Category Archives: Music

Too Dreamy: Cigarettes After Sex

Jacob Tomsky has been a hero to me ever since he released ‘Heads in Beds’ – a behind-the-scenes run-down of the hotel hospitality industry that was more gripping than it had any right to be (unless you’re obsessed with hotels the way I am). His wit and roughly-hewn good looks landed him a semi-tongue-in-cheek Hunk of the Day honor, which I’m guessing he was mortified but part-secretly thrilled with – at least, I hope. Since that time I’ve been equally-enthralled by his take-and-give-no-fucks Twitter feed. Most recently, he’s been a slightly-reluctant rock star, playing the drums for the exquisitely moody Cigarettes After Sex. They’re going to be touring the US in the coming months, including stops in Brooklyn and Boston, so I may have to make the pilgrimage to one or both of those shows. The tour kicks off in Texas, just like Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour did, so they’re following in some magical footsteps. Don’t expect cone-bras or mimed-masturbation, but a fan-boy can wish…

It’s been a long time since I’ve been inspired by a group, or any music for that matter. I thought it was age, or the general state of radio, then I thought I was heading into the ennui of a mid-life crisis, but now I’m feeling a new spark : the seductive pull of something that resonates and propels me to explore again. It’s moody and evocative – what one might expect the cigarette-smoke tendrils of Dorothy Parker to sound like if they could make music. It casts an entrancing spell, slightly reminiscent of the very best work of Angelo Badalamenti. The dreamy soundscape conjured is cinematic in texture, and devastating in lyrical liberty.

Their eponymous album opened with ‘K’, setting up a promising beginning that the tense music teased was not going to always going to be easy. “I remember when I first noticed that you liked me back/ We were sitting down in a restaurant waiting for the check/ We had made love earlier that day with no strings attached/ But I could tell that something had changed how you looked at me then.”

In ‘Affection’, the double-edged conundrum of being the object of such or the person who’s fixated finds bittersweet imbalance: 

I know that you say I get mean when I’m drinking,
But then again sometimes I get really sweet
So what does it mean if I tell you to go fuck yourself
Or if I say that you’re beautiful to me
It’s affection always,
You’re gonna see it someday
My attention for you
Even if it’s not what you need

By the time that album concludes with ‘Young & Dumb’, the battlefield of love has been littered with carnage, the bitter sting of betrayal hanging in the air like so much gray smoke. But the soul of the music remains calm, it’s dreamlike-trance holding the listener rapt, soothing the raging heart. 

It’s good fucking stuff. 

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The Unexpected Valentine

Wednesdays are usually dark here, but for Valentine’s Day I’m putting up an extra post just for you. That’s just the kind of romantic I am. On this particular Hallmark Holiday, I’m posting a song that features a kiss and a fool – two topics of which I’ve had relatively extensive experience. Interlaced among the lyrics are links to former Valentine’s Day posts, for better or worse. Happy Heart’s Day!!

You are far
When I could have been your star
You listened to people
Who scared you to death, and from my heart
Strange that you were strong enough
To even make a start
But you’ll never find
Peace of mind,
Til you listen to your heart

The night was frigid. An Ithaca winter is no joke. It’s why people jump off bridges and other crazy shit. I was visiting Suzie and the good company of 121 A College Avenue, staying on the ratty couch that even Chris found disgusting. I didn’t mind it. In fact, I loved it. Being around old friends, and making new ones, made that time in my life a thrill, no matter the less-than-luxurious surroundings. We didn’t care about such small matters then. In some ways, I wish I still didn’t. (As one ages, creature comforts become necessary.)

