“Oh World, You are Beautiful Without Me”*

Red, White, and Blue

On Friday we packed a bag, threw our Unbelievably-Cranky Kid (UCK) in the car, and headed off to Moab, UT, for the Moab Folk Music Festival. First, though, we dropped the UCK off at her grandparents’ house.

We had been in Moab just a month before for a friend’s wedding, and while there we saw posters for this music festival. We were intrigued, because we love open-air music festivals, but when we saw that the headliner was GREG BROWN!!! we just had to go. We love Greg Brown so much that if he were to so much as crook his little finger in our general direction we’d dump Mallow in order to try to have Greg’s baby (good thing Mallow would treat little Greg or Gregina Jr. the same as Sassa).

The festival was set up so that at night there were concerts in two indoor venues (same artists at alternating venues so everyone could see them if they wished), with the daytime containing concerts at the ball field. Moab is quite a bit south of SLC, so the weather was warm enough to be outside if you dressed well, and we were informed that rain, shine, or snow, the band would play on. We packed sweaters and jackets and hats and gloves and blankets and umbrellas. In our minds we were really going to to see Greg, and the indoor concerts were bonus.

Moab is a 4 hour drive from SLC, through windy mountain roads, and we’d been late in leaving, so we arrived in Moab about an hour and a half later than we wanted. We’d wanted to see Christine Lavin, and we got there half way through her set. The will-call booth was closed, and as I’d bought our tix on-line, we were empty handed when we arrived at the hall. We could hear her singing from the lobby and didn’t have tix in hand, but luckily I was wearing this shirt (and yes, I know that link uses my real name, it’s ok), so the guy at the door just let us right in.

Christine was great, so we listened to the rest of her set. There were no seats, though since we were so late, and we were hungry (or, Klove was hungry as I no longer need to eat) so we left to go forage for food.

This is the part where I break in and talk about how great it was that I was in such a great mood this whole weekend. Klove and I were able to really get closer, have deep conversations, laugh, and have fun again. We haven’t just let go in a long time. The last time we went on a romantic weekend away we ended up in the car accident that let to the Unbloggable…

The next day we slept in and then wandered around Moab for a bit. Now, Moab is a very popular tourist attraction because of its proximity to Arches National Park and Dead Horse Point National Monument, as well as all the slickrock biking, rock climbing, hiking, and 4 wheeling. But strangely enough, their tourist season is in the summer. I say “strangely” because Moab is hotter than hades in the summer, and yet during the spring and autumn the weather is beautiful, the town is deserted, and you’ve got the trails to yourself (mostly, since locals know the secret). Not that I want people to come ruin our sublime springs and falls here.

At Rest

Saturday night we were scheduled to see Ferron. Now, I love Ferron, but had never seen her in person. We were interested in seeing her, but it, again, wasn’t our primary goal. But. BUT. But. She was freaking amazing. She was so personable, so funny, so unpretentious. And that morning she’d done a jam session with Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzmann and apparently it had gone so well she’d invited them to play wiht her that night. I had intended on getting up and seeing that jam session, but was distracted that morning and didn’t. I’m so glad that Ferron is confident enough to share her gig with someone else, because the three of them on stage together was mind blowing! I had the hugest grin on my face and kept screaming and clapping and squeezing Klove. It was audio ecstacy and I transcended. It ended way too soon.

After they left the stage, there was no way the next guy could compare, so we left, too, and wandered back to our hotel room.

The next day was Greg Brown day. But right before him Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzmann played again. Again, I was transfixed. Such amazing sounds! The concert was full, but not packed, and most of the people in attendance were locals (meaning from 6 hours or so in each direction… Utah can’t claim sole ownership of Moab even if we’d like to). There was dancing and kids doing cartwheels. The sky was grey and glowery but it couldn’t keep us down.

Then Greg Brown came on. Now, like I said, we love Greg Brown, but he seemed a little flat and low-key. And then he made comments about how you had to be careful of partying with Ferron and we understood that he was hungover. His stories from the night before had me cracking up. Ferron stole the show even after she’d left!

