Saturday, May 30, 2009

The National

The National
Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC
May 28, 2009

Perhaps the quip on Facebook should have served as a warning. "Not sure I want to wade through the hipsters here to see the National. Let me know if it's worth going." And then the fact the show was sold out. But I am often not good at reading the signs. So Thursday evening found H and I setting out, once again in a thunderstorm. H is doomed to always drive to the triangle area in thunderstorms...if we end up moving there, it's going to rain a lot.

As mentioned before the drive to this part of NC is not particularly beautiful. We found ourselves amused at the various billboards. Luckily good company saves a boring drive. H and I talked about a lot of things....various issues we've been dealing with, music, and our future in Charlotte. I love being alone with H, and as much as I like going to shows with a load of friends, I still relish these times when it just he and I. We don't get many moments like these and we enjoy them as they come. Of course I was getting nervous because it was getting later, doors opened at 8, and when 8 rolled around we were still a half hour from Raleigh. H was his usual cool self "We'll be fine." But I knew the show had been sold out, and worried about the place being too packed to get a decent place to stand. I have a tendency now to want to be real close....

When we arrived in Raleigh (with is miniature cityscape), the storm had calmed. As we turned down the side street to the venue, we both moaned. There was no parking in the lot next to the club, and the line at the door extended a ways down the sidewalk. And the crowed, as predicted by my friend, was pretty much what I'd classify as hipster (too cool to be cool). We parked next door in a parking garage, and went to join our place in the too cool to be cool line. Once inside, it was packed but everyone was quite involved in drinking at the bar/concession stand. I was already not liking the vibe of the venue. It felt like a theater not a club.

We got our places at the front. Before us were a line of young girls who looked like they had just been released from high school. Opening act was a bit much. A guy playing a couple of different kinds of saxophones accompanied with these kind of annoying mouth clicks. Not my thing but the girls were front were all ga/ga over him. But they seemed like they would have been ga/ga over pretty much anything that went on on the stage. H translated the various sounds "Elephant dying." I did good and did not laugh out loud. I try to be somewhat respectable towards the opening acts even if I don't much like them.

Finally, the torture we had to endure to hear the National was over, and we waited impatiently while the roadies set up the instruments. The crowd was getting restless and pushing towards the front. Every time someone came onto the stage from the wings, the crowd would scream. H and I just looked at each other a bit horrified. This felt too much like an arena show as opposed to a little club with an indie band. We also found ourselves having to defend our spots, as more drunken fans kept pushing their way through...I figured we had earned our spots by listening to the opening act, and held strong against the pushing and swaying.

Finally, the National came on. Matt Berninger came out with a bottle of wine. And he was already swaying when he took the mike. They opened with a new song which I thought was ballsy. It was good but his voice did not sound anything like it did on Boxer. It was closer to the sound on Alligator but still...I don't know why singers feel this need to modify their voices in the studio. It makes for a big disconnect with the audience. Although this audience didn't seem to notice/care. They were screaming things like "I love you!!!" It was very disconcerting as I haven't been to a show like this since I saw Radiohead last year.

And it just kept getting weirder. One of the twins, on guitar, kept smiling at me...thought I was imaging it until H pointed it out as well. Matt got drunker and drunker as the show proceeded. This may be why his voice alternated between passable and horrible. There were times when his voice was so bad, it was actually unpleasant to listen too. The band was amazing, very tight, loud. They played with the songs so they didn't feel the same as they did on the album but it was creative playing that made everything feel fresh. "Mistaken by Strangers" was awesomely executed, including Matt's voice (made me a happy girl as this is my favorite song by them). The brass section was way too loud, and when they came in it drowned out the other instruments. Plus it sounded really discordant at times.

