Tag Archives: nostalgia

archived heartbreak

i never delete anything from gmail. every single message i’ve sent or received since i opened my account in april, 2005 is archived and searchable.

scary, but also convenient: being able to search tens of thousands of messages comes in handy more often than i’d have thought. i’ve been able to find travel reservations, usernames and passwords, the chronology of events, even the specific date i went somewhere or did something.

tonight, working on updating my resume, i wanted to find out when i got each of my promotions at my old job. i figured i could just search my gmail for each of my job titles and find the oldest message, assuming i’d sent an excited email to my parents or friends upon receiving each promotion. sure enough, i found those gleeful, timestamped emails! but my search also turned up email threads with ex-boyfriends from the same period as the promotions. and in addition to exciting job news, those threads contained embarrassing, scrambling pleas; painful evidence of flailing relationships; pitiful last-ditch attempts to prevent everything from crumbling. just briefly glancing at them brought awful, visceral feelings from when they were written — knotted stomach, pounding heart, short, quick breaths. such a strong effect, even so many years later.

hidden in my gmail account are reminders of times i don’t look back on too fondly. but still, the nostalgic packrat in me can’t quite bring myself to delete them. maybe on some level, it’s comforting to be able to look back at the dysfunctional ways i communicated with and related to others — to prove i got through it, to show i’m making progress, and to confirm i don’t ever want to go back.

“i held you in the coldest days, i held you in the coldest ways, i never know what to start to pick up and change.” – raa


my year in music

**Disclaimer: This is not a list of my favorite albums that came out in 2010. In fact, many of these albums did not come out in 2010. They did, however, enter my music library and my world this year. This was a year of old jobs, new jobs, old graduate programs, new homes; good decisions that turned out to be good decisions, good decisions that turned out to be bad decisions; more stability in some areas and more up-in-the-air-ness in others. These are the most listened to and most memory/nostalgia-inducing albums of my 2010, in no particular order.

Passion Pit, Manners
This year’s record of absurdly catchy electropop hooks has cemented its place as great road-trip-to-the-Cabin and pump-things-up-after-dinner music. Stupid, stupid, stupid catchy. Also love backup vocals from PS 22.

The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
This one came out in 2010! I’m so hip and with it! This album doesn’t have the epic choruses that originally got me hooked on The Arcade Fire, but the more I listen to it, the more solid I realize it is.

The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
Hey, this album came out in 2010 too! I have a lot to say about this album. It began when I went to visit an old lovey in Seattle this summer for a long weekend. It was a trip full of transit, fun, and girl-power adventure, but the highlight was the record-release show for The Head and the Heart at Conor Byrne in Ballard. I was floored by the three-part vocal harmonies, catchy melodies, and all-around stellar songwriting. Lyrics like “My roots are grown, but I don’t know where they are” just speak. Since that night in Ballard, I have sung along to every song on this album at the top of my lungs at least a dozen times. I haven’t liked a band as much as I like this band in a long, long time.
This album is also associated with a really strong, independent, assertive time in my year. The Seattle trip and finding this band was something I did on my own, just for me; I needed that time, and I realized I needed it, and I took it, and I was better for me and everyone else after it. When I think about it, so much of my music collection is linked to one dude or another, whether he introduced me to them or we saw them live together or we made out while listening to them or whatever. (What can I say, over the past few years I have exclusively dated dudes with excellent taste in music. It’s not what you’re like, it’s what you like, right?) But this is one of the few bands I feel like I found on my own and recognized the value of on my own. They are a damn good find, and if these new songs are any indication, their sophomore album is going to be even better: “Been talking ’bout the way things change / my family lives in a different state / and if you don’t know what to make of it / then we will not relate.” Tell me.

Freelance Whales, Weathervanes
Steph introduced me to this album shortly after we moved into our new house. I will always associate it with our first experimentations with the KitchenAid. Pretty, catchy, cheesy at times, a bit of a guilty pleasure, oh-so-very indie.

