Monday, May 30, 2005

Running to stand still

I went for a good long run this morning -- probably about 4 miles, based on the number of songs I listened to (12) and the pace at which I run (slowly). It was perfect running weather for me -- not too warm, with a very cool breeze off the ocean. And I've been running on the treadmill for so long now that the occasional outdoors run makes me feel like a superhero. It's supposed to be the other way around -- running outside is full of hills, variations in the pavement, cars crossing your path and (if you're me) a woman dangling a half-eaten whoopie pie under your nose, so theoretically it takes more stamina than the ceaseless drone of the treadmill.

But it's precisely those variations that make running outside so much easier for me. With so much to look at -- ok, it's mostly houses, but they're big, expensive waterfront houses, which are endlessly fascinating -- I can run much longer than I can on the treadmill at the gym, where the crossbar in the window pane is precisely at eye level and the motion of running makes it seem to jump with every step. Not to mention the boredom. Even with the best, most perfect music piped loud right into my brain, my treadmill runs are an exercise in mental trickery: I'll run for three more songs. I'll run until the woman on the elliptical is done. I'll run until... oh what the hell, I'll quit now.

The good thing about running outside, though, is that you have to get home somehow, and especially when it's a bit chilly, it's a lot quicker to get home by running, no matter how slowly.

All of this is prelude to my angst about the 10k I am theoretically training for. It's a big race -- started by Olympic marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, with a field of 5,000, including some very famous Kenyans. Tons of people in the area run it, and it's a bit of a badge of honor to do so.

I ran it for the first time two years ago, which was a pretty big deal. I ran a 5k -- my first race ever, unless you count 7th grade track -- that June, after strictly following a training schedule I clipped out of Cooking Light. I did the same for the 10k that August. I was terrified about not being able to finish, so I took my training very seriously and did pretty well.

Last summer, I got a little cocky. I knew I was capable of finishing, even if I wasn't in tip-top shape. So I trained, but somewhat haphazardly. I didn't push myself to go out on hot days, and I didn't do well at all about racking up three to four runs a week. And when I ran the race on a muggy morning, it was not fun. I don't do well with humidity in the first place, so that, combined with lackluster training, made for a painful morning.

This year isn't shaping up much better, today's 4-miler notwithstanding. I've been averaging one to two runs a week, most of them wimpy, 2.5-milers on the treadmill. The race is exactly 10 weeks from yesterday -- which means it's time for me to get serious. I just dug out Running for Women, Samuelson's book, which includes a 10k training schedule for a novice runner. It's an 8-week program that starts out at 12 miles a week... meaning I need to be doing at least three solid runs a week in order even to be ready to start training.

So, today's task: Using ye olde iPod to make some good running mixes. I've been using shuffle within the alternative/punk category, which has yielded some decent mixes, but I need to be more strategic about this. Good thing I finally bought Nevermind on iTunes last week...

As an addendum, here's this morning's soundtrack:
1. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day, American Idiot
2. "Happy Town," The Replacements, All Shook Down
3. "Fantastic Planet of Love," Marshall Crenshaw, Life's Too Short
4. "Sinners and Their Repentance," Bob Mould, Workbook
5. "Spark," The Church, Starfish
6. "Cooksferry Queen," Richard Thompson, Live at the World Cafe, Vol. 10
7. "Someplace Where Love Can't Find Me," Marshall Crenshaw, Good Evening
8. (skipped) "Lost," The Church, Starfish
9. (skipped) "Don't Disappear Now," Marshall Crenshaw, Life's Too Short
10. "Johnny Sunshine," Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
11. "Lightnin' Hopkins," R.E.M., Document
12. "Gin," Amy Correia, Carnival Love
13. "House We Used to Live In," The Smithereens, Blown to Smithereens
14. "Lonely Lane," Hothouse Flowers, People

Sunday, May 29, 2005


I was feeling glum earlier tonight, for no reason other than that it's Sunday evening, the rain has returned, I spent too much time on the couch reading the paper and... that's about it, really. It was an all-purpose, non-specific kind of melancholy, which I was planning to solve by perusing the contents of some interesting blogrolls and eating the insanely sweet Ghiradelli brownies I made last night.

