Friday, June 24, 2011

A Tuesday Night In June

Roll the days up into an endless montage of coded words and coffee cups. This is the summer that happened when I was twenty-three.

Sitting under a tree as the sun set on Tuesday night, illuminated by an array of Christmas lights and sparkly fabric, I played music for my friends and neighbors in honor of Solstice. Encouraged by the drunken cheers, I belted out song after song until somebody from upstairs filed a noise complaint. It was the most fun I've had in awhile.

There had been a rumor that I was going to open for a friend of The Chef's who was visiting from out of town and was previously in a well-known alternative band. Just when I was starting to get excited about that possibility, I was informed that the guy wasn't answering his phone and would not be gracing us with his presence. So I became the headliner and the opening act became The Chef's infamous sound sculpture (an air mattress with train whistles and pan flute parts shoved into it so that it makes a shrill and obnoxious wheezing sound when turned on).

I've had some strange opening acts in my short time as a performing musician, but it doesn't get much weirder than the singing mattress. I feel as though I have finally arrived in The Land Of Rock And Roll.

There was also a nice moment before the show when The Chef was attempting to cook a chicken on a beer can under the grill and completely forgot about it. The result? A large cloud of smoke and one very black chicken.

Fortunately, it was set up as a potluck and other people brought food. Mysterious, vegan-friendly food, as one might expect from a Solstice celebration in an artist's community. But at least this time, we didn't have to go around and announce the ingredients used in each dish just in case somebody had a food allergy (yes, I have been to a potluck like felt like a "Portlandia" episode...).

It was a pretty good crowd of people. Naturally, the usual crew was there - The Fonz, The Poet, Purple Hair, The Fallen Nun, The Chef, Jack, The Dancer, The Jewish Guy From New Jersey. The old guy that makes weird photoshop art involving floating baby heads. The Feng Shui lady with hair that belongs on The Trinity Broadcasting Network. The silent Canadian guy who generally only comes out long enough to bake special brownies. The woman with a dog that looks like Wishbone. The grumpy old lady who makes tassels for a living. The man who has been known to wear a dress on occasion. The Cute Poet Boy and his strangely butch girlfriend. The resident lesbian folk singer. The hipster who has dedicated his life to painting well-known cartoon characters holding cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The guy who aspires to go to butler school. The duo of sexually ambiguous hipster boys we lovingly refer to as "The Gnomes."

And me, in my summer dress, playing songs about love and giardia under a light-up tree.

All the rocks that society hands to us in boxes and backpacks become irrelevant in that moment. The elephants that have crept into our rooms over the past eight months go into the corner and drink too many tall boys. In the morning, we will once again face the reality of being starving artists in the twenty-first century. But in the garden, breathing in the music and laughter with the warm June air, that reality is unimportant. And life suddenly seems so very simple.

One day I will look back on all of this - this moment in time, this summer that happened when I was twenty-three - and I will laugh at the absurdity of it all. I'm laughing now and I'm still in the midst of it. But I wouldn't have any of it any other way.

Happy Summer, boys and girls. <3

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Mysteries Of The Universe... And Paul, My New BFF


As promised, here is a real post.  I apologize for the recent stink bomb known as the three-and-a-half-legged cat entry.  I will attempt to make up for that at this time.

So I've been getting my rock and roll ducks organized into a row lately.  Which means a lot of things, including the fact that I have a rather exciting, last minute gig coming up tomorrow night.  I'm not going to hype it up too much until I know more details, but there will potentially be some important people there.  You better believe I'm already nervous.

In other news, I've spent way too much time lately thinking about The Meaning Of Life, The Universe, and The Role Of Humanity In The Cosmos.  I could probably blame that on the movie I saw the other day:

I don't know if any of you have braved "The Tree Of Life" yet, but it was one big beautiful artsy mess.  I loved the cinematography and the editing.  The film felt like something that Ingmar Bergman would have made if he woke up on the French New Wave side of the bed after taking acid while reading The Bible and watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" simultaneously.  Translation:  It was really, really strange.  I'm still not entirely sure what my overall opinion of the movie is.  I think I liked it and it was definitely worth watching but I don't ever need to see it again.

But its existential journey through time and space got my mind back on all of my favorite questions.  You know, the whole "If the universe is so big and we're so small, what are we doing here and why should anybody up there care?" routine.  This is a question that a two hour montage of Sean Penn walking through the desert could not answer.

