Nearly two years gone
yet still can’t listen to you
Nearly two years gone
Nearly two years gone
yet still can’t listen to you
On New Year’s Eve of 2019, I counted up my hoop-dancing minutes and found I’d danced for 19 hours that year. That felt impressive and I thought to myself “How cool would it be to dance for 24 hours in 2020?” Well, we all know what happened that year and I didn’t hit the mark. Not by a long shot.
Last night I added up my hoop-dancing minutes: 17.5 hours. While that’s fewer minutes than 2019, there are still 8 days left in this year. I’d only need another 389 minutes and, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. 2021 has been another extremely difficult year–in some ways much harder than the previous–and I really want to close it out doing something that brings me so much joy.
According to my complex mathematical computations, I’ll need to average 49 hoop-dancing minutes per day to hit my goal. I just danced for 36, smiling the whole time. Now I’m off to ice my recently de-booted foot so I can get back into the spin later today.
I’d just sat down to upload a photo of our blooming Christmas cactus when my phone rang. It was Wildebeest, in tears. Young Dolph, his favorite rapper whom he listens to all the time, was just murdered in Memphis. My son cried, “He has kids! Why do people have to murder each other?”
All I could do was listen to his pain. There’s no making sense of the senseless.
Rest in power.
Each morning, I play loud, upbeat music to help me get going (one of my go-to songs is What’d I Say by Ray Charles) and yesterday it worked like a charm. I was singing and dancing as I washed my face when suddenly, the reality of what we’re enduring hit me. I froze, staring at my tear-filled eyes in the mirror. I felt a crushing weight, the despair pressing down on me as I remembered all over again that we’re truly on our own. Then I blinked away the tears and sang more loudly. When one day at a time feels like too much, I take it one breath at a time. That’s how I cope.
Please take care of yourselves and hang in there as best you can. My enduring hope is that we the people will rise up together to demand better. In the meanwhile, sing, dance, or do whatever carries you through those especially tough moments.
Today I’m grateful for the music of Jim James, specifically “Tribute To” which I’ve started listening to while doing yoga.
The gentle music plus the gentle motion brings me peace.
It’s hard getting out of bed these days. I eventually got myself upright and after my morning ablutions, I reached for my hoop. For twenty minutes, I hoop-danced in front of my living room window. My mood lifted and I felt more energized. As I danced to the music, my eyes kept going to the purple coneflowers in the front garden bed and I told myself I’d photograph them when the dance session ended.
Today I am grateful for these flowers, for my hoop, for music, and for my climate activist friend who’s currently reading my middle grade novel to make sure I didn’t misrepresent anything. Also? I’m glad I got out of bed.
It feels particularly cruel to lose a man of such empathy and wit right now. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s people sensitive to the struggles of others. John Prine left us a catalog of songs that illustrate a deep understanding of people’s inner lives and the moments that often go unremarked. He was a treasure.
In the fall of 2002, President George W. Bush was beating the war drums (with the enthusiastic help of Democrats like Senator Joe Biden) in preparation for invading Iraq. During those months, I played “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” an awful lot. It was my way of maintaining equilibrium during those days of flag-based jingoism. Because, no exaggeration, flags and flag decals were EVERYWHERE. My family attended anti-war rallies in Denver during that fall and spring of 2003, and I helped the boys make signs that expressed their sentiments. Here’s Zebu in the middle, holding his sign.
That sign was always a big hit at rallies because, once again, John Prine had nailed it.
Well, the U.S. ignored the millions of us around the world who over and over took to the streets to say NO WAR ON IRAQ, and invaded in March 2003 (with Senator Bernie Sanders voting against invasion and occupation). John Prine died on April 7, 2020, and minutes after I’d finally dragged my sad self out of bed this morning, I learned Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign.
Today is an especially hard day on the planet. Think I’ll put “In Spite of Ourselves” on repeat and sit in the sun.
I took the day off from being productive and instead went to see the documentary AMAZING GRACE. In 1972 Aretha Franklin taped a two-album gospel album over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with help from Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir (led by their incredible choir director, Alexander Hamilton).
I’ve listened to the Amazing Grace album numerous times and was thrilled right from the start of the film. Why? Because it turns out Aretha started her two-night concert with my absolute very favorite song from the album. She sang Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.” I watched, listened, and wept.
I encourage anyone who loves Aretha to give yourself the treat of AMAZING GRACE. Her performance with the backing of that magnificent choir is mind-blowing. Witnessing it will do your soul good.
Check out the trailer:
Our friend Susan came to visit today before she flies across the pond to officially begin life in London. (She now has a visa and is totally legit!) Anyway, she and I are hooping buddies from way back and we try to hoop together whenever we can. It turns out I can’t embed video on my site, so I encourage you to play “Ooh La La” from Goldfrapp while perusing these stills from our afternoon session:
The final two photos show our hoops colliding which brought shrieks of laughter and big, big smiles. Our hooping technique may be suspect, but our passion and enthusiasm are real.
