Saturday, November 01, 2014

Massachusetts Trip To Come

(1) Fall River.
(2) Salem.
(3) Plath and Sexton homes; Boston psychiatrists/bars/colleges.
(4) Dickinson home.
(5) Fall leaves.

I'm not going to go here by myself. I could fly to Boston, sure, but the things I want to see are a driving trip around the state, and a bed-and-breakfast type of thing. And I hate driving. And after years of looking at things by myself, I don't want to look at things by myself any more.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Shaun Cassidy's German debut album

Shaun Cassidy's debut album had already been released in Germany for a year when I visited the country for 6 weeks in the early summer of 1977, when I was 11, about to turn 12. (While I was there, it was finally released in the US.) I was permitted to buy 2 albums from German stores: I chose this one (which has a different cover than that in the US) plus the Bay City Rollers' "It's a Game" (which had the same cover as in the US, but included a multiple-page fold-out in the center featuring lyrics and extra photos).

I remember staring at this cover, fascinated by how silky his hair looked and how it matched his fur (wanting to touch both), and also by all of the tartar and particles on his teeth, despite the whitening. (At 11, I'd been trained to brush religiously twice a day and was a bit puzzled by why he, a grownup, obviously hadn't been doing so.)

What made me think of this: This week, I finally broke down and paid $13 for a CD of the album. I'd been browsing around online for over a year now, trying to find a copy for $6 or $7... no luck. And I figured out that I really wanted the thing in my collection! I loved this album and played it constantly! The Bay City Rollers' "Dedication" was my very first album; BCR's debut was my second; and this Shaun Cassidy was my third. While I, for instance, chortle today at the fact that I once owned Leif Garrett's debut, I still think that the Bay City Rollers are VERY good, and that Cassidy is a good vocalist. And Shaun Cassidy was the next year also my VERY FIRST CONCERT (at Fort Worth's Tarrant County Convention Center -- my mom accompanied me and my best junior high friend, Debbie; the Rollers, months earlier would have been my first, but since they didn't sell enough tickets, the show was cancelled).

Aside from the album's 2 big hits, "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "That's Rock'n'Roll," my two very favorites were these videos below: "Morning Girl" and "Take Good Care of My Baby." While the songs are simple covers, I still think his vocals are sexy.

In the first "Morning Girl" video, the photos with flowers, the 2 with red shirts, the white shirt, and the last one -- I recognize them all as pictures I once carefully tore out from "Tiger Beat" and "16" to hang on my wall.

The memory the "Take Good Care of My Baby" song brings back is that at the time I was equally enamored of "Gone With the Wind," which had just been shown on US television for the very first time. I saw the movie, read the book, then, out of other options, starting envisioning a "Gone With the Wind" musical, musically populated by... (1) "Take Good Care of My Baby," which a forlorn Rhett would sing about Scarlett; (2) A song I'd learned in grade-school music class years earlier: "C-O-F-F-E-E, coffee is not for me/It's a drink some people wake up with/That it makes them nervous is no myth/Slaves to a coffee cup/They can't give coffee up" --- seriously, I pictured Rhett and Scarlett sitting at their morning coffee singing this to each other. And those two songs were the extent of my Brilliant Musical Idea! :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Raising California

This past weekend, my 9-year-old nephew chatted to me about how the city of Seattle had changed "Columbus Day" to "Indigenous People Day." (He couldn't quite pronounce "indigenous," but I knew exactly what he meant and filled him in on the right word.) Later in the day, when I asked him what he was going to be for Halloween this year, he said that he would probably wear a hoodie and a mask "with a mirror on it, so that when people look at you, they just see them!" (I knew that his mom had been telling him about Trayvon Martin, but he hadn't fully assimilated the info.)

Look, I'm not going to challenge a 9-year-old's newfound "political beliefs" based solely on what his parents have been feeding him. But I was, nonetheless, horrified.

What I said to him off-the-cuff re the "indigenous people" vs. Columbus: "Well, not everyone thinks Columbus discovered America. Maybe the Vikings did." Which was not really the point of the City of Seattle's statement. I get that there were already people living on this continent before any Europeans came over. But to me, glorifying people just for having always been someplace is just as ridiculous as glorifying people for having kids. Both just happen, and any dummies can do it. In the case of Columbus and/or the Vikings, I do admire their adventurous, willingness-to-suffer-for-the-unknown spirit. I wanted to say to my nephew, "Remember that kids' book I read to you before? Where everyone who showed up for the race got a trophy? That's what I think 'Indigenous People Day' is like. What if your soccer league was set up like that?" NO, I didn't say such a thing, but that's exactly what I was thinking.

