It’s A Kind of Magic

It occurs to me that the likelihood is very high that I will never connect with a life partner. I’m sure I’ll have other short term partners, and even some longish term. But what are the odds of finding that person who’s experienced just the right set of life experiences, and has the knowledge, humor, and tenacity to be willing to hold my hand til the bitter end? (If I’m cooking up a dreamboat to visualize, it occurs to me here that I should probably insert “tempered, yet contagious optimism” to my list of requirements – can’t hurt.)

I found out the other day that I had my Myers Briggs profile wrong, and I’m actually INTP. Suddenly, everything clicks into place. The deep loneliness. The inability to connect. The annoyance at small talk and occasion-specific clothing. The overwhelming desire to find Truth, even without understanding exactly what Truth means. Never being able to explain myself because I skipped all the steps in the middle to get to the answer, and hell, I’m not a teacher, you figure it out. The overwhelm. Disliking arguments because if I know I’m right, I don’t want to waste time convincing you of something you should be smart enough to know. The mad scientist excitement over a hundred and one ways to create and innovate…but squirrel!

I sing out loud when I’m walking places in the city. It makes me happy, and I’m past caring about social norms. When I sing, I tell myself I’m sending out a beacon to the Universe. See me! I’m here, doing your work! But it’s really a distress call, isn’t it? See me! Don’t let me be invisible!

I’m doing my best to stay calm. It’s not that I am scared of being alone, physically. In most ways, I prefer it. I like quiet and having my own space. It helps me think. But the idea of being locked in my head forever, of never finding someone to understand me – I can’t find the words to paint the appropriate level of anguish for you here, dear reader.

I think that’s what hurts the most about the end of my last relationship. Connecting mentally and personality-wise with other humans is just not normal for me. It takes me years to move someone from the “acquaintance I spend a lot of time with” bucket to the “friend I would trust my life with” bucket. There’s no in-between collection receptacle.

It takes extraordinary circumstances to circumvent this process, but it’s happened in a few cases – most notably, on the Camino. That’s one of the reasons that trip looms so large in my life story. To go halfway across the world, expecting to be alone and stay alone, and then to meet multiple people to whom I could gladly offer my heart – that’s so far from my norm that I still can’t comprehend it fully. To quote one of the greatest musical acts of all time, it’s a kind of magic.

But I yearn for that magic in my everyday. The challenge is to find a way to reverse engineer it. Surely I am capable of whipping up some sort of recipe for success.

The Taste of Love Is Sweet

A few weeks ago, I started writing about love. I mean, that’s obviously not true if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. I’ve written a lot about love. And pain. And depression. And self-loathing. Weirdly enough, at some point, all of those things intertwine. If I had to guess, I’d say that in my very early childhood, I somehow learned that achievement was the key to being loved, and it sent me down the shit-strewn pathway that is perfectionism, inevitable failure, chronic procrastination, anxiety, depression, inability to effectively communicate my needs to others, and look, here we are! Woohoo! Awesome, gotta love psychology – here’s a primer on perfectionism and anxiety disorders, if you’re interested.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about love. Or specifically, the second of two lessons that I’ve gleaned in my 36 odd (and I do mean “odd”) years here on Planet Whatsitsname. If you want to see Lesson #1, it’s not here. Go to this other place.

Whew, now that we’re rid of that guy (cheeky bastard, trying to read ahead!), let’s get on with things…

Lesson #2: Autonomy

This one is otherwise known as “Am I my lover’s keeper?” The answer, in case you’re wondering, is a resounding NO.

My friend’s mom has this wonderful saying, and I know that I’ve probably recounted it here before, but I’m going to do it again (#sorrynotsorry). She says that your partner shouldn’t be the meat and potatoes of your life. Instead, they should be the strawberries and cream. In a relationship, it’s our job to make life sweet for our partners, while we learn to be our own “meat and potatoes” – to create a life that sustains and nurtures ourselves.

In other words, your lover can’t be your everything, and you shouldn’t be your lover’s everything. That’s an extremely unhealthy way of living. As good as it may feel to lean on each other, that’s not a sustainable, long term solution. If you’re not leaning equally on each other (which presents its own unique struggle), one of you is weighing the other down. In either of these situations, your structural integrity WILL fail in the end. It’s only a matter of time.

