Tag Archives: music


Listening to the hallowed thump of my father’s fingers on the wood, the tiny squeak of the tuning pegs pulling tension on the strings, my two brothers and I gazed like giddy, perfect Buddhas into the hollow bodies of our parents’ Martin guitars from our spot on the floor at their feet.

And we watched their fingers strum and pick—the steel and the nylon—as they fumbled with their capos, and belted out the pages, one soprano, one alto, of torn sheet music with their throats.

John Denver, Jerry Jeff, Emmy Lou, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, Kris Kristofferson, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band…

These folky jam sessions where my father sang into my mothers eyes and struggled to reach those higher notes never lasted all that long. The moments before someone was first to put down his or her guitar, to grab a cigarette, sounded best. The last notes hung sweetly like a tremolo, something mysterious and dark hovering overhead, a lumpy fog of calamitous death.

And it held us in place, for fear the slightest of our movements be the cause of this end. Except our voices, which rose above each plucked string along the fret, and danced, and knew we had no choice but to let go.

Devendra Banhart

I came upon a youtube video of “Little Yellow Spider” last week and it opened me unto the world of Devendra Banhart. I guess the first thing that came to me was, is this what would happen if Jim Morrison and Charlie Manson had a baby? Obviously a revivalist of both, Banhart’s style ranges from Latin and Hindu sounds, which I found to be intensely global and mysical, to deeply rooted undertones of hippiesque folk stuff born out of the sixties and seventies. In fact, despite the well-roundedness of being raised in Venezuela until age 13, it’s his American folkish sound and lyrics that make more of a statement than anything else.

I can’t say I’ve noted any real individuality to his lyrics. For the most part, they evoke the Beatles; that overly simple, catchy phrasing with a line or two of great depth about war or something.  I Feel Just Like A Child is one such example:

From my cave to my grave I guess I’ll always be a child

Well, I need you to help me reach the door,
And, I need you to walk me to the store,
And, I need you to please explain the war,
And, I need you to heal me when I’m sore.

You can tell by my smile,
That I’m a child. 

And I’m a bit bored too, with the make love to the animals and the moon and stars stuff at this point- despite our re-awakening via global warming that we are all connected– he’s saying the same drug-induced shit that Morrison said, that Lennon said, that Jefferson Airplane said, and all the other psychadelic freaks of that era. Then again, he’s a genius if you consider that we are the snake eating its own tail. 

Music aside, my biggest disappointment lies in the man behind the scenes. Personality is a big part of the way I experience sound.  I need to know who’s behind the tune, for me to appreciate it. So, I found an interview he did a while back, just so I could see him move and talk sans stage presence and I came to the bitter conclusion that he’s really just another retro knock off. He has nothing new to say right down to his predictable remarks about dropping acid. Come on, man. Adding that little “if you have a good acid trip [like I did]” incongruously to an interview is like wearing a V-neck, argile sweater to a country club. Conforming and bland. Like, have an identity of your own, man. This ain’t the sixties. Is anybody even dropping acid anymore? 


What he does seem to offer is something the younger generation can appreciate: a glimpse into what it might have been like forty years ago. It is very interesting to watch how well he embodies the spirit of Haight-Ashbury, Woodstock and the hippie movement, in general. I give him credit for that (check out the home-movie version of Freely and tell me that’s not eerily reminiscent of the Manson Family, which, by the way also resided in Topanga Canyon). But we’ve lived through those times. These are new times upon us, and I don’t believe they can or should be approached in the same way our parents approached things. Do we really need to smoke dope, play guitar, grow our hair and dis war to shake the world into realizing it’s time for a change?  These are bullshit, desperate times and our art, music and culture should reflect that. 

