Monthly Archives: September 2002

In Conor We Trust

I walked into the Roxy and the theatre was silent and full. All eyes facing forward, everyone still. Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes wandered out holding a bottle of wine. The audience reacted like we were in church and Jesus himself had just entered stage right.

There something about going to an emo show that is like coming home.

The crowd is young and sincere and mindful of each others personal space. Nobody talks during the performance. Up front, the crowd of kids was trying to make sure everyone was comfortable and could see. There were a dozen band members on stage, trying to organize themselves, but you could hear a pin drop in between songs. The walls would shake with enthusiastic applause and then the crowd would fall silent, trembling with anticipation for the next song. Every once in a while, a choked cry from an anguished boy would slice through the air: “CONOR! We love you!”

It is always “we.”

I went up to the balcony to take photographs and I spotted the perfect alcove to shoot from — right above the stage with nothing in the way. But when I got closer, I saw that the little nook was full. Everyone in that section was sitting on the floor with ample space around them, so that they could all see and still be comfortable. There was a reverence among these kids, and I could tell they waited in line outside the theatre to get in and then went up there and staked out this perfect vantage spot. I stepped up to the entrance of the alcove and smiled hesitatingly at one of the girls who guarded the entryway, holding up my camera slightly. She guided me in and I took a few shots from the only place in the whole theatre with a view not sullied by heads or shoulders. After a minute or two, another girl behind me came up and gently put her hand on my arm and whispered, “I’m sorry — I can’t see.” So I apologize, took one more picture and left the balcony. It was that kind of show.

I saw Conor Oberst play solo at the Coolidge Corner Theatre a few years ago, and he tramped out barefoot with an acoustic guitar and sat in the middle of the empty stage on a wooden chair. He banged on the guitar and wailed for almost an hour and then stalked off stage with his dirty hair shielding us from his insanely intense eyes.

A small version of Bright Eyes played the Somerville Theatre in May, and that show was moving but differently so. It felt strange. Somerville Theatre is kind of old and weird anyway, with wrought iron owls and lush, heavy crushed red velvet curtains. Conor was raging around the stage in a wrinkled black suit that was too big for him, and his band consisted of four girls in vintage prom gowns. The lights were red and purple. I kept waiting for fake snow to accompany the waltzes he twirled out of the piano.

The Roxy was warm and intimate. Conor is violently temperamental so it’s hard to know what kind of show it’s going to be. But he was downright jolly Tuesday night. He sauntered out onstage with his open bottle of red wine and greeted us. There were so many people on stage it was like a party — and we were all invited. They played the new album in what I believe was its entirety, Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.

They also played some of my older favorites, including “Something Vague,” which I think is my favorite Bright Eyes song. The bottle of wine got progressively lighter, and Conor’s tongue slightly looser. Mid-song he abandoned the mic to retrieve his nearly-empty bottle. After taking a swig, he strummed a few messy chords with it on his guitar until the sax player yanked the bottle from his grip. Toward the end of the set, some of the players made their way off stage, and he says, “So we’re going to play a new song. We’ll probably fuck it up, but oh well. Here we go.” Hearing new material is like hanging out in his living room. He’ll start the song and then stop halfway and say, “Sorry — I fucked it up. Try it again. Two… three… four…” And the second time it will sound just as good.

The new album is brilliant, and easily one of the best I’ve heard this year. I have an overwhelming urge to detail how and why it is so groundbreaking and amazing, but it doesn’t really matter what I think. I suggest people sit down with headphones and listen to the album beginning to end. Hell, I recommend doing that with Fevers and Mirrors or Letting Off the Happiness as well. Sit and listen with an open mind. Each album is a story, in perfect order, from beginning to end. A cohesive whole. Listen to the lyrics, the classical influences, the dozens of instruments he plays, the ambient basement recording techniques, what this kid has seen in his 22 years. Take it in. And then you can decide if he makes you uncomfortable, if you squirm because it’s too intense or because his voice is grating and quivers uncontrollably, or because you are bored. I don’t think Bright Eyes is easily digested, and I certainly don’t think everyone would find it accessible or enjoyable. It may even be an acquired taste. But the music does speak to some people, and it speaks loudly. I guess I happen to be one of those people.

As the closing song, they played the epic “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to be Loved).” Before they started, Conor took a minute and put a hand up to the microphone and looked out at us from under his dark forelock. The audience completely stopped moving, waiting for him to speak. He said, “So listen, this next song is about how if this world continues to go in the direction it’s going, we’re going to be seriously fucked. And the only ones who can do anything about it are the intelligent and the young. So let’s make some changes.” And he smiled and everyone cheered and Bright Eyes broke out into the dark but celebratory tune about politics, suicide and network news.

After the show I’m glowing. I’m filled with the desire to do exactly what I love, because I know if I do, I’ve got a good chance of connecting with at least one other like-minded person. I am inspired to say fuck the critics, including my internal one, and follow what my heart tells me is the right direction to grow in. Cause I’m sure there was more than one person along the way telling this angry 22-year-old boy from Nebraska with the voice of a strangled dove that he wouldn’t amount to shit. But at his sold-out show he sings,

“I do not read the reviews. I am not singing for you.”

Someday My Prince Will Come

How does Starsailor get away with sounding so much like the Verve? They’re in the same time period and everything. At least the Strokes ripping off the Velvet Underground is removed by a few decades.

I think I have reached critical mass with my hard-boiled egg problem. For some time now, I have been addicted to hard-boiled eggs. In fact, my household has been known to go through several dozen per week. My addiction was fanned by online research proclaiming egg whites to be a perfect protein; you could live on them and nothing else if you were so inclined. You could add spirulina, which is also a perfect foodstuff boasting all of the essential amino acids one needs, and head off for some deserted island.

