Monday, June 30, 2008

Choose thy love, love thy choice

An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of today, the memories of yesterday, and the hopes of tomorrow. ~Author Unknown

Today, I have been married for one year.

Happy anniversary, Barry.

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Waiting for Tom Waits

I had a date that I had been anticipating for weeks this past Thursday night. Mister Tom Waits met me at the Fox Theater, even though he showed up almost an hour late. I knew he wouldn’t stand me up, so I wasn’t panicking; I was just mildly annoyed. But he more than made up for his tardiness by showing me the best time I’ve had in years. (Sorry, Barry. I only mean musically. Best time in years… musically.)

My courtship with Tom Waits has been somewhat of a whirlwind. I was introduced to him almost five years ago through a mutual friend, Todd. Once I heard Tom Waits sing, I was completely smitten.

I tend to get into music through other people and Tom Waits is, obviously, no exception. But he came along at a time in my life where there was a musical void. No one has been able to describe what genre Waits falls into without using a lot of adjectives, so I’ll spare you a description myself. But somewhere between true rock music and true folk music, I was missing the bridge between the two. Waits fit in nicely, although he would have fit in nicely between so many more genres, too.

Tom Waits is a brilliant songwriter and an impassioned singer, sort of along the lines of Bob Dylan. Although he has had much less commercial success despite being, I think, a bigger influence on other musicians than Dylan. But like Dylan, Waits doesn’t have the best voice, but no one sings Waits’ songs better than Waits himself. Springsteen has commandeered “Jersey Girl,” a song Waits wrote about his future wife, Kathleen. And the Eagles covered “Ol’ 55.” And while they might have better voices than Waits, there’s something to be said for the passion with which one sings. Plus, I happen to think that Tom Waits has a sound that in indefinable. His voice, low and gravelly, just slithers under your skin and tightens itself around you.

The stage looked like a cross between a carnival side-show act and somebody’s garage. Instruments were scattered haphazardly about and in the center was a raised round dais, covered in dust. Colored lightboxes acted as backdrop, as did the multitude of old-fashioned speakers that hung above the musicians like stars in the night sky. I could tell by the sparseness of the stage design, that I was in for a night of music rather than theatrics.

I’ll spare you a review of the concert. If you’re interested in a review, the Post-Dispatch actually did a great job of reviewing the concert. But I did copy the set list…

1. "Lucinda" ("Orphans")
2. "Way Down in the Hole" ("Frank’s Wild Years)
3. "Falling Down" ("Big Time")
4. "Black Market Baby" ("Mule Variations")
5. "All The World Is Green" ("Blood Money")
6. "Heigh-Ho" (Orphans")
7. "Get Behind The Mule" ("Mule Variations")
8. "Day After Tomorrow" ("Real Gone")
9. "Cemetery Polka" ("Rain Dogs")
10. "Hang Down Your Head" (Rain Dogs")
11. "Lucky Day" ("Black Rider")
12. "Johnsburg, Illinois" (Swordfishtrombones")
13. "Lost In The Harbour ("Alice" soundtrack)
14. "Make It Rain ("Real Gone")
15. "Lie To Me" (Orphans)
16. "The Other Side Of The World" (Night On Earth" soundtrack)
17. "Singapore ("Rain Dogs")
18. "Dirt In The Ground" (Bone Machine")
19. "What’s He Building In There?" ("Mule Variations")
20. "16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six ("Swordfishtrombones")
21. "Rain Dog" ("Rain Dogs")

22. "Goin’ Out West" ("Bone Machine")
23. "Anywhere I Lay My Head" ("Rain Dogs")
24. "Innocent When You Dream" ("Frank’s Wild Years")

I have to say that “Innocent When You Dream” is one of my favorite songs of his… if not my absolute favorite. There’s a nonsensicalness to the song that just enamors me. And I waited two hours to hear him sing it… and I was not disappointed. Most of his songs are filled with passion and heartache. And while “Innocent” is no exception, there’s a lightness to the lyrics that make my heart soar.

"It’s such a sad old feeling, the fields are soft and green / It’s memories that I’m stealing, but you’re innocent when you dream."

And yes, it was a dream come true.

I only wish my friend Todd, who introduced Tom Waits and I, could have made it. Alas, I suppose I will just have to suffer and go again when Tom Waits next tours. it was what, only 30 years since he last came to St. Louis.
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Monday, June 23, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

To say that I am a poor sleeper is a complete understatement. I have spent my whole life wrestling with the god Hypnos and his brother Morpheus to allow me some respite.

I can go days where I lay awake all night, waiting for that moment where my body just gives out. In high school, I missed almost a whole semester because I would go so long without sleep that I would cry from the physical pain my body would be in. I graduated on time through correspondence classes and summer school.

