Monday, December 31, 2012

Exposure, Part 2.

Of course, while losing my grandmother unexpectedly was certainly the most tragic event of the year, and may well serve as a hinge on which I place some before-and-after significance in my life, it's not just an ending. I don't know if there really are such things as endings. Because the event itself was not the thing that changed me. It was the spark. It was the button that pushed me. It caught my heart on fire.  It clicked something and allowed me to finally pay attention to my life. It woke me up to the unreasonable, irritable, lonely, depressed person I had become in the last several years and which I actively pretended didn't exist. The person that I presented to everyone was slightly attention-seeking, introverted, virtuous, and doing just fine, thank you very much. But that's just a carefully, artfully constructed mask, to use the old, appropriate cliche. I haven't been fine, because I've been ignoring myself for years. My own physical, emotional, spiritual health was just a foreign concept that I pretended to think about sometimes. But mostly I worried about everyone else, and everything else, and  all of these things I can't possibly change.

It's like possession. Depression or perfectionism or paranoia or whatever, it takes possession of your faculties and you become lost in its fog. You don't even know you're possessed. You just roll with the punches, terrified, grappling on to whatever thin string of control you think you have in order to survive. But it takes a real risk--from yourself, not the rescue you imagine will come--to stop holding tight, to let the string go, to admit you don't know where you are and you need help. The reason, other than denial, that doing that is so hard, is because you think of yourself as a total failure and you don't want anyone to know. I certainly did, anyway. I do a lot. No matter how many compliments I got from caring friends, family, loved ones, (and boy, do I feed on them!), I didn't believe them.

The events of July slowly shook off that mask I spent so much time on. I realized I wasn't okay when I started getting panic attacks, when I actually paid attention to how often I cried, to how upset I felt inside about the tiniest things. I did what I should have done a few years ago, but this time was actually ready for--I got some help.

Even though I thought I was getting help for the grief of the family death, I found out my problems ran way deeper and I started to be able to see that thing that had taken possession of me. Now, just a couple months since finding help, I feel so much freer. I'm not as terrified of life and how other people perceive me. I struggle all the time with the concept that I'm not a failure, and I'm trying to learn how to take care of myself without feeling guilty about it. Already I know I'm on a healthier track, I'm changing the way I see myself and what I can and cannot change. I'm able to open up to others a little more. And I'm so grateful. This year has been one of extreme ups and downs, but I believe that the stain of my grandmother's death will be overcome by the joy of being woken back up, made alive. And if it weren't for those around me who care about me so, so much, I wouldn't be in this place. So thanks, loves. Thank you for making my year turn on its heels and stick its head up high.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Here's a reflection. Some overly-gratuitous, very soul-beating, unapologetic navel-gazing, if you will. This past year is one I will never forget. I can say with confidence that 2010 and 2011 have been incredibly forgettable in many ways (with wonderful/bad experiences along the way that were, in fact, memorable). There was this post back in December of 2010 where I was recounting the notable things of that year (fishing in barren waters) and I included this:
2. No one close to me died.
An acquaintance pointed out that that was a significant thing to say. I shrugged it off, because seriously, that's how uneventful the year was to me. Then in 2011 weird things happened. Couldn't put that quote on the list again. The weather, all that rain and heat, cemented in my mind, when I came back from a weekend away in July to find out that musical mentor Blair had unexpectedly died. At the same time, my bandmates were incubating a child. They told us they were pregnant two days after Blair passed, while we were reconfiguring the show we had scheduled with him for the coming weekend. Then during the winter we recorded our full-length album and got distant and despairing for some months. I got a new job and stopped waiting tables. Leah and Jim had their beautiful baby James David Warren Dunstan (David for David Blair) on March 15, 2012. The spring was bizarre, with that record-warm March and subsequent freeze and crop loss. No rain during most of summer. The one notable rain of the summer months was on Independence Day.

On July 4th, 2012, a storm rolled in. Finally. But instead of delivering nourishing water to the plants here, it shot bullets of ice big enough to ruin any crop that was braving the drought. Because of the intense heat and dry weather that dominated the weeks before, this storm was spiteful. My boyfriend and I took pictures, frantically covered my tomato plants, and stalked facebook in all the excitement of the evening. The hail subsided and torrents of rain, thunder and lightning took the stage until I fell asleep, slightly concerned about the silence and lightning, which both increased exponentially with time. At 5am, I woke up to a particularly loud explosion of light and sound. I didn't have my glasses on, so the flashes of light I knew were coming from the transformer across the street were fuzzy and ominous and frightening as fuck. When you can't see exactly what's going on, you feel like an idiot calling 911 even though you think you may be the only person who saw it.

