Maxwell says that the thing that I am holding is my “gold stick” and that if I want to use it as a weapon I “can take off the top and hit someone with it.”
When Kurt died, I was lost. I was numb. The music that I had devoted my life to had now betrayed me and broken my heart. I had no voice. I turned off the radio, I put away my records, and packed up my drums. I couldn’t bear to hear someone else’s voice singing about pain, or joy, or love, or hate. Not one note. It just hurt much too much.
But eventually that feeling that I had Independence Day, July 4th, 1983, at the base of the Lincoln memorial steps, that feeling came back to me. The same feeling that made me feel possessed and empowered and inspired and enraged, and so in love with life, and so in love with music that it had the power to incite a riot, or an emotion, or start a revolution, or just to save a young boy’s life. I felt it again.
-Dave Grohl, SXSW Keynote Speech, March 14, 2013 (Read it or listen to it.)
I listened to this speech a couple weeks ago. I loved it so much, I listened to it three times. I recommend listening because there is so much in Grohl’s delivery. When he speaks of Kurt Cobain dying, you can hear and see the effort it takes him to get the words out of his mouth. There is so much silence in grief.
Then, though, he talks about how he overcame his grief–the power of art and having something he wanted to communicate. Grohl talks throughout his speech about music and finding one’s voice, but I think what he says applies to more than music. We all have voices and talents and skills. All of us who are in love with life can incite a riot, or an emotion, or start a revolution, or save someone’s life.
If we decide to.
Grohl makes it sound like the best kind of idea, probably because it is.
“It’s also about what you ask for and what you do and how after, later on, when you finally get it, if you don’t want it, it’s not like Amazon. You can’t return it. You actually have to deal with it.”
–Ben Folds at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, NY (October 5, 2012)
“I guess God was right. I can handle this. I can totally take so much more.”
–Tig Notaro, “Live”
I had to stop reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s suspenseful, which is what kept me with it through the first half, but then I decided I could no longer spend time with these hideous people. They were making me feel hopeless about life. It’s not that I have a problem with reality or even things that are dark, but I need something like humor or a wee little ray of hope or some affirmation that life is not endless suffering primarily fueled by people I could not stand to spend five minutes with.
On Friday night, I saw Ben Folds Five play in Buffalo, which was more my speed. Ben Folds writes about things like sadness and disconnection and despair, but I just love his music. He’s always playing and singing his heart out, and the songs make me laugh and nod my head in understanding and revisit some of the most difficult moments of my life. He has a couple songs I love that just blaze with anger. Turning up an angry song and singing along is a fine way to deal with that particular emotion, as far as I’m concerned. Seeing the group play live was energizing.
I also listened to Ben Folds on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Also fun.
Today, I finally got to listen to Tig Notaro talk about being diagnosed with breast cancer, which is such a sad and terrible thing, but she turns it into something life-affirming. Listening to the recording, I laughed and cried and laughed and cried. When it was over, I listened to it again. Notaro is at once hopeful and enraged, and she’s not trying to make anyone comfortable, and she manages to find humor in this most improbable place. The fact of her standing there performing is a way of asserting life; she’s not letting herself die before she dies. And good for her.
My brain needs more of those kinds of things.
“Whatever brief delights it provides, mere strangeness in poetry and prose eventually leaves us cold, especially when we suspect the writer is stretching for effect to avoid the actual life before his eyes. (As if people were not strange enough.)”
-Roger Rosenblatt in “How to Write Great” in NYT (July 27, 2012)
Tammy sent me a link to “The Veil of Opulence” by Benjamin Hale, and it’s one of those things I read and then could not stop talking about. It hit me, particularly, because of this quote:
“Society is in place to correct for the injustices of the universe, to ensure that our lives can run smoothly despite the stuff that is far out of our control: not to hand us what we need, but to give us the opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness.”
When my husband died all those years ago (eight years this month), I was hit with one of those moments Hale refers to, when circumstances out of my control left me with some major setbacks–physically and emotionally depleted, in debt, stuck with a house I couldn’t handle, and very, very frightened about my future. At first, you could have defined my future as an hour from now. Society did, in fact, work the way it was supposed to for me in that moment. People and even some institutions supported me through the time I was incapacitated by grief, and then I slowly was able to start capitalizing on opportunities to rebuild my life. It’s been hard, hard work, but here I am. I am so grateful for that, to live in a country where that is possible, rather than one in which widows are expected to roll over and die themselves, either truly or metaphorically.
I found “How to Write Great” by Roger Rosenblatt all by myself, and I found it inspiring.
“I mean, we’re doing this right now. This seems a little desperate, doesn’t it?”
-Nate Ruess, The Colbert Report (August 13, 2012)
Every once in a while, I still turn on the concert NPR so kindly recorded and posted. Fun, indeed.
“One thing you who had secure or happy childhoods should understand about those of us who did not: we who control our feelings, who avoid conflicts at all costs or seem to seek them, who are hypersensitive, self-critical, compulsive, workaholic, and above all survivors — we are not that way from perversity, and we can not just relax and let it go. We have learned to cope in ways you never had to.”
-Piers Anthony as quoted in This American Life, Episode 470: Show Me the Way
This week’s This American Life was so good I listened to it twice. It’s one long story and then a second, shorter one, but the long one is this story about a teenager who goes from Buffalo to Florida with the idea that he’s going to live with Piers Anthony, an author who I had completely dismissed without ever reading and who now I want to read, just because he, himself, seems kind of awesome.
One of my new favorite things is Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Since Tammy’s off work for the summer, she’s been keeping up with the NYT and sending me articles she knows I’d like, such as this one about the Comedy Cellar and this one about a biologist who studies evolution in Edinburgh. One of the fifty million excellent things about Tammy is the way she accepts and supports all my strange interests.
Speaking of strange interests, I started Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin last week, so my life has become about either reading that book or some stupid thing I have to do that prevents me from reading the book. I’m getting close to the end, so this morning, even showering felt like a huge unnecessary time suck. I should note that when I mentioned this to Tammy, she told me I had to take a shower anyway, so apparently her support only continues as long as I continue to smell good. I suppose that’s reasonable, but still.
I’m going to go finish that book.
Jules sent me a clip from David Letterman’s interview of Conan O’Brien after it aired, but this weekend I finally got to watch the whole thing.
I love that moment at the beginning of the interview because something I appreciate–and even find inspiring–about both of these performers is that they’re willing to say things that make people uncomfortable. In this interview, they even make each other uncomfortable, but they have some real moments, too, and some very funny ones.
More from me soon. Among the many things I acquired this past week was a cold, and I am still recovering.