Still, Greg Brown is amazing even when he’s off, so the day ended with us being in a fantabulous mood and a determination that next year we’ll come back, bring our UCK and as many friends as we can crowd into the city, rent a house, and party hard with the folk singers. We sent in a huge list of people we hope they can get, and I want to tell any of you who know any muscians (coughgirlymancough) that the energy is rocking and Moab is unlike any other place in the world. Everyone should come… as long as I still get good seats and a shot at Ferron.

* Main refrain from a new Karen Savoca song that will be released on a CD next spring. I just can’t get it out of my head. It was so beautiful

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Ear Lifts — a review

So, I have these earrings.  Beautiful black hoops dripping with a dense cluster of sky-blue glass beads of differing sizes.  I love these earrings.  Fell in love with them at Macy’s and had to have them.

Unfortunately, they’re heavier than an elephant standing on a grand piano balanced on a Caterpillar D1.  Every time I tried to wear them within a few hours my lobes would be sore, swollen, and larger (torn or stretched).  I’d end up taking them out and swearing never to wear them again.  I thought about taking them to my jeweler friend and seeing if she could lighten them up — maybe removing some of the beads and making a ring or something out of them to match.  But I’m lazy, and so they spent time gathering dust and occasionally tempting me into pain.

So when I was in a store and saw a package of Earlifts (as seen on TV) (caution, EXTREMELY ANNOYING website at the other end of that link) marked down to less than $2, I thought what the hell?

They, too, sat gathering dust for several months until yesterday morning.  Yesterday was our church’s annual Water Ceremony, and I was piling on all my wateriest jewelry in honor of the day.  And there were my earrings, glistening like so many drops of crystalline water.  So I decided to give the earlifts a try.

They seem to be made of oval-shaped pieces of transparent surgical tape.  You peel one off a sheet, stick it to the back of your ear behind where your hole is, and the poke the earrings through your ear and through the tape.  The earrings poked easily through the tape and I was certain that the tape would either a)  be peeling off within the hour, or b) tear more easily than my skin and do absolutely nothing.

I was surprised when, several hours later, I got into my car and remembered that I was still wearing the Heaviest Earrings on Earth.  My ears weren’t sore, red, or stretched out!  The tape was still stuck and for such a flimsy thing it was actually doing a fantastic job supporting my earrings.

I’m definitely going to be using these again.  I’ve got 3 other pairs of heavy earrings and I’m happy to be able to wear them again.  At $10 for 60 (+S&H), though, I’m not sure they’re worth the price for an occassional user like me.  I think I’ll get a roll of clear surgical tape, first, before shelling out a ten-spot.  But if I see them on clearance?  Oh hell, yeah, I’d buy them again.

The Buy Nothing (new) Challenge

I tend to freak out about money.  Here’s how it happens.  I keep good track of my finances for a while, and then something happens… an illness, a trip, a wedding, SOMETHING to knock me off my budget and make it a bit muddy to figure out just where I stand.  And then I make like an ostrich and REFUSE to look — dread growing with each purchase (or refused purchase on the certainty that I’m near financial ruin) until I have an anxiety attack for a few days that finally, FINALLY leads to a near-breakdown and I figure my books out and realize that I have no money (just as I thought).  But I also have a clean slate and promises NEVER to do that again.  Of course, if I’d just sat down with my checkbook register and receipts the first time I realize I’ve blown it again, it would never be as bad as it ends up. 

And yet I never learn.

And I do it again.

It’s the impulse spending that kills me.

This doesn’t work so well when you’re only getting paid once a month.  Instead of a paycheck bail-out and fresh start every two weeks, my cycle’s now stretching for an entire month.  And each month I’m a little more in the hole to be bailed out.  Meaning that each month I have a little LESS money in my working budget because of the pay-off I need to do.

