Listen to the music

20 10 2012

I have a lot of cds.

Eight hundred? Nine hundred? Somewhere thereabouts. Not as many as true obsessive, but, y’know, plenty.

I almost never listen to them.

Oh, I used to, oh yeah, all the time. In grad school I had a cheapo mini-system on to which I could load 7 cds and let ‘er ride. Music accompanied my descent into and out of depression (multiple times), and one of my preps for dissertation-writing was picking out the cds which would take me from, say, 8pm-2am.

I was never much for 45s, but when I hit junior high I started hitting Helen Gallagher’s (the requisite black-light/poster/music shop which dotted small-town malls way back when) for albums. I asked for Foreigner for Christmas and my best friend J. and I listened to her brother’s REO Speedwagon live album (DOOT doot doodlo-doot) over and over again. D. and I would sit in her brother’s bedroom and listen to Pink Floyd and AC/DC (Bon Scott era), and in a junior high art class I carved a KISS sculpture out of a bar of soap.

It was pretty much hard and classic rock all through high school (93 QXM? QFM? out of Milwaukee)—a lot Who, AC/DC (Brian Johnson, this time), Led Zep, Yes,Rush,Loverboy—as well as my aforementioned beloved Supertramp, and then, when MTV hit, what was then called alternative music (mainly British post-punk bands).

I bought albums at Helen Gallagher, I bought albums up and down State Street in Madison. I bought albums at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. And then when I decided to run away from grad school, I decided to sell all of my albums.

I bought cds instead.

I had just a few (20? 30?) when I hied on out to Albuquerque, maybe double or triple that when I slunk back to Minneapolis, where I was a regular at the Electric Fetus as well as a few other dusty shops in the Whittier neighborhood. I bought punk and post-punk and new wave and jazz and soundtracks and classical and electronica, then expanded into funky new-wave Nordic music and dub and neo-soul and soul and 1960s-era American and European singers and a few blues cds. I hauled boxes and boxes and boxes with me to Montreal, then set out to buy even more.

I ended up buying hundreds and hundreds of cds in the shops along Mont Royal and St Denis and Peel—but this was due in no small part to my apartment having been burglarized my first Thanksgiving in the city. Hundreds of those cds were replacements, but hundreds more were music which was recommended to me by music clerks and friends and stuff I’d heard on the McGill and U of Montreal radio stations and read about in the alt weeklies. I picked up Daniel Boulanger and Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sam Roberts and Athena knows how many chill cds.

I listened to it all.

My cd-buying fell off when I moved to Somerville, in part due to my reduced financial circumstances, but I still hit up shops in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, adding both replacement and new stuff. I had so damned many cds that they overflowed my (generous) storage; I followed my downstairs-neighbors’ lead and took them all out of their jewel cases and just kept them in their sleeves in boxes.

Which is how I transported them to New York. I bought a few cds here, but the urge to survey the scene fell off and never returned: my desire for music had always been abstain-or-binge, but for the past few years I simply haven’t been interested.

It’s not even that cd shops are scarce: there are still plenty o’ joints in the East and West Villages where I could score tunes if I wanted, and, of course, I could always download stuff.  Nor is it that I hate all new music: I think Lady Gaga has fine set of pipes and I’m charmed by Adele and and Janelle Monae is somethin’ else and I’ll hear bits on WNYC or in stores and think Oh, that’s nice.

But the urgency, the need, to own music is gone. I don’t even bother buying music by acts I already know I like—Emmylou and Beth Orton and GY!BE—much less feel that I have to make any effort to find something new.

C. has said that there really is nothing new out there, and I think she may have a point. Some of the newer stuff I like sounds a lot like the music I listened to in the 1980s, so why not just listen to the old stuff? The one genre in which I have bought stuff is classical and (a very few cds of) opera, and that because it is all new to me.

It’s not bad that my enthusiasm has waned—more money for books!—but it is a loss. I loved music, loved listening to it and thinking about it and searching it out and sharing it and dancing to it and everything everything everything. I’ve lost something I loved.

So, I have a plan. I’m going to listen to every cd I own, in (rough genre-and-alphabetical) order, to re-acquaint myself with the sounds that once so moved me.

I’m not trying to recapture my youth (hah!) or somehow go back in time, but given how much this all once mattered, it’s worth it to see if I can recover or rediscover what was once there.

If not, if it’s gone, then I’ll let it go, I’ll let it all go.

But I don’t think it’s gone. I think I just need to crouch down and put my face close and gently blow those fading chords back to life.