For those of us who love to nurture, who just want to be helpful and kind, it is natural to want to give everything we have to make our loved ones happy, healthy, and whole. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for those around you. But people who give freely of themselves can lose track, and be taken advantage of by trusted loved ones. When we instinctively give, give, give, we attract people who instinctively accept, accept, accept (and in the most negative situation, those who take, take, take). It’s easy to feel fulfilled by the joy of being a kind person and doing good things for the people we love, but that won’t keep the emotional lights on forever. Codependency might not be malicious. It feels like love. It feels like symbiosis. But it’s not – it’s parasitism, and it makes both of you even weaker. The partner who never learned to take care of their own needs (be they physical, emotional, psychological, etc.) is never going to learn if there’s no impetus to change. Meanwhile, the partner who rejoices in offering too much care is most likely neglecting their own needs and deficiencies.

I know now that the only way forward is to create a language of reciprocal joy with my partner. Of course I want to share in the story of their life. I want to know when the day goes wrong, and when it goes right. I want to be there to lend a hand when I’m needed – that’s what partners do, after all. But I am not there to carry all that weight for the long haul. And it’s not their job to carry mine. It’s my job to be a grown up and learn how to shoulder my burdens when I can, when to graciously accept a little relief, and how to recognize when it’s my turn to take on some extra weight. Mostly, though, it’s about walking side-by-side, enjoying whatever the path brings our way. It’s about bringing sweetness to a difficult day when we can, but also not being daunted when we can’t. In the end, we are not our lovers’ keepers. Which leads me to an unexpected third lesson…

Lesson #3: Love isn’t an external process.

It’s an internal alchemy. It isn’t more valid because you have someone to share it with, will it towards, or spend it on. Love doesn’t require a physical object to exist, and I suspect that once love is sparked, no matter the catalyst, there will always be an ember held safe in your heart, willing itself back into full flame. We can easily be our own sweetness, if we just let ourselves remember how.

My Camino Playlist (2015 Edition)

In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.


Considering all the cats I petted on the Camino, I have to think that Mr. Schweitzer was on to something…

There are many controversial subjects among pilgrims and prospective pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago: raincoat or poncho, backpack weight, shoe type, best bedbug prevention, pants or skirt, and the list goes on. If you’ve ever asked yourself “is XYZ a good idea?” chances are that there are a few forum threads on XYZ, and equal numbers of people saying “Of course!” and “Hell no!” We humans are a difficult bunch.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from walking the Camino started to get drilled in before I’d even boarded the plane to Paris, through reading tons of Camino journals, blog posts, and forum comments. Pretty early on, it became obvious to me that this journey was mine to make, and mine alone. It’s one thing to pay attention to advice, but it’s up to the individual to decide what’s useful and proper in their situation, and what is merely interference (no matter how well-meant). Just because someone else insists that their way is the only right way – especially when they’re knit-picking you about things that aren’t life or death – doesn’t mean they’re right. In fact, it seems to me that when people try to bully you into accepting their inconsequential choices as your own habits, it’s usually out of fear, and the subconscious belief that having others conform to their whims will somehow validate their life path. In other words, don’t believe everything you read. Make your own decisions. Walk your own damn road!

When you know yourself and your proclivities, sometimes there are choices to be made to ensure comfort and happiness that will go against the grain. Have the courage to do things your way (but don’t be too proud to admit when your way kind of sucks in the end). Deciding to do things my way meant that I wore sneakers instead of boots, despite some strong advice against it. I went with my gut, knowing how miserable I get when my feet are hot. It worked out splendidly, and I’ll do it again. I also wore thin, dual-layered socks, rather than two pairs of thick socks – another fantastic choice that I have continued on later hiking trips. I wore leggings instead of pants. I used a poncho and a raincoat, and threw them both away (insert mad laughter here)! Another thing that I knew I’d be doing from the outset, despite the naysayers, is listening to music. I just don’t operate without it.

