Things We Tuck Away

As a young girl, I had an imaginary friend named Glue that lived in the Dogwood tree outside my parent’s bedroom window. On warm, sunny days after school, I perched on the picnic table and talked quietly to a tree about my day. A tree is a great friend to a child with a troubled home life. A tree is rooted, predictable, and a superb listener. When the delicate, white flowers started to drip, I convinced myself that Glue was trying to escape and would wait day after day for her to show me her true form. Really, the tree was dying. Glue, brittle and dehydrated, was cut down and thrown onto my dad’s burn pile. Then, even at my age, I felt nothing but inevitably as I watched her limbs crack and split. In a week I was eating a burnt marshmallow over her ashes. Change can be unceremonious when you know it’s coming. We instinctively put those things in a box and move on. Years after something, or someone, you love dies, memories tend to only sift through like a few flakes of gold from a pan, and even then bits of dirt and rock cloud them.

Today I’m driving back roads to go hiking with my husband and eight-year-old son, Pearl Jam is blaring on the local radio station, clouds are brushed like watercolor on a bright, blue canvas, and the wind blows in the strangely comforting smell of manure. The scene conjures a form of astral projection—my foot still braking around each winding turn, my brain back to the time when I was eight in the passenger seat of my sister’s car.

Amy and I are cruising similar, likely the same, country roads in her red Ford Festiva, the same piece of shit she would floor through an underpass or tunnel just to get it to obnoxiously backfire while she cackled like an old crow. My window is cracked for fresh air so I don’t get motion sick, but I can still smell the exhaust so it isn’t really working. I’m watching the road straight ahead like my grandma had always taught me, but I occasionally break the rules to glance at the rolling, grassy hills that weren’t yet disrupted by pipelines, vinyl-sided homes, or backyard trampolines my tethered body is passing in present day.

When Amy came around for a visit, it was usually to help me escape. We’d take these long, aimless country drives with no motive other than overcoming inertia. She moved out of the cramped trailer myself and two other siblings called home shortly after she turned 18. She jumped around different run-down apartments in town, and sometimes stayed with one of her many abusive boyfriends. Sometimes we’d go to the movies hiding snacks rather conspicuously in the pocket of her oversized Tweety Bird sweatshirt, ushers shaking their heads at us as they dumped discarded popcorn in large bags for resale. Often we’d settle in to a booth at Elby’s, always a booth, and she’d order a club sandwich hastily held together with a toothpick that had a red plastic tip. She’d tell me edited tales about the terrible-boyfriend-of-the-month as I picked at bland pasta or a burger thinking about how lucky I was to have such a generous and amazing big sister. More often than I care to admit, she hugged me, crying, telling me it’s wasn’t my fault when my dad, belligerent and drunk, shamed me for being too chubby, too loud, or too much.

It’s March 1999 and Amy’s no longer driving. She can’t keep much food down. She’s 27 with aggressive colon cancer. All her guts are gone, so she has to shit and piss in a bag. My hand is resting on her knee as other visiting relatives run off to a complex across the highway to go shopping. We’re sitting together in this dank Florida hospital watching Ricki Lake as she lies wasting away and weak in stale, papery sheets. Her frail hands barely gripping the sterile and beige hospital phone, we dial home to sing our mom happy birthday, a tradition Amy alone began after getting married and retreating south years before. As we sing, gripped by inevitability, my mom sobs quietly on the other line.

What’s left of Amy’s body was ground into a fine powder and now sits displayed in a small, decorative box. I take off my glasses and bravely stand up next to a photo of her face in front of a room filled with blurry, grieving shapes. Starting to sing one of our favorite songs, I instead crack and topple over just like my favorite childhood Dogwood tree.

Muscle memory guides my foot on the accelerator, whipping around another turn, my consciousness still with Amy. She and I are pulling over into the dirt and gravel on the side of the road so we can feed tufts of grass to a small herd of cows. As they lumber over to us, flies buzzing, I notice tags on their ears.

I point to the tags, “Why are those there, Ames? What do they mean?”

“That’s too heavy to explain to you yet, Nat.”

“I can handle it.”

“Nah. Maybe when you’re older,” she says as we walk back to the car.

Amy fiddles with the tape deck, Pearl Jam queued up. She puts the car in drive and sings along loudly to “Alive” leaving behind only a cloud of dirt and some faint tire marks.

Dust kicks up on the gravel road as my family and I slowly pull up to the trail head.

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I wish I had been more hospitable.