I sent this link to Tom because I am highly jealous of the fact that he can nap. And he does so on a semi-regular basis. He sometimes takes two on a Saturday if he gets up early to go out and shoot pictures. Never mind the fact that he’s always exhausted. That’s not the point I’m trying to make right now. My point is that he can lie down and drift off.

All my life I have taken – desperately at times – medication, both prescription and over-the-counter (but never at the same time), to help me sleep. I apparently slept through the night almost immediately after my parents brought me home from the hospital as a baby, but somewhere – somehow – I became an insomniac.

I have to sleep at a regular bedtime. My body tells me ten o’clock is a good time, but I always try to push it a little bit longer. Okay, sometimes a lot longer. But I pay the consequences for reading “just one more chapter.” I have to have sleep schedule or I’m in physical pain.

I was going to say that lack of sleep causes me to not function well, but isn’t that everybody? And the truth of the matter is, I do function well on little sleep. Before my Mother died, she had congestive heart failure and lying down would put too much pressure on her chest, causing her to go into coughing fits. Sitting up took the pressure off her chest, but there was always the coughing. Which kept her from sleeping much.

So I would sit up with her most of the night, then either take her to dialysis or, after I went back to work, go to my job.

I was getting two to three hours of sleep a night. And felt every missed hour in every part of my body. But I wouldn’t trade one moment because sitting up with Mom is time I cherish.

Now, I read for 30 to 60 minutes before I turn off my lamp, cover my eyes with a sleep mask and put in my ear plugs. Why didn’t I think of earplugs in college? The loud dorm was when I slept the worst, but it took my husband, Barry, working nights, for me to come up with the near-perfect solution of almost-silence and absolute-dark.

But Barry does tell me to nap when, on a weekend, I had an especially poor night of sleep – or lack thereof. I’ve tried. I want to. I just either lay there – THINKING about wanting to sleep – or I do drift off, only to wake more exhausted than I began. What’s the point of trying when each and every time I fail?

How is it that I come from two parents who – literally – could sleep ANYWHERE. I mean, Mom took two naps a day and still got a full night’s sleep before her kidney’s failed. And Dad… it was almost rude how he could fall asleep mid-conversation.

Why didn’t I get the genetic ability to sleep with the skills of a professional? I swear, I would think I was adopted if I didn’t look just like the two of them.

Maybe it’s like twins… it skips a generation.
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Oh Black Water, Keep On Rolling…

The water was surprisingly murky as it flowed across the tops of my feet. When the water lapped at the bottom of my ankle bones, my toes disappeared from sight. And where I stood on the pavement, I watched the water churn against the lightpost not ten feet in front of me, knowing that I would get knocked down and sucked under if I were to attempt to wade that far. But not being able to see my toes in water less five inches deep was enough to keep me from going any further.

That, and I kept waiting for a severed foot to float by.

Last night, I hung out with Tom. He wanted to poke around the riverfront to see the flood water and I was curious myself, so I met him at his place before heading back towards downtown.

It should be noted that we did see the irony in the fact that we both work downtown and yet left the area, only to return. Since his work shift ends an hour before mine does, we need to figure out logistics.

We parked in a garage where the lower level was nearly submerged in water. I’m bad at judging distances, but I would say that on a normal day the river bank would have at least 20 yards further out. It was mind-boggling how much water there was. Which sounds rather naive, I know, but to see the magnitude of the water was rather humbling. It certainly put things into perspective.

Tom may have organized the field trip, but it was joked that I would have to follow through with the details. Bottled water was soon wished for. And lots of it. It was muggy and hot in the sun, but the moments in the shade were comfortable.

We hiked from the Landing over to the Arch grounds and made our way from the north stairs over to the south stairs. Both the side staircases were closed, but the main steps were closed about half-way down. People congregated throughout the park, the same as us – all looking at the floodwater.

We ate at Morgan Street Brewery, an experience that would have benefitted from us eating out on the sidewalk rather than indoors amongst the “meet market” crowd. The food was good, but the environment was discouraging. Drunk people are not ambiance. Especially for an evening of natural surroundings.

Hours were spent watching the water and I think that Tom and I haven’t had such a meaningful – and low-cost – Friday night. And the night went late, too. Tom and I eat early most times – 5 o’clock or so – then putter about before going in search of ice cream, then calling it a night by 9 or so. Last night, I got home around 11 pm. We just couldn’t leave the water.

I’ve grown up on the banks of the Mississippi River, but generally take the river for granted. The Mighty Mississippi River has been a mainstay in my life since I’ve lived in St. Louis all of my life. I never much think about it, generally taking it for granted or silently bemoaning the fact that it’s not an ocean with beach and clear water.

But last night I was in awe of the power and terrible beauty of nature. And by the looks of the people we passed, Tom and I were in good company.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hot Off the Press!

