Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

In which Kathryn attempts to sing a different song everyday from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, 'Singing the Living Tradition'. Earlier posts are based on songs from the Reader's Digest songbooks she found at yard sales as a child, including: 'Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs', 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook', and 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy'. Bonus Folk song material from: 'Folk Song USA', by John and Alan Lomax.

31 March 2006

"Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anbody Seen My Girl)"

This song, of course, is about my sister. A fabulous song of the twenties, as well, catchy, with that 'Charleston' feel to it, but about my sister.

I've always considered myself very lucky to get along well with my family. This may be especially true for my sister, since I'm fifteen years older than her, literally old enough to be her mother, though I would have been a bit precocious. She's been here in Pittsburgh the last few days, spending some time with us in honor of my daughter's birthday. She's very conscientious about being a good aunt, both with my daughter, and with our nephew.

I thought my parents utterly irresponsible when I was twelve, and they announced that our Christmas present that year would be another sibling. How could they? They barely had the money to take care of us, I thought. That Christmas Eve--with my grandparents sleeping in the living room with the tree!--they brought home my youngest brother. I was still the only girl in the family. But three years later, when my mother was pregnant again, I knew from the start that my luck had run out. I was not happy that my sister was born, and unfortunately, I told her this somewhat early on. But it really was only that first year that I resented her.

My sister was an amazingly beautiful child. A friend told me that she would grow up to be quite a looker, and I knew he spoke the truth. She's not only adorable, but generous and loving, and somehow really ok, despite being somewhat ignored and overlooked in those early years as the youngest child in a large-ish family. I still cringe at some of the stories she tells.

Now she's my window into another generation entirely. Though I have given up on ever really being 'cool' again, I still count on her to give me some flavor of what's happening with the up and coming young adults. Oh, that sounds so condescending: I don't mean it that way at all. But in stark contrast with who I am these days: mom, and not much more--she very much has her life ahead of her. I encourage her to travel, to explore, to have adventures. It isn't that I didn't have adventures myself, but I didn't have nearly enough, and life now is filled with very different opportunities.

I am very blessed with my sister, and grateful for her. She's also promised to whack me upside the head if I start to really get annoyingly on the road to senility, and to take me out and shoot me when she catches me leaning on my shopping cart throughout the grocery store trip. What are sisters for, if not that.

30 March 2006

"Side By Side"

I think, maybe, finally, all my internet problems are solved. Maybe I shouldn't say that out loud. Knock on wood, and all, if I can find any. This has been incredibly frustrating, and enlightening, in the sense of showing me how much I have come to depend on the internet for all sorts of things: buying boots, checking zoo hours, researching yarn, and so much more.

This unexpected, undesired hiatus has also brought to light what writing this blog does for me, all in good ways. Well, perhaps having that extra half-hour or forty-five minutes in my day to accomplish something on the long list of to-dos is pleasant--but the reasons to write are still more persuasive. I like singing every day, having to sing a new song everyday. It's brought in a way to practice my new and exciting vocal tricks, as well as improving my piano sight reading skills to no end. And on the writing side I find myself thinking about things differently throughout the day when I know that I'll need to write about something that evening. My brain is forced to become more organized. The process of writing itself seems to draw on other things entirely, inspired by the singing, and playing, and thinking, using these as a springboard to other ways of stretching my brain, playing with words and phrases, structuring my thoughts on electronic paper. It's all been good (except for that mind-bending frustration part), and I'm very glad to be back.

This song, by the way, is great. It begins a new section in this book, songs from the roaring twenties, and I know from past experience that these will be lots of fun to sing. I sing this piece, and think of strolling along with my daughter, that feeling that life is good no matter what it throws at you. Yahoo life, yahoo life in the electronic age, yahoo good times with my family.

27 March 2006

"God Bless' the Child"

This song is not a folk song, though in this section you would assume that it was. It is most definitely a blues song, and, for me, a challenging song to sing. My voice teacher has been discussing with me the wacky idea of changing a song's key. I'm not sure that I could figure out where to put this one in my range to make it work. I'm also not sure if I really like this song, but I don't hate it either. I am very glad to be singing my song of the day again, and hoping that I can get back in the habit. Though Comcast is still evil, and making this difficult.