Luckily, I have a new friend named Paul who can shed a little bit of light on these difficult questions.

I met Paul a few days ago when I was out with my friends.  Being a creature of habit, I always go to the same pub with the same people and order the same thing from the same cute bartender.  I even sit in the same chair at the same table most of the time.  It's all a little bit like "Cheers."

But our favorite pub was closed for a couple of weeks due to remodeling.  And when it came time for us to partake in our weekly night of PBR, artist's pool, culture bashing, gossip, and trash talk, we had to branch out and go somewhere new.  We picked an unassuming little bar down the road.  The decor was rather charming and it wasn't at all crowded.  We found a good table by the door and launched into our standard artsy-weirdos-at-a-bar routine.

Little did we know that we had walked onto the set of someone else's sitcom.  We had left the comfort of our own playground and would soon be at the mercy of an entirely different cast of characters.

It was very strange.  Multiple people said "hi" to us as they walked in and out.  Apparently it's a friendly place.  They were weird people, too.  An elderly couple, holding hands and grinning.  And a middle-aged man with a cell phone clipped onto his jeans.  He waved at us every time he walked by, regardless of the fact that we were deep in conversation.  Finally, The Poet asked the question we were all wondering:  "Do we know you?"

"Yes, you do," he said mysteriously.  "I'm Paul, and I've been around a long time."  He then walked out the door to smoke a cigarette.

I felt as though something in the atmosphere had shifted.  I could almost hear the eerie "Twilight Zone" theme music.

We sat at the table and tried to figure out if any of us knew a guy named Paul.  We had just decided that we definitely had no idea who he was when he came back and sat down at our table.

"You guys have a cool vibe," he says.  "I'm going to talk to you, because that's how I roll."

He told us about how he used to be on commercials for a local grocery store chain that went out of business over a decade ago.  Apparently, we were supposed to know who he was because of that.  He told us about his undying love for the band Yes and we nearly got him to recite "Roundabout" in it's entirety.  He confessed that he had a giant crush on Stella, the bartender, and was upset that she had a boyfriend. 

Just when I thought the moment couldn't get any more bizarre, Paul launched into a story about his "nefarious" past.

Yes, he casually dropped the word "nefarious" into the conversation.  Then went on to tell us about the time he hi-jacked top secret government signals using an Atari and equipment he bought at RadioShack. 

"What government secrets did you find out?" we asked.

Paul suddenly became very serious.  "You don't want to know," he said, shaking his head.  "Some of them are nefarious at best!"

"Oh come on, just tell us what you learned."

"No, I can't do that to you guys, you're better off not knowing!"

"We can handle it.  Just tell us your favorite government secret.  It's just like telling us your favorite band."

He continued to shake his head.  We weren't about to give up, though.

"Don't you know anything about the mysterious of The Universe or aliens or anything?" asked The Poet.  "What about the aliens?"

Paul perked up.  "Yes...they've been here the whole time!  The government doesn't want us to know, but we are constantly being watched by The Zeta Reticuli!"

He then launched into an epic conspiracy theory involving Hitler, Ancient Egypt, the government, and Nikola Tesla.  I think most people would have written him off as a schizophrenic freak, but he was way to fascinating to abandon for a game of pool.  So I sat there with my friends and listened to Paul's twenty-minute monologue about how we are not alone.

"There is undeniably an intergalactic presence among us!" he said, gazing off into space.  "There is something watching us, controlling us, knowing about us.  Maybe you call that 'God,' but I know it's the Zeta Reticuli."

I really wanted to laugh, but I refused to let myself.  Paul was completely serious.  "I have spent my entire life trying to make sense of those secrets I learned from the government signal that day!  You are better off not knowing the details," he said, a melodramatically grave look on his face. 

It was the strangest interaction I've had with anyone in a really long time.  Once my friends and I finally ended the conversation and got rid of him, we had a good laugh about the whole thing and moved on.

He was completely crazy, but his confidence in which he believed everything was astounding.

And as I sat in the movie theater and watched "The Tree Of Life" a few days later, I couldn't help but think that we are all struggling to define The Unknown.  Most of us just don't jump straight to alien conspiracy theories.

I think I'll wrap this up before I get too heavy.  I will say that we have plans to go back to that bar and look for Paul again though.

