Saturday, March 27, 2010

Motown and My Mama

I don't know many 24-year-olds that LOVE Motown like I do...but much of my younger life was set to this music.

When I was little, about three or four, we ended up at my family farm for a while. Now, the farm was built in 1832...and hasn't been updated since the TVA first brought electricity to the Tennessee Valley. That means, there is no heating and air conditioning, no insulation, no running water, and no indoor plumbing. It's still that way today. But, when we stayed there for a was a different kind of experience. For one, it was winter and bitter cold. The only heat we had was the fireplaces (which roared and cracked), and Mama had to draw water from the well outside so that she could cook and clean. She kept an ancient radio in the kitchen, and one morning I got up extra early because I could hear the radio and my mother making all kinds of racket.
I walked in, and my mother was dancing and cooking on the old iron cookstove- at the same time. She wiggled and walked and moved her feet in ways that made me think she'd lost her mind. I'll never forget, it was the Temps singing "Ain't Too Proud To Beg". I sat down at the table my great-uncle built when he was a boy and watched her. Then Chuck Berry came on, and my mother started twisting and stirring red-eye gravy. The Twist looked like something I could do, so I asked Mama to teach me. And she did....and for the next three or four songs, Mama and I twisted, laughing at the fun (and I suspect she was also laughing at my uncoordinated attempts).
That winter and for years afterwards, I would sit in front of Mama's record player, and play these old records and some tapes (like The Righteous Brothers) over and over again, until Mama would say "I can't take anymore of that record- put on something else". But, she never told me to turn it off. And sometimes, Mama and I would still dance together.
Once, Mama, Andrika, and I were in the kitchen and Aretha Franklin came on. We had been sitting at the table, talking, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee....but when we heard that, we had to get up. And we proceeded to shake it, cigarettes in hand, all over that house (after we turned it up as loud as it would go, of course).
Sisterhood is built in dancing to these old songs. I'm sure of it. I've lived it, and I've watched it happen over and over again in movies. And as hard as life is and has been sometimes, all I gotta do is get up and throw some Aretha on, or Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the Temps, the Four Tops...any of them. And there I am again, with my Mama, throwing down some crazy dancing with red-eye gravy or a cigarette or margaritas and beer.
I love Motown, and god bless all those artists for bringing us so much happiness.

If you wanna go see some good stuff, click on

Or, you can watch the movie version (which is amazing- those boys looks just like the originals)

Cracker Queen

I've been out of work for about a week now due to a mysterious illness that has creeped into my foot and lower leg- it swells, it's discolored, and it tingles like it's asleep and then hurts like hell in turns. I've barely managed to drag my ass to school all week, and in fact, I missed a day because of having to go to the hospital, and I missed a day of work because of having to have tests AND because the medication that I was given makes me 1) pee a lot 2) feel drunk 3) nearly makes me comatose. I can't really function when I take this medication- in fact, I haven't taken it yet today so that I can write a blog and do some homework.

So what have I been doing with all my time? Homework and reading new books. My mother, bless her, bought over a hundred dollars worth of sale books from the bookstore that enslaves me, and thus has kept me in good reading graces.

A side note about my mother and books: she marathons them. Even when I was a child, if my mother had a book in her hand, it didn't get put down until it was over unless it was a bad read or John Grisham. (She can't deal with John Grisham very well, and as she says: "he writes for people who have no imagination. I don't need him to spend three paragraphs on the wallpaper of a room. He's just like any other damn man for all the other damn men out there who don't have a clue unless they can see it. I'm female- I can create things in my head.") Nothing existed for her until that book was finished, and then she'd return back to reality. She's never read the same book twice. So, I know, when Mom buys lots of books, chances are good that after she reads them, they're going to end up at my house. She loves this, because it clutters up my house and not hers. I love this because I don't have to scrounge up the money to buy them. Plus, this time she bought two books specifically for me: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman (who is my favorite author) and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

But, when I went to her house last Saturday, the first book that she put in my hand was neither of these Anonymous A-specific reads. It was The Cracker Queen by Lauretta Hannon- I had recommended it to her because someone (a customer, I think) had recommended it to me, and my mother loves Southern writers. So, I sat down beside her, and she handed me this book, saying: "I really think you need to read this. It's so good- it's funny and sad, and just a damn good read. She reminds me of you a lot." To this I replied: "Okay, I'll give it a try, but you know I don't like Southern writers." (There are a few exceptions, like my dear Margaret Mitchell, but they're few and far between.)
I sat it down in favor of beginning M is for Magic... but I couldn't keep my eyes off the cover of The Cracker Queen. I sat for a moment looking at the one in my hand and the one on the coffee table that was trying to cast a spell on me, and finally, I gave in, and announced to no one in particular: "Oh, to hell with it. I'll read that one first. They're all gonna get read anyway." And thus, despite my doubts about a Southern writer, I began The Cracker Queen.
I admit, I had a moment of doubt when I read the words "Scarlett should've been run out of town on a rail a long time ago." (I intend to write to her about this judgement of character.) But, I couldn't put it down. Indeed I finished it that night in about four hours. It's the story of her family, and sometimes it goes back to a time before she was born in order to establish a cause for an action or dysfunction. There's equal amounts of humor and hurt in her stories- such as how her mother manages to get her school clothes every year, her Crazy Aunt Carrie, how her mother and musician father fall apart and away from each other and yet still manage to find a way to be together, she and her father playing psychic games, and her mama buying cartons of cigarettes to throw out on the side of the road to the chaingangs. It's a damn good story, and it's exceptional, in my opinion, for Southern literature.
I'm sure there's someone out there that would defend Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner and how great they are- and they might be, if you're the sort that likes literature to put you to sleep. This story, however, will not let you sleep, and in fact, it demands to be finished now. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Way to go, Lauretta Hannon. It's fantastic.

