you are the best one, of the best ones

Today was good, and bad, and strange, and a little sad, and sort of lonely. Birthdays reinforce feelings of affection and also of isolation. I suppose it mostly means that I'm spoiled with love and have too much time to wander around my brain looking for things about which to be sensitive.

This song ("Stolen" by Dashboard Confessional) has been running through my head most of the day...

...interspersed with the jingling of my phone and absolutely nonstop work for most of it.

It's weird to feel both lonely and overwhelmed by people, all at once.

It's wonderful to hear from a huge bunch of people, lots of whom are basically out of touch most of the time, wishing me a good day.

Birthdays are strange.

[the title quotation is from "Stolen"]


he made her feel like more than the sum of her parts

  • Have you ever played a practical joke on anyone? would I do that?
  • Have you ever been the recipient of a practical joke? only in the Karmic sense
  • Do you prefer towel drying, blow drying or natural drying your hair? generally, it's some combination of towel- and natural (air) drying. I abhor blowdryers and use them as rarely as possible.
  • Can you curl your tongue? I can! It's a delightful, useless trick that I think is a wonderful quirk of humanity.
  • What's the cleverest word you know? that would have to depend upon the situation, wouldn't it? I don't love cleverness for its own sake.
  • What's your favourite type of fish? African cichlids
  • How tall is the tallest person you know? 6' 7", I believe? Somewhere around there.
  • Have you ever got lost in a maze? no, but I would love to have one someday - something like this:
  • Have you ever been attacked by a wild animal? no, but I spent a decent part of the past week teasing my great-smelling coworker about being eaten by a bear on his Canadian fishing vacation. (I really hope it doesn't happen, because I can't fathom how pointlessly responsible I'd feel!)
  • Are you allergic to anything? ricotta cheese and all narcotics
  • Are you ticklish? yes, very
  • Have you ever planted a tree? no, but I plan to. I'm thinking some of those dwarf fruit trees would be fun...
  • What was the last present you received? a shot glass and Van Gogh print - along with a letter that means even more.

[from here and divided; the title quotation is by Rainbow Rowell, from Eleanor & Park]


if, from time to time, you give up expectation, you will be able to perceive what it is you are getting

Does everyone realize at some point that the gifts that they tend to give are some of the very gifts that they prefer to get? Maybe it's just me; I know that I can be thoughtless and selfish in many ways, and this sort of gift-by-my-preference habit fits right in. Or prehaps it's that those to whom I share gifts are a lot like me, and appreciate the same sorts of things that I do.

When I give any of these, you can be fairly certain that I'd have just as much liked to received them.

  • Flowers and plants
  • Music (mix CDs, iTunes gift cards, etc.)
  • Art and photographs
  • Journals, pens, stationery, stamps, mandala coloring books
  • Magnetic poetry (and the Scrabble magnets - so cool!)
  • Books (the paper version, Amazon gift cards, bookstore cards)
  • Jewelry
  • Food (any acknowledged personal favorites)
  • Nail polish
  • Recurring themes (personal gifts that are carried out over time)

What would I like, this year? It's been hard for me to come up with a list, really. What I need (extra funds to pay extra bills, and things for the house) has morphed into what I want, and what I want pales in comparison. Maybe I'm just essentially satisfied now, in a way that could not be the case lately.

I'm sure I'll have a real list at holiday time, after there's been a couple of months to gather up ideas.

[the title quotation is by Idries Shah, from Reflections]


music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering

Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell, 1977
The next in a series--"top ten albums" (see the first one here). As should be apparent, this is nothing I can really finish, only make stabs at when I can.

In 1977, Meat Loaf released the rock-operatic album Bat Out of Hell. It first came strongly to my notice when I was a young adult, working at the grocery store. One of my good friends (Rita the meter maid) was a little older than me, and had a much wider musical taste. I had been listening to the tape in my car for a while when we went on a bus to a Twins game. The store did a lot of stuff like that--paying for the bus and letting as many of us as possible take the day off, providing "pop" and snacks on the bus-ride, and getting reduced-price tickets for the game. (It was a good year for those Twinkies, too.)

On one memorable night, pretty much everybody on the bus was at least a little toasted, if not completely drunk. Someone's boom box was playing, and the song "You Took the Words Right Out of my Mouth" came on. One of the stockboys stood up at the front of the bus to sing Jim Steinman's part, while I stood in the back and sang Marcia McClain's. "On a hot summer night..."

I missed the beginning of the phenomenon that is R.E.M. I was too provincial, or too sheltered, to have discovered it on my own. A friend made a mix tape for me when we were about to graduate from high school. One of the songs was "Superman", from Lifes Rich Pageant (released in 1986). (Yes, there is no apostrophe.) It was one of those watershed songs, a breakthrough time in my musical history. I own every R.E.M. release. Theirs are the first songs I turn to when mixing CDs. If there is any one band that sings the soundtrack of my young adult life, it is R.E.M.