Except our standard pub is open again.  Nothing beats a dive with an endless Jukebox of Radiohead and two-dollar Pabst.  And there's a population of the crowd there that falls into the old, plaid-wearing, pony-tail sporting, Birthers with plumber's pants category.  Why talk to middle-aged men about aliens when you can have conversations like this:

"You don't like shuffle board?  I've been playing shuffle board since I was six years old!  And now I'm fifty six, so that's fifty years of shuffle board!  You know, if you're ever putting together a kitchen and you need a cutting board, all you need to do is find an old shuffle board.  You could cut up some meat real nice on that thing.  Oh!  Or maybe the floor of an old bowling alley!  Like from them 1930's or somethin.  Nice and smooth!  Great kitchen counter top.  Good for cuttin meat!"

I really wish I was making these things up.  I swear, there must be a sign on my back that says "IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING REALLY WEIRD TO SAY, PLEASE COME TALK TO ME."

Anyway, I am off like a herd of turtles.  I hope everyone has a fabulous Sunday.  And if anyone has any opinions on "The Tree Of Life," insight on The Universe itself, or any inside information on government secrets and the Zeta Reticuli, I would love to be enlightened.

Peace out, amigos.  There will be a more normal post in the near future.  I promise.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Back Leg Drags...

So I saw this sign hanging in a coffee shop the other day and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry:

That is all.  

(I will be back later with a more intelligent post, I promise...)

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Parade (An Awkward Cartoon Brought To You By Yours Truly!)

So I decided to turn a funny moment from my weekend into a badly drawn cartoon.  If you like this, let me know and I might start illustrating my life on a semi-regular basis. 

Note:  The images will get bigger when you click on them.  Hopefully the writing is at least somewhat legible.  I apologize if it isn't. 

And with that, I leave you with the following comic: 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Shirts-Off-O'Clock (Or: Knowing The Right Time To Leave The Room)

I was so proud of myself last night.  I went to a party and made the decision not to drink.  I then left at exactly the right time.  Really, the timing on my departure could not have better coordinated.  I narrowly avoided a scene full of nudity and angry yelling.

Allow me to recapitulate:

Jane, The World's Sweetest Pit Bull
I'm house-sitting this weekend, which means I get paid to hang out in the Hawthorne district with Jane, the world's sweetest pit bull.  It doesn't really get much better than that.  I started the job last night and was quite excited about spending some time alone in a house with a piano and a big screen TV.  I had a blast walking Jane all over Southeast Portland and was about to settle in for a night of cable television when my phone began bleeping at me. 

Apparently there was a party back at the commune.  Specifically a going-away party for one of my neighbors that is moving to Eugene.  I wasn't particularly in the party mood, but it was this girl's last night in town and I felt that it was important to go see her off with everybody.  Plus, I probably won't see her for a long time and she's a neighbor I really liked, so attendance at her goodbye party seemed polite and necessary.  So I drove back to the commune, promising myself that I wasn't going to stay out too late or get talked into doing anything wild (there was a rumor that this was going to be a key party, but I was fairly sure that was a joke). 

Things were fairly normal when I got there.  The usual suspects were gathered around the table in the kitchen drinking aquavit and eating jello salad.  I wasn't feeling the aquavit (NyQuil mixed with black licorice, anyone?), but the jello salad was quite excellent.  It was the weird kind with pretzels in it that only people from the Midwest know how to make.  I was totally suspicious of it at first but now I think I need the recipe (can anybody from the Midwest help me out with that?). 

Anyway, it was all fairly tame at first - just a bunch of hipsters and hippies sitting around eating jello.  The Poet told me about a weird encounter he had with the middle-aged musician that lives on the floor below us.  We'll call him Moody Musician.  This guy is notorious for his dramatic emotional cycles.  I am on good terms with him, but sometimes I am terrified to talk to him because he becomes hyper-sensitive when he has a bad day.  And according to The Poet, Moody Musician had entered another one of his dark periods and was having several bad days.  I don't have to interact with Moody Musician very often, so I didn't think much of this information. 

The party picked up as the bottle of aquavit was drained.  Purple Hair put on a David Bowie album and The Fonz gave a dramatic lip-syncing performance of "Let's Dance."  Soon, a lot of people were dancing.  Strangely enough, I was more in the mood to sit on the couch and pet somebody's dog.  Usually I'm all over David Bowie dance parties, but something was off last night. 

The couch turned out to be a good place to be.  Somebody yelled "UNDERWEAR PARTY" and suddenly everyone took off their pants.  Awkward.  Yeah, it was a room full of people that I like, but I didn't really want to see any of them in their underwear.  I also wasn't about to take my pants off.  Maybe I'm lame, but that's just not my idea of a good time. 