Matt was pretty drunk by the fifth song. He slammed his water bottle down on the stage, breaking it and sending water all over the first two rows. Umm...were we at a Great White show? He was going nuts on stage, screaming the lyrics into the mike, contorting all over the place, hitting the drums, falling on the floor. It felt awkward and uncomfortable as if he was putting on a show more than really getting into the music. I had expected a more serene, intellectual demeanor because of the interviews I had read and/or seen. But he was kind of acting like a "rock star." The audience was eating it up. They were shouting at him like he was a rock star. I kept waiting for people to pull their lighters out. The girls in front of us were swooning. They had their heads on their hands, and were staring up at Matt like he was a god come to stage.
And there was another problem. The audience just sucked. The girl behind me had the most fucking annoying voice. Squeaky, high pitched and she was drunk. She kept yelling shit at the band during the songs: "I LOVE YOU MATT!!" "YOU'RE THE BEST MATT!!!" "I FUCKING LOVE THIS SONG!!!" And when she wasn't screaming shit like that she was singing!!! Loudly. I almost turned around and said "Sweetheart I came here to listen to him sing. Not you so shut the fuck up ok?" In between every song, the audience would scream suggestions. I hate that. And then there were the two girls to the side, who proceeded to talk through the last half of the show, exchanging phone numbers with some guys, and yelling to each other. They did shut up after I mustered up one of real nasty glares but they were offended. I mean imagine someone not wanting you to talk through a show? The nerve.

When Matt threw himself into the audience was when I began to feel like maybe I had mistakenly entered a Jonas Brothers' concert. The crowd surged around him, touching him, taking photos right in his face, screaming out how much they loved him. He pushed his way by me, and was mangled by squeaky voice girl who refused to let go of him, and had him in a modified head lock at one point. Matt looked desperately at H, and I stepped between him and the girl so she had to let go. He hugged H, and then started to make his further back. I was in the line of the mike cord so I was holding it up. The roadie was mouthing to me that there was no more give. I was thinking "Ok what the hell do you want me to do?" So I started reeling Matt back to the stage, where he stumbled through, hugging H once more, and then climbed back up. At the end of this little routine, once the music stopped, he stood there swaying, and then pointed at me and said "Happy birthday." Everyone around turned to look at me, and I am sure I looked utterly dumbfounded as it wasn't my birthday and I didn't know the guy any better than the rest of the them. He meant to say happy birthday to trumpet players but in his drunken haze wished me one instead.
It's been almost a week and I am still not sure how I feel about the show. There were some great moments of music. "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Fake Empire" were wonderfully performed. I even enjoyed some Matt's yelling, and loved it when the guitar player went a little loud and crazy. But there were are times when Matt's voice just sounded bad, out of tune, slurred, nasal, just not all that great. And the crowd really scared me. I don't know if they're just a lot bigger that H and I thought they were? Listening to them on the way home, I was surprised that such a young crowd was so into them. The lyrics to Boxer are so nogalstic, thinking back on experiences that most of these kids are just beginning to have. And honestly it wasn't the youngness of the crowd that felt weird. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart had an equally young crowd, and they didn't make me feel strange at all. It was the youngness combined with the extreme fanishness. I just felt out of place. So did I like the show? Kind of. They played for two hours and most of the songs were great. I'd not likely ever go to see The National again but I'm glad I saw them, and for the most part enjoyed many of the songs. But it might be that they've just gotten too big. I don't like arena shows anymore. Not willing to cough up the money or to be caught in a big worshiping the band kind of vibe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


We pulled the kids out of school in March. There were a lot of concerns surrounding Camille's classroom and the deteriorating of her behavior at home. I felt at that point that I had done everything in my power to make the situation better but nothing was coming out of that work. I had hoped to make it through the end of the year, and then make a decision about homeschooling.

When I pulled them it seemed pretty straightforward. I was going to keep them home, and continue with homeschooling. However some things have come up that are now making me question this decision. First, we are in a location where there are few homeschoolers. This means that in order for us to do things with group, we have to do a lot of traveling. Camille hates being in the van because she gets carsick. This is problematic because Umberto needs a lot of social activity. He's very orientated towards being other kids a lot, and it's become apparent that being with just his sisters is not cutting it for him. Everyday he asks what we're doing, and who we're going to see. I can see the look of disappointment on his face when I tell him that we're not going out. Second, the school has made some changes that I feel would make me feel comfortable putting Camille back into a classroom. Lastly, I just am not good at this. I don't want to unschool but I have a hard time actually planning out the kind of lessons I feel they need to become healthy, curious learners. I've been out of school for almost a month now and haven't really done much with them in terms of school work. Umberto needs to read everyday or he's not going to become an independent reader. Camille is begging me to teach her more. And I feel like I'm failing them.