On the various Camino forums I frequented prior to leaving on my walk, there were some hot debates about music or no music. Some people argued that it was unsafe to walk around with headphones in, blocking out the noise of oncoming traffic. That’s valid enough, and you should always be aware of your surroundings when listening to headphones, no matter where you are. But I found that a stronger contingent of the “no music” crowd argued against it for spiritual reasons, with the idea that doing anything besides walking and listening to the sounds of nature around you would interfere with the pilgrimage. At first glance, this seems like an OK point. However, for some reason, this thought was seldom shared as a kind suggestion, but rather as a bold insistence that if you weren’t walking in silence, you were doing it wrong. Needless to say, that’s one concept that got pitched out of my window early on. While I often did walk with nature as my only soundtrack, and I also spent a lot of time getting to know my Camino friends as we walked, I also had times when my music was the only thing that pulled me through. Singing is one of my preferred forms of healing and meditation, and I had some beautiful moments out there, singing along to Petula Clark and Neko Case, barely managing to put one foot in front of the other. Some days I knew that the notes had helped pull me along to my destination.

I have a Camino playlist on my Spotify account, and it’s been growing since 2015. Before it gets too big for me to remember what the list originally contained, I wanted to write it down here. Aside from this playlist, I also listened some albums that were already on my iPhone, including a Petula Clark greatest hits album, a Spotify playlist that my boyfriend made me when we first started dating (including several songs by my all-time favorite band, Dry the River, who as it turns out, broke up around the same time I walked into Santiago de Compostela *argh*), a couple of albums by Miranda Lambert, a few songs by Fela Kuti, “Aguas de Marco” as performed by Elis Regina, Ween’s White Pepper album, and Chicago II. The following list was my official Camino playlist, though. Most of the songs therein were chosen for their messages, and all were chosen for the fact that I like to sing along. This will give you a little taste of how eclectic my tastes run (though this isn’t the half of it – I also love nerdcore rap, speed metal, Brazilian pop, Afrobeat, 40’s jazz, 60’s pop, 80’s English ska, and bluegrass).

  • Price Tag – Jessie J, B.o.B.
  • America – Simon & Garfunkel
  • Scenic World – Beirut
  • Graduate – Third Eye Blind
  • Free Ride – The Edgar Winter Group
  • Spice Up Your Life – Spice Girls
  • Saint Simon – The Shins
  • Voce Abusou – Maria Cruza
  • Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) – Shakira, Freshlyground
  • Show Your Colors – Genevieve
  • Go Places – The New Pornographers
  • We Owned the Night – Lady Antebellum
  • Some Days I’m Golden All Night – Josh Rouse
  • I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
  • Millennium – Robbie Williams
  • Flowing – 311
  • Dancing Song – Little Comets
  • Cool Change – Little River Band
  • Brave – Sara Bareilles
  • Show Me Love – Robyn
  • Takin’ It to the Streets  – The Doobie Brothers
  • Front the Least – MC Frontalot
  • Gypsy – Shakira

The list has since grown to include a number of other just right (to me, at least) songs that say “this is the way” to me. Thus far, these include:

  • God Gave Rock and Roll to You – Argent
  • Try Everything – Shakira
  • Wise Up – Aimee Mann
  • Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel
  • Je Joue De La Guitare – Jean Leloup
  • Kyrie – Mr. Mister
  • Give A Little Bit – Supertramp
  • Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In – The 5th Dimension
  • The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot
  • Dreams – The Cranberries
  • Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
  • Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
  • I Go to Extremes – Billy Joel
  • Serenity – Godsmack
  • All This Time – Jonathan Coulton

Pausing To Regroup

Has anyone else been watching Legion? Starting to feel like I’ve got my own Lenny calling the shots sometimes. (By the way, does anyone else have a massive girl crush on Aubrey Plaza in this role? She’s electrifying!)

I really screwed up this week. On Wednesday, I went to see Brian Wilson play at the Saenger Theatre, and that night I ended up spending money I didn’t have on food I didn’t really want. I overate, and I felt sick all the next day. But feeling terrible didn’t mean that I went easy on myself the next day and got back on track; I felt so crappy, I ended up getting Chinese for dinner as comfort food, and of course I then overate again. So then Friday I woke up feeling REALLY terrible – bloated and queasy and just out of it, and breaking out behind my ears and under my jawline in an allergic reaction to something I had eaten. So what did I do? I went to a baseball game that night, and ate more crap, so I’d feel truly disgustingly sick. Then I woke up on Saturday, knowing that I had the chance to put it all behind me, and ordered a pizza and wings, and skipped my chance to hear Noah Levine doing a live reading/talk/Q&A because I felt like the most disgusting human on the planet. Then I ate a pint of ice cream and some gumbo and two sodas for dinner, and went to bed really sad with how far down the rabbit hole I’d managed to fall in just a few days.

