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Archive for June, 2012

The coffee monkey

Portland is known for many things, and drinking coffee is one of them. There is not only a Starbucks on what seems like every single corner, but there is also the plethora of independent coffee houses that offer up local brews of all kinds. So what an odd thing for me to do, to throw out my coffeepot after moving here to the land of coffee and hipster coffee houses and quit my morning coffee habit, cold turkey. Oh, it was three days of caffeine withdrawal hell, complete with a headache and fatigue that had me back in bed by noon. But hey, I made it through! On the fourth day, my body said, “What coffee? We are doing just fine without that nasty habit and added expense.” But slowly, ever so slowly, I found myself wondering, can’t I just have a little cup of the lovely nectar called coffee that smells so damn good every time I walk past a coffee house? So one day, I walked to my favorite local haunt and ordered up a cup, just a small cup of their house blend with a shot of yummy caramel for good measure. Oh my! I had forgotten how rich and satisfying and downright fun the coffee buzz is! And how interesting that my now caffeine-free body was a bit shaky, trying to take in this drug that I had quit. But hey, it was worth it, even if I couldn’t hold the pen still as I tried to do some writing in the coffee house. No matter, that will wear off – the sweet taste of caramel coffee on my tongue was worth it. But, not enough for me to go back to my routine of brewing coffee in my home. But the other day, as I was doing some grocery shopping, I found myself drawn to the coffee aisle – and there I saw the answer to my dilemma – instant coffee! And look at all the great flavors they have! Vanilla and hazelnut and mocha and the one I finally caved in to with the fancy name, Cafe Francais. And as the coffee monkey on my back and I took home my treasure I heard myself saying, “I can quit anytime – it’s not like I’m going to drink it every morning again.” But just to be sure of my undisputed resolve in this, I hid the pretty coffee tin in my cupboard – right behind the packages of gourmet cookies I bought, during yet another weak moment when the other monkey was on my back – the one that just has to have that sugar fix every now and then.

School of Rock really rocks!

Listening to new music that I buy is a huge rush for me, as I wrote about in my last post. But the ultimate high in listening to music has to be hearing it live, and that is just what I did last night. As I was paging through Portland’s alternative weekly newspapers, I happened to see that the students from the School of Rock here were putting on a show just a few blocks from my home at a wonderful place called the Mission Theater, performing the music of Stevie Wonder. What a great chance to hear some awesome music, and at the same time support the up and coming musical talent in my city that is nurtured through this inspiring school of music. Last night’s performance consisted of 27 students taking turns playing various instruments and singing vocals on 26 different Stevie Wonder songs. And believe me, if you ever really listen to any of Stevie Wonder’s music, you’ll realize that it is complex and not that easy to perform. It is full of key changes, rhythmic changes, hyperactive bass lines, inventive keyboard playing and room for lots of vocal improvisation. But this group of eager young musicians gave it their all, and their hard work showed in amazing renditions of these challenging songs. By the end of the night most of the crowd was on their feet dancing, my friend and I included – what a blast! Music is a drug, and how great to see these young people becoming addicted to something that gives their souls a natural high.

New Music Day

As soon as I read the e-mail about the annual sidewalk sale at Music Millennium,  a great independent record store here in Portland, I knew it was time for New Music Day once more. I try to limit this exciting event in my life to every few months, so that way I am not spending my hard earned retirement money every time I walk past a record store, although it isn’t always easy to resist the pull of buying whatever is on my constant list of cds that I feel I just have to have. I do update the list every so often, listening to little snippets on i-Tunes from each album I have on my list, making sure I really have to have it. I grabbed a bus ticket and my current list of ten cds, and headed east across the river to whet my voracious appetite for music once more.

The sidewalk in front of the store was teeming with music, in vinyl as well as cd format. I had long ago jumped on the cd train when it came along, wiping out vinyl, or so we all thought at the time. Now it seems to be making a comeback, all those large lovely vinyl records, but I followed the flock and sold all my wax so I could turn it into plastic discs – one of those decisions in hindsight I wish I could rectify but I just say, oh well and stick with the shiny plastic music now. I carefully made my way through the bins and boxes of $2 cds, many of which I used to own but traded in at one time or another. After carefully looking through all the offerings and telling myself I really didn’t need to repurchase music I had once gotten rid of, my only discovery of cheap music was a cd of bagpipe music for my daughter, but nothing for me. So into the store I went, my list in hand.

So much music! I could get lost in a place like this, but I only had another hour on my bus transfer and I was too cheap to not make use of it. So I managed to eliminate the albums they didn’t have, the ones that weren’t on sale or used, and managed to find two off my list – one a newer album by an artist named Young Hines and another album by Built To Spill from 1997. Now it was time to catch the bus and head back to my home for a listening party.

