Ever since I left New England, I’ve felt a touch disoriented. After a couple years in New Hampshire, my life started to gain a clear and singular focus- to escape the cold, dark world of the Yankees. But now that I’m in West Virginia, the meaning of life seems more vague. It’s sunny and warm outside, the biscuits are big, cheap, and fluffy, the people are friendly (and to my surprise they actually DO say ain’t and decorate with confederate flags), and yet… at the same time, here I am all alone in a big white apartment, no friends or connections, nothing to do, nowhere to go… it’s as though I’ve left the North, but the North hasn’t left me.
So I took a good look at the man in the mirror, and decided that I need to become a warmer person. Which is why I have to give up ice cream. The thing about frozen treats is, once I start eating them, they take me to a strange head space from which it impossible to stop. James will drive me to four different McDonalds in a row, so I can get a cone at each one without seeming weird. Then I will fill the entire freezer with a selection of ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, ice creams, and popsicles, which I will eat continuously until the very last one is gone. Which might not be so much of a problem, if I wasn’t such a cold person to begin with. It only takes a few servings until I start shaking with the chills, and after a few days of this, I am so cold I can’t leave my bed, but just lie there convulsing under an electric blanket. Obviously, this is no way to build the Fire Within. So from now on, whenever I want ice cream, I’m going to drink hot chocolate instead. Because chocolate is passionate and fiery and people who eat lots and lots of it are less likely to get murdered. Which brings me to another addiction that I must give up.
Which is watching murder mysteries. The pattern is pretty similar to the ice cream- once I start watching murder mysteries it becomes impossible to stop. I have to watch five a day, and I start to feel more and more afraid of being murdered until it interferes with my ability to function in life. Last night, for example, I couldn’t sleep because of a tapping sound which I was convinced was the tapping of a spoon that somebody wanted to use to remove my eyeballs. Ugh, I am freaking out just remembering it! But the point is, I need to stop watching these movies that keep me frozen in fear, and watch heart warming comedies instead. Comedy has never been my favorite genre- who wants to be the idiot laughing their head off as someone creeps in the window to murder them? But if watching comedies can melt the giant glacier that my life has become, then I am going to do it.
So, anyway, this song is sort of related to my craving for fire and heat, because it was inspired by the spirit of the tropical ginger plant, whom I imagine as a warm, brave, and wily man, one of the many justice spirits I like to believe are roaming our world.
Download MP3: Tongues of Fire
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.
It seems that, for a while now, the color white has been trying to take over the (human) world. White walls, open space floor plans, buddhism, yoga, kale smoothie detoxes… when will the reign of white ever end?
At the time I wrote this song I was completely swept up into the color white, trying to wear, eat, and decorate with it exclusively. White can be refreshing and protective, but geez, it can also be such a cold color, disconnecting you from everything warm and earthy.
Download MP3: Who Will Make Love to Me?