I can’t help noticing that, even in West Virginia, I am the only adult in my holler who doesn’t have a job. From 9-5 Mondays through Fridays, there is no one in this little valley but me.
I love to hear people’s opinions on whether or not women should work. The majority of people I talk to seem to agree that women should work (unless they are taking time off to stay home with their young children). Which makes me wonder why they should, but on this there does not appear to be a consensus. When pressed, though, people’s answers seem to fall into one of these three categories:
1. Women should work for their own sake. Jobs help them to lead more satisfying lives and to achieve their true potential.
2. Women should work for their husband’s sake. It is cruel to place all financial burdens on a man’s thin shoulders.
3. Women should work for society’s sake. More women in the work force will lead to more female leaders which will lead to a better world.
And of these three arguments, the “women should work for their own sake” seems to be most popular. And here are the top three reasons why people say women should work for their own sake:
1. Jobs bring women personal fulfillment and the opportunity to develop their talents.
2. Jobs give women security in case their husband decides to join the circus (or otherwise ceases to provide.)
3. Jobs give women freedom and independence. When us ladies have our own money, then our husbands can’t tell us what to do. Only our bosses can.
And of these three reasons, the first is once again the most popular. So basically, many people believe that women should be employed because employment leads to inner growth and fulfillment.
Which could be true, although I have to say that my own experiences with jobs have never led me to that conclusion. My time as a career lady was mostly spent staring at stacks of papers and trying not to faint. Or at least trying to ensure that if I did faint, my head would fall behind a potted plant where it could not be seen. Eight hours a day of trying to appear busy when there was nothing at all to do. Eight hours a day of trying to keep alert expressions on my face as my mind sunk deep into a coma. The most exciting moments were spent making coffee or driving to the store to buy glitter pens and Fat Free Vanilla Creamer for the boss.
But my experiences may be unusual. I don’t know how stimulated and fulfilled the average person feels at work. But I also don’t know why being employed would be an obviously and inherently superior existence to what a person might do if left to their own devices. (Even though I am well acquainted with the pitfalls of being left to my own devices.)
I think the real reason people think it is good for women to work, is simply because most women DO work (for economic reasons, probably), and healthy minds tend to conclude that whatever we are already doing is actually the best choice that could be made.
Which is why I have concluded that the only way a person can TRULY know themselves is to be left all alone for 40 hours a week, in a white box, in a tiny valley, sandwiched between a steep cliff and the home of a child molester. Only under these rare and perfect circumstances can a person’s spirit truly grow wings and soar to the heavens. Only under these ideal conditions will the Inner Phoenix be revealed.
My plan was to spend the summer lying on a yellow striped towel, reading on the beach. I had my doubts about this plan, because, after all, books can strain your eyes and fill your mind with horrible ideas, and beaches can be cold and windy (at least in New England). Still, it was the best idea for how to spend my summer I could think of, because I wanted to take a break from my regular routine and do something different. And I’ve never read on a beach before, even though reading near bodies of water is a very popular activity in New England.
But no sooner had I started shopping for beach towels, then James decides to take a job in Hurricane, West Virginia. So we drove down for his interview, back up to New Hampshire to pack and load a U-haul, and back down to Hurricane to unload and unpack, and that has been my summer so far. All in all, it has been a more refreshing change than reading on the beach.
So far, I like Hurricane. We live just a few minutes from the Blenko glass factory, and I’ve already been shopping there twice in four days. My last apartment was mostly blue, but this one will be mostly yellow, plus orange, red, pink and all the colors of the rainbow. New England is restraint, and I want my new life to be exuberance. In New England, art is mastery, intellect, sometimes pretension, and I hope that in West Virginia, art will be color, nature, and feeling.
But I always idealize new things in the beginning, and then grow disillusioned when reality starts to come into focus. When I first arrived in New Hampshire, I thought, “Wow- this is amazing! There are no mean people here! (I theorized that the cold had killed them off.) Everyone is so friendly and lives only for the joy of helping others!” But as time wore on, pettiness and narcissism became visible, do-gooding began to seem like nothing more than a path to self-aggrandizement… the golden angels turned back into people, and now I was someplace no better than before, just way colder.