And RE the hoodie/mirror-mask: How to explain to a little kid that the alleged "hero" according to his mom was actually a punk who tackled the neighborhood watchman and bloodied his nose/bashed his head against the ground before the watchman shot him in self-defense? (Imagined conversation with nephew: "What would YOU do if you were in charge of watching the neighborhood and saw a guy who fit the exact description of others who had been caught robbing places in your 'hood months earlier? What if you told the guy to stop but he first ran off and then turned and tackled you and started punching you while you were down?")

Of course I can't explain any of the intricacies of arguments to a 9-year-old. It was disturbing to me, though, that his mother was feeding him such propaganda. He was regurgitating in a cute way, not fully getting it, but I found it awfully depressing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Place for 2015

I'm not required to give move-out notice until November 30, and my lease isn't up until February 1. But I do know this right now: After 4-1/2 years in a 400-sq-ft apartment, I WILL be moving out! :)

Funny thing, though: I did have a momentary pause... My apartment building has been super-quiet for over a year now, and that quietness is super-important to me, probably THE most important thing. I've lived in town homes and houses before where there were loud neighbors, and it was hellish, despite all of the space. Thing is, though: The current quietness could disappear JUST LIKE THAT. All it takes is one asshole to move in on either side of me or below me. And then I'm stuck living with that for the duration of their lease. I just can't risk it. Plus... I most certainly AM READY for more than 400-sq-ft of space! :) It's time to move, and move on. This was my way-too-lengthy "transition period" ("purgatory") after leaving NYC with my tail between my legs. I'm ready for something blatantly--and I do mean BLATANTLY--better.

There are so many things that constitute "better," though, and I can't have all of them. For one thing, I still am not going to get a car. Which somewhat restricts my living choices to places within walking distance to:  (1) public transportation corridors, and (2) a convenience store where I can grab cigs, beer, milk, etc. For instance, there are numerous spacious/affordable-for-me duplexes closer to where I work than I am now, but they're in "house/driving neighborhoods" and not "walking neighborhoods." I need/want a walking neighborhood.

I haven't particularly missed not having a car since coming home from NYC. I'm not a social butterfly hopping off to one engagement across town after another! I need to get to work, I need to get to the grocery store; every now and then a post office or a library or a movie theater downtown. For family events, everyone lives within 2 miles of me, and it's easy for them to pick me up for Thanksgiving or Christmas or a birthday. And my current job, as one of their perks, pays 100% of my public transportation. If I were to get a car, it would be $200 per month in car payments, plus another $150 in monthly gas/insurance, plus whatever repair costs came up. After taking public transportation for the past 7 years (3 in NYC and the last 4 back in Austin), it's perfectly doable. What's NOT doable is my current 3 hours on a bus every day to and from work! I'm dead tired at the end of the day, and I have to get up way too early. I just need to move closer to work. I've lived on the East Side since 2000, and I'll miss it, but... it's time to move on.

Another "dilemma" came when looking at Austin Craigslist apartment listings... I've missed being able to swim during the summer; and I dislike toting stuff down to the complex laundry, hoping to find a free machine... Should I consider an apartment with a pool and with washer/dryer connections in the apartment? Yes, I should, but... not really, probably. There ARE some smaller, funkier buildings around with these amenities, but most are bigger, more generic. Flashback to when I had a townhome back in the '90s... great space, great upstairs, great amenities... but I absolutely HATED living there--- nothing but concrete to look out upon. (One great thing about my current one-room apartment is the huge window that looks out over big trees just outside.)

I know I want at least two rooms. I know I'd prefer a garage apartment or a duplex -- something with no connecting walls, so I don't have to listen to others and so I can play my own music loud if I want to. I know I want to cut my daily work travel-time down to a total of 1.5 hours at the most instead of 3. I know I need a convenience store within a couple of walking blocks (and a grocery store within a 10-minute bus trip).

I like that I have plenty of time to think about it. And also that, once I've given my notice at the end of November, I have money enough to grab something good if it appears, even if I have to, say, pay two rents in January. I've got some psychological and monetary Lebensraum.

With a good job and spare cash come...