Then our friend D. called from the hospital, where he and B. have been with their 16-month-old son since Wednesday. It's been a tough couple of years for them; the baby was born seven weeks prematurely after a very difficult pregnancy, D. left a few weeks later when his National Guard unit was called up to serve in a war he didn't support, he spent a year in Iraq, came home safely in March, B. had an emergency gallbladder-ectomy and, now, this. The baby has had two surgeries in the last three days, both to correct a bacterial abcess in his throat.

We'd been trying to get over to the hospital to see them for a few days, but every time we'd call, the baby would have taken a turn for the worse, or was headed into surgery. So tonight when D. called, we dropped everything and ran over to see them. B.'s mom smuggled us into the children's wing after visiting hours, telling the nurses that we're the baby's aunt and uncle -- "And it's not a lie," she said. (D. and Darren grew up together; they've been best friends since they were five, and were the best man in each other's wedding.)

It was heartbreaking to see them. This sweet boy is now rasping like an old man, and has his entire right arm wrapped in a velcro tube to keep him from tugging on his bandages. D. and B. look gaunt, worried and exhausted. It's been so much for them to deal with in such a short time -- D. has only been back for two months, and both his wife and his son have been hospitalized during that time -- and the upheaval is clearly wearing on them. In the long run, things should be fine; there is no serious concern about the boy, but in the short term it's an awful lot to handle.

So my nameless navel-gazing self-pity has been postponed for another day; instead, I sit here and count my blessings.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Note to Blogger users

Hey, I am trying to create a sidebar thingy in which I can post thumbnails of album/book covers for a wee "Listening to/reading" section. I know not the HTML, but I figured out how to make hyperlinks in that column earlier tonight. If anybody who knows how to do this wants to send me instructions and/or code, I would be ever so grateful.

Back to the gender wars

Well, perhaps wars is overstating it. I'm just a bit astounded at how, without even meaning to, I've fallen into casual, small-talk chats twice today that ended up with women (including me) shaking their heads in amazement about things done by those wacky guys we love. I hate those conversations, in which we women are arrayed against the forces of those men, and we are uniform in our judgment of them.

Perhaps it's time for an example: This morning, I had a meeting at a big law firm. (About which I won't say more for fear of being dooced.) As I was waiting for the folks I was meeting to arrive, I chatted with the receptionist. In case you don't follow New England weather, the truly miserable weather of the last few weeks has become the default topic of many of us here in the hinterlands. Rainy and cold -- ugh. So anyway, the receptionist and I chatted away about the forecast and its implications for gardening and the painting of my garage. I was trying to read the giant Newsweek apologia about the debacle of last week, but the receptionist kept chatting, so I continued throwing out half-thought-out responses. The conversation went something like this:

Receptionist: I haven't been able to get a thing done outside at my house this spring.

MC: Me neither. We've been trying to paint our garage ever since it warmed up, but every weekend has been lousy.

R: Oh, that's no fun.

MC: Definitely not. Although my husband probably doesn't mind it, especially if the Sox are playing someplace sunny.

R (with knowing glance): Oh, I bet he's praying for rain on the weekend.

MC (trying to read): Yeah, I bet he is.

R: He wants to watch baseball, you want to get things done. Aren't men funny?

MC (huh? Newsweek has previously based entire articles on nothing more than "sources said"?) Mmm hmmm.

R: It's always the same -- the battle of the sexes.

MC (what the hell????): Umm, I guess so.

And, at that, my meeting began... and two women and I ended up making small talk before the fourth attendee -- a man -- arrived. I only know them in a work context, and only vaguely at that, so we tend to chat about harmless, very stereotypical topics like Shoveling Snow. Or Dealing With In-Laws. Or Going on Vacation. And so within about five minutes, we'd circled around from the weather to movies to the latest Star Wars, at which point we began discussing how glad we were that our respective husbands found friends to accompany them to the movie, and what we did instead.

"I stayed home and read magazines," I said. Which was true. But egads, how I hated being one of those women, who isn't interested in scifi movies (although I loved Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) and who lounges on the couch with small fluffy dogs rather than accompanying her husband on manly outings. Just as I hated commiserating with the receptionist about those wacky men and their love of baseball.

What's next? A giant shopping trip, in which we rhapsodize over shoes? A group pedicure session during which we talk about other women behind their backs? A few hours watching Oprah and plucking our eyebrows??

