July 2012 Archives
Look, I like driving as much as anyone who isn't actually paid to do it (except my father, who's in a whole different category altogether), but this is starting to get ridiculous.
For the last nine days, I have risen from sleep in one town and have, at some point during the day, driven to another town altogether. Sometimes I've come back, sometimes I've gone to bed in that new town, but frankly, I've just about reached my limit of consecutive driving days.
Let the record show the following:
Tuesday, July 17th:
roundtrip to Richmond to meet our friend Carrie for dinner at Cafe Rustica (superb!) and Mike Doughty's (very excellent) show at the Capital Ale House (approximately 150 miles, half driven by Kelly).Wednesday, July 18th:
roundtrip to Richmond to pick up Ian and bring him home so his Mom could hug him goodbye before his big trip (@ 150 miles).Thursday, July 19th:
roundtrip to Washington's National Airport to drop Ian off for his flight to Barbados, where he's taking a couple of courses in Caribbean history and/or lying on the beach getting sunburned (@ 200 miles, with unexpected detour to the Tidal Basin and Anacostia River).Friday, July 20th:
roundtrip to Alpha Kennels in Culpeper to drop off the dog (@30 miles), then to the house of Ruth Dalton, Kelly's mom, in Hope Mills, NC (@ 300 miles, roughly half driven by by Kelly during a nasty thunderstorm).Saturday, July 21st:
roundtrip to Pittsboro, NC, to meet my parents for dinner and show Ruth the antique decor at S&T Soda Shoppe (@ 125 miles, half driven by Kelly).Sunday, July 22nd:
roundtrip to Wade, NC, to see the new house of my brother-in-law Andy and his wife Kathy, as well as to compare footprints (@ 50 miles, half driven by Kelly).Monday, July 23rd:
home again, stopping in Richmond to pick up Dixon and his girlfriend Alex (@ 300 miles, roughly half driven by Kelly during a thunderstorm and blinding sunset that caused a near-miss with a mindless little dog on Highway 5).Tuesday, July 24th:
roundtrip to Alpha Kennels in Culpeper to pick up dog in the morning (@30 miles); roundtrip to Gold's Gym in Culpeper for exercise in the evening (@30 miles).
Wednesday, July 25th:
roundtrip to Regal Cinemas 4 in Culpeper to see The Dark Knight Rises
(@ 30 miles).Thursday, July 26th:
roundtrip to Richmond to drop Dixon and Alex off (@150 miles).
I've had a wonderful time, visiting friends and family, eating well, and seeing some new and interesting things, but I cannot ignore the numbers: I have traveled an average of just over 150 miles per day for the last ten days--and have personally driven more than100 miles per day over the same spread.
All of which is the short way of saying that the next time I take the car out of my driveway, I want it to look like this: 4:08 PM
A couple of years ago, when he was a student at Woodberry, Dixon made us a mix CD of a band he'd been exposed to by his friend Dennis. The band was called Cloud Cult
, and the disc intrigued me in a number of ways. The band didn't have any single sound, mixing instruments and styles with seeming abandon--the pulsing, threatening waltz of "Car Crash," the gentle acoustic nostalgia of "Transistor Radio," the thrashing disco-punk of "Please Remain Calm," the goofy electronica of "It's Gay"--but their melodic sense was enormously appealing, and they ducked into all kinds of interesting lyrical places. I learned a little more about them: that they were an indie-rock collective from Minnesota, that they were led by guitarist/singer/songwriter Craig Minowa; that the band featured two painters, one of them Minowa's wife Connie, who painted during each live performance and auctioned off the paintings at the end; and that in 2002, the Minowas' two-year-old son Kaidin had died unexpectedly.
It was this last piece of information that suddenly clarified certain elements in the bands' songs for me. The most obvious was that now I suddenly understood "Your 8th Birthday":
You make traffic jams feel like parades
You bury the dead with the faith that makes lightning bugs swarm like it was graduation
Who could change your silly life into a screaming supernova?
You do, you do, you do, you do, you do...
Who could change my sleepy brain into the eye of a hurricane?