I did cantor at my grandmother's funeral last week, and it was like riding a bike, I did remember where things went, even never having done the full-fledged cantoring thing myself. While at the funeral home I threatened to call for a few 'Amen!'s and 'Praise the Lord!'s during mass. My one brother promised to chime in, and my mother had visions of being kicked out of her parish. In the end, though, I just sang the songs, all of them. I started to cry during 'Be Not Afraid', which can happen in the best of situations. I couldn't stop all the way, but I closed my eyes and kept singing. I remembered to keep breathing, and I think it was ok.

When I was picking up the music the day before, the church music director asked me, while showing me the particular mass music, what mass form they were singing in Pittsburgh these days. 'I. . . don't. . . know.' 'Oh.' And no more was said. I felt a little guilty, as if I were working under false pretenses, singing during mass. I even said some of the prayers out loud, did the secret Catholic hand signs. I did not receive communion, which I thought would be going a bit far. I can't say that my grandmother would have been happy to have me cantor (and do the secret hand signs), she might have been appalled. For that matter, some of my other, living, family members might have been appalled. But singing was what I could do best, and I did it. My mother said that my voice sounded clear and strong. I got no compliments from my brothers, as expected; the closest was a rather back hand acknowledgment from my middle brother saying that 'Ave Maria was a good choice for you'. Whee hah, hold back the excessive praise, please.

It's very strange to think that my grandmother's generation, for me personally, is gone. I've been promoted up the family tree. That does make me feel old.

26 March 2006

"Midnight Special"

This is a song by Huddie Ledbetter, and I can't think of him without remembering my experience learning to play guitar, lo, these twenty-plus years ago. The original instrument that I played on was a hand-me-down from my aunt, and it was horrible. The strings were an inch off the frets and it wouldn't stay tuned for more than a couple of minutes at a time. My guitar teacher at the time, Butch Malinowski, (who was fabulous) warned me that I 'could not go on tour with this instrument'. My parents got me a new guitar later, which I still own and love. My parents never were very musical themselves, but my mother has a good ear, and they had the people at the guitar store play the instruments in their price range, and Mom picked the one that sounded best to her.

Along with that first guitar from my aunt I received an old instructional book. My aunt must have gotten it with the guitar, sometime in her teens. In its brief ten lessons I learned basics that have had to hold me for twenty years, and I first learned and played versions of songs by Huddie Ledbetter, who I had never heard of. It's very strange when I hear 'proper' covers of these songs now, when the first version I heard was my own voice and that sad original guitar.

20 March 2006

"The Fox"

When I was a kid I had a charter subscription to a magazine, still being published now, called 'Cricket'. It's a literary magazine for children, and I loved it. All my old issues are now on a shelf in my daughter's room, including the issue, where ever it is, where I won a drawing contest. At some point the magazine put out an LP with a variety of children's songs on it, including the classic recording of 'The Fox' done by Burl Ives. As far as I'm concerned, anyone else doing this song is just a pale imitation of him. I did enjoy singing it, though, with enthusiasm.

On Saturday my grandmother passed away. It was not unexpected, and I did not have a deeply intimate relationship with her at any point in my life, but I still feel a bit shaken, as if the ground has rocked ever so slightly and I need to regain my balance in my world.

She was one of twelve children, and the last surviving sibling. She had no real hobbies, or interests outside her family. Her largest legacy is us: three daughters, eleven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren.

When my great aunt (my grandmother's sister) died eight years ago, my grieving project was crocheting afghans, and this has turned out to be something I'm aware of as part of my own legacy to future generations. Now, given my grandmother's inclinations and daily activities during her lifetime, my grieving project must involve cleaning, throwing things out, and worrying about everything. Somehow, a bit less attractive than the afghan project, though my husband looks forward to a cleaner home, at least in the short term.

It's a bit strange to be looking forward to her funeral. I will sing, as I do at family funerals, our 'traditional' songs: 'Ave Maria', 'Be Not Afraid', and 'On Eagle's Wings'. I look forward to seeing cousins that I haven't seen in years, introducing my daughter to her larger very extended family, and hearing stories about my grandmother and our family, always precious to me. I feel very lucky to have this bittersweet time with people I love very much.