It was Valentine’s Day and we were all going to a fancy dinner at Davio’s. In my mind, this jazzy George Michael tune played, a sultry bit of longing and desire, a semi-sad tale of unrequited love that at the time was the only kind of love I knew. I wore an enormous fake fur coat in gray and black, a pair of red satin pants, and a multi-colored sequin vest. My hair, recently buzzed, was the only understated part of the proceedings. On my chest, a large gold heart hung from a golden chain. Without a boyfriend, or even the prospect of one on the horizon, I was surprisingly (for me) not despondent about this supposed day of love. In fact, I was in good spirits. I’d just made everyone watch Madonna’s Oscar-night performance of ‘Sooner or Later’ to put people in the Valentine mood. When you’re in your twenties, sometimes a night out with friends is better than any night in with a boyfriend. 

People
You can never change the way they feel
Better let them do just what they will
For they will
If you let them
Steal your heart from you
People
Will always make a lover feel a fool
But you knew I loved you
We could have shown them all
We should have seen love through…

We piled into someone’s car and made the quick trip to the restaurant. The brief walk on the sidewalk was painful, so cold was the air, so biting was the wind. But we huddled together, and together we entered the cozy warm space. There were eight of us, and we had a reserved table against the wall. Intimate and tight, we were warm and safe, and even though we couldn’t muster a date between the lot of us, it didn’t matter much. Someone had given me a red rose somewhere along the way, and I felt its velvety petals in my hand. 

Fooled me with the tears in your eyes
Covered me with kisses and lies
So goodbye
But please don’t take my heart
You are far
I’m never gonna be your star
I’ll pick up the pieces
And mend my heart
Maybe I’ll be strong enough
I don’t know where to start
But I’ll never find
Peace of mind
While I listen to my heart

Our server came along to offer an introduction and a wine list. He smiled sweetly at me, maybe a little longer than was necessary, or maybe that was just my heart imagining how I’d like things to be. I suddenly felt ridiculous in my sequin vest and red satin shirt, but just as soon as the feeling came over me it passed and I gave in to the ridiculousness of the night. And the ridiculousness of love. 

People
You can never change the way they feel
Better let them do just what they will,
For they will
If you let them
Steal your heart
And people
Will always make a lover feel a fool
But you knew I loved you
We could have shown them all

We made some flirtatious banter. Exchanged a few more smiles. He was older. No one seemed to notice. And whether he was doing it for a few more bucks in his tip, or the holiday at hand, or simple human decency, it was sweet, and sweetness aways spoke to me. On this night, however, surrounded by friends in what might as well have been the coldest city on earth, I felt warm and loved, and the quite-possibly-entirely-imagined adoration of a server held no sway or power over my typically-foolish heart. 

But remember this
Every other kiss
That you ever give
Long as we both live
When you need the hand of another man
One you really can surrender with
I will wait for you
Like I always do
There’s something there
That can’t compare with any other

As we were leaving, I paused at the door. Looking over my shoulder for one more smile or one more signal, I waited just a bit before the wind pulled me out for good. I laughed a little to myself at the nonsense of love, and this silly holiday of hearts and flowers and pink and red. Before getting into the car, I made everyone pose for a photo. This was all the love I needed. 

You are far
When I could have been your star
You listened to people
Who scared you to death, and from my heart
Strange that I was wrong enough
To think you’d love me too
I guess you were kissing a fool
You must have been kissing a fool.
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A Trouser-Snake Serving of Beast Meat

Whatcha gonna do with all that meat?” Justin Timberlake asks in gloriously-cheesy fashion on his new single ‘Filthy’ – preamble to his new ‘Man of the Woods’ album. Imagery and promos for the album indicate it’s an “earthy” product, inspired by his family and his origin in Tennessee, but lead single is sonically of-the-moment, even as it harkens to his vastly-superior ‘SexyBack‘. I happen to like this new one – it’s not too serious, it’s funky and poppy enough to get some air time, and the video is directed by Mark Romanek, who also did Madonna’s ‘Bedtime Story‘ and ‘Rain‘ videos. Fine pedigrees all around. 

Whatcha gonna do with all that beast?