It seems this would be an easy choice. Put them back in school. But there are problems with that choice as well. Neither of them want to go back to school. I know it would be a battle. And yes, I could pull the "I'm the parent." but we try very hard to listen to our children's voices. While I wish I was more proactive in coming up with lesson plans, etc, I do think they learn a lot. They are all very curious about the world, choice books about subjects they're interested in, and when we go out, we do a lot of learning type activities. And I'm scared about how we'd all be treated if we go back to CCS. I know there are many there who will see the changes as my fault. This is of course silly and unrealistic but it's easy to pick a simple answer than to look at the whole picture. I am not the only person who has pulled my kids from the school nor am I the only parent who raised concerns. Unfortunately I am the parent whose concerns became public in a highly unethical way.

I have written an email to the principal. I see this as a first step in making a decision. There would be no point in agonizing if there is no room anyway. Parenting is complicated.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I woke up to a the kind of day that makes me love North Carolina. The sun is out, bright against a pale blue sky. There is a slight breeze in the air, making the heat a bit more bearable. And I woke up happy, not conflicted, not stirred up with emotions for the first time in a few months.

The last two days have been utterly wonderful. I have a friend from Maine visiting...a friend I haven't seen in about 6 years. But as we sat outside, talking, drinking wine, laughing, it was like no time had passed at all. I felt so relaxed, comfortable in my own skin, happy to be who I was and to be with who I was with. It was a nice feeling.

Last night as H and I lay in bed, cuddling with a beastie on each side of us, we talked for a little while. We cleared some things up, and it felt good. I wasn't sure what where we were going, and now I feel more confident about our path, and our choices. And then I wake up to the clarity of the sky.

This summer will be busy. We have graduate applications to work on. But I also know it will be one of those summers we both love so much. Time spent being together, talking, playing with the beasties, going to parks, exploring creeks, spending late nights hanging out at Barnes and Noble. I'm looking forward to his last day of school. Looking forward to hanging out with him in the mornings.

And I'm going to really read Deluze this summer. I'm ready to take him on. I need to take him. I need to understand his ideas about pleasure and desire. Plus I have this story rattling around that needs to pushed out into the world. I also am making time for my friends, to come over, hang out with us while our kids play in the water, and we laugh. I need lots of laughter and joy this summer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The last three pieces are, I think, a project that has been percolating in my head for a few years now. The whole process has really been a labyrinth. Lots of dead ends. Even now that I'm actually writing it out, and am thinking about in terms of a real project, I am still not sure where it's going. I write some things, and find them to be dead ends, me up against the wall. But there are tentative leads, things that are starting to feel like they will lead to some kind of way out.

Perhaps it took some maturity to begin this story. The character for a bit was too much like me. She in many ways lived my life. But now she is not me. She has taken on some of my emotions but her story is not my story so to speak. The story is something I tell but I do not feel like it is fully mine. Perhaps it's because she is becoming someone.

I remember when I was younger, back when I really did dream of being a writer, I used to read so many books on writing. Those how-to manuals are so strange. I mean, is it really possible to develop a "how-to" manual on writing? But one of the recommendations all of them had was a good writer planned. They mapped out their stories, created characters, decided on a plot and an ending all before they began to actually write the story. I could never do that, and would feel like a failure. When I did all this preparation this was something lacking in what I wrote. I think it's why I stuck to short stories.

But this tale is not short. It's long and convoluted. It has many false starts and false endings. And there is no planning at all. I just write it out as it comes to me. Today I learned some new things about my character (I don't even know her name yet). I had imagined she was married, perhaps with children but today I felt that she wasn't married. She wasn't married because in some ways she had chosen not to be. I knew also that she was very lovely, and that she used that loveliness like a weapon. But that often it turned against her because she is not as orderly or as strong as she likes to imagine herself. It's funny how I am coming to now these things as I write. It's like becoming intimate with someone interesting...somehow you think you know but then surprises you with some little detail about themselves or about their life.

So bear with me as I lead you through my own labyrinth filled with false starts, bad endings, and dreadful clues about what will happen. This is a story that is meant to be twisty and often wrong and filled no meaning at all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fiction From the Past

Found a couple of weeks ago in an old writing journal. I think I wrote it about five years ago....

Nights spent awake, thinking--desiring something unknown, or perhaps it was just unspeakable. There are these thoughts and feelings that lay right on the surface waiting to be scooped up and examined. But to touch them, to look at them beneath a microscope, would either kill them or make them grow. The dilemma then lies in what one wants. And that is what is unknown.