18 March 2006

"Michael Row the Boat Ashore"

If, say, one unexpectedly loses ones internet connection for a longish period of time (four days thus far), and one is waiting to go on to the next song of the day until this song has been blogged upon. . . well, there are lots more interesting songs to be stuck on for days on end. And yes, in the past I have written out my blogs longhand, and typed them in when I again had access, but I'm not doing that this time. It's too exhausting to be reminded of how I can't even Google Natalie Wood's film career, when it suits me, or check for mandolin lessons, or receive email, or pay my bills online. At some point later this coming week, all our ISP problems will be solved, theoretically, but until then, the public library is my main source of internet access. A less than ideal situation.

So Michael has been rowing that crazy boat ashore for a while, and now I can say that he's ashore, dammit. Stay there. No more rowing.

It's a bit embarassing how much I access the internet, not just for my email, but for all sorts of small things throughout the day. It is still mostly email, and I don't surf the web aimlessly, ever, but nonetheless. . . I am missing it tremendously. I'm also trying to use my downtime wisely. We cancelled our cable television at the same time, which I miss less, but it is still missed (Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show' most of all). We've played some games, I've read with my daughter more than usual. Tomorrow she and I have a sewing date in the morning up in my studio. This afternoon I'm going to felt some crocheted work for the first time. All these things do indeed happen when the internet is happily buzzing along at our house, but I feel more conscious of them now, in a good way. I also have at least two days off work, beginning tomorrow, and it's not a bad thing to have this unusual occurence coincide with the lack of email. I am breathing more deeply, by choice, paying a different kind of attention to my internal landscape and outside surroundings, as I do not blog daily about them.

So stay tuned, all my gentle readers. I will return when I can, with more happy tunes. This is the 'Folk Favorites' section (as of 'Scarlet Ribbons'), we'll see what treasures it brings.

14 March 2006


This song makes me think of the islands, specifically of St. John and my fabulous time on the beach at Trunk Bay. Maybe it's just that it's March, and snowy, and I'm craving warmth. This was also a lot of fun to play, mostly because I think that the part of piano lessons that's working on figuring out accompaniments based on chords and patterns is working. Darn you, Jackie.

I had forgotten how absolutely miserable being sick could make me. It's very humbling. I was also sure up until the 23rd hour that I would possibly feel this miserable forever--and then, somewhat suddenly, it was gone. I could feel it leave my body like a veil had been lifted. I could stand upright, walk downstairs, eat some soup. It all felt miraculous.

Then I felt faintly guilty. I had had to cancel some rather critical appointments yesterday, and I agonized over that decision, even as the afternoon passed and I realized, from my everlasting prone position on the couch, that this had been the correct decision. It felt a lot like PMS: something taking my body into its own custody, and I had no control. And then it left, also without my consent or complete awareness. Extremely frustrating.

I'm going to bed, to sleep off the last dredges of this thing, and to dream of a white sand and blue water beach. . .

13 March 2006

(Out Sick)

Stomach bug today, sitting up isn't good. I'll be back tomorrow.

12 March 2006

"Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)"

I think I liked this song at one point. And today when I sang it, it actually made me cry, like during the Hallmark commercials. But it's quite a creepy little song: where *did* those ribbons come from? Did God bring the ribbons? Seems a bit mundane for the Lord Most High. Was it aliens? Why, with people starving in the world, did one little girl's wish for hair ribbons come true, in such abundance? It's disturbing.

I've been reading Lynn Truss's 'Talk To The Hand', and just finished it today. Last year I very much liked her 'Eats, Shoots, and Leaves', and I was skeptical that she could come back so soon with another great little book. But this book was great, addressing the issues of manners and morality in the world today, and making me laugh to boot. Today I was thinking about the section in which she speaks of 'car courtesy': the times when we merge in turn, wave others cars and pedestrians across, do little acts of kindness to people we do not know and may never even meet, all in the name of the common driving good. I like to think of this in my life as greasing the wheels of civilization, and I see it extending, somewhat seamlessly for me, into the small and critical courtesies that are face to face, with shop keepers and strangers on the street. Good manners can create openings in our daily lives for a bit of light and good feeling, and they can also help define the boundaries of our selves more clearly. This is my space, that is yours, there you go right by me, we're good, here I come alongside, I'll be leaving now, thanks so much.