I don’t eat the yolks. They’re bad for you. But I’ve been lifting a lot of weights recently due to Project Buff, and I rarely eat the meat, so the egg whites are a good idea. But in typical Kristin style, I’ve gone and overdone it again.

I have no idea why I’m writing about this vapid topic except that I am so happy to be back on Diaryland, and all eggs aside, I’m dying to share something with you people. Anything. Even if it’s my current dietary habits.

So a few things about me: I am impulsive, I am insatiable, and I have absolutely no self control. I have been trying to rein in my writing here and in email so I can direct it toward the greater good — my book — but as soon as you take something away from me, I want it more. It’s like having to pee and trying not to think about waterfalls. I thought taking a week off from Diaryland would serve me well but it’s just made me hungry for it. And I seem to be indulging in one of my crazy upswings where there is no end to the copy pouring out of my mouth and fingertips, so I may as well run with it.

I don’t claim any quality assurance with all this vomiting on the page. I’m just sayin — I got mad words today.

I stopped drinking coffee, my last remaining Drug of Choice, and that didn’t work out so well. I went two weeks without, and got really depressed. My doctor, who has been trying to get me off caffeine for three years, said, “Maybe you should start drinking coffee again.” Holy synchronicity: “Coffee Girl” by MK Ultra just came on the radio. I’m not even kidding.

I’m back on the beans and feeling 100%. Fully embracing caffeination, I’ve been going to the Someday Café nightly. The Someday loves me, and I love it. It saves my favorite table for me every night and plays my favorite records when I come in. Last night they were playing Keep it Like a Secret, which is the Built to Spill album Jenn lent me to feed my freshly re-ignited love of this band. I distinctly remember the show of theirs I went to at the Middle East winter of ’98 with Shannon. It’s one of the few things I actually do remember from that winter. I remember this Built to Spill show because I was so excited to get tickets, having loved them intensely through tapes from my friend Jema. But the show was so so miserable, and I was like, “What the fuck? I thought I liked this band!” I should have known better than to expect anything decent to come out of the basement of the MidE but there you have it.

Now I hear them everywhere. The radio, the café, minidisc, CD player. I wonder if it’s because I’m listening for them now, like that blue test (if you look for blue, you see it everywhere, if you look for red, you see it everywhere) or if it’s because they’re pushing Doug Martsch’s new solo album and his Paradise show, bringing them back into the larger consciousness.

Back to the topic of the Someday.

Tuesday was the Best Night Ever. I settled my butt at my table. My table.

Here’s the thing with the table — and pardon my delusions of grandeur. A chunk of the book I’m writing takes place at the Someday, and I’ve become convinced that when it becomes a best-seller, they’ll gild the table where the book was written, and put a little plaque with my name on the chair. Maybe they’ll even fill my ass-print with gold — Hollywood Blvd. style.

Tuesday I was curled up at my table with the Navi — my diminutive laptop that was recently brought back to life. Last year, I traded a coworker my Dell for this Sony Vaio laptop. It’s smaller than a sheet of paper and weighs one pound. It’s purple. It was so disgustingly cute I had to have it. The Navi and I became fast friends. I took it everywhere, wrote on it constantly, and suped it up with wireless networking and tons of MP3s.

Then it abandoned me without warning. No flashing lights, no blue screen of death — not even a note. Just flatline. I gave the Navi to a friend with a screwdriver and an inhuman urge to take things apart. He gave it back to me last week in working condition — after a year.

Behold the Navi! I couldn’t even believe it. I had literally forgotten all about this little computer. When I boot it up, there’s all this writing on it that I had lost when it died. I’ve been reunited with so much material. It’s like Christmas. But. I have to warn you — the Navi is a renegade. It’s not pretty. Where my newer, respectable Vaio is sleek and sexy, the Navi is like a seasoned Jeep — badass but left out in the weather for too long with no cover. It was stolen and hijacked. It’s running illegal software. It’s covered with indelicate stickers and silver nail polish. There’s even duct tape involved, which definitely gives it street-cred.

So the Navi and me were curled up in the window of the Someday reacquainting ourselves. As I said, it was like Christmas and I was digging through old documents, all excited. Then began the parade of friends. It was the best. I love sitting in the window of the café for that reason — I can see all of Davis Square, Store 24, the movie theatre and the subway entrance. No one can escape my view. Every half hour one of my friends would pass and I’d thump on the glass and they’d come in and hang out for a little bit. Some came bearing gifts — Shea fed me Killer Chocolate ice cream from Denise’s and Bobby brought me a mix tape.

One funny thing about the Someday lately is that I started running into my crush from three years ago that I actually think might be of age now.

Last night I was recalling my desire to seduce our little convenience store worker. I asked Shea if he remembered who I was talking about, and he says, “Of course I remember. He’s was like 13 and you were obsessed with him.” Busted. Though he couldn’t possibly have been 13; there are child labor laws. I guess he’s about 22 now.

Anyway, he’s been hanging around the Someday again, though no longer working at the convenience store. He’s one of those awkward, weird-looking kids that I have a soft spot for. As I’ve said before, I have strange taste. He’s very tall and gangly and has little wire rimmed glasses — I think he might be a tiny bit cross-eyed — and this silly shock of blond hair that looks like a cockatiel’s crest, and the rest of his head is shaved. Drinks oolong tea and always looks a little surprised. He’s totally goofy and his jeans are way too big.