So, I want to avoid placing West Virginia on a pedestal, but still, I have to say it is an enormous relief to be someplace less expensive, where an apartment twice the size, and much nicer, costs half the price. Pepperoni Rolls- the signature food of West Virginia- cost 1/10th (!!!) the price of Lobster Rolls- the signature food of New England. Frankly, I don’t like either type of roll very much, but I’d rather pay $1.50 for a sandwhich I don’t like than $15.00 (although I’ve seen people pay up to $60.00 for a lobster roll!!).
James and I bought two lobster rolls in New England, and both were traumatic experiences.
The first lobster roll happened right after moving there (we had been talking about lobster rolls- which I had read about in magazines- the whole ride up, imaging the rich luscious taste of buttery lobster in a hot dog roll melting in our mouths). We were strapped for cash due to the move, so we stopped at a run down shack thinking we would share a lobster roll for dinner with the few dollars we had left. Their least expensive roll was a shocking $15.00 and it was a tiny little thing, but since lobster rolls had been central to our vision of life in New England, we decided to buy one anyway. As we carried the roll to a picnic table outside, a fly landed on it, and while shooing the fly, some of the precious lobster meat was knocked to the ground. James picked it up and ate it, because the only thing he hates more than germs is wasted money. But the true disappointment was the taste- it really didn’t taste like much at all, except for a fishy, animalistic flavor that left me slightly uncomfortable, especially when combined with the chewy texture that kept bringing to mind images of boiled insects. Still, I pretended to like it for James sake.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m lying sick in bed for the first time in years, probably from climate shock, panicking because I am afraid the autumn leafs will all have fallen before I get a chance to see them. (The autumn leaves are very beautiful in New England, but were also a source of great stress, since it seemed you had only a few days to view them while they were “peaking” before they fell and plunged you into a dark and endless winter. I have many memories of driving 90mph down the highway trying to reach some leaves that were peaking before the sun set.) So James, wanting to cheer me up, spent one of his last 20s to surprise me with a $20 lobster roll. I tried to eat it, but the insect feeling was just too much, and I finally had to admit to James that I hadn’t liked the first one either. So poor James was forced to eat the lobster roll himself, but he cried while doing so, because 1) he doesn’t like lobster rolls either, and 2) he had wanted to cheer me up, not stuff $20 of prestige into his own stomach.
I think there is a kind of psychological pressure that descends on people when things are too expensive. It makes the external environment seem too impressive, and one’s own self feel too unimportant. That’s why I like West Virginia. James and I can stuff ourselves silly on bacon, eggs, biscuits, country ham, coffee and juice, all for less than $10 at Tudor’s Biscuit World. A dazzling hand-blown orange Blenko vase is sold for $15, and the cashier gives you an extra $5 off, just because. Last night, I bought a yellow shirt, and the charge was exactly… Zero Dollars (I am not kidding!) due to all the discounts the salesperson tacked on. Everywhere you go, prices seem lower than you thought they would be, and discounts seem to pop up unexpectedly, the way fees and charges did in New England. Up north, it was kind of expected that you be willing to open your wallet and drop a few twenties for just about anything- a casual meal, a few drinks, an hour of listening to trombone music, a brick that would symbolically support homeless people, a glimpse of a wilted wreathe hung in an historic home… That’s not because everyone was rich, there were plenty struggling to get by, it was just the culture to pay more for less, and to let go of money easily and without complaint. Forget about buying clothes and nice things for yourself, forget about saving for the future, just take out your wallet and dump it at the feet of the man tap dancing on the sidewalk.