I think my attention to small courtesies comes from two sources. The first is my life as parent, where working to instill good manners in my daughter is one of the most important things I do on a daily basis. The second is my awareness that I will not likely leave to the world any grand works of art, or epic novels, but I can create a warm bubble of goodwill around my own self. It's perhaps even better than leaving an epic to the world, because I can see the results of the goodwill bubble every day. I believe that these little bits of good propel the goodness at large along, like a snowball down the hill.

Doing little bits of good also helps me to not be creating little bad bits. It keeps me busy, off the streets. No time for being a bad girl. Not that it wouldn't be a nice break, now and again, but my regrets there are few, as well.

11 March 2006

"I Want to Hold Your Hand"

I think this song should never be played on the piano, and that absolutely means never ever again in this arrangement. Possibly, this song should never be played by anyone but The Beatles. Further, I never want to sing this song, except while singing along with a recording of the Beatles. Then it's ok. Let's not discuss this again.

If you were to put me at a garage sale, or in a thrift store, I know what I'm doing. I can shop along with the best of them in these situations. But today, I have realized that my shopping skills, in general, are totally inadequate. Why didn't I take the advanced level shopping classes in college like Michael and Larry did? (400 level courses included the ever-popular 'International Shopping in Terrorist Countries'. I didn't make that one up. Someone else did.)

I planned to do some shopping today, and I also planned, initially, to see a voice recital, and to see a movie. Circumstances beyond my control prevented all but the shopping, and that didn't go well. I don't know what to do when I don't have a very set agenda; for example: buy milk, eggs, bread, cat food. I can do that. I don't organize my coupons as well as I would like, but I can comparison shop in a grocery store, or even a couple of stores. I gravitate towards sale signs everywhere, I remember how much things cost last week. I know what I'm willing to pay for artichokes.

On the other hand, put me in a store where I have the opportunity to look randomly for things I want or need, and things don't work so well. Yes, we need pillows: should have bought those at the white sales in January. Ditto for boots, and a tent: should have gotten these things when they were on clearance a month or more ago. Now it's just spring fashions in the stores, and I should know better. That purse I've been obsessing about? It would be helpful if I had noted the brand, or any other significant details when I first saw these purse styles--some two years ago, now. It's absolutely pointless to even think that I will see anything like it in a store now. But I still look. I don't know what else to do. Someday I will see this purse at a yard sale--I'm guessing ten or more years from now--and until then I am destined to browse aimlessly, desultorily, hopelessly.

My morale steadily dropped all afternoon, attempting to shop effectively, or at all, and I couldn't even work up the honest desire to buy myself a sandwich for dinner. I came home and heated a can of soup instead. Afterwards I tried shopping for cowboy boots online, a desperate attempt at closure. I knew better than to attempt important decisions in an uncertain mood. My life remains unresolved.

10 March 2006

"I Wish You Love"

This is nice, though again kind of low in my range. But today I wasn't so groggy, didn't need the high notes so much to clean out the pipes, so it still worked. A lovely little tragic love song: I can't have you, and I wish you well. Ah!

Today my day was derailed, when it had barely begun. I got a call from my daughter's school, twenty minutes after I had dropped her off. She had pink eye, which had been going around her class recently. My hair still wet from the shower, I picked her up, stopped by to tell my friend Kellee that, alas, I would not be able to have coffee with her this morning, came home, cancelled all my clients for the day, called the doctor. Thankfully we have a wonderful pediatrician. I am very grateful for that. She reassured us both, and sent us off with prescriptions. We spent much too long at the grocery pharmacy waiting for them, and my daughter and I came home to scream at each other when she refused to take her medicine. I was so tired.

Eventually, all was well, but it was a very very long day. I realized, calling my clients, that little makes me feel more unprofessional than cancelling appointments because of a child-related crisis. People with children may understand, but others will not comprehend it, and I don't expect them to. It is all worth it, parenting: we have again survived, she and I. But a long day indeed. I'm going to bed now.

09 March 2006

"Red Roses For A Blue Lady"

I like singing this song. It does capture a bit more of the sweep of melodic line that I find interesting, and fun. And I like roses, too, quite a lot. This is yet another color song as well--did the editors do this on purpose? Is there some plot, here?

