Monthly Archives: November 2003

Save the Subways

If you’ve been reading my site for a while, you know how much the subway performers have meant to me over the past few years in Boston. In a lot of ways, this site began because I was inspired by their no-frills do-it-yerself style of creation and their 5:30 AM rise and shine dedication to their craft. One of my earliest entries, Busking and the Shower Song, was an ode to the subway performer. Posting that piece alone opened up an enormous new world for me as a writer, listener, and local music scene supporter.
According to the Community Arts Advocates, “On November 13, 2003 artists who perform on MBTA platforms received new guidelines that will seriously erode their First Amendment Constitutional Rights and devastate the artists economically. This plan goes into effect on December 1st. ”
There is a long list of new enforcements, but here are just a few:

  • A total ban on amplification, electric guitars, percussion instruments or horns of any kind — as they are no longer instruments suitable to the subway environment.
  • Each performer must be neat in appearance and wear proper clothing. Musicians will be forced adhere to what MBTA mandates as “proper” dress code — because local folk singers who need to play the subway to pay rent should dig out their Sunday best to make “appropriate” music with “entertainment value,” right?
  • Both performance times and performance areas have been significantly cut.
  • Performers will be required to apply annually for a permit, and here is my favorite part:
    During the twelve-month permit period, any Performer whose performance is deemed of “no entertainment value” will be so informed in writing. The Performer will be given an opportunity to address performance issues. Should the complaints continue, the permit will be rescinded and future permit requests will be denied.

The fucking Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority gets to decide what makes the cut as good music now. Fantastic. I’ll be sure to ask sixty-year-old Zelda in her corner token booth chain smoking and growling at commuters for some recommendations.
Please help keep creative expression alive in Boston.
Get all the facts here.

Make a Habit Out of Me

Thursday night I arrived at the Paradise and within ten seconds of the opening music (“Come on, get happy…”) I remembered all at once and without question why Jump, Little Children is my favorite band in the world. And why Thursday night’s show left any other show of the past six months looking like water biscuits to Jump’s red velvet chocolate cake.
The joy of seeing that band live is inexplicable. The music washed over me like sunshine and I had the perma-grin known only to those who can get certifiably stoned on sound.
Apparently they’re either making more money or are getting more important because it was the first Jump show I’ve ever been to where they didn’t set up their own equipment. Bassist Jonny was running around a bit after tuning his upright, but none of the other members were in evidence. Which made a nice surprise when they all pranced out together to the new theme song.
When they opened for Howie Day a few weeks ago, I was so unthrilled. And I knew at the time one of the main factors of that tepid performance was that they were not headlining, and that Lupo’s is not the clean and sprawling stage of the Paradise. Seeing them open for Howie Day was gross. It made me feel yucky. It was like watching a star employee have to interview for their own job. With thirty minutes end to end, there’s not much you can say that’s not already on your resume. They played damn near a two hour set Thursday night, and then came back for two encores.
I will get this shallow and juvenile part out of the way: when they came out on stage in their usual goofy assemblance of brotherly love and childlike excitement at the crowd, I screamed like a thirteen-year-old at a New Kids on the Block concert because — I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again — Matt Bivins is the Sexiest Creature Ever to Walk the Earth. I seriously gave this topic some thought. I couldn’t come up with one single person to compete. Not a one. And he strutted out with his satin disco shirt and translucent eyes rimmed with black liner and I tore off my clothes and threw myself writhing at his feet.
And Jay Clifford slays me. His vocal range is inhuman, and it sounds like buttered toffee strung in slim ribbons. I could actually hear his brilliant lyrics as well on Thursday, even over the enormous crunchy guitar. And who could help but smile watching Jonny play upright bass? His feet are in the air more than they’re on the stage, and he spins around that thing like he has wings.
The Paradise was packed, and I noticed at a few key points during the show that everyone there was a die-hard fan, because they all knew the silly inside jokes and crowd reactions. Those inside jokes, the rituals, are what make going to a Jump show feel like coming home. They are like family. “My Guitar” is one of my favorite examples of their ongoing traditions. The deal with the song is that the beginning of it has an ultra-80’s rock guitar solo. Jay and Ward play the solo together in harmonizing parts. And then they both play Jay’s guitar at the same time. And then they finish separately.

