1. If You Gotta Go, Go Now – Cowboy Junkies (Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes) 2. Godless – Mason Jennings (Mason Jennings) 3. Casey Jones – Grateful Dead (Workingman’s Dead) 4. Nettie Moore – Bob Dylan (Modern Times) 5. Loxmi’s Song – Skymonters (Skymonters) 6. Leaving Cottondale – Alison Brown (Fair Weather) 7. Jacket King – Green Mountain Grass (WEFT Sessions) 8. Girl from the North Country – Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan) 9. Shoot the Moon – Norah Jones (Come Away With Me) 10. Shalom/Saalam – Matisyahu (Youth)
Song that paints the best visual image: Loxmi’s Song by the Skymonters (this one was written and sung by Hamid Camp, the musician about whom I waxed on two weeks ago).
Musician who is the subject of my latest musical crush: Mason Jennings. My sister introduced me to him when she was in town in April and I immediately became smitten. Check him out, I think you’ll probably become enamored as well.
When I was out in Portland last month, one of the activities I tasked myself with was sorting through the ephemera that I’ve collected over my lifetime. I had saved up a veritable mountain of programs from high school plays, drawings from pre-school, report cards, birthday cards and bits of newspaper that I had gotten my face into over the years. I was able to whittle it down to a manageable collection and packed it all into a suitcase that I checked with me when I returned to Philly.
Since I’ve been back, I haven’t touched that suitcase. The second half of May and all of June were incredibly busy and more recently my roommate was in the midst of packing up his own possessions, so there wasn’t time or space to pull it all out. The suitcase has stood patiently in a corner of my apartment, waiting for me to pay it a little attention.
This afternoon I rolled it into the roommate’s now-empty room and unzipped the bag. One of the items in the suitcase was a little clothing box, filled with all the letters, cards and notes that my mom received after I was born. When I packed up in Portland, I knew what was in that box and so didn’t take the time to go through it then, I knew that I wanted to keep it, which was the only criteria I was dealing with then. Things are slightly more leisurely now, and so I took a few minutes to flip through the box. There were cards signed by people who are still friends of the family and some from people I don’t remember ever getting the opportunity to meet. The letter you see below was one of the more entertaining ones, because it’s not often that you get to read a letter addressed to you that was written 28 years ago.
There’s something really wonderful about the idea of being loved by someone who hadn’t even clapped eyes on me yet.
Last Saturday I was hanging out with the rest of the Fork You team up in Thad and Angie’s community garden plot when we, spurred on by the scent and abundance of basil, were overwhelmed with the need to film a podcast. It went smoothly too, with the exception of the moment when I got a rubber spatula stuck on the blades of the blender. But the show went on and we made some kickass pesto. And so can you!
The last hour has been the first time in over four years that no other person has had a key and claim to my apartment. Already, the air feels different, as if it lightened the minute the spare bedroom was emptied. I walked in there a little while ago, and the space felt foreign and shrunken, as if my last memory of the room was from when I was five years old and several feet shorter.
If I pause outside the door with my eyes closed, I can still see it the way my grandparents kept it, as a book-lined den. I remember my grandmother in the evening, sitting on the end of the sofa, feet tucked up underneath her and a magazine spread across her lap. My grandfather would be moving about the room, picking out his clothes for the next day and arranging them in a neat pile. He had a shoe shine machine that my sister and I loved to play with. We would press the metal pin that switched it on and watch as the limp red and blue acrylic feathers spun themselves into alert fluffiness. Often times, we would polish our toes, giggling at the unfamiliar tickle.
I get to keep the air and energy of the apartment all to myself for the next several weeks, until my new roommate moves in at the end of July. I will be enjoying it.
I spent some time in a community garden plot that belongs to some friends this weekend, gushing over the abundance of fresh herbs. It reminded me how much better my life is when I spend a little time outside, in the company of trees, grass and air.