This is a monument to all those songs that have been forgotten, or somehow left behind, in my endeavor to record all the songs I have written. A moment of silence, please, for Blackbeard, Bring Back the Sun, Beaverlick Clothes, The Day 1,000 Flutes had to Die, Mama Can I Make Love to a Plant?, and others whose names I cannot even remember. In some cases, the lyrics have been forgotten, in other cases the melodies, but there is one I feel especially guilty about, “Down and Free” because technically I have both the melody and the words, but cannot bring myself to sing it. Why?
Well, the official reason is that I cannot figure out the chords. It is one of the first songs I wrote and I didn’t know many actual chords back then, just string formations that I would settle upon through endless trial and error, making it very hard for me to replicate what I was playing.
The unofficial reason is, due to references to nudity, I cannot bring myself to sing it! As I’ve mentioned before, my husband grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, and although he is no longer practicing it is still hard to watch a movie without him screaming, “Harlots!” at the point when a couple kisses, or “Man-whore!” when a man takes off his shirt to mow the lawn.
Although truly, I must say he has never made me feel like my songs were spawned by the “whore of Babylon” (one of his favorite expressions). His notion of “sluts and sodomites” seems to have more to do with a person using sexuality- or things like money- to hook and control others for selfish reasons. I grew up with the idea that you are supposed to manipulate the world for your own gain, in whatever way you can, or else you are an idiot, so it stretches my brain at times to see things from his point of view. Still, it does occur to me that you never know who might be working the pearly gates on the day you arrive, so even from a practical perspective, taking what you can from others may be an iffy proposition in the long run.
But to return to the point, the truth is that my husband does approve of my songs, even ones that contain the word n-k-d, but still, exhuming so much of my past has been hard work, and I am tired, so just this once I am going to let myself off the hook.
So rest in peace, forgotten songs. Songs lost in the sands of time, songs struck down by the hand of man, may you rise in a better world and be sung again.
Well, it looks like this is my final song! I have finally recorded and posted all the songs I have written so far. Phew. Now I am free to move on to something new… maybe I will grow my fingernails out into out long, golden talons studded with rhinestones and tiny teddy bears. Ah, that sounds like paradise!
I think this is a decent song for my grand finale, because… well, I remember when I wrote it, the sky was so so blue and the song unfolded page by page in my mind like a storybook, filling me with a sense of eternity. Which is to say, I have positive associations with it.
Also, this song captures a world I frequently try to capture in my songs– a place I call “Checkerboard World.” Checkerboard World is more or less the same as this world, except that everything seems slightly more luminous, more crisp and defined. Plus there is a giant checkerboard that covers the earth and one in the sky as well. The checkered squares in the grass are large- maybe 10 feet wide on average- but in the sky they are even larger, maybe up to a mile wide! But the size of the checkerboard grid varies from place to place, sometimes expanding, sometimes condensing. It all depends on how much space the space contains.
But don’t confuse Checkerboard World with heaven. This is not the land of golden angels. There are still thugs in their dark alleys and scoops of chocolate ice cream that topple onto new white shirts. But there may be something about the clarity and spaciousness of the place that makes it easier for people to recover completely from the bad things that do happen. And in Checkerboard World there is no time, meaning there is plenty of opportunity to sit and cry for as long as you need to. Well, technically time does exists, but only as a way of subdividing eternity, which stretches out around people in all directions (like a checkerboard). Even death is nothing but an opportunity to evaporate up to the giant checkerboard in the sky so you can pour down again like rain.
Download MP3: Made Love to My Father
Soon, I will be done with my project of posting up (almost) all of the songs I have written. I’ll be glad when it is over. I am sure I will keep writing songs, but I am not sure that I will keep blogging about them. That part is hard work. I have plenty of things to say and share, yet none of them ever seems quite true. I mean… they are true… and yet never entirely true. Pictures and songs can feel true to me, but statements of opinion and fact always have a fractured quality- they never encompass the whole picture, just a carefully selected fragment. So how do you choose which aspect to express, which way to portray reality? I don’t know.