So I woke up this morning, thought about going to the gym to try to set off on the right path, and decided that I couldn’t face the day, and then went back to bed until early afternoon, when I woke up and got an iced ginger latte and a lox sandwich for my late lunch. I don’t really feel too bad about that, actually. I mean, yeah, I really couldn’t afford to spend that money and I’ll be short for the rest of the month because of it, but it was a truly delicious sandwich, and ginger lattes are probably my favorite thing on the planet, other than decent ginger beer (which is sadly difficult to find – they’re always too sweet).

Anyway, that was my last five days of burning money and eating myself sick. Oh, and I felt so terrible about it all (physically, mentally, and emotionally) that I also skipped my Recovery Refuge meeting tonight, like an asshole. It felt like an episode of Elementary, where Sherlock starts skipping his meetings because he’s not well, emotionally, and his sponsor has to track him down. Except when it’s pizza instead of heroin, and you have no sponsor, no one’s there to track you down and drag you to a meditation circle. I’ve got to get my own shit together. I’m a grownup. I have to figure out how to do this.


Keeping all this in mind, I know that I can’t change what’s already happened. I can only try to make better choices moving forward. So I took a time out from feeling like a worthless pile of shit and thought back to what I have done differently for the last couple of weeks that seemed to be working out for me.

Step one has been cooking up a big pot of veggie curry to have on hand. Wouldn’t you know that I ate the last of the curry on Tuesday night? And look where that got me. So today I looked up a new curry recipe for my crockpot, and of course the food co-op didn’t have half of the ingredients that I wanted, so I’m doing something new with the things I could find: chickpeas, green beans, carrots, onion, and I’m also trying garam masala for the first time. I’ll let you know what happens.

Step two has been going to the gym, so I’ve already let my gym buddy know that I’ll be there for spin class tomorrow. Step three is, of course, meditation. I’m going to try something new this week, and go to a meditation meetup at the Healing Center on Wednesday night. Singing would be great, too. I wonder if I’d have time to get to the kirtan meetup tomorrow night if I leave the gym by 7pm? Hmmm.

The final step will be seeing a doctor. Mindfulness has been proven to help with binge eating, but I should be seeing a therapist again to work with my anxiety and really give this the one-two punch. Unfortunately, at the moment that’s just not an option. My job is great, and pays for health insurance, but a trip to the doctor still costs $35 out of pocket, and that’s just money I don’t have. Especially after eating it all this week. Insert huge sigh here. I do have a regular doctor’s visit coming up in May, though, so maybe by then I can figure something out.

I feel worse about missing tonight’s meeting because of a weird second of interaction that happened last meeting. When the official meeting is over, one of the group leaders takes the time to talk to people as they’re packing up and leaving the meeting spot. It’s really nice of him, though it makes me a little uncomfortable, just in the way that any personal interactions with strangers make me act even weirder than usual. He strikes me as a very kind, empathetic man, and I don’t know anything about him, but if I had to guess, I’d say that he’s an artist of some kind. He just gives off a vibe – a little bit punk, a tad eclectic, eyes that seem to see you and through you at the same time. I bet he’s a Scorpio.

Anyway, after the first meeting, he took time to ask me if I’d be back, and what I thought, the usual thing. Then at last week’s meeting, he was talking to someone else as I was collecting my stuff, so I just walked past them and started to walk out the door. I was halfway out the door when I heard him call my name, a little bit like a question, maybe a little bit worried. I looked back, and he had his hand half outstretched. It felt like a millisecond of panic, barely reined in. If I had to guess, I’d say that he planned to be personal with everyone, so it hadn’t occurred to him that he might miss anyone on his list due to them leaving without saying goodbye. And maybe he’s a bit like me, really wanting to be good to people, but not entirely sure that he’s doing it right. Or maybe he was worried about me for some reason I can’t see but he can. Anyway, I looked back, smiled, and told him I’d see him next time. He looked skeptical, maybe worried. Which maybe also might be why I didn’t go back tonight, because anyone could tell that I’ve been gorging myself for the last few days. My face is round. My skin looks terrible. My hair was stringy until I washed it a little bit ago. Ugh.