So I’ve been thoroughly entertained by us throwing weighted stares and raised eyebrows at each other. As Angela Chase says of Jordan Catalano: “Whenever he’s around, I’m like, one of those dogs… that point…”

I’m really just bored.

The window served me well that night, and strangely enough I found that I got a lot of work done on my book, even with sporadic visitations by nomadic buds. I’ve been working a lot on my characters, getting to know them before I take on the plot. The Anne Lamott book Bird by Bird has given me a lot of inspiration in that department. Even though she’s completely insane, she’s knows character development.

She points out how when you write a plot and then create characters to go in it, they often do not fit. They may disappoint you and turn their backs on you, or give you the finger, chanting, “We won’t go!” That may have been my problem in past projects. Or I would launch too quickly into the plot without getting to know the characters well enough to realize how they’d act in certain situations. I’ve been sitting with them for a few nights, asking them very personal questions. Or just hanging out. I’m learning what they’re all about so I can manipulate them.

One of the wonderful things I’ve observed at the Someday lately is how I’ve grown up and haven’t noticed until now. I spent some of my most formative years in cafés. In New Haven, my life began at the Daily Caffe. I swear I didn’t know jack shit about anything until I tripped over that little dank hole in the wall one night. Wandered in off the street and didn’t leave for two years. I have no idea what we did there.

That’s what amazes me now at the Someday — that I don’t remember. I have a million notebooks filled with scribblings, drawings, communal stories, coffee stains… all conceived at the peeling black booths of the Daily. We would meet there immediately after school and stay until eleven at night. Or we’d go there after our shifts at Friendly’s and stay until 1:00 AM. Ninety-five cents would buy a seat for the whole night. And that’s why they were always kicking us out.

Steve Shapiro was the owner of the Daily, and he hated us. That’s okay — we hated him back. Of course, we forgot that it was his establishment, and a money making one at that. He was out to get us, and we dared him to. We sat on the sidewalk for hours, chain smoking and chasing each other around in the streets, hooking up, trading tapes, drinking coffee and eating Taco Bell.

Eventually Yale got so pissed that masses of punk children were blocking the sidewalks that they threatened to close the Daily. Yale owned the building. Steve Shapiro hired bouncers to keep us off the sidewalk. Alright, they weren’t bouncers. They were just extra-tough Caffe workers. But the manager at the Daily, with whom I shared affection (and who incidentally ended up teaching me guitar when I turned eighteen), came to my high school graduation party at my house and said, “I have kicked all of your guests out of the Caffe at least once. I think I should leave.”

We were always loud, always making a mess. Yelling, throwing things, taking up the entire back half of the Caffe and filling it with clove smoke and obscenities. The only time I ever saw that place quiet was the day that Kurt Cobain died.

I walked into the Daily and the place was silent. Bleach was playing, and the kids sat at the black booths gripping white paper coffee cups with the words, “He’s dead” scrawled on them in black sharpie.

I have some cool pictures of the Daily and that whole time frame in New Haven that are pretty entertaining. I’ll have to dig them out. I saved all the articles too, when they were trying to close the Caffe and the kids were up in arms — my mom mailed them to me at college. There were petitions. Rallies. Strikes. Protests.

The kids lost; the Daily closed two years after I left New Haven. I grieved. Life is unfair. Please pause for a moment of silence.

It’s funny to watch the café situation from the other side now, sitting at my chair with Important Literature, wondering what the fuck these little punks do all night in there.

How soon we forget. They’ve got no other place to go — they’re not old enough for bars and they can’t afford the movies. There’s something disturbing to me about a bunch of 16-year-old boys who aren’t afraid to push safety pins through their eyebrows hopped up on three grams of caffeine and huddled in a room together all night.

Long live the Someday.

No Proof of Halos

Hungry for indie rock, I had Stephen Malkmus for breakfast this morning.

I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird again for some inspiration on fictional character writing. I came across my favorite story last night, which seemed fitting to my state of mind. Anne tells the story of a defeated, frazzled wife of a drunk who complained to her Al-anon group that each morning she had to drag her husband from the lawn before the neighbors saw him. And a saucy southern woman gave her this advice:

Honey? Leave him lay where Jesus flang him.

I smile in recognition. I’m learning that I can’t control other people’s actions or reactions and it’s not my job to make excuses for their behavior.

I’m moving to Seattle August 31st of this coming year. I am going to work at a café and volunteer at KEXP Radio as a slave to John in the Morning, who has begun to outrank even WGBH’s Eric in the Evening on my DJ worship scale.

I know one more year in Boston will serve me well, and although there is much about New England I will miss, friends included, I feel the need to begin new adventures in hi-fi. Nine years in this town is a long time. So I’m going to Seattle to make love to the music scene, drink lots of good coffee, and keep three silver Italian greyhounds.

I did a Tarot card reading for myself last night. It’s been awhile. But the cards in the middle spoke of a journey — both physical and mental. There was also the Knight of Cups, who is the intelligent and creative lover; the final outcome was the Ace of Cups, which is considered the best card in the entire deck; it represents the birth and fulfillment of absolute love. Huh.

So did I mention I spent Saturday night alone?

In other news, I’m taking a break from Diaryland for a week or two. A fast, if you will. This site was originally a way for me to practice writing, get used to producing regularly whether I wanted to or not, and acclimate myself to criticism and the ripples created when one thrusts written words out into the atmosphere. I’m hoping that concentrating my creative endeavors elsewhere will be a good use of this practice.