These are my specific money troubles.  My partner has others.  Together we’re misappropriating hundreds of dollars from our monthly budget.  Given that we were just handed a big bill for something we desperately need and want to do ASAP, this needs to stop NOW.  We need to get control of our finances.  We know that we make enough to cover our needs.  And when we’re on budget we even have stuff left over for, oh, I don’t know… savings.  And to help us pay for the Desperately Wanted and Needed and Expensive Thing.  So last night we came up with a plan.  We know it’s going to be hard.  Very hard.  But we both think it’s also going to be very, very good for us.  Like a sugar binger going on the master cleanse.  

We’re going cold turkey on all “unnecessary” purchases.  But wait!  Not exactly!  For the next 3 months we will only buy food and toiletries (including “household toiletries” like cleaning supplies) new.  If we find that we need to buy something else: books, clothes, toys, whatever.  We will buy them used or get them free somehow.  We’re also going to stop eating out.  Now I can look forward and see that we’ve got trips planned (a wedding, my residency in Seattle, a work conference) that are going to require meals out, but other than that, no.  Cooking at home.  The whole thing is a bit like The Compact, only for a shorter period of time (though if it works out we’ll keep going) and with a bit more flexible rules (for instance if we break a window, we’ll go buy a window — unless we can find a used or free one right away — but we’re not going to angst about it).  Starting today (because I have no money today to buy anything anyway…)

Also a good thing about starting today is that I’m riding high on my hand-me-down and dumpster-diving bliss.  Recently it was Big Garbage Day here and as I was driving to work I noticed a faded and dirty, but still safe and sound, plastic kid-sized picnic table.  I’ve been wanting one of these for the last couple of years, but didn’t want to pay for it.  So I screetched to a halt, opened up the hatchback of the prius, and shoved that thing in.  And, in just the next pile over there was an intact and rather cute glass punch bowl complete with little punch cups!  We’ve been having to borrow hipiegrl’s and my mother’s punch bowl every time we throw a party and I’ve been complaining that we need to get our own.  And right there!  It fell out of the sky (practically).

Not only that, but my brother, He Who Could Sell Snow to Polarbears, and his wife finally finally brought us their daughter’s hand-me-down clothes.  6 WHOLE BAGS!  And they’re kinda anal people, so the clothes were in really good condition, and clean, and frighteningly free of stains.  About 1/3 of them were too small for Sassa, so we’re passing them down to our friend who just had a baby girl, and the rest will keep Sassa in clothes for the next year at least!  I love hand me downs.  Just like a shopping spree with no consumer guilt or buyer’s remorse!

I know it probably sounds weird to put this challenge on a product/book review blog.  Consider it a lifestyle-product review, and join me for the ride!

Plus, just because I got it for free or from a thrift shop doesn’t mean I can’t review it… (and I’m more than happy to review presents and freebees)

So, what do you think?  Have you done this?  Are you interested?  What new items couldn’t you live without if you were to try this?

Stepping Out on My Men

I’ve been a Ben & Jerry’s girl since I first had the economic power to buy my own premium ice cream.  Now, I’ve been known to slum it with Dreyers and with Breyers (what is up with those similar names, eh?) and with Snelgroves and even Blue Bunny on occasion, but if I have the money to spend on a pint of super premium ice cream (and no one who’s going to insist on sharing) then Ben and Jerry are the only names on my lips.

Until now.

Last night I was idling around the ice cream aisle, listening to sweet seduction when a Haagen Daas pint caught my eye.  Hawaiian Lihue Honey and Cream.  I have a soft spot for Hawaiian honey ever since I bought a tiny jar of white honey on Honolulu and fell in love.  So, as my loyal heart cried foul, my cheatin’ fingers wandered over to that exotic carton and threw it into my cart.  And then, in a fit of remorse for the broken faith I’d shown my men, I also threw two of the cutest, tiniest little cartons of B&J into my cart.  Not that that fixes anything, because of course my remorse was not enough for me to put the Hawaiian temptress back on the shelf.