There's so much there that's sad and beautiful: the mixture of the present and past tenses, the images of storm and celebration, the wailing of Kaidin's name... I mean, I don't know that I'd be able to handle the loss of my son with a coherent sentence, let alone a song this rich and honest. It definitely gave me a new respect for Minowa's writing, not to mention more than a little sympathy. As my mother-in-law (a very wise woman) put it to Kelly and me many years ago, "Once you become a parent, every child is your
It wasn't long before I finally decided I had to own a complete Cloud Cult album, and I ordered The Meaning of 8
from Amazon, largely because several of my favorite songs from Dixon's mix were on it--"Take Your Medicine" and "Please Remain Calm" among them--and I started playing it regularly. Suddenly I became aware of songs I'd never heard before, like "Chain Reaction" and "Dance of the Dead," but I also began hearing some of the songs from the mix with new ears. And the more I listened, the more aware I became that the pain underlying them wasn't really the whole point.
Yes, if you know the backstory, the calls of "Put your face on mine" in "Chain Reaction" carry a depth of feeling you might not otherwise detect. But listen to the swell of the cello and violin swirling and plucking around them and those lyrics seem intended not just to bemoan what's lost, but to appreciate what was there to begin with. If you can't escape the references to death on this album, you can't help but recognize how much there is that's celebrating life--the plaintive oboe here, the glorious crunch of guitar there--and above all, the sound of Minowa's voice: wavery, sometimes close to breaking, sometimes pure and clear.
If there's one song that wraps up everything I love about this album, it's "Chemicals Collide," which you can enjoy in this video
Oh God, it's beautiful, insatiable,
The way our chemicals collide.
And oh God, it's unforgettable, unpredictable,
The way our chemicals collide.
There's a perfection to the mix of acoustic and electric, mournful cello and triumphant guitar, words and music. Any father who has looked at his child has felt this emotion--the shock and awe of seeing what a tiny bit of you has been transformed into, through processes you can barely understand, by mixing it with another. It's amazing enough when it happens once. When it happens again, and those bits of DNA combine to produce still another
person, completely unlike the first one, there's really not much you can do but stand back and say I could never expect this, but yes, God, it's beautiful.
I'm very happy to hear that Craig and Connie Minowa have since delivered a new child, and though they'll never replace Kaidin, I hope they can take some comfort in knowing that the emotional journey they underwent has given their listeners a richer understanding of the ideas they explored. And I damn sure expect them to be great parents.
And as I watch myself responding to this music, I note a few things: I'm here in the middle of summer, a season which has been spent largely without my own kids around. They've mostly been in Richmond, working and salting away cash for next year. Ian is getting ready to leave the country altogether, heading down to Barbados for a month of courses on the history of the island and its slave trade. Dixon is finishing up his first-ever paid acting job with the VCU orientation committee, sleeping in his brother's apartment for a few more days until he can move into his own. They're not really out of our house yet--their stuff is certainly still strewn all over it--but they're not here, either, and that's a bit frightening. It's been easy to take their presence for granted, and I haven't always been the most alert or appreciative father when they've been around. Today, when they're not here, I think of them and appreciate them keenly.
I'm not where Craig Minowa has been, thank god, but as we prepare to let the boys go into their adult lives, I can't help thinking he's been writing songs for me, too. For that, and for all our children, I'm thankful. 1:59 PM
Five summers ago, we were in San Francisco.
Twenty-six years ago today, we were in Fayetteville getting married.
Best traveling companion I could ever have.
Hey, remember back in November when I wrote that piece on Catch-22
for old Readerville pal David Abrams? I mentioned that his darkly comic novel about the Iraq War, Fobbit
, was coming out soon, and guess what? It's coming out even sooner! September 4th is the release date, and you can pre-order your own copy at Amazon through the link above.
Not only that, but if you're interested in winning a free
copy of Fobbit
before its official release date, not to mention a variety of Fobbit
-related goodies, all you have to do is visit David's blog, The Quivering Pen
, and check out this post right here
Be aware, however, that you will be in direct competition with me. I have every intention of buying a copy, but dammit, I want swag! (Especially when the swag in question is "Fobbity.")
In the meantime, enjoy a few choice bits of commentary on the book from various reviewers:
"[T]he arrival of a massive talent." -- Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng
"[A]n instant classic." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"[A] slice of awesome." -- Library Journal 9:06 AM
In celebration of our nation's independence, I cut a whole organic chicken into ten pieces, left them in the fridge overnight in a dry-rub marinade of kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne, onion powder, paprika, and garlic powder, dredged each piece first in a buttermilk-and-egg mixture and then in a dry coating (flour, cornstarch, kosher salt, black pepper, and just a bit of lemon pepper), and then DEEP FRIED those suckers in peanut oil.
The roasted beets w/olive oil and rosemary and the cucumber/beet salad in vinegar were pleasant additions, but I am definitely grooving on my fried bird. 7:38 PM