Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pipe Cleaner Dance

Ok, this is my new favorite time waster.

Pipe Cleaner Dance

Thanks to Arloa Sutter for sending me that direction. Her blog is also good for really interesting insights on how to actually love the people around us, including the poor and gross. I'm really impressed by it.

Arloa came to my church on Sunday to visit and I was a total insensitive boob when she said she was looking for a new church. I told her we would love to have her because her community development experience would be really appreciated.

Luckily, I got to rectify the situation later by apologizing and telling her that we would love to have her join us because her humanity is valuable to us.

Way to make someone feel welcome, Rebecca. Jesus loves us no matter who we are or what we do for a living. The church and the people in it should, too. Plus, I realized that if someone had said that to me, I would have been super-pissed.

Do unto others. Yeah, right. Sorry, Jesus.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Everyday I Have the Blues

Every once in awhile, I pull out a Joe Williams CD and try again.

When I was a teenager and being honest for the first time with myself through confession to someone else, I gave up my false self-image as one of the intelligentsia and admitted that I really didn't like jazz. (It was a realization that went along with those like the fact that I didn't actually like reading poetry or the classics for entertainment. It took me years to realize that I didn't have to forgo them entirely; I could still appreciate their artistry without being entertained. Another big breakthrough.) I didn't like jazz - or the blues, for that matter - because I couldn't process it. There was no depth in it for me. I couldn't tell one style from another, good from bad. Without the ability to discern, which would create different experiences each time I listened, it was much like football: a seemingly endless repetition of the same random pattern of movement. I knew that to some people that random patterns had meaning (touchdown, righteous sax solo, etc.) but to me it was just background noise. Dennis, my ex-husband, being a great big jazz geek, latched onto this statement and - rightfully - proclaimed that I just hadn't heard the right jazz yet.

So, through a variety of impassioned lectures and voiceovers of album after album, a flicker of preference began to well up within me. I came out of my noise-induced stupor and asked, "Who is that singing?" I would bet it is a similar experience to listening to the babble of a foreign language week after week of moving to a new country without understanding it until finally someone says, "Cheese or sausage?" and since you realize that you are being asked what you want on your pizza, you ask, "What?" so that you can repeat the novel experience of understanding rather than asking the question because you need clarification.

The answer to my question was Joe Williams. Although I didn't know it at the time, he was singing with the Count Basie Orchestra, the second incarnation. At the time, though, I was attracted to the sly smile I could hear in his voice. I called him the happiest voice ever recorded. I later learned that his slick sound is very much a Chicago characteristic and that Kurt Elling, who I had seen in concert and disliked for his slickness, was simply following in this tradition of smooth, patent-leather vocal personae.

So, I listened to a lot of Joe Williams. Dennis began putting him on my mix tapes. He was my gateway drug. All of a sudden, Duke Ellington began to develop definition. Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Billie Holliday didn't sound so much like each other any more. From the vocalists, I began to hear the difference between Count Basie, Myles Davis and Glen Miller. Those of you that love jazz will be reading this with horror that I ever thought those folks sounded the same, but I feel the same way every time I have to explain to a group of freshmen that the Nazis were not Communists. Don't mock enlightenment just because it arrives slowly and at different times for different folks. Calm down. It'll be OK. I promise.

So, when Dennis left - while the guilt was still fresh and before he turned mean - he let me copy all of the CDs that I wanted to. So, in addition to the Allman Brothers Band, I created my own mini jazz collection by copying an array of these CDs that were my personal preferences. And I have gotten to the point that I can listen to them without thinking of Dennis much at all. I didn't take any Dinah Washington, since she was our singer but I can enjoy Ray Charles and Etta James with abandon. I delight in Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone.

But Joe Williams has been hard. I'll put the CD in the car and get to about the second song and just get bored with it. I think it's definitely a deep-seated aversion to elicit not sadness but apathy. So, I put it away and mourn the loss of "Smack Dab in the Middle" and "The Comeback." Then, I take it out again a few months later and try it all again with the same results.