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been losing my respect by leaps and bounds over the past several years, but more so since Lee Enterprises bought the paper from Pulitzer. What the Post-Disgrace considers to be news, I find appalling. I don't want to get up on my soapbox because what I'm writing about now isn't how they irritated me yet again, but how they surprised me. While not cutting edge news, I find it a nice change of pace. And no, I'm not biased. Why do you ask?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Not So Momentary Lapse of Reason...

Do you ever have moments were you aren’t exactly sure why you open your mouth and then once you do, you can’t shut up?

I bet right now, you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

Friday night, I was hanging out with Tom and we were heading back to his car when I saw an old acquaintance from Mizzou. We didn’t part on the best of terms and yet, for some reason that I can’t fathom, I said ‘hi.’

Now, the last time I saw him was about ten or so years ago. It was Christmastime and there was a blizzard that made driving almost impossible. I was tooling around in a ’68 Impala… which wasn’t made to have the best traction. So I slid. A lot. And my passenger would scream each time I went a little sideways. Scream a lot. Which was very distracting. During a time I didn’t need to be distracted.

Now, mind you, just because I slid doesn’t mean that I ever lost control of the vehicle. I never went across lanes, despite having repeated urges to take my passenger out – even if it meant I was going with them. But in the Impala, I think the concrete barriers would have given before the Detroit steel did.

So in the middle of this blizzard, I had to find something for us to do because there was no rescheduling – they had driven up from Festus and I had to entertain them. Dammit.

In a bind, I called Tom, who was putting up his family’s Christmas tree. His friend Tim was helping, so I had two people to torment. Well, it wasn’t me who was doing the tormenting. I know one comment was made that when one stood close to the bookcase and bookstand, it was like being in a library. A silly grin was also cast in Tim’s direction, to which I took some heat afterwards.

We didn't stay long, but it was longer than was welcome by however long we were there, plus ten minutes.

I blocked out most of the evening, but bits and pieces came back to me Friday night.

And yet, I couldn’t shut up. I couldn’t walk past and not acknowledge him.

What is wrong with me?

Really, there is no need to answer that.

It would take way too long.
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Said 3 ½ Tons and Whaddya Get?

Another day older and deeper in debt.

Another summer in St. Louis and a new milestone in my life is occurring this week.

Hopefully by this weekend I will have a new air conditioning unit, plus furnace.

I am quite excited about the prospect of more energy efficient appliances, but there’s also a sort of melancholy that’s mixed in. Why would anyone feel any sort of sadness about an old A/C unit and furnace?

Well, part of it has to do with the fact that with the replacing of those appliances, there’s one less thing in the house that’s attached to my parents.

Living in my parents house results in many mixed emotions – sometimes within the same day. With each passing year since my parents passing, Mom in 2001 and Dad in 2004, things get easier. But as much as I have a hard time with reminders that they’re gone, so I have the same problem when those reminders are removed.

The furnace is original to the house. Dad moved into the house in 1968 and the furnace is dated 1958. A 50-year-old furnace that apparently sat around for ten years before the contractor installed the unit. That in itself is amusing, but who has a 50-year-old furnace in their homes now-a-days?

The air conditioner is only about 25 years old. I say ‘only’ like it’s a young whipper-snapper. But I remember the girl who lived across the street coming over after it was installed and how we spent hours (okay, 15 minutes) talking into the unit while it was running, fascinated with the echo the blades caused when it was running. I also remember my poor mother dragging the old ‘landing pad’ that the original A/C unit sat on – which was actually in two equal pieces – from the middle of the back part of the house to the corner of the yard and painstakingly digging out the ground to set the concrete squares into.

Damn if she didn’t get them level, too! This past summer when we were putting a patio for our wedding, several of us dug out and found them. The level was out for the retaining wall bricks we were using and someone checked the concrete squares Mom set so many years ago.

Not bad for a woman who had had two massive strokes. Team Betty all the way!

So I suppose feeling bad that I’m replacing two antiquated appliances is silly, but since I live in a house where I’m surrounded by memories I think that embracing a little nostalgia isn’t TOO bad. After all, I’ll be lucky to get 10, maybe 15, years out of these new units. To channel both of my parents, they don’t make ‘em the way they used to.

But don’t think that I’m not a little giddy about getting new heating and cooling system. It almost makes me feel like a grown up.


Maybe I'll feel a bit more mature when the check clears.
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Friday, June 6, 2008

In Rememberance of Things Past...

The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

--Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, addressing U.S. troops before the Normandy invasion

My father often reminisced about events that meant little to me at the time, but the emotion behind his stories often moved me... even if I had heard the stories many times over.

As was usually the case because I think he believed that if someone enjoyed a story once, they would enjoy it even more with multiple tellings.

But the war… talking about it always made him cry.

And today, he would have cried.

D-Day, the 6th of June. The largest single invasion in human history.

