Punctuation is important, even in tattoos

Tuesday night I went out to UCSB with my friend Jennifer to see Rufus Wainwright. It was a great show, it was just Rufus solo, and he seems like a dear person who was born with/has carefully developed a tremendous vocal range as well as nice, shaggy hair and bare feet and a sparkly scarf, and honestly, sitting there I felt like it would have been okay if he just decided to sing all his songs, forever, and I could just stay there and listen and feel like it was a fine use of the rest of my life. If saying this doesn't put too far much ballast in the hull of my Rufus Boat: the man totally refreshed my faith in art. When an artist opens up his or her heart on stage like that -- if we're receptive, our hearts open up in response. Maybe you get that feeling through religion, or shopping, or being in love, but a really skillful songwriter can unlock all those little cabinets inside you. Or cabinets inside me, at least, I don't know what you have inside of you; maybe your big inner ironing cupboard is always ajar, your iron steaming, your spray starch bottle full. (We have one of those old-fashioned ironing-board cupboards in our kitchen -- with no board in it, unfortunately -- so when I was thinking of something you might have in your chest that wasn't what I have, which is 26 sticky little typesetter's drawers, but instead just one, big available thing, ironing board cupboard is what came to mind.) At one point Rufus covered his face with his hand and bent over the microphone and mumbled, "I spend way too much time Googling myself," and we all chuckled at his shameful secret. And then he mumbled even more shamefully, "And then I read the comments." As someone who has lived part of her life on the Internet for -- oh! Next Monday will be my eleventh blog anniversary! So, for eleven years I've been doing this Internet self-exposure thing, and if there's one thing I've stopped doing it's Googling myself. I just don't want to know who thinks I'm an idiot, it's not going to do me any good unless you really have a plan to help me with all my problems, then I'm totally willing to listen. But you're going to have to make an appointment. In conclusion, I don't want to be responsible for any comments that might hurt another person's feelings, so if you read this and feel inclined to tell the world what you really think about Rufus Wainwright, make sure it's in rhymed couplets.

Driving up Chapala Street

Me: "Look at the tattoo on that guy's forearm: Love Laughter Light."

Jackson (cupping his hands around his mouth): "YOU FORGOT THE COMMAS."

On Instagram I am Toasteroven, I forget why

Lastly, because I'm finishing this in a dreadful hurry to get Jackson to school on time: I am reading the new J.K. Rowling book, The Casual Vacancy. Is anybody else reading it? Because I feel like I'm the only person in the world who thinks it's terrific. I will let you know if that opinion still holds when I'm done, but so far, so good.


In March of 1995 I was sitting at the bar of Jimmy's Oriental Gardens reading James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss when in walked Jack. I had just broken up with a guy and was telling myself I wanted to be alone for at least two years before I even thought about dating again.

Michael Jordan had just had a 55-point game against the Knicks, and there were two commercials I liked at the time: one had Louis Armstrong singing "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," and the other was a Jaguar spot that used Etta James singing "At Last."

"I like that song," I said one day a few weeks later, sitting on my couch watching a Lakers game with Jack. The next night he came into the bookstore where I worked and handed me a CD.

"See ya 'round campus," he said, and walked off.

The bookstore had a café attached, and in the afternoons Jack would come there with his friend Dave after they got off work. They were building a house on Bath Street and would sit at a table on the sidewalk, their t-shirts and shorts and boots covered in sawdust, drinking Heineken.

My manager, Leslee, and I peeked out the front window at him. "Nice legs," she said.

A few weeks later Jack and I slow danced to "A Sunday Kind of Love" at Jimmy's while Willy closed up the bar and Dave sat slumped in a booth watching us. "I need a girlfriend," he sighed.

Dave has a wife and three kids now.

Happy the Day After Valentine's Day, when all hidden meanings are revealed.

High on a hill stood a lonely goatherd

In a startling shift of habit that was long overdue, I have stopped listening to music altogether. That's right, you heard me. Stop before you waste a stamp sending me tickets to that GWAR reunion. I don't care if Prince and Stevie Wonder are sitting on an overturned washtub in front of Starbucks singing the Jackson Five's greatest hits and handing out purple jellybeans. I've listened until the meaning has been drained of every song I ever loved and now I'm not getting up off this couch. I've spent the last three or four years in a state of low-level irritation trying to squeeze a song that matters out of my iPod, somehow always while I was driving. First of all, piloting several thousand pounds of machinery down the road while wearing reading glasses is against the law for a reason. People aren't normally allowed to navigate our nation's highways by feeling for oncoming traffic and stray pedestrians. Nor are we bats with fingers and car keys. No, we need to be watching the road, scanning ahead for brake lights and obstacles, not fiddling with our entire record collection while we slowly face the heartbreaking demise of both our hearing and our relevance.

Secondly . . . I don't remember what my second point was. Which just proves my first point: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD. Hands at ten and two. Face, shoulders, abdomen, legs, and feet relaxed.

Treasure the transition betwixt hither and yon in focused yet meditative silence.

No. I mean, yes, I could do that some of the time, drive in silence, but the impulse--and maybe it's more than an impulse, maybe it's a true need to fill the void between home and work with some reminder that the highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, and that everybody's out on the run tonight but there's no place left to hide. But why not use every ten- and twenty-minute commute between nowhere and back to do more than live with the sadness, Wendy? Why not.

