Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where I Stand Right This Very Minute on Music: Pierce Brosnan, Babs and "Evergreen," and Celine

Is it so wrong to think that the best song on the new Mamma Mia! movie is the one Pierce Brosnan sings all by himself? I mean, I know that he's no Pavarotti or Bono or Miley Cyrus, and I know that, as Stoker mentioned, his song seems to have had the most digital editing done to it, but still . . . I love it. Why? Why do I love it?

I have no idea. How can I explain it? I can't. But let me say, there's something to be said about the virginal voice. And by virginal voice I mean the young, untrained sound. There's still the capacity for emotion and that's what I must be hearing. And there's the unique phrasing and emphasis that comes from someone who is NOT a singer first and foremost.

And since his days as the one and only Remington Steele, I have been a fan of Pierce Brosnan. And Streep does a great job harmonizing with him. It sounds good. That's all I can say.

And is it so wrong to sometimes just crave some old Barbara Streisand song ("Ahhhh ahhh, ahhhh ahh, loooove soft as an easy chair . . .")? Or some Celine Dion favorite, "A whisper in the moonlight . . ."? No, no, it's not. Occasionally a person just gets tired of all the new crap and the onslaught of new bands and the next fly-by-night sensation and they just want to hear Babs singing, "Like a rose, under the April snow, IIIIIII was always certain love would grow," and stuff. Because it's SO good. You can't deny it. You must relent, Babs' voice is butter and "Evergreen" makes you want to fall in love. It does. Even the most hard-hearted, Harley-riding, hard fightin', hard fartin' man's man's man wants to swoon and fall for someone when he hears Babs belt out the melody of that song.

When Cassi came to visit during the fourth, I was really into listening to these old easy-listening favorites. And I thought it would be really hilarious to have that song or maybe a Conway Twitty song playing when she got into the car at the airport. Stoker agreed. So I had it all cued up on the old Ipod (Stoker: "What I want to know is what the hell these songs are doing on your Ipod?"), and Cas was in the car, trapped in the backseat and as we're exiting the airport, the strains of "Evergreen" come lilting out of the car speakers, "Ahhhh ahh ahhhhh ahhh ahh loooooove soft as an easy chair . . ." Two seconds later, she hadn't even finished the first line, Cassi says, "What the hell are you guys listening to? Is this the radio?"

And I kept a straight face.

"Noooo, it's what we're listening to."
"What?" And what she meant here was something more like, "What's happened to you, Nik? You've gotten OLD or something."

So then we put on Conway Twitty "You've Never Been This Far Before," and we tried to tell her that EVERYONE listens to that kind of music in Nashville. Duh. She didn't buy it. But oh man, we got a kick out of it. Playing up being old (Stoker's only 25) and listening to what she would deem crap, because see, she's at that age where you MUST listen to cool music and go to lots of shows and wear band t-shirts and go to music festivals and your cool capital comes from WHAT you like, not what YOU'RE like.

Personally I think my cool capital comes from being so cool that I don't give a shit if someone thinks I'm cool or not, having the breadth to listen to Conway Twitty and Charlie Rich and Dolly and Porter and Babs, in addition to indie favorites like Devotchka, makes me the coolest. Ha ha ha.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hemingway and Nashville Local Color

I'm about to finish "A Moveable Feast." It's a great book. I read on Wikipedia that some call it Hemingway's finest writing. I haven't read all of his writing, but I have to agree. Maybe that's because he knew the protagonist so well and he wasn't being deceptive that the protagonist was himself.

I don't know. The thing that bugs me is the critics who say that Hemingway is still being deceptive in his portrayal of himself as the hero. Critics bug me, I even bug myself when I'm being a critic. Sometimes I think, "Poor Stoker, always stuck listening to me being a critic." And then I think, "Poor me, always stuck listening to me being critical." But there's no way to escape that. I'm stuck with me.

At lunch I have to leave my workplace. I have to get away, I have to think that I'm not fixed to this place like some kind of Dickens character. What's his name? The guy who worked for Scrooge who was forever positive and helpful and hopeful? I don't recall. But I'm not him. I like to think I'm not a cog in the machinery and that I could get away from it permanently if I had to.

I could live on the streets like the lady on Demonbreun. Demonbreun is a main road in Nashville. It takes one over to Music Row and it's not pronounced "deman-brewin" like one might think. It's pronounced "de-MON-bri-un." That's not an offical phonetical spelling, so don't check Webster's to see if I did it right. I'll spare you, I didn't.