The antics draw a huge crowd response, and they started making the production bigger and bigger. It became a guitar duel during which they tried to out-solo each other. Ward would break into “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Evan Bivins would provide the drama-building drums in between solos as Ward and Jay went back and forth. It was a climactic portion of the show, just add overdone fog machine. To make it more and more interesting, they traded in their guitars for dueling cell phones, with the dramatic pitch just as high. Ward played “Enter Sandman” on his keypad, and Jay accidentally called his voice mail. Finally they’d start the song: “I’d like to see you out some night, dressed up like a rock and roll star…”
Ward, by the way, alternates between classically-trained cello with flange and death metal on a Flying V guitar. Then Matt takes center stage for his sweat-sexy-jaw-dropping spoken word, where he makes love to the mic stand. Everyone screams. Not just me. I swear.
Matt, by the way, alternates between accordion, mandolin, harmonica, tin whistle. He also has a miniature hot pink guitar, which he plays slung enticingly low.
One of my fondest Jump memories is when Jay, Ward, and Jonny sang the National Anthem in three-part harmony at Fenway park. There was a listserv at the time connecting all the fans across the country — “Opium” — and most of the people on the mailing list were from down South. This was the one time something Jump-related happened in Boston, and all the kids on Opium were begging us for details. Many of them posted their phone numbers. I snuck out of work and went down to Fenway Park. Standing outside the park, the sound of them singing was enormous. And when I looked down the street, there were all these Jump fans holding up their cell phones for the folks on Opium to hear them sing. It brought tears to my eyes.
The kicker with Jump is that they do all these fun outlandish acts on stage, but they’re also playing their most serious and heart-wrenching songs, going between the two seamlessly, with Jay’s excruciatingly beautiful voice carrying both. At the Paradise Thursday, they played about six or seven new songs (new being not on Vertigo), and the songwriting is getting more and more complex. Jay’s always using odd tunings and chord changes, and the songs are growing into a sound that is absolutely his own.
Jay played a solo show at House of Blues in Cambridge over the summer. I was stunned and in disbelief when I read that he was booked there alone, but he actually did play acoustic and by himself. I waited with butterflies in the stomach for weeks. It was incredible to hear his voice in that venue with barely any music along with it. The performance was wholly intimate; he didn’t have a set list — he just asked people to yell out songs they wanted to hear. When he broke a string, he asked if anyone in the audience knew how to string a guitar and handed it over to some guy who couldn’t stop smiling and looked a little nervous sitting on stage behind Jay fumbling with the string.
I expected the show to be a lot more dramatic than it was — ultimately it was sitting in Jay’s livingroom listening to him casually mess around with some songs. Which felt… weird. I enjoyed hearing “Darkest Love,” which is my favorite of their new songs, and thought it was ingenious for him to bring beats on audio tape which he played in a little radio-shack tape player on the stool next to him.
If you guys get the chance to see Jump live, you have to go. It’s in your own best interest. I’m only telling you this because I’m your friend.

