Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Family Reunion

We had a family reunion this week. It was with my mom’s side who I don’t see all that often. Truthfully I don’t see any side of my family all that often. My family is very large and it’s just so hard to get everyone together.

There were a lot of people missing from this reunion who I would have loved to have been there, but we still had a blast. I always forget I have so many cousins. I’m surrounded by nieces and nephews due to my many siblings, so cousins get lost. But I have many cousins and they are all awesome and so much fun.

My brother and me.

My Uncle Gene (who is probably one of my favorite people on the planet) took myself, my sister Missy, my brother Scotty, and my niece Kimi on a history trip around Sauk Centre, MN, which is where this side of my family settled. It was wonderful to hear how my family came to be and see the sites and really feel like a part of history.

My mother died when I was 6 years old so a lot of this feels lost to me. It’s always so wonderful to reconnect with this side of the family and get a feel for her through them.

He took us to the house my mother grew up in.

He took us to the graves of my great, great, great grandparents, Ole and Beret Johnson (not sure I got the amount of greats right). I learned how he came to America, that my families original name in Norway was Christensen, and that he fought in the civil war and was one of the few to make it back.

 Great Great (great?) grandfather.

Great grandparents.

He showed us the route my mother took to school and the church she went to. He told us about her first marriage and how that all shook out (not well).

It was just a wonderful trip.

We then went back to his house and regrouped with the rest of the family and spent the rest of the evening drinking and chatting and laughing and catching up. It was midnight by the time we left.

I have real issues feeling connected to people and this trip really made me feel connected. Family is good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Girl's Weekend (And Then Some)

 Lady feet in the water.

Friday afternoon I left the Twin Cities metro area with two of my closest lady friends, Kimi and Tracy. We headed up to northern Wisconsin to Tracy's family cabin, a beautiful house in the middle of the woods with a lake just down the hill from the front door. Internet access was spotty, nearly non-existent. The closest town was barely a town but was home to an amazing Co-op and Eatery that I would go back to right now if it was in my area. We spent our two short days there drinking, eating really good food, swimming and lounging in the lake and on the dock, and just chatting away. (Oh, and we watched The Devil Wears Prada, which is such a horrible movie for women. Just horrible.)

 Lake views.

Wine in the woods.

It was good to get away. It had been a long time. I did miss my husband and dog terribly and I got a little scared the second night when I was maybe a little too sober to sleep alone in a big bed in the most absolute darkness in the middle of the woods. So much so that I had to get up and move to the couch upstairs. But it was good to get away. It is more and more incredibly difficult for me to disconnect from the internet and social media. And it's no fault of those applications. I just cannot tear myself away. But I was forced to and it was good for me.

 Night one. I don't remember taking this picture.

And I actually read a book...well I am reading it. It had been way too long. The Internet and music and dvds keep me from reading. I started it up at the cabin and am still trying to finish it. And it is very much a trying because I'm not really enjoying it very much. It is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I loved his two other books (The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex) but this one is incredibly dry and meandering. I feel like I'm reading a term paper disguised as a novel. I can find no plot to speak of. And I normally don't mind books or stories that are just glimpes into the lives of people, but maybe I'm just not enjoying these particular lives. I also feel like I'm missing something, which makes me feel stupid. And nobody likes to feel stupid.

When I finally had internet access again, I learned the results of the Trayvon Martin case, that a woman I know who is very good friends of good friends of mine was hit by car while riding her bicycle and was in critical condition, and that a young actor from Glee died of an apparent drug overdose. Sad news all around. It made me want to go back to being unplugged. Blissful ignorance.

Now I am filled with the post-vacation blues. Trying to figure out what's next and what I can do to make my general life more like vacation life. Isn't that the dream? Not that I want to sit and drink my days away every day, but just to not have the daily obligations and unnecessary stress that comes from not doing exactly what you want to do. I vacation so infrequently (this was my first one in two years and it was only a three day weekend) that it makes it hard to rationalize the work stress and daily grind that I go through that is supposed to make life easier. I work to play, right? I work so I can have money to do the things I want to do. But when I work and work and work and stress and stress and stress and still nothing gets fixed, vacations aren't taken, music isn't made, instrument upgrades aren't purchased, home comforts are left un-bought, one has to wonder what the point of all of the stress and grind is? Because no matter how much I work, I still can't seem to come up with money to buy tickets to go back to London. Or to get a new computer. Or to buy a winter coat.

And there I go again. Complaining. Whining. It just happens. I don't know how to stop it.