The album by Young Hines has many different flavors, from more pop oriented songs to those that ring with a strong blues influence to a couple that just flat out rock. As I listened it sounded familiar, like another artist I have heard. Once I realized that Brendan Benson produced this album, the influence of his touch on this album was clear, although he still left room for Young Hines’ individuality to shine through.

But it was the album by Built To Spill, titled Perfect From Now On, that has me listening to it over and over. It was recommended by a friend who really loves it and now I can see why. Normally I am more a fan of the two to three minute pop song, not really enjoying overly extended musical jams. But with the average song length of these eight great songs at around six minutes, I find that each one comes off so perfectly orchestrated. It is a sprawling, swirling mix of sounds within each song; changing beats, going from loud to soft and back again, taking the listener on a crazy fun house ride. And this is what I call a “headphone” album, one that can only be fully appreciated with the headphones on, so as to not miss every little nuance of sounds coming together. Finding great timeless music like this makes me hope that in my next lifetime, I will come back to work with music in some way, shape or form – it fills my very soul.

The pull of the waves

Summer is here, and with it comes the talk of summer plans; vacations, adventures, travel to places near and far. My budget these days does not allow for a true vacation, only the trip back to Minnesota in September for my daughter’s wedding, which as lovely as that will be does not count as a vacation. So I have set my sights on a day trip to the Oregon coast. It will involve renting a car, since I sold my car seven months ago and have not been behind the wheel since then. But I’m willing to brave the roads and traffic to experience the ocean once more. Being only an hour and a half from the Pacific Ocean still takes my breath away. And the Oregon coast is full of massive waves and wind, with a rocky, seaweed cluttered shore that calls to my heart. I had a vision of my ocean before I even saw her, and wrote a poem about what I saw in my heart from miles away in Minnesota. And when I finally came to meet my ocean, she was even lovelier than I could imagine.

My Ocean

 

My ocean is not a beauty queen

With perfectly coiffed beaches of white sugar sand and a sparkling smile from the sun’s dazzling rays

 

My ocean is not a party girl

Inviting everyone to frolic in her waters and gyrate on her sand

 

My ocean is not a crowd pleaser

Offering up temperate waters to swim in and perfect waves to ride upon

 

 

My ocean dresses plainly

She wears weathered chunks of wood and slimy emerald green seaweed around her neck

Her shore is tangled wet tresses of gray and brown

 

My ocean seldom entertains guests

Her close companions are the rain, who touches her with drops of adoration

And the wind who dances with her in a passionate frenzy, spinning her into a whirling dervish

 

My ocean’s palette of colors is not bright and perky

Her color wheel contains the muted tones of the earth

Pallid shades of oyster gray, of muddy brown, of tarnished silver, of sun deprived green

 

My ocean is not the prettiest girl in the room

 

My ocean is not the most graceful dancer on the dance floor

 

My ocean is a natural beauty

A goddess unadorned

 

Her shores are cluttered with treasures from her toy chest

Her demeanor is solemn and stern

She languishes under a sky of heavy, sated clouds full of moisture

 

My feet sink into the putty of her sands

And I gaze out at her, captivated by the truthful declaration of her waves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-inventing myself, midlife

What do I want to be when I grow up? This is not a question that a 53 year old woman usually asks of herself, but I keep asking myself that question as of late. I feel as if I am at a crossroads, like the train has stalled on the tracks, like I’m in a holding pattern waiting to land, or any other clever cliche you can come up with to say “I don’t know what I want to do with my life!” I walked the path of convention for many years; go to college, go to work, get married, raise a family. Then I opened the can of worms called awakening, and said hello to my soul. My soul doesn’t much care for conventional ways any longer. So many things in my life are so perfect; living in Portland, not working in healthcare any longer, even not owning a car any longer is a dream come true. But as I watch my IRA balance go down instead of up, my little scheme of living off of that until I die may not work any longer. So now what? I feel a pull in my soul to do some type of work, some type of soulful work, but I hear no clear cut answers. This morning as I melted down into frustration and impatience and fear about my future, I started to wonder if this time of non-doing is the lesson, a lesson in trust. Waking up to the fullness of my soul has revealed so many positive aspects of self, but there is also the shadow side. I learn I am impetuous when it is not appropriate, I am impatient and want things now, and I am controlling, thinking I know what is best for me. Maybe I have stalled so I can learn to let go, to let the flow of the Universe touch my life, and trust in that. So I work on those nasty attributes that make me feel like a child at times, and instead turn to the strength of my ever maturing soul to find out what I will be when I grow up, in this phase of my life.

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