Today my daughter and I picked a child to sponsor. I was partially inspired by the opportunity that a friend had to visit a child in Africa that he had been sponsoring for the last ten years. But I also had this in mind as an opportunity to make my daughter aware of the world at large, and her lucky status in that world. We'll be sponsoring an eight year old girl from Egypt, and I'm really looking forward to finding out more about her, and establishing some sort of communication. I have no idea how all this works in reality, still, but we'll see. On the home front, I'm making some inquiries about volunteering at a soup kitchen here in Pittsburgh, maybe on regular monthly basis. Again, this is inspired by my daughter's concern about people getting enough to eat. (She's also very worried about the cheetahs, but I'm not sure, besides some sort of donation, what we could do to feel more personally involved with that.)

It's interesting, as always, to do things with my daughter that I've wanted to do for a while. I unashamedly use her as the catalyst for my own desired actions. It's probably one of the best things about being a parent. It's an excuse to learn more about dinosaurs, or the weather, or Amelia Earhart, to visit the zoo and museums, to do good in small ways in the world, close or far from home. I'm also happy to lend my daughter out to friends and family who would like to have these experiences, without the time and money involved in having a child of their own. You know who you are, just ask.

08 March 2006

"Quiet Night of Quiet Stars"

I love this song title, and the text is very nice, as well. Today, alas, was not the day to sing something so low in my range, and it just wasn't working. I am very much missing the lush songs, the songs that are all about singing them, rich and full, the songs that fall more gracefully in my range. Come to me, O come to me, song of lush fullness. . .

A few years ago something very troubling, very world-shaking for me, happened in the spring. It spilled unceasingly into summer of that year, and life was very bad for me for a while. And then things got better, suddenly and then slowly and quite steadily. I never gained back all the weight I lost, but that was really an ok souvenir, as things go. From great pain came good lessons, and although I regret the method, the growth has made my life more rich and full and solid.

But in the spring, two years ago, last year, and now again this year, I get a bit antsy. It doesn't take a whole lot to bring out my insecurities. That first spring afterwards, I was expecting it to some degree; I am very conscious of the wheel of the year, its turn into spring made me feel as if the muddy ground was quicksand. But last year it caught me by surprise: I noticed myself acting strangely uncertain long before I realized what the driving force behind it was. This year I'm trying to be prepared, ready for the unbalanced state. I'm not sure, though, if this will make me, in turn, overly sensitive. I know that time will truly heal this wound, and that it already has healed it to a large extent.

I think I'd rather be on guard than caught unaware. If this time from April through August is a bit fraught, again, maybe next year it will only go through June, maybe the anniversary-effect will ease. Meanwhile, I am sure there's a lesson in this process, also, though I really look forward to the spring where the sound of spring birds doesn't make me anxious and unsteady.

07 March 2006

"Love is Blue"

I feel like I'm a kid watching Captain Noah, and singing that color-song. You know the one: "Red and yellow and pink and green, purple, and orange, and blue. . ." Ok, maybe you don't know that song--but you might. Sing along if you do. This song is like that, but with all the colors of love in their depressing aspects. I think it's that it's just depressing enough for me to like it. A love song has to be really very good to be cheerful and still interest me.

I am very happy today to not be cranky. This is no small thing, since I've been cranky most of the past month, it seems. All day today I was trying to pinpoint the source of my relative joy: is it that my back doesn't hurt today? the evidence of approaching spring? is it that I've played a fair amount of my Sims game (unfortunate side effect: seeing all of my planned actions as little iconic bubbles above my head--wash dishes, make dinner, go to work)? running two days in a row (this also seemed to help my back rather than hurt it)? It's boring to think of cause and effect for very long, so mostly I've just been enjoying it.

I do miss my husband, who I haven't seen much of the past two days. It would be nice to share some of my good mood with him, as I feel that I've been a bit short with him lately. It's problematic sometimes, having to share my giddy happiness with shop clerks rather than friends and family. Poor shop clerks, too, having to deal with the crazy lady. Lucky daughter, having a mom who will make up dramatic songs in the morning before school, songs about her and the abundant mama-love. . .

