Sunday, February 21, 2010

Music Stuff and My Dog's a Sock Monkey with a Mohawk

I've been true to expanding my new-music game, and I realize I always get drawn to old music done new. So, I'm now in love with the Carolina Chocolate Dropswho I heard on my alternative radio station a few days ago. Their new CD is in the mail to me as I type. I couldn't decide which video to post. This one doesn't show off their fiddle skills, which melts me, but the singing is just gorgeous.

Here's the other band I just learned about, Slavic Soul Party! They're a Brooklyn-based "gypsy brass" band with a lil funky back beat. Man, I love me some gypsy music. I am easily slain by an accordion, it seems.

Diggin around the internet after Slavic Soul Party! I then stumbled across the What Cheer? Brigade which is a 19 piece brass band, also with Balkan roots but with a punk, New Orleans undertow. They're out of Rhode Island. So, so good.
I don't think anything lays me out like cultural folk with a modern twist.

Hey, here's my new, little, bitty pastel piece. I'm practicing on farmers market flowers. It didn't photograph too well, but you get the idea.
Oh, and our dogs either love their lives or hate it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Man, Was I Starving

So, I pulled this shroud off my head -- or more like, I looked up from the dull, hard groove that is sometimes easier than being teased by creative yearning -- and I was starving. I mean, insatiably hungry.

During the last six days, I've slathered myself in contemporary art zines, read some stories from TinHouse and Zoetrope. I pulled out some paints. I watched Fellini's 8 1/2. I started Dharma Bums. I'm out of control. Hmm, I say I'm out of control to protect this side of me, I realize, when really, truthfully, I'm feeling more back to normal.

Allison's visit inspired me, but here's what else: I found this little funky shop across the street from our local cemetery on 14th Street. The shop has a benign, almost lame name, but inside there is a world of funky, fun items from hipster clothing to books to Peruvian tin art to stuffed toys in the shape of uteruses and anatomical hearts. It's the energy in there that feels authentic and warmly edgy, if that's possible. The woman who owns the shop is magnetic. She's in her 50's with a wiry, orange bob and 50's style eyeglass frames. She stands tall and very erect, but she is warm and talkative. It dawned on me that she was the woman who owned a punk shop in the late 70's and early 80's called Nana, on Broadway, in old Santa Monica. It was the coolest shop in town, other than the killer thrift stores we used to have. In middle school, I snuck into Nana weekly, self consciously, and fawned over the shop's items, and her. I idolized her to a degree, because she was unique and warm still; she was interested in being part of the community and catering to our town's uniqueness. 30 years later, she feels forced to keep this spirit alive in what she feels is the only interesting part of Santa Monica left; near the cemetery, on the lower-economic side of town. I said, "Are you Nancy from Nana?" And her red eyebrows shot up. "Yes!" she said. Then I noticed the LA Times article pinned up behind her with a caption like, "The original punk of the westside" or something like that. We reminisced about old SM -- she's more bitter than I about it -- but I do love this part of town a lot so there was no debating her points. She said, "I get so mad when the women above Montana Ave ask me if I'm scared to be over here." She said this loudly, but she didn't really sound angry. She said, "The people across the street don't bother me at all." She meant the dead. I laughed. They're cool with me too, I told her. Especially this cemetery. The energy there is very calm. Anyway, I've been back to the shop a few times -- took Allison there too -- and I feel an urge to stop by every day though I don't want to buy anything, and it dawned on me that when I first started hanging out a little too breathlessly at her first shop, it was when I was a weird kid who didn't mind being weird. I wore funky stuff without being punk or anything else and I thought about odd things for a kid; always unintentionally on the outside track of music and art and writing. I fit into nothing, but liked a lot. And god I've been missing that side of me. I don't let her stray off or get buried too deeply, but I haven't really fed into that side for a while. Last summer at Squaw, for sure, but I miss visual art -- paintings and film -- and I miss the act of painting and I miss music. It's obviously not weird, but I don't mind calling it that. So, Nancy, formerly of Nana, and now back with the cool people over on 14th street reminded me of all that because lord have mercy, she hasn't stopped herself from being weird. She's true to that.

This Fellini movie, 8 1/2, kind of put me in a spin. It took me three fucking days to watch it because of time and Duty Calls and all that, but I have the patience for that right now. Remember, I'm on the upswing of inspiration. I read some of the online reviews of the film and it seems an artistic vice-like pressure resonates with a lot of people, certainly me too, but the film seemed more about rejecting perfection more than anything else. The guy crumbles under the pressure to make perfect decisions then only feels better when he lets it all go. He rejects the perfect woman, and she is perfect in the most non-annoying ways, meaning she is genuinely, purely perfect. She was brilliant. So anyway, the guy is only happy in the ups and downs of his imperfect life, with the imperfect characters around him. There are scenes that floor me in the softest ways. Like: The children in the boarding house who make up a magical word to not necessarily squash their fear of the shadows, but to turn the fear into good luck. The scene with La Saraghina dancing on the beach for the boys. She is a transient prostitute; kinda monstrous until she starts dancing and flashing her eyes. And the guy, as a boy, gets caught by the priests watching her and he's put through this soul-crushing shame and humiliation, and still he goes back to see the beautiful Saraghina dance.