La la how life goes on

1 10 2012

Funny how the disappearance of someone you hadn’t seen in 20 years, might not have seen in 20 more, can nonetheless knock you sideways.

I don’t know if I would have seen Chris again, but I took for granted that I could: the possibility was always there that I’d run into her back in a Wisconsin bar, buy John and her a beer, and catch up on the lifetime or two since we’d seen each other last.

Now I know that will never happen.

Chris is not the first person around my age who’s died—an old boyfriend died in a car crash half a lifetime ago, another guy who I partied with in high school was killed in a snowmobile accident—but she’s the first one who I know who died for health reasons. Her death in an accident would have been shocking and sad, but that she died because her body gave out is. . . well, I was going to say incomprehensible, but, really, stunning precisely because it is so comprehensible: this is, in the end, what will likely happen to me and everyone I know.

Are you more prepared in your sixties for this? In your seventies and eighties? Not that you get used to it, the disappearance of people, but is it less shocking? Is it worse for being less shocking?

Chris’s death has meant a peg has been kicked out and away from my own sense of self; I left a bit off-kilter, for she has carried a piece of me away with her.

And that’s how it is, I guess. I mourn the loss of her, mourn the loss of the possibility of her, and mourn the loss of myself, in her.

I can scarcely imagine what her family and close friends are going through, to lose someone so central to them, so central to who they are; they have lost Chris and thus are themselves lost.

So in their grief, through their grief, they’ll try to find their way back, without her.

OK computer

8 03 2011

This is what I get for not being paranoid.

Okay, so “paranoid” is a strong word; sufficiently cautious, perhaps.

One of my e-mail servers went down and I’ve been unable to access that account. That’s a bummer, one which has been magnified since I didn’t import every last address into my alternate account.

Laziness, blah blah. Yeah, I know.

See, I was smart enough to set up an alternate account, but not smart enough to duplicate the information across the two services. Until the problem (whatever it is) gets fixed, a whole lotta addresses are out of reach.

I could have set up the second account so that mail from the first is automatically forwarded to it, but I prefer keeping the two sets of mails separate. No, there’s no clear dividing line between the types of mail get shunted into each account, but, still, I like them separate.

So I’m not kicking myself for that—I made a decision, after all, one which makes sense to me even amidst this mini-blackout. (Although I may end up creating yet another account and using that as a drop-box. Christ.)

When I was working on my dissertation I was freaked out at the thought of losing chapters. (I mean, I wrote a lot of nonsense, especially at the start, but I wanted to be the one who got rid of something, not my computer.) I made copies of copies on goddess knows how many computer disks (remember those, anyone?) and kept some of these in my office—in case, you know, my apartment burned down or something.

Given the importance of the dissertation, how much work I put into the various chapters, and the circulating story of someone who lost half of her dissertation, well, I considered the investment in 3.5″ diskettes and the time it took to copy that work on to those disks to have been well worth it.

Nothing happened, happily, but the insurance of those back-ups did assure me. I had precious little peace of mind in those days, so one less thing to worry about did matter to me.

Which reminds me: I’m overdue for a copy of my documents on to my external hard drive.

♪ Better safe than sooorrry. . . .♫

If green pears you like. . . why nobody will oppose (pt III)

26 06 2010

It’s been a long time since I believed in my own life.

This is a problem.

Yes, I know (as well as anyone) that I exist, that others recognize me as [absurdbeats], that there are things I can and cannot do, and I claim my rights as a person and as a citizen. Human status is not enough, as Arendt pointed out, for one to be treated well, but in most matters it is necessary for one to claim it—and so I do.

But I haven’t done well in claiming the full range of human possibilities as possibilities for me. My belief in possibilities is so strong as to be fantastical, but belief in making the possible real so weak as to be self-erasing. (Bad dichotomies!)

This isn’t, really, about hopes-and-dreams, but about stating ‘I can do this’ and then acting as if I can do this by actually doing ‘this’. I think about ‘this’, worry over ‘this’, work my way around ‘this’, but truly and practically believe that ‘this’ and me have anything to do with one another? No.


It drives me crazy, this passivity, but I don’t know how to get past it—even as I have evidence that I have done or accomplished various ‘thises’: I went to college, worked for the college newspaper, demonstrated competence in a variety of intellectual pursuits, was admitted to grad school, FINALLY finished grad school, taught, moved around, and (also FINALLY) moved to New York City. And then, completely unexpectedly, I wrote not one but two reasonably good novels

These were things I wanted, thought about, and did. Evidence, it would appear, for my ability to create my life.