Whatever. I’m doing what I can to get myself back. I gave myself a pedicure. I washed the dishes. I put a pot of curry on. I boiled eggs, and made tea, and fed the cats, and cleaned out the litter boxes. I am writing my blog post. I will pick out my outfit for tomorrow, listen to a hypnotherapy recording, and get a good night’s sleep. I will go to work early (with a healthy breakfast and lunch packed up) and go to the gym after I’m done with all of my paperwork. I will come home and vacuum the house, clean the bathroom, and write another blog post. I will be OK. In the end, that’s really the only choice.

I’m bookending this with one of my favorite versions of “Feeling Good,” for your listening pleasure…

Social Media Detox – Day 11

It’s my 11th day without social media. I don’t know if I’m going to go back to Facebook, but right now it feels like the answer is “no.” I don’t miss it. I’m getting more done without it. I’m communicating one-on-one with more people, I’m not wasting time, and best of all, I’m at least 50% less anxious. Why go back to that online noisemaker, when I can be participating IRL?

Last night, the boyfriend and I went out to dinner at his favorite Mexican place, then went to visit an artist friend who has a booth at a local art market. I talked to various people, and had a wonderful time up until someone started talking about politics and I started feeling the first twinges of a panic attack. I explained what was happening, and that I needed to go home, then walked away. Overall, pretty manageable, and the night felt like a success, even given the anxiety at the end.

Today, I was supposed to go to a half-day meditation retreat, but I woke up late. Instead, I took my laundry to the laundromat, had breakfast with the boyfriend at one of our favorite coffee joints, then came home to watch the latest episode of Legion before he had to go to work. During that portion of the day, I had a friendly chat with two Uber drivers and the lady who owns the laundromat, Dinah. There were also non-committal nods exchanged with a friend of the boyfriend’s who doesn’t really like me that much. And of course, hours of conversation with the boyfriend.

Around 6:30, I headed to the Healing Center, a community center a few blocks from my home, to catch Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band play. They’re pretty well-known in the Kirtan music genre, and I’ve loved them for years. Without going into it too deeply, Kirtan music is meant to be sung/chanted along with, and for me, there’s nothing better than going to a concert where everyone’s supposed to be singing along. You get to singing along and it really touches your soul and makes you feel wonderful. I actually went out of my way to invite people to come with me, but there were tons of things going on tonight, and everyone was busy, so I ended up there by myself. But when you’re singing, you’re never alone, so it didn’t bug me. The concert was packed, too. The experience was so joyful and full of heart, and everyone was having a wonderful time.

There was a couple sitting in front of me that were pleasing, from a people-watching standpoint; from snippets of conversation, and judging from overall attire and attitude, the woman was into Kirtan, but the man had never attended a concert like this before. It seemed like he was a little resistant to the concert and chanting because of religious objections. Even so, he was putting in the effort to stay and check it out, and there were moments of the concert that touched him. We all sang along to a gorgeous rendition of “I’ll Fly Away,” for instance, and I saw him bobbing his head a couple of times during other songs, his shoulders less hunched and rigid. During one song, the crowd was encouraged to sing potent words from various religious paths in overlapping rounds. I was singing “Shalom, Shalom, Shalom…” and was really feeling it, letting my voice take on the Appalachian hiccupy warble that so often happens when it gets strong and is allowed to run away with itself. I had my eyes closed, just singing to my heart’s content, when I hear the guy go “Damn, you can SING!” and I opened my eyes to see him just staring at me with this shocked intensity. I was busy singing, so I just smiled his way and went back to eyes closed, heart open. Afterwards, I got swept out of the theater in the crush of people leaving, and didn’t get to talk to him, but I wish I had. I wanted him to know that I appreciated his kind words. I don’t get to sing nearly as much as I should. It makes me feel whole.

After the concert, there was a Voodoo ceremony in the main hall, so I went to watch some of that, as well. The crowd was large, so I was stuck behind a column, and couldn’t see much. I really enjoyed the drumming, though. I used to love percussion and hand drumming, though my rhythm isn’t that great (one of the reasons I never liked singing on stage that much, because most bands seem to expect the singer to also do some sort of percussion if they aren’t playing another instrument, and I’d always mess it up).