Sometimes it is like being split in two. There is the way life has become, and there is, joy in that life. There is no dissatisfaction in waking to the warm small body of a baby--feeling her rapid breaths against the hollow in your neck. In the darkness of morning, there is pleasure in seeing you dark body outlined by the night light. Often you are already up when I wake, and I miss your weight in the bed but love the sound of you moving in the other room.

Thus these other feelings confuse me. This horrible restlessness that fills me with this unspeakable yearning. How can yearn for something that would take this all from me? How can I want to leave this life that has brought me peace and security? Perhaps it is that the hourglass has begun to speed up. Is this a crisis of time or nature? I miss the me of the past. That me is a ghost which haunts the outer reaches of my life. I see that self possessed of a freedom I no longer hold. That self soars in the mist of memories with unclipped wings. I go about a rather predictable life not imagined by that past ghost. But this predictability holds an attraction to that past girl. I remember that she longed for peace and security for love. This future holds a promise of warm winter fires with wine for two not one. A world of watching school plays, packing wholesome lunches, shopping for school clothes. A world of firsts, first days of schools, first dates, first proms, first graduations. And that ghost did not even dare to imagine that future. But the woman now wonders..."Is this enough?"

I am unable to pinpoint when a conscious decision was made. There may not have been even a moment. These things are not like maps where you can push a pin to mark your travels. They arise slowly and move you until you are unsure when you opened yourself. I remember scooping the thoughts in a net and peering at them--wanting to throw them back but entranced at their promise. Even now with the gift of hindsight, I can not for sure say that I would have let them go.

The G who wrote this is now part of the same past she was imaging in this writing. More ghosts upon ghosts. This is a scary piece in light of the present. It speaks to what is happening now but I am not in the same space as I was when I wrote this. Remember it is fiction but all fiction carries the writer I think. Now the questions is: Do I continue the story?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I finally did my first show in Chapel Hill at the Local 506. Due to a babysitting exchange H and I were able to go to a show together on Monday night. That a lone made a fab. start to the whole evening...add to this wonderfulness, great friends and it was bound to a perfect evening.

We left in a thunderstorm. H seems to have this kind of luck every time he drives to Chapel Hill. The way there was filled with laughing and lots of talking about music. Going to music shows with music geeks is the only way to go. We created wish lists of what we'd like to see in the near future, and talked about what we had seen in the not so distance past.

Driving to Chapel Hill is not the same kind of beautiful as driving to Asheville. I85 being a highway of ugliness as all interstates normally are. There are no mountains to wind the car through. Just big pieces of flat. But somehow with friends, with H beside me, quiet and thoughtful, the trip ended up having a different kind of beauty.

We arrived in Chapel Hill around 8:30, Amber and Daren needing to pee desperately, and all of us needing Mediterrean food. Chapel Hill is a college town, charmingly filled with little shops in a real downtown area. Lots of young kids wandering around, freed from classes with only finals to look forward to. There was a taste of that freedom as we rushed from sidewalk to resturant, trying to escape the downpour. The deli was delicious, warm and filled with spicy smells. We ate the best hummus I've ever had the pleasure to savor. Followed by sticky and sweet bakolvia.
H and I sat outside at one point both smoking, looking mysterious. We hid from the rain under a table umbrella, and practiced sending each other mysterious, sexy glances. It's nice to be able to flirt with your husband of nine years.

We finally dragged our filled bellies back out into the rain. We had to hide at one point under one of those annoucement boards that had a little roof. It's always wonderful what you find on those boards.

The club was excellent. A really wonderful intimate space. It's small and rather warehouse looking. Not a comfortable space but defintely an intimate space. The stage was set up a little high...I've gotten used to stages at your level, and there was a rail seperating the band from the audience. I didn't care for that element. It was strange in a place so small and it offset the intimacy that one felt upon walking in. The whole protecting the band from the fan thing struck me as odd. But overall the space was conducive to a good music experience which is really what I'm after.

