lime-coated mountains plummet madly into ravines. The cold winds that sweep through these places sweep through the heart, loosening it from its chamber like a tin can from a toppled refuse bin, clanking through the empty streets.

The Rhone Valley was like this, and her heart was open to it, to being lost to its craggy mountaintop villages and billowing vineyards, to chaparral covered plateaus, to the warm springs and high cliffs of the Vaucluse, to the artery and veins of the river, to the very mouth of the Rhone. But not to its empty streets.

Mon nom et Lucien, she thought she heard him say as he stepped into his toe clips and cruised easily along the gravel path, out to the main road. Lucien.

The streets were busy with traffic and she pushed hard on her pedals to keep close behind him. Several riders, changing gears, passed them as they climbed a hill. His calves, chiseled into the shape of an upside down heart, hardened as he clamped down on his pedals, accelerating up the hill, and she sensed she'd lose sight of him beyond the crest--he would take a left or right somewhere along the decline and she wouldn't know which way to turn--but he slowed when he noticed her fall behind. She downshifted twice and hurried up the steep incline to catch up with him. The gap between them narrowed at the hill's crest, and she nearly clipped his back tire with her front, having turned too hard to the right as she drew near him. She had lost sight of what lay ahead, preoccupied with the why and the where to which she was going, she hadn't asked the destination, and she tried to divert her racing thoughts to those of Van Gogh, and the green and beige squares of farmland and scattered olive groves that rose with her to the road's crescendo. She was thankful he hadn't turned to see her approach. She wondered if he'd even heard her, certainly he'd heard the grinding of her gears. As he fell below the horizon she saw ahead of him the road dipping gently into a long, thin, grey ribbon unwinding into the valley and the river beyond.

Van Gogh, she remembered, had painted his Wheatfield with Crows in Auvers, during the last weeks of what would be the final summer of his life. Attempting to escape the turmoil in his head, Van Gogh had left Saint-Paul with an injured ear, but even in the soft pastel glow of Auvers, just outside the City of Light, among midsummer ploughed and weeded fields of wheat, a countryside tinged with light pinks, pale yellows and greens, he painted inky, turbulent skies, twisted tree roots and ashen branches. But he painted the light, too. 

The road through Saint-Étienne-du-Grès, where she had expected Lucien to stop, took them past washed lime morter stone villas, windows adorned with periwinkle shutters, and roofs of arched terra cotta tiles. Everything looked peachy, and she wanted to stop and linger, she wanted to know where they were headed, and was growing impatient with her own naiveté, but she could tell that Lucien, still ahead of her, had reached a cadence that obviated slowing, and she dared not suggest a break. They wheeled swiftly through the town's center and out along pea green fields, continuing west along Av. D'Arles, until they reached the roundabout where they circled north up Route D'Arles, across Boulevard Victor Hugo, and into Tarascon on the Rhone.

She'd been to many villages in Provence, but never to Tarascon. They glided along a stretch of road that led directly to the village's Place du Marché, where they found the outdoor market stands buzzing with noontime shoppers looking for fresh cheese, fruits and olives. Lucien dismounted from his bike, swinging his right leg up and over the back wheel with his left foot still on the pedal. She slowed behind him, placing both feet carefully on the gritty road, straddling her Raleigh, scanning the circular perimeter of the town. He grabbed his bike by the stem and marched authoritatively to her with an enthusiastic smile, pointing at the vendors and a massive, stone block of an ancient castle sitting at the banks of the Rhone, You see! Worth the ride, non?

Yes, it's quite lovely, she said, breathing deeply from her diaphram, squeezing water from her plastic bottle onto the tip of her tongue. The sight of a castle did not surprise her, there were Romanesque ruins and medieval castles scattered all over Provence. She looked at his glistening yellow shirt as the knight in shining armor cliche passed through her head. 

She smiled slightly, You like castles? Your not planning on climbing to the top of that thing, are you?

Oh, tu est fatigué, mon cher?

No, a little winded, but I'm fine.

There is a moat.

A moat? You don't think I've seen moats? she laughed.

Je pense, eh, I think there is much you haven't seen, he replied, grinning. Come, I'll give you a tour. From the top you can see Beaucaire, across the river. It's where the great plague came in from Syria. Greedy merchants didn't care if the ship's captain was sick. It killed almost all of Marseille.

He coaxed her off her Raleigh, and they tied their bikes together against a cypress tree. The air was thick with the scent of lavender and lemon and olive oil, and she followed him, reticently, toward the castle.

* * * 

Madison Violet, a/k/a Mad Violet, is Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac. The duo have been playing together for more than than a decade, but serious acclaim has come to them only within the last couple of years, after releasing No Fool for Trying (2009). 

Their latest release, The Good in Goodbye, is a beautiful expression of their friendship, the essence of their relationship preserved in silky harmonies. You can read more about Madison Violet here.

(The first part of Fair Gale can be found here.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Accepting the Challenge

Never try to arrange things. Objects and poems are irreconcilable. 
~ Francis Ponge

It is the last day of winter, the young, well-dressed neurologist says, looking up from the folder.