I'm dating a new man now that I've become fairly smitten with. He was in the background during the whole Motorcycle Boy episode. As I look back, I realize that I was really starting to like him and that is another reason why I pushed the issue with Motorcycle Boy. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't regret not pursuing the opportunity to date a rock star who drove a motorcycle if things advanced with Matt. Yes, that's right folks; I was dating two guys at the same time. How's that for cool?

So, Matt has lots and lots of good qualities that I will not bore you with here. Take me out for coffee and I'll talk your ear off if you're interested but I think that kind of stuff is just gossip when simply listed on the internet. Despite his good qualities, though, he has one downfall. He listens to terrible music. Bands that sound like Enya knock-offs and things with synthesizers and terrible frat-boy jam bands. Music with no black people involved. When I try to explain my love of black people in music, he pretends like he knows what I'm talking about because he thinks I'm cute but there is no real comprehension in his eyes. Conspicuously absent from the conversations are any offerings of examples of possible black people in music that he knows of to find common ground. For example, he never says, "Like James Brown? Yeah, I know him." So, I'm smitten with him to the point that I want to make him mix tapes. Since we're not at a stage in which I can make sappy, love song mixes without scaring him off and freaking myself out, I determined that I'll disguise this romantic impulse in a tutorial CD full of music that involves black people. I'm working it out now. It will be superfunkyjazzy, with at least one Prince/James Brown/Stevie Wonder combo. But in all my plans for Sam Cooke and The Staples Singers, I couldn't figure out a Joe Williams song that would fit.

But I want Joe Williams back and I'm going to try one more time to fit him into this mix. As an exercise, I've had my Best Of CD in while writing this entry. No turning it off after 1.5 songs is the rule.

And I can think I can do this.

Why the change?

I sat with my friend Lorinda at Millennium Park tonight as the Chicago Jazz Orchestra "dueled" the current Count Basie Orchestra in the tradition of Duke Ellington vs. Count Basie. The orchestras alternated songs without a designated set list. About 2/3 of the way through the concert, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra let loose with the distinctive opening horns of Count Basie's arrangement of "Every Day I Have the Blues." I laughed and leaned over to ask Lorinda if that was allowed when facing off against the Count Basie Orchestra. She responded something, but I realized that she probably didn't get the reference. She didn't recognize the wit of that musical selection. I had a realization that Dennis made me into a jazz geek, just a little bit. So, as I was thinking about this, I was also trying to figure out if they would play the whole song without Joe Williams. Just as I leaned over to ask Lorinda this question, they brought out an older saccharine-voiced black gentleman, whose vocalizations hit me right in the sternum. This was the moment that I wanted Joe Williams back.

Because it's not so hard anymore to admit that I like the person that Dennis made me into. I had lots of input, so I've only ended up with the good bits. I don't have to avoid Joe Williams because of the reminders it brings about a time when my jazz innocence was lost to a man who no longer loves me. I can hand that apple to someone new and, in turn, regain that sweet taste for myself. So, after Marvin Gaye's, "Can I Get A Witness," I'll add Joe Williams singing with the Count Basie Orchestra: "All Right, OK, You Win."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Friday in the City with Matt

I'm having trouble gathering my thoughts to share with all of you. A lot has been going on these past couple of weeks and, in fact, all summer.

The big news is that I finally like the city. I no longer resent it for not being the island. Some combination of the plays that I see for free when I usher them, the free concerts in Millenium Park with my friend Lorinda and her baby Henry and my friend Jess living down the street and so easily accessible for just hanging out has won me over.

Actually, it's the oral surgery. On the way to the oral surgeon in St. Charles, my mother said, "Isn't this fun? If you lived on the island, we wouldn't be able to do this together. You wouldn't make enough money to do this at all." 30 minutes later, the oral surgeon was drilling a hole in my jaw in order to replace the cracked root of my front tooth. Yes, Mom, this is fun.

So, be comforted that my angst is mostly gone.

When I watch the movie High Fidelity, I wonder when exactly it rains like it does on John Cusack through most of the movie. Last night I got caught in it. I was dressed up and on a date and it was like poetry.