Today, feeling stressed and in need of some calming, I decided to take advantage of the green space that is just a block from me. I walked over to Rittenhouse Square, found a shady spot in the grass that wasn’t too damp, and stretched out. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the city noises. I found that just being in contact with ground made me relax, and I could feel the tension I’ve been carrying in my lower back start to escape.
I lay there, breathing and enjoying the coolness of the grass against my neck, until I felt some wetness smack my forehead and run down into my hair. I took it as a sign that it was time to get up (I’m still not sure what it was–an errant raindrop? bird urine?), but the feeling of general wellbeing that I acquired from 30 minutes of doing nothing while laying in the grass has stayed with me all day long.
2. What People Are Made Of – Modest Mouse (The Moon and Antarctica)
3. You Could Be Her – Jonathan Coulton (Thing a Week)
4. Cold Day in July – Dixie Chicks (Fly)
5. Criminal – Fiona Apple (Tidal)
6. On The Bound – Fiona Apple (When the Pawn…)
7. Do What You Have To Do – Sarah McLachlan (Mirrorball)
8. Banking on a Myth – Andrew Bird (Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs)
9. Fuel – Ani DiFranco (Little Plastic Castles)
10. Just Can’t Last – Natalie Merchant (Motherland)
Songs that made me briefly question my ability to read: Having two Fiona Apple songs pop up, one after the other, confused me for a moment. I looked at the iPod screen and had a intentional thought process that went something like, “I did press the ‘next’ button, didn’t I? I thought I did, but wait…oh.”
Music I acquired from others: Jonathan Coulton (Scott), Fiona Apple & Andrew Bird (my sister) and Natalie Merchant (Cindy).
My cousin Andy has always been known in the family as a world traveler. We never knew whether he would show up for Thanksgiving or Christmas, often he would be in Thailand or Vietnam or China instead. The times he did make an appearance, the food he brought with him would be stunningly good, and would speedily vanish (leaving you disappointed if you didn’t move fast enough). One year he brought a large roasting pan filled with cookies and just last year he came with a spicy Thai sausage that he had made himself.
A couple of years ago, I started hearing rumors throughout the family that he was opening a restaurant in Portland. He bought a house in SE and started renovations. Last summer when I was out there, the take-out window was open for business and I remember sitting outside with my mom, devouring a section of roasted game hen and wishing for more. When I was in town last December, Andy gifted us with a remarkably amazing meal. The fish sauce glazed chicken wings made such an impression on my tastebuds that I can conjure the flavor simply by thinking about them.
My friend Una is getting married this Saturday. She spent years looking for the right guy, many time despairing that she would never find him. Then, a couple of months after her 35th birthday, she spotted a guy on match.com who resonated with her. She sent him an email, they went out and soon after, she mentioned to a group of us that he was different from the other guys she had dated, in a very wonderful way.
She’s having a small wedding, mostly family and just a few friends, so I won’t be there (although having heard all the details, I feel like I’ve already experienced it). They are having the ceremony in upstate New York, in a section of a park where you can see the “Million Dollar View.” They’ll exchange vows in the late afternoon, and when the ceremony is over the guests will all release butterflies. And for dessert, they’ll eat a cake that I made. In that way, I’ll be there after all.
I had a conversation tonight with a friend in which we both realized that the last month has been pretty much of a doozy for both of us. Life has continually thrown us curve balls and it seems like as soon as we work through one issue, the next one comes careening towards us. As we continued to talk, we realized that we’ve been hearing similar thoughts and feelings from just about everyone we know. Most of the people we interact with are dealing with changes, uncertainties, questions and generalized chaos.
So I thought I’d put it out there, a little query to the people who stop here on occasion. How is life treating you these days? Does the chaos seem to be more pronounced than normal to the rest of you?
Of all the different roles that come with being a parent, I think my dad enjoyed the teaching responsibilities the best. It didn’t matter if the task at hand was eating an ice cream cone or how to build a drip-style sand castle, he was ready to show me a good way to approach it. I feel so fortunate to have grown up with someone who was so willing to share what he knew (and would also readily admit it if he didn’t know). He helped shape the way I see the world and for that I feel immensely lucky.