I called 911 twice. The first time, I don't think I expressed the urgency that was really needed for the situation, especially considering I didn't know the names of the streets surrounding me and therefore didn't know how to properly describe exactly which power line was glowing orange and exploding white. I was tired as shit and scared sleepless. Fire trucks finally found the electrical fire in the pouring rain after the second call and I at least felt like it was out of my hands.

I watched the early morning news for company, and then went to work from 9 to 5. My boyfriend and I had decided that since it was such a tough night, we would go out to dinner right when I got home. I took a shower, put on a fabulous white cotton dress, and we walked about a mile to a new joint. While I waited for my meal, my mom called my boyfriend. That's unusual. She told him to tell her when we were home without any other information. I started to feel sick. I didn't know what was going on, and the speculations started rolling like ticker-tape behind my eyes. In any case, I had the waitress package our food and left immediately, walking home in the hot sun with my incredible red shoes tearing up my heels. The sickening feeling increased, because of how out-of-character it was for my mom.

By the time my parents got to my door, I was a nervous wreck. When I walked out the front door, my dad was pointing at my tomato plants, which were doing well but had narrowly escaped annihilation from the hail. They looked calm, but exhausted, in a fog. My mom told me how pretty I looked. My dad's eyebrows and downcast gaze braced me. "Honey, we have some bad news." My mom was on the ground, and I was one level above her on the front step. "Grandma Shields has passed away." That was the last thing I expected from her mouth. It was really shocking, because she was healthy and her own mother had only died the year before at age 104. But then my mom said, choking back tears, "That's not the worst part." I knew immediately. My schizophrenic uncle, my mom's baby brother, had been living with Grandma for the past few years, and his condition had obviously gotten worse but despite my mom's efforts to get him out of the house, Grandma insisted she felt safe. She wasn't safe. My grandma was murdered by her youngest child on the anniversary of Grandma and Grandpa's first date, July fourth. The incident occurred in the afternoon, as the storm rolled in from the west, and while the hail fell, my uncle stayed inside. When the rain stopped and I fell asleep, the police were finally called. The lightning, silent as my grandmother's heart and violent as my uncle's sickness, continued through the night. When I went to work, exhausted and still slightly terrified, my mom went to her mother's house, expecting to have conversation and lunch with her and finding a crime scene instead.

The strangest part of this is that I feel incapable of anger toward my uncle. I keep thinking it's my duty to feel that way, and I certainly don't blame my sisters and the rest of the family for wishing him to rot in hell. But I can't. For some reason, it was the storm that changed me. In the six months since, I've jumped and trembled at the most innocuous sounds. My heart races at particularly loud planes. Panic comes at the slightest change in environment. I think it's because I can only imagine my grandmother's death, but I witnessed God's wrathful fire. I've delighted in the mystery of nature all my life, and now I've been taught its terrific power. From the electrical pulses between my uncle's broken synapses, to the exploding transformer threatening the neighborhood, I can see the chaos of the world a little more.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Service Frontroom

I came across something serendipitous tonight. Going to a friend's house at Marshall and Allen in Ferndale, I parked on the street by their house, and noticed that across the street there were lights on in one of the two seemingly abandoned, signless old storefronts, with real live people and what looked like wine, white walls, and black frames. So I hopped over after greeting my friend, and sure enough, art was afoot.

Kenny "Karpov-The-Wrecked-Train", as he's familiarly known around these parts, is a photographer of many things, and is artistically enthusiastically interested in Detroit people, culture, history. His series of Macomb Ballet Company dancers, in stark, well-composed black-and-white digital prints were hung tightly spaced in the small storefront, their tightness belying the grace of the content.

The space itself--a month-old community center called Service Frontroom--has an interesting grace about it. Well, more a romance. The floor's in need of repair, but I love floors that aren't repaired. There are patches of crumbled paint, but I love missing paint's revelation. An eight-foot American flag covers a short corner, and there's a pretty well-equipped kitchen behind the front room. The word "S E R V I C E" is hung on the wall in old-post-office manner and color. There are vegan snacks and Trader Joe's Wine on a table constructed of rough wood. I feel like this room was once full of fine time-pieces and hats, or like it was a building in Williamsburg that was teleported to Ferndale's "Secret Garden" sector.

