Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Double, Tall, Nonfat, ¡No Whip!, Mocha

I do not have a thyroid condition. I'm not pregnant. I possess a modicum of self-control. I exercise daily.

So there's no reason why I should have a problem fitting in my jeans. But, I am having a problem fitting into my jeans.

When the sunny side of life is not tipped in one's favor it helps to manufacture one's own sunshine. I don't do pharmaceuticals so mine has come in the form of a hot beverage: a double, tall, nonfat, ¡no whip!, mocha. Every afternoon. Rain or shine. For, oh, the last several months.

When I committed to the mocha, my sunshine in a paper cup, I committed. I committed in the way one might devote oneself to constructing a noteworthy career. To salvaging a passionate relationship. To seeking the meaning of life (by way of a methodically made espresso drink).

My days revolved around my sacred mid-afternoon ritual, whether I wrote ten cover letters during the day (Reward! Reward! I get a mocha!), or wrote jackshit (I need my antidepressant; I need my mocha).

Thus came the inevitable, and thus spake Zarathustra, I mean, my Mom: "If you keep that up you are going to gain weight". Having been a teenager I know a little something about flipping the switch to lock down my sense of hearing when I'm hearing what I don't want to hear. And, I wasn't hearing it when it came to my sunshine, hot or iced.

There's also something about enduring a long stretch of unemployment in "the worse economic period since the Great Depression, blah, blah" that afforded me emotional leverage with my Mom with regard to a habit on which we did not see eye to eye: she just stopped giving me verbal cues about the correlation between mochas, calories, and the size of my butt.

For several months I rationalized my habit: But, I'm unemployed and it takes away the pain! But, I'm ordering it nonfat, ¡no whip! But, I got my 167th rejection letter today! But, it helps me explore my voice, and develop the texture of my wordsmithing! But, I just got paid for editing! But, I am paying tribute to my Mexican ancestors whose innovative use of the cacao plant resulted in xocoatl -- the consumption of which was said to bring universal wisdom and knowledge!

But then my butt all on its own pulverized my rationalizations when the zipper on my jeans began to buzz in protest, and a disconcerting tightness around my waist added to the chorus of which my Mom had long ago been appointed chanticleer. The scale barked in stark confirmation: Weight. Gain. After a few moments the scale added a little side snark that only I could hear: "On a petite flower like you, honey, you're practically zaftig". Oh. The. Horror.

What I really like about an Americano (single or double shot of espresso combined with 6 to 8 ounces of hot water) is how light it feels on the palette, and in my body. I'm on the path I need to be on now. I'm exploring the new territory of "Low-Calorie Espresso Drinks", and my first destination is "Back To Normal". My checking account has also voiced its approval.

Fare thee well, xocoatl.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"The Baddest Nissans in the Northwest"

First, some context.

FOUND Magazine was birthed by Davy Rothbart after he found a note that someone had mistakenly left on his windshield. It proved momentous: his interest piqued by the lone note, he began collecting, along with co-founder Jason Bitner, abandoned bits of paper, notes, scraps, letters, pictures -- any written word of quirky interest that either tells a story, or hints intriguingly at one.

The first FOUND Magazine was produced several years ago (originally meant to be a zine for shits and giggles amongst friends), but the momentum behind it caught fire, and several volumes later (including a book, a play, and a few volumes of the NC-17 version of the magazine, Dirty FOUND -- a zine repository of drrrty deeds and pix), the magazine's momentum continues to grow.

At the heart of the zine's creation is the idea that a tremendous amount of beauty, stupidity, tenderness, and honesty (and the magazine only proves that all this comes in many forms, stripes, and levels of intelligence) can be found in the very unselfconscious act of communicating, through the written word, to another human being. Those abandoned bits of paper, those misplaced notes, those letters the wind carried away from their intended targets reveal one thing: we're more honest with ourselves, and with others, when we've taken a pen to paper. The result is a level of honesty we can't just shoo away, or turn the volume down on -- the tangibility of the written word is no mere figment of the imagination, and it commands our rapt attention.

Thumbing through one of the magazines is a nice ride through the zany, the moving, and the hysterical, but not more so than attending a stop on this year's "Denim & Diamonds" tour (Davy and Co. have been touring nationwide since 2002), during which Davy encourages steady drinking at the top of the show (two-fisting it is simply practical so as to not have to get up from one's seat halfway through) before he launches into reading old FOUND favorites, and new ones.

