April 23, 2012
Another year has passed. It’s been seven since I saw you last. I’ve been thinking a lot about you. When you died my biggest fear was that I’d forget something about you and our last day together; I wanted to remember every tiny detail always. The other fear that haunted me was that one day it would get easier and I wouldn’t miss you so much. So I’m grateful for the memories I have and I’m grateful for the bittersweet ache they leave in me.
I’ll be honest. I don’t dwell on you anymore. That makes it easier. For the first year, I hugged close everything that reminded me of you: photos, videos, memories and especially music. But I can’t hug those things anymore because they’re too sharp and they cut through the scar tissue that took so long to grow on my shattered heart. Sometimes when you flit across my memory I find myself shaking my head just as I did after you died, because I can’t comprehend that you are gone from here.
But I’ve decided this won’t be a day for sadness. I went to Mass this morning and I saw S² eyeing me with concern. I smiled at him and told him truthfully that I just had a tickle in my throat (Easter flowers and incense can do that). Now I sit in the fading sun and think of you.
We’ve always shared a passion for reading, writing and music. When you were a toddler, you’d put on a pair of star-shaped sunglasses, sit at a little piano shaped box and lip-sync to Elton John’s greatest hits. We called you “Elton Johnny”. It was the only time Mom and Dad listened to Elton John without complaint, so we had you do it often. When you were a little older, we played school. I swore for years I taught you to read, but after trying to teach my own children, I wonder…
Remember the summer you were turning sixteen? Dave had moved to Cleveland for his new job. You and Mom stayed in upstate New York to help me sell the house. We were really into Pink Floyd that year and we discovered Wish You Were Here. I have a hard time listening to it now. You brought books about the band, which I read when you were done. Then we’d talk about Syd Barrett and debate about Roger Waters and David Gilmour while we worked on my yard. You did a lot of yard work for me so I told you I take you out to dinner. You wanted steak and lobster. Funny thing for a fifteen-year-old to want for dinner, but typical for you.
Remember that same summer going to the mall parking lot late at night so you could practice driving a stick shift before getting your driver’s license? We saw a UFO hovering above the woods next to the mall. It was amazing, but we never told anyone about it because we knew no one would believe it.
We both love Chris Cornell’s voice. One Christmas I shared his version of Ave Maria with you, but I don’t think you heard it over the football game. Then you shared Audioslave with me. After you died, I got your CD and listened to it constantly. I can’t listen to Audioslave anymore. That annoys me frankly, because I really like them.
But I can listen to “United States of Whatever” by Liam Lynch. You turned my kids onto it. After they listened to it a million times a day, it grew on me. Do you remember when we found the video? Wow. Liam was not the cool Eminem-type I’d imagined. But we loved the video and watched it a million times too.
And tonight, as I looked up the video to add it as a link to this post you, my little, beloved brother John, gave me a gift. A video I’d never seen of Dave Grohl, drummer extraordinaire (and my favorite), playing/pounding his little heart out with Liam Lynch on United States of Whatever. And I’ll go to bed with a smile on my face, which is a gift I hadn’t expected on this of all nights.
Skip ahead sixty seconds. The quality improves greatly.
PS-Is it mandatory for great drummers to chew gum?
November 2, 2011
Blogging is not the easy, jot-down-your-thoughts, hit-the-publish-button, and out-it-bursts-into-the-blogosphere-like-a-newborn-babe, it appears to be. Creating a post can be like creating a baby. At times, it’s so enjoyable and exciting you never want to stop. If you weren’t so tired you’d write another one right away. Occasionally it can be tedious. You close your eyes and push the publish button, glad that the effort to just get it done is behind you.
But blogging is more complicated than creating a baby. There’s much more to it than writing and clicking “publish”. For example, the terms people use in search engines such as Google, have a great impact on a blog. Dave Grohl is a huge part of my blog. The terms “Dave Grohl drums” and “Dave Grohl drumming” chauffeur an amazing amount of people here. In fact, they’re the top two search engine terms (SET’s) that refer people to my blog. “Bunion” is a close second. That my blog is so closely associated with bunions leaves a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Not everyone is searching for something as mundane as Dave Grohl’s drum kit (although it is enhanced by a vulture), or Brennan Boesch’s girlfriend (I don’t know who she is, people!). There are some very interesting individuals searching for some very colorful things. A few of the more bizarre terms that led to my blog include:
“women who polish their husbands toes”
“stop drop and roll does not work in hell lyrics”
“he waited two years till first sex”
And the winner of the most bizarre search term used to find my blog:
“first time outside crossdressing cool air sound of my heels”
I did my own web and image search on this term just to see what else popped up. I didn’t see my blog listed, but when I searched under images I came across Michelle.