But I don't like it.

But I don't know how to fix it.

I need a vacation.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville

It’s all over my Facebook page today that Liz Phair’s debut album Exile in Guyville is 20 years old this year. I don’t know if today is the anniversary of the release date or something (and I’m too lazy to look it up), but either way, it’s been out 20 years – and that’s a long time.

I still recall the first time hearing this album. My friend/niece Kimi and I were hanging out at her place doing absolutely nothing and she excitedly put the CD in after getting it from….somewhere. Not sure. She said that I would love it. That it was us. Our lives. Which, looking back, we were awfully young to consider these songs the soundtrack to our lives.  And no matter how early we were at blooming, still. I had never had a “Soap Star Joe”, for example. But I did have male friends who left suspicious things in the sink. For reals. Literally. And when I heard that, I was sold. OH MY GOD. This woman knows everything.

One after another I found a piece or a line from each song that completely and totally resonated with me and my burgeoning womanhood.  How did this woman so perfectly articulate what it’s like to be me???

Each song came from such a strong viewpoint, but most of them are not necessarily about girl empowerment. More just about recognizing the situation and dealing with it. With her deep alto voice, she gives off a sense of strength while at the same time, an underlying  vulnerability and sadness.

She tapped into an honesty that was not at the forefront of any female artist that I can think of at the time. Most women, even when singing about these very topics, over poeticized and decorated everything in metaphor. Liz put it out there, front and center. These are the events that happened. These are the words that were said. (The only other similar album I can think of is Janis Ian’s Between the Lines. One of my all-time favorites – though it is a bit more on the sappy overly dramatic side. It is a BLAST to sing along to when you’re drinking alone. Also that link goes to a listening page on her website. Enjoy!)

On the musicianship side of things, I’ve always been so frustrated because I want to learn to play these songs, but the chords she uses are so strange and my fingers just don’t do those things that there are very few that I can genuinely play in an unaltered way.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to have written such a defining, important album. And then the pressure while writing your next one – which I LOVE Whip-Smart, by the way. It’s not Exile in Guyville, and it shouldn’t be. But the songs are just as smart and engaging.

I had an idea last year to ask local female musicians to submit a cover of a song from Exile in Guyville to put together for a tribute album…but I never got around to doing. I spoke to someone who did this last year for Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs album and he told me what an undertaking it was. I just didn’t have the time for it then. But it’s still something I’d like to try. And if I would have realized the 20 year anniversary was this year, I totally would have tried harder to make it happen.

This album means a lot to me and it still holds up today. It’s a classic. Getting past all of the “Fuck and Run” and “Flower” type songs (which are awesome), it’s way more than what it appears like on paper. It’s just a really good album from beginning to end. Which is a big task for an album with 18 songs. Not a single dud to be found.

I’m trying to think if there is any way I could choose my Top 3 tracks from this album….I don’t think it’s possible. Maybe “Divorce Song” would be #1.  That could change tomorrow. And from there, I don’t know what would be next.

Thanks for this album, Liz.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Things I Love Right Now

I skipped this last month because I had a lot going on. But here goes for July:

1. Summer
Summer finally feels like it's here which means I get to sit and stare at this:

I never used to spend much time in my yard because my neighborhood was filled with little kids and it was just never all that peaceful...but now those kids are older and things are much more peaceful and I really find I enjoy sitting out there with a beer and just staring off into the distance.

2. Feist
 I cannot get enough of Feist these days. Each listen just burrows itself deeper in and I just want more more more! It's weird. There are some fantastic live videso on the YouTube...This is just one performance of one song (the whole show is out there, though):

3.Yeah Yeah Yeah's: Mosquito
My favorite album of the year so far (though probably my least favorite album cover ever). Still kicking myself because I got the dates wrong for their show here in Minneapolis. I thought it was the same night I had a show, but it was the night before. And I hear it was the show of the year. So whatever.

4. The White Whales
I'm probably going to talk about these guys for a while. I first stumbled upon them when they played a show with a friend's band. They immediately caught my ears and I tucked them away in the back of my mind. Then I asked them to join me for a show, which they did. And they were awesome. And then they played another show with me during my residency...and they were awesome again. And this past month they've now released 2 sneak peeks at their new album (coming out August 2nd) and both have me so giddy with excitement. I love being excited about new music.

5. Love
 I am so excited about the changes happening in the country regarding gay marriage and gay rights. I know we are nowhere near all the way there yet, but we are making steps forward and it's amazing to witness.