No Sleep, Smokes, She’s Nauseous

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
~ Red Smith

I’ve stopped sleeping again.
The world has become liquid Technicolor and everything sounds out of focus. My eyes are watered and transparent. It would be entertaining if my stomach wasn’t causing me so much anxiety.
Oooh — I correct myself. I spent two and a half hours last night in a Kava induced stupor. Long enough to have two positively frightening and grotesque nightmares that wiped out the possibility of further sleep.
My room consists of four giant, uninsulated windows a dozen feet from the mainest road in Somerville. I can tell the time by the sounds of traffic. Trucks cut through from Rt. 16 to the Interstate between midnight and 2:00 am. The newspaper guy starts at 3:00 in his beat-up burgundy van. He drives a few yards, flings the car door open, freeing acid rock into the still air, thumping three papers onto doorsteps, and slamming the door closed again to drive a few yards. Lather, rinse, repeat. The 89 bus makes its first run from Sullivan station at 5:10. The trash at 6:15, the recycling at 7:00.
I know this because of my insomnia, which I used to cure by sitting on my front porch in my bathrobe chainsmoking.
Last night I had a nightmare that I was babysitting. Wait — that wasn’t the scary part. I was hanging out with two little kids, and suddenly I remembered that I left my rabbit out in the yard where bees were terrorizing the neighborhood. I quickly ran down, and found him in a tiny cage in the sun, where he was cooking, covered ear to tail in bees. The bees had eaten off the top of his head and the back of his hind legs so I could see up into his hollowed-out ears. There was a gaping hole and bees stinging him on his brain. I tearfully blasted him with water from the hose in attempt to ward off the insects and cool down his flesh that had been baking in the sun.
My parents were lying in lawn chairs a few feet away, and I was screaming at them hysterically, asking why they hadn’t done anything about the rabbit when they saw the bees. Neither of them could hear me. (The story of my life.)
My poor rabbit was in total shock, and I wrapped him in my shirt and was going to take him to the hospital. My father started yelling at me about wasting money taking the bunny to the vet, and how he wasn’t paying for it. I didn’t want his money, but he wouldn’t let me get in the car. More than anything, I was ready to vomit with guilt over keeping a defenseless animal and then not defending him.
I woke up in a panic, sick to my stomach, and ran into the living room. I woke up my poor rabbit and squeezed him just to make sure he wasn’t hollow and filled with bees. I also surveyed his cage to confirm that he lived like a king — probably better than any other rabbit ever. A certified spoiled brat. In a bug-free, climate-controlled house.
Guaranteed this nightmare was caused by two things: the juvenile bunny pictures I posted yesterday; and a conversation I had about bees and epi-pens being analogous to the Dramamine dispenser in my bag.
So who could sleep after that, right?
I managed another hour between the paper guy and the 89 bus and then got up, defeated. I played the piano. I stared into space. I wrote a chapter of that stupid freaking novel.
Wait! That’s it! It’s the stupid freaking novel!
I hate this book. It is the bain of my existence. It soils the very pith and marrow of my attribute. I gotta kill somebody off soon or I will not survive.
I locked myself in my apartment on Saturday and sat in that chair from 7:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. arguing with my computer. As I was artistically constipated, two liters of diet coke and a grande latte enema allowed me to pass nearly 8,000 words, which was by no means adequate for the pain they invoked. I took every phone call desperately and tried to keep each person on the line long enough to save me, but my friends all know what I’m up to and so they refused to be a part of my procrastination attempts.
There is one benefit to writing your own novel, however. You create the characters. Most characters end up being a conglomerate of people from your life, inspired by people in your life, or actual people from your life. And you can do anything to them you want. Fiction is a giant voodoo doll. Come here, you little cheating bastard. In chapter seven, you get to be the homeless guy on the sidewalk with gout. I’ll even name him after your mother. And you, you gorgeous golden creature from the coffee shop — you get to make out with the supermodel in chapter four. In fiction, your favorite musicians become rock stars, your friends become millionaires, and your fictional equivalent gets to sleep with every secret crush you’ve ever had.
Okay, that would be too much fiction. Except for the sleeping with everyone part, which in general happens for me.
I’m sure.
Anyway, my evil Photojournalism advisor, who called me “the photographer with the writing problem,” was forced to work at McDonald’s in chapter eight. And he had brain damage from that tragic fryer incident.
I’m spending so much time living in this little world between the pages that I re-emerge into my real life in a haze. I’m not sure what day it is. I’m not sure if I really spoke to that person, or if I made that up. Or if my rabbit is in the hospital. Or if my friend did truly score a record deal with Sub Pop.
I’m so tired.
My other nightmare from last night involved the ritual parakeet dream that I go through impatiently. When I feel the dream coming on, I’m like, “Okay, okay. Hurry up. Get it over with.” This time, I dreamed that there were lovebirds in the parakeet cage. Three of them. They were beautiful — like the blue-masked lovebirds I had when I was younger that I handfed from hatchlings. But there wasn’t enough room in the cage. They were crushing out the two proper residents. I’ve come to believe that somehow the bird cage serves as a microcosm of my life.
So a few months ago, right before my parents moved to Florida, I was sitting with my mother and my sister talking about dreams. I didn’t say a word about the parakeet dreams I have, which as I’ve mentioned in previous entries occur nightly and involve the accidental slaughter of my innocent birds. My sister, who like me is a little bit into the whole mystical spiritual world of dream analysis and Tarot, says she has a reoccurring dream about a parakeet in a cage. My mom jumps up and says, “Me too!” so I ask them what happens to the birds.
My sister says the bird is always singing and serves as a source of inspiration in her life. My mother says her bird is dying, and she pulls out the seed cup to see it filled with hulls. At the last minute, she fills the cup with seed and saves the bird.
So I tell them how every night Soleil and Mordecai are either strangled, drowned, baked, squashed or decapitated by my own hands.
The conversation stops abruptly and I shrug. I’m not surprised that my mother, sister and I have dreams of similar content. Or that mine is as disturbing as my sister’s is inspiring. The imagery itself — the parakeet — could easily come my family keeping parakeets beginning when my mom was a little girl. But I thought it was strange that we all use the parakeet dream in particular as a mental health gauge.
Eisuke and I would have the same dreams. He and I were cut from the same glass; the freckles in our eyes were mirror images. He dreamed about trains with me, and I dreamed about warm oceans, bridges and techno for him. We were linked inexplicably, and it never surprised me that we could read each other’s minds or have the same dreams. We planned some of them. “When you get inside the dream, wait by the parakeet. I’ll be right there.”
Eisuke will get to be a wizard in my next novel.
Oh, the whole novel thing. If I just finish it, I’ll be able to sleep. But the less sleep I have, the weirder the book’s getting. We might end up with a wizard in the current story. Working at the coffee shop. And then becoming a rock star.