Now I’m home. Earlier I had plans to come home and clean the house, but I’m exhausted. I think I’ll just take a shower and call it a night. There’s a Zumba class at the gym tomorrow morning, and I mean to be there. Dancing and singing in one weekend! And tomorrow night at 7pm, there’s a meditation group that meets not far from here; hoping to catch that, as well.

You’re Killing Us

I heard a song yesterday that spoke volumes. I listened to the song probably 10 times on the walks to and from work, and fell in love with the lyrics. Then I got home, and decided to watch the music video, to see how the story unfolded in images. It was a total shock, because the story I heard (and still hear) in the lyrics is not at all what was shown in the video, and on top of that, all of the comments seemed to be from people who had also heard an entirely different story than I had.

Of course I understand that sometimes lyrics are nuanced, that there can be multiple variations of a message being told. But what I heard and what everyone else heard are so wildly different that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Finally today, after listening a few more times, I decided that I don’t have to wrap my head around it. I hear what I hear, and I don’t hear what they’re hearing (I mean, kinda? But it’s a total stretch. Maybe I have a tumor or something…)

Here’s the song with lyrics – not the official video (which I’m putting a little farther down the post, to let you hear it and make up your own mind about the story):

The song is called “Saving Us,” by Serj Tankian, of System of a Down fame. I love System of a Down, and have found that listening to them really improves my mood. So I expanded a little to Serj’s stuff, and found that I enjoy him a lot, too. I get strong spiritual vibes out of System of a Down songs, so I was a little surprised to listen to “Saving Us” and hear the story of a normal breakup, written by a guy who could see the beauty of the situation, even through the pain.

As I hear the song, I hear him singing about breaking up with someone whom he really loved, and realizing that through making the hard choice to say goodbye, in a way his lover is saving who they were together. The goodness that they shared can live on through exiting in a thoughtful way, and yes, it hurts, but in the end it’s the right thing. The lover is both “killing us” and “saving us.”

It’s great. I’ve dated a lot of people, and I’ve broken up with a lot of people. Most of the time I was the dumper, but sometimes I was the dumpee, and no matter which side you’re on, it really sucks. It sucks when you’re feeling like the relationship is failing, it sucks during the actual breakup, and it continues to suck after everything’s said and done. Sometimes for months, other times for decades, maybe forever, but I can’t speak to that because I’m not dead yet.

When your relationship was pretty casual, it’s not that big of a deal to break up, but when you’re codependent (or whatever the healthy version of that is – I don’t know that I’ve ever truly experienced whatever that is yet), breaking up with someone is like cutting a piece of your heart out and throwing it away. Or having that done to you, depending on which side of the dumping you’re on. Either way, the cutting, tearing, killing, and saving are all things I’ve experienced. The relationship – the “us” – is, in its own way, a separate living thing that you have created together. It’s not something you just close the door on and walk away from. You have to be careful. If you’re very, very cautious, you might make it out of the relationship with fond memories attached, and maybe even a friendship, at some point in the future. In this song, his lover is making the difficult choice to cut ties now for the sake of their love, rather than holding on to something that’s going to destroy them.

So, that being said, here’s the actual music video:

As the videography and all of the comments underneath it would seem to suggest, the video is actually about world issues, and being kind to one another. Which is fine, but actually less interesting.

But maybe I’m just a romantic.

A Dream & A Song

This is “Black-Eyed Dog,” by Nick Drake. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs. Nick died very young, in his sleep, of what was presumed to be an accidental overdose of his depression medication. Before he left, he recorded some of the most hauntingly beautiful tunes, including this one. You probably recognize the concept of a black (or black-eyed) dog. Nick’s song was based on Winston Churchill’s description of the inescapable weight of depression, following you at all hours. Of course, this imagery is most likely based on a creature of British legend with which Churchill (and anyone who’s read Harry Potter) would be familiar – the Black Dog, a ghostly being that, once seen, portends the viewer’s death.

Fun fact: I thought that I “knew” that the Black Dog and the pooka, or púca, were one and the same before I started writing this blog post, but I was wrong.

Another fun fact: I really need to go to sleep, but now I’m getting really excited about reading about the Black Dog. Uh oh. But I’ll leave my faerie research for another time, and wrap this up…

Last night, I dreamt of a black dog, but it was protecting me, albeit reluctantly. I can’t remember the overall framework of the dream, but I was at someone’s house, turned to walk through a doorway and was frightened by the black snake I suddenly saw there. It was stretched out, facing me, and it seemed menacing. For a second I was scared, and yelped in fear. There was a closeup of its delicate face (the more I try to pull this moment up, the more I see that it was a square head, not poisonous), and then I saw its body, a deep, glossy black with a small, muted gold pattern that I couldn’t quite make out. Then I saw that the snake was resting between the paws of a lounging black labrador retriever, and the fear immediately left.