Love and hugs to Susan as she embarks on her grand adventure!
Yesterday was so damned cold I didn’t go outside. By evening, I was anxious and grumpy. Today it’s still very cold, but I just went for a fast 22-minute walk with Zippy and Emma in the sunshine. I feel exhilarated! And as soon as I post this, I’m going to turn up the music and get going on the Massive Photo Scrapbooking Project.
Because as Michael Franti says: Music is sunshine. Like sunshine, music is a powerful force that can instantly and almost chemically change your entire mood. Music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose.
I’m gonna double down on the mood enhancement. Sunshine + Music. I refuse to let December’s cold and short days grind the life out of me.
Today we mourn the loss of Aretha Franklin. I am grateful for the many hours spent listening, singing along with and dancing to her music. She was an extraordinary artist (and I’m just now learning about her social justice work including a willingness to post bail for Angela Davis). I am the farthest thing from a religious person, but this version of Marvin Gaye’s Wholy Holy gives me goosebumps. Every single time.
Do yourself a favor and spend your next five minutes with the Queen of Soul.
Rest in power, Aretha.
I started the day grumpy and dissatisfied with various aspects of life and when I got to work on my revisions, my grumpiness and dissatisfaction grew. BUT. I stepped away from my desk to do some cleaning before Wildebeest arrives this afternoon and I’m happy to report feeling more centered. More calm. More whatevs about life.
Today I am thankful for my dirty kitchen sink that provided an outlet for frenzied scrubbing and J. Roddy Walston and The Business for the soundtrack for said scrubbing.
After I finished my hoop-dancing session this morning, Zippy walked into the kitchen. I’d blasted lots of funky songs from my playlist and the final one was “Overpowered by Funk” by The Clash. As I danced over to pour myself coffee, I asked my mate, “Are you feeling overpowered by funk?”
Zippy said, “I think I’m immune to funk.”
“No,” I cried. “That’s just wrong! How could anyone be immune to funk?! That’s blasphemy!”
“Well,” Zippy conceded. “I do like Roger Clinton more than most people.”
“George Clinton!” I corrected. “You like George Clinton.”
“Oh, yeah,” Zippy said. “Roger Clinton is Bill Clinton’s brother.”
No offense to Zippy, but there’s no mistaking Roger’s music for George’s.
Today I finished reading MY CROSS TO BEAR by Gregg Allman (with Alan Light). I was very sad when he died, and put a library hold on his autobiography. I’m currently listening to Brothers and Sisters, the first full album the group recorded after guitarist-extraordinaire Duane Allman died of injuries from a motorcycle wreck, and am listening to the music in a whole new way.
I’m feeling chock-full of Allman Brothers Band lore, but the anecdote that really gives me the chills is the one about how they chose the name for the band. I always assumed it was because Duane and Gregg put the group together, so Allman got top billing.
Once they (finally) found their perfect musical combination of two lead guitarists, two drummers, one bass player and one organist, Duane called for a vote on the group’s name. The six members each wrote down the band name he wanted. Gregg chose Beelzebub (the right-hand man of the devil) and Duane, a huge Tolkien fan, chose something from Lord of the Rings. The other four guys? They each wrote Allman Brothers Band.
For some reason, that story really makes me smile.
One of the very best things about running on the trails in June is the Western Meadowlark companionship. They’re all over the open space, perched on yucca or rabbit brush. The colors shown in these public domain photos might lead you to believe that meadowlarks are easy to spot. Not so.
I almost always hear a Western Meadowlark before I see it. These birds have the most beautiful song. It’s liquid and lyrical, warm and smile-inducing. A pure shot of joy.
And lucky for me, these birds love to sing.
Seriously. I’d love to hear some good news so it doesn’t feel like all of humanity has slipped down the drain.
Tell me something good. Please.
Last night Zippy and I celebrated my birthday by going to a dive bar to hear local bands. My logic was that I’d feel less old and obsolete if I hung around the younger generation and heard new-to-me music.
The first band was a punk trio that played song after song in what felt like 45 second bursts of sonic-boom fury. People avoided standing in front of the stage because it was SO loud, and if I hadn’t feared for my long-term hearing, I would’ve been out there pogo-sticking. There’s something invigorating about music you can feel in your spleen.
We stayed for two more bands and had a good time. Earlier in the week when I’d told my brother and his girlfriend our plans, she’d approved of my pre-emptive logic but also warned we’d be the oldest ones there. Well, I’m happy to say that Zippy and I spotted five people in the crowd who were clearly older than us. We high-fived after each sighting.
My plan was a success.
Today was another blue-sky-and-sunshine day, so I invited Zippy for a hike up in the open space. It was blissfully quiet out on the trails.
Another good call on my part.
So now I’m moving beyond another year and another birthday, and looking forward to any-and-all good stuff up ahead.
Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.
Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.
These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.
Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!
I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.
Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.