06 March 2006

"New World in the Morning"

I was prepared to like this song, but the bad text on page two--both verses, the same different and badly written line--made it a bit challenging. Still, 'New World in the Morning'. It's cheery, like Aldous Huxley, but here in a good way, kind of.

I read Aldous Huxley in college, and at the time, it felt life changing (particularly 'The Genius and the Goddess', and 'Island'). I remember also feeling changed by M. Scott Peck's 'The Road Less Traveled', and incredibly altered by Robert Heinlein's 'Stranger in a Strange Land'. I've read all of these books since, multiple times, and they can still move me. But now I look at them and think, didn't I read anything by women in this time period that moved me as much?

I was reading books by women at this time, all fiction, mostly romances. I still cherish my favorite romantic authors: Nora Roberts, Mary Balogh, Diana Gabaldon, all of whom write in ways that transcend 'romance writer' in large leaps; this is particularly true of Ms. Gabaldon. I've tended to seek out books, and music, by women authors and writers, almost exclusively. A male author has to be very fine indeed to catch and keep my attention, and I know that I am biased. I've made some effort, recently, to try more books by men, and unsurprisingly, I've found some great books there, as well. (Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neil Gaiman: I am also biased toward Science Fiction by men, I suppose.)

I know that statistically women read more novels than men, though I don't know who writes more, these days. I am a woman, and a woman getting older, and what's the point of being older if I can't be forthright with my preferences? Give me Sheri Tepper's unabashed promotion of radical societal change wrapped thinly in a deeply imagined fantasy world, Judith Tarr's strong historically-based characters who just happen to breathe magic, Jennifer Weiner's depiction of modern life in heart-breakingly accurate terms, Elizabeth Berg's warm evocative prose that makes me want to weep. I want it all, all the fifty books at my bedside, fiction and non, if I could devour them all tonight and still be awake to enjoy it I would.

I was raised as a reader by my parents, and I am forever grateful to them for the deep pleasure and world-widening experiences that they introduced to me. I'm not sure that they planned exactly *this* for me, but I don't think that they would say that they regret it, either. I know that my daughter's reading will eventually take her places that I will never go, and may never understand or appreciate. I can be glad of that, as well.

05 March 2006

"Goin' Out of My Head"

I was so excited about this section, and I'm having such trouble loving any of these songs. It occurs to me that they're also not represented at their best in this format, the arrangements on the piano reflect the time period in less complimentary ways. It would certainly be different to hear contemporary arrangements, or even arrangements for something other than piano.

I'm starting to hear Spring coming, in the sounds of the birds. Is it that their calls are different, at different times of day, or are these entirely different birds that I'm hearing at this time of year? The air smells different, too, some mornings, fresher, or cleaner.

Having grown up in the country, I wouldn't have thought that spring in an urban setting would be so clearly defined, still, by birds and earth-smells. It's very comforting that it is. I'm glad to live in such a relatively green city, where the birds and plants are abundant. And even on our small plot of land here, we manage to grow something of a garden in the summer. I'm hoping one of these years to get the composting-thing figured out. It's more complicated than I imagined as a kid, when my dad just threw everything in a heap at the back of the garden.

In 'Stiff' I'm reading about developments in human body composting. That sounds perfect for me. I've always had this vision--not gross in any way, it's my fantasy--of my body decomposing and its elements feeding a tree or a rose bush. Maybe by the time I'm through with this mortal shell the technology will be in place to have that happen.

I had to bring death into this somewhere, mortality being my recent obsession. In the long term, I'm thinking that it's better to embrace my obsessions, just let them have their run. Holding things back, exerting too much control over what I 'should' be thinking or feeling, it never seems to work for long. I am, indeed, going out of my head all over the place these days, it's not useful to give myself more fuel in terms of banked coals.

04 March 2006

"Strangers in the Night"

Another classic, and a song that I would never have associated with the Sixties. I think this retrospective is a little too close to really capture what we now think of as the Sixties.

I've been reading 'Stiff' by Mary Roach, and I am finding it fascinating. It's an interesting, funny, gross and compelling history of human cadavers. I've been wanting to read this for a while, and I'm not disappointed now that I'm in the thick of it. It's an interesting contrast, reading about the dead, while working on the very much living. But it does fit in, topic-wise, with my recent obsession with my own death, when I'm not worrying about my lack of adequate parenting skills.

