guitar

Can a lunar eclipse make you crazy?

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Because I’ve been feeling a little bit crazy.

Thank god it’s over – although Mercury is still in retrograde until the end of the week, or so I’ve been told – and hopefully I’ll feel increasingly less reflective and straight up funky (funky in an ‘off’ more than a cool George Clinton kind of way) in the days and weeks to come.

lunar eclipse red

I slept through the one last night. I blame the rain.

Until then, it’s been good for me and my guitar. I still haven’t quite gotten into the groove of the electric yet – mostly because I don’t want to make a bunch of cacophonous noise and piss off my neighbors – so I am still mainly focused on and working out my ‘stuff’ on the acoustic. On the upside, my ferocious calluses are back, and I get better every day. Case in point: last night I decided to come home and figure out a new song, and I can play it pretty expertly today. It’s not terribly complicated, but still.

Did I ever tell you why I took up the guitar?

Melissa Etheridge.

Well, Melissa Etheridge and a bad breakup with someone who had introduced me to Melissa Etheridge’s music: to this day, nearly two decades later, the Brave and Crazy album still hits me where it hurts. Certain songs knock me straight back to being a  20-year old girl standing in the snow in Switzerland.

Specifically, there is a particular song “Royal Station 4/16″ on that album, and it’s all about a painful breakup…and trains. I lived in Europe at the time, and I had met this person on a train. A lot of our history took place on or around trains, and his remaining life was greatly shaped by them as well. This insight and irony is all in hindsight of course.

Anyway, I came back to The States and these lyrics were in my head, “I got this whiskey to take care of my lips. And I’ve got these long, cool, steel strings at my fingertips. But I ain’t got nothing to soothe my aching soul, except this screeching and screaming iron to tell me where I got to go.”

I’m not much of one for whiskey, and there aren’t many trains in South Central Pennsylvania, so I tried to convince my dad to buy me the long, cool, steel strings and the guitar they were attached to…and he did. Perhaps justifying that gracious and generous gesture on his part, I still have that guitar (although the neck is bowed and it’s tough to play), and I actually turned out a half-decent player in the end.

Here’s the inspiration, as played live much more recently:

My old love would have appreciated her hair in this performance. It irritated him they had tried to “pretty her up” in the subsequent albums. This is all before she came out of the closet, of course, and her label was no doubt hoping to water down her inherent dyke-iness. But I digress…

headgear

Even a beautiful girl looks like a total loser with headgear on.

I completely admire her live performances (some of the best I’ve ever seen. As the same man once summed it up, “She doesn’t talk much. She just rocks.”), there is no denying that harmonica contraption is not flattering. Kind of reminds me of that big orthodontia thing – what is it called? – headgear?

Lord, to have to wear head gear. The only fate worse was the giant metal exoskeleton if you had scoliosis. Do they still do that? I remember being checked annually in gym (we had to bend over and touch our toes and they would study our spines), and the gripping fear that – on top of every other adolescent challenge I was choking on already – I would be chosen by scoliosis as well. Happily – and thank god – that was never the case or I might have just given up the ghost altogether and jumped off a bridge or something.  I’m kidding…mostly.

Anyway, I don’t quite have her pipes or talent (at all), but maybe I’ll work on this song all the same…minus the harmonica, of course.

 

 

 

quit smoking maui

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What’s Been Going On

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Not to be confused with the Marvin Gaye song of a similar but slightly different title, I am obsessed with the Amos Lee tune (particularly the live version) “What’s Been Going On.” I can do a decent job with the guitar, but I can’t sing that low to save my soul. Which is fine in general, seeing as I’m a woman, but a bummer in that I really love the hell out of that tune. Oh well. Download’s Amos’ version. It’s worth the $.99.

Writing a novel in one month.

Writing. What else would I be doing?

Anyway, I’m just sitting here watching Old School and drinking some horribly sweet, overly dyed apple soda (Just a small bottle. I couldn’t help myself. I had to know…) and thinking about anarchy.

Not really.

I just threw that last part in to see if you were paying attention.

So anyway, as is often the case with me when I get myself into remote locales with very little human contact and even less English, I have been wallowing in my own habits and taking an excessive amount of self-portraits. Luckily, my habits tend to be pretty healthy and self-driven and I’m rather photogenic, but then again maybe I’ve already been alone too long to judge?

Mexican sunset

Me in front of tonight's sunset

So here’s a random smattering of stuff in my life circa 9:48pm Mountain Time:

My back hurts

I’ve been brushing my teeth with tap water since I got here on Thursday. I suppose I just like to tempt fate. Or prove that I have a superior immune system. Or lose five pounds the painful way. Time will tell…

I’m already sick of corn tortillas.

Mexican horses

Random horses.

I was sitting out front today and four horses just came randomly sauntering by.

My only tie to the modern world is a super flakey dial up 3G connection that occasionally makes the touch pad on my MacBook freeze up and stop working and which delays incoming emails as much as two days and isn’t even powerful enough to run a YouTube clip. I am completely cut off. With 25 days to go. But I’m still sane. Mostly.

I’ve written five chapters of the new book. It’s going pretty smoothly, which either means it’s inspired gold or total drivel. Time will tell here as well…

Todos Santos sunset

Tonight's sunset all by itself.

I don’t like the American landlord and his Mexican wife is really unfriendly. I could bitch about this at length, but a) who wants to hear me bitch and b) he knows about this blog, and I hate to be a jerk. Sufficed to say, he went to Stanford 25 years ago, and works it into EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION. Whateves, dude. It’s ancient history now.

There’s a mosquito on my thigh.

I tried to take a bath last night, and got about two inches of hottish water into the giant tub before it started to come out of the spigot cold. So basically it was like splashing in a hot puddle. Not so much…

Todos Santos Las Tunas

Me in front of the only walls in this joint that aren't pink.