But somewhere along the way I lost that ability to translate my imagination into practice, to shape speculation into something concrete. I have evidence of ability, but fear a reality of inability.

In my two previous posts I mentioned both (internal) dichotomies and structured externalities, each in their own ways markers I could use to track myself. I need. . . something to get my ass moving, but I don’t know what that something is.

One something is financial need, which does work, tho’ not necessarily in the most productive direction. I need to make book, I’ll take a job, any job, just to get through. So, driven by anxiety, I can bring in paychecks, but because I’m driven by anxiety, I’ll take the first thing I can get—which usually means small paychecks which don’t do much to relieve said anxiety. I then may pile on another first-grasp job, which may help me to run even with but never to get ahead of myself.

(As a sidenote, most of this anxiety can be traced to debt incurred in my moves both to Somerville and even more so to Brooklyn. If I could just get on top of this. . . .)

In any case, having two or three jobs and living to work works, in its own way, for awhile, but then I say I moved to NY for this?

Which tells me that even beneath my passivity and anxiety is something which is holding out for a real and not merely simulated life.

It’s there; I just have to find it.

All alone in the moonlight

1 11 2009

I take back everything I said.

Well, not everything.

And I don’t really take it back.

Let me, shall we say, add to what I wrote in the last post.

Memory matters to me. I don’t want to get ensnared in it, but I don’t want to forget, either.

I don’t want to live in those memories, don’t want to act as if that’s where my life really is or belongs. I’m not about to head off to my first day of first grade.

But that was once me. I did once wear dresses my mom made, wear ponytails (which I preferred to pigtails, i.e., knots worn high above the ears) and barrettes, and smile into the sun and for the camera.

Today I only occasionally wear my hair in a single ponytail, only occasionally smile into the sun, and rarely for the camera.

This isn’t a paean to lost innocence. I was six then and am some decades past six now. I grew up, and am glad for that.

I lost a lot along the way, as does every person who makes the trek from child- into adulthood, and have gained, as well. Again, nothing unusual about that.

And I guess that’s what I do need to remember, that there is nothing unusual about this—that I do have a past in addition to a present and likely a future. This is what it is to be a modern adult.

But I also have to remember that I have as much and as little control over that past as I do my future. I can’t always call up memories at will, can’t always place them when they do surface, and don’t always know what to do with them. Good, bad, happy, sad, indifferent—doesn’t matter. They’re there and they’re gone and they sometimes come back.

And in coming and going they carry pieces of me with them.

I live here, now, but I don’t yet understand what it is to live here, now, and to move into my future. No, I don’t want, per my last post, to get stuck in a cul-de-sac of my past, but I can’t and don’t want to erase it, either.

Not anymore, at least: I have tried, and failed, to erase it. If you don’t think you belong in life, it’s only a hop to the belief that you need to erase all evidence of your self, if only in yourself.

But now I’m re-constructing my life, re-claiming it. I have no idea what I’m doing, not sure of these pieces which come both bidden and not so, not sure of my. . . hopes? possibilities? for the future.

(And, oh yes, I can carried away by the future, as well; what finer form of escapism than to think But later, after. . . ?)

Neither my past nor my future is under as much control as my present, and even my present is under less control than I would like (tho’ I do admit that that’s not wholly a bad thing).

Still, I am here, now, which means making what sense I can of who I was, then.

Or at least recognizing that I was, then.

And the sun would glint/On a time well spent/On a time that ain’t no more

10 05 2009

The tears no longer fall, but they do hover, expectant.

I’m trying to rush through my grief, away from the bewilderment of loss and the abashedness I feel at the grief itself.

It’s not that she was ‘just a cat’, nor do I try to compare her death to that of a human being. It doesn’t matter. The loss of a cat or a dog matters, on its own, just as the cat or the dog or whatever animal mattered, on its own, when he or she lived.

That’s what I tell myself, at least. But there’s still a part of me that says, Pssshh, don’t make too much of this. Don’t make this more than it is.

That’s what I do: I make too much of things, then tamp it all down, way down.

Perhaps this explains my reverence for balance: I have never learned, truly, how to balance, other than by going too far one way, then too far the other, then wondering just what the hell I’m supposed to do with the detritus of such a whipsaw.

Ignore it, forget it, walk away. Mention it to no one, until, perhaps, some point in the future when time has successfully exhausted the emotion.

