Rainy Sunday marathon

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No Facebook. In fact, no mention of internet at all (which, if they had it, was surely AOL dial-up). No cell phones and not even multiple land lines. Only beepers and subway tokens (ha, tokens) and a young Eddie Vedder with a terrible band name (Reigndance?), and a Mazzy Star/Suzanne Vega songwriter, stylistically and emotionally trapped somewhere between Parker Posey in Party Girl and Winona Ryder in Reality Bites, and a lady rapper befriending a gal from Alabama, the latter an obvious product of neighborhood dance competitions in chain hotel ballrooms (cut to the spandex short-and-bra set), and a smart but defensive poet, a bisexual artist, existing in a fantastically pre-Vice community, lava lamps, chiseled abs, a frat-boy haircut, a respectful exchange with a homeless drug addict, earnest discussion and a dose of actual authenticity.

Thanks MTV. Thanks Hulu.

First night

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The night was lovely, carefree and endless, with hot winds that sent clouds soaring and evoked summer cabins and childhood and drinking in the parking lots of abandoned buildings on the seedy side of town.

It was everything “grown up” once promised and hardly delivered.

I walked to the reading, and it didn’t matter that the poems were overwrought and horrific. The wind whipped my kurta, that loose swath of linen tailored to my body by Pakistani men who held the tape measure an inch-and-a-half from my flesh, so as to maintain the purity of their souls. The boys were on the porch, beautiful gay boys with long eyelashes, so I sat there too, and the air swirled around us and our wrap-around Victorian, assuring us that soon, we’d have the storm we’d be waiting for.

We drank beer and talked hippie-fests and orgasms, meditation and cleanses. One boy cradled a dog, a skittish, leggy chihuahua mix, that looks like a tiny, birdy dinosaur. The upstairs crew came in, the guy who works at the arty magazine and a girl who looked cool, kind of plump and hip, like a indie-rock librarian, and his roommate with a cute but more boring-looking girl. Those two are the smokers. They leave overturned beer bottles and spill butts on the upstairs landing. I swept them up just this afternoon and cut away the ripped screen, so now we can all sit on the wooden banister thirty feet up and gaze at the rooftops of the Quapaw.

Really, that’s where the evening started, among those rooftops and long before bad poetry, when I drank a raspberry Shock Top and called Olivia in Boston, and we made fun of ourselves, our end-of-relationship drama. She laughed at my laugh, which made me laugh more, and those old-fashioned rooftops made me feel like I was in Boston too.

Upstairs didn’t stay, just said hi and went in, but it felt like things could happen. Like the warm weather here, at this house with the porch and the landing and the backyard and the sprawl, all the ways to escape my airless, shoebox, could be just what I need now.

A girlfriend came over, because the sleazy ex she dumped but still sleeps with had ditched her after dinner, and she needed distraction.

Around midnight, we all went in, the boys to do whatever, and the girls to make boxed mac-and-cheese, because I hadn’t eaten that day. The overhead lights blared, buzzy and hyper-real after the darkness, like the bare bulbs of a raw, island country or maybe, that marvelous wound that is the Mississippi Delta.

We took our bowls outside and sat in the backyard, on the bench I bought at Goodwill and chained to a concrete block so it wouldn’t get stolen. We could hear the upstairs chatter – they must have been on the landing or had their door open.

The wind snatched away our complaints about work and small-minds and her bad match.com dates, and the night wound on until we felt delirious, high on beer and orange powder cheese and electric-pre-storm air. It reminded me of my early-twenties, watching movies all night on the laptop with Tim, on that back deck in Boston, or on the roof of the warehouse/art co-op in Jackson, and of course, every post-party walk home with Monica. (The T stops running just after midnight).

At 1 a.m., my friend left, and I went in and wrestled with the two windows that open (each, a mere crack), and slept, tightly at first, then fitfully, as lightening bounced through naked windows and around the walls of my bedroom. The sky growled, the cat cowered, and the world was made anew.

Leo Welch and Kari Faux

So I capsule-reviewed the new (and only) Leo Welch album for the paper, and then, in searching our archives, realized we already reviewed it a few weeks ago. Lest my labor be in vain, I’m pasting it here for my fine reader(s?): Leo-Bud-Welch

Last year an 81-year-old logger turned gospel singer dialed up a record label, because he heard it promotes the music of old black men. This year, he released a debut album with Big Legal Mess. Leo Welch’s “Sabougla Voices,” named after a Mississippi Hills Country community, doses gospel with blues for a body-swaying, hip-shaking, soul-shivering experience. Welsch sings about prayin’ and prostratin’, but the delivery is pulpit-fiery and the rifts are ripped from the devil’s juke, in steady-pounding, electric-boogie style. The album opens with “Praise His Name,” a robust original that features call-and-response warbling by Martha and Laverne Conley, members of Welch’s local singing group. (They provide back-up vocals throughout, and additional instrumentation comes from the BLM/Fat Possum finest: Jimbo Mathus, Eric Carleton, Matt Patton, Andrew Bryant and Bronson Tew.) Welsch can make a big noise, but he’s most effective when he’s stark and sparse, in numbers such as “Mother Loves Her Children,” “A Long Journey,” and “The Lord will Make a Way.”  These tracks showcase his idiosyncratic phrasing, burbled vocals and acoustic guitar, channelling Muddy Waters and even Sam Cooke.

