Monthly Archives: February 2006

Random Friday–It's strangely balmy outside

It’s Friday again. I spent all day yesterday feeling like it was Friday, which is never good because when you wake up and it actually is Friday, it feels like it should be Saturday. Unfortunately, tomorrow morning when I wake up, it’s finally going to be Saturday, but I’m going to have to get up and go to work. Basically, my sense of time is just all screwed up. But enough of these ramblings, you’re here today for my Random Friday Ten.

You know the rules by now, but for the sake of the newcomers (a girl can dream), here they are. Set your pod or other digital music devise on shuffle/random and report back the first ten songs that show up. There is no skipping, omitting, hedging or excusing allowed. Let your music speak for itself (no matter what it might say).

1. I Just Keep Loving Her, Kenny Neal and Billy Branch (A Taste of Alligator Sampler)
2. All I Want, Joni Mitchell (Blue)
3. I’m Waiting for the Day, The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds)
4. Choctaw Hayride, Alison Krauss & Union Station (New Favorites)
5. Thank You, Dido (No Angel)
6. Honky Tonk, Al Kooper (Rekooperation)
7. Losing Lisa, Ben Harper (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
8. You Know That I Love You, Santana (The Essential Santana)
9. Lay Lady Lay, Bob Dylan (Before the Flood)
10. Merlin’s Lament, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar (Drum Hat Buddha)

Favorite Song: All I Want by Joni Mitchell. I was deeply enamored of Joni Mitchell during the end of high school and the beginning of college. My mom gave me Court and Spark for Easter when I was 12 (strange occasion, especially because my mom is Jewish, but hey, I was happy to have the disc) and Blue ended up in my collection about four years later. The beginning notes of this song take me right back to those days.

Favorite Album: Rekooperation by Al Kooper. This CD drifted into my possession by way of my dad. It was a freebie he got at some music show when I was in high school and he tossed it to me on his return. I didn’t know who Al Kooper was in those days, or anything about his history as the organist for Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, all I knew is that I really liked this CD. When I need music that I can play loud, no lyrics, just good instrumental groove, this is the disc I turn to.

Seen Live: Alison Krauss and Union Station and Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar. I’ve already told my Dave and Tracy story. It’s a light week for live viewings.

If you need more Friday Random Tens than I can give you, check out these folks:

The head-spinning nature of New York and Matt

The first time I ever went to New York City, was the summer of 1999. I fell promptly, uproariously and heartbreakingly in love with it as I walked up the stairs from Penn Station. I was smack in the middle of college, two years in and two years away from finishing and totally conflicted about what I wanted to do with my life (some things never change). I wandered around for a bit by myself, followed some subway directions and found myself sitting in Washington Square Park, a street fair taking place nearby, waiting to meet up with my friend Matt.

I met Matt for the first time when I was just a few hours old and he was five. The son of my mom’s best friend, he was the closest thing I ever had to a brother and I absolutely worshipped him. We went to the same high school (although not at the same time). When I was a freshman, I loved telling the older students that I knew him, so much did I want to publicly connect myself up with him.

When my 20 year old self was sitting in the park waiting for him, I hadn’t seen him in at least two or three years. I was so excited to see him, and when he did arrive, he looked so grown up, with tattoos and spiky hair. He was happy to see me too, but without my exuberant, innocent excitement. We walked around that afternoon, had dinner and talked. I took all of my uncertainty about life and dumped it in his lap, assuming that since he was older and filled my big brother role that he would have some answers and guidance for me. I didn’t know then that I needed to be a little protective of my hopes and emotions with him, because his plans and identity were still fluctuating and forming as well. I allowed him to plant ideas about leaving college in my head, and to fan the flames of unhappiness I had lit with the path I had chosen.

After dinner and a stop at Coyote Ugly (before the movie of the same name came out), where his roommate worked, we headed back to his apartment in Williamsburg. This was before Williamsburg was the ultimate in all things hipster, and I just knew it as the setting of one of my favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. We sat and talked a little more, before he flipped open the weekly newspaper laying on the coffee table and said, “Let’s see what Free Will Astrology has to say.” I don’t remember what the horoscope said, but I do recollect that it’s prediction felt apt, so right on that we cut it out and I put it in my wallet.

I went over to the Free Will Astrology website today (something I do almost every week) to check my horoscope. For the first time in years, that action swept me back to that 24 hour period with Matt, in New York seven years ago. I don’t know if it was because the horoscope felt true, or if it’s because I’m in a similar place now as I was then, but I traveled hard and fast into the past.