Saves Nine

Day 12 of National Novel Writing Month.

Time is moving too fast. I woke up last night in a sudden and intense panic with the feeling I was being chased. It was four o’clock in the morning and I grabbed the nearest notebook from the floor and began scrawling hurriedly in the dark — The List — all the things I want to have done before I’m too old to do them. There were thirty or forty items before I leaped out of bed and began digging through the bookshelf of notebooks from the past 20 years in search of the last list I made.

I was thinking recently about that old list, and how I had accomplished so many of the things that I remember writing on there even though I haven’t read it in years. I knew it was in the burgundy spiral-bound notebook from 1994, with the egotistical and ambitious quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on the cover (“To be great is to be misunderstood”). I remember sitting in a bar at 18 reading the list impishly to my significantly older boyfriend, who good naturedly replied to several of the line items. I wanted to learn how to use chopsticks. I wanted to drink red wine by candlelight. I wanted to write a screenplay. I wanted to move to New York and live like a starving artist. He assured me, with holes in his jeans and a studio in the ghetto, that living like a starving artist was not as glamorous as it sounds. Four years later I was sitting on the floor of an empty apartment eating leftover Chinese food with those chopsticks. And I couldn’t write the screenplay or make rent because of my massive substance abuse problem. (So much for red wine by candlelight.) I called him to tell him he was right about the glamour.

I hope this List doesn’t end with me knocking out my teeth ice skating at Rockefeller Center or dying of dehydration during my road trip through New Mexico. Or spraining a wrist while making love continuously through all the Morphine albums.

