Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow days now, then, and before.

The blizzard of '15 sounds like a Victorian short story, hand-printed on some antique magazine, full of words that common folk couldn't pronounce, yet strangely still about those commoners.

There are eight inches of snow on the ground. The blizzard, like the city, is not really much to write home about, after the hype died down and we saw it for what it is. But I am grateful for the odd quiet over Brooklyn, except for the sound of a man shoveling snow. He is doing it as the snow falls, scraping every thirty minutes, in Sisyphean repetition.

I resent him for the shoveling, the reminder that underneath my feet is not grass but concrete and asphalt. The soft snowy down underfoot easily makes me forget.

Snow days (most days) remind me of my father. For once, these memories make me smile rather than lay back down and sigh and try to get up once the feeling has subsided. He loved any excuse to eschew his hour long drive to Virginia, any excuse to get out the sleds and nearly concuss us all by group sledding into the woods by our house. A few times, the Appalachian Mountains  that stood guard over valley where we lived would let a little extra snow pass through, allowing for snow forts and full weeks without school. One of my earliest memories is  that of a blizzard of  a foot of snow or more. Dad had to pick me up and carry me to an igloo he built with my older sisters. When I walked, the snow buckled my knees and made  me fall. Everyone laughed, but I remember the snow burning my cheeks and nose and turning the inside of my mouth cold.

 Snow ice cream--maple syrup drizzled over the cleanest snow we could find--was always an appetizer for midday pancakes or oatmeal cookies. Long days spent reading books from start to finish, because we didn't really have a TV. Perhaps these memories make me smile because they feel as long ago as Laura Ingalls Wilder tales, a family homesteading in the great wilderness. In my childhood memories, it is always fall in Shepherdstown , winter at the Lloyd house, and summer at Camp Frame. A constant cycle of moments that weave together a tale I did not realize was ending until it was long gone.

I can recall the first and last time my father and I paddled the Potomac in our canoe; The first snowfall in my mind has his grey-brown hat bobbing up and down the driveway just as it did this time last year, when I was home and lost and trying not to be afraid of adult life. I cannot remember the first time we played music together, but those songs weave through every memory, a soundtrack to our time together I am a child, I'll last a while, you can't conceive of the pleasure in my smile--you hold my hand, rough up my hair, it's lots of fun to have you there.

The memories, like smoke, are visible but neither tangible or traversable.
I can stare into the fire,  make them known on paper, or stuff them down into a drawer until one day, I finally clean it all out, and it ignites sparks of sadness and reminiscence all at once.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A note to my father, on the occasion of his Birthday.

trying to play my dad's song about the moon that he so meticulously taught me during our last meeting. The chords are simple but are tripping me up. The story I know. The melody I have inhaled and exhaled every day since that last day, when he bent his poor body over his Taylor for one last jam session, to make sure that I knew those words and chords. Someday I'll be ready to play it, because I think that was his intention, for it to continue to be played. He was, i think, passing it down in a sense. An honor I only slightly deserve by virtue of my acoustic preferences.

 Today I cannot get through it. Yesterday I could not finish. Tomorrow will likely be the same. But in that moment, not quite three months ago, he knew that a time would come when my tears would dry and my whole body would not shake at the thought of his absence, and I would be ready to remind everyone that Greg Lloyd wrote a song. A pretty damn good song.

And so I keep practicing, Dad. Because despite the fact that this feels like an endless pit into nothingness and more sadness and a life that is just empty, empty empty---you seemed to believe otherwise. Even in your last days--you seemed to know that we would all wake up one day with light hearts and eyes not so red and puffy from tears, and we might want to hear that song you used to play so often in our living room, sweat wicked away by old bandanas, yellow light twinkling off of your eyeglasses, dancing along to the rhythm. Somehow, you knew that it would one day bring me joy, instead of this keening sadness. Despite the wretched illness, despite the sorrow creeping into my throat even then, as I saw you so sick, and realized that it might be the last time-- those months not so long ago.

And so I'll keep playing. Just so I don't forget  when the time comes. For once, you were right.

Monday, January 12, 2015

When I'm Fat.

I want you to track all of my movements in the same way that you read my e-mails, my tweets, my LinkedIn account.