Back home, I pried open the lid to be greeted by creamy waves and honey ripples.  OH!  the sweetness of it.  LORD!  the richness.  Honey and cream, but oh so much more!  the honey tastes of flowers, the cream of grassy meadows.  It was one of the simplest and most decadent ice creams I have ever in my life tasted.

And the heaven when it was paired with a warm peach pie.

Ben and Jerry will always have a special place in my heart.  Phish food, Cherry Garcia, Festivus… memories I shall always cherish.  But they’ve been put aside in favor of sweet cream and golden honey.

I think I’m going to try the toasted coconut sesame one next…

I ROCK!!!

No.  The title is not about my possible job.  I think they may have offered it to someone else as my phone is determinedly NOT ringing. 

Well, it rang last night, and I got all excited, but it was just a straight married woman wanting to know about turkey bastering it (yes, she really did think you used a turkey baster) so that she and her husband didn’t have to get all stressed out about, you know, actually having sex.

I’m being snarky, but I actually think it’s quite sad.  I did give her lots of tips and pointers, though.  After I stopped myself from biting her head off just because she was unlucky enough NOT to be someone calling to offer me a fantastic job.

No, not that.  I rock because Klove got me guitar heros for our wii and it says so.  I rock so hard.  We both rock together.  Because she not only got me the guitar heroes, but she got me an extra guitar for it, too.  So we have a red hot career with our band, Pook.

Seriously, I am addicted to this game.  I’ve been playing it for hours almost every day.  I give Sassa the extra guitar so that I can convince her that she’s playing it, too, so that I can play it while she’s up.  I’d like you to know that I’ve beaten the game on Easy, and am now working my way through Medium.  Medium is hard as my pinky finger is apparently boneless.  Holy crap, people, I used to be a musician, I used to have to use my pinky finger for trills and quick riffs on my (rockin’, of course) bassoon.  And now it’s just boneless, lazy, slow, totally not pulling its own weight around here.

The only thing I don’t like about guitar hero is how few female rockers are represented.  I mean, there’s Heart’s Barracuda (BARRACUDA!!!) and Pat Benetar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot.  And there’s a few in the bonus songs that you can buy.  But where’s Joan Jett?  Where’s Susan Tedeschi?  Where’s the goddammed Bonnie Raitt???  Why does there have to be such a preponderance of music that sucks lyrically and musically? (obviously I’m not counting the inclusion of Black Magic Woman or Cream’s Summer of Your Love or Pearl Jam’s Even Flow in among the suckage…) Is it too much to ask for a Guitar Hero: Fingerpickin’ Singer/Songwriters of the ’90s? 

Probably.  While I would cream my pants at the possibility of a Guitar Hero game that included Ani DiFranco, Patty Larkin, Greg Brown, Melissa Ferrick, et al (and I must admit that the irony of such a Guitar Hero game — particularly if it included Ani’s Napoleon or The Million You’ll Never Make — would considerably add to my near-sexual delight while playing that game) I doubt that such a game will make an appearance any time soon.  Alas.

So, do you rock out?  And what songs do you wish you could riff on your little white plastic guitar with the death’s head stickers?

The Rubber Rose

Yeah, we were in San Diego last week.  For some number of hours less than 48.  But still, good times.  We got to sleep in on a freakin’ weekday for the first time in, I don’t know, my memory’s bad these days for lack of sleep, but I think it was something like 790 days or 1137600 minutes, give or take an hour or so.  You know, since the baby was born.

So that was nice.  And we did a lot of walking around.  And we got to go to Trader Joes.  $250 worth of Trader Joe’s exclusives (both dry goods and bottled) and $75 to ship it all home and it was worth every. freaking. penny.  We won’t be near a Trader Joe’s until (maybe) March.  Maybe longer.  I really wish they’d open one here.

But.  But the best part of the trip was our side jaunt to a little store called The Rubber Rose.