I feel like I'm not being particularly eloquent here, but what I'm trying to say is that it makes me uncomfortable when my life and significant relationship -- which I tend to think of as egalitarian, modern and (most importantly) right for me and Darren -- fits smoothly into those age-old stereotypes. And it really irritates me how easy it is to retreat into those worn tropes: "Men are juvenile and can't be trusted with anything, women accomplish things and plan ahead." Resistance isn't futile, is it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Gourmet Monday

After the paella affair of Saturday night, it was nice to be invited over to someone else's house for a fancy dinner. The occasion? Why, the season finale of The O.C., of course. My co-worker T. is as big a fan of this pile of soap suds as I am, and he arranged for a good friend of his (with a GIANT plasma TV) to Tivo the last two episodes so we could all watch them together.

I only really know our host through friends, but Portland is small enough that we've met, personally and professionally, a bunch of times. I knew he was a graphic designer and all, but holy cow -- his apartment was a temple of modernity. Dinner was served on rectangular white plates, with each item placed separately -- from left, seared spinach and garlic, smashed potatoes, seared lamb and roasted red onions. It tasted fabulous and looked amazing.

The thought of plating food like that never occurs to me -- I'm all about family style, about asking people to wander into the kitchen and rummage through the cabinets to find the right glass for the wine, which, when they open it, could they pour me one, too? So to be a guest at a home like this -- gorgeous and comfortable, and oh-so-chic -- was relaxing, if a bit formal. Dessert, for crying out loud, was individual tartes tatin. On a Monday. For The O.C.

Our host said we didn't need to bring anything. So we stopped at the corner store to get a bottle of wine. I used to think that our corner store had a good little selection of wine, but that was before I started reading Meg's site. Now that I pay more attention, I notice that they mostly stock the big California and Australia vineyards -- the same stuff I can get at the grocery store and that, if I really taste it, just isn't that good. But we were running late, and so I stopped in and hunted for something that looked vaguely interesting. (I don't pretend at all to know how to pick out good wine, though there are a couple places in town whose judgment I trust, not least because they're always finding tasty wine bargains. So, yes, I'm the worst kind of snob -- the uneducated kind.)

I can't tell you exactly what I picked out, but it was a $10 pinot from California, which I thought would be good with the lamb. I figured that at least it wasn't as recognizeable as Jacob's Creek or Rosemount, and that maybe it'd be ok. To my surprise, it was the fanciest and best wine of the evening. Our host served us Yellowtail, of all things. It seemed so incongruous -- the fabulous house, the impeccable meal, and then the purely mediocre wine. And it cracked me up that I was the wine snob of the evening. Ha. Meg, I think this is all your fault.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Post-paella ponderings

Four people. Two dogs. Three kinds of appetizers. One large pot of paella. And four bottles of wine. So, yeah, we did exactly what we planned last night: Got sloshed and made paella. (And then I apparently thought it was a good idea to sit at the computer for a while and ramble incoherently over at Phantom Scribbler's place about the base closures.)

The evening's festivities did necessitate a 4 a.m. Advil and glass of water, and I'm pretty sure that a nap is in order since I've already been awake for, ye gods, nearly two hours. Other than that, though, there was no serious fallout from so much wine. We started out with three bottles, two Spanish reds we'd given H. and J. as thanks for watching our pooches when we went to D.C. a couple weeks ago, and one Spanish white I bought from the fabulous neighborhood bakery/wine shop yesterday morning. We'd finished the two reds about 10 minutes into dinner (the prep/appetizer/chatting took a while), then polished off the white while we sat at the table talking about class and college -- the kind of discussion that seems to be going on a lot these days. (If I could remember anything that was said, I'd post about it... perhaps it'll come back to me as the day goes on.)

Before dessert -- some amazing bittersweet chocolate souffles, also from the fabulous neighborhood bakery/wine shop -- we gathered coats to walk up to the corner store for another bottle, opened the door, discovered it was raining (as it will be for the next 40 days and 40 nights) and turned around... except for Darren, who (perhaps inadvisedly) drove the six blocks to acquire some California chardonnay. Then we drained that, too.