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A New Anthem

I’m not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious…

Some song memories have yet to be made, and yet to be written. This is one of those songs that, someday, may mean something important and special to someone. For now, it’s on the cusp of meaning something, much like we are at the cusp of something greater on this website.

Things are brewing.

Ingredients are coming together.

The slight semblance of a recipe is appearing on the horizon.

A plan develops.

A plot appears.

A map rises from the dusty parchment.

I have another project that must be done.

This is the most exciting part.

This is the time before the beginning.

This is…

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Hunk of the Day: Casey Spooner

Sometimes all it takes to be named a Hunk of the Day is a decent head of hair. That alone would have won Casey Spooner this coveted honor, but Mr. Spooner backs it up with oh so much more, beginning with that banging body. (His nipples alone deserve an Instagram profile. That hair deserves another.) Beyond the superficial is the talent and uncanny ability to capture the zeitgeist before it even arrives, giving this Hunk of the Day extra pizzazz. His contributions to Fisherspooner have ensured that band a place in the history of electroclash glory. (Watch for their newest release ‘Sir’ very soon, and check out a sneak peek of the first video ‘Have Fun Tonight’ below.) 

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Hunk of the Day: Maluma

Born Juan Luis Londoño Arias, he took the stage name of Maluma and made it into a Colombian sensation. As our Hunk of the Day, Maluma earns another accolade for his ever-expanding resume of accomplishments. He’s already been nominated for several Billboard Music Awards thanks to his burgeoning singing career. (Besides, anyone who goes on a ‘Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy Tour’ automatically wins points for sheer ballsy hubris, and we love him all the more for it.) 

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A Little Bit of Magic Remains…

At the airport, that low country scent hung thickly in the air. I wasn’t quite ready to return to the cold clarity of the Northeast, but we aren’t always given a choice in these matters. In my head, a Mercer song played me out of Savannah:

Skylark
Have you anything to say to me?
Won’t you tell me where my love can be?
Is there a meadow in the mist
Where someone’s waiting to be kissed?
Oh skylark
Have you seen a valley green with spring?
Where my heart can go a journeying
Over the shadows and the rain
To a blossom covered lane
And in your lonely flight
Haven’t you heard the music in the night?
Wonderful music
Faint as a will o’ the wisp
Crazy as a loon
Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon
Oh skylark
I don’t know if you can find these things
But my heart is riding on your wings
So if you see them anywhere
Won’t you lead me there
Oh skylark
Won’t you lead me there?

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Turkey Time

It’s Turkey Lurkey time! And this is the only day this campy clip truly works. I dare you not to dance at the end of it. {Jingle bells! Jingle bells!!}

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Stars On Our Shoulders

This one goes out to the unremarkable and the extraordinary. To me and you. 

To the people who go to work without complaint, who force a smile when all they wanted to do was stay in bed. 

To the girl who cries when the lights are out.

To the boy who cries when the lights are on. 

To my friend Ann, who loved Bon Jovi more than anything once upon a time.

To my first girlfriend and my last boyfriend

To the dreamers and the ones who dare.

To the meek and the mighty

To the ones who can’t but try anyway. 

To the guy who mugged me for my International Male coat. 

To the guy who punched the guy who mugged me. 

To the old man who made me dragon hair candy at the top of a Hong Kong tram

To all the guys I’ve loved before.

To the night I stood on the ledge of a building at Brandeis and wondered if seven stories was enough. 

To those who wake up every morning, re-wrap their wounds and go on with their day. 

To the boy who has the courage to wear his saddle shoes every day

To my eleventh-grade English teacher.

To the day after a party, that glorious mess, that sleepy muddled way of making breakfast for the friends that stayed over. 

To the summer when all my brother and I did was swim and pick flowers for Mom

To the times when my Dad tells me he loves me. 

To the night I looked into my husband’s eyes and saw the future. 

To the birthday when I got to visit a beaver

To all of us who get on the roller coaster, throw our arms in the air, open our eyes and scream for glee and glory.

