It Hardly Matters

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Baaaaack...for American Idol

8:15. So this year, for the first time, there was something happening in my life more compelling than American Idol: my grad thesis. (As I type that, I shed a tear for that pathetic truth--but truth, no matter how pathetic, is the way I'm trying to roll these days.) I missed almost all of AI after February in order to work on my thesis, which now that it's handed in, I kind of feel like was a bigger waste of time than watching American Idol religiously. But I digress.

I'm home tonight, watching the Two Davids duke it out. And oh, that opening number cheesefest! And the live feeds from the Davids' respective hometowns featuring former contestants Mikalah Gordon and Matt Used-to-Be-a-Marine are making me think about how insane it is that reality TV has given these people some semblance of careers.

Let me break the live-blogging to say that I love David Archuleta and have since the first time I heard him. I feel like he's this little conduit to purity, which is rare in reality television and in actual reality.

This Mike Meyers racist promo is making me choke on my navratan korma. No shit, I am eating it right now.

OK, I thought that Seal was Chikezie. Now I'm officially on Chikezie watch. Side note: Syesha is as compelling as a Jasmine Trias. From your reaction I can tell that I am right.

8:30. Only 90 minutes left!

YES. Castro doing Buckley. Watching him in the opening number--singing "Get Ready" while enthusiastically snapping his fingers--was downright painful.

More blatant promos. How delightful. I love that people are clapping for two strangers getting free cars.

Look how multiracial the girls are this year! It's like a United Colors of Barbie pitch meeting at Mattel. Speaking of the girls, my favorite is the skunk-haired nurse, even though she just butchered Donna Summer beyond recognition. Oh SNAP! Queen Donna herself!! OK, now I'm happy. BRB after the Queen brings it.

I lied. Let's talk about blingy microphones. And by "let's talk about" I mean "I love."

8:34. Paula's boobies! Donna's last note!

8:40. Carly Smithson & Michael Johns singing this cornball arrangement of "The Letter" is basically the producers going: hey if you don't like either David, these two could be valid singing stars, and they happen to look cute together, too. Another From Justin to Kelly, anyone?

Finally. Chikezie. Wait, I forgot about that stripper guy! YES CHIKIE BABY. Souling up some Bryan Adams. Why are D&D dressed alike? Damn, they're making Cook sing the song that started Archuleta fever. Rude. No, Lord, please, why the actual Bryan Adams? He looks like one of my high school boyfriends mixed with Doug Savant and a little meth, and sounds like the lovechild of Castro & skunk-haired nurse. Of course Bob Ice is digging it. (Update: dinner finished. On beer #2. It's a special occasion.)

8:54. I love that Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown song that's all over the radio, "No Air." Good for Jordin and her Lane Byrant spokesmodel self. I'm so happy that "they" haven't starved her and stuffed her into inappropriately tight clothing like they did to Kelly Clarkson.

ZZ Top is awesome and I'm not just saying that because I played a ZZ Top tribute show at the Annex back in October and won the "Best Legs" contest. Really. God, this song dragging on forever. I'll take this opportunity to speculate on who will come out to sing with Archuleta. Stevie Wonder? Sean Lennon? Smokey Robinson? Maybe Kelly Clarkson.

9:00. Brooke White and Graham Nash. Nap time.

9:06. Who the hell are these people? The Jonas Brothers? I think this where I draw the line, I mean I like to know what the kids are listening to but these dudes and Miley Cyrus can kiss my old, withered ass. Chill, tambourine child, chill! See Pat? That's me.

9:12. My ears are bleeding from this kid in the cape. I feel badly for the USC band for having to back him...and....he's been cut off for a commercial. Perfect.

9:18. God this whole being old/writing a thesis thing is still inhibiting my enjoyment of this program as I listen to something called One Republic, something I have never heard of. Thank the angels they've dragged Archuleta out. A word keeps repeating itself in my brain: Coldplay...Coldplay.

