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Monthly Archives: May 2007

Happy Birthday to Me (Actually written on the 19th.)

Appropriately enough, I have so far celebrated the twentieth anniversary of my birth by trying to track down an official record of that very event. It turns out don’t need a passport to get back into the States from Canada yet, but you do need a birth certificate.

I left my mom a voice mail last night asking her if she had a copy of mine, and I woke up this morning listening to her reply voice mail:

“I think you had it last, Honey. Do you want me to try to break into that filing cabinet in your room? I’ll bet it’s in there.”

So I got a nice, brisk start to the day springing from my bed, alarmed, to call her back and let her know that NO, it is most definitely not in the filing cabinet, there is nothing in that damn filing cabinet, and that there is no need to fucking touch the filing cabinet, OK?

I left that cabinet locked for a reason, you see. It’s sort of a memory box of my high school years. Resting in its hanging folders are the remains of the first baggy of super-weak dope I ever smoked, (I can’t help it; I’m sentimental), and a Prom picture of me and Sara and Lauren and that weird guy Sara brought along.

The photo wouldn’t be such a big deal had I ever mentioned to my mom that I went to Prom in the first place. But…I was going through a secretive phase then, and I’d really prefer that she not get her feelings hurt by finding out that her son never let her see him all dressed up for the only formal dance he would ever attend. Yes, OK, I was kind of an ungrateful teenager. This is not news.

But as of today I’m no longer a teenager, and in the spirit of maturity that comes with age, I’m going to show Erin what a grateful 20-year-old I can be. I opened my mailbox this morning and found 19(!) Suicide Bunny postcards.   This one is far and away my favorite:

 Suicide Bunny

(Click to enlarge.)

Erin, your position on my personal heroes list is officially tenured. My mailbox has never been that full. It is so unbelievably great on your birthday to open a mailbox that is filled with things other than Comcast ads and cell phone bills, you have no idea.  You made me feel special.  Real special.  Please send me your mailbox address at camp so I can send you a gushing and appreciative Thank You note.

Don’t worry, you guys: I’m getting the birth certificate FedExed from the Georgia Records Bureau. It should be here by Thursday.  

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Petition.

Everyone who thinks Erin should come in August and go to Canada with us when Frazzle comes out, leave a comment. Everyone who doesn’t, go to hell. If we collect 7 signatures or more, she has to come. Donations to help her get out here are also welcome.  Since only like 4 of you who aren’t Erin know read this, feel free to sign in with different psuedonyms and vote several times.

Oh! And Frazzle: It looks like my Dad might come to visit the first week in August, and we’ll be moving the last week in July, so maybe you could come mid-August? Could you do that? Let us know.

As long as we’re on the subject of visitors, the Countdown to Ashley is now at T minus 8 days. I am so stoked.

For Your Listening Pleasure

I had almost decided to give up on posting music. The sharing site Ashley suggested makes the user download the songs, rather than just play them from the site. To add futility to the effort, the songs are only available for 7 days.

The site Erin suggested will only let me upload files that are 1 megabite big, which isn’t enough bites for a music file.

So while I deeply appreciated the help, it looked like the music thing just wasn’t going to work out.

However, Ashley just posted music on her blog using the download site, and Ashley made it look cool. (On a related note: Ashley! I will listen to your songs soon, I swear. I just have to get to a private computer, or find some headphones. One or the other will happen this weekend. I am very excited about the Stevie Nicks song. You are the best.) Anyway, I’ve decided to just bite the bullet and post links to where you can download the files. If it’s too much trouble, don’t bother, and I won’t do this again.

But so the song I’ve been wanting to post since I decided to start a new blog is a Laura Nyro song. I can’t decide if I really like Laura Nyro, or if I only sort of like her. On the one hand, she’s like the grandmother of the female singer/songwriter profession. Thus — music aside — I like her simply for existing. Lord knows I loves me some female singer/songwriters, and I’m grateful to her for paving the way.