A revision, perhaps: That’s what I used to do, what I still sometimes do. I’m trying to learn, at the fulcrum of my life, how to find a balance for the second half of my life which was absent in the first half.

So I am trying to come to terms with what it means to grieve a pet. It is both a small matter and a large one: Chelsea was a cat, and she was with me for almost all of my adult life.

And she let me know it: Chelsea was loud. She brayed at me when she was hungry, made pigeon sounds when startled, chattered away as I walked down hallways or got dressed, yipped when surveilling squirrels, hissed when FatCat batted her tail, yowled at thunder, groaned as she settled into my lap, and purred like a geiger counter gone nuclear.

(I had named her Chelsea because, while I was a big Janis Joplin fan, I didn’t want to be so gauche as to actually name her either Janis or Joplin. Instead, I name her for one of my favorite shots of Janis, decked out in her feathers in front of the Chelsea Hotel. Had I known she would end up sounding like her. . . .)

Part of the reason I got FatCat was due to Chelsea’s incessant noise: she was driving my then-roommate P. and me crazy with her constant talk. Of course, that backfired on me when she taught FatCat to talk, and I ended up with two cats yelling at me.

FatCat still talks, but she’s not the pundit Chelsea was—a kitty who comments on every move every member of the household makes.

So, this week, I miss the sound of her. If grieving is recognizing absence, then perhaps the resolution of such grief is in remembering the presence. Perhaps this is the only balance to be found in loss.

I am trying to let the balance come, but all that answers the summons are the tears.

But maybe balance cannot be summoned, that I can only let it come, that I can only recognize it when it does come. And even then, it might still come with tears.

You’ve got to. . .cry without weeping

4 05 2009

I hate crying.

I don’t do it very often, which means that when I do cry, I don’t do it well.

It doesn’t make me feel better, I don’t feel cleansed, released, relieved, or in any way unburdened.

When I’m crying, there’s always a part of me saying, Well, shit, I’m crying, and I hate crying.

I have cried more the past 6 days than I have the past 6 years, maybe the past 16 years. I cried on the bus, on the train, walking down the street, at my desk, on my bed, in the shower, at the stove, while washing dishes, making coffee, and retrieving milk from the refrigerator.

Have I mentioned how I feel about crying?

I don’t know what to do with tears, not least because I don’t know what to do with what causes tears. I’m no good with sadness.

Depression, despair, anxiety, numbness, unhappiness, disgruntlement, dissatisfaction—got all those down. But sadness? A specific reaction to a specific event which cannot in any way be fixed? Nope.

In many ways, I’ve been lucky. My parents and siblings and their kids are all alive and well, as are all close friends, past and present. Yes, I’ve had pets who were taken away or who’ve died, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve had to deal with something other than a self-inflicted loss.

I’ve certainly inflicted loss, on myself and others. I’ve left jobs and friends and cities, and am number one with the romantic-relationship-ending bullet. One former friend, who a couple of years ago decided to punish me for my alleged misbehavior (a misunderstanding) told me not to contact him, not even to try to clear up the misunderstanding, that he would contact me when he was good and ready. Fine. The letter he eventually sent still hasn’t been opened, the e-mail, unread.

Shut it down and walk away. Bloodless.

It’s not that I don’t recognize the downsides of being a cold bitch, and most of the time, I’m just a regular bitch. But I’m comfortable with the distances of bitchiness, even as I sometimes think that distance itself is not always the most comforting. This is what I’ve chosen. Consequences.

But now this, the mercy-killing of a cat who’s been with me almost all of my adult life. She leapt over my boundaries and into my lap even when I protested that I was reading or typing or just not in the mood. She didn’t care about my moods. She wanted to be scratched and held and at the center of my attention.

On cold nights she’d step over the blankets to sit on the sheet to the side of the pillow, and wait for me to lift the covers and let her in. And when I didn’t immediately do so, she’d paw at the covers, and if I still didn’t respond, she’d put her paw with her claws ever-so-slightly extended on my nose and remind me that if I knew what was good for me, I’d lift the fucking covers RIGHT NOW and let her in. Which I always did.

I’d bitch, but I’d always let her in.

And now she’s gone and I look at the box for the multi-cat litter and tear up, thinking, I only have one cat now. I open the fridge and look down at the floor, next to the heating pipe where she used to lay, and she’s not there. I lay in bed with Fat Cat on one side of me and the other side empty.

I used to wake up and pull both cats close and whisper ‘It’s good to wake up with two kitties next to me.’

No more.

So this is loss and it makes me sad and there’s nothing I can do about it except live with it.