Mid-July 2011—having a yard sale. Our asses are starting to hurt from sitting on the concrete stoop most of the morning and being forced into large-scale interaction with a wide array of folks Joe and I are simply not built for. We are always kind and open, but those who frequent yard sales are often times exhausting, chatty, eccentric, or, at times, rude. It can be a lot for a couple of introverts (apologies for using that word, I find it quite overused; regardless, it is apt). There are times, however, when you meet someone and it feels like you are talking to an old friend. That old friend’s name was Faith.

She was an older woman, perhaps in her late 50s. It’s hard to tell sometimes given not knowing someone’s history or life experience, so she could’ve been any age. My point being, with the utmost respect, she looked to have lived a tough life and was clearly a lot older and more experienced than me or my husband at the time. I often find myself making connections with women older than me. I am a seeker and I like to learn. Older women always have something to teach…whether or not they realize that is irrelevant, I think. It’s just a fact.

She purchased some old CDs. I remember one of them being a Taylor Dayne album we had acquired from a random (obviously) wholesale CD order experiment years before Joe got obsessed with vinyl. I almost kept that one, truth be told, because Taylor Dayne reminded me of my sister, but it didn’t have that one good song on it (“Tell It To My Heart”…it’s in your head now, huh?), so I put it out for sale. Next to the CDs, we had a small stack of vinyl for sale and that got her talking: “I’ve got some really good shit at my house. You guys buy?” And, well, that’s the magic question for my husband, so naturally a conversation sparked and numbers were exchanged.

A week later, Joe and I are traveling on a country road past our house—a beautiful area not too far from us that we had shamefully never been out to explore—on our way to her place to pick up this old record collection she was ready to unload. We pulled up to her property and saw two rather run-down, small homes and a hitch trailer with a makeshift white picket fence out front. She crawled down from the trailer, her hair in a long braid, and greeted us, motioning toward one of the dilapidated homes.

The house had fallen into disrepair and she was getting rid of most her possessions to live even more modestly in the hitch trailer. She didn’t have a record player any longer and had collected most of her vinyl through her travels all over the states and overseas. Everything had a story and I’d be lying if I said I remember them all. She wanted CDs now so she could still “get lost in the music” and preferred mostly pop and classical. She had an intense and rather intimidating knowledge of classical composers. The records we obtained had obviously been exposed to the elements, but there were some absolute classics like Sabbath in the lot. And of course all the stories. The stories were the best takeaway. We gave her money and she didn’t want to accept it. I think she was just happy to talk to somebody that gave a fuck.

Months later, I got a knock on the door. It was her. She was on her way home from a housekeeping gig at one the new hotels that opened up nearby because of the influx of oil and gas workers into the area. I talked to her briefly on the front porch about how I missed cleaning hotel rooms before I became a proofreader. She insisted I wasn’t missing anything and to “keep using my brain.” Before leaving, she insisted I come back over to pick up some corn stocks from her garden for Halloween decorations.

I told her I would try to make it down, but I never did. I also never let her in for coffee. Never offered her something to eat. I feel like a completely daft asshole for that. I haven’t spoken to her since. I no longer have her phone number, and I feel strange driving to her trailer not knowing if she is still there. Years later, I realize she taught me some important lessons about myself despite only having three interactions with her. She also taught me the importance of connection. Connecting to people…all kinds of people. Staying connected to the moment. And, for fuck’s sake, invite someone in for coffee.

Weekend Warrior

How much living and creating can I fit in to the weekend? Apparently a lot.
Yesterday was a trip to Cleveland with the purpose of seeing Glassjaw. We haven’t been to House of Blues Cleveland in over 10 years, the last show having been Silverchair on their Young Modern tour. The venue was as nice as we had remembered and a friendly bartender even let us in early. I felt comfortable and tipsy and a-okay.

Here’s some photos from Cleveland/the show—

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NanoWriMo is slow going, for sure, but I’m so proud of  the chapter that I churned out today given how exhausted I am after Saturday. I feel like it is so much stronger than how I started. I will likely scrap everything before it and use it as my opener. I also find that listening to Nine Inch Nails “Ghosts” while writing is exactly what I needed to really propel me into the appropriate mindset thematically.

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We had lunch at my parents’ house today, and my dad gifted Eliot a hand-me-down writing desk that he is mad stoked on right now.


Overall, a healthy balance of creative productivity and mindless fun this weekend. Good stuff.

Uncaged

Queens of the Stone Age, Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA, September 13, 2017.

Things have been hectic. Things. Whatever the hell I mean by that generic statement. I’ve been busy. Work, picking up a freelance writing job, kid back in school, regular early morning gym sessions (despite my strange inability to sleep properly anymore), trying desperately to catch up on art projects and sewing obligations…this and more + more than that + emotions + more than that. Needless to say, a night to let go and just say “fuck it” hasn’t been an option. A lot was riding on this midweek concert. It had to be good. If my “fuck it” time was ruined, I might very well pack it in and accept life as pure drudgery.