When I got back to my grandparents’ apartment in Philly after that day, I was confused and spent chunks of time walking in circles in my head. I also had several tearful conversations with my mom over the phone. The conclusion I came to in the end was that I was going in the right direction. That finishing college was an excellent idea, and that I had even picked out the right school for myself, despite all the locational regrets being in New York had made me feel.

I’ve been questioning a lot lately, and this memory makes me think that I’m going to come to the same conclusion this time too. The choices I’ve made, and the life I have are good ones. That I am on the right path. The problem is that coming to that realization is never a comfortable process.

*The picture is of Matt and me, at about ages 8 and 3.

Buckets, my sister, the ocean and fear

When I was two and a half, the ocean stole my bucket and shovel. I had been sitting, minding my own business, my legs in the water and my butt in the sand, when they were swept away. I cried and ran for my mom, but it was too late, they were gone. It didn’t matter that a new bucket and shovel were purchased for me later that afternoon, I had come to know the power of the ocean, and I was afraid.

My great-aunt Doris, a great sun worshipper, had a house in Brigantine, NJ until I was ten years old. Every summer, my mom would bring us from LA to Philly to spend some time with my grandparents, and this trip always included some time down the shore with Aunt Doris. It was there that I lost my bucket. After she was born and as she got older, I was convinced that I was going to lose my little sister the same way.

On the beach, I’d watch her like a hawk, and would either pick her up bodily or scream bloody murder anytime she got (what I deemed) to be too close to the water. In those days I spent many hours sighing heavily and wishing Raina would just go away, but as soon as I perceived she was in danger, I’d spring into action. No large body of water was going to take her away on my guard. I seriously got in the way of her enjoyment of the beach, and made everyone else crazy in the process.

Thankfully, my sister made it to adulthood without being lost at sea, and neither did I lose a bucket ever again. However, I did spend a whole lot of time and energy being fearful that history would repeat itself and I would be bucketless once again.

Lately, I’ve been feeling fearful (although not about losing buckets). I’ve been allowing the worries about work and career get me down. I worry that because I’m in a job right now that doesn’t challenge me that I will be stuck in this state forever. That all future jobs will be like this one. It seems I need to finally learn a lesson from the ocean and my bucket, and remember that just because something happens once, doesn’t mean that it will happen again. Things will shift, and my happiness will not be lost to the waves.

On the eve of Valentine's Day…

I spent a big chunk of Saturday alone in my apartment. In the beginning I really enjoyed the solitude, sleeping late, making coffee when I got up and reading the newspaper in my pajamas, on the couch. As the day progressed, I got increasingly restless and uncomfortable in my skin. I couldn’t focus on a book, no movie on TV was able to grab my attention, and I didn’t have the energy or desire to go running. Instead, I wandered from the kitchen, to the living room, to my bedroom and back to the kitchen (my apartment just isn’t that big), trying to figure out what to do with myself. I stared out the window at the falling snow, talked to my mom on the phone and tried to find some answers.

The source of the discomfort was this question: Is it okay to want something, but still be okay not having it?

The thing in question I want is a relationship. A partner. More love. I am okay without it, I know this without question. My life is good, my happiness originates from inside me, and I know I will be fine if I don’t find anyone in this lifetime. But that knowledge doesn’t stop me from wanting it. And in my weaker moments, absolutely longing for it. The friends of mine who are in happy, successful relationships often quote the same piece of wisdom to me. They say, “I only found love when I stopped looking for it.” They stopped looking for it, they were okay without it, but at their core, did they stop wanting it?

Last New Year’s Eve, I went out with a group of friends. The evening was mostly unplanned, we declared we were “going to have fun” and set out into the night. By some fluke, we ended up on a roofdeck in Old City in time for fireworks and the countdown to midnight. Tracie, one of the women who was out with us that night, had recently given up dating. She proclaimed that she was done with men, especially tortured artists and musicians, and was really okay being alone. As a caveat, an aside to the universe, she ended her statement by mentioning that if there was someone out there for her, she’d like him to be a CPA. That night, on the roofdeck, Bob walked up to Tracie. He was a CPA. They recently bought a house together, a year after they unexpectedly met on that roof.

After discussion with friends, my parents and strangers at restaurants, I’ve come to the conclusion that wanting something, but being okay without it, is an acceptable place to be. That being okay does not dissolve the wanting. And that the process of wanting makes the getting more valuable.