The lady is a permanent fixture on Demonbreun. She's beautiful. I've never spoken to her, but she's got my heart. She's there in the middle of cold winter days, sitting on her bench in a big coat, and she's there in the swampy hot weather of summer, sitting on her bench under a big sun umbrella. She has Swedish features that have been bronzed to a sort of leathery complexion by the wind and the cold and the sun. Sometimes I'll see her eating a lunch off of one of the brick walls that separate the little shops along Demonbreun, and I've seen her drinking something from a styrofoam cup, with her pinkie in the air like someone with real class.

There are days that I wonder where she goes at night. Does she go to the mission? I look for her when I drive by and if I don't see her, I worry. I worry and wonder if she's safe. I wonder about her choice of "office." There's an abandoned newspaper stand next to her preferred bench. The glass has been broken out and I have noticed that she puts stuff in there, like her dayplanner and maybe a notebook.

She has class. She does. She wears dark velvety jumpsuits, the kind your grandma might wear. I guess they're called leisure suits. They have embroidered designs on them.

The most I've said to her is "hi." And I wave and she waves back. I don't know anything else about her. But I feel a sense of responsibility for her. That probably makes me an ass and if I ever spoke to her and if she found out I had said this or written a word about her, she would probably resent it and think, "How dare you!" She's got class and dignity, you see. She's not a stray cat or something. And I've never given her anything, not even spare change.

It's stupid to say, but I feel like she's given me something.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Talking to Strangers: An Inordinately Long Post (Worth It; Very Entertaining)

I have a stalker.

Ok. I use that term loosely. He’s not one hundred percent bona fide stalker, but he’s around and he’s undesirable and I don’t know how to get rid of him. No, I’m not talking sarcastically about Stoker. Stoker is still one hundred percent desirable and as it stands now, he’s not around near enough.

The stalker doesn’t seem to follow me, per se. And that’s why I use the term loosely. But suddenly, I can’t go anywhere outside my office without running into him. It’s annoying.

Here’s the story. In riding my bike home from work, I was waved over to a parking lot by a guy who was in workout clothes. I thought he was going for an after work run. Or maybe they were playing a pickup game of basketball. I stopped. The dude assured me that all he wanted to know was bike stuff and then he asked me a bunch of questions about my bike. I answered his questions while still being cautious, under the impression that I was speaking with a working professional, which somehow at that time meant to me that he wasn’t creepy. Not one hundred percent creepy, anyway. When the questions got uncomfortable, I started to want to leave, like when he asked if I go for group rides or what. I thought to myself that I didn’t want him knowing whether or not I rode alone. He wanted to know where I rode, I didn’t tell him. I told him I ride with my husband, which is true.

After a few minutes, a woman appeared on the front steps of his office building. She was shouting and waving for him. “His wife,” I thought, even though that didn’t really make sense. He said he had to go and left. So I left too.

Oh, and initially, he mentioned that he was glad I had stopped. He said he had seen me riding my bike by before and he was so glad he caught me. One of the other things he said was that he wanted to get a bike and that at one point he had done triathlons. Which is cool, great for him. Apparently he had been out of the scene for a while. Fine, awesome. Go to it, man.

A few days later, I was out walking on my lunch. I went about a half mile to find a place to eat. As I was returning to my office, I stopped on a street corner while I waited for the light to change. There was a dude in the bike lane and he looked at me. I ignored him. Then he asked, “Are you the bike girl?” And what did I do?

I said yes, because I’m an idiot. Why the hell would I say yes? First of all, why the hell would I talk to a stranger? In the very first place, why would I do that? Why would I not heed my mother’s advice and the advice of the public education system and the advice of all the television commercials during Saturday morning cartoons? Why?

Because I’m an idiot. I am. There’s no way around it. My stupidness surprises even me. So I say yes to the dude’s question, “Are you the bike girl?” I say yes and nod, dumbly, because I’m a little surprised and confused and I respond too quickly, automatically. When I’m taken by surprise I tend to become a deer in the headlights, I’m very shocked that there’s a car, I can’t believe there’s a car, why would there be a car here, why is it speeding into my face? That’s what I do. I get confused. That’s what happens right before you die.*

And the dude thinks it’s divine intervention or something. He’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m running into you again. My friends said that you rode by one day when I wasn’t there and there were all, ‘______, she came by again, the Bike Girl. She came by when you weren’t here.’ And now here you are.” And then he showed off the bike he got for $400 off of He was so thrilled about the bike and I pretended to be impressed because I didn’t give a shit. All I was thinking about was how the hell** to get out of this.

The light changes and the dude rides his bike across the street. I wait for the cars and begin crossing the road. The dude gets to the other side and what does he do? He WAITS for me.