...NEW CANDLES! I love candles, and I've always consciously thought about what to have in my home depending on the season. (More floral for spring, citrus-y for summer, spicy for fall, clean-n-crisp cedar/peppermint for winter.) Only... when I didn't have spare cash, I'd often do without or try to scrounge up whatever-scented sale candles I could find online. 
For the past week or so, I've had three 3x6 candles in my home, nearly burned down, and the sparseness was getting depressing. Then today I "figgered" out... "Hey girl, you can get new candles whenever you want. You don't have to wait and ask for them for your birthday/Christmas, or wait for them to go on sale." Ohhhhhh....  
Though the anal-German/former-poor-person in me still cringed a bit at paying full price for the bottom 3 Christmas candles instead of the sale price that I paid for all the others!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Songs from "The Stranger," 1977

I was only 12 when this came out, but I listened and listened and spent time thinking about what being an adult might be like...  One of the first 3 singles that I bought as a kid with my own money was "Only the Good Die Young." It was catchy and--to my 12-year-old self--sexy, and I loved the smart, rebellious lyrics. To this day, I can quote the whole song.

"She's Always a Woman" was a song that appeared on almost every one of my mix tapes created for crushes in the late-80s to mid-90s.

"Scenes from" was such an interesting song, both musically and lyrically...

Bad-ass. Joan Crawford, 1969, on the set of her last film, "Trog."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Movies

Last Saturday, I woke up not particularly hung over but still feeling quite lazy, not wanting/not having to get out of bed.

Most of the time in years past, when I've channel-surfed basic cable on a Saturday, I haven't found anything interesting at all --- sports, home improvement shows. But this time while I was lying about, I came across on the FX station first "I, Robot," and then "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

I came across 2004's "I, Robot" in the middle of the film, and forget now what first caught my attention... It wasn't Will Smith, whom I automatically associate with generic action pictures; I almost changed the channel when I saw that he was in it. Oh, I know --- a robot was frantically trying to escape from something and was initially bouncing off walls and later bouncing off the outside of buildings. I wondered, "What the hell?" And had to keep watching to find out what in the world was going on. (And "the pretty girl" in the picture, Bridget Moynahan, was actually a good actress.) And I really was wondering what the deal was with the Rebel Robot! As soon unravelled, there were issues of what exactly constitutes a "soul" and a "free will" going on, along with at what point a created, supposedly mechanical being becomes sentient... and at what point rebellion and violence against an irrational creator becomes a moral decision...

As I found out at the end, the film was based on an Isaac Asimov series of stories, "I, Robot," which explains why the film was so psychologically interesting.

While I was still pondering the psychological implications of THIS film, I dozed off again. And woke up an hour or so later to the same station's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Again, in my doziness, I was immediately put off by seeing James Franco, whom I automatically associate with pretentiousness. I'd of course heard of this 2011 movie, but hadn't made any effort to see it, thinking it would just be a high-tech, soulless attempt at cashing in on the profundity of the original "Planet of the Apes."  But I got immediately sucked in by "Caesar," the speechless chimp that was being medically experimented upon/tortured --- I remembered the name of the scientist from the earlier "Planet of the Apes" movie, and I started to be curious: "How DID Caesar go from being an experimental chimp to his later position? And what happened to all of the humans?" And the 2011 movie played out intelligently, to my relief. As with "I, Robot," I'd been sleeping during the first half or so, but I was immediately drawn in to what was going on, in this case, the plight of all of the beasts kept in their cages. Caesar's first spoken work--"Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!" in reponse to an abusive human keeper about to hit him--gave me goosebumps.

There was the obligatory special-effects "battle" between humans/apes on the Golden Gate Bridge. And then Caesar and his cohorts regrouped in the woods. Caesar rejects his former human keeper James Franco, and the apes are then seen silhouetted in the tops of trees as the movie closes.

"Great," I thought, "but HOW in the world did apes TAKE OVER THE WORLD (as in the original "Planet of the Apes" movie)??"  A-ha... Something I'd been asleep for during the beginning of the movie... Simian Flu. In the closing credits, we see a human airline pilot suddenly dripping blood from his nose. The screen then goes to graphics of the paths of global airline flights... (A little too creepily close to the current Ebola scare.)

I was knocked out by both of these films. (1) I can't remember the last time that any film made me think. (2) When I was little, films that I saw by chance on TV, on a Saturday afternoon, often made me think...

I felt like I was 11, DISCOVERING STUFF for the first time.