My first snow

I didn’t see snow until I was seven years old. My family lived in LA until I was almost nine, and it was a rare day when the temperature dropped below 45 degrees. One day in March of 1986, my parents decided it was time for their kids to experience snow and so we piled into the family Subaru and took a day trip up to Big Bear.

It was only about 40 minutes from our house in Eagle Rock, but felt like another world. My memories of that day are deeply linked to the pictures my parents took of us playing, although some moments stand out, independent from photographic evidence. I remember building a snowman, and being shocked at how something so cold could also burn. My parents had to prompt us, to teach us how play in the snow, because it was so foreign. My mom laid down in a field to show us how to make an angel, and my dad instructed us on how to make a snowball stay together and fly.

There was a little boy who attached himself to us soon after we arrived, and played more enthusiastically than I knew how. I felt a little jealous that he was more interested in my four year old sister than me, when he was closer to my age, but he could sense that she shared his fearlessness and would be a better playmate.

In some senses, my parents were as excited to see snow as we were, because it had been many years since they had lived in a climate where winters froze. After eight years in LA, they had forgotten how cold and pervasive snow could be, and didn’t bring enough changes of clothing to keep us from getting chilled on the way home.

We moved to Portland about a year later, and almost immediately had snowy winters. The first house we moved to after LA was two blocks from my elementary school, and I finally got to walk to school in the snow, just like my mom and Laura Ingalls Wilder had done. That one action deeply satisfied my need for things to be like they were in the olden days.

I’ve experienced many more snow days since that first one on Big Bear almost twenty years ago, but I will always remember that one as my first.

Snow imitates fire

About half an hour ago, the fire alarm went off in my building. This is not the first time in my years here that the alarm has roused me from sleep, but it’s jarring every time it happens. The procedure is that you are to go into one of the fire escape stair towers and wait to hear either an all clear sign or a must evacuate notice. About three years ago, there was a fire in the middle of the night, that I missed, because I was out on the west coast at the time. My then-boyfriend was sleeping in the apartment that night and was evacuated with the rest of the building. I found out about the fire when I started getting phone calls from family at 5 am Portland time, all wondering if I was okay.

I’ve come to enjoy the “alarm nights” once I’ve dragged myself out of bed, because they are one of the few opportunities I get to talk to my neighbors. Tonight I spent some time talking to a man from down the hall. Many days, I see him in the elevator, or walking into his apartment, but we exchange greetings and nothing more. While in the fire stairs tonight, he started telling me about how he used to work in Center City. How he watched our building as it was constructed out of the ground, and how he used to walk by on his lunch out and observe each floor coming to life. He told me that he finally got a notice that he could come and view an apartment, but there was only one elevator running. A crowd of people had gathered to wait for the elevator to take them to the only completed floor, and when it finally arrived, a little old lady got off slowly, and when she was past, they all moved quickly on. He said he never realized that it was a sign of things to come for the building.

He said he remembered my mother and my grandmother, and called them both beautiful. Then he went he threw up his hands, said, “I’m too old for this” and went back to bed.

I stayed their, on the metal step, thinking I’d go back to sleep right there if it didn’t end soon, when my next door neighbor came into the stairs. She moved in about a year and a half ago and is tall, thin and beautiful. When I run into her in the mornings as we are both leaving for work, I’m always a little amazed at how elegant and put-together she is, compared me in my clogs, blank pants and puffy down jacket. However, she’s friendly and sweet, so I don’t hold her outstanding beauty against her. She lives in a studio, but only woke up to hear the alarm when some friends from another floor called her cell phone to wake her up (the alarms are very loud if you are in the same room as it). We sat there, talking about the number of young people moving into the building, and the need to have a party or happy hour, when the all-clear announcement rang out. It appears that some snow blew into an external smoke detector, fooling it into believing the building was on fire. Who knew that snow could replicate the sensation of smoke!

With that, we said good night and went back into our apartments. Another exciting night in the building.

Raina Rose on the road

I didn’t get myself together to put up a Random Friday Ten today, believe it or not, I actually had work to do at work and couldn’t find time to blog. With only ten minutes left of the day, I’m going to forgo it this week. But I wanted to post an exciting update from my sister’s tour. She was informed recently that she will be playing at the High Sierra Music Festival this summer in Quincy, CA. I found out Wednesday, and went over to the High Sierra website and was completely blown away at the list of people who will also being playing the festival. It’s a thrill to see my sister listed with the likes of My Morning Jacket, Adrienne Young, and Nickel Creek. If seeing her on a bill with those luminaries peaks your interest, she gets to Philly on March 11th and is doing a show at the Unitarian Church that evening, and tickets are five bucks.