On the other hand, her music tends to be too bombastic for my taste, and while I can appreciate that the music she made was courageously innovative during the era in which she made it, that doesn’t really lead me to find it any more aurally appealing. And yes, she has an impressive voice, but she seems to feel the need to take that voice and belt everything out with it. I’m a big fan of vocal subtlety and understatement, if only because it makes the occasional outburst seem that much more dramatic.

But there are definitely some songs of hers that I’m really liking. I just bought New York Tendaberry, and I love a whole bunch of songs on it…in large part because — unlike on the two other albums of hers that I own — she’s making an effort to keep the musical and vocal bombast in check. I’ve had this track stuck in my head for about 3 weeks now. I love the restrained verses, and the gentle build-ups and sudden climaxes in the chorus. I love the flare-up trumpet solo in the middle.

By now it should be completely apparent that I have no idea how to discuss music in its technical terms, so listen to the song and put it in those terms for yourself.

Captain For Dark Mornings

I went to the record store last night to find some more Nyro albums, and when I found none, I wandered on over to the Joni Mitchell section (of course). I already own all of her albums, but it’s a used record store, so occasionally there’ll be something really interesting — like a live concert album recorded overseas, or what have you. On this particular visit I found a tribute album.

Jackpot.

There’s nothing like a hearing a bunch of unworthy musicians attempt to reinterpret some of your favorite songs — songs that were interpreted just fine originally, thanks. There are on this album, among other things, a God-awful James Taylor cover of River (He changes “river so long” to “river so high”, which is just barely valid semantically, and certainly makes no sense within the context of the song. And that’s really one of the more relatively minor offenses he commits here.), and a Sufjan Stevens re-tinkering of Free Man in Paris.

You know how awesome it is when your preconceived prejudices about something turn out to be dead-on? Like when you decide that you like a city based on its name, even though you know nothing about it — and then you go there, and there’s a beautiful park and a swell street lined exclusively with shops devoted to nothing but stuffed platypi (The locals would call it Duckbill Alley, or something clever like that) and you have a great time? That’s how the Free Man in Paris cover is for me.

I had pretty much decided upon initially hearing about Mr. Stevens that I was not going to like him (Forgive me, Ashley). Even his name has sounds like something deep-fried in Indy grease. I saw a few of his album covers, read some reviews, and my dislike grew. Meanwhile, I’d never actually heard any of his songs.

The cover is the first of him I’m hearing, and I don’t care for it (and by extension, him) at all. The intro sounds kind of cool and retro, but the rest is weird and…unattached, I guess would be the word? Blase’? Bored? That’s a big problem I have with a lot of music from the Indy genre, actually: everything sounds like the musicians are doing a bemused caricature of a song, instead of actually performing it.

Anyway, here’s the original version: Free Man in Paris Good
And the Stevens Cover: Free Man in Paris Bad

The song, by the way, is about David Geffen, who is possibly the most powerful gay man in America now. He is also probably the only gay man in America to date Cher before coming out of the closet, which is so kick-ass I can’t even talk about it.

One of the few songs on the album I really do like is the Bjork version of The Boho Dance. The melody is in the vein of a lullaby, which is an interesting way to re-imagine it, and her vocal interpretation of the lyrics is surreal. (I haven’t heard much Bjork, so I didn’t realize how cool her voice sounds when she sings in English.) Still, though, her version is much truer to Mitchell’s than Stevens’ is, and I’ll admit that probably has something to do with why I like it better.

Here’s the Mitchell Version: Boho Dance Good
And the Bjork Version: Boho Dance WHOA.

So let me know what you think of these, or let me know if it’s too much effort to download them, or let me know that you don’t want to bother because you think I’m an asshole for harboring a completely unfounded dislike of Sufjan Stevens. (Seriously, Ashley! Don’t stop loving me! It’s not personal, I swear.)

If you do want to listen to them, though, remember that the clock is ticking. You have, as of 7:30 on Thursday, 167 hours and 30 minutes.