9:23. Here comes darling Jordin, cute and wearing a golden dress, like a mix of Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson going to the middle school Winter Carnival dance. Another problem in addition to the dress: her song sucks. BRING OUT CHRIS BROWN NOW. Boooo...commercial. A Coldplay commercial!

9:32. Why am I laughing at this stupid Pips thing? I blame Jack Black.

Here comes the Goddess Carrie. True glamour and class. She is THE Hotness. It's a shame I can't listen to her annoying gnu-country songs. But she is the real deal--she even has the Whitney microphone hand slap move down. Question: Does she kind of look like the hottest marketing manager/manta ray ever in that outfit, or is it just me? Another question: Does she ever blink? I wonder how Bob Ice is feeling right now.

9:41. Did I just see David Archuleta in his underpants?

Here come the Top 12 doing a George Michael medley. That might be the gayest sentence ever written. More Skunk Nurse and more Chikezie!!! So thrilled, so happy. Holy Hell, GM has arrived from the heavens like Frankie Avalon in the "Beauty School Dropout" number in the Grease movie, except dressed in black, not white, and wearing some $10 H&M women's sunglasses. His voice is sounding a leetle shaky, friends.

Who is singing with Archuleta??? Did I miss something? Did he and Aretha trade fours on "Think" while I was stirring my curry?

9:56. Come ON, already! Losing stamina/interest/brain cells.

9:59. OH SHIT. No way. Cook, really?? This is total crap. See what happens when I don't vote?

OK, now I'm off to cry myself to sleep.

Until next year!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Why Do You Only Do That Only

If the video doesn't work, try this.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Big Girls Don't Fall

My sweater smells like mittens and icicles or a wool scarf caked with miniature snowballs after an afternoon of sledding or skating. It's the scent of being two nanoseconds away from burning your tongue on death-defying sips of too-hot, powdery hot chocolate served in a palm-sized Styrofoam cup that you just drink right there with your skates on. When you bite on the pliant lip of the cup a plasticky chaser cuts the sickening sweet of the molten lava you've just swallowed, and you wait for the warmth to travel to your fingertips and toes.

When we skated on frozen New England ponds, we looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting--no joke--with the horses and sleighs and muffs and skating skirts transmuted into silver sliding discs, 1980s Day-Glo snowpants, and those gloves that changed color with the temperature. Rental skates were always either too tight or too loose. They were tragically, obviously, not yours. But you were excited to at least get white ones, however scuffed. The alternative pair were the color of spoiled eggs, which meant a lackluster performance over the cracked and rippled ice.

Was it Look Park? Forest Park? Either way, the lake was huge and flat only in the middle, where boys had scraped smooth a rectangular area on which to play hockey. These weren't neighborhood boys, these were high schoolers with scholarships and double-blade racing skates. They were boys to be avoided for fear of notice and/or body checks that could send a ten-year-old to Mercy Hospital. So I'd break free from my little sister, a Weeble in wool and Gore-tex, tottering alongside my mother, and my Dad practicing his long, low strides in black skates he's had since college, and go exploring.

I'd scrape along the edge of the lake. Low, leafless branches reached desperately toward my feet, looking for spring. After a few minutes, I'd attempt a twirl in a secluded nook, careful no one could see in case I fell. That was my goal: not to fall. This was easy at first, in the cautious beginning, but after three successful twirls and a hitch twist into my backwards stride, I'd get heady, start picturing myself in a spangly leotard and a matching hair scrunchie panting through a smile as I rounded the rink into my final triple lutz. My parents and sister, on their feet behind the giant ice arena sneeze-guard, looked meaningfully at each other in between chants of support. I was gunning for World Champion and everybody knew I was going to do it. I'd be the American Dream, face on a box of Wheaties.