Referrers are another necessity in the blogger’s world. Referrers are other blogs and web sites that link to your blog. A short time after I began blogging, I noticed some strange looking referrers. They became my favorites because they were generating half of my traffic. I was crushed when I found out they were “spam referrers”. They seem to have the same purpose in the blogosphere as the tiny annoying pests that inhabit the real world, such as mosquitoes and lice.
WordPress strongly advises a blogger to report spam referrers so that they can be blocked from using WordPress blogs for their devious purposes. This caused an ethical dilemma for me. Follow the rules and weed out the spammers (I am a rule follower by nature) or keep the spam referrers because it makes my blog look like it’s getting twice the hits it’s actually getting. In the end, I opted for justice for the spam scum, but there are days when my stats are so low I long for a few spam referrers just to perk me up.
At one time I thought the number of comments a blog had was indicative of the amount of traffic that blog got– comments equal blog life. ”Poor little unread blog,” I used to think about the blogs with few comments. Then I became the blogger, and I could see the amount of traffic stopping by my blog daily. And that number in no way corresponded to the dismal number of comments I was receiving. I still don’t get many comments, but I have a lot of lurkers. A “lurker” is an affectionate term bloggers use to describe readers that don’t make themselves known by posting comments.
I was a lurker myself for a while. Before I began writing my blog, I read blogs. But I had no desire to leave a comment. Who cared what I had to say? Hadn’t the blogger said it all in the post? Then I read a blog post about Christian Louboutin heels for Barbies, and I felt compelled to comment. I was too nervous to type my comment cold-turkey on-line. It took two days of editing a Word Doc. to perfect my first comment: “Those are the only Louboutin’s I’ll ever be able to afford”. After that, I wrote and edited all my comments before posting them, until I began writing my own blog and realized comments didn’t need to be perfect. Posts did. (In a perfect blogosphere anyway).
There is so much more I could tell you. My battle with the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) monster, and the disappearing blogroll. One of these days, when my muse is AWOL and I’m desperate for a post, I’ll let you in on that hype, too.
PS– In case you’re wondering about the STD’s in my headline, it was an underhanded ploy for some traffic. I may fight spam, but I’m not against a little hype.
Disclaimer: There may be an ad/video visible below or above. I’m not sure because they are invisible from my account, but I know they appear to my readers with annoying frequency. I do not receive monetary compensation for the ad nor do I endorse it.
August 30, 2011
I am a social animal. I like being with people and I like talking with them. Lately, I’ve been experiencing a disconnect with others that I find very disconcerting. Somewhere along the line, I’ve lost the art of conversation. Here are some of the typical conversations I’ve had over the past few months.
I’m asked, “What have you been up to?”
What I’ve been up to is spending hours cutting coupons from the stack of fliers that have accumulated on my kitchen counter over the past two months. This is very lame compared to the doing’s of most other people I know, so my standard response is: “Nothing. What about you?”
Or I’m asked, “What’s new?”
This is on the tip of my tongue: “Well, I cleaned the bathroom today. The fumes from the bleach messed with my olfactory nerves, and a result my coffee tasted funny for the rest of the day.” But I bite my tongue and reply: “Nothing. What about with you?”
Sometimes I’m asked this variation: “What have you been doing lately?”
The unvarnished truth is, I’ve been rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher so the place reserved for frying or baking pans is not filled with little cereal bowls. (Jeff, in answer to your question: this reserved frying pan niche is my own personal preference. I have no idea what use the dishwasher manufacturer actually intended for this spot.) My summer has also been spent trying to keep my heels smooth. But I don’t share these exciting tid-bits; I simply say: “Nothing. What about you?”
Not only do my answers disturb me, but I notice the relish and detail with which others answer those questions. Most people can talk at great length about what they and their children have been doing. But my lack of response adds an air of awkwardness to the conversation. What happened to my confabulating skills? How can I have a blog that touts confabulation, yet have forgotten how to do it?
I examine this disconnect, trying to find its source. Maybe if I did more, I’d have more to talk about. But I don’t have time or money to do more than I’m already doing. Seclusion may be the answer. If I don’t talk to people, I don’t have to worry about having conversations.
Then I have an opportunity to talk to a drummer (he’s teaching me to cut lemons and limes properly)and I’m giddy at the thought of a conversation centered on drumming. There are a million questions I’d like to ask. So I take a deep breath and ask him who his favorite drummers are. His response is not the enthusiastic one I’d expected. He names a few and continues cutting lemons. “What do you think of Dave Grohl?” I ask. OK, maybe it’s not the best question, but my conversational skills have been off lately. At least I’m trying.
