Monday, January 22, 2018

This Blog has Moved

Dear Readers, Family, Friends, Trolls, and Robots,

This blog has moved to a new home at theshagbarkspeaks.com.

As of today's date, I am few days into a 30 day writing challenge. You can read my latest here:

Flipper, Otters, Girlfriends, and Love
What's Goin' On: Marvin Gaye, Love and Rockets, and Barack Obama
A Child's Query ("Why doesn't anyone listen to any good music anymore these days?"): Lauren Hill

Or, check me out on Facebook.

With spirit,
Rachel


https://www.theshagbarkspeaks.com/

Friday, January 5, 2018

Eric Clapton Lyrics Impress Middle Aged Woman

Signs of advancing age: 

Wrinkles - Yes
Grey Hairs - Yes
Creaking Joints - Yes
Enjoying Flavors of Ice Cream Other Than Chocolate - Yes
Hearing Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" and Thinking, You Know, That's Kind of Nice - Yes

I used to hate, hate, hate that song. Sappy. Unremarkable songwriting and instrumentation. There is a guitar, but are there other instruments? I never bothered to listen closely enough. The wheedling guitar is at the forefront, obscuring all otther sounds.

Oh, the tuneless vocals. Sure, the singing enhances the message: Wife = Total Babe. Husband = Lucky Loser. Of course, the husband is Eric Clapton. Not really a loser, but he poses as one and lets his wife be the "beautiful lay-dee" in this song. In the background, my conscience says, This guy also did "Tears From Heaven", a tribute to his child-son who died tragically, so go easy. Don't invite bad luck!

The song remains all that it is. And yet, on the way home from the grocery store one afternoon, a classic rock station played "Wonderful Tonight". Knowing there was nothing else besides country, Popular R&B, and NPR that would come in as I drove along the red shale bluffs that rise from the Delaware River, I chose Eric Clapton. 

"You know, this is a nice song," I thought. Hm? Wait. This is no "Night Moves" by Bob Seeger. This is "Wonderful Tonight". 

I sang along. I just a little teeny bit imagined myself as the oblivious, modest, and pretty lady in the lyrics. 

I admitted this to my husband. I figured he would be both ok with my slip up (liking an awful pop song) and find it amusing. I could never admit that I teensy weensy imagined my husband thinking of me as the pretty lady. But, shucks, the cat's outta the bag now. Anyone, including my husband, will know my secret. The little part I didn't admit. 

I could never admit liking "Wonderful Tonight" to one of our longtime friends. John K. John K. would laugh, shake his head, and say, "Oh, Jesus Christ, Rachel, you are getting old. Living out in the woods is making you go soft!" 

Luckily, John K. does not use the internet. But because John is a wise ass and good friend with whom I like to share good laughs, I may just tell him and let him bust my chops.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter Book Review

Notice how short my tail is? Winter kicks my tail.

What is helping me: warm beverages, girlfriends, living room dance parties with husband and child, snacks, sex, snacks, the wood stove. Snacks. Snacks.

And, the book Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun. So funny. Laughed out loud at the library multiple times. I showed Jared the passage on "Marriage Math", a special method of financial accounting. He snorted and later stole the book for his own.

I stole it back and am now in deeper, deeper into the pages and the content gets deeper, too. It is funny, tender, and real.

I admire Ada's writing style. Personal, funny, poetic, and she's well-read, too. An inspiration.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A night in the life

Along a more mundane and typical road:

We intended to get Beren to bed early, but instead i combed the knots from his hair, got him in the tub, applied shampoo to the back (only) of his head, and soaped his back and chest. Victory.

Meanhile, Jared stole my library book.

To do:
Set mouse traps
Cat in basement
Modem off
Cups of water upstairs
Make bed
Salsa to fridge
Overtired kid to bed

Monday, January 1, 2018

Road Maps

Camera, Rest In Peace. 
I regret the day I took you out for field work and scratched your lens on my clipboard.


New Years Day 2018

A road map to the heart. The phrase came to mind a day or two ago. I think the complete thought was: Finding a road map to the heart is difficult.

The phrase stuck, at least parts of it did. Other parts fell away. 'Finding' and 'difficult' fell away. Perhaps they will be back.

I do not make New Years resolutions. By the end of 2018, I will be a different person. I shiver with the thought. Looking out on the horizon. Startling.

Be in the now, they say. Sure. I am in the now. Then, I am in the worry or fear of the next moment. Then, I am back in the now. Sometimes, the now is just too mundane, too cluttered. Man, look upon that horizon. Or, forget about it, and the horizon will swallow you up.

The horizon, that it exists alone, is enough to stun me back into the now. Make it good. Speak from the heart. Laugh. Apologize. Take good care. Take good care of it all. The body, the memories, the heart, the bonds.

If I were to have a resolution, if I were forced, my resolution is to spend this year following, drawing, and redrawing a roadmap to my heart.