The dog was immense, and also a deep, glossy black. She was one of those purebred labs that are as big as a pony, all solid and sleek, with a flank that makes a drum-sound when you pat it. She was well cared for, and wore a collar with a dangling tag. She was imposing – not my friend, not my pet. She had a job, and she also had an attitude with me. We made eye contact briefly. I felt deference. For a second she seemed to briefly consider me, then the snake quickly crawled (hurled itself, really, in the way that dreams work) past me, away across the room, and over a side table that sat next to the window. The dog chased the snake, looked over the edge of the table down to where it was hiding, and that’s the last thing I remember.

Music Monday: The Imperial March, by John Williams

I’m not sure if I watched the original trilogy in the correct order, but I tend to doubt it. I know that I fell in love with Luke in Return of the Jedi the second he glided up to Jabba’s palace in his mysterious robes and mind-tricked his way in with the tiniest of efforts. My dad taped Return for me off of TV, and I still remember the fateful day I finally wore that VHS out, after a good three or four years of weekly viewings. By that time, I’d watched all three movies multiple times. I’d grown a bit, and was obsessed with bits and pieces from all over the trilogy: Salacious Crumb’s beady little eyes and wrinkled snout, R2’s general badassery, Leia’s gold bikini, the rawness in Luke’s voice as he screams to shut down on the trash compactors on the detention level, the subtle comedy in Chewbacca’s resignation at Han’s churlish behavior, C3PO’s arms getting ripped off at every occasion, Han’s devotion to his friends (even when money and common sense are trying to talk him out of it), Yoda’s gentle wisdom and tiny house, that last precious moment where Anakin Skywalker’s helmet comes off to reveal the sad, sweet face of a man who threw his life away on the Dark Side.

The original trilogy molded me in some ways. I came to expect a certain amount of bravery from the men in my life, but like Leia, even more from myself. I learned that if I listened and sat still long enough, I could feel the Force, too. And I learned to use Star Wars as my ruler – if you liked it, you’d probably be worth getting to know, and if you didn’t, well…

Minimalist Star Wars poster by Drew Roberts. Click through to purchase on Etsy.

Minimalist Star Wars poster by Drew Roberts. Click through to purchase on Etsy.

Also, like Luke, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I hated it. Star Wars probably had a heavy hand in giving me the travel bug. I’ve honestly never dreamed of exploring new planets (short of nightmares of being sucked out into space), but I’ve definitely felt the pull to see all of this weird world, which can be quite alien enough, thanks. I remember having a Star Wars movie magic book when I was 8 or 9. It talked about makeup and costuming, and how the sets were made, and that was the first time that I really took the time to contemplate that they’d filmed the Tatooine scenes in a very real place on Earth – Tunisia. I’ve always wanted to see what’s left of that set; maybe one day.

But this post isn’t about how much I love the original trilogy (notice how I’m being really nice and not saying anything about how much the prequels suck the joy out of life?). It’s about how much I respect John Williams’ score. Particularly “The Imperial March”, which manages to contain what some might argue is the very essence of the trilogy in a 3 minute song. “The Imperial March”, as most of you know, is Darth Vader’s theme. It is the aural equivalent of everything Darth Vader’s physical presence hints at – darkness, violence, the unquestionable need for absolute obedience (and obeisance).

From now on, the song will also represent something else to me, something a tad bit less dark. Each year in March, my friends Angie and Glenn gather friends together to watch the original trilogy on VHS (the original releases, prior to Lucas’ sacrilegious little “fixes” like making Greedo shoot first). They call it the Imperial March party. Everyone wears homemade Star Wars-themed outfits (the rules are that it must cost $10 or less, so there’s lots of tin foil and duct tape involved), and all of the snacks are named after characters or places in the trilogy. It’s a ton of fun, and last year’s party was the first time I got to meet my boyfriend’s friends. This year’s party was even more special, though, because this year Angie and Glenn got engaged. I managed to take a couple of snapshots while Glenn was proposing to Angie (dressed as a very dashing Lando).