"Trust me when I say I know the pathway to your heart"

Hunters & Collectors. Do you know Hunters & Collectors? If not, you ought to. The band formed in 1981 in Melbourne. Though the lineup has varied over the years, their guitarist/singer/songwriter, Mark Seymour, is a mainstay. I became a fan after my former physical therapist, an Australian tennis player named Wolfgang, introduced me to their music. It is a sort of easy, guitar-strong rock that brings to mind muscle cars, late nights, and wild beach parties. My favorite of their songs is from Human Frailty (1986): "Throw Your Arms Around Me."

"You will make me call your name, and I'll shout it to the blue summer sky..."

1988 was a pivotal year for me. High school graduation, the start of college, and a whole lot of associated drama and excitement. There are a whole lot of songs that take me right back to that time and place and boatload of feelings, but maybe none so much as Journey's "Ask the Lonely (from Greatest Hits). There's something so earnest and rocked out and strong and emotional about it.

Of course it helps that it was sung by Steve Perry, who is the voice of Journey for me.

"You know, with every heartbeat, we love.
Nothing comes easy..."

I was a sophomore in college when I met my future roommate, Christine. She took a job in the same campus office in which I'd been working for the past year already. We were friends but not really really close. Somewhere along the line, though, we decided to get an apartment together for junior year. One thing led to another which led to another, and we looked for a place for three (with the addition of my very good friend Mike), and then we ended up with another (Christopher, a.k.a. Dickhead) when our landlords executed a clever bit of manipulation.

The point is that Chris and I became much better friends over that period, to the point that she invited me out to stay at her parents' place for a long weekend. Part of the rationale was that our favorite band--Depeche Mode--was playing at Summerfest (opened by Nitzer Ebb, a dirty little music secret I hold to this day). Their terrific album Violator had just come out (this was 1990) and we just couldn't get enough. My favorite song then, and still, is "Sweetest Perfection."

"Takes me completely
Touches me sweetly
Reaches so deeply..."

1996 was a rough year for me. I mean, the worst of my life so far. Financial problems, housing problems, really serious health problems, depression, anxiety, school problems...it was all there. I look back that that period in my life with regret (so many dumb, arrogant, short-sighted choices!), and fear (if I was there once, I could be there again), and a whole lot of wonder and pride (there's no way through it but through it, and it helped make me who I am).

It was also the start of my tentative edging back to the music of my roots, the true country upon which I'd been raised. I started listening, here and there, to some Johnny Cash and some Willie Nelson, and learned about some newer acts along those same veins. One of them was Clint Black. I bought his album The Greatest Hits, and was blown away by the song "Like the Rain."

My best guy friend in Michigan was my boss, Andy. We were good friends when we worked together, and even closer after he left, and then I did, too. We had similar tastes and sensibilities, despite having grown up in quite different ways. It was hard to leave him when we moved to Illinois after finishing grad school.

We remained friends, though. We'd call periodically, and email, and visited a couple of times, too. I will never forget one call. I had just gotten out of the shower - like, I didn't take the time to dry off, just ran for the phone - and spent at least two hours wrapped in a damp towel, sitting on the floor between the bed and the wall next to the window, talking and laughing and missing him like crazy. During that conversation, he was very excited to tell me about a new song that he couldn't stop listening to. It was called "Barely Breathing", from Duncan Sheik's debut album, Duncan Sheik (1998).

"Will it ever change?"

I've always loved the band Live. Ed Kowalczyk fascinated me from the first (see, e.g., these posts).  When The Distance to Here came out in 1999, I bought it full-price from Best Buy, which should indicate how serious was my affection. My favorite song from the album is "Dance With You," which combines a rare lyricism with Kowalczyk's trademark soul. I could listen to this song twice a day, every day, and never get tired of it.

"the stillness in your eyes
convinces me that I -
I don't know a thing"

I recently took a FB quiz, surprisingly long and involved, to find the song that's essentially "me". The result? "Hey There, Delilah" by Plain White T's (from 2005's All That We Needed). I was surprised because it's nothing I'd ever known anything about before, but careful listening and lyrical analysis makes me realize: it's a great fit.

"Don't you worry about the distance;
I'm right there if you get lonely.
Give this song another listen--
Close your eyes,
Listen to my voice; it's my disguise.
I'm by your side."

Bonus: three television shows with the best obscure music

Criminal Minds, including:
"My Side of the Story" by Hodges (two episodes in Season 5)
"Let It Be Me" by Ray LaMontagne (Season 6 & Season 8)
"As It Seems" by Lily Kershaw (Season 6 & Season 7)
"Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright (Season 7)
"Precious Stone" by JR Richards feat. Jason Kolter (season 9)

ReGenesis, including:
Stirling's "Turn Up the Dark" (Season 2)
Dala's "Butterfly to Wasp" (Season 2)

Flashpoint, including:
"Fortress" by Dala (Season 1)
"Lost at Sea" by Hugh Dillon (Season 1)
"Weightless" by Black Lab (Season 2)
"All Roads Lead Home" by Golden State (Season 3)
"Clearwater" by JR Richards (season 4)

[the title quotation is by Haruki Murakami, from Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World]


yet one arrives somehow

And yet one arrives somehow,
finds himself loosening the hooks of
her dress
in a strange bedroom--
feels the autumn
dropping its silk and linen leaves
about her ankles.
The tawdry veined body emerges
twisted upon itself
like a winter wind...!

[William Carlos Williams, 'Arrival']


you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks

I'm thinking too much about door locks and window seals and winterizing a sandpoint well. The progression of obsessions is not surprising--moving from finding a house to caring for it--but I'd dearly love for it all to just shut off for a while. Like, maybe until the financing is approved and I'm certain that this will happen after all!

The Mag-pie, stretching

Work has been a little odd lately. I think I'm dancing right on the edge of the dress code, which for me means my pants have been a little less "dress" and more "business casual"--though I tend to wear more professional blouses to compensate. I have gotten a couple of "Erk?" looks from supervisors in the area, so I won't be surprised if one of them puts the hammer down. It's been a good, comfortable run, anyway.

"it's been awhile
Since I've seen the way 
the candles light your face,
And it's been awhile..."

I finally finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and then digested it for at least a week before trying to review it. It's such a strange book!

An excerpt from my review:
I wanted to like this book. I wanted to be transformed by the simple, yet life-changing magic of tidying. I wanted to be swept away by the bliss of envisioning, and then living, the life I've always imagined, surrounded by all and only joy-bringing things.

I also kind of wanted to hate this book. I wanted to be so offended and dismayed by the arrogance and xenophobia of the author that I couldn't read one more line. I wanted to throw the book at the wall in disgust.

Spackle, stretching

My attention span is hummingbirdesque. Eensy. Wittle.

"You got a kazoo?
Man, this is crappy."

I don't even like superhero stuff, but that's pretty awesome.

Sister Magnatron, requesting a snack

Tomorrow (barring anything unforeseen taking my time away before then), I shall post the annual Birthday Gimme List. I know you'all are dying for it.

[the title quotation is by Sir Winston Churchill]


love is, above all, the gift of oneself

  1. You and two friends are out to dinner when a woman walks up to you and says, "My husband and I have a disagreement and we'd like you to decide who is right." She explains the issue. Both of your friends chime in, giving completely opposite opinions. The decision now rests in your hands. What do you decide?
    A few years ago, I had an occasional 'drinks, meals, and psychodrama' relationship with an attorney. One cold, snowy night in January, we met at a breakfast bar (yes, they actually served breakfast, greasy snacks, and drinks, all day) near his office in the city. We had a number of beverages and some sort of food, and flirt-argued for several hours. At one point, he was talking about his inability (as he termed it, though I would have called it 'refusal') to so much as enter the feminine care products aisle at the store. I responded, "We all have our issues."

    He was immediately affronted. "It's not an issue; it's a

    Um, whatever? I didn't grasp at first that this was going to be A Thing. "What's the difference?"

    It turned into A Big Thing. After a few moments, we were hurling invective about misogyny, lack of imagination, arrogance, small minds, fatal stubbornness, and any other weapons we could find. We were starting to be the subject of not a little conversation by other patrons of the establishment. Finally, a younger guy (not much more than 21, I would guess?) walked past the booth. My companion caught his attention. "Hey, can you settle something for us?" The guy looked like he'd rather be anywhere other than right there.

    "Um, sure--I can try. First, though, tell me how long you two have been married."

    We looked at each other, speechless. We are
    so not married.

    "Oh... kay..., how long have you been dating? A long time?"

    Again, speechless.

    "Uh, this is a date, right? You're on a date?"

    By this point, my face was burning in a deep blush, and he was intently inspecting his fingernails. Was it a date? Hmm.

    "All right, how can I help?"

    My companion explained that we needed to know the difference between "quirks" and "issues." The guy looked at us like we were totally nuts and asked, "Is
    that what you've been yelling about all this time?"

    We were sheepish. Little nods.

    In the end, the actual answer that he gave was not nearly as memorable as what it took to get there. And it all resulted in an invaluable life lesson: it's not a date unless someone
    says it is, no matter how it seems. And, of course, all lawyers are bastards.
  2. If I could give one piece of advice to any person in history, that advice would be:
    I'd have given Columbus an accurate map.
  3. Are you a neat freak?
    I don't like to think so, but it's probably true in a lot of ways. Call me a recovering neat freak, maybe.
  4. Show and Tell.

    Public Domain Photo
    What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.
    One of my friends is a very accomplished painter, and a couple of others have skilled amateur status in that area. Several of my friends are professional (or pro-level) photographers. At least one is a performance-quality musician. A number are wonderful, very powerful writers.

    I would love to take part in that, somehow. To have the opportunity to display those visual media works, to listen to the music (which I can, in at least one small way - but I'm speaking more generally here). To read the poetry and prose. To have a picture taken by a
    real photographer, who I actually know! To see a painting and know that it was created for me! To hear that voice, anytime I wish. That would be a gift, well beyond the literal.

    It's getting to be time for my annual "Birthday Wishes" post, where I reveal the deliberately over-the-top presents I'd love to find in my birthday sock. Really, though, it's not about the stuff. This paint palette reminds me how much there's love in the creating and sharing.

[from the original source, week 485; the title quotation is by Jean Anouihl]