I see you thinking twice
Wish I could read your mind
Move up or out of line
Too late for praying
I know we might lose our breath
We might be scared to death
This chance is like a step
Just got to take it

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
Time flies by, don’t close your eyes
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain’t a merry go round

It’s a roller coaster… It’s a roller coaster

Can’t lie and won’t pretend
I know what’s round the bend
Too late to start again
Won’t take it slower
Let’s slip right off these tracks
We’ll fly or we might crash
Don’t look down, don’t look back
Cause it ain’t over

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
Time flies by, don’t close your eyes
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain’t a merry go round

It’s a roller coaster… It’s a roller coaster.

 

 

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November Exile By Enya

This is always the chilliest month. True, January and February bring the coldest temperatures and the roughest weather, but by then we’ve had enough time to acclimate ourselves to the freeze. This year especially, the first few days of cold weather will be a shock to the system. We’ve gone soft with the spectacular October we’ve had.

That velvet curtain seems to have come to a swift close, and like some cosmic thermostat, the temperature seems to have been put back to right. It may be appropriate and typical, but that doesn’t ease the jolt that these first few truly fall days has given.

The wet leaves on a sidewalk remind me of walking back to my dorm at Brandeis after dinner. I may have eaten with a friend or two, but somehow I’d end up stopping at the library, or they would head in another direction, and I’d make the last part of the walk by myself. The sun had long since fallen, and the false lights along the way were no match for the darkness. A stand of trees surrounding my dorm rendered the street lamps mostly powerless anyway.

On the darker days, when the world beat me down, when I flailed in desperate attempts to understand the physics involved in mapping out an astronomy project, I’d return to a black and empty dorm room. That first year I lucked out: my roommate had quickly found a girlfriend and spent much of his time with her, so it was basically like living in a single. I cherished the solitude. Still, as I looked out the third floor window of my room, at the pine tree fanning its needles in the faint glow of moonlight, I wondered how long it might be before solitude turned to loneliness. On those evenings, I’d let Enya play in the background while I tucked into bed, waiting for the light of day to make things better.

 

I’LL WAIT THE SIGNS TO COME.

I’LL FIND A WAY

I WILL WAIT THE TIME TO COME.

I’LL FIND A WAY HOME.

MY LIGHT SHALL BE THE MOON AND MY PATH, THE OCEAN.

MY GUIDE THE MORNING STAR AS I SAIL HOME TO YOU.

November always starts in the same desolate fashion.

Yet there is hope. The earliest snowfalls lend magic to the gray forest.

The cold days give way to cozy nights by candlelight and fire.

A promise of holiday enchantment; a winter wonderland waiting to rise.

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Gourd Have Mercy

‘Tis the season for pumpkins and squash and dried hay and cornstalks as seen in this timely corner of the Anchorage in Ogunquit, Maine. It’s that time of the year when we begin the roasting journey in the kitchen, with winter vegetables and squash, savoring the autumnal flavors and hues. The aromas of sage and rosemary, cinnamon and nutmeg, conspire with the gray smoke trails of extinguished candles and other cozy accoutrements.

Halloween is one day away, and I’m put in the mood by a spell of seasonal songs. Once upon a time my friend Joe and I created some spooky-themed music and lyrics, and next year I’m hoping to return to the process. Until then, a look at what we we’ve already done.

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Just the Saddest Party Song In The World

It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can sing what we want

It struck me as our train was speeding toward its over-an-hour-late arrival in Albany-Rensselaer at one o’clock in the morning. Suzie was asleep next to me and we had just enjoyed a marvelous day-trip to New York. Most of me was exhausted and supremely spent after departing before the break of day and arriving well after the fall of night. But a small part was not quite ready to stop, a part that didn’t want the carefree Sunday to end. A reminder that once upon a time the one AM hour was just when things started to get good.

Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
‘Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now
If you’re not ready to go home
Can I get a “Hell, no!”? (hell, no)
‘Cause we’re gonna go all night
‘Til we see the sunlight, alright

And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?
Can’t you see it’s we who ’bout that life?
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
Don’t take nothing from nobody
Yeah, yeah

At 42 years of age, I mostly find that those days have passed. A week later and I’m still trying to recover the sleep that was lost. The body doesn’t bounce back as quickly as it once did, the energy no longer replenishes itself instantly, and getting a second wind is a thing of miracles and dreams. When Miley Cyrus sings this strangely melancholy song of non-stop partying, it means something different to me. Hidden among the distorted vocals and modern machinations is a gorgeously sad melody that celebrates and bemoans not wanting the party to end. Defiant all the way into the first light of morning, we keep our hands up in the air, reaching for something that will always remain elusive, grasping for the final feather in the cap of a perfect day. We never seem to realize that by the time we are trying to capture the moment, it has already gone. Sometimes it’s enough to remember, sometimes it’s not.

To my home girls here with the big butt
Shaking it like we at a strip club
Remember only God can judge ya
Forget the haters ’cause somebody loves ya
And everyone in line in the bathroom
Trying to get a line in the bathroom
We all so turnt up here
Getting turned up, yeah, yeah, yeahhh

And so we draw back from getting too serious, as if by keeping things silly and superficial we can tame the ticking of time, roll back the encroaching years, stop the loss and hurt that age and growing older inevitably bring. In ‘The Great Gatsby’, Daisy Buchanan staves off her sorrow by inhabiting a flimsy atmosphere of sheer, ephemeral glamour, lost in her soft cadence of whimsical words. I wonder if that’s the best way to deal with the world. Turn a blind eye. Escape in the fantasy of beauty and riches. Throw off heartache with the turn of a bracelet. Maybe Daisy was onto something. Maybe she knew things that we don’t.

It’s our party we can do what we want to
It’s our house we can love who we want to
It’s our song we can sing if we want to
It’s my mouth I can say what I want to
Say yeah, yeah, yeah, ehh

And we can’t stop, yeah
And we won’t stop, oh
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?
Can’t you see it’s we who ’bout that life?

And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
Don’t take nothing from nobody
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, ehh

Our train trundles onward, speeding us toward the final destination, trying to make up for lost time, whether we want off or not. In the still, dim compartment, young people parade by, former versions of ourselves. They’re just beginning, and in their wide-awake smiles and cheery countenance in the face of a very late train, I can see they have yet to be beaten down by life. It warms the heart. They don’t want to stop just yet either, and they have the energy and expanse of a long future to sustain them.

I just want to reach the soft comfort of my bed, and the moment after a long hot shower when I can sink under the covers and inhabit the only place I want to be at one AM these days.

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It’s All Coming Back: The Story of a Robe

THERE WERE NIGHTS WHEN THE WIND WAS SO COLD…
THAT MY BODY FROZE IN BED IF I JUST LISTENED TO IT RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOW 
THERE WERE DAYS WHEN THE SUN WAS SO CRUEL 
THAT ALL THE TEARS TURNED TO DUST 
AND I JUST KNEW MY EYES WERE DRYING UP FOREVER
I FINISHED CRYING IN THE INSTANT THAT YOU LEFT 
AND I CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE OR WHEN OR HOW 
AND I BANISHED EVERY MEMORY YOU AND I HAD EVER MADE…

It’s not all that outlandish for a robe to inspire me to like a song. There was a time when I’d do very bad things for the perfect robe. And finding the perfect robe would take many attempts (read: many purchases). It had to be just right – the exact degree of flamboyance, the measured amount of elegance, the slightest hint of decadence. If the robe was right, the rest of my life would fall into place.

It’s not merely the robe – it’s all the connotations that it invokes.

Comfort. Coziness. Safety. Glamour. Luxury. Contentment. Quiet.

The Golden Girls gathered around a cheesecake at the kitchen table.

Norma Desmