January 20th, 2012

» bs

Things that are bullshit:

  • Being unable to fall asleep.
  • Waking up at 4 am, convinced you’ve slept past the alarm.
  • Waking up again at 5:15.
  • Being fine and happy and yourself one moment, and then having this alien thing wrap its hands around your throat and over your mouth, and just hijack you. Shove You casually aside. Waltz in and start rummaging with your thoughts and your ability to breathe and your total lack of desire to cry. It’s a huge, dark, suffocating presence that insists You are unlovable, and you will die fat and alone, eaten by Alsatians (thanks, Bridget Jones). It reminds you of every mean, careless thing anyone has ever said to you, parades them out as fact. Spins out the story of your worthlessness and future sorrow.

It’s the birth control, I know in these moments, in the part of me that is still me. I watch it happen from that detached place, a little fascinated and no little frustrated. Bewildered. Impatient. Helpless. I, the real me, am happy. I am ready to sleep, to smile, to breathe evenly, to unclench my jaw and tumble into some bright dream. Instead I am crying, like some strange reflex, some alien unstoppable process of the body. Crying the way your leg swings when your knee is tapped, the way you flinch away from something coming at your eye, the way the heart pushes blood. I don’t want them, don’t feel them, but the tears keep pouring out anyhow, and this weird other thing stews in a deaf knot of anxiety and fear. It cannot be reasoned with and will not be sent away. The only thing to do is wait it out.

It’s all especially crazy because I am good! I am happy, and loving life, and even loving winter. Last weekend Eric and I went to the Red Bull Crashed Ice event in St. Paul. It was by the Cathedral, a few miles from his house; we walked down there in the grey cold late afternoon to meet friends for dinner, then went over to the enormous track they’d built for the skaters. A long narrow ribbon of ice, looping down over the Cathedral steps, all turns and drops and lights and crazy hills. We stood outside watching for hours, and by the end I could not stop shivering and couldn’t feel my feet, but I also couldn’t stop smiling. Life, even cold and slick and forbidding, is so good.

January 12th, 2012

» hope

For her wedding, my mom got a cedar hope chest. It’s lived at the base of her bed for as long as I can remember, and recently she replaced the threadbare upholstered top with new fabric. Last night, after admiring that facelift, we cracked open the chest and dug through it. It’s filled with random mementos: newspapers from the days my sister and I were born, my mom’s wedding veil, a cookbook I made for her in first grade, a handful of pocket watches, a few old yearbooks, her mother’s jewelry box, stacks of cards. The thing that caught me most was the card my grandmother gave my mom on her wedding day. The cover is a pair of hands holding a bouquet of red roses; soft-focus, late-70′s. Inside, my grandma’s slanting writing more upright than I knew it, clearer: “May life be wonderful to you.”

What a lovely wish, that. May life be wonderful to you.

January 6th, 2012

» 2011 Playlist

Putting this together was tougher than I expected. I kept starting to listen to stuff with an ear toward how essential it was, if it fit, where it fit — and then I would get swept away in listening to music, and I’d find myself 20 minutes later just bopping along, staring at the latest Go Fug Yourself, thinking about what to make for dinner. Also I really liked the idea of a single cd playlist — which was laughable, considering how hard it was not to include entire albums on the list. I would manage moments of ruthlessness, cutting away some of my favorite songs by an artist, wanting no more than a representative or two from each band — and then I would zone out again, or just throw up my hands.

In the end, here’s what I managed. I was especially happy to be able to come full circle with two of my favorite bands, The National and Iron & Wine. I listened to them a lot (A LOT) (like, really obsessively) at the beginning of the year, and then suddenly couldn’t listen to them at all any more. Then this fall I found out they were both playing in San Fransisco on a weekend I was thinking of going to visit Bryce, and after missing both of them in Minneapolis this year, I couldn’t pass it up. I was a little worried I would fall apart at one or both shows — but I didn’t, not even close. All sweet, no bitter — I was just really happy to be there.

  1. Don’t Carry It All – The Decemberists
  2. Thistled Spring – Horse Feathers
  3. Little Faith – The National
  4. Alabama Pines – Jason Isbell
  5. Our Hearts Are Wrong – Jessica Lea Mayfield
  6. Runaway – The National
  7. Dear Avery – The Decemberists
  8. White Wilderness – John Vanderslice
  9. Sorrow – The National
  10. Middleman – Bright Eyes
  11. England – The National
  12. Backwards Walk – Frightened Rabbit
  13. Overcoat – John Vanderslice
  14. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
  15. If The Brakeman Turns My Way – Bright Eyes
  16. Walking Far From Home – Iron and Wine
  17. Cleanse Song – Bright Eyes
  18. Swim Until You Can’t See Land – Frightened Rabbit
  19. Belly of June – Horse Feathers
  20. Dog Days Are Over – Florence & The Machine
  21. S&M – Rihanna
  22. Post Break-Up Sex – The Vaccines
  23. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
  24. Holdin on to Black Metal – My Morning Jacket
  25. Don’t Say Oh Well – Grouplove
  26. Wetsuit – The Vaccines
  27. Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National
  28. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall – Coldplay
  29. Conversation 16 – The National
  30. Tree By The River – Iron and Wine
  31. Us Against The World – Coldplay

Maybe a little overkill, but I also jotted down my favorite albums of 2011. (Mostly because Noel Gallagher didn’t make it onto the playlist; I really like listening to him, but he doesn’t grab me or encapsulate the year quite the way the rest of that stuff does. But I’ve listened to him a lot in the last couple months, and I want to be able to remember that.)

Favorite albums of 2011:

  • The King is Dead – The Decemberists
  • High Violet – The National
  • Kiss Each Other Clean – Iron & Wine
  • Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
  • Cassadaga – Bright Eyes
  • What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? – The Vaccines
  • Grouplove (EP) – Grouplove
  • Mylo Xyloto – Coldplay
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher

Lastly — not a good video, but one of my favorite moments during The National’s concert on December 3. It’s the last song of their encore; the band unplugged, and just brought it. I still get tingles thinking about it.

December 31st, 2011

» 24 Books: December & 2011

December wasn’t a great reading month for me — I’m partway through a couple things, and keep getting side-tracked or having to return them to the library. But I am really happy with how much I read in 2011! I did a ridiculous amount in the beginning of the year, but I’m pretty thrilled that up until December and holiday craziness I kept a fairly steady pace. Duplicating it in 2012 seems a little too ambitious, but I think 36 sounds like an appropriate goal.

The only thing I finished this month was The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt, read by John Pruden. I had mixed feelings about this one — I kept getting hooked and then not wanting to listen any more. The book is set in the American west during the gold rush; its narrator is one of the Sisters brothers, a pair of infamous killers. I liked the setting, and the relationship between the brothers, and I really liked deWitt’s use of the first person. I’m a little picky about first-person narration, but thought it was exactly appropriate here. I struggled with hating the other brother (he is a nasty drunk) — but what really bothered me was the narrator’s poor, luckless horse. It all fit with the story, and the writing was good, so I really can’t fault deWitt. Let’s just say it’s been my year for accidentally picking books with agonizingly long, gruesome passages, particularly pertaining to animals. I did really love the last part of the book; the characters do something strange and wonderful. I think I’m going to try to carry that into my 2012 reading: more magical realism, less animal suffering.

In fact — I just looked back, and apparently my sorta guideline for 2011 was to read more Literature. I’d actually completely forgotten about that, and it obviously got thrown a bit by the wayside. Goals for 2012: read a summary of every book before I crack it open, and read more books that keep me up all night needing to know what happens next. Any suggestions?

2011 Book Count: 42
January: 6
February: 2
March: 7
April: 3
May: 3
June: 3
July: 4
August: 3
September: 4
October: 3
November: 3
December: 1

The complete 2011 list:

  • City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
  • Deliver Us from Evie, by M. E. Kerr
  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
  • Specimen Days, by Michael Cunningham, read by Alan Cumming
  • I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
  • Savage Love, by Dan Savage (online archives 1999-2011)
  • How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff, read by Kim Mai Guest
  • The Big U, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Redwall, by Brian Jacques, read by Ron Keith
  • The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett
  • The Stranger, by Albert Camus, translated by Matthew Ward, read by Jonathan Davis
  • The Beach, by Alex Garland
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly, read by Steven Crossley
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Süskind
  • The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
  • The Witch in the Wood (or The Queen of Air and Darkness), by T. H. White, read by Neville Jason
  • Dead Reckoning, by Charlaine Harris
  • Nemesis, by Philip Roth, read by Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  • Goodbye, Columbus: and Five Short Stories, by Philip Roth
  • The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson, narrated by Steven Crossley
  • The Ill-Made Knight, by T. H. White, read by Neville Jason
  • The Candle in the Wind, by T. H. White, read by Neville Jason
  • The Book of Merlyn, by T. H. White, read by Neville Jason
  • The Savage Girl, by Alex Shakar
  • A Cupboard Full of Coats, by Yvvette Edwards
  • Love Me, by Garrison Keillor
  • B is for Beer, by Tom Robbins
  • The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
  • The Griff, by Christopher Moore & Ian Corson
  • IinterWorld, by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves
  • Snowdrops, by Andrew Miller
  • Jamrach’s Menagerie, by Carol Birch
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, read by Simon Vance
  • On Canaan’s Side, by Sebastian Barry, read by Wanda McCaddon
  • How Good Riders Get Good, by Denny Emmerson
  • The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt, read by John Pruden

November 30th, 2011

» 24 Books: November

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, read by Simon Vance. So, I had NO clue what this was about when I picked up the audiobook. I’d been resisting it for a long time, like I do with most things that are wildly popular, but I love Simon Vance (he’s narrated Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books), and with audiobooks I never feel like I’ve wasted reading time on something I end up not loving. Anyway — turns out it’s a murder mystery, and I actually rather liked it. There were times it was pretty heavy-handed in its message, and times it was quite graphic, and the main character went a bit too Bella Swan for my taste, but it was an interesting read. If not for all of the raping, I would’ve called it fun.

On Canaan’s Side, by Sebastian Barry, read by Wanda McCaddon. This is another 2011 Booker finalist that I started without reading any kind of summary. My lesson this year: start reading summaries. It wasn’t a bad book at all, but it was yet another first-person end-of-life reflection, and I already know they don’t do much for me. Parts of it were very prettily written, but it was the same experience I had listening to The Finkler Question (last year’s winner) — my mind would drift and I’d kind of lose the thread of the story.

How Good Riders Get Good, by Denny Emmerson. This one’s a horse riding sports psychology book, and I really enjoyed it. I’m hoping it will be the kick in the pants I need to train harder this winter…

2011 Book Count: 41
January: 6
February: 2
March: 7
April: 3
May: 3
June: 3
July: 4
August: 3
September: 4
October: 3
November: 3