Not so much the Final Straw as it was the Third or Fourth Anvil that has so far followed the Final Straw.

I awoke this fine overcast morn to the sound of workers vigorously pressure-washing the sidewalk outside of my building.

At 7:30 A.M. On a Sunday.

I’ve come to expect the Garbage truck banging my building’s bins against itself for upwards of half an hour every Wednesday morning at 5, the Oregonian doing a mass car-wash on its fleet in the parking lot behind my building every Tuesday night at 11 (right when I’m trying to fall asleep), the ambulances which use 6th Avenue at all hours of the night, and the occasional Safeway-bound freight truck which will inexplicably feel the need to honk its horn as it plows up 6th at 2 AM. (The Hell?)

But the pressure washing caught me completely off guard. That sidewalk runs next to a street that’s about to be torn up for at least a month while they lay new MAX tracks. There is no need to touch it right now. More to the point: it’s 7:30 A.M. On a Sunday. Mother’s Day, no less. There won’t be people trying to use that sidewalk until at least noon. It’s not summer yet, so the workers don’t need to come out early to avoid the heat. Who could have possibly thought it would be more prudent to dispatch the maintenence crew at that hour?

Anyway, I’m done living downtown. I can’t do this anymore. I need 8 hours of sleep every night. 8 uninterrupted hours. This happens maybe 2 nights a week in my current apartment.

I keep talking to all of these people at work who can get by on 5 hours or less, people who have twice the energy that I do. For a while there, I started feeling like 8 hours was a childish indulgence, and I started cutting it back to 7.

And then the rage set in. I remember one day almost grabbing this old man who was walking really erratically in front of me and shouting, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, OLD MAN?” into his isolent, meandering-old-man face. Honestly, this absolutely seemed like a fitting course of action at the time. This is how I behave on 7 hours of sleep.

So I’m think going to stick with 8. I also think it’s time to move somewhere quieter. Emily, let’s commence with the house hunting.

Erin brought me a nifty mini-digital camera when she came to visit, so I’m going to do a picture post as soon as I can get my shit together enough to have the camera (a) in the same place as the things I want to take pictures of and, (b) subsequently in the same place as a computer where I can upload the pictures. Give me at least 3 or 4 weeks. This time I’m going to take pictures of the East Side, too, instead of Downtown. I’m really excited; disposable cameras take terrible pictures, and I would never be able to persuade myself to lay down the cash for a nice digital camera.

Ashley is comming to visit in less than 2 weeks! We may drive to Vancouver. Or we may just drive around Oregon. It doesn’t really matter. As long as I’m riding with Ashley, I’m having a good time.

It occured to me on an hour-long bus ride today that if psychiatrists from another planet were to do a preliminary study of humans using a statistical sample consisting only of people riding on busses, their study would conclude that about 35% of the species needs to be placed on anti-psychotics…and permanently barred from using public transport.

Then again, paranoid skizophrenia may be the mental normative for space aliens from that particular planet, in which case their study would conclude that 65% of the population is suspiciously pleasant and mannerly. Please find another group for your statistical sampling if that is the case, space aliens. The last thing I need is one more crazy mofo on my bus.

To conclude: Fuck saving the global ecosystem; somebody bring me a car.

Just when we were all settled in at Blogger, I had to up and move to a completely different host.

1. My intention for the first post of this blog was to upload songs for y’all to listen to. For the life of me, though, I can’t figure out how to make a song go from a CD to a web-page. I’ve found websites that have a catalog of songs you can select for your blog, but none of them had the three songs I wanted. So if any of you know how to set up a digital media player on a web-page that will play songs uploaded from CDs, please let me know.

Actually, now that I think about it, you guys are about as web-savvy as I am…so maybe we’ll just have to skip the music for now.