I suppose I could post a setlist, but I don’t really intend to write a traditional review. I want to say how this show made me feel—vibes were in the air. Good vibes? Maybe. Intense vibes? Kinda. Communal/good/intense/irreverent/totally not irreverent at all…just vibes. I felt a whole-ness by the end of the night that I didn’t realize I’ve desperately needed.

The way the city is alit around the venue is truly magical. A light rain added to the ambiance. Josh Homme said was ready to leave himself on that stage and he did not disappoint. He claimed to have a “weird day” and I could relate to that. We had spent the afternoon rushing through Eliot’s hefty homework assignment before leaving him with the grandparents and my anxiety was on full tilt for most of the drive in to the city. I was resolved my mind would wreck the entire night. He continued, “Sometimes I just feel like a caged animal. I need this tonight.” Me too, dude.

I found a spot where I could move freely and danced and danced and danced some more. A fellow in front of me, also dancing and dancing and dancing some more, turned to me during the end of “3’s and 7’s” and passed me a joint “…making us all forget, making us all forget.” At this point, the three glasses of Sangria I sucked down from dinner had worn off, so I happily obliged. Bye, bye, needless worry. Kindly fuck off tonight.

The encore was dreamy. “I Appear Missing,” “Villains of Circumstance” (which translates amazingly live, by the way), and “Song for the Dead.” The energy did not dissipate not once. It laid heavy on the band, on the crowd — a true congregation of weirdos willing to let all our baggage linger like a fog dancing in the lights of the city and the cool evening air.

Jeez, Louise! Joy in existing.

  1. Who am I?
  2. If I had just 4 months to live, how would I spend that time?
  3. What would I like to have contributed when life my life is complete?

Three questions posed by the Rich Roll podcast. Three pretty obvious “la la woo woo new agey self development” questions. Maybe not? To me, at least. I’m no stranger to that woo woo shit. But, are you surprised that these three questions absolutely fucking paralyze me? Especially that “who am I?”—who is anyone? FUCK.

I try consciously to notice love and joy in every moment of the day (I’m looking at you sweet ‘lil chirping birds in the trees outside the Children’s Museum this morning), but I also get easily caught up in negativity and expectation (both societal and self imposed). My emotions fluctuate a lot in day, hell, in a hour sometimes. Digressssss. During this podcast, there was mention of the things that stirred happiness in your six-year-old self. I suppose that’s a good jumping point from my gravy brain, so I am going to attempt to suss some of this out.

As a six-year-old, I was talking to trees. I was standing on stumps and singing to grass. I was outside a lot. I was riding a bike (I want a new bike—this is something recently on my mind). I drew pictures of super tall women and portraits of my family. I watched movies and kept to myself a lot. I wrote in my diary. I recorded songs from the radio onto cassette tape. I begged my mom to buy me poster boards from the grocery store and I would spend an entire afternoon making a GIANT collage from old Metropolitan Home magazines (We lived in a trailer; I resented the shit out of this magazine and I know my mom never willingly subscribed to it. There was this weird time bubble in the 80s and 90s when magazines just appeared at your fucking house—it’s a fact).

The past couple of nights Eliot and I have spent an hour or so working on collages made from old National Geographic magazines Joe picked up at a yard sale (from the 80s, no less—I’m just putting that “coincidence” together at this moment). I found myself in that sweet spot where you lose time. Even cooler to get to experience it with your eight-year-old kid. (Will he sit down and write something like this one day?) I have a lot of ideas and feel cool about making simply for the sake of it.

I’ve been caught up the past couple of years in having a “plan” financially to get out of my day job. I’m not entirely divorced from that mindset, but it has almost always included a way to make money from art—not that I’m downing that—but it really helps you to lose the whole purpose of making art in the first place. I think most creative minds can attest to that. The making, the doing, has to be the first priority or the rest of it is just an inauthentic wank off fest.

To quote David Lynch: “Enjoy the doing. So many people do stuff but they don’t enjoy the doing of it. And I always say, that’s your life going by. It’s important to enjoy the doing of something. Jeez, Louise!”

So, I suppose I do find joy in making. Joy in existing. Joy in creating. Joy in expressing myself and convening with nature. Joy in consuming the art of others. I am pretty sure that answers all my questions in one. I’m not shocked they are all interconnected…I’m sure that’s the point of the entire exercise. I need to do all or part of these things every day with that intention alone—joy.

How do these questions make you feel?