When you fall and your skull bounces on four inches of ice like four winters, you see black, then white before the Polaroid of your brain develops into a landscape of stars. It's a graceful fall, the Nike swoop of falls. In your whole head there's a cold pain, not a hot one like needles or scalds. Your father picks you up, and you say you're okay even though your head feels like a split melon. There's no blood, but you feel some phantom ooze warming the back of your neck, just where your scarf is wound tight. You cry, even though you're a big girl.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Self-Referential Revelations

Molly tagged me.

1. What's the story behind the name of your blog?
It has everything to do with the intersection of listening to Mates of State on repeat and my own lack of courage. The only way I could start writing was if it didn't matter.

2. Why did you start blogging in the first place?
Massey made me do it. He, like me, was bored at work and told me to write for him, so he could have something else to read while he, like me, was supposed to be editing reading passages.

3. What has been your best blogging experience? What about the worst?
Best: It got me into grad school. Worst: I posted an old story and my family called me in alarm because they thought I was morbidly depressed. I had to explain that no, I was morbidly depressed last year.

4. What do you think will happen to your blog in 2008?
I hope to trick it out and focus it more on music writing.

Now I'm tagging: Lauren, Devery, Jeff, Adam, if you please.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Tooth Fairy

Eleanor’s hair was always in pincurls: tiny black buns swirled through with streaks of white fastened with bobby pins close to the base of her skull. A single pink spongy curler contained the few hairs that constituted her bangs, creating a sort of duckbill protruding from her hairline. Eleanor smoked long, thin, brown cigarettes that she mashed, half-smoked, into an olive-green metal bowl affixed to long, thin, olive-green metal stand. When my mother sat in Eleanor and Harold’s driveway, her gleaming white Salem 100 butts—smoked to the quick—nestled awkwardly into a pile of brown.

Harold was a mechanic. He worked out of his garage, which smelled so strongly of oil and stale smoke that I felt it might explode at any moment. A glossy calendar featuring curiously enthusiastic blonde women (reading a book, or straddling a motorcycle) in very little clothing hung on the wall, higher than my eyeline, but low enough for me to see if I stood on tiptoes. Once, alone in the garage, I moved close to the calendar. I noticed a clear plastic overlay, curling at the edges, and after looking over my shoulder twice, lifted it. Miss September’s clothing peeled up and away from her pink limbs, revealing a pelvis adorned with a strip of what I figured was pubic hair, and two shiny breasts that seemed to smile psychotically at me like a deranged woman I had once seen at the mall. I dropped the overlay like it was on fire, looked over my shoulder again, and casually strode to the other side of the garage to inspect what I suspected was a car engine leaning against a pile of uncut two-by-fours.

Eleanor drove a 1978 VW beetle, sunshine yellow. It was always parked outside of Eleanor and Harold’s yellow-brown house on Quaker Road, just around the corner from our house on Roanoke Road. From the rear window, a bumper sticker proclaimed: You Bet Your Dupa I’m Polish. My sister and I loved that car, and when we begged my mother to trade in her puke-green Ford Granada for one, she’d sigh and say, “It is a cute car,” then exhale toward the closed windows in our living room. When I asked my mother what “dupa” meant, and she explained that it was the same thing we called “fanny”, but in Polish.

For whatever reason, every time I had a loose tooth, my mother would send me to Eleanor’s house. I’d have been complaining for weeks, jiggling an incisor with my tongue every waking minute, trying to loose the tooth from its stubborn root. Once in a while, I’d taste the metallic rush of blood when I’d managed to rip away one of the dead tooth tendons, simultaneously revolted and stimulated by the taste of my own blood. After two days of complaints, my mother would scream, “Let me look at it!” and I’d wail and cry and run away, knowing that if I’d let her anywhere near my mouth, she would have ripped it out of my head, causing me excruciating pain and suffering. After this display, I knew I’d either have to get it out myself or be sent to Quaker Road to deal with Eleanor.

I must have been 11. I’d been wailing over a loose tooth for a few days. After dinner, my mother had commanded, “Go over to Eleanor’s so she can look at that tooth.” I protested, citing the inconvenience of the after-dinner hour. “What if she’s busy?”