I have some pretty vibrant memories of being emotionally moved at the Art Insitute. I can remember events like writing a description of the sculpture Solitude, working for 15 minutes to make sure that someone could recognize the profundity of the interacting figures. I have distinct memories of holding the cuffs of my oversized denim jacket of the heels of my palms while I walked around with my Older Boyfriend at the Magritte show my sophomore year, confused but very aware of holding his hand. But, I haven't been there since before everyone got cell phones and digital cameras. It completely changes the atmosphere. Apparently, library rules do not apply anymore. People yakking on their phones in great echoing galleries were prevalent and no one stopped long enough at any painting to do more than register the colors. They'd just take a picture and move on. This way, people wouldn't question that they had actually been there when they couldn't give any sort of answer to, "So, what was your favorite part?" I actually saw a woman sitting on the steps outside, scrolling through her collection of pictures of the paintings. Why not just spend that extra time actually letting you brain process what is in front of you? Make connections? Allow emotions to be engaged? For the record, I liked a painting in the main Impressionism gallery called "Resting." The woman's face stood out sharply as just . . right. Once I looked around her face, I realized that almost mothing else in the painting was more that rough outlines of contours, which made the truth of her face even more arresting.

Nope. Take a picture.

Let this be the moment I take a stand. I refuse to pause my forward motion so that someone can take an unobstructed picture of her daughter in front of A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Let's give him points for not bullshitting me.

Two weeks after our date and and after me offering two different evenings, I resolved to figure out whether he actually enjoyed our date like he said he did or if he was just being nice. I asked face to face (the others had been texts) what he was doing this week and he was kind of vague and actually got distracted from the conversation (which sometimes happens in the after-church mingle). So, after asking Jess to pray for me because I was definitely feeling a little dented (she asked if I wanted her to pray with me and I said no, that was a little too dramatic), I followed as he was headed to his motorcycle and said, "Let's finish that conversation because, honestly, it makes me a little nervous to talk to you." He kind of started to say something and the tone of his voice made me interrupt and say, "Just let me know if you're not interested and I'll stop bothering you." I know that sentence looks like I probably said it belligerently but I swear to you that I didn't; it was all very conversational and cool, with a light and slightly humorous tone. So, of course, he said he wasn't and I said that was cool, I appreciated his honestly. He said that he likes to do the chasing. I shrugged my shoulders at that because what else was I going to say? I had to be who I was and who I am doesn't know how to tell a guy I'm interested except to actually tell him. I told him that if he changed his mind, I was willing to be chased. I smiled and winked on that one. Then, I walked away.

I feel OK about this. It sucks that there are guys in the world that are turned off by whatever it is that I was doing by asking him out and I definitely dodged a paternalistic bullet with that one.

However, I really liked him and the potential for getting to know him. My heart hasn't gotten involved like that in a crush in awhile.

But I don't feel like crying and I don't feel like I will. It's just a little dent in my heart that I can probably pop out with a couple of well-placed taps of a hammer.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's like a link from someone else's life!

A couple of weeks ago, two of my cousins came to visit my family (both in Glen Ellyn and here in the city) from Indianapolis (where one lives and one was staying for the summer). While staying at my parents' house (really, why would you stay on my couch, when my mom will cook you breakfast using much butter if you stay at her house), Emily (who normally lives in Florida) connected with several of her friends that are also in the midwest for the summer. The result of this was a nice time with them AND a blog from one of her friends about it. This is my first experience with someone else blogging about my life. I'm pretty excited. Even though I'm not mentioned by name. Oh well. Check it out if you want by clicking here.

PS - My brother and I are both very excited about the potential of having Sam as our cousin-in-law. You go, Emily!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

So hot I can't think, much less type. This hour it is the high for the day: 99 degrees, with a heat index of 105 to 110 degrees. That's hotter than body temp. And even though I got to sleep in my brother's air-conditioned room last night, the heat caused a brown-out, so I woke up sweaty at around 3:00 in the morning and had to wander around gathering the fans to point them directly at me. No breakfast for me because I didn't want to let the cold air out.

Good times.