The xx, Xx
The xx opened for Hot Chip when John and I saw them at the Fox this year. I love how simple the instrumentation and vocals are, and I love Romy’s sexy voice. Great example of less being more.

Geographer, Animal Shapes
This is a legitimate 2010 album! I had heard of Geographer but never really got hooked until I heard “Kites.” Then it turned out there were weird connections with them, like my friend from school being roommates with the singer/songwriter. It’s a small city. These songs all make me bop and invent harmony parts, signs of good stuff.

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
This is another 2010 (in the US) album! I listened to these guys almost exclusively during my last few months at 41 Octavia. Foot-stomping goodness.

Feist, The Reminder
I know I’m really behind the times on this one, but belting out “What made you think this boy could become / the man who would make you sure he was the oooooooooooooooone, my oooooooooooone?” got me through quite a few nights this year.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Up from Below
Tableau: The scene shop at West Valley College, safety goggles on, router in hand, crew from The Easily Distracted Theatre alongside, finishing the set for Foresight, Up from Below playing on the stereo. And the longer I’m away from my given home, and the more I wonder what “home” means, the more I realize it is wherever I’m with you. Hippies.

Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
I’m only good to listen to this in its entirety about once every two weeks, but it’s complex and ugly and pretty and bizarre. My favorite elements are the metallic-chains effect in “Age of Adz” that sounds like Sonic when you rev him up and, of course, the use of Auto-Tune in “Impossible Soul.”

BONUS: Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas
I only bought this box set this year, but I’ve been listening to it non-stop while baking and decorating and traveling and such. The arrangements of classic hymns inspire me for my own experiments in playing Jesus music, and some of the originals (“That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” and “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)”, in particular), are legitimately great songs, Christmas or not. Also “The Friendly Beasts” is my second favorite Christmas song ever (second to David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”), so bonus points for a great version of that.

Happy 2011!!

old beginnings

Starting your professional life from scratch when you change careers is hard. I expected that, and it’s been my experience thus far in learning how to do social work. But I didn’t realize just how hard it has been until I went back to my old job this week.

My former boss offered me a part-time gig at my former company, basically doing a little of my former job and training the new versions of me to do said job more efficiently. Being as I didn’t have anything else to do for the summer, I was starting to get a little stir crazy after a week or so where all I had to show for myself was going to the gym and watching TV every day, and I could use some extra cash, I decided to take him up on it.

I was fully back in the swing of things in about an hour — a startlingly short period of time. And man, it felt awesome to realize how good I am at doing this job. Sure, I did it for a number of years — I should be good at it. But after flailing through so much of the past nine months, coming up against such a steep learning curve, and feeling such a lack of confidence in my professional abilities, it was amazing to sit down at a desk, have a stack of pages thrown at me, and develop and implement a plan of attack for getting a book that had just started into proofreading off to the printer in 9 working days. Boom; done.

I’ll admit, it’s throwing me for a bit of a loop. I’m sure I’ll be annoyed soon enough (I haven’t forgotten the frustrations that made me want to leave this job and this profession), and it’s definitely different when it’s a part-time thing instead of my livelihood — but it’s been surprisingly nice (and even fun!) thus far. I’m not doubting my decision to change directions; I think it’s good to push myself, learn new things, and see what other options are out there. But it does make me wonder if I’ll ever feel about social work the way I feel about managing books. I hope so. And if not, I guess it’s good to know your strengths.

“god bless the man at the crossroads; god bless the woman who still can’t sleep; god bless the history that doesn’t repeat.” -david bazan

Frightened Rabbit, The Fillmore, 5.20.10

There have been a handful of concerts through the years that have really grabbed me, generally standing out in one of the following ways:

  • their sheer epic nature (e.g., Paul McCartney, Gund Arena, Cleveland, spring 2002)
  • their ability to take my conception of a band and turn it on its head (e.g., Death Cab for Cutie, Club Laga, Pittsburgh, fall 2004)
  • the intimacy of the setting (e.g., David Bazan, a living room in Berkeley, spring 2009; John Vanderslice, an empty apartment in San Francisco, summer 2009)
  • their emotional impact (e.g., Dolorean, The Quiet Storm, Pittsburgh, winter 2004; Frightened Rabbit, The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA, spring 2010)