Mmm, yes it is, though it wasn't much of a winter, she replies mournfully. In any event, you'll be happy to know that your magnesium/B2 cocktail has taken the edge off the migraines. I haven't spent a full day in bed, dodging light, for two months now.

He's pleased by this news, though not surprised. His patients find relief. This, he knows. He seems to know a lot for his young years. Though she wonders if he, who’s never felt a migraine’s crippling blows—the rapid-fire constriction of nerves and vessels (in her case a three or four-day, often monthly, basal ganglia guerilla warfare, in which she is the only casualty, shut-off, shut down, from family, words, writing, lifeblood)—could ever truly empathize. Nevertheless, what he certainly cannot know is that in less than two hours she'll be sitting in a greyed and splintered teak chair by the table on her deck, in her skinny jeans and black cardigan, kicking off her black flats, unwinding the scarf from around her neck, lunching on last night's leftovers of salad and grilled salmon, debating the tense and POV in which to write this piece, and staring down a pretty, yellow daffodil plant that Mother brought to dinner the previous night. (She had thought to begin with: Mother brought daffodils to dinner last night.) He is confident, but cannot know this. She did not know that the day would progress as such herself. She, nor he, did not know that she'd find Francis Ponge at Symposium Books downtown. Ponge, Celine, Paz, Toussaint, all at steep discount. But she knows that when she leaves, he'll be sitting in his office with his next patient, reading his or her chart, peering up from under his wire-framed glasses and saying, It is the last day of winter.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, the doctor's receptionist, says, as she hands her her stamped parking ticket and receipt.

Mmm, yes it is, she replies. Spring is such a pretty word.

Oh, it is. Very pretty, a welcome word, the receptionist smiles.

Goodbye my anemic winter, she thinks. Outside, the world is warming. As she walks down the street to the parking garage, she thinks about the daffodils, the color yellow, not like the walls of her kitchen which are tinted the yellow of Provence--a baby mustard--but the yellow of the sun at noontime when, during days that ululate spring, she sits on her deck for lunch and watches the glinting sun center itself above the teak table, much like she'll do today.

"Accept the challenge things offer to language," Ponge says.

(Ponge, who wrote of the wasp [or bee]: A little itinerant siphon, a little distillery on wheels and wings, like the ones that go about from farm to farm through the countryside in certain seasons; a little airborne kitchen, a little public sanitation truck...  [they] carry out an intimate activity that's generally quite mysterious... What we call having an inner life.)

Where was she now? Yes, she's left downtown's brick streets and is back home. She's on the deck. Vital fluids flowing. Taking notes: they are Tête-à-Têtes, their heads gently brushing against one another, and they need beaucoup de lumière. So she sets the daffodils out on the weathered teak table for a dose of vitamin D. They are delicate, yet hardy things. Their outer petals are lemony and frosty like a Matisse star. The rippled center cup,  trumpeting spring (she can almost hear the music), is slightly darker. The tips of the rubbery, bright green stems are curved upwards in a gothic arch--like the petals--and spliced open where the flowers, in clusters of three, have burst from their casing like electrical wiring freed from insulation. Fireworks!

Her daughter is home from school, now, sitting next to her at the table, gnawing at a slice of watermelon.

Mom, don't you ever get lonely at home? she asks.

No, never. She leans her head back against the top of the chair, And it's so good not have to hide from the light any longer.

(She wonders if Ponge ever wrote about daffodils.)

The next day, it is spring. The sun shining all over again. Daffodils singing their songs and challenging.

Does not everything have an inner life?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Night Frolic - Tournaments and Predictions

Courtesy of the Web. (Trouble sourcing this one.)

And so, yes, the spring soccer season has begun in earnest, and the Suburban Soliloquist will soon be fighting off gnats, dressing in layers for chilly, late night games, damp grounds, wet benches, or prepping with sunblock, and trying to avoid parents who pose as sideline coaches, screaming at their superstars: Behind youPick it upPass to your leftShoot goddammit! and What the hell were you thinking? (seriously), on fields somewhere out in the green pastures of Massachusetts this weekend. Beginning, um, just about now.

She wishes she could spend more time with you this evening, but this being the case, she will leave you in the good hands (and voice and soul) of what the Suburban Soliloquist predicts (and she doesn't often predict, no, no, trained legal professionals do not predict, legal pros---not that she's claiming to be one--say only: it depends) will soon be one of the most successful bands in the music industry. She knows, high praise for a band who has yet to release their first album. But mark her words.

Goosebumps were the indicator.

This versatile, multitalented band, Alabama Shakeswhose origins began with a simple question posed by then high school student, Brittany Howard (singer/songwriter/guitarist), to a classmate who wore cool T-shirts: You wanna make some music?, has lately written a few handfuls of passionate and rockin' songs.

Howard's powerful and confident vocals summon Joplin, Cocker, Redding, even Winehouse. The toddler aged band's debut Album, Boys & Girls, will be released April 9th/10th, 2012.

They're on their way. Howard's sure to be a superstar (not just in her parent's eyes). The Suburban Soliloquist, though, dares not make predictions as to the outcome of this weekend's tournament. Most of it depends on...