I want you to record it all.
"January 5th. Half Mile. Lost car somewhere on Flatbush. 45 calories."
"January 6th, 90 minutes Bikram yoga.  Misguided New Years' Resolution. 300 calories." 
"January 4th, 10 minutes, rigorous sexual activity, interrupted by dog barging in and pissing on the duvet. 76 calories." 

I want it on a public file somewhere, so when I am 30  years old and 15 pounds overweight, people will see that I do a moderate amount of exercise, including the  occasional bike-to-work day.  On further inspection, they can see  that I eat (and cook) fresh vegetables, although my one weakness is pizza (which isn't all that bad).

This information will flash across the screens of passing strangers'  Google Glasses, so that judgement can be reserved for the more lethargic fatty a few blocks over.

That way people will know, even though I am overweight, that I am an okay human being. There is substance beneath my rolls and cellulite.

I want "she's okay, considering everything" rolling across the screens of those discreet google glasses every time I turn a corner, thighs rubbing Indian burns onto one another, ass cheeks sweating Rorschach prints into my fruit-of-the-loom panties.

It should all be recorded in an application somewhere. This application will have the honorable duty of telling all strangers that take disgusted glances at my swollen ankles to calm the hell down. I  eat grass fed beef, goddammit. I buy quinoa instead of pasta, despite the economic consequences for Peruvian farming communities. My eggs are cooked in coconut oil.

I have done my part to eliminate flaws and ugliness from the world. The failing is less willpower, more genetic. I resolved to marry a skinny man. I am doing my part. And now, with the help of technology, people can finally realize how sorry I truly am, for not fitting into the template for "happy" or "fit" or "healthy" or "good".

Otherwise, how would they know?

Friday, January 9, 2015

free form.

All I have is empty.

The space next to my bed, the places in my head that used to usher me onward and forward. The impetus to care. The persistence of self-worth. Despite the $2 gallons of gas, less expensive than the organic milk that we buy, I am

running on empty.

I have a new pack of strings. I can't unstring it. I think he played these strings, these strings have skin cells still clinging to their metal casings, so that every time I press them it is like we are holding hands.

But it isn't, really. I don't have the energy.

I am supposed to miss you, a series of yous but like the first CD I bought when I was eleven, the missing is worn down after being played over and over and over and...

yet i can still feel it. I know all of the words, the beats and tones and timbres of the feeling. I have sung along so many times that the ghost of the emotion is with me.

Sometimes, I wonder if the friends I thought I had but never call don't do so because I am such an unconscious downer. Then, I feel better that they do not call. They'll get their day. it will be horrible. And I won't help. Or I will. Maybe I'll still help. Maybe, if I can convince myself to get out of bed, stop rewatching the same television shows ad nauseum. Until I'm not really watching, nor doing anything else. I am doing, thinking, planning exactly nothing. I am nothing.

Is that the goal? I would prefer to hope not.

It could be the goal. Being nothing, empty. No sensation at all-- That would be a new sensation.

Needing a break but feeling as though there is just trouble, trouble trouble trouble. And very little net left, after so many falls.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gutless Metropolis. (draft)

you can't have it both ways.

you can't say you live in the best city in the world
strip it of its uniqueness
install a hundred Chipotles
anoint Taylor Swift as God and Muse,
and call it by its former name.

you can't instagram break-dancers on the Q train 
or buy groceries from cash-only storefronts
or purses on canal street 
and lay claim to neighborhoods that were never yours
with no regard for the people you are displacing.
you can't have it both ways.

You can't say that Columbus was an asshole
but gentrification is a mark of progress.

And What About the World Cup?
You were only paying attention
after they ousted the poor
now homeless
in favor of your stadium
for a sport we forgot how to play.

 you cannot broadcast Jimmy Fallon
into a million taxis
our driver used to listen to the news
from our country or his country
or a combination of the two.
Audio melting pot of languages
drowned out by last week's Fallon soundbite and a reminder
to buckle your seatbelt.

You cannot put bodega into a Diet Coke commercial
bodega is not for your advertising pleasure
bodega is a registered trademark of people who don't give a fuck
about eighty-pound pop-stars
or which soda is more popular
as long as the pop pays for itself,
it can stay on the bodega shelf.