El Conguero used to say, Imperfection makes perfection tolerable. We'd talk about stuff like that, and I've spent years periodically wrapping my mind around this concept. We used to talk about how being off rhythm, naturally, is hard to do (it's when one tries too hard to have rhythm that they are thrown off). Imperfections in rhythm manifest as syncopation, which is often more interesting. And though I love the idea that perfection is barely tolerable, I think more that it's actually perfection that makes imperfection more likable, more interesting. Drives me to it anyway.

The story I read in TinHouse was by David Foster Wallace called The Planet Trillaphon As It Stands In Relation to the Bad Thing, and immediately I thought, oh boy. And when the first paragraph describes, in first person, how the guy is functioning on Planet Trillaphon vs. on Earth, I thought, god, stick with this if you can. And then the story became a very real, impactful and painful story about depression with a goofy veneer. I sank very deeply when this hit me. And then after 17 pages, the story ends, mid-story, mid-sentence (mid-sentence!) -- it just lops off. And I wanted to cry my eyes out. I'm not sure if anyone else could have made that work. I've read the end paragraph a few times since, though the words really don't mean anything. I was just kind of mourning the story, him.

I'll leave you with paintings. I've been checking out this German artist named Heiko Pippig. I think he's pretty famous in Germany and Europe, but I can't tell if he is here. Maybe. Like I said, I've been out of it. But I think this painting is just terrific. It's from 2007 and I think it's called Im Raderwerk.

It's big so here's the left side.
This is the right side. And here's a painting by Mina. In class, they had to create their renditions of a Picasso. Man, I think this is great. Which, p.s., every time I think genuine gushiness over my kids' art, I unfortunately get all filled with my mother's voice of meaty discouragement. She was the artist, y'all. I'm the athlete, 'member? That cog has been a motherfucker to shake loose. Splinter by splinter though. So, here's Mina's greatness because there's room enough for everyone's pure greatness.

Monday, February 08, 2010

On A Mountain

On Sunday, Allison and I hiked a trail in the Santa Monica mountains. We veered off and up a side path to climb a hill that gives views of the ocean -- a magnificent, dazzling show of sparks on dusty blue water through the thin, marine gauze -- and, to the left, the spiked rise of downtown. I hike/run this trail regularly, but I don't ever get to talk about Salinger on it. I might think about Salinger, but I don't usually get to discuss him or Pema Chodron or Almodóvar out in nature, in the same discussion. I often think my verbal skills are weak compared to my writing. I mispronounced Holden Caulfield's name -- ha! I think I said Cauldwell, and Allison graciously said nothing and kept the smooth beat of what we were talking about. Feh, It didn't really bother me either. It wasn't important. I used to die inside when I did stuff like that; I was so self conscious of the cracks in my self education. I've learned to appreciate more my ability to deeply contemplate things even when my spelling sucks or I misremember shit. My grammar has come along like you don't even know. When we were at dinner with a couple of Allison's friends from Nashville, I listened, mainly, to the stories told with a beautiful southern spin -- a world that is foreign to me. And I tried to think if I even knew shit about shit. The next morning, I told my friend Page this and she said, "You know a lot of shit about a lot of shit." And I said, "I know. I just couldn't remember any of it then." Note to self: Hang out with adults more often. Wow. The rust really does build if you don't. But man, Allison's friends were charming and interestingly fun, even if one friend was laying on the charm with a thick spread (haha). I just really enjoyed being there.

I wanted to show her all the little pockets; show her the rough jewels of LA, at least from my perspective. We didn't have time to see much at all, but in that, I got all sparked up about LA myself, again. Parts are so interesting and beautiful in the most quirky ways. This whole entire, contrasting city, the highs and lows and hype and struggle, the grime and beauty -- I just feel similarly. Maybe not similarly; maybe I feel exactly this way. My connection to all of that got unearthed, again, this weekend. When I get in my parenting groove and work groove and when everything else seems impossible, my connection to what's really interesting downshifts to dormant. Man, keeping all the fires stoked - or balls in the air or whatever the fuck -- all the time is maddening, exhausting. But creatively I felt inspired this weekend. I felt deep satisfaction adding the third dimension to my friendship with Allison. She is every bit as beautiful and interesting in person. Our connection was fast and tight, easy and real. In a virtual reality, in a thoughtful fantasy, I hoped it would turn out the way it did. I don't think we're always prepared for the emotional impact when things turn out the way we want. I'm using it as inspiration though.

On the mountain, above LA, on the creamy, dirt peak lined in chaparral, Allison shared the Pema Chodron philosophy that failure and progress are the balance of practice. That the failure or the falling off of practice strengthens the muscle of it; makes it stronger, better. Holy shit, that pretty much catapulted me into thought for a good long time. I’m still intensely thinking about it. I was so thankful to be reminded of the sentiment in a way that resonated new to me.

All the experiences of the weekend made me realize that what we believe our blog circle to be, is. The deep connection to like-minded sisters who are diverse and interesting and have big love is real. It is as real as anything else.