Many people seem to have their angle on life worked out. Their personality and opinions stay relatively consistent from day to day. I’m not exactly sure what my take on life is, nor how I fit into it. I don’t know if I’m a democrat or a republican. I don’t even know if this life is a dream we’re all going to wake up from, though I suspect it might be.
But still, I try to say something, because it drives me nuts when I go to a concert and the musician just plays their songs without talking. It’s like french fries without salt. Bland. Seeing their human personality helps me to get my bearings and make sense of their music. So that’s why I try to say something.
Still, once I am done with this initial round of recapitulation, I plan to let my self off the hook for a while, to post songs and pictures without having to place a logical frame around them. Let someone else try to make sense of things for a change.
Oh yeah, this song is called Desert Squirrels. It is about the desert.
Download MP3: Desert Squirrels
The most important thing I learned in school:
Professor (to me): “What do a crystal and the sky have in common?”
Me (thinking I must have misheard him): “What?”
Professor: “I said, WHAT DO A CRYSTAL AND THE SKY HAVE IN COMMON?!?!”
Me: “Uh, what, um, I don’t know… maybe that they’re clear?”
Professor: “NO! THINK!! THINK!!! WHAT DO A CRYSTAL AND THE SKY HAVE IN COMMON?!?!?!?!?”
Me: “Uh.. uh… I guess they’re both maybe, um…”
Professor “HUMANS CAN’T LIVE IN THE SKY AND THEY CAN’T LIVE INSIDE OF A CRYSTAL, EITHER!!!”
Growing up in Kentucky, no one had ever pointed out the interesting fact that humans can neither live in the sky nor inside of a crystal, but once these words were spoken, I instantly recognized their truth. It is one of the few golden nuggets I collected from my four years at UVA, and hardly a day goes by when I don’t shout these words in my own ear.
What does that have to do with this song? Well, I suppose one theme that flows through a number of my songs is the feeling of being trapped in the sky and trying to come down to earth, or alternately, being trapped in a crystal and trying to break free. Perhaps, you could consider this a song about trying to find someone who will smash through the crystal and drag you down to earth.
Download MP3: Messenger of God
I made this song up while being driven around the New York highways, from the edge of Brooklyn to Manhattan. The person behind the wheel (well, my ex-husband, if you need to know) always seemed to be in various stages of falling asleep while driving, which caused me great anxiety. I tended to sing and clap loudly in the vain hope that this would help him stay awake. So that is where this song comes from and why there is only clapping and no guitar.
Download MP3: Blue Valley
I like to think there is a part of our human brains that can understand the language of birds, even if we don’t realize it. Someday, I am sure humans and birds will communicate freely, and we will realize what a large role birds have always played in our world. After all, birds are the type of creatures that make it their business to know your business, and to spread the word far and wide. Their sphere of interest and influence surely extends far beyond their own species. I have witnessed birds acting on behalf of both rabbits and humans on many occasions.
P.S. Yesterday, James pointed out that sometimes my blog posts, such as the one yesterday, might seem to be minimizing my songs. Well, I thought about it and he’s kind of right. Normally, my blogs do tie in more to the superficial meanings of the songs rather than their deeper undercurrents, possibly making the songs seem a touch more whimsical and airy than they might actually be.
But the thing is, when I write a song, I write from my feelings, and when I write a blog post, I write from my brain, and it is almost as though they have two different personalities. My brain is my less developed and more external self who strives to protect me, and the last thing he wants to do is expose guts and vulnerabilities for all the world to see.
Download MP3: Blue Bird
Once upon a time, I consulted a psychic, and she told me I should get a part-time job working in a coffee shop and do some light and feminine summer reading. Well, I knew I wasn’t going to get that job in a coffee shop, but I felt guilty about it- especially since I had just read an article that said married women without jobs are committing husband abuse- so I read a mountain of chick lit to make up for it.
This song was inspired by one of those books, I don’t remember it’s name. Probably “The Laces of Summer,” or something like that.
Download MP3: Curtains