ZaZa opend. I've never heard of them. Felt a bit confused when I recognized the drummer...thought he was part The Pains of Being Pure at Heart...realized he was the drummer....ahh...confusion. They were...alright. I really hate slamming a band that has potential so I'll try to not be too harsh. They didn't suck. The first song was good...kind of haunting and melodious. The singer, male, had this very high voice that worked for that song. The songs thereafter started to a, all sound alike, and b, his voice got on my nerves. There are some who enjoy that kind of singing..high pitched, squealy almost. I am not one of those some. It annoyed me. The bassist has great legs though.
H and our friend Amber liked them. But then TPOBPAH came on. You know it's amazing to hear the difference between a really tight band and one that is just beginning. I realized that ZaZa really wasn't bad, it's just that they felt really new, like they hadn't quite worked their sound out yet. With TPOBPAH, you could tell from the opening note that this was a band that knew their sound, knew what they wanted to convey, and had the ability to do get that through to the audience.Kip Berman has a beautiful voice...almost sweet with a touch of longing. When he sings, it makes your heart ache a little. And then Peggy Wang chimes in with her darling voice, lifing the longing and heartache a bit up to the sky.
The music meanwhile is hard, fast, pushing you to boucne, dance, throw your arms up, and just move. It is a strange combination. I felt unsettled because the vocals have this heavenly, etheral touch, but the music, the drums, loud and throbbing, the guitars wailing with the help of pedals. My heart and soul want to cry, to fall to the floor, but the music gives you a kind of happy hope, as if moving through all this will bring you out of the pain.

Basically the band is just really good. They are fun, tight, and have funky, kirky lyrics. They have these moments where they sound almost like a 50s band with all the wooing, wooing. And then the next song, they're rocking out like The Jesus and Mary Chain. But they really do make their music their own. They only have these moments where you can hear the influence. Part of what makes them sound so unique are those twisted and yet they come off like honey, like pop songs: "You're my sister, and this love is fucking right."
The crowd was amazingly young. I think we were defintely some of the oldest people in attendance. Not that anyone seemed to mind. I realized this is a band that makes me feel like I am nineteen again. I would have loved them even more at nineteen than I do now. They're fun, funky, sweet, and sad all at the same time. Kind of what it's like to be nineteen.
Just look at the new unknown name guitar player. He looks like one of my freshman college students! But hell he was good.

And on the way home, we nearly encountered salvation via the Mobile Chapel.
Instead Amber and Horacio encountered hell in the "iced coffee pot".

Friday, May 01, 2009


My facebook status on Sunday at 11 p.m. was simply "Ginger has completed her MA." And I had. My final paper was written. I had one more day of class and it was over. Just like that. Today I found out that I had gotten an As in both classes so a nice to way to finish out the last four years. But....

Well there's this intense feeling of "What the hell do I do know?" I find myself wandering around aimlessly, searching for something to do. I have plenty to do but can't seem to focus my mind on anything. I'm feeling myself get down, maybe even a little depressed. It's so strange to have longed for this moment and then to feel just a bit lost. I've always had a hard time not letting the past hold onto me with it's tentative threads.

On a good note, I had a most awesome day after classes. Dinosaur Jr played a little club not too far from our house. I'm not a big fan but thought it would be nuts to not see them. A bunch of my friends meet at our place (including the fab. adviser). We drank wine, and ate. I loved being with everyone, all of us giddy about the show. S, the adviser, was a lot of fun, and it was great hanging out with him as a friend and not as a mentor. We all walked over to the show, saw most of the Mike Watt set. And It was a great music moment for me. I wasn't expecting to be blown away, just expecting to have some fun. Dinosaur Jr. is one of those bands that I think sound so much better live. They were LOUD. Real loud. Had a pleasant ear ringing all day yesterday kind of loud. I DANCED for two hours. I couldn't help myself. I forgot how much I love to dance, to move my body, feel the music just take over, and not give a shit what I look like or who is watching. And because I'm not gaga over Dinosaur Jr. I was really able to let myself go. I realize now that it was also a release for me, being able to dance all thought away, to let go of the stress, the emotional shit I've been dealing with lately, all of it was gone. It was too hours of just being pulled and possessed by the loud, loud music. Amazing.

I'm sure I acted utterly strange after the show. When the music ended, I felt...disconnected from everyone. I honestly wanted to just go somewhere for an hour and let myself come back. But I had all these friends to walk home with, and ended up forcing that self back in I think too early. I wanted to hold on to the moment for just a little longer, that moment of utter disconnect where there was only my body, and the whoowhoo of guitar pedals.