You have to stop asking for a gut renovation.
You cannot have a gutless metropolis.

That's just a suburb with too many people.

You can't say that stop-and-frisk is fair
but mistrusting the force is discrimination.

That isn't how it works.

You can't be angry about Rafel Ramos
And not weep for Eric Garner.
and the reverse too, is true.

Empathy is not only for the easy to love

You can't have a neighborhood of only affluent white people
and call it New York City.
or Brooklyn
or Queens.

You can't take away our dream of authenticity
just because you never really wanted to live in a city.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lists so I don't forget.

1.first song I learned to play on the guitar: "House of the Rising Sun"
old folk version, from a book of songs dad gave me.
It's one foot on the platform, one foot on the train

2. First duet "Imagine" by John Lennon
sung at the Presbyterian Church with Dad.
Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try.

3. First Song I Wrote  was at age 13.
It was untitled but included the line,
"And will you climb a tree/barefoot at night/fulfilling your wildest dreams before light."

4. First Paid Gig: A wedding.
The Our Father Prayer.
On Earth, as it is in Heaven. 

5. First Fan: Dad.
he was happy to have me play along.
God gave to you now you give to me, I'd like to know what you've learned.

6. First Fan Who Wasn't Required To Be A Fan: Brendan Irving.
the first person to make me believe I was good.
 Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone. 

7. Last Duet: "Highway to the Moon" by Greg Lloyd
he played with an unsteady hand, but made sure I would remember all of the chords.
and We know we will never be the same, after walking on a highway to the moon. 

8. Last Serenade: "Boots of Spanish Leather" by Bob Dylan.
Sam played guitar, and I sang to him as my dad fell asleep.
Oh I'm going away my own true love.  I'm going away in the morning. 

9. Last Song I Heard: Ripple, The Grateful Dead.
Over and Over and Over and Over and
if i knew the way, I would take you home. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lessons from Dad.

When I think about the lessons I learned from my dad, I am mostly reminded of music.
When I wanted to learn guitar, he handed me some chord charts, an old guitar, and promised that we would jam together once I could stretch my fingers around the neck of a guitar and strum A, C, E, and G chords. Our first gig was playing John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the Presbyterian Church we attended every Sunday.  As I struggled through shaping my hands so that my guitar would make the proper noises, I often wondered why my talented father never offered to “teach” me how. But, when I finally got the hang of chord transitions, he said, “isn’t it rewarding, teaching yourself to play an instrument?” He was right. I felt like superwoman.
My father taught me that West Side Story’s “Ma-RI-A” is a good example of a tritone in contemporary music.  He taught me that if you raise your soft palette too quickly, you might have to stave off a yawn, so it is best to inhale slowly and pretend your lower lungs are inflating like a balloon. And belting usually sounds best when you use your “mix” voice; a combination of that light, airy head voice and low, gravelly chest voice. All of these snippets of knowledge were shared while leaning over the top of our guitars, after I mastered those elusive A, C, E, and G chords.

Dad and I didn’t always communicate very well, but when we put on those half-shields-- our matching Taylor guitars—we learned how to harmonize, both in our little makeshift band and (usually) in our daily lives.  Although he rarely understood me when I wasn’t singing—he always said that I talked too fast— when we were playing music, we were totally in sync.

He used to tell me that my strong belt and big personality made me a lead singer,  but I always found myself seeking his voice when I felt lost in the flow of sound. Looking back on videos of our performances, I am always watching my father, following his lead and waiting for his head to nod before I took the next steps.
Now, things have changed. Without my dad’s voice as a guide, taking the lead feels intimidating, sad and hollow.
But then I remember; my father didn't create my love of music; he never sought to define who I am.  He planted the seeds for thoughtfulness and creativity, and stood by my side as I became the woman I am today.  He let me learn the chords on my own, and applauded my progress. He was never the architect; he was the gardener, coaxing his seedlings until we set down roots and flourished.

Dad’s absence is a great sadness; for my sisters and me, my niece and nephew, my mother--and so many more. But we are blessed, immeasurably blessed, by the years of love, music, and nurturing provided by Greg Lloyd’s kind, creative soul.