I meet Corrine Rice after nibbling on a pumpkin spice cookie. She's happy about being co-operator of the bourgeoning collective space. There are a lot of plans for it, including, but not limited to, pop-up dinners, raw food classes, yoga, art shows, and health talks. Some events will be free, some not, some by donation. Rice knows that things like yoga and health information are really important and that people in this area often can't afford them, and wants to make sure the community part of the center doesn't get squelched. Rice herself is quite experienced with both cooking and teaching raw food techniques. I liked the sweets. 

For a more complete schedule and information on how to donate or become involved with the space (I have a feeling almost any talent can be used), visit their facebook and their Real Life Website. Visit them anyway. I know this place is brand new, (still waiting on occupancy permits) but it's worth checking out through whatever its evolution will be.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

This is way longer than I intended it to be.

"It's all new songs. All of them," Lo-Fi Bri yells to me, looking at the band. He's smiling, bewildered, camera in hand. I know. I saw them a month ago at the CAID, where the above pic was taken.

Let's scroll back a little here. I could give you the entire history of the Rogue Satellites, besides parts of 2010 and 2011. Everything that band did for most of its history, I knew about. But I'll truncate that history: a drummer and a singer-songwriter played around with a synth way back in fall of 2007. There were beers, tears, many late-night loft practices, apartment fires, marriages, marriage proposals, divorces, mini-tours, stolen cars, projections, and Pictionary games that followed, speckled with dirge-y two-piece pop-rock that would wake up in a bar called a "coffee" shop in the morning sun. There was a bassist for a while. Then there was a keyboardist-singer, and then the drummer quit, so the band had made its way back to a two-piece, in a different form, in late 2009. Another drummer dabbled for a while. Then the keyboardist-singer parted ways as well, and for a moment the Rogue Satellites were singular.

Then, a very fierce and unexperienced woman named Lisa was (as I understand it) coaxed into doin' a little auxiliary work, and, unsure as she was, started practicing intensely on vocals, glockenspiel (as I like to call it, "the glock") and tambourine. The first time I saw this incarnation of them, I must admit, I was disappointed--perhaps mostly because of my history--at the stripped down and awkwardly performed songs. Too slow; little zygotes of songs; and being in the cold, decidedly silent Trumbullplex didn't help. But I did notice that this woman, who had never considered singing in front of people before, had quite a sweet voice, that might actually grow to compliment Jaye's. That was in October.

Last month the Rogue Satellites closed an art show at the ever-interesting Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. And they really blew me away. The songs that seemed to trudge in fragments before, now held together nicely, varied in atmosphere, tempo, melody. Jaye's insistence on barre chords had matured into the use of a heavily effected bass played as a rhythm guitar. Lisa, so unsure and quiet in October, now shone, perfectly complimenting Jaye with her voice and getting there with stage presence. The parts are very specific and seem to be painstakingly mechanically written, but they work, especially with the moods of the music.

So I saw them again last night at the art/music studio space they rent in Corktown (appropriately called Corktown Studios), with two other incredible bands. Though some more animation would be good for Lisa, the subtlety and serious calm of her confidence really works well with the darker, crafted music. It was great. They've worked very hard and it's paid off.

The Rogue Satellites have really grown in the last few months, and I would suggest anyone who hasn't seen them lately, or at all, should go out and see their next show. I don't know when that will be, but you can keep up with them on le facebook. I mean, they make Lo-Fi Bri excited, so that should be enough for you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Conundrum of Spring

When Spring comes, we become voyeurs again. We peek into flower beds and perk up for the love songs of trees and swamps. The sounds of birds have become particularly dense, almost overriding the noisy swish of cars driving far too fast down the block. Thank God. Winter mild though it might sometimes be, requires self-examination to a point of unnecessary self-loathing. The inwardness of it isn't productive. It's a cancer. It eats from the inside out and, because we cannot appreciate the silence of Winter, we distract ourselves with paralysis that we pretend to be movement (shadows on the cave walls during winter are very nice). 