It was around 11, which isn't really that late in my world but it still seemed like a good time to head back to Jane's house.  Somebody announced that the time was almost "SHIRTS-OFF-O'CLOCK" and I took that as my cue to make an awkward exit.  I gave my friend who's moving a goodbye hug and darted out the door before the toplessness began.  The Poet followed me.  The two of us were the only people in the room who were fully-clothed.  My departure was an excellent opportunity for The Poet to escape the awkwardness and smoke a cigarette. 

So I drove back to Southeast, changed into my sweatpants, and pounded away at the piano while the dog fell asleep on the floor next to me.  It didn't take long for my phone to ring.  It was The Poet.  "Holy @#$%.  You left at exactly the right time," he said.

Apparently, when The Poet went back inside, he heard Moody Musician screaming profanities.  When The Poet got to the top of the stairs, the night-time maintenance manager was standing in the hallway in response to Moody Musician's noise complaints.  And when The Poet went into the kitchen, he found a room full of naked people being cussed out by the Moody Musician in all of his angsty, unstable glory. 

Meanwhile, Bowie was still blasting from the stereo.  Everyone was avoiding eye contact with one another and Moody Musician was screaming at everyone in sight while the maintenance manager was sheepishly trying to diffuse the situation. 

And I was in a completely different part of town.  I can't help but be somewhat astonished at my ability to avoid that situation entirely. 

The novelty of living in an artist's community is slowly but surely wearing off.  I'm busy developing my next plan.  I'm not entirely sure what that plan will look like yet, but I don't think it will involve an old retirement home this time around.   

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's Talk About Texts, Baby

I woke up this morning to a strange text message from a friend informing me that I have super powers.  I wrote back and said something like "Haha, too bad I don't really have super powers."  I got a reply that said, "You really have super powers."  So I'm glad I have that cleared up. 

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a text message from my dad.  This message simply contained the first line of a very dumb joke:  "Two penguins walk into a bar..."  My dad recently learned to text.  I thoroughly enjoy his creative ways to say "hi" over text messaging, but waking up to a penguin joke at 9 a.m. cramps my Portlandia lifestyle.  But it did give me something to laugh about for the rest of the day, so I have no right to complain.

After all, I have experienced far worse offenses in the area of text messaging. 

This is the part of the show where I'm going to seem like a major bitch...but this guy just doesn't get the hint:

There are several things wrong with this picture:

1)  He was an acquaintance I had IN HIGH SCHOOL that popped out of the woodwork in October.  I hung out with him ONCE.  It was fun, but I was put off by the fact that he texted me five times a day after that.  So I casually quit responding.  I had no idea that by doing so, it would only make things worse.

2)  I do not know how to respond to a text message that says "hey."  If you're my best friend or something, you might be able to get away with it.  But if you're a guy I don't really know, you have to give me more to work with.  You need to at least pretend like you have something to say, even if you don't. 

3)  This person has texted me for a good SIX MONTHS without a reply.  It's a situation I really should have dealt with back in December because now it's just awkward. 

Isn't there an unspoken rule among boys that if a girl doesn't call you back after the second attempt to contact her, you need to move on?  Shouldn't that rule apply to text messaging too?

And then there's THIS trainwreck:

This one is a sad story.  I actually really liked this guy until he sent me an extremely tactless Facebook message in the middle of the night.  This message was sitcom-level bad.  It was just short of saying "I'm a total player...want to have sex?"  It was disappointing, but I deleted the message and moved on.  Of course, we live in a universe where there are about five different ways to contact a person.  So when picking me up on Facebook didn't work, he switched to text messaging. 

And for some reason, he thought it was cute to call me by some twisted version of my last name.  Pair that with a "whatup" and you have a bona fide trainwreck.  Newsflash:  I'M NOT YOUR BRO.  If you can't use my first name or be grammatically correct, you have no chance with me. 

Maybe I'm too picky and I'm destined to be that crazy lady with a bunch of cats and lawn gnomes.  But I think I would prefer cats and lawn gnomes to a boy who doesn't understand text message ettiquette. 

In other news, my phone just dinged.  I got a text message from my dad.  It reads "I like turtles."  Definitely the best text I've gotten all day.  Even better than "You really have super powers." 

Text messaging makes the world a weird place sometimes.  But I don't think I'd have it any other way.