Music Monday: Start Wearing Purple by Gogol Bordello

You might know this, and you might not: I love purple. I’m drawn to it like a ghoul to a fresh corpse. (Also like bees to honey, lawyers to ambulances, or idiom seekers to Google search for more interesting options than insects and cake enthusiasts.)

I love purple so much that from 15 to 22 or so, I only wrote in purple ink. I’d still be doing it, but I’m also a mite obsessive about pens, and found a pen that I can’t live without that doesn’t have a purple version. I still try out purple pens from time to time, though. I even found one a few years ago that had sparkles in the ink (*squee!*), but it dried out too quickly.

I love purple so much that I have a hard time telling if something (a dress, a building, a design, an extraterrestrial) is attractive or not if it’s wearing purple. I’ll automatically adore it, and have to remind myself to be more objective, though sometimes I can’t help but love it for being purple, anyway. As a result, I don’t wear a lot of purple, for fear of choosing terrible styles and being none the wiser.

I love purple so much that I even have a tumblr blog devoted to my obsession, where I just collect pictures of beautiful purple things. It helps mitigate the symptoms a little. I’m kind of afraid that if I don’t let off a little steam now and then, I’ll eventually end up like this in the end:

Vintage 60s Interior. Prototype of "Visiona 1 Futuristic Habitat", Central Living Block. Designed by Joe Colombo.

Vintage 60s Interior. Prototype of “Visiona 1 Futuristic Habitat”, Central Living Block. Designed by Joe Colombo.

I even love purple so much that for a couple of years, I was quite convinced that Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple” was the best song I’d ever heard.

Now don’t get me wrong – I adore Gogol Bordello. They’re pretty rare in that I love all of their songs, and can listen to an album from beginning to end, no skipping around. Lyrically, I’ve always been impressed by the social messages in most of their songs, and it’s hard not to love the sound if you’re into that kind of thing. I tend to dig the Gypsy Punk mix of punk rock sound with the Romani-inspired accordions and violin (and in the case of other Gypsy Punk bands, a brass section).

Even better, their live shows are amazing. The whole crew goes balls-to-the-wall, with so much energy it’s exhausting just watching them go batshit on stage. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them in concert twice in the past few years, once in a pretty big theater, and once in a tiny bar that had about 150 people. I was so close to the stage that Eugene could have sweated on me were I that interested in getting close to a stranger’s bodily fluids.

Despite the beauty of my past memories of Gogol Bordello, and the fact that I’m currently wrestling with whether I can afford to buy tickets to their show this Friday, I’m coming to terms with the fact that this just isn’t my alltime favorite song anymore. I think that they’ve been replaced in my heart by my current favorite band, scheduled for a #MusicMonday mention in two weeks’ time.

For tonight, though, let’s just listen to the song that probably still does describe me to a tee. One day I’ll most likely be that purple little lady

Music Monday: The Birdman’s Cacophonous Legacy

I never watch the industry award shows. Can’t remember the last time I caught the Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, etc.; guessing it was sometime in the late 1990s. In general, I think the ceremonies are a load of self-congratulatory, time-wasting bullshit, while the award process is subjective, at best. It’s a big popularity contest for people who tend to already be popular enough, thanks.

That’s why when I woke up this morning and saw that Birdman had won four Oscars, I was quite surprised to find I was excited. I watched the movie on Friday night, and loved it – especially the bizarre, jarring soundtrack composed of mostly jazz drumming. As I scanned through the list of Oscar winners, I found myself rooting for the Birdman soundtrack (created by Grammy-award winning jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez) to have scooped up one of those stupid little gold men. Sadly, it was not to be.

In fact, as it turns out, the Oscars disqualified Sanchez’s score for Birdman for understated sampling of other people’s music. Despite the fact that the drumming completely dominates the score, rendering the samples nearly invisible, this was enough to get the score thrown out of the competition. Luckily, it’s still up for a Golden Globe, so 2015 might be the year that I genuinely care about two award ceremonies – imagine that!

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, the soundtrack is, well, different. You can read all about it online, or give it a listen here, but if I were you, I’d hold off until you’ve seen the film and can understand the music’s extreme importance to the pacing and subject matter of the film. But don’t listen to me. After all, a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.