I used to count months by the seasons. I used to tell time by the semesters. I’ve been out of college longer than I was in it, and now I have to subtract actual years. 2003 minus 1998. It’s all bleeding together and moving way too fast. I recently went to email someone with whom I haven’t communicated in what I thought was a year, but when I checked the last email I sent him, I learned it has been two.

It’s not that I’m getting old. I’m not having one of those crises. Age has always been irrelevant to me. I just feel like I haven’t done enough. My wheels are turning. My feet want to move. Everyone around me tells me I’m moving at the speed of light. Look at all the shit I’ve done in the past two years. Look at all I’ve been through in the past six months. I’ve survived. And I’m still running. But I don’t feel like I’m keeping up.

It doesn’t help that I’m trying to write a novel in 30 days, right? I will still do this, but I can’t figure out if it’s working for or against my feeling of being stalked. Last night I had a nightmare about my main character dragging enormous black wings behind him like some fallen angel of death. He was coming to get me.

I better go write.


Day of NaNoWriMo: 10
Words written: 23,482

Days non smoking: 42
Cigarettes not smoked: 615

Days in bed with fever: 8
Episodes of Friends watched: 23

Stellar shows missed this week due to illness: 3
Number of slits on each wrist: 5

Andrew Bird, my light, my love — please forgive me for not being able to swoon in your presence Thursday night at the Mid E… I was swooning alone in my bed delirious with fever and nightmares about macaws in my parakeets’ cage.

Despite my brain and heart ravaged with illness all week, I have been showing up daily for my desperate dedication to National Novel Writing Month. I’m not saying the chapters these past few days are totally coherent, but they exist and this, my friends, is the most important part.

I did make it to Newbury Comics on Tuesday on my way home from work (I showed up pale, sweating and confused and was immediately sent home) to buy the most recent Los Halos CD, Leaving VA, which brought me to tears of gratitude for the existence of such flawlessly beautiful music.

I missed the Wrens show, which I was almost more disappointed about than Andrew Bird, having seen Andrew several times in recent months, and the Wrens not touring a whole lot as of late. I made an attempt, but standing in the hallway in front of my mirror, realizing I had put my clothes on backwards and looking like a junkie with a bad make-up habit, I crawled back into the darkness of my livingroom to cuddle with the DVD player and a gallon of orange juice.

Upcoming consolation prizes this week (recovery pending) include: Ani DiFranco in Rhode Island and Jump, Little Children at the Paradise. And…

  • Francine — TT’s 11/21

  • Fooled By April — TT’s 11/23
  • Vendetta Red (!!!!) — Axis 11/28
  • Chauncy — Mid E Upstairs 12/5
  • Calla — Bowery Ballroom, NYC 12/6
  • Fire Theft — TT’s 12/22

I have a headache. More to follow.

I’m All About Tricks

Halloween was fun. I decided to be Medusa in the beginning of September, and realized my head piece would need to be handcrafted with snake eyes that light up. My costume took me a total of 80 hours, which included frequent trips to Pearl Art, intermittent consultations with the scintillating staff of Radio Shack, and several Saturday nights up to my elbows in paper mache, crying into the paste.

There were also many hours invested in the conversion of the front porch and yard into a graveyard, with the assistance of the ever-clever Ruby, who wrote the epigraphs for the gravestones, with inscriptions such as “Oscar Wilde: My middle name was “Fingal” and knickers made me tingle.”

I also had to learn how to dance with a dozen snakes on my head.

Ruby, Shelley, and me. (That’s Shelley’s real hair. True story.)

Mon Frere and my nemesis — Perceus. Who had to remind me that he’s my nemesis because it’s been a while since I saw Clash of the Titans and I’m not really up on my Greek mythology.

Benjamin won an award for his costume as Jacques Cousteau. Even though he cheated at apple bobbing. You know — the whole snorkel thing.