I’ve discovered that playing piano scales and playing Tetris stimulate the same mathematical part of my brain that rests the creative side so it’s refreshed when I return. I’ve heard that if you play Tetris and then dream about it, your brain is learning while you sleep. I have procured the piano sheet music for Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” — the complete 21 page version — and committed myself to learning it. Hopefully I can improve that in my sleep as well.

Save my seat, okay kids? I’ll be back soon. I will have an exposition on the Bright Eyes show that brought me to my knees in so many ways, as well as some other photos… we’ll see how the pics from Saturday’s Kendall show with the Daniel Barrett Group came out. I shot in a club sans flash for the first time, using insanely fast film. I have no idea what to expect, but I’ll share the results if they’re worth it.

In the meantime, read my current favorite Diarylander, Genghis-jon, who is hysterical, juvenile, irreverant and offensive. He makes me feel better about my enthusiastic use of the word “fuck.”

Your October Social Calendar

And here it is, your moment of zen. . .

  • Interpol 9/30 – Middle East
  • Low 10/8 – Coolidge Corner Theatre
  • J. Mascis 10/9 – T.T.’s
  • Doug Martsch 10/12 – Paradise
  • Sleater-Kinney 10/14 – Lupo’s
  • Bob Mould 10/30 – T.T.’s
  • Lou Barlow Halloween – Middle East (!!!!!!)
  • Pedro the Lion 11/2 – Lupo’s

It’s Friday, I’m in Love

(with the sound of my own typing)

The weirdest thing happened to me yesterday. I was on my way home from work… no wait, I didn’t go to work yesterday. Or the day before. This must have been Tuesday. I was on the T, listening to Cracker (“sometimes I wish I were Catholic – I don’t know why…”) and grinning foolishly into the face of rush hour commuters.

Actually, I was grinning foolishly into their groins since I was sitting down. Until I offered my seat to a pregnant woman, and nestled her comfortably between two male suits who were pretending not to notice her, nine months deep, trying to reach the handrail around her monstrous belly. Don’t forget people, we all had mothers at one point. In any case, I smiled and helped her sit down.

It was either this act of simple compassion or my smiling over goofy lyrics that gained the attention of an observant Lenny Kravitz-esque boy who approached me after de-training at Central Square. I’m leery of Central Square in general, so I tend to ignore everything, head down, hair in face, headphones. I was heading for the Middle East box office to pick up some Interpol tickets, and I felt someone walking along with me, in my personal space. I looked up to see the Lenny Kravitz boy from the train, moving his lips at me. I took the headphone nearest him out of my ear.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Okay,” I said, but kept walking. He had a thick Swedish accent. I took out the other headphone.

“Would you like to get coffee with me sometime?”

I stopped abruptly and looked at him. “What brought that on?”

“I think you’re very beautiful. I saw you on the train, you seem like a nice person.”

He actually said these words. Outloud.

“I mean, I find you very attractive. You are creative, I can tell. I thought, I bet she’s a cool person.” (I’m still on “get coffee with me.”) “I know it might seem strange, but I just moved here, and I’m trying to meet some likeminded people. I saw you and thought, she seems nice. But you never know. Sometimes people could seem nice and turn out to be real assholes.”

Obviously no one filled him in on the whole strangers in Boston ignoring each other thing. Of course I didn’t give him my phone number. But then Nora Ephron’s voice echoes in my mind: “It’s all copy.” That has been my motto for the past five years, and I find myself doing things just so I can write about them. This, for instance.

So I gave him my generic email address. Now I know some people will expect a follow-up on this. What happens? Does she go to Diesel with him for coffee? Does he try to molest her in the middle of a crowded café? Does he pay for dessert? Does she find out she actually knew him in a past life? Does he try to sell her a bible? Or do they have a relatively tame conversation and part ways none the worse for it? Did I tell you I used to pick up male hitchhikers when I was sixteen, driving home alone from the beach in a bikini? I feed off chaos and danger. It’s in my nature.

So I’ll let you know what develops.

Speaking of developing, I have 12 rolls of undeveloped film waiting for me when I get home from work. I found them while cleaning my closet and I have no idea what’s on them. Some of them even have rusty canisters. I also shot a few rolls at the Bright Eyes concert, and I tremble with anticipation of these photographs because I knew while I was taking them that they were beautiful. I love Conor diligently. But the King of Emo will get his own entry on Wednesday. For now I’ll just worry about the film I shot of Shea on the rainy beach which I will process this evening in my darkroom if I don’t get so claustrophobic that I freak out like last night.

Speaking of last night, it was Movie Night, which happens weekly, and we watched North by Northwest. Smart, sassy Hitchcock blonds get me hot. I can’t even take it. I must practice my manipulation techniques further. My aim in life is to emulate Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall.

“I’m a big girl.”

“Yeah, and in all the right places, too.”

Speaking of getting hot, I got lots of love in the mail at work today. All from myself, but then, who knows how to gratify you better than that? I got a stack of CDs from my latest binge, which needs to stop, people. The item I am particularly excited about is the Jump, Little Children Live at the Music Farm DVD.

I’m kind of worried about the DVD. Seeing them play live is such a treat, and such a huge event for me, I just hope the novelty doesn’t wear off. I suppose I don’t have to watch it more than once right now. But you know how I am.
There is a recording of J,LC singing the National Anthem at Fenway Park on the DVD, which I was not expecting but will be cool to see. When I heard them sing it, I was outside the ballpark, and the acoustics on Landsdowne St. aren’t exactly prime. Actually, the Sausage Guy was feeling pretty vocal that afternoon.

I am also writing all of this so I can put this new picture of Matt Bivins from J,LC on my site because he is the most strangely beautiful, bi-luminous siamese-cat-eyed thing to pace the earth.