He doesn’t answer. He simply continues with the demonstration. I swear I can talk and learn to cut lemons at the same time. But that conversation was not meant to be.
I’m disappointed, but it has given me another aspect of the art of conversation to think about. The missing pieces fall into place when I read a few blog posts. I left a comment on Clayriver, and he responded with a question that I had to really think about before I answered. Then I read this post about Passion V. Addiction at What is Forty Two? and I found myself pondering that for a while. In fact, I’m still thinking about the question asked in response to my comment.
And I loved the pondering. And I loved their responses. And I loved the thought of getting a new perspective and sharing mine.
And then I understood. Somehow the art of conversation has been replaced by reciting a laundry list of things we do. I’m not saying that sharing the details of our lives is bad. It’s a great way to connect with others— the gateway for getting to know someone better. But somewhere along the way we lost the exploring and thinking part of conversation.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the formation of the universe (actually, I really am not interested in your thoughts on the formation of the universe, but it sounded good for a second), or why you do or don’t believe in God, or what you think about Quentin Tarantino movies. If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing. And if you’re a drummer, there are a million questions I’d like to ask you.
But we’ve become accustomed to ignoring the things that could take us deeper. Even when we try to go beyond discussing what we do, things have become so politicized we’re afraid to talk about them. So we play it safe, and stick to talking about what we do. That’s a tough place to be when you’re cleaning toilets and thinking about the stars.
August 5, 2011
I made a traumatic discovery: my muse ran away.
If you have any sort of creative bent, you will find you have a muse– a gardening muse, an artistic muse, a dancing muse (which I think would be the most awesome, after the musical muse). Muses are as unique as the people they inspire.
My muse is tiny. Very tiny, but very radiant. She has many different guises: sometimes she sparks and glitters like fireworks; sometimes she’s not very bright, but glows and pulsates like an ember in the fire; sometimes she’s a diamond of pure white light. And when she’s with me, as tiny as she is, her essence has the potential to fill and animate me.
I discover she’s missing after I read some beautifully crafted posts on Broadside Blog, Madame Paradox, and Counting Ducks. I recall writing some of my recent posts and realize my muse hadn’t been with me. The scary thing is, I hadn’t noticed she was gone.
I look for her, but all I find is a rumpled guy, with a face that looks like someone’s pushed it in too hard with the palm of a hand, and a cigar between his teeth. I ask where my muse is.
“I’m it, sister,” he says, not taking the cigar out of his mouth.
“No, you’re Stephen King’s. Where’s mine? I want her back.”
He snorts. “Stephen King’s. You should be so lucky. I’m just a distant relation.” He sits behind a desk and begins shuffling through the papers scattered on it. “Your’s is gone. She couldn’t work under these conditions. I been watching her, waiting for her to crack, so I could move in. You couldn’t have missed her too much. You didn’t even notice she’s gone and I’m here now.”
“But you’re not a muse and you’re definitely no inspiration.”
“Listen sister, you get out of it what you put into it.”
I try to remember the last time I’d seen my muse. As I think back over the past few weeks, I realize her visits had become less frequent, and I had been paying less attention to her. She’d tried to hang on despite the frequent interruptions. It wasn’t that she disliked my family, but she couldn’t work with others around distracting us. And there was the stress. So much stress. It began to lead to impatience, which is sheer poison for a muse.
“Yeah, I’m what you get when you’re in a hurry and don’t care what comes out as long as it comes out on time,” he says. He takes the cigar out of his mouth and shrugs. “Whadaya gonna do?”
“Where is she? Is she ok? I need her back,” I say, trying not to panic. “I’m writing a book, and then there’s this blog, and I have a school year to think about…”
He points at me with the cigar. “Not to mention you were already interrupted ten times while you were writing this.”
“I know but I can’t neglect my family for my writing. What am I going to do?”
“That’s your problem, sister.”
My mind starts whirring. Maybe I’ll just start staying up all night to write. Yeah, I can do that if I really try. No. The reality is I won’t be able to. I’m a like a grizzly bear on quaaludes when I don’t get enough sleep. Maybe a schedule is the answer. I’ve never been able to stick to one for any length of time yet. But maybe this time…
As I wrestle with the chaos, trying to find a way around, over or just through it, I feel a familiar spark. She’d come back, but only for a visit. Impatience is poison to a muse. But I’m hopeful that as I learn to juggle all that I love without neglecting any of it, my muse will once again make her permanent residence with me.
“There is a muse… He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt work, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.”