Also, I interviewed this adorkable 21-year-old lady rapper from Little Rock, Kari Faux, and on her first mixtape, Fact or Faux, inspired by Foxy Brown and made when she was 19, her voice sounds like Ladybug Mecca’s and her beats sound like Tribe Called Quest. She’s done four others since then. There are some gems on all of them, especially this year’s Spontaneous Generation (Generation Wh(Y), House of Avalon, Rap Game Daria, Cootie Shot + Cellphone’s Dead), but Fact or Faux is my fave. (Get it while it lingers. She thinks she took it down, and once she realizes it’s still up (i.e. my profile runs), it may go away forever.

Ways to handle break ups: a historical perspective

1. Purge and eat healthy and feel really wholesome and glowy and great

2. Cry intermittently at work, scowl at everyone who smiles at you on the subway, sleep as much as possible, completely quit eating

3. Become a melancholy but incredibly empathetic, new-age-hokey kind of listener-person, who really cares about other’s pain and doesn’t even charge $150 an hour

4. Binge eat

5. Binge shop

6. Binge exercise

7. Cut your hair really short with nail scissors

8. Stay home as much as possible, varying between the cocoons of couch and bed, watching TV on the internet, reading books, ignoring your phone and friends’ attempts at socialization, baking and isolating in the coziest of ways

9. Google phrases like “how to break up with someone you still love” and “months to years ratio, how long to get over a breakup,” and look up all the therapists in the area and weigh them against each other for hours, knowing you will never go to any of them because you can’t afford therapy

10. Invest lots of time in planning vacations you’ll never take

 

 

Purim, Brit pop, Little Pakistan, Mike’s Cafe and karaoke…

I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath, so here it is:

My life recently, the HIGHLIGHTS reel

1. Flew into New York City at midnight, and because I am too stubborn to take a cab, arrived at my friend’s place in Bushwick two trains, a bus and three hours later

2. Sat next to an 84-year-old woman at a capoeira show at Joyce Theater. She turned to me during intermission, all sparkly eyes…

“It’s keeps getting better and better,” she said.”Does it for you?”

“The dancing? Yeah, it’s pretty great.”

“No.” Dramatic Pause. “Life.”

3. Bar hopped with a 23-year-old who worries that an appearance on “Girls” has destroyed her favorite pub

4. Danced to Brit pop till wee morning hours (Blur, Ride, Pulp, The Cure, some weird, sped-up version of The Smiths…best served with a tumbler of vodka and a spash of cranberry)

5. Was described as “a hippie journalist who thinks there’s nothing in life a dance party can’t solve”

6. Rode on a bus, saw a block party, jumped off the bus, turns out it was a private Purim party, went in a stranger’s house, ate a stranger’s food, used a stranger’s toilet, asked some giggly 13-year-olds to explain Purim (“We celebrate Queen Esther, and we dress up because she dressed up, and, um, yeah”), got back on the bus and rode deep into Midwood in search of Little Pakistan

7. Little Pakistan is, turns out, two mosques with plastic turrets and about three restaurants, all of whom are run by people who refused to make me kitchari or even acknowledge that it’s a real thing (“Maybe I’m mispronouncing it. You know, Pakistani baby food?”)

8. Went to this lovely place called Bat Haus and listened to ten-minute lectures on cryptic crosswords (there are whole books on the topic, plus the nerdy boy was megacute), what happens to your body after death (Towers of Silence, hey Parsis, wuzzup!), racism/recognizing white privilege (turns out, that girl went to school in Jackson, Miss., small world), food sustainability (breathy and bouncy and rah, rah, ree — is she for real?) and bike generators (sub-climatic, since the generator he demonstrated didn’t work, and anyhow, they’re not actually energy-efficient)

9. Whiled away a fine afternoon in fine company at the perennial Corner Bistro

10. Came back to Little Rock, to misty, mauve Spring, missed the Speedy Ortiz show but had dinner at this place in Southwest (most diverse ‘hood in town) called Mike’s Cafe, that serves Vietnamese food and looks like a cross between a Russian wedding hall and a discoteque, with strobes, a mirrored ball, platforms and neon murals that seem Latin-flavored but actually depict Vietnam. There’s karaoke every night, words are misspelled (“feel” often becomes “feet”) and rather than running across a black screen, they run across twenty-five-year-old video loops and make poetic composites (“Hotel California” against “Land Down Under” scenery, Vietnamese audio against Germanic villages. And everybody in windbreakers, always.)

We met Vincent, from Vietnam, who painted the murals and is an enthusiastic karaoke singer. He kept buying Daniel beer, because apparently Daniel is the kind of guy who makes people want to give him things. In fact, we were the crowd, the three of us — and Vincent.

But it was fantastic. How is this place not constantly packed?