As for the paella itself: It turned out incredibly well, and it wasn't difficult at all. The worst part was deveining the shrimp, a task I loathe. I used a Cook's Illustrated recipe, which was, of course, perfect; main ingredients were chicken thighs, chorizo, shrimp and mussels, plus some red pepper and peas. I even pulled off the creation of soccarat, the toasty, browned rice that forms along the bottom of the pan and is the "hallmark of authentic paella," according to the magazine.

On the agenda for today: the Times, a nap, a trip to the grocery store (which Darren has volunteered to make, thank gawd). Then, at 3 pm, a few friends are coming over for what was planned as a long walk around the neighborhood, followed by snacks and drinks. Given the lousy weather, I suspect we'll just be doing the mid-afternoon drinking, something I can't particularly imagine at the moment. But, never fear, I'll rally to the task.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Construction ahead

Today was a big day in our house: We met with a contractor about our ghetto-chic bathroom this afternoon. He's one of three we have scheduled meetings with over the next week, via a handy contractor referral service we heard about from a friend. Today's contractor is the one who did work for our friend J., and we liked him a lot. Yes, we spent 45 minutes crammed in the bathroom listening to tales of real estate won and lost, but he had great ideas on what to do in our little corner of hell and there was nothing about him that skeeved me out. And, really, what more could you want in a contractor?

I don't have any photos of its current state, but rest assured: It's bad. Sky-blue fixtures, two kinds of (non-matching) vinyl tile, a tub surround that sticks out an inch past the wall... you name it. (And unlike Meg and her guy, we don't have the chutzpah, or the skillz, to do it ourselves.) Our plan is to pretty much gut it and start over, and this guy had some really good thoughts on what to do so. A lot in our house is jury-rigged -- jerry-rigged? I'm never sure what the correct cliche is... I suspect it's "jerry" as a slam toward the Irish -- and this guy figured out a way to fix, for example, the way our window frame nudges into the bathtub surround. He'll give us an estimate over the next week sometime.

In the meantime, I ought to start looking into a home equity line of credit, the career requirements for high-end call girls or some other way to acquire the necessary funds.

Food news: Tonight, we are attempting our first-ever paella. I spent a fun 90 minutes this morning buying provisions at our local wine shop/bakery, the international grocer who specializes in spices, and the very nice fish market. Oh, and I went to Wild Oats for a $4 red pepper and some thighs of organic chickens who'd apparently listened to opera and read Freud before they ended up wrapped in plastic and resting in a yellow styrofoam container. Some friends are coming over with more wine, appetizers and dessert, and we're all going to get sloshed as we try to make paella. Which, as I understand it, isn't really that difficult anyway.

Full report to come tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Once more on the iPod

Back to MC's amazing technological discoveries: Yesterday, in a noontime fit of despair brought on by the malevolent chiropractor, I visited my friendly neighborhood Target, whereupon I finally bought iTrip, which is a shortwave radio doohickey that allows you to play your iPod through your car stereo without benefit of wires, rabbit ears or aluminum foil.

I don't know why this amazes me, but it does. After a few mishaps - battery's dead, preset radio station doesn't work, etc. -- we fired it up on the way out for hippie pizza tonight and it was awesome. In one, 15-minute trip in my 15-year-old Honda, we got to hear Liz Phair, REM, G. Love and Bob Mould -- something my old cassette player never coulda spun up.

This means no more car trips with a boom box with external CD player and a mess of jewelboxes on the passenger seat. No more whining about my inability to hear any albums made after 1994 -- which apparently is when I gave up dubbing CDs onto cassette -- in the car. Instead, I can whine about my old-school iPod's lousy battery life... in a vehicle without a working cigarette lighter! Woohoo!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The chiropractor was wrong

Lately, my hip/lower back has been bugging me. Nothing majorly painful -- it just feels wonky and crooked. My massage therapist volunteered that she thought I was out of alignment, and gave me a coupon for a free visit/evaluation with her favorite chiropractor. I'm a fan of chiropractic in general, in part because my family goes to a fabulous chiropractor who is all about getting you functional, and not at all into "you must get adjusted every week for the rest of your life." She's so great that she was invited to my wedding -- and she came.

So off I went to the office, which was fairly New Agey, with tinkly waterfalls, a Thought of the Day that involved the importance of chiropractic care for your whole life and a ton of children in the office, waiting to be adjusted. Which freaked me out. But the actual doctor was very nice, and chatted with me about my physical discomfort as she went over my medical history. When she got to the part on the form where it says "are you pregnant?" I'd written in "possibly."