Okay peeps . . . have a good weekend. I may be writing more still. My boss quit today. I am a free agent. Think I’ll go listen to my new Múm CD, Finally We Are No One. Highly recommended. Trancey, Bjork-esque electronica with haunting female vocals.

Monday is the first day of Autumn — the birth of everything beautiful. Mark your calendars.

Birds and Starlight

Jonny fascinated me from the first time I saw him lilting into the Daily Caffé in New Haven, hair down to his waist, grey back pack, black Sambas. He often had a guitar case that he laid carefully at his feet. He was a waif with sad eyes and a slow, warm smile.

When Jon walked into the room, my brain was ignited creatively. His very presence made me dream. I was sixteen and writing awful poetry, but I had to. He had no idea that I used to stop in the Daily regularly to see if he was in the window with some beat up, borrowed book and a cup of tea. He rarely was, but I checked often.

I was in love with Jon’s brother by default, but I was fascinated by him. Even though we were nearly the same age, he seemed so much wiser. I was drawn to his calm and quiet way. Unassuming. Gentle. And when he played guitar he looked like he was making love.

“I was talking to Jon the other day,” Victoria said. Surprised, I asked, “He speaks?”

I was bashful and neurotic in his presence, so I just depended on his brother, the stagewarmer, the dancing all-eyes-on-me center of attention, to break the ice. They performed a few times a week with their band, or the two of them would play acoustic at Bar on Crown Street.

Jon was always wandering — running around the city, roaming and looking about like each block surprised him. He’d go down to Bineke, the Yale library, and play guitar at the foot of the building where the acoustics were echoing and exaggerated. Sometimes I’d hear him from down the street and go sit quietly and just listen.

Jon didn’t have an address for years. He was homeless, but he had a sterling silver guitar. Some mornings I’d go into Dakota J’s where he worked making muffins, wondering if he’d even been to bed.

The true magic is in his music. It is spiraling and rollicking and uplifting, simultaneously sad and tender. It was hard to watch Mighty Purple evolve into a successful band, and feel like he was being overshadowed by his more aggressive, ego-driven brother. I don’t know if Jon ever felt that way, or if that was my own desire to protect him. To be his cheerleader. I always felt he had some kind of musicianship that those around him lacked.

So today I got Jon’s first solo CD. I’ve been waiting for this project of his to be released forever. It’s called The Sound of Birds. I sat immediately and listened to it. I am fully blown away. The album is brilliant and churning. It’s full of movement and frustration and elation. It sounds like Jon, but he has grown so much musically over the past few years. And then I stop and say, how long has it been? Ten years since I first heard him play. But listening to the CD instantly takes me back to so many moments that warm my heart.

I remember Jon setting up in an empty room for three months where he built a house of cards seven feet tall, each card hand-painted and covered in poetry. I remember when we went to see R.E.M. in Albany, and he found the grand piano in the lobby of the Omni Hotel and played all night. I remember the Naked Lady mannequin he made out of foam rubber and duct tape. She sat on the piano at the practice space for a long time until I kidnapped her, dressed her in my cap and gown, and propped her up in all my graduation party pictures. I remember the copy of a copy of a copy of a four-track recording that we passed around that Jon recorded one night in the practice space of his own material — the first time I heard his voice really emerge on its own. The tape featured a 10 minute story about meeting a girl with a nervous tick who didn’t talk to him for two days and when she finally did, she said, “You’ve got one hell of a fanny!”

My favorite Jon song was “I Adore You.” He wrote it about a girl he met on tour and fell in love with. It was a fan favorite, and started, “Jenny I have to leave, and they will not understand…” One night Mighty Purple was up from New Haven playing this dive bar in Roxbury. Jon was glowing as he introduced this girl to Victoria and me. “This is Jenny.” And we were both like, “Jenny-I-have-to-leave-Jenny?” He nodded. We were in awe. It was like meeting a celebrity. We loved her for him.

He wrote an album commentary on the CDbaby order page, which made me smile upon reading it. His views and musical processes are truly unique. The idea of creating a song through exploration of the moment, recording it, and never playing it again because perfectly represented the moment itself…

I wish I could crawl inside his head for just an afternoon.

It’s amazing to me to have the opportunity to watch an artist I admire evolve and grow — grow to the point where if I heard this CD somewhere else, it would still fill me with ache and I’d still have to buy two copies of it, one to listen to and one to lend out. Even if I hadn’t been inspired by him for so long.

Honest and painful writing is like laundering. It cleanses through its difficult process, shows hidden feelings, and brings much dirt to light. But to leave it there would be a crime against ourselves. It is what we do with that information that will either leave us moving forward in baby steps, or mired — as so many of us are — and as I so strongly felt that night.

~Jon Rodgers, from the liner notes of The Sound of Birds

The Importance of Being Howie

I saw Howie Day play two weeks ago after one of the worst days I’ve had in a year. The free outdoor concert was prefaced by my company picnic, and I cannot even put into words how horrific the forced dotcom beach social was for me. Half motion sick/half Dramamine drunk, allergic to the sun, 98 degrees and humid, black flies biting to the point where people had to stick their feet in the spokes of the tables to keep them off the ground. It was on the beach in Gloucester, and call me crazy but I hated the open shoreline. My eyes are sensitive to light, the heat is unbearable… anyway, it was such a shitty day. Everyone was hammered, I sat in the tent mostly by myself reading the Phoenix while my inebriated coworkers ran around in bathing suits. It was a wholly disturbing experience.