The sometimes embarrassingly raw emotions expressed on Frightened Rabbit‘s The Midnight Organ Fight speak to me on a level that not much music can. It was in heavy rotation through a particularly tumultuous and emotional time in my life, and I feel that it characterizes all the varied emotions and reactions to a breakup in a way that is particularly authentic to my own experience. In my opinion, “Poke” is one of the most poignant and vivid breakup songs ever written, and “Backwards Walk” contains some of my favorite rhyming couplets of all time. The Winter of Mixed Drinks hasn’t grabbed be as much as just yet, but it’s solid and has gotten a lot of plays in the last months.

So, needless to say, I was excited to see the band at The Fillmore last night. The Fillmore has its critics, but I really enjoy seeing shows there. I buy into the whole epic-ness of the venue, thinking about everyone who performed there in the 60s and the legendary status it has in San Francisco music history. And even though it’s now all Live Nation-ed out, there’s still the basket of apples, the hippie guy saying, “Welcome to The Fillmore!” as you walk in, the photographs on the walls, and the free posters handed out after the show. It could be worse. The other thing is that for a lot of the bands I see at The Fillmore, it’s their first time playing a really epic venue, and they are stoked about it. When a band is that excited, it communicates to the crowd and, in my experience, makes the show fantastic. It’s really cool to be a part of that.

And even though I was excited about this show, Frightened Rabbit really exceeded my best expectations. The set wasn’t perfect by any means — there were moments of out-of-tune guitars and voices, the band didn’t sound as tight as I might have thought, and the instrumentation was much less varied than it is on the albums. But to me, that lent a sense of authenticity. Frontman Scott Hutchison was observably excited about playing The Fillmore, really gracious about being there, and the set had a certain energy I don’t experience very often at a show.

It’s also refreshing and comforting to see a band whose entire catalogue you know — the first few notes of every song give you that little, “Oh, yeah, this one!!” They played most of The Midnight Organ Fight and a lot of The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Spiced-up versions of “Backwards Walk,” “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” and “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” were definitely highlights. All five band members had mics, and the backup vocals were nice, even if they weren’t always spot on.

When Scott came out alone with an acoustic guitar for the encore, I knew he was going to play “Poke,” and I chuckled to myself at the predictability. He started into the song and I got goosebumps, and by the time he got to “We can change our partners, this is a progressive dance,” I was actively crying — mouth contorted into a grimace, tears streaming down cheeks. I felt like such a schmuck, standing there crying to a live acoustic version of “Poke.” Does it get any more hipster cliche?! But I couldn’t help it. After the song, Scott just stood still for a minute, and it felt like the whole room was holding its breath. Finally, he chuckled awkwardly, and said, “Wow. That was my favorite time playing that song, of all the times I’ve played it.” He chuckled again and said, “Thank you. I won’t forget this.” So it wasn’t just me — there was something in that room, there was some sort of emotional spiritual thing happening here with all these people and this music. Epic.

After that, the band came on and they played “Keep Yourself Warm,” which was surprisingly great in a different way. I would never have expected to be in a room of people all singing at the top of their lungs: “You won’t find love in a, won’t find love in a hole. It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.” But it happened, it was awesome, and after all, it’s true.

“i’m working on my faults and cracks, filling in the blanks and gaps. and when i write them out, they don’t make sense — i need you to pencil in the rest.” -frightened rabbit

nothin but a hound dog

My parents put our dog, Mickey, to sleep today.

We got him in 1993, when he was a little less than a year old. (Yes, that made him somewhere around 18 years old!) The local animal shelter, Angels for Animals, which was then just run out of someone’s farmhouse and barn, had found him on the streets of Leetonia, Ohio. They named him Mickey Mouth because he did a hilarious yelping bark when he was happy.