Overall, I want to look forward, not back. Give me something new. Not some hippie talking smack about his fans being his “extended family” and owning Jim Morrison’s sofa and singing about “pigs” giving birth to a child with hooves instead of hands. That’s too Helter Skelter for me. If there’s one thing I can surmise about this guy it’s that his retro style is too perfected. And sadly, that’s a paradox. As Jefferson Airplane ‘s co-founder Paul Kantner once said: “If you can remember anything about the sixties, you weren’t really there.”

dreaming of reality

I’ve been listening to Feist’s The Park, probably a song I should stay away from. Same with all the rest of my depressing music…Burn, Wish I Were, If You Stay… 

I had a brief exchange with S yesterday and it just opened the flood gates of that (as it turns out) not-so realistic rockabilly, grungy life I thought I was living. He had a dream about me and the boys, “just like a quick flash or something,” he said. I guess that is all he’s capable of dreaming, or admitting anyway. Well…at least it was that. I actually thought, “I hope we haunt you…” I do wonder about him from time to time. God only knows what he’s up to. I miss him. Some of him. Not all. Not those parts that hurt me. Only the parts that seem so inconsequential now. 

I had a very strange dream last night about DS, the guy I almost married back in ’93 (with whom I hooked up with after,  coincidentally, getting no where with S). We were in a hotel room. He was in room #350 and I was apparently down the hall or on the second floor or something. Thing is, he was holed up in this tiny room with all of my journals and at one point, I was overcome by this gut feeling and realized it was a huge mistake that he should be. So I ran to his room and busted through the door and there he was standing in the center of the room, angry, sad, disappointed, disgusted with me, and there on the floor were my journals, all torn to shreds. I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Why?! Why???” And I got down on my hands and knees and began to pick up the scattered pages, crying, trying to piece it all together and get them all out of his room. I thought he would attack me or keep ripping up the journals, but he just stood there and didn’t move. Nothing. Just looked down upon me as I struggled. I felt at once humiliated and enraged. 

I’m having some fairly vivid dreams lately. And I suppose it’s because I am trying to work something out in my head and can’t seem to do so during waking hours. Like this whole superficiality thing, and more importantly, my renewed obsession with Nathan Followill, the drummer from Kings of Leon. KVM and I determined last night that he is the archetype of  lust for me, that is, because as she stated, “he looks stoned and he’s not even that good looking.” I take that personally. But the matter at hand is that I’m beginning to think I am, dare I say it, shallow. 

I mean, when I seriously consider what attracts me to someone, I do go for the mind. Mind, spirit, intellect, creativity. It’s all got to be there for me. Yet, there’s this nagging obsession with long haired, grungy looking, tattooed musicians that chips away at me–This Nathan guy is S and G and K. He’s Prince and Jimmy Ibbotson. He’s possibly even an earlier yet unformed version of BJ.  And the rockabilly, stoner, loser, musician guy is like this bad tune that keeps playing itself out over and over and over again in my life. I cannot make a life with him and yet he summons me. I cannot seem to be able to live without him. It’s like an affliction or a genetic defect in me. I don’t know. 

The superficiality comes in like this: when I was with S there were certain things missing. Certain things didn’t work (and I’m not talking body parts). But I didn’t care. I overlooked so much…so damn much…because his “look” fulfilled me. I felt redeemed, saved, delivered in his beauty…I buried myself in the shallowness of materialistic ideas like his tattoos or the glasses he wore or the way he dressed. It reminded me of something, though I am not sure what. Maybe it made me feel safe because I knew it wasn’t real. 

I can’t figure it out, but what bothers me is that I feel on the brink of losing “him.” Not S, that is (been there, done that) or some rock icon like the dude in the picture. But just “him.”  The imaginary Disney-esque, archetypal guy of my dreams. 

Years ago, when I was poised to marry DS, I couldn’t. He was brilliant. Well-educated. Clever. He loved me deeply. But he was not “him.” He was not the archetype. He was plain. He had fair hair. He wore khaki pants and plain t-shirts. He was responsible.  Physically or materialistically, nothing set him a part. S, on the other hand, back in the day, wore a chain on his wallet. His hair was long and kinky. His nose was pierced. His tongue was pierced. He had tattoos. He smelled like patchouli. He wore vintage shirts from the 70’s. DS had depth. S was the epitome of rebel.  But…where did my heart wander? To the kinky shallowness of the shore, not the ocean.