2. The money situation has gotten a little scary lately. I’m working in the store now, and I’m getting fewer hours in at work because 8 hours dealing with walk-ins really feels like 8 hours. The margin between my paycheck and my rent payment is getting dangerously slim. My current lease is set to expire at the end of this month, and I got a letter the other day letting me know they’re raising my rent by $25 if I re-sign. If that rent had been paid out of the last paycheck I got, I would have had exactly twenty dollars left over. I get paid twice a month, of course, and rent is only due once, so in theory I should be able to save money from one paycheck to apply toward the rent coming out of the next. Somehow, I never manage to do this, though. The more consciously I try to save money, the more I end up spending.

Anyway, in addition to squeezing out off-the-counter overtime whenever I can, I’ve been trying to find a new pad. But it’s looking like my apartment was pretty much the best deal in all of Portland. Most of the studios I can afford, if Craig’s List is to be believed, are in The ‘Couve. While I kind of have this gentle affection for downtown The ‘Couve (it’s very charming, and there’s not a strip mall in sight, and it feels more like a small town than it does a suburb) public transportation between there and Portland is crappy, and there’s nothing in the way of good vegetarian food.

Emily thinks I should rent a house with her and Willard, and that’s starting to look like the best option. It’s certainly more practical than living alone, and Emily is pretty much the best housemate I can think of. (The only other person I can clearly see myself living with is Ashley. That apartment would be so tasteful and clean and marvelous that I’m not even, as Ashley would say, gonna lie.) But Emily is really good at cooking, and I’m really good at sitting and talking to people while they prepare food for me, so I think we’d have a pretty good time. Wilfred, for his part, is pretty much the most quiet, patient person I’ve met, so there shouldn’t be any problems there. We’re also the same clothing size, and his shirts smell like my grandad used to. Awesome.

I just can’t quite eradicate this sadness I have about giving up on having my own territory. That was such an important thing to me when I moved out here. Ah, well. It’s not as important as having enough money for food and books and movies.

3. Speaking of books, I’ve been reading Hotel California based on her recommendation. The only thing I want to say about it here is that I think it’s really cool that Joni Mitchell and Neil Young never had sex. She slept with C,S, and most notably N — but never Y. They were the only two Canadians in the Southern California rock scene at the time, and they were arguably the two biggest and most influential musical geniuses to come out of it, and they just kind of had this tremendous friendly respect for each other. Mostly, I just like to see it when a man and a woman can be friends and admire each other’s professional work without everything eventually devolving into something sexual and complicated and gender-roley. I like to imagine them seeing each other across the room at parties, and each giving the other a reverent and heartfelt Great-White-North nod before descending back into the fray.

Yeah, OK, kind of stupid to be telling you guys about this. I just think it’s nifty, is all.

4. I really want to go to Los Angeles for four reasons. One is — as I’m sure you can guess — Laurel Canyon, the nexus of the Folk Rock movement, where Mitchell still maintains a home for part of the year. You should Google the pictures. It looks like a combination between Portland’s West Hills, and the piedmont landscape where Mama McDaniel lives. It also looks like it’s been steeped in singer-songwriter mystique. That’s kind of irresistible for me.

Dan at work went to school in Pasadena, and says that (a) Six Feet Under was filmed there, and (b) all of the houses there look like the Fishers’. He also says it’s kind of a cool place. I really like Dan, so I’m going to trust his judgement on this one.

Downtown L.A. has a pretty dramatic skyline. I know that that really means very little about the city itself, and I shouldn’t be lured in by style in lieu of substance. I know that shiny, tall buildings are necessarily expensive buildings that interesting, independent business cannot afford to operate out of. I know the whole “It’s so plastic” lament. (You can’t live in Portland and not hear this uttered in repsonse to your mentioning a place you really like.)

I also know that nothing can make my heart quiver like a bitchin’ skyline comming up over the horizon.

Everyone hates L.A. now, and there is this strange compulsion to be contrary coded into my DNA. (Please refer to my title for further evidence of this.)

Round-trip tickets from Portland are less than $200, so if any of you guys coming out to visit us in the next couple seasons are up for a trip-within-a-trip, let me know. I think it could be fun.

5. Please don’t expect subsequent posts to be this long.