Sometimes, the loathsome conditions of February are met so suddenly with the bustle and rage of Spring that it shocks the system. We panic. This can be the case every year, even when it is expected. One cannot truly prepare for fulfilled promises after months of brokenness and mystery. The change even, at times, triggers a further coil inward, to block the burst of collaboration, of physicality, of joy and sex and work. It's too much to see the truth and light. Too much to have the ability to venture and conquer. This is the conundrum of Spring. And it applies liberally to those who have forgotten how to adapt to it. Namely, repressed and confused adults.

So, then, our missions must be to accept the words of Spring as we accept the words of Fall. Though it's hard and allergic to brush off the dust, exciting colors lie beneath. Though a run may render a painful fall, it also renders a good story. Movement gets those little bulbs of expenditure sprouting. We must thrust ourselves into every dawn now, get planting, and make eye contact. Look into the eyes of the world and its moving parts. It's terrifying to fully see a thing. But it's the first step to authentic experience, and it's necessary among present conflicts and perils. Just as important as reserve, store, stabilize are to the Fall, so leap, plant, share are to the Spring. The ideas we talk about at harvest time--the slowing and localizing of life--are not dismissed but rather invigorated by the persistent growth of an early, swift "warming up".

The panic-inducing business of March is just and beautifully a phase. Enjoy it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Saw Mythical Beasts

**Disclaimer: I am way behind the musical times when it comes to the business and news of it all.**

It is a rare and mystical acoustic trio that can command the attention of The Loving Touch crowd on a Friday night, and it's like sighting Sasquatch for a cellist in that bouncy sound-hole to ring clear and strong. Matt Jones, Colette Alexander, and Misty Lyn are beauteous unicorns, then (and the sound guy, too!).

I saw Matt Jones and the Reconstruction last night. First of all, I've thought before about the use of a cello as the bass instrument before, so it was exciting to see that idea in action, and it really worked with the register of the vocals and guitar. The cello's sound was pure, thick and rich, and I could go on for days regarding Miss Alexander's craft with her instrument, not to mention her fluid and intense movements. I kept my eye on her through the set, just watching her technique, trying to pick up a few things for myself. While that fact in itself could have been enough to really overcome the other elements of the band, Jones's own particularities with melody-writing and subverted folk kept the focus moving, so that the songwriting shone just as well. I'm always impressed with a good melody, but it wasn't the usual brand of washy folk, which impressed me further!

Had I not been paying such close attention to the fantastic cello work, I would have focused much more closely on Misty Lyn, who provided near-constant backing vocals. I don't know if Misty Lyn normally plays with them, but her harmonies and energy really worked. She's one of those songwriters that everyone I love dearly has mentioned to me at some point but I'd never had the privilege to see in her own band. Obviously I still haven't, but seeing her with Matt Jones gave me an idea of her prowess.

Please check out their Facebook after you've downloaded their record on bandcamp. It's been a while since I've been around the Ypsi/Ann Arbor scene, but I used to hang out there a lot, especially around Tone and Niche, and I know there's a lot of music out that way that's really right up my alley. Last night was a very nice reminder of that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No Promises.

Yep, it's been a while. I've been hibernating.

By "hibernating," I of course mean spending all my free time doing non-productive thinking by way of internet scuba diving, and staying away from all friends besides a few by all means. And not going out. And claiming all sorts of unconfirmed alcohol allergies.

In any case, a combination of Old People Podcasts and a change of jobs has me feeling a little more social. Oh yeah, Spring's ominous eyes on me, too.

So I went to the Blowout.

This year, I wasn't nearly as organized as last, and considering last year wasn't very well-organized, that means basically I barely even knew when, who and where everyone was playing until band members told me. I had a lot of fun, and talked to a lot of friends I hadn't seen in a while (you know, the hibernation thingy). I saw over the weekend, in order, Bars of Gold, SOYSV, Child Bite (missed Danny Brown because my stupid ass had to be at work erlai in da morn); Cosmic Light Shapes, Ferndale Acid Scene, Old Empire, Pupils (names got shorter as the night went); and Jeecy and the Jungle, RLK and V, The Beggars, Beekeepers, Betty Cooper, Factory Girls, and a little bit of The Dirtbombs. I started on Thursday with Brandon Moss playing the kit with his hands, and ended it with Kyle McBee getting naked--lily-white naked--amongst a blushing crowd. Can't say it was a forgettable weekend.

It was good to, like, go out in public. Thanks, Blowout.