Here’s the big, glaring HOWEVER (coming at age 40, mind you):

I think I am at a point in my life where I finally recognize that shallowness hasn’t gotten me very far. I’m so very tired of repeating the pattern. I repeat it as a way to deny myself a true life. I repeat it as a way to deny myself a true identity. It’s my way of NOT growing up. It’s that I want to be something I am not- not always, but a lot. And that cannot be. And the rockabilly, grungy hippy dude can’t conform to my life either. He can’t fit here. He needs to be in the city with his grungy, hippy, rockabilly girlfriends. S and I were the culmination of two people who both wanted to be something they were not. He wanted to be normal and I wanted to be a rebel. He was my way of saying to the world, “I am not a suburban housewife who drives a mini-van and owns a mid-size corporation.” 

God, I still find that so hard to accept. I wasn’t supposed to be “this.” I was supposed to be a writer. An artist. I was supposed to be working in publishing or on a movie set some where. Demanding black coffee from ass-kissing interns. 

But Tracy. Life is not that. You need to be real, Tracy. You need to be real. Really real. Tracy. Hold on to real. 

My Aunt Sue said to me many years ago, the hardest thing we have to realize is that we are average. I never wanted to believe her, I still don’t want to believe her. But I suppose I have no choice. She is, for the most part, right. The obvious exception would be Nathan.


Not So Black Friday

I went to the bookstore late this afternoon, hoping for a miracle of human kindness. I bought a copy of my favorite magazine, PRINT. I roamed around the aisles looking for gifts. Perused the science, history and art sections. But nothing struck me as out of the ordinary.  To kill some time I people watched in the cafe while sipping a latte, tagging random customers with health statistics I read earlier in Time Magazine:

Girl in the cookbook section: one of the 67% of Americans that are either fat or obese.

Fortysomething scruffy man with white beard perusing art books; drawing his wife’s attention to erotic art: one of the 27% of Americans whose blood pressure is too high.

Hipster lurking around the self-help section: one of 96% of the population that can’t recall the last time they had a salad…

There were no crowds. I was disappointed. I expected to wait in line. To suffer. I wanted a small taste of suffering. I wanted to struggle through a crowd so that I could say to someone, “Why are we here? This is insane.” I wanted to make that connection with people. Like what happens during a natural disaster. The way everyone pulls together when the floods ruin homes and uproot trees. But that didn’t happen. I was the first in line and the check-out girl rang me up fast and pleasant. I was gone in minutes. Thanks for shopping at Borders. No high-strung, beaten-down nastiness.  In fact, she gave me a coupon. And said, “come back soon.” That pissed me off. So I went to Cosi to struggle over there but the place was empty. I bought a greasy flat bread sandwich, chips, a soda and left. 

Even the roads were wide open. 

I went home and built a fire. Cleaned. And put on the soundtrack to the Darjeeling Limited.

I sat in front of the fire eating my sandwich, flipping through PRINT, thinking.

I thought about how important Black Friday is for the purpose of well-being; how necessary the insanity of shopping for Christmas gifts one day out of the year, pushing and shoving obnoxious people out of the way to get the sale items, and fighting to be the first in line  is to the core of human nature. Days like this that only come once a year are supposed to awaken in us that sense of primitive, collective struggle. That feeling that “we’re all in this together.” No matter how lame or ridiculous the reason is for coming together (shopping) it’s still an important event that our psyche requires. The struggle, no matter how trivial, answers a primitive need to war with people and to make peace in difficult times. With that gone– with everyone home on their laptops, or ordering through catalogues– we become sadly isolated. Further disconnected.

I thought that maybe after forty years of specious commercialism people wizened up, staying home, saving money and not falling victim to some primordial, reptilian brain calling. But that didn’t make much sense. I myself consciously went and sought out the drama. 

My final thought was a simple assumption: because we’ve been dealing with such national tragedy anyway (global warming, the economy) people don’t need Black Friday anymore. Black Friday served a great purpose for inciting extremism when nothing else in the country was going on. I mean, this year, only one “Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down.” Only one! That’s huge progress. Usually a dozen or so die from being trampled by shoppers.

But Black Friday serves little purpose now. Who needs to be trampled at Wal-Mart when you’ve already been beaten down by the stock market? Who needs to stand in line and make friends over bargain books when people’s sons and daughters are overseas at war? Now that I think about it, I don’t know what I was thinking. 

When I finished reading my $20 copy of PRINT, I threw it in the fire.

Who needs commercialism and advertising when you’ve got a head full of free ideas and a warm home?