Enjoy the snow tomorrow!

Didn't your mother tell you not to take bananas from strangers?

Tonight, after work, I stopped into Trader Joe’s. It had been about a week since I had been and I was starting to itch for a TJ’s fix…plus I was out of cereal. I walked in, talking to my mom on the cell phone, but hung up with her as I grabbed a basket. I’ve discovered it’s dangerous to talk on the phone and grocery shop, I always end up with lavender dish soap and three burritos, and nothing I actually intended to buy. After a brief glance at the coffees and teas, I headed for the produce section, planning to grab some bananas and grape tomatoes. A TJ’s staffer was restocking the banana pile, and they were mostly green and still in large bunches of eight or ten bananas. She put down a promising cluster of slightly more ripe looking ones, and I grabbed it. I broke it up into two sets of four, put one back on the display and one in my basket.

As I turned around to move on, I realized I was kind of penned in. A distracted looking mom with two little boys has stopped her cart so that I was stuck between it and the box the bananas were shipped in. Without looking at me, she rolled on, saying to the older of her boys (who looked to be about four years old), “Honey, do you want some bananas? Why don’t you go and pick some out?” This cute little guy walked over to where I was standing, and looked absolutely bewildered. I picked up the other foursome of bananas I had put back the moment before and offered them to him. He looked at me with deeply serious eyes, hesitated and then accepted them. He walked over to him mom and held up the yellow cluster. She looked at it and said, “Perfect honey, good job.” It was then that he said the only words I heard him utter, “Mommy, a stranger gave them to me.”

In that moment, I was torn between letting loose an amused chuckle and having my heart wrenched with the realization that I was the stranger in that scenario. I realized that while I believe that all parents should caution their children about interacting with people they don’t know, that somehow in my head I still thought of myself as more of the child in that situation than the adult who might or might not be a threat.

* * * *

Tonight, after the trip to Trader Joe’s, I was on the elevator, heading back out. Mrs. B was standing in the hallway as I approached, and flapped her hands and me and said, “I pushed the up and the down button, when really I just want to go down. I blame it on old age!” I told her she was lucky to have an excuse, because when I do something like that, I just look stupid. She snorted, and the elevator arrived. She got off two floors later, to go play mah jong with some other women in the building. As she got off, Jo got on the elevator. I’ve had a passing acquaintance with this woman for the last couple of years now, and she always greets me enthusiastically when she sees me. Tonight there was no greeting, just “I can’t stop eating! I just eat and eat and eat! I think I’m going to have to do something drastic, maybe go on a liquid diet for a week.” Before I could say more than, “whatever works,” she was gone, exiting on the 12th floor.

Never a dull moment on the elevator.

Pen Recovery

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fascination with writing utensils that borders on unhealthy. In middle school, I was always the student with multiple freshly sharpened pencils, as well as pens in both blue and black, ball and roller point. I never understood how my classmates could come to class without a pen, since I always had at least seven or eight by my side. I looked forward to the beginning of the school year each fall with the same anticipation that most students reserved for June, because I would get a chance to go to Office Depot and pick out new pens. The year that all the gel pens hit the market in the big way is burned into my memory (1993).

I found the unrealized potential trapped in the barrel of the pen intoxicating. If the green ballpoint wasn’t able to let loose my creative flow (or, more often, effectively capture my social studies notes) I would switch to purple gel ink. If all else failed, the brown inked fountain pen was always there, as a last resort.

It took me years to realize that other people didn’t have the same relationship with their pens and pencils as I did. People would ask to borrow a pen in health class, and I would find myself handing over a reserve Bic Stik, knowing the chances were high that the lendee didn’t value writing instruments the way I did, and would probably walk out of class with it still unconsciously grasped in their hands.

So much did I pay attention to writing implements and the people who used them, that in college I started giving pen “readings,” trying to intuit bits of someone’s personality or character by their favorite pen or pencil. Most of the time I was closer than you might think.

By the time I graduated from college, I had amassed more pens than one person could use in a standard lifetime and I found myself giving handfuls of them away at graduation, along with a coattrack, white Christmas lights and an orange table. There is a large plastic container in my parents house full of my discards. They will never have to buy another pen again. I stopped buying pens, and I realized that more of my disposable income that was decent was invested in plastic and ink, and I declared a pen-purchasing hiatus. These days, I try to stay away from the pen aisle of office supply stores, and I bring my own pens to work, hoping to someday make a dent in the collection. I still enjoy a good pen, but do so with a little more self control than I did in the past.