The Consumption! #2

I sat down to write this next post about the media I am binging on and — would you look at that — the 2016 Austin City Limits episode is on PBS with Ryan Adams and Shakey Graves. Duh. Ryan is a no-brainer. But, I’ve never given Shakey Graves a listen. Just fell under my radar, really. I’ve been doing Yoga With Adriene videos on YouTube for a few years now and I know he contributed the theme song. That’s all I know. But, man, this dude is crushing shit. He sounds awesome. So, yeah, gonna have to delve into that dude’s tunes.

Speaking of tunes, here’s some other stuff I’ve been listening to:

Forth Wanderers. They popped up on my Spotify discover playlist and I really dug it. Definitely in the category of a lot of newer bands that are clearly very influenced by the ’90s blah blah and all that same old tired shit that Pitchfork and Stereogum and whatever-the-hell-else article says. Whatever it sounds like, I like it. There’s a tone deaf, droney, unpolished sound that speaks to my angst.

Some other music I have reallllly been digging on is Trentemøller. He’s an electronic producer from Denmark. Super dancey goth rock. Another style that holds a really special place in my nostalgic heart. This particular song has a guest vocal from Jehnny Beth from Savages (whom I love, too…even more so after seeing them live this year. Such an ace band. Highly underrated).

Speaking of live shows, I am really jonesing for a Deftones show. We had tickets to their tour with Refused this fall, but things fell through. This is the first year in a long time I haven’t gone to a Deftones show. HOWEVER, today the mail gifted us with our Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds tickets for June (JUNE. IT’S SO FAR AWAY). But, the anticipation for that bucket list gig will carry me for quite some time. So unbelievably stoked for that show.

Music done. Let’s move on to this AWESOME podcast (I’m sorry I keep ALL CAPS yelling and giving these asides; feeling a little scattered today). It’s called Homecoming. It’s new, so there’s not a lot of catching up to do.

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Amazing cast: Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, David Cross, David Schwimmer, and Amy Sedaris. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it’s damn good fiction with absolutely fantastic and realistic production. You feel like you are IN this story. It is exceptional and you should totally be listening to it if you like podcasts.

Welp, this has been fun yet again. I am about to go watch the newest SNL. I’m already fantasizing about the new pillow Joe bought me today, so I doubt I’ll make it through the whole episode. Whatevs.

Peace, y’all. x

 

 

Bright & Busy – Personal Style Evolution & Art Inspiration

I’ve been working on a lot of commission work lately, so the other night I took some time to work on updating my own denim jacket. A close friend sewed me a new patch and I had a couple vintage patches I’ve been sitting on for a few years (yikes!) that really needed a new home. I love that jacket. I bought it for maybe $10 at Avalon Exchange in Oakland (Pittsburgh, PA) in maybe 2004. Memory is fuzzy about the nitty gritty (pointless) details, but I remember picking it up and seeing the moon and star buttons like it was yesterday. I have such distinct memories of combing the racks of that store. I was in an intense Morrissey phase at the time (some things never change, just evolve a bit), so I was on an obsessive mission to find the perfect denim jacket.

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Mega babe inspiration.

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My own patch in the middle I’m pretty proud of. Still so much space to explore and fill on this thing.

I’ve always been more inspired by quirky and outcast men’s fashions than super girly style. Not to say I look at a beautiful feminine aesthetic and cringe, it just isn’t my go-to ensemble. The days I go super femme, I am not being completely honest with myself. I am open to experimentation, but I feel most comfortable in jackets, t-shirts, jeans, and flannel.

Another one of my clothing inspirations is Ryan Adams. Something about him feels like home. I cannot explain it, but he speaks to me on many levels. I’m pretty sure his influence on my life is painfully overplayed. I have the tattoos to prove it. Sorry, guys (no, I’m definitely not).

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Ry at Newport Folk Festival, 2014, repping Terminator and the Canadian tuxedo.

Speaking of Ryan Adams, he shares a birthday with the late, great Gram Parsons. I’m sitting here sipping a glass of Riesling listening to The Guilded Palace of Sin by The Flying Burrito Brothers. Let’s talk about Mr. Parsons and the Nudie Suit and a style I’m in the mood of not only emulating, but creating and adapting to my own art style, as well.

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Gram in the Nudie Cohn original design.

These bright and bold designs have me so inspired, people. I’ve always had this style subconsciously on my radar, but, lately, I am particularly drawn to the vivid beauty. I’m not saying I want to start sewing polyester suits, but I am saying I want to start upcycling some thrifted and vintage pieces with lucid designs that scream: “I’M ALIVE, MOTHERFUCKER!” I’ve also just heard of Manuel Cuervas. I’m woefully behind, man.

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Manuel Cuevas suits

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Jack White in Manuel Cuevas garb.

When I was a kid, there were two things I always said I wanted to be when I grew up: a cartoonist and a fashion designer. Why not combine the two?