And enough whining already. Boring! Surely there is more to write about than that.

03 March 2006

"The Girl From Ipanema"

I've never been especially fond of this one. It feels to much like elevator music, which is unfortunate for any song. I think elevator music had not yet reached its peak of popularity, or public awareness, when this song came out in 1963.

Speaking of which, for once, I remember when I had my very first clock radio. This was pre-LED, back when the numbers were on flaps that flipped down one after the other. I had my radio alarm originally set to the elevator music station, which is embarassing to admit now. At some point, in high school, I changed to something else, but I can't remember if the next iteration was classical or pop.

These days I don't listen to commerical radio at all. In the shower, on my fabulous garage-sale-find shower radio, I listen to the listener-supported adult alternative-folk station. I switch on NPR now and again, usually on my iPod these days, since the news is not the kind of thing I want my daughter to hear very much of on the car radio. We do financially support our local station, one of them, at least, which makes me feel good about listening.

More often than not, I cherish silence, which feels very strange when I stop to think about it. I do love music, love singing along, love dancing wildly in my living room--but these days the peace of quiet is so precious, and rare.

Perhaps, though, less rare now. After almost seven years in this house, the bar across the street, the Horoscope Lounge, has been closed for good. It was officially announced today. Suddenly it feels almost peaceful, living on a main urban road: there's no shouting outside our house in the evening, visibly less trash, less people after dark. My husband doesn't have his working lady friends to say hello to while waiting for the bus in the morning, true, but I don't think he misses them that much. I feel like having a party in our front yard--but for now, the quiet is gift enough.

02 March 2006

"Let It Be Me"

Stupid sappy wedding song. Blehch. Yes, that's what I said.

Today I took great joy in making a new shelf for our DVDs, which were overflowing the available space. I had no advance plans to do this crazy thing, I just did it. I was spontaneous and free. I used the available materials in new and exciting ways. I dusted.

Or maybe I was incredibly down and depressed on this very grey day. Maybe I overdosed on caffeine, which perhaps improved my energy level if not my mood. I was carried away on the cinnamon espresso wave and I needed to accomplish something worthwhile, something I could see. I took advantage of a few sweet hours of being without my daughter in this endless winter break week, tried to drown the sorry of multiple client cancellations in useful endeavors.

I put the moose on the high shelf. He gazes down beneficently.

01 March 2006


I know that a good song is coming. Not specifically what song, I'm not peeking ahead. I just know that again there will come a song that I am excited about. This is not that song. It does make me think of Pittsburgh-ese, in which this song would be sung 'Dawn-tawn'.

I'm a newcomer to Pittsburgh, in that I've only been here a dozen years or so, and my husband only a few more than that. I'm a Pennsylvania girl for the most part, though I was actually born in Cleveland. But the only home I remember is the house that my parents still live in, in south-eastern Pennsylvania, south-west of Philly, or as you might say, 'Philadelphia'. I went to Penn State University, in the center of the state, and although I've traveled a little, I've lived outside the state for less than two years all told.

I love it here, in this state. I know that out West there is so much more space, but I'm still amazed by how much green there is here, how many mountains and forests. I love the rolling hills, the fields, the trees. I love my city, the people here, the landscape of the rivers, the size, the neighborhoods, the culture.

Twice in the past two months there have been shootings outside my house. Last month bullets went into my neighbor's home from the street, lodging in her grandchildren's toy box. Then, yesterday, during my piano lesson, while my daughter was playing in the room with her dollhouse, we heard what sounded like a gun shot. Sad to say, this is far from unusual on our street. It could have been a car back firing, or a firecracker, these, too, are not unusual, but it was gunfire this time. I found out a couple hours later that two men at the bar across the street had had an argument, and one shot the other in the legs. Across the street from our home. This is at least the third time since we've been living here that someone has been shot here. The first time it happened, about five years ago, I met my new neighbor for the first time at 2AM, all of us in our bathrobes, while someone bled at the curb.

So now, for the first time, my husband and I are thinking about how we would sell our home, where we would move. It breaks my heart to think about leaving this house, I hope it doesn't come to that. But we cannot wait for something worse to happen. Meanwhile, the bar has been closed, we think, for a time. I am waiting for the world to change.

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