Because The Rubber Rose might just be a bit more than some of my readers want to know, I’m putting the rest of this post below the fold… (seriously, family? co-workers? neighbors?  seriously, think before you click, I take no responsibility for any emotional scarring you recieve from what you read past the link, you have only yourself to blame if you click the more link)

Continue reading

Yent– oops, I mean On Borrowed Wings

I had an opportunity to read On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad for Mother Talk. (Just so you know, I was given a copy of the book and will get a $20 gift certificate to Amazon for writing this post). I chose this book because I am interested in representations of gender performance and disruption.  On Borrowed Wings does muddy the clear gender fairy tale of Girl Wants More Than Her Limited Choices So She Cuts Her Hair, Binds Her Breasts, Puts On Pants and Hies Herself to Some Male Bastion of Self Betterment Where She Immediately Reasserts Her Inherent Femininity By Falling Helplessly In Love With A Man There and Pining For Him Hopelessly as She Learns Great Scholarly Things By His Side And Never Once Seriously Questions Her Own Gender Identity Eventually Returning To Her True Form — but doesn’t go nearly far enough to be truly satisfying.

In this respect, On Borrowed Wings attempts to examine similar ground that “Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy” (the short story that inspired the play that the movie Yentl was based on) does, but ends treading the ground a good deal closer to Yentl the Movie for me.

So, yes. Adele, the narrator of On Borrowed Wings, is brilliant, poor, and female. She’s being pushed by her mother to marry a quarryman and settle into the same disappointing life that her mother fell into. And this is partially because of gender expectations, but also partially because of race and class. Adele resembles her Italian laborer father and so another laboring immigrant is just fine for her. Her brother, on the other hand, takes after his mother and her upper class WASP family in looks and sensibilities, and so nothing but Yale will do for him in their mother’s ambitious plans to regain her class status. I went looking for gender complication and ended up with race and class complications as well. It was a wonderful surprise because nothing exists in limbo.

In fact, Adele’s very ability to transform herself into a creature masculine enough to pass muster at Males-Only Yale is considered, by Adele’s mother at least, to be a result of Adele’s immigrant taint. Adele, in the eyes of her mother and brother, has no understanding of the natural order of things, no sensitivity to the right and good boundaries between people. She pushes her way in where she shouldn’t be, and where she isn’t wanted. When Charles dies, her mother has no problem believing that Adele can pull the impersonation off. And thus, in a satisfying twist, Adele’s mother’s path back to her “natural” class and race station hinges on the muddy traits that she has spent so much time despising in Adele.

I like the complications.  But I can’t help but feel that On Borrowed Wings doesn’t complicate things enough.  One the race and class front, Adele works for a Eugenicist and makes her work there palatable to her (and us) by undermining his research and articles.  But we never see the reaction other people have to Adele working for the eugenicist.  Does she keep it completely secret?  Do the others not care?  That section of the book is kept functionally separate from the rest of Adele’s life and human interactions.  Though the eugenicist’s survey is how Adele meets the DiRisios (another significant subplot), they are kept from knowledge of what she does for Dr. Spang, just as what Adele does with the DiRisio’s are kept separate from the world of Yale (with the noted exception of Adele taking young Cici DiRisio to Yale to see Amelia Earhart speak).  Race and class become separate issues with the figure of Adele becoming the only one to move through the different castes. 

On the gender front we watch Adele transform herself into Charlie to such an extent, that her femininity nearly completely disappears — taking most of her biological femaleness with it. The last vestiges of her femininity become alien to her: her breasts no longer ache under their bindings, her menstrual flow becomes dissociative and disturbing to her.

And yet, see, she’s fallen in love with her male friend, Wick. And this love keeps some part of her feminine and thus anchoring her safely to the female. It’s Yentl, at Yale. There’s even a scene where “Charlie” is maneuvered into taking a girl as his date to the Freshman Ball. There’s a moment of promise there, where Adele is contemplating the girl who’s to be her date and growing excited at the prospect of piercing through the girl’s defenses to discover who she truly is.

