Monday, October 31, 2011

Re-run of Jack O'Lantern Proportions

Beyond the pale [originally published in 2010]

You saw something.

You can't explain it.

So your mind works overtime. And you cling to something, anything.

Because you can't have it unexplained.

That way is madness. That way is horror. That way is terrifying.

Hundreds of years ago, this wouldn't have been a problem.

We knew there were a lot of things we didn't know. And yet our minds still spun in circles.

It's the explanations that were different. Otherworldly. Relying on magic and the supernatural to explain the most sublime of pleasures and the most terrifying of horrors.

We've turned away from that now.

Well, mostly.

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Kind of Murder That's Not a Crime

They Say It's Better to Be Traveling Than To Arrive

Shadows lengthen. Days shorten.

The wet sidewalks groan under the weight of the trucks.

And traffic slows on the overpass. As it always has. Maybe as it always will.

The tree that once was sick got better, grew taller, then died from root rot.

These things happened.

She almost always had a camera strapped around her neck.

Back before digital, back when there was film. And shutter speed, lens opening, and developing labs.

When it took days or a week to see the finished photos. Not 60 minutes or less.

She saw moments. Saw actions and stories. When we all just saw a blurry mass of life.

She'd come in with the camera, snap pictures quickly, then slip out the back.

But when we saw the photos, we were amazed.

They showed things we hadn't noticed. Or hadn't looked at carefully enough.

We almost never recognized the moment, but we always recognized the feeling.

And the feeling was always perfect.

Until Senior Year, when she stopped photographing anything for a month.

And then would only photograph this one guy. In a band. He played guitar. Horribly.

And the photos that had once seemed so truthful and real now were obvious, staged, and devoid of feeling.

But she wasn't. She was suddenly happy. Madly in love.

They went everywhere together. And she stopped obsessively carrying the camera.

She thought she'd die when he went to Europe for a few months.

She started carrying the camera again. But couldn't bring herself to take any more photos.

Except one.

A self-portrait. (It won an award. You've probably seen it.)

She set the camera on a tripod. Looked once through the viewfinder.

That was enough. She knew what she wanted. Knew what it was she needed to capture.

And she pressed the button.

Walked without hurry into the shot.

Her arm stretched north. Up. Towards... something.

Her legs stretched south. Down. As if readying.

It was perfect. A moment. Frozen in the lens. Framed and frozen on the wall.

Frozen for us. By her.

She wound the film up. Took it out of the camera. Left both camera and film for the yearbook staff.

And walked out to catch a plane to Madrid and start the rest of her life.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kimberley's Back in Denial Again

Frances is Coming Apart at the Seams

There's something going on.

A street closure.

A ferris wheel.

People gathering.

Nothing is quite what it seems.

The girl who lived in the area is gone.

But the shopkeepers miss her still.

They speak her name in low tones.

The vendors at the fair tell stories of how she won the stuffed bear last year. And how they found the bear in a dumpster a few days later.

They talk of the rides she loved. The boyfriends she brought to the fair over the years.

They talk of her. And nothing but her.

Because they all miss her. They all wonder what happened to her.

And they know they'll never, ever see her again.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

And When the Cat's Head Grins

You've heard it a million times before.

He likes her. But she likes someone else. And that someone else? Doesn't know what's going on.

This shouldn't come as a surprise.

But it does.

Every time.

And you hope when you're a kid to grow out of it so that you'll all just be able to say what's going on. And who likes whom.

And sometimes it does get easier. Sometimes people just say "hey, I like you."


And sometimes everything feels like you're still back in High School. There's too much darkness.

And all you want is light.


You want to reach up and out. Become your better self. Feel what you were put on this earth to feel.

You'd think it would get clearer. You'd imagine it gets easier.

But maybe the problem isn't that everything else hasn't changed.

Maybe, just maybe.

The problem is that you still want to burrow into the ground when you should be reaching for the stars.

And when you see the girl with her face tilted up, drinking up the sunlight, it just reminds you that winter's coming.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Falling Like a Stone


The fog blankets my neighborhood.

Thick grey walls wash in from the sea.

Coating everything. Moving inwards.

Outside, the wind is crisp.

The water is vapid, vaporized, and omnipresent.

It slips through our molecules, sliding forward to wherever it's going.

The transition between worlds, some say.

But it's not the twilight that makes the transition, it's the fog.

Not quite water. Not quite air. Not quite earth. And definitely not fire.