I'll write about M is for Magic later. Enjoy this youtube video.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Quarter Century Assessment

Do you remember being eighteen and having plans? Like, serious oh-my-god-i'll-die-if-this-doesn't-happen plans? And you had deadlines to meet these plans, which were really more goals than anything. For example, my friend Paul wanted to own a home by the time he was twenty-two. Another friend of mine wanted to have a child by the time he was twenty-five. Another friend of mine planned to live so hard and fast and wild that he would be dead before he was thirty. My friend Nikki wanted to be a yoga instructor before she was twenty-five, and my friend Shana wanted to have at least two pair of Jimmy Choos by the time she was twenty-three.
Well, thus so far, Paul is the only one who's dream made it out of the gate, much less finished the race. The rest of us.....we're still standing around in the stable.

While talking to my mother today, I realized that I'm staring twenty-five years of age in the face. I'm not freaked that thirty is not far behind. Getting older has only bothered me once, and that was when I was nineteen and I realized in four months I'd be twenty- and what bothered me then was that I was no longer going to be a stupid kid but a stupid adult. I cried and got over it.
But I stare down this 25 in the face like I'm John Wayne and it's a man in a black cowboy hat, I realize I've fallen short. My plan was to have made it to California and back and everywhere in between by myself- just me, a bag full of clothes, and a guitar and to have graduated from college. I've done neither. I mean, I crossed the continent in a way- I went from Michigan to Alabama- but it wasn't East to West. And as of August, I'll have graduated with a double associates- not a double bachelor's, like intended. I've gone half-way. Half-way has never before been in my vocabulary.

My dad said to me last night that I expect too much of myself- and I heartily disagree. I only expect my best from me, and I know that I'm capable of something great...I just don't know what. It's definitely not a great deal of patience or focus. I get too distracted by the 'shiny' things. I get distracted by loneliness and the next big adventure or a really amazing idea for a band or something. If I'd spent half the energy doing something worthwhile that I'd spent on bullshit, I could've made it to California and back and I could've made it through college already.

Instead, I'm in high school part two and I use electrical tape to get the lint off my boyfriend's work shirts because we're too poor to buy a lint roller or a roll of masking tape.

I'm grateful for my life- I've had a great time and it's been truly epic. I've lived some shit that they make movies out of. But....I've still fallen short of my goals, and I don't know what to do about it. I've run out of time. It's not gonna happen. I can never be a twenty-two year old girl playing an acoustic guitar for money in the middle of Denver, Colorado.
But what is there to do? It's live or die- and I may as well live, even if it is with an undone checklist.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I am a packrat's worst nightmare.

There are few things more refreshing to me than getting rid of stuff. In fact, the only thing I can think of that's more refreshing is when I showered after a week in the woods.

I got rid of two garbage bags worth of stuff and four or five boxes worth. I'm getting rid of one of the couches in my living room, and maybe a few other things as well. It's time to become one hundred percent portable again. Most people like to have lots of things, and I'm the exact opposite. If I could get to the point that everything I owned fit in one car, I'd be a happy girl. But as is, that one car is completely taken up by dogs and a boyfriend- so I guess a trailer will have to do.

It's spring break from college- and this is how I spend it. Throwing things away. But I'm only doing it so Sean (the new roommate) can have a bed in my spare room....and because I like it. Hopefully, though, it'll all be done before my work week is over so I can actually go have fun for a few days- WOO- blueberry beer, here I come! Get ready for me baby!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Am That Chick You Were Warned About....

I quit drinking all together last year- but in recent weeks, I've found myself out at more bars than I've been to in a year. And it's been fabulous! I remember WHY I loved to go to bars so much- there's drinking, and smoking, and funny people, and entertainment. It's loud, if you don't wanna deal with something, you just pretend you didn't see/hear. I love the ritual, even, of getting ready to go to a bar. You know the whole shower, brush the teeth, actually apply makeup for the first time in months, and make sure you look like you could melt butter thing. It's lovely.

And then, when you get there, it's a matter of finding the people you know, all getting drinks (which sometimes seems to require an act of Congress), and sitting down to scream "what's up?" and listen to some really bad or sometimes really good music, and have a good laugh at no one's expense. Plus, there's a lot of camraderie built when you go out drinking with friends- you learn so many thing about people that you wouldn't otherwise know because alcohol takes the filter away- and no one gives a damn. They just say it. And, upon leaving, you know that you know more about those people you were just with than most do- and maybe even more than you wanted. But, you know them, almost in a Biblical sense, and you've become brothers and sisters in a few short hours- all because you had some drinks together.

The drive home, though, is my absolute favorite step in a night out. I feel accomplished. I went out, I had a good time, and there's still a good buzz in my head. I get into my car, light a cigarette, and turn on something good to listen to. As I travel home, I'm chilled, contented, and I'm also high on an adrenaline rush because I'm trying to slip home like a thief in the night- that is, without getting pulled over. And the thrill that I may get caught is just as important as the nice mellow feeling of being a little drunk and the contentedness that comes with a mission accomplished.
Mind you, I'm travelling to my home, not anyone else's, and I'm by myself. My love of a good private thrill doesn't go so far as to take people home- or to go home with someone else for that matter.
But, I am the girl that likes nothing better than a party. Without it, I find I'm not a very happy person. I don't know whether it's the cumulative experience that makes me feel better or if it's the alcohol, but it does something good to my soul.

Alcohol does, indeed, rip families apart. But I find that it brings mine closer together.