Mickey and Megan on Christmas Day, 2004

He liked to play in the snow, and he loved to chase balled-up wrapping paper around and shred it to pieces on Christmas morning. Sometimes, he would find a dead duck carcass in the backyard and he’d roll around in it, then come home sheepishly because he knew my mom would be mad at him. When he wanted you to pat him, he’d come over and stick his nose under your hand and throw it back so your hand would land on his head. He had been getting sicker over the last year, and my parents had been taking pretty amazing care of him — cooking him beef stew when he wouldn’t eat anything else, helping him up and down the stairs, and so on.

Mickey on Christmas Day, 2005

He was a good dog. And he had a good run.

growing away

I learned today about the death of a man who directly and indirectly made my undergraduate experience what it was. I heard the news via email from my former boyfriend and then from my former professor. When I turned to Facebook for more information, I was surprised to find an effective use of social media in the pretty wonderful memorial there, a gathering of reminisces and anecdotes and jokes and ways Doc touched so many people. The UHC really is a beautiful legacy that he leaves, and I’m so glad I was able to experience it.

The strangest part of hearing this news and thinking about Doc’s life is that there’s no one here in my San Francisco life to really commiserate with about it — no one who knows what I’m talking about. For all anyone knows, I’m making it up. And as soon as I started thinking about Doc and Pitt and the UHC, reading people’s stories and memories, my own memories flooded. Getting stuck in the Cathedral elevator. Nestea bottles that wouldn’t break. In over my head about the Russian Revolution. Reading Elliot lyrics on the roof of the 14th floor. Oven rack kleptomaniac. Roadie for a PittArts blues guitar lesson. What the Honors College needs is sluts; more sluts. Wine tasting drunkenness and Mexican dinner. For tonight, you are in my hair and in my eyes. Unfashionably late to dinner with esteemed English Department faculty. The pack of tards. Ah, ah, ah, are fa-jai-tas on the menu? I don’t want to explain these things; I want you to know.

I wanted to talk with someone who had been there, who knew the references, knew the backstory. It’s weird to have a whole chunk of your life feel so yours and yours alone, especially so formative a chunk. It’s probably the way a lot of people feel about college, but I think a lot of people keep in contact with more college friends than I do. I moved away, I broke ties, I lost touch with the people who shared these memories.

I’m not alone; I know that. I have amazing people in my life, and some of them have probably heard me reminisce enough to know at least a little of the context. But that feeling of being alone in your memories, alone in your past experiences — it’s is a strange one.

I’m glad for each memory and story, though, and I wouldn’t have had them without Doc. Thanks, Doc.

“You will remember the kisses, real or imagined; / You will remember the faces that were before you, and the words exchanged; / You will remember the minute crowded with meaning, the moment of pain, the aimless hour; / You will remember the cities, and the plains, and the mountains, and the sea, / . . . / These are the things that will return to you, / To mingle with the days and nights, with the sound of motors and the sun’s warmth, / With fatigue and desire, / As you work, and sleep, and talk, and laugh, and die.” -Kenneth Fearing

green plastic wreaths

I love Christmas traditions. My family doesn’t have a too many, but the ones we have mostly include food —¬†like beef soup and raspberry sherbet (and a debate about whether it’s sher-bet or sher-bert) on Christmas Eve, roasted lamb and kielbasy on Christmas Day, and lots of cookies throughout the season.

Some of my favorite cookies are Green Plastic Wreaths. There’s some family legend about how my aunt made them long ago and they were immaculate; we’ve been trying to get them to look like that¬†ever since.

They aren’t plastic, and calling them wreaths is a stretch, but they are, indeed, very green. And very delicious. And very similar to Rice Krispie Treats. And very fun and messy to make.

green plastic wreaths

40 large marshmallows
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 t green food coloring
1 t vanilla
4 c cornflakes
cinnamon candies

Melt margarine with marshmallows in saucepan.

Remove from heat.

Add vanilla and food coloring.

Mix into cornflakes.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Shape into holly leaves (aka, blobs) or wreaths (aka, blobs with holes in the center). Decorate with cinnamon candies.

Cool. Store in refrigerator.