Davy also invites musical acts to play jams during the show, and this for me was the highlight of the show. The Watson Twins were the featured band on the San Francisco stop, and while they seem very friendly, and very tall, I was not moved at all except to fight the urge to check Facebook on my Blackberry. The showstopper for me was Davy's brother, Peter Rothbart. Peter, a talented musician (like, *wow*), composes music inspired by FOUND items. He's really our generation's definition of a Gen X troubador. I can only hope that his CDs, 2007's The Sight Of Any Bird, and 2004's Songs For The Long Lonely Drive, catch the same fire that has propelled the magazine into a much deserved spotlight.

Peter is the type of performer who can easily elicit a schizophrenic response: I both laughed up a lung, before nudging it back into place, and was moved to tears (that's life, right?). During his rendition of "The Baddest Nissans in the Northwest" I experienced the low key lightning of chills over and over as I cradled a Corona. This is why (in Peter's words):

"This song is based on a letter found in Oregon City, Oregon, and printed in issue 5 of FOUND Magazine. It's a beautiful, epic, 5-page profession of enduring love written by a man who is learning to tip the balance of his life in his own favor.

I adapted the letter into song using a mix of words and phrases from the original and some of my own material."

The letter was found unopened, returned to sender. After a long struggle with drug addiction the author declares, along with his love, that he has found his true purpose in life: to outfit and race "the baddest Nissans in the northwest" (frankly, I've heard worse goals). There's a quiet nobility to an endeavor, however much it drips with wackiness, dreamt up by someone determined to leave behind a legacy that outweighs the constant reminder of faded needle marks and the ever-present aftershocks of having faced the maw of drug addiction, and emerging from it mostly intact.

The tragedy of this FOUND letter is that one woman never learned of the author's profound and abiding love for her. But, I argue it's a minor one in that it allowed Peter to craft something that leaves us all momentarily vulnerable, allowing us to drop our pretenses for a few minutes, to momentarily shun our cynicism, and to once again cradle a hope for change for the better - along with our beer - despite/in spite of our damaged and flawed selves.

Peter Rothbart's website: http://www.poemadept.com/

MJ: Even The Septuagenarians, Their Arthritic Knees Notwithstanding, Get Up & Dance To You

I testify that my childhood could play on a looped soundtrack sung by MJ.

I testify to starting my mornings to MJ, to ending my evenings with MJ, to being 13 to MJ, to being 33 to MJ, to blasting his music in my car and through headphones in my ears, all the while believing that hearing loss was a minor price to pay.

I testify to thinking that maybe too much talent, too much early stardom on the shoulders of a sensitive soul, too much unearthly charisma for one human body to process, just might screw with cerebral synapses, just might re-calibrate the faculties we count on for normalcy and a decent grasp on mental health, and just might result in an onset of bizarre behavior later on in life.

I testify that my computer, my iPod, my tape collection all swaddled in dust and adolescent love, and the countless mixes and burned CDs account for one thing: his music might as well form a ring around the Earth, like the rings that circumscribe Saturn, because it'll be there, until the Earth isn't, embedded in the ether, in our ears, and in our respective groove thangs, when we shake them drunkenly as wedding receptions, completely sober in the mirror, or hum along nonchalantly as we walk down the street.


Un.Wind With This

S pirited

O rchestra

U tters

L yrical

U ndulations;

N oting in

W himsical

I ntonations as

N atural as

D ancing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You & Me & A Flame Make Three

I've never felt heroin's opiate effect hurtle through my bloodstream, but I have come close.

Like many mortals I've fallen deep into the throes of love's heady, kaleidoscopic embrace, and I've also faced it's all too vulgar final gesture: a strident middle finger poking sharply into the middle of my heart, leaving an ache worse than the white hot flame of tonsilitis, and longer lasting than a savage kick in the shin -- *without* a shin guard.

Maybe because I've witnessed love in my own life shape shift from something astonishing to something similar to, say, flesh eating bacteria (love gone sour does eat away at striated muscle tissue, doesn't it? Metaphorically? Kinda?), I can appreciate love songs on both extremes of the love song continuum (one end being heroin-like euphoria and the other end an acute, radiating hurt caused by a heart that's curled inward for protection).

These days I have no room for love songs that address subcutaneous pain and fog-engulfing anguish, or tortured metaphors/metaphors of torture. That is so summer of '08.

These days I'm struck, really struck, by love songs that celebrate the quiet thrills of having crossed paths with someone who makes you want to brush your hair more than usual, and buy mouthwash in containers labeled "family-size".

No need for troubadour-like outpourings, or a roomful of prized roses, and absolutely no vials of blood dangling pendant-style in loud proclamation. Just a simple string of words accompanied by a melody, and the acknowledgment that you and me are a "we"...and that's just how it's supposed to be.