My plan was to transfer my writing to a new website by today, New Years Day and the full moon. It seems auspicious.

To reawaken, Rachel, the artist, who has taken a break and yet has felt a creative nerve this autumn. Rachel, in midst of preparing her writing and photographs for the new web page, watched her laptop screen go blank. A week prior, Rachel, the artist, dropped her camera, which is now broken.

The husband of Rachel is known as Jared, the musician. He tried to fix Rachel's lap top. Alas, he could not. Rachel took her laptop to DTown Tech (recommended, by the way). Rachel left the store to browse LPS at Siren Records (also recommended) while the owner of the computer store performed an examination of the laptop.

Rachel returned to DTown a half hour later and sunk into a chair in the waiting area. The line was long, iPhones needed batteries and screens. Desktops needed CPR. "PURPLE PANTS!" the owner shouted, and Rachel, wearing purple pants, rose.

"Purple pants, that's how you've come to be called," he said. Rachel laughed and he added, "It's fried. Done. It's the motherboard."

Rachel asked questions. Refurbish? Do you sell computers here? No to both. Then the owner asked in a loud and friendly voice, "What are you doing with your computer? You look like a creative type." 

Rachel smiled, stepped back from the counter, and looked down at myself. She performed a brief routine for him and for the crowded store. "Me? Creative? What makes you say that?" Boots, purple pants, colorful poncho and scarf.

"I'm psychic, right? I'm just intuitive like that," he said, laughing.

Rachel described what she would use the laptop for. "You know B&H Photo?" he asked. "Yeah. I don't have to go there do I?" Rachel said. She had been there many, many times for film, chemistry, photo paper over a dozen years ago.

"No, they ship. This is what you want," he said showing Rachel a laptop on B&H Photo's website. "If you find anything else you might get instead, you can run it by me. Just send me an email." Gesturing to Rachel's dead laptop, he said, "Don't throw it against the wall. It still has parts worth money in it."

And so, Rachel had plans for today, and the roadmap changed. A small, subtle change. A change based on the loss of things. Nothing shiver-worthy. Nothing she won't forget when the new laptop arrives. Nothing that changed the horizon.

And, I think of the two guys dancing around to Swedish folk music downstairs while I write. I think of my friends who have become so dear to me. I think of my father's side of the family who I spent the day with yesterday - my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousin and her newborn baby. I think of I love them all so very much.

I think of road maps.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas, December 25, 2017

Yes, beloved, Christmas does fall on the 25th every year.

***

Beren asked to sleep over my parents' house. He had said he would like to a week ago, and we all thought it was a joke or something he simply said. 

And then Christmas night, he slept over. Back at home, I waited for a call to come back and pick him up. No call. 

***

Jared and I sat near the woodstove, talking in the semi-darkness. It has been awhile. There was alot to talk about. 

I had carrying some deep feelings for some time. Way back things, feelings I have not been able to resolve. 

You know how you hear that you just have to "sit with something". I have f*cking sat with this set of feelings. I have sat on them. I have looked at them. Looked at how I thought about the feelings, felt about the feelings. I have examined myself. I have dragged the feelings around and I have socked the feelings in the eye. I have boxed 'em up, and periodically taken them of the shelf, and said, hello. 

Recently, I wanted to say goodbye. To send those feelings up to the spirits and let the wind carrying them away and rain them down in diluted snow and rain until they were non-material, beautiful and different.

Jared listened until I was finished and quietly said, "Trust your feelings." This is not something I had yet done. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Girl in Guitar Store

J.B. Kline and Son, Lambertville, NJ
December 22, 2017

Enter through the cafe, walk to the back, climb up narrow steps to the guitar shop. At the doorway, a hand written sign lists this week's new arrivals and sales. It is taped to a shelf at eye level and lists brands I recognize from years of being around music, musicians, and trips to guitar shops. A couple items are scratched off, marked SOLD in red.

A group of men, in their fifties and up, jam on acoustic guitars and harmonica at the front of the store. The gregarious owner exclaims to Jared, "I know you!" Jared pauses. "No you don't," he replies. Skip an eighth beat. "But, my name is Jared," he adds, extending his hand to shake. "Ok! What are you looking for?" the owner says.

Jared asks about resonator guitars, and he sits down to play a few that the owner brings him.

I am in a familiar situation. I do not find myself in this one often anymore. Girl with guy in music store. Nothing to do.

***

My last guitar was a Hondo which is a knock off of some brand. To me, it looked like most or many electric guitars, except for Gibson SGs and Flying Vs. I departed ways with my old Hondo back in Queens. A greying (I am probably about his age now) rocker who collected weird, crummy guitars bought it from me at a sidewalk sale outside our apartment building.

I don't miss my guitar. I miss the idea of it. I wish I could I see it, and then give it back to the guy in the Queens. The Hondo probably likes the smell of cigarettes and the company of oddly detuned, partially strung guitars. The Hondo probably was a better life now.