Special K is different down here than it is at home. It’s somehow kind of corn flakey or something. It’s not bad. Just different.

Topes are those giant, unexpected bumps in the road and totopos are what they call tortilla chips.

The ocean is literally 50 yards away (over a sand dune covered with some seriously prickly stuff), and I can hear it roaring all the time, which is super awesome.

It’s been cloudy and raining all weekend and barely 10 degrees warmer than back home…but tomorrow all that changes when the sun comes back out! (The sun had better come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’d damn well better be sun…)

I’m driving around in a 2000 Nissan Frontier with plates from South Dakota and expired tags. I’m basically begging to get pulled over. See “not so keen on the landlord” above.

Todos Santos beach

The beach here in Todos Santos by day

I am definitely in the early stages of Carpal Tunnel or some other forearm overuse problem, which totally sucks. I actually woke up in the middle of the night last night my right arm hurt so much. This happened when I was writing my graduate thesis a few years ago. And when I was finishing the first book. Basically, it’s like an overuse injury I’m still using. Ow.

I bought some bagels at the corner store and despite the fact that they were frozen, every last goddamned one of them was molding, and I just threw them away rather than drive them back and fight about it, because I don’t know enough Spanish to explain that “These bagels are molding, and I don’t want a replacement because I am now afraid of your food. Please just give me back my 550 pesos, thank you very much.”

Footprints in the sand

Getting all artsy.

Will Ferrell just said my favorite line of the movie, “I think I see Blue. He looks glorious!”

As mentioned above, there are 25 more days to my literary experiment.

And there ain’t much going on but me, my daily workouts, my writing, and trips to buy overpriced spoiled foodstuffs.

Happily, I have yet to go totally Ernest Hemingway, but I am pretty isolated, so I guess we’ll see what happens. I am half-Irish, you know.

Da da da da da da dum dum

Da da da da da da dum

Tequila!

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Blame it on sleep deprivation

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Eight pairs of shorts, three pairs of jeans, one pair of yoga pants, four dresses, and probably some other miscellanea I forgot?

Check.

A ridiculous number of tops and a sweater and a sweatshirt and a leather jacket although less than I originally started with and without the sweater boots I really wanted to bring?

(Although I may remedy that in just a second by purging some shorts or jeans or something in exchange)

Check.

Something like eight swimsuits?

Check.

A guitar I’ve become rather concerned they’re going to forbid me to bring onto the plane?

Check.

Sunblock and shampoo and all kinds of stuff I could probably get down there but apparently think I can’t get down there and am thus pushing the limits of the accuracy of my bathroom scale and upping the odds that I’m going to be throwing out .4 pounds of something at the airport in order to get under 50 pounds?

Check.

Three-hours of anxiety ridden sleep that now has me thinking I know what it must be like to be insane?

Check.

Knowing that I’m taking precious time to peck out a quick update to remind you that I will be in Mexico from now through March 31st writing the new book and hopefully with a reliable wifi connection – but we all know how those things work out (or don’t) sometimes – despite the fact that I have to leave for the airport in half an hour and wanted to work out at least a little bit and now obviously won’t?

Priceless.

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Songwriting 101

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I’ve been playing my guitar obsessively lately.

Obsessively as in six and seven hours a day.

Obsessively in that I can’t even feel the keys under my left hand right now because my fingertips are so numb.

Obsessively in that I wake up and hear the words and lyrics in my head and it starts to make me feel crazy to the extent that I have to get up and actually play it out loud.

That kind of obsessive.

And it’s super weird because I really haven’t been playing much at all before this…or for ages.

Dozer wanting something. This wasn't the picture I meant to upload, but I'm going with it anyway.

But like any good addiction, it’s easy to get back on the horse. Or fall off the horse? Is ‘horse’ slang for heroin? Why do I think that? Anyway, I’ve mismanaged my attempt at metaphor, so let me simply say that I am easily obsessed and this is yet another in a long string of compulsions.

Meanwhile, the thing of it is the music I’m inescapably hearing and playing is other people’s – Patty Griffin and Ani DiFranco mostly. And that’s because I love their music. And I sing in the same range. And because I don’t know how to write music. Or songs. Or melody. Or tunes.

And that’s what I tell myself.

And so it’s true.

At the same time, I have a friend who has insisted it’s easy. All you need are words and a hook. And it’s going to be extra easy for me because I’m already a writer. Pay no attention to the music part, because apparently that’s easy too.

And last night in a particular sweep of absurd bravado, my same friend insisted that I get on the songwriting immediately. “Write a song tonight or I will never speak to you again” was, I believe, the exact statement.

The triplets. On the left is the Martin, the middle is one is my first guitar, and the one on the right was gifted from a friend when he moved to the Virgin Islands. That's the one going to Mexico.

This is not Dozer, but it could be.

Of course I ignored this because, again, I can’t write songs.

But then this morning I started thinking about it, and I figured everybody’s got to start somewhere.

So why not?

Maybe try?
And see what happens?

And begin with simple inspiration, something right in front of my face. Like someone who browbeats me into writing a song and goes out of their way to try to irritate me just to laugh at the reaction and drops f-bombs like it’s Hiroshima (ooh! That’s good! That’s going in the song!) and…

That’s right.

My bully has become my muse.

And with that stated, I bring you the title and a few lines from  my very first song (no music yet, as I just dreamed this stupidity up about five minutes ago) entitled

What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?

Collaboration welcome.

Anything good that rhymes with “Someone must have dropped you on your head as a baby”?

Maybe something about lazy?

How about “I’m not sure they’ve invented the drug that can fix what you’ve got.”?

Wow! This songwriting stuff is easy!

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