"Oh," she said, "I wondered since you sat down if that might be the case."

"Well, my hip has been bothering me for a month," I said, "so I doubt that's the problem. And besides, I just ovulated a few days ago."

"You never know," she said. "I'm pretty good at this. I sense a little soul hanging around."

Oooookay, I thought. Whatever, crazy lady.

Despite my misgivings, I liked her, so I stuck around for the rest of the evaluation, and came back a few days later for the very official Report of Findings, in which the second doctor told me that they'd like to see me four times a week for two weeks, then three times a week for the next sixteen weeks, then a few times after that. What with my running and a possible pregnancy, that was the plan they recommended. A total of 60 visits, over five months, for a total of $1,500+, payable upfront if I wanted the whole discount.

I had the first adjustment that day, and came home and thought about it. I liked the women, both doctors, and I was intrigued by the fact that they both had this sense that I was pregnant, without any evidence to back it up. But the more I thought about it, the sketchier I thought it was. And, as Darren pointed out, so what if they were right about the pregnancy -- it's a 50-50 chance, right?

So I called over the weekend and cancelled, and in the meantime made an appointment with a chiropractor recommended by a friend, who will crack my back and get me back in gear without all this nonsense of 60 visits (and she takes my insurance, which the other folks didn't, because they don't believe in corporations having influence on individual health care. A lovely sentiment, but reality? Not so much). And all along I suspected they might be right, that I was pregnant. My boobs were sore and heavy, a PMS symptom from which I am usually immune.

I came home from work on Tuesday to hear a message from the first doctor, who said that, upon second thought, maybe they didn't need to see me all that often. Maybe a lighter schedule could still help me out, and "reduce the financial burden." Right.

A day later, I started spotting. And was hopeful it was implantation bleeding. Which, it became apparent, it was not.

So that is a bummer. But what makes me even more upset is how goddamn optimistic those ridiculous women were to even hint that they knew, that they were sure I was pregnant. We haven't been trying for all that long -- about seven or eight months -- but I've read enough infertility blogs to know just how common comments like those are. And I realized that I had believed them -- and I was happy about it. Which made it all the more sad when they were wrong.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Walking under ladders

Today at lunch I committed the conversational equivalent of walking under a ladder or seeing a black cat: My boss asked me what's going well in my department, and I reeled off a long list that included each of my employees. She asked me what's challenging, and in what ways she could be of assistance (this was not the average monthly meeting... I'm not sure what got into her) -- anyway, I couldn't come up with anything. "Things are great," I said. "Everything's running smoothly."

Fast forward an hour, to my monthly meeting with a part-time, extremely conscientious and responsible employee who plays a crucial role in compiling four of our (most annoying and tedious) special publications. "I have something I need to tell you before we start," she says. In the split second before she goes on, I think, "She's pregnant." But of course she's not.

She's quitting.

Luckily for me, she's giving about six weeks notice and is staying to complete a very large and important publication, and then one more week to train her replacement. And my boss has already drafted the help wanted ad, which we will post tomorrow. But still. My newest employee came on about two months ago; she's just gotten into the swing of things and is picking up her full workload. And now I need to start the whole process - the screening of resumes, the interviewing, the conferring, etc., etc. - all over again. Oy. (With a staff of just 3.5 people in my department, hiring even one is a huge drain on time and energy. Thus all my angst.)

The odd thing is that this person is leaving to pursue a master's in education... which is exactly why we hired her in the first place, because her predecessor left to do exactly the same thing at exactly the same school. I can't picture either of them as teachers, but that's beside the point. All I know is that flippin' university better keep its hands off my next hire.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

In the dressing room

Although you wouldn't know that summer is approaching from this miserable weather - it is mid-May and I am wearing a wool sweater- I decided to start the Great Bathing Suit Search yesterday. Actually, that's a lie - I started it a few weeks ago, when I saw a bikini in a catalog that I thought might actually be flattering. Boy was I wrong.

For the last several years, I've worn my trusty tankini. It's a solid ocean blue, and there's nothing fancy about it. But it fits well, is pretty comfortable and won't frighten anyone. I keep meaning to replace it - or at least get it a companion, so that when it hits the dust I'll have a backup - but in the last few years I just couldn't summon up the energy to try on 87 bathing suits before finding one that's marginally acceptable.