I don't miss my violin either. I see it leaning against a cabinet or on top of a dresser. It moved around. I thought of taking it out of the case a couple days or weeks or sometime ago. In the midst of a big house clean up, Jared held up the violin in its case, "To the attic?" he asked. "I was thinking of taking it out," I said. "Ok."

I did. I unzipped the case. I hardly looked at it. I plucked its out of tune strings. They hee hawed back at me. I zipped up the case. "I never want to tune this thing ever again," I said to Jared. "Ok." And to the attic he and violin went. Jared came back. The violin did not.

***

Girl. Guitar store. Nothing to do. I pluck at the violins. They hee haw. I shudder inwardly. I strum interesting looking guitars and look at the prices. I think: Cheap. Expensive. I look at the Gibson SG. I think: Ian MacKaye.

***

I remember a skater from high school, Christian B., who would drive to my house with my boyfriend. They were the best of the skateboarders around. Christian would ask, "Wanna watch us skate?" "Um, no, but I'll take a ride."

I'd get in the car, and we would drive to a parking lot somewhere. Milford, maybe. "Wanna hold my flannel?" Christian would ask. "Um, no." Christian was mildly surprised like I was a kid who honestly did not want to take a yellow lollipop from a kindly, elderly, completely beneficent, not at all weird bank teller. Or, maybe like I was about to be knighted by King Arthur of the Flannel but decided 'nah'.

***

The music jam continues. I quietly sing along with their energetic versions of Jim Croce's You Don't Mess Around with Jim.

One of the fellows in the shop compliments my jacket. It's red, black, and white and patterned like a Turkish rug. It even includes fringe trim. "Got it in a thrift store in Queens," I say. "Nice ensemble," he says. "Yeah, this vest. I got this in Hungary." "Oh!" he says.

He drifts by a second time. This time he bears a nearly empty box of chocolate and offers it it everyone in the tiny store. There are a few shoppers. A woman picks out a strap. A small group chats with the owner. I pick the last dark chocolate which is located under the guy's thumb. "Oh, dark chocolate!" he says.

I try to think of something friendly to say, and this is what I say: "Yup, that's what I like." He drifts away again. He is the talker in the group, or maybe he is drunk.

I am now beginning to enjoy myself. I find myself looking at the SG again because it is one of the few familiar sights that make me think. Ian MacKaye .

The candy guy budges past again and makes more conversation. "Do you play, too?" I ask. "Oh, yeah," he replies and bustles towards a vacant seat in the circle of musicians. He gestures to an empty stool. Some hands me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I swig it halfway down as they belt out a blues tune with lyrics about another Long Leg Woman.
 
I smile. This is better than any past trip to Sam Ash or other guitar shops filled with drippy, slouchy dudes. 

Jared comes by. "Do you need help with that beer?" He swigs it.

I ask the harmonica player in between songs, "How did you learn to play?"

I sense the players are ready to get back to it, but I couldn't help myself from asking. I have wanted to play harmonica for decades, maybe since hearing the song Desire by U2. 

The musicians politely wait while the harmonica player tells me this: "I'd go in an hour early to work every day. I'd sit in my car and play along with music until I found the right harmonica to play along with the song." His thin red hair brushes his shoulders as he talk to me.

"You gotta pick real slow music to start. You work on single notes. I found myself some cheap harmonicas. Do you play anything or sing?" He looks at me with friendly, squinty eyes.

"I used to play guitar, then violin. Now, I sing," I say smiling.

"Ok, well, you have an ear then," he says. I have doubtful thoughts about that. "I had some notation, kinda like tablature for guitar, but for harmonica it's a little different. It's numbers. The music goes by so fast. It doesn't work. I threw all that stuff out. Just threw it out. So, one day it just happened. I just got it." He mentions the song and artist that bore witness to his breakthrough, but I missed it. I some parking lot, this excellent harmonica player got it.

"Thanks. Thanks. Thanks alot," I say. "I really appreciate it."

The musicians play again. I finish the beer. Jared squeezes onto the stool with me.

I look at a newspaper on the amp next to me. One article is about holiday lights and shopping in Peddler's Village in Lahaska. I remember that I wanted see the lights with Beren and my friend, Robin, and her two sons. The writing tells me that Giggleberry Faire, a kids play space, is a good option for entertainment. I heard from another mother that it is hell.

Below the holiday shopping article is another. This one is about J.B. Kline celebrating thirty years of something. I don't read it. Pictured is the guitar store's owner.

We listen to another song. I am enjoying myself. Cheap chocolate and beer. Cheap music. Jared and I head back down the steps and out into the moist evening air. I am a little buzzed and cheerful.

***

At home, I pick up the harmonica that has been sitting in Beren's bin of musical instruments. I inhale and then exhale into the harmonica. A deep, singular C note comes out.