Actually one of the entertaining parts was watching this group of highly intelligent, gifted and creative people devise ingenious plans to get alcohol onto the beach where it was not allowed. There were diagrams, plans A and B, I think even a Macromedia Flash presentation or two.

But none of this has anything to do with Howie. Or maybe it does. We were on the bus for two hours on the way home, stuck in traffic. I had already thrown up twice, and I had a fever from the sunburn. Look — I’m a city girl. I was curled up sideways in a bus seat, listening to Bright Eyes with my head smooshed against the cool glass window. And when the bus stopped at the corner of Clarendon and Boylston, I could hear the music echoing outside the bus, rattling the windows. I got off the bus gratefully. Walking down Boylston hearing music so loud, bouncing off the buildings and reaching all around — it was surreal, like some strange dream.

I made my way down to Copley Square. It was going to rain any second. The sky was heavy and moving liquid quick, dark and boiling. I got there just in time. Howie came out a minute after I found my spot all the way at the back of the Square (I’d had enough of crowds). And my day all of a sudden got really good.

The night was weird. It was almost sunset, and the stage was set up at the foot of the Trinity Church, which is an old old gothic type structure with angels and stained glass and wrought iron. Looking straight at the stage, all you could see was the steps of the church, beat brick and terra cotta and snaking black railings. But if you looked a few degrees to the right, the Hancock Tower sprawled straight upwards, cobalt blue industrial glass and steel, reflecting the churning sky. The clash of time periods is what I love most about Copley. But to be watching Howie Day play at the foot of all this conflict was something else.

As he started singing, little rain drops fell, and people started wiping their faces. Some people started leaving. Howie looked up and scowled, pulling his mic stand back a few feet. He’s such a brat.

He started playing “Ghost”, and immediately the whole world went away for me. This is one of my favorite songs ever, and definitely my favorite Howie song. It is inextricably linked with last October and being filled with such overwhelming joy and grief simultaneously. It’s an unfulfilled, aching song. The album version is nothing to write home about. But I got a copy of Howie playing a tiny gig in Syracuse — Happy Endings Café. It’s the best bootleg I’ve ever heard of his, and the version of “Ghost” he plays is about 13 minutes long. He starts off with just a beat of his fist on the guitar, adds e-bow, and by the end of the song he’s got about 20 tracks going, including 5 or 6 vocals of himself. The build up is intense.

I recognized the beat on his guitar instantly, and got tunnel vision of the stage. I watched him build the song, and then after three or four minutes he started singing. The sky started lighting up, flickering with electricity. And just as he hit the climax of the vocals, in the beginning of an ultra-choreographed storm, a huge bolt of lighting streaked towards the church tower and the sky opened up. Rain, thunder. The looped beats rang off the library behind us and echoed through the streets. It was incredible. I felt like I was in a real live rock video.
This version of “Ghost” was better than any other I’ve ever heard him play. I was so amazed to be standing there listening to him sing it in the wide open city. It was the most surreal night I’ve had in a long time.

I honestly don’t understand how people can talk through these experiences. The very thought baffles me. These kids all show up, all excited, bouncing around, and as soon as Howie takes to the stage they’ve got their back to him and jabbering about so and so. It used to get me fully riled up, but I just let it slide off me now. I realize not everyone takes music as seriously as I do. In fact, probably a lot fewer people than I realize.

So he says he’s got some new songs. One of them he’s playing for the first time ever live. This is the best part of a performance for me, to be the first audience to hear a song played live. And the few kids who were actually still paying attention during “Ghost” completely lost interest because this song certainly wasn’t on 92.9 BOS. I won’t dig in on the clueless teenagers though; I’d like to maintain the gentle buzz I got from this show which pretty much remedied the heat bug vomit drunk-halfnaked-coworkers portion of the day.

Two nights ago I was listening to the Howie “Live at Happy Endings” bootlegs, lying on my bed with headphones, and some things changed in what I heard. I haven’t been listening to him much lately except when I see him live. I still experienced the gut response to the songs, wanting to be in them, wanting to have them under my skin, but I started really listening to his voice. Before I would listen with a total all-at-once impression, a cup of soup as opposed to vegetables, noodles, and broth. This time I started digging for noodles, and listening to his voice, I realized how it is bigger than him and completely out of his control. He is so fraught with emotion, his vocals just rage all over the place. He simply wails full tilt. He can pull it off right now because he’s cute, bratty little guitar boy.

But it seems to me like he’s going to have to do some work if he wants to grow into his music. It’s like he’s a little kid who woke up in a suit much too big for him, and he just wants to run around with his sleeves hanging off. That’s a really bad analogy but I’m tapped so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Howie Day also goes on my “Must Make Him Breakfast” list.

Pre-fall Cornucopia

So this weekend was all kinds of packed. Here’s a quick run down.

1. Samhain, my new snake (oh in case you missed it, Eve is no longer with us) ate a small mouse like a champ on Friday. I was very proud of him. He’s got a little more fight in him than the more slender and silvery Eve who couldn’t quite hold her lunch.

2. I’ve been going to this amazing chiropractor for a multitude of bone/nerve ailments, including carpal tunnel and lower back issues, and this guy realigned my spine last week three times, and what do you know — my vision is fixed. I mean, I was having this split vision weird thing happening and my eyes were getting worse and worse and he just snap! and there we have it. He also keeps a very large German Shepherd in the office which wins points from me.

3. There were way too many people on the racquetball court on Saturday. I mean, there were three of us. And none of us are especially adept. But we were all confused. There was lots of dropped balls and “oh I thought that was yours” and crashing into each other. It was good for a laugh, though not serious cardio and hand-eye conditioning. Something in the brilliant white of that solitary confinement cell, flooded with full-spectrum lights, makes us giddy.

