Tag: spilled milk
Last night I got to spend some time with my friend Sam. We hadn’t hung out, just the two of us, for a while – maybe not since June was born, if I really think about it. Sometime in the next month, Sam will become a dad. We’ve somehow been friends for nearly a decade. When I got into his car last night, he had R.E.M.’s Out of Time in the CD player. “Texarkana” was on. We got stuck in traffic, because it was rush hour in Seattle, but it was okay, because we were talking about being kids listening to R.E.M., Automatic for the People especially, and all the Big Feelings we were just starting to know then, feelings set to the soundtrack of Michael Stipe‘s voice. I remember being thirteen, or maybe fourteen, dancing alone in my bathroom to “Sitting Still,” in the rental house we lived in that year, between the house on Westchester and the house on Elmhurst. I was once fifteen years old, lying on my bedroom floor in a black t-shirt and a pair of too-big men’s pants that I bought at a thrift store for fifty cents, listening to “Find the River” and sobbing without knowing why. I didn’t like “Everybody Hurts,” but for the most part, when I listen to Automatic for the People, I get a sense that I’m witnessing a person at the height of his power, the height of his art, the same feeling I get when I watch Stevie Nicks sing the demo version of “Wild Heart.” I’d never really thought of R.E.M. as a band I particularly loved, but I’ve now spent all morning now listening to them, Murmur to “Oh My Heart,” and it’s been the best morning I can remember.
Earlier this morning, before my private R.E.M. listening party, I was helping June to put on her socks and shoes, and she asked me what the word “weird” means. I bumbled through an explanation that I hoped would be appropriately calibrated to her three-year-old brain, trying to explain why it’s okay – more than okay; good – to be weird. I hope that, as she gets older, she finds people who can help her to understand it on her own terms, the way that Michael Stipe, and David Byrne, and poetry, and novels, and my spouse, and our friends, the way they’ve done for me.
Wow, this music is really doing things to me.
It’s been a good week. Last night, we went to hear Alison Bechdel speak at Town Hall. I was first introduced to her work when I was writing A Homemade Life and my friend Kristen loaned me her copy of Fun Home. I didn’t know why she gave it to me, and I’d never read a book in cartoon format, but I quickly understood that, as much as it’s about Bechdel’s coming out, it’s also about the relationship between a father and a daughter, which is what I was attempting to write myself. And Fun Home is spectacular: honest, direct, funny, raw, and also deeply loving. Bechdel seems to be much the same in person, and I grinned like an idiot through her entire talk last night about writing, art, and creativity, and the complexities of family. Also! She mentioned Richard Scarry as an early influence, and HELLO, WOW, is my life right now ever full of Richard Scarry. I hope June is paying attention.
Speaking of formative influences, please go read this piece by George Saunders immediately.
Also terrific, thought-provoking, and only tangentially related to anything else in this post: an old episode of On Being, “What We Nurture,” with Sylvia Boorstein. (I subscribe to the podcast of On Being and highly recommend it.)
And I don’t always listen to my own podcast, Spilled Milk, because nobody likes hearing her own voice, but I listened to the grapes episode yesterday and was still thinking about it, and laughing about it, when I woke up today.
Happy Friday, everybody. I hope you and yours are well.
I woke up this morning with that itchy feeling I get when I’ve gone too long without writing. I have a writer friend who once told me that she didn’t feel right if she wasn’t writing regularly, that she woke up each morning needing to write, and until very recently, I didn’t really believe her, because it never felt that straightforward to me. (I also wanted, uh, just a little bit, to reach out and strangle her with my bare hands; she made writing sound so easy.) I never felt that kind of imperative to be a writer – or, really, to be anything in particular. Writing sneaked up on me. But now that I’ve been at it for a…Read more
From the summer of 2006 until the early spring of 2011, we lived in a nondescript duplex on 8th Avenue that shared the block with some other nondescript duplexes and one notably terrifying exception that we referred to as Boo Radley’s house. I didn’t love the neighborhood, but it was mostly fine, and after we adopted Jack, I got to know it well, because Jack, being a terrier, needed a lot of walking. We found our habits. If the sun was out, we’d walk up to the P-Patch at 60th and 3rd and ogle people’s tomatoes and dahlias; if it was raining, I’d drag him for a quick loop around the block; and if it was evening, dark already but…Read more
Your efforts will be rewarded
Listen, I know it’s a holiday weekend. Most of you are probably outside, grilling or picnicking or generally engaged in some form of early-summer eating. In fact, as I type this, I can hear my neighbors on their deck, shaking a bag of charcoal briquettes, talking about Neil Diamond. But what I would like to tell them (aside from, HAVE MERCY! NO NEIL DIAMOND TONIGHT!), and you, too, is this: do your future self a favor and go inside and cook a pot of rice. Also, do whatever you have to do to get some Napa cabbage kimchi. Come midweek, your efforts will be rewarded. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to writing about kimchi…Read more
A nasty habit
I have many important things to tell you. 1. I’m doing a podcast! I intended to tell you about this a week ago, but there’s been an illness in my family, and I’ve been away, and it hasn’t been a lot of fun, so, you know, let’s talk about that podcast. It’s called Spilled Milk, and I co-host it with my friend Matthew Amster-Burton. Every time we record an episode, Matthew makes me laugh until I snort, cry, hyperventilate, and/or hoot like an owl, and I hope our show does the same for you. The first episode is on the topic of fried eggs, and you can listen or download it – free! – through the Spilled Milk website, or…Read more