So I took it upon myself to use my drive-time for self improvement, which is how I discovered that the library is full of audio books about people murdering one another and pretending they didn't. However, if you look hard enough there's a little path to enlightenment winding right past the NPR Driveway Moments CDs.

NOW I remember what my second point was: the font size on my phone is so tiny! When did that happen, that I can't read 7-pt. type with my bare naked eyes anymore? So that's to explain why I was wearing reading glasses while I was driving. Trying to find Marvin Gaye on my phonepod.

The first improving CD I checked out from the library was called The End of Your World written/read by a man named Adyashanti. This man seems very nice. He speaks in a really friendly, accessible way about things that are laughably over my head. I almost believe him, that I could achieve full awakened enlightenment in this lifetime. It's not that he's so terribly charismatic and now my bedsheets are in the washer being dyed saffron with RIT, it's that he's like the best soft-sell salesman in the world. He's the guy who says, "I don't care if you buy this car. It's a great car, and it will never need to be fixed or run out of gas, and the keys are sitting right there on the dash because you don't even have to pay for it." And at first you think, No! This is too good to be true! And then he says, "If you want this car, all you have to do is see things as they really are," and you think, Wait, enlightenment is a rainbow-hued sedan with a permanently open sun roof and spinning rims? And then he chuckles at you (you are kind of funny) and offers you a kale smoothie.

After Adyashanti's advanced course in managing the post-awakened ego, I felt like I needed to backtrack a little; before I melted down my psychic armor in the white-hot furnace of the bliss I needed to figure out how to get the damned stuff off. And who was coming 'round the mountain but Pema Chödrön. Pema is an American Buddhist nun and she is hard core about the Eightfold Path. She is committed to taking off her armor and she'll show you how to open your heart if you're ready. Yeah, it sounds pretty, but it's hard work, and it can be scarier than any Stephen King hacks-her-body-up-and-hides-the-pieces-where-they-may-be-found doorstop.

I did give in and download some Cee-Lo the other day, because one of the joys of parenthood is introducing my son to lyrically inappropriate music. And it's not quite right to say that music doesn't matter to me anymore--it's just that I don't have the heart I once had to weed through so much bad music until I found the song that would make me drop my armor for two minutes and thirty-five seconds, or the album that would turn my life around.

H is for Haggard

I woke up this morning with my hair in all directions, forcing me to consider which in my splendid array of hats I was going to wear to drop off Jackson at school. I said to myself, "God damn, I have to cut my hair again! Every month I have to do this! I am so weary of this low-cost yet time consuming maintenance regime!" Even if I could get past the pain of growing it out, I can still remember back not that long ago when my hair was longer and I was baby fatigued and ten pounds lighter, and how the hair hanging down made me look downright haggard.

And then I thought, Haggard! And perhaps this is what happens to everyone who grew up in Denver at a certain point in time and went to see Jerry Jeff Walker with their best friend, Tamara, at the probably now defunct Rainbow Music Hall, but apart from having the kindest eyes I'd ever seen on a human being, Jerry Jeff sang a song with the refrain that will ring in my ears until the day I die, and maybe after.

M is for the MUDFLAPS on my pickup truck
O is for the OIL* I put in my hair
T is for T-BIRD
H is for HAGGARD
E is for EGGS, and
R is for: REDNECK

*pronounced "earl"

And then I thought, I wonder if you can download that from iTunes?

EDITED TO ADD: you can download it from iTunes but they won't let me link directly to the song, so fuck it. This whole post was sounding like an iTunes ad, anyway.

ALSO, Blogger's doing some maintenance-type things and this blog is occasionally inaccessible. So if you can't read this, keep trying! (That is a hilarious joke just for you.)

Jerry Jeff Walker - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Jerry Jeff Walker - Up Against the Wall, Red Neck

UPDATE: Here's the link to the song, fucking finally:


Jackson got a homemade educational CD for Christmas from Alastair:


Alastair made some good, not-obvious choices here, such as "Never In My Life" by Mountain. Because we've all heard "Mississippi Queen" enough by now, although as I recall Jackson is the capital of Mississippi, so maybe he should have gone with the radio hit, just to clue Jackson in on the skills that will one day be required for him to manage the subtleties involved in the proper construction of the secret-message mixed CD.



Here's something fromLarousse Gastronomique, which Jack got for Christmas, and which makes for good browsing while you're waiting for the swelling to go down:

BEAR A large quadruped, once common in Europe but now very rare, even in mountainous areas. In Canada and Russia the bear is still hunted as a game animal. The Gauls enjoyed it stewed, and in North America the fat was valued for cooking. At the beginning of the 19th century a few Parisian restauranteurs, encouraged by Alexandre Dumas, brought bear back into fashion. Chevet created the specialty of 'bear ham'. The best parts of this animal are its paws. Urbain Dubois suggested a recipe for bear paws marinated and braised with bacon, then grilled (broiled) and served with a highly seasoned sauce. In China bear's palm is listed among the 'eight treasures' of traditional cuisine.

Now every time I squish on Katie's paws I think, if worse comes to worst, I bet those are some good eatin' right there.