Thus my catalog order. I tried the same, mostly dowdy, catalog from which I'd gotten the tankini, to no avail. The suit was pink with what looked like black trim online, and it had the advantage of a regular bikini bottom, plus a little coverup skirt. But when it arrived, the trim was dark blue, the pink was really pink and the fit... was not great. (Darren loved it, but then again I think he was just happy to see my skin after this insanely long winter.)

So off I went yesterday to the dreaded mall area. I started at Target, from whence I needed contact lens solution. I foolishly decided to try a few suits there, reasoning that if I only spent $30, so what if it fell apart by the end of the summer? However, el cheapo suits are not particularly flattering to my 32-year-old, relatively fit (but still with a little poochy belly) body. (I did pick up a very cute button-down shirt, turquoise with 3/4-length sleeves, though.)

Then it was on to Macy's, where in a fit of extreme sadism they put the bathing suits next to the prom dresses. Because standing in those dreadful mirrors next to 16-year-old girls is exactly what I needed... To make a long story short, though, I ended up with a very nice tankini - sort of a plum color with a pink halter tie. For which I spent eighty dollars. I got sucked into shopping brain yesterday and didn't really think about the fact that every suit I tried on was over $70. Oh well. I tried it on again today, and I am pretty pleased with it. And even though it shows less skin than the failed bikini, Darren was surprised to agree that it does look better.

The best part of the whole experience, though, was eavesdropping on the prom girls. Some of them came with friends, others brought mom or grandma. One girl wailed about the fact that the dress looked so lovely on the hanger and so lousy on her body. Every woman in the place commiserated with her. I've been doing some research for a potential freelance story about websites that offer custom-designed clothes for your actual body - rather than some guy's vision of what shape a size eight woman is - and am convinced that's the way to go. Now if only I could get those What Not to Wear folks to come along and tell me what styles to get....

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Alone time

Back when I first moved to Maine, Darren worked Tuesday through Saturday. I was finishing grad school and working a couple part-time jobs, so my schedule was typically Monday through Friday. I had a conflicted relationship with those Saturdays alone. On the one hand, I was a little lonely -- didn't really have friends of my own here, and got irritated that I ended up doing a lot of the domestic work, simply because that's my natural inclination on a Saturday morning. And it definitely limited our weekend travel options to have only one day off in common.

On the other hand, I got to spend an entire day by myself, listening to music, poking around, doing whatever I wanted. I'd often spend my afternoons on the couch, drinking a Coke and reading magazines with greasy fingers from my bowl of popcorn. By the time Darren got home, I'd be ready to chat, launch into a big cooking project or go out.

Ironically, in the early days, a lot of our fights were precipitated by too much togetherness. I was really (over-)protective of my identity as an individual, rather than just half of a couple, and I was ferocious about protecting time for myself -- even if I spent it balancing the checkbook. I'd get irritable without several hours of alone time and pick dumb arguments (the one about salsa was an all-time high point...). I made it a point to do things by myself, or even to throw him out of the apartment so I could turn up the music and just be here alone.

Several years ago, Darren's schedule switched to Monday-Friday. Then we bought the house, and spent endless weekends working on projects around here. We went through another period when we spent a lot of time in the house at the same time, but not really doing things together. So we worked on that, and have gotten a lot better about intentionally spending time together, which we do a lot now. By and large, our relationship is solid and trouble free (or, as my mom puts it, "blissfully happy").

Today, though, he had to work from 7 am to 1 pm, and I'm reminded of what a treat it is to spend several hours in silence. I haven't done anything remotely exciting -- walked the dog, bought the papers, made some oatmeal and listened to World Cafe before sitting down to alternately edit a story/screw around at the computer -- but it has been incredibly enjoyable. The music is exactly as loud as I like it, I'm spending hours at the computer without the least feeling of guilt and it's quiet. I'm looking forward to his return in a few hours... but it's been really nice to be here alone. With Darren's whiffleball/kayaking season approaching, those opportunities should be increasing... I just need to remember to take advantage of them.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Staying out late

Back in the day, I was a big fan of rock shows in clubs. I spent much of my early 20s sucking down cheap beers and hollering at loud bands. I moshed quite a bit, and even dated a guitarist here and there. Then, as I got older, my tastes turned more toward folk, and the venues got subdued along with the guitars. The last several concerts I've attended have been held in theaters or those New England church basements that somehow turn into music venues. Great for acoustics, but not so good for the image of oneself as a hip, of-the-moment person.