“She’s not busy,” my mother stated. After some thought, I agreed to go—I had the brilliant notion that Eleanor, a neighbor, would never inflict harm on a girl of 11 that wasn’t hers. I’d be safer with her than with my mother, who was clearly sick of my whining. So I trudged out of our dead end, took a meandering right onto Quaker Road, pushing and pulling at the nearly-ejected tooth the entire way. When I skulked up Eleanor and Harold’s driveway, my heart raced as I tried to talk the tooth into breaking off: Come on! Get out! Just break off already! But it hung there, stubborn as a stain.

Eleanor and Harold’s doorbell was illuminated with orange light. When I pressed it, I could hear a deafening BONG BONG from where I stood. I flushed with embarrassment for interrupting whatever Harold and Eleanor did at 7 o’clock at night. Thirty seconds later, Eleanor opened her heavy door decorated with a mustard yellow valance. Her curler was firmly in place, a freshly lit cigarette smoldered between the index and middle fingers of her right hand. She wore a polyester sleeveless shift with a pattern of repeating ovals—brown, beige, brown, beige.

“Megan! Hello!” She said this as if she had been expecting me.

“Um, hi, Eleanor.”

“Hi Megan!” Harold called out jovially from an unseen room. The din of a television enveloped my name.

“Hi Harold!” I screamed.

Eleanor opened the door all the way. “I hear you have a loose tooth. Come on in!”

I walked into her kitchen, a foreign and oppressively beige place. An overhead florescent light cast a greenish hue over the room. I stammered, “Well, my tooth has been bothering me for a while, so my mom thought I should come over here so you could take a look at it.” As the words escaped my mouth, I knew I was in for it—Eleanor was going to rip that tooth out.

I stood there, Eleanor’s bulk hovering over me, her mouth a smile but her eyes all business. I opened my jaw against itself and jiggled the tooth with my tongue for effect. She peered into my mouth. “Ahhh. Yeah. That needs to come out.” She rested her cigarette in a small yellow dish on the counter.

“Uh huh.” My mouth was still agape. My heart still pounding.

In a flash, Eleanor reached her surprisingly nimble fingers into my mouth, clamped on the doomed tooth with her forefinger and thumb, and yanked.

It was over. An acute sense of freedom cloaked my body as my tongue frantically prodded the space between two shockingly secure teeth. Eleanor wrapped the tooth in a shred of paper towel she ripped from a wooden paper towel holder adorned with mushroom decals. She bent down and handed it to me, smiling. “Put this under your pillow tonight for the Tooth Fairy. Now go on. Say hello to your mother for me.”

“Ok!” I was out the door, running toward my house which was darkening to midnight blue in the last shreds of September light. I heard Eleanor and Harold’s door bang shut as I rounded the corner onto Roanoke. Visions of quarters were in my eyes, the tooth no longer part of me, but a foreign object wrapped in paper in my hand. A foreign object worth exactly fifty cents.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Love, Williamsburg Style

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Davey Is the Greatest

My man Davey is still keeping it real. That has to be the L train.

Davey Dance Blog - 28 - NYC MTA - The Sunshine Underground - "Put You In Your Place" from Pheasant Plucker on Vimeo.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Bit of Stevie

So I'm trying to write about Stevie Wonder. It's difficult. But here's what I've come up with. For my grad school friends: it's part of a longer piece (wink), called Prescriptions for the Soul.

Track 1: Fingertips Pts. 1 & 2

For fans of apt introductions. For enthusiasts of raw talent. For prepubescence. For rhythm and commands from bandleaders. For blindness and vision, extrasensory perception, the feel of cool ivory under your fingerprints. For witnessing something important. For articulation. For the beginning, the beginners. For people who like things in parts. For promise. For hope. For permission.