There’s no where for me to go. He’s on a bike and I’m walking and my work is half a mile away. He begins riding his bike real slow next to me and he begins gabbing. He chatters on and on about the bike and how he’s getting a fresh start and how he’s been out of the scene for four years and he just got to Nashville and he’s real excited about everything, to get a fresh start. I’ve got my hand in my bag and I’m texting Stoker to “CALL ME RIGHT NOW.” And I’m not listening real close, but I catch the thing about being gone for four years. So I ask him where he’s been for four years, feeling my blood turning cold.

“Prison. I was locked up for four years. But I’m rehabilitated now and I’ve got a fresh start. I don’t want to freak you out or scare you, I’ve got two sons and everything.”

I play it cool. And what the hell? PRISON? I’m not going to tell you my life story, but what is it with me and ex-cons? I’m not kidding. Somehow I seem to attract them and it’s not like I’m hanging out in bars. They find me in the oddest places. The climbing gym, college, the street. Ok, the street is a weird one. But that’s the first weird one.

At this point, I’m really concerned about how to deter to this guy. Stoker hasn’t called me and I’m getting annoyed about that. I ask the dude why he was in prison, but he pretends not to hear. He tries to tell me his life story, his name, where he’s from, that he has some kids, etc. It turns out that that office is not an office, but is rather a HALFWAY HOUSE. It turns out that that halfway house looks out on my parking lot (he was puzzling over why he keeps running into me in such a fortuitous way). It turns out that there have been a bunch of ex-whatevers oogling me as I ride by on my bicycle.

This stirs a ton of unpleasant realizations in me, as I walk along, thinking of how to get rid of him without being offensive.

And why on earth shouldn’t I be offensive? Why on earth is there a strange man riding beside me, trying to be my friend or something when I’ve already mentioned that I have a husband? Obviously there’s something wrong with him. Something anti-social about him. I hate to be an ass, but sometimes a person needs to get a brain. By person I mean this man, who clearly doesn’t have enough mental power to get out of his own experience and recognize that I’m a girl walking by myself and whether or not he’s harmless, his actions might appear otherwise.

What kills me is that I actually feel like I should try to preserve this guy’s feelings. Why is that? Why should I care? He’s clearly crossing all sorts of lines of decorum. I’m not his friend. Usually I don’t talk to strangers, and there are a lot of seedy guys hanging around Nashville, if you’ve never been here. They love to try to rope girls into conversation. Typically I mutter something unintelligible to them and hurry on. But one time I didn’t do that and it turns out that that one time just happened to introduce me to a guy who has been in PRISON.

I wrap the conversation up with that guy after he asks me my name and where I work and what I do. I tell him something along these lines, “I’m sorry, I have nothing against you, but you’re a stranger and because I hardly know you, I’m not going to tell you my name. I don’t feel comfortable telling you anything about me. But good luck with the bike, bye.”

And he rode off. Since then I have seen him several times. Each time I wish I hadn’t seen him and I worry about my safety. Has he marked me? He’s obviously being monitored to some degree, but what the hell was he in prison for? I have no idea and I didn’t listen well enough to do a search for him and find out what he did. I don’t buy that he’s rehabilitated. I’m the person who thinks that prisons don’t turn prisoners around, they make them worse. Today he rode his bike past me and waved and said in a real aggressive-sounding way, “Hey there!”

I saw him last week and ignored him so I guess that’s why today’s hello sounded like this, “Yeah, I know you’re trying to ignore me. But I don’t care. I’m going to acknowledge the hell out of you.” Which bothers me. What kind of a-hole doesn’t get it?

Oh yeah, and the world? Full of a-holes. Sometimes, and I hate to be a big whiner and complain, but sometimes it really gets me that a large portion of my thinking powers are put to trying to protect myself from men. It bugs me that forever and ever, men will always have the upper hand. I guess someone will always have the upper hand because life really is one big competition, whether or not pacificists and all those people who say to me “it’s not a competition” want to admit it. NEWS FLASH: It is too. Everything is a competition and I’m determined as hell to win it. And if it means carrying pepper spray all the time, I’ll do it. And if it means carrying a concealable bazooka, I’ll do it. I can field strip a bazooka in two minutes and forty-nine seconds. Beat that, a-hole.

*Word to the wise, don’t get confused and you’ll stay alive.
**I swear a lot when I feel like my life is threatened. Just be glad I’m not dropping F-bombs like 99% the bloggers out there.

Some really good men read my blog. Thanks for being good men. I’d make a list of your names, but it would be too long, as my entire fan base is composed almost entirely of men.