Did anyone else find themselves unbelievably disappointed when Yentl actually got married, but then led her timid and blushing bride trembling over the brink of… logic and reading and scholarly thoughts, and nothing else?

“Charlie” does kiss the girl passionately. But nothing can truly happen there. Because “Charlie” is a girl. A girl who loves Wick, a boy.

Alright. Maybe that’s my own personal disappointment. The thing is, to me, the whole plot thread of Adele’s love for Wick seems tacked-on as a way to make sure that Adele never really becomes Charlie. Things get “complicated”, but because of her strong heterosexual longing for Wick things never really get a good complication going on the level of gender identity and desire and attraction. Adele longs for Wick as a woman longs for a man – not as man longs for a man – and thus her attraction to Wick keeps her rooted firmly in the female and the heterosexual for both herself AND for her audience.

Furthering this refusal to complicate things too much is the refusal on the part of Adele (and thus Prasad) to make any choices about her future. The book ends with Adele choosing to remain male and at Yale despite the fact that her mother has reconciled with her wealthy family and is insisting that Adele become female again (and a member of the upper class while she’s at it). And yet Adele is remaining at Yale so that she can eventually become a teacher. And so you are left to wonder, why? If all she wants to do is teach, why must she maintain a charade that will end up with her getting a degree in her dead brother’s name from an institution that would never (at that time) acknowledge that it had had a female student? She claims that she can’t leave her friends, but her friends don’t even know that her father is dead, let alone that she’s a woman (and I wouldn’t think that this was important except that SHE thinks it’s important). So the book ends in an affirmation of ambiguity: Adele estranged from her mother (the only person who knew her as Adele and not as Adele-as-Charlie), accepting a full-ride scholarship for her remaining years at Yale and a position coordinating the first community literacy program for Yale, planning on moving into an apartment with her friend Harry – all actions which push her further toward living indefinitely as Charlie, while at the same time she becomes sexually active with Wick and takes a nostalgic trip – as a girl – back to her hometown – actions that imply that “Charlie” is a masquerade that she must cast aside eventually to resume a life as Adele. Adele tells Wick that she’s refusing to choose her course of action because she’s tired of making things fit into neat boxes when they won’t fit.

I suppose that’s supposed to be some sort of epiphany. The cry of the modern woman refusing to be boxed in by imposed gender limitations. After all, if only Yale had allowed women to attend their hallowed halls then the masquerade would never have been necessary.

But, this indecision just makes the book feel incomplete to me. As if it’s waiting for a sequel. Perhaps that’s the point. Adele is waiting for someone, or something, to make her decision for her. Perhaps she’s waiting for time to change around her, but time’s not going to change soon enough for her. Other reviewers have commented on the exhaustive historical knowledge of Yale that has informed this book, so you can’t forget that Yale didn’t accept female students until 1969 – a good 30 years after this book takes place. Adele is doomed to her in-between state, doomed to lying and subterfuge and allowing her own accomplishments to be covered by the name of someone else, unless something changes.

That something changed? That’s the book I want to read. I would like to see Adele be truly gender queer. I would like to see her forge a course that respects both the masculine and the feminine within her without having one always eclipse the other. I would like to see her negotiate the world that way. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that she could be that, it doesn’t blow the premise of the book to pieces – gender queer people were making quite a splash in the art and intellectual worlds in the 1930’s – unless the premise is only that Adele is an intelligent, ambitious, strictly feminine and heterosexual woman forced into an untenable position by circumstances a modern woman would shudder at. Of course, Adele’s own relishing of herself as Charlie forecloses on that possibility. Don’t mistake me, I don’t want Prasad to make Adele pick a gender and stick within its modern-sensibility-acceptable confines, I just want to feel that her ambiguity is a deliberate choice and not just an attempt to refrain from deciding for the sake of audience acceptance and mainstream palatability. Father, can you hear Streisand singing?

So, I give the book 4 stars out of 5 for making me think, and for being beautifully researched and written, but not pushing hard enough. And I’ll hold my breath for a sequel. (not really)