I’m watching a black and white video from the early 1960s. The music starts immediately, mid-harmonica solo. He’s lip-synching but no one cares, if they know. He is high-pitched, and young. He’s standing in a bible-salesmen suit on an empty stage, no band, feet close together in shined shoes. He can’t stop moving, he’s electrified. The audience, mostly female black teenagers, claps along, slightly out of time, slightly bewildered. They smile teenaged smiles colored with embarrassment, self-consciousness and fear. Several of them are wearing cheerleader sweatshirts with large white Es on the front. He sings to them, asks them to clap louder, and they do. (Robert Plant will borrow this vocal riff from him years later when he sings, “lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time” on “Rock and Roll”.) He’s a child, but I suspect he already knows things we don’t know. I’m watching him and I’m thinking: thank you.

(Stomp your feet, jump up and down, do anything that you wanna do!)

It'll go on from there, through every track on the 4-disc set, At the Close of a Century. Oh, and here's the Fingertips video.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

La Lotta Continua

Today I find myself utterly, crushingly distracted by the memory of someone who once told me he loved me. Or, more accurately, by the memory of the moment he told me. It's a physical memory, detailed, and warm, next to me from the moment I awoke until this second. I'm pulled by it, neck snapping up and to the left.

It's curious, with all its power and pull. How can he walk around knowing that he said it? With all that guilt and meaning, if, in fact, he meant what he said? That's what's astonishing me, the fact that I'll never know if he meant it, if anyone ever means it, those three words we long to hear. I have a mind to believe that once they are said they just float into the universe with all the other words and are rendered meaningless.

Does the curiosity of this love-day mean that I love him too, in some obtuse way, out of some deep soul-stirred dream? Or is it love that I love, I miss, that fat glowing thing?

I try to convince myself that love exists only when someone makes a move, does something, creates a real connection with another person, a life, not mummifies it in memory or art. Although Caravaggio could convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


When I can't write, or won't, I can't sleep. So I've been up to all hours lately. Instead of applying my anxiety to my work (my new mantra, thanks, Jo Ann), I sit and stew in my own juices for hours on end ingesting various media: music, TV, films, books, magazines. I try to turn the level up a notch during what are supposed to be "writing hours": watching touching PBS documentaries about inner-city kids performing Shakespeare at London's West End Theatre, reading Lucy Grealy's harrowing medical/psychological memoir Autobiography of a Face, listening to The National's two albums on repeat, finally popping The Lives of Others into my DVD player instead of letting it rot in its Netflix sleeve on my coffee table. All this in search of my soul.

The kids in the PBS documentary (My Shakespeare) were having trouble. They weren't actors. They had never read or seen Shakespeare. They had no hope of success in any tangible way. But after a month of intensive rehearsals and constant guidance/encouragement from filmmaker/actor/director Paterson Joseph, they pushed through adversity (thank you ESPN, for that phrase) and connected to their characters, wrenching emotions like love, lust, and betrayal from their souls and getting them out on stage.

An actress friend of mine once told me that she had to stop acting because the ability to access and control emotions, though she could do it, was too much for her. She couldn't stop feeling them after the scene ended. I think this kind of direct access to and control of emotion is necessary for all art. But writing isn't a performance. It's just always there. So if you're attuned to your emotions when you're writing, if you're ripping your heart out, when and how do you put it back in?

Last night, I caught American Beauty on TV, uninterrupted, unedited. I remembered going to see it in the theatre with Jane, when it first came out, when she still lived here, when she made me go see the best films. Afterwards, we clutched each other and sighed with overwhelming wonder at the Wes Bentley character: how gorgeous, how real. The plastic bag dancing in the wind. We probably cried.

It's so easy (too easy?) for me to access my emotions. It's wrangling them into art that pins me to the couch. What good is all that emotion with no means to get it on the page? So I'm up all night, feeling stuff, staring into the night, the flickering television casting a frantic shadow in my bedroom, wondering what to do.