4. I got through this whole week without a parking ticket! For real! This is the first week in 6 months I did not get a ticket. I recently figured out the street sweeping business, and then last week I get two tickets in one night — expired resident sticker and 20 feet from an intersection. WTF??? Never heard of it. Twenty feet. Give me a freakin breack.

5. Jenn’s birthday party was Saturday. (27! Oooooh!) I said I’d throw her a party, but it was at her place so I can’t really take credit for it, even if I sent out the invitations. Well, I did make some food, too. I made all the healthy food that nobody ate. The pigs in blankets went like hotcakes. It was National Fat Kid Night. I swear there were at least a dozen varieties of cheese. I thought I was going to die for like two days.

I have NO PICTURES from her party, as in, not a one. I broke my camera. I am officially a complete moron and a klutz. I snapped the flash off of my Minolta and it’s fully busted. So. I did bring my itsy bitsy Polaroid I-zone, took photos of everyone, and put them in the Edward Gorey address book which was her gift from me. I even got through the whole party without a cigarette, even after listening to my friend detail the fact that he was presently fucked up on liquid morphine.

6. Four days, 16 hours, 11 minutes. 93 cigarettes not smoked. $26.88 saved.

7. Do I use the word “fuck” too much?

8. I’ve been completely over-run with anger for the past few days. I’ve been fluctuating between extreme anger and bawling in my car while driving, listening to Radiohead. I’ve come to an enormous realization involving a paradigm shift in my perception of male/female relationships. It was an epiphany I had on Friday that completely bowled me over. I will write about it fully because it definitely deserves its own entry. But it made me pull out all the amazing love songs I could find — all the break up, rejection love songs — and I listened to them so carefully, and they blew my mind in ways I never could have comprehended. And then I was like, “okay, put down Pablo Honey and back away from the stereo.”

So I vowed to continue my research at a later point in time. And while innocently listening to KEXP Radio Seattle this morning, Radiohead’s “True Love Waits” comes on, and I’m like OKAY! Enough!

9. Speaking of music, I’ve got a slew of new CDs I’ve been rolling around in since Saturday, a few of them the result of a major raid on Jenn’s kitchen. Right now I’m listening to Blonde Redhead, which I’ve become quite attached to over the past week. But I’ve acquired one album each of Broadcast, Mojave 3, Coldplay, Mogwai, Ani DiFranco, Robyn Hitchcock, Richard Ashcroft (whose album I’ve renamed “Dying Alone with Everybody”), random discovery of old Peter Murphy from behind the TV, Interpol . . . oooh! I also discovered that the new Underworld CD comes out next week.

I was under the impression that Underworld broke up and would leave us with only 4 albums to listen to ceaselessly for years. Funny thing about the music I’ve been listening to lately — Coldplay, for instance — I can tell they’ll be the candy band I’m going to have an intense, obsessive fling with and then never listen to again. It’s too catchy for its own good. I’ll play it over and over until the Minidisc is rubbed raw and then discard it forever. That’s just how its going to be. But right now I can’t stop touching it.

And funny — there was Mojave 3 in Jenn’s car last winter and she’s like, “They’re really good,” and I’m like, “They’re fucking BORING!” And we were laughing about that this weekend because in the past I was so Manic Crack Head that I couldn’t listen to anything but industrial and death metal because my attention span was that of a goldfish. From which I have obviously improved because…

10. …I spent 3/4 of Sunday sprawled on the couch in my cozy, dark little living room, blankets pooling around me, pillows and legs akimbo, books piled up, candles, jasmine tea, my notebook, listening to Mojave 3.

I think that’s my top ten news items right now. I have a ton to write about but I’m being a good little Content Developer today so I’ll have to be sated with this massive, directionless brain dump with no real point other than getting it out into the world. For sure it will be filed under the “self-indulgence” portion of the site archive.

Bright Eyes Wednesday at the Roxy. Still tickets available if anyone wants to go. I’ll see if I can get my camera fixed by then.

Bye, darlings. Come back soon — I’ve missed you all.

I’m a Cosmo Grrrrl, in a Cosmo World

I have a love/hate relationship with girlie mags. The other day, feeling moody, I automatically engaged in a deeply-ingrained comfort ritual. I went to CVS for the latest issue of Cosmo and a Dairymilk Fruit & Nut chocolate bar. I didn’t think about my response too much until I started reading the magazine. It suddenly became apparent to me how long it’s been since I indulged in that monthly tradition, based on my shock and indignation, which was followed immediately by titillation. I smacked the open page in grinning disbelief and demanded that my friend examine the soft-core porn masquerading as sex education. Either things in women’s magazines have progressed significantly since I last purchased Cosmo, or I’ve tamed down a little. Amazed, I felt the need to research further. So I went on a complete binge, purchasing the latest copy of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Allure, Vogue, Elle, and Martha Stewart. (We’ll address the Martha Stewart subject in a separate installment.)My whole life I have been obsessed with three things: radio, magazines, and the U.S. Postal Service. (Like Martha Stewart, broadcast media and the mail will have to wait for another time. )

When I was the tender age of eight, my sister, who is almost 9 years my senior, began bringing home those heavily scented, glossy volumes. She would curl up on the couch, one hand in the Glamour fashion section and the other in a two-pound bag of M&Ms. This was her therapy. My mother would shake her head and remind her to store these harbingers of all things sex and girly in her room, safe from the prying eyes of little sis. But occasionally, in a chocolate stupor, she forgot them on the coffee table. I would wrap them in an issue of National Geographic and smuggle them up to my room, poring through each page, convinced my life would begin at Seventeen.