He often talked about the invasion of Normandy and how it changed the course of the war. About how more than 175,000 troops – boys – who, in the largest sea-borne invasion fleet in history landed on the beaches and hit the water, trying to battle past the armies of Hitler and the Third Reich. And even though many fell that day, many more pressed on, turning the proverbial tide and on D-Day, the 6th of June, when the beachhead was captured and wrestled away, it signaled the beginning of the end of World War Two.
Dad’s father was the block captain when the whole country was practicing blackouts in an attempt to prevent any sort of attack. Dad spoke almost reverently of how his father would walk the streets to make sure everyone on the block complied with the 60 second warning.

Dad grew up on the near north side of Chicago. While many of the coastal cities had more to worry about in terms of invasion, Chicago was a large enough city to merit concern.

Mom grew up in Webster Groves, a rather tight-knit community where everyone knew everyone. She lived on Elm Street, in the heart of Old Webster, in a gorgeous two-story home that I covet to this day.

It was a far cry from the apartment building my Dad grew up in, but there's no comparing city living to suburban living. It's apples and oranges.

I pass by my mother's house on a semi-regular basis and it still boggles my mind that although the yard is large, they raised chickens and turkeys right next to their Victory garden.

Dad would never eat chicken because, he said, whenever his mother made chicken and dumplings, seeing the chicken fat float to the top turned his stomach so badly that he could never fathom eating the poultry.

Mom always replied that she used to wring chickens neck when she was but a girl and she LOVED the taste of it.

But I digress, as I am wont to do...

While I had no direct impact of War World II personally, it moved me that my father would cry, sob sometimes, over the broken bodies that made sure that not only the United States remained safe

64 years ago today, boys – BABIES – went through the gates of Hell.

My father always remembered. And not just when June 6th would roll around. But often. And with great reverence.

And with lots of tears.

Today I cry for those who never came back because my father is no longer around to do so.

I might not remember, but I'll never forget.

And to those that I know – and to those that I don't – who are stationed overseas, please come home safe. My tears today are not only for those 64 years ago, but also those today.
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Monday, June 2, 2008

Lost Weekend...

So tired. So weary.

So short.

My posting, that is.

This past weekend I worked a special event at a new hotel downtown that raised an astronomical amount of money for the non-profit agency that employs me. Saturday, I worked from 8:30am to 1 in the morning, thus obliterating any chance of a normal weekend. I got home ‘round 1:30, too tired to be chatty, but too wired to fall asleep… so I jawed Barry’s ear off for about an hour. I was finally able to drift off at 3am, after I was finally able to shut my mind down. But after being ‘on’ for so long, it was tough switching gears. Barry couldn't have been as tolerant as he appeared.

The event was go glamorous and luxe that even I was impressed... and I was working the event! A lot of it had to do with the surroundings. The outside of the hotel is rather hideous, but the inside was amazing. The guest rooms looked like a bedroom and the public areas were just as soothing and clean. Very modern and sleek and Asian-inspired. Loved it. And so did the event-goers. I think it helped them open up the purse strings.

Sunday morning came very early yesterday when my dogs woke me up before 7am. I nearly became a ‘cat only’ household when Lance, my ‘good’ dog, kept pestering me. Mid-morning brought an attempt at a nap, during which I must have fallen asleep – though I can’t remember any dreams. Since I don't remember them, I deny any sleep happened.

I rose from bed a little over an hour later, much more tired than I started out. That made me really mad, but Barry said that naps weren’t always refreshing. But they did help ensure that you slept better at night. Which I did. In fact, I was asleep by 9:15 last night and slept like a babe.

While that won’t happen tonight, I do plan on going to bed once this is posted.

Now, the weekend wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t fall on the heels of a long Wednesday. It was the day that never ended. I got to work at 5:30 to set up for the Board of Directors meeting, worked a full day, then headed over to Tom’s house to change for the baseball game. We won. 6-1. Houston. I think. Again, tired.

But the seats were awesome. Barry got tickets through his employer and gave up his seat. Tom and I enjoyed the company box, complete with a buffet of all-you-can-eat hot dogs and nachos. Hot dogs make me happy and ballpark hot dogs… Doesn’t get much better than that.

So… good company. Good food. Good weather. Great game. A damn long day being downtown – 5:30am to 10pm for all intents and purposes – but I had a blast at work and after. Not something I’d recommend on a regular basis, that’s for sure. But I wasn’t about to give the tickets to someone else just because I had to wake up at 4:30am.

I just don’t think that I’ll ever be inclined to do two uber-long days in less than a week. But for free hot dogs and a good cause, I’ll do what I have to do.

And then recover. Lot's of recovering. 10 years ago, this wouldn't even be an issue. Maybe not even five.

The next few nights I plan on being boring. I’m so excited about that.

But not too excited to sleep.

I hope.
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