Walking through the fog, anything seems possible. You could slip between worlds here, get marooned and never find your way back.

And who's to say that's not what happened to you? Who's to say this is the world you started in and not some shimmering past or long-dreamed-of future.

Who's to say?

And with that, you pull up your coat, take a step forward and immerse yourself in the fog, outside the familiar, finally in the realm of the possible.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Last 30 Seconds

I was sick as a dog yesterday -- fever, aches, no energy to change the channel when Adam Sandler movies came on cable -- the whole bit.

Today's a lot better, but I'm not 100%.

Click here
to listen.

So instead of a story and complete write-up, I'll just offer the top ten reasons why the last 30 seconds of "Radio Bar" by Fountains of Wayne capture everything that's good and smart and hopeful about pop music:

10. "One night there was a girl there."
Probably there were girls there before that night. Maybe that girl was there on some previous night. But all good pop songs begin with a girl (and in the logic of the pop song, time begins anew when a girl appears).

9. "For some reason, she..."
Girls are strange and wondrous creatures. Men and boys will never understand them... We know that they have reasons for what they do, even if we'll never know or fully comprehend those reasons.

8. The way the horn parts echo and complement the vocals in the last verse.
Yeah, this technically starts before the last 30 seconds, but it continues and intensifies as the song draws to a close.

7. Stretching out the first syllable of "somewhere" in the line "She said 'why don't we go somewhere?'"
It would scan better not to stretch the syllable. It would match what went before. But when your entire life changes, everything suddenly seems different and when you look back, the moment of change elongates in your memory.

6. The internal rhyme of "So I passed her her coat, that was all that she wrote."
Again, when your entire life changes, the rhymes can quicken. And once your life changes completely, what's the harm of adding an extra line or two to the verse?

5. "That was it for the radio bar."
Because when your life suddenly changes and you have purpose, you no longer need to waste time childishly like you did before.

4. The false ending.
Is there anything sweeter than a fake ending in a power pop song? (Please reference "No Matter What" in your answer.) The only thing that would have made this better would be a split-second of complete silence before the drums kick back in.

3. The joyful continuation of the song.
Because even though the days of the Radio Bar are over, that doesn't mean you can't slam into the chorus one more time with all the gusto that encompassed every second you'd spent there over the years.

2. The percussion in the last chorus.
Similar, but much more pronounced than what went before. Listen carefully and you can hear a prominent triangle.

1. A slight stretching of the last word.
Not as big a stretch as "somewhere," but still enough to add another half- or three-quarters of a syllable to the word "bar." Because clearly, this is a place that was important -- not as important as the girl, of course, but important nonetheless.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Give You Something To Go On

Back to the middle of nowhere...

Sweltering. Smouldering. Sweltering.

Slick. Stark. Sweat.

(Connecting the dots, as they say in bad textbooks, is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday

Today is John Lennon's birthday.

He would have been 71.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spoken in Dreams

We communicate now through dreams.

It's not an efficient way to talk.

You dream of something. If I'm asleep, I'll sense it.

Later, I dream of something. If you're asleep and you're aware, you know it.

It's inefficient because you haven't been aware for a long time.

But something's changed.

Maybe it's the cool winds signaling a gradual descent into winter.

Maybe it's something else.

The dreams were important once.

From a time when we were younger. And the world felt new.

And then the dreams vanished.

Or we ignored them.

Minds and hearts closed.

But lately... lately.

Something has changed. There's an abyss. And a bridge.

Ironically, I can't remember any of the dreams.

But I remember having them.

Hearts opening. Eyes opening. Mind opening.

And the contentment is inspirational.

But not without risk.

I'd expect nothing more... from a dream.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Tried to Make it Sunday

We're Still in Wisconsin as far as I know...

25 years after their heyday was over (and 30 years after their third member left for a career making explicitly Christian music), America found an unlikely ally in Adam Schlessinger from Fountains of Wayne.

Schlessinger recorded some demos with Gerry Beckley and Sony signed America. Schlessinger and James Iha (from Smashing Pumpkins) produced America's underrated (and underheard) 2007 album Here and Now. To assure the interest of old-time America fans, the album came with a bonus live record consisting of live versions of every song from 1975's History: America's Greatest Hits.

So it seems oddly appropriate to hear America covering "A Road Song" (from the new Fountains of Wayne album) -- with a side-dish of "Sister Goldenhair":