When I became old enough to procure my very own copy of Cosmopolitan magazine, I was instantly hooked.

Everything between the covers was beautiful and exciting. The stories, the drama, the sex, the relationships. The women were flawless and they lived naughty, indulgent lives. I couldn’t wait to create this perfect existence. I tore out pages by the hundreds and hung them in the appropriate places. Tweeze the perfect brow. Create an at-home pedicure. Improve your late night vocabulary. Make a mask out of avocado and egg whites. Develop the perfect thighs. Wow him in bed. (That topic was temporarily on hold, but it was inspiring to read about. I took notes for later use.) The best part? This succulent stream of knowledge could be mine for only $12 a year.

Then life started moving pretty fast, and I was rich with knowledge accumulated during years of compulsive girl-rag research. I was ready to unleash myself on the world.

When I turned seventeen, after delivery a particularly mind-blowing round of fellatio, the recipient jumped up and stared at me in disbelief. “Where did you learn how to do that?!” he demanded. So I told him. “Cosmo.” He thought I was kidding.

“I’ve been with women twice your age who couldn’t do that… ” I recommended they pick up a copy of the April issue. Excellent article, informative diagrams.

My sister watched me grow increasingly addicted to trashy magazines. Perhaps in an effort to subvert the snowball she began, she bought me a subscription to Sassy. It was the anti-Cosmo. The models were all real girls, and the articles were on deep topics. Volunteer in your home town. Make your own t-shirts. Dye your hair with henna (without staining your mom’s sink). Defend yourself against sexual harassment. Shop for back to school at the Salvation Army. Listen to these indie bands. The photography in Sassy was dark and arty, and it was a 10X14″ format page with matte finish. On a rack of glossy pink periodicals, it was truly unique.

At first I fought it. I was missing something. Maybe the change of scenery would make my brows imperfect! But as I read more and more Sassy, the other magazines began to irritate me with their shiny falsity. Plus the trampy language in Cosmo started reminding me of all the squealing numbskulls I went to high school with and I had enough of them all day.

By the time I got to college, I also nursed an addiction to Spin, Rolling Stone and Alternative Press. I struck out my rebel forces against the trite and shallow Cosmo. What is all this perfect hair bullshit? What is all this woman-as-man-pleasing-vehicle crap? Who cares what boots are in? (If they’re not Doc Martens, they don’t come in my size anyway.) Donning band shirts and ultraviolet hair, articles on little black dresses and sleek ponytails were irrelevant to me. And wholly single, why would I want to read about someone else’s steamy sex and relationship dramas? I divorced myself from the world of Mademoiselle, InStyle and Allure. I stocked up on Raygun.

But Sassy turned its back on me and began to morph into some pseudo-hip version of Teen. It was bought by Conde Naste, the media giant that puts out every other magazine on the rack. And my safe haven, my last hope, began to look just like them. Back in ’94, Jane Pratt, the mastermind behind Sassy, left the magazine because she couldn’t take it anymore. That’s when I ditched my subscription. Jane eventually started another magazine, Jane. Hmm. It’s evolved into Cosmo with a forced punk attitude — out for shock value and little else. Beware aging hipsters who name publications after themselves.

I was convinced that young women need a magazine that showed them there’s other things to life besides lip gloss and party conversation. While both of those topics can be useful, they are just a small part of the young adult female world. I decided I would pioneer this movement. Jane Pratt bedamned. And I chose my major at BU: Magazine Journalism.I enjoyed my Magazine classes. Creative nonfiction, record reviews. Art layout using Quark X-press on a slick Macintosh. But as I dug into my studies, I found that I was losing my edge — the anger that had propelled me into the world of Print Journalism. Like all false rebels, I eventually let go of the cause. I could endure the bare midriff of Cindy Crawford in the checkout line with minor snarling. And aside from an aching lust for Milla Jovovich of the translucent violet eyes, I rarely gave supermodels another thought. I stepped down from my soapbox.

Somewhere along the line I forgot about girl magazines all together. They became like television. Oh yeah — some people actually sit and look at that stuff. Regularly. I bought a subscription to Time Magazine. I started reading Wired and ID. I papered my walls with Wallpaper.

So the other day I undertook a mission to get up to speed on the world of fashion magazines. (I was, actually, looking for winter coat inspiration. Really. ) I was shocked and embarrassed by the candor with which sex and body issues were addressed. Yes, me. I didn’t remember there being such graphic descriptions of sex positions, or such lusty photographs. Flipping through the pages, I realized everyone in the world was having hot steamy sex but me. And they all had flushed, dewy skin and killer blond highlights. Once my shock abated, the curiosity got the best of me. It reminded me of watching MTV for the first time in five years; asking with one raised eyebrow, “This is my generation?”

Pure entertainment without the burden of visceral response. A pleasantly removed curiosity.I enthusiastically immersed myself in my favorite aspect of Cosmo — which is, ironically, what drove me away in the first place — the cheeky, fluffy word choice and tendency to alliterate everything. Now I find it priceless. “Party Time Pillow Talk.” “Tame Unruly Tresses.” Such candy! The sex-talk is straight out of a Harlequin Romance novel: “Grasp his throbbing member. . . ”

My reaction to this literature has progressed from obsession to disdain to affectionate amusement.So this month, after years of confusion, I feel like I finally understand the male species after finishing a two-page piece called, “The One Thing He Wants In Bed (You’ll Be Surprised).” If you’re not sure what that one thing is, pick up the September issue of Cosmo. The diagrams on page 87 may inspire you.