Last night, S. and I took a little trip in my personal time machine when we saw Kathleen Edwards, a 26-year-old Canadian singer/guitarist/hot chick; you may have heard her latest single, "Back to Me," or "Six O'Clock News," the breakout single from her first album, Failer. (That is, you may have heard them if you live in a city with a great public radio station like WFUV or WXPN... or if you are lucky enough to actually have a commercial radio station that has found money to be made in playing real music by grownups (with the occasional detour into lots and lots of Jackson Browne.))

The show, which was held at a gen-yoo-wine rock club, was scheduled for a 9 pm start, which meant that we had a chance to stand around drinking beer in red plastic cups for an hour after that, until 10 pm when the opening act, Mary Gauthier, came on stage. (The less said about her, the better.)

Kathleen Edwards finally came on around 11:15 or 11:30, with a full band, and played a rocking hour-plus set. Her voice is incredible - husky and sweet. Her first album was folky, depressed and beautiful. The second, which came out a month or so ago, rocks a little harder, though it's still got songs about drunk people ending up in jail and relationships that fail in varied ugly ways.

One curious thing: "Six O'Clock News" is a really catchy tune, with a great chorus. But the lyrics are about a guy with a gun who takes some people hostage; it's sung from the point of view of his girlfriend, who tells him in the song that she's pregnant. By the end, he's laying in the street bleeding to death. (You've got to believe me about the catchy, hummable part.) It's her biggest hit, as these things go, and she played it second, rather than saving it for an encore, which I completely respect. But there were a bunch of women bopping in front of the stage, holding their Bud Lights in one hand and raising the roof with the other... which just seemed incongruous for a song about hostage-taking and death. Made me curious about what the artist thinks in a situation like that. She's gotta be happy that people like her song -- and, anyway, she's the one who paired grim lyrics with a pop hook.

In any case, I came home with my ears ringing and a smile on my face. (Kinda reminded me of the Wilco show last summer, which had led me to swear not to forget that I love loud music and a really great show.) Darren had stayed up to wait for me, so it was almost 2 before we got to bed. Woke up at 9:30 with a splitting headache, and the realization that I go out so rarely that I forgot that loud music, a couple beers and a late night create a more dismal (though also more easily cured) hangover than a tequila bender in the safety of one's own home.

Anyway, as a postscript to all that hipness, I sold back a bunch of CDs this afternoon and bought myself a few new ones:
~Aimee Mann's new one, The Forgotten Arm
~Beck's new one, Guero
~A collection of Nick Drake tunes, A Treasury, which, after having noticed the Amazon ratings, might have been a mistake. Oh well -- that was the wild card of the bunch anyway.

Next week, we've got tickets to see Ellis Paul at a much more sedate venue. So much for the glory days.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Old friends...

(while reading this, hum the Simon & Garfunkel song, treacly instrumentation and all)

It's too late on a Monday to be anywhere other than bed, but I've got to jot down - if only to remind myself in weeks to come - how amazing and restorative and FUN it is to spend time with really close long-time friends. I spent 24 hours in evil Connecticut with S. and R. over the weekend; we ate and drank wine and talked and drank wine and talked and drank wine... and then drank coffee... and it was wonderful. They remind me that when I am feeling crazy and mixed up and alone that I may be crazy and mixed up, but I'm definitely not alone.

Ahem. This is getting a little sappy.

Anyway, after a week of frantic travel and very busy days, I was not looking forward to driving 200 miles to Hartford and back. But my quick trip away sent me home relaxed and content. I figured out (yet again) why I think we want to have kids; I'm not sure why I feel the need to continually analyze my thoughts on this topic, but it's been my fate recently. And I came home feeling calm about it - knowing, for example, that the smushy cuteness of our pooches is only a fraction of what we'd love about kids.

To my lurking friends S. and R., thank you. I needed this get-together more than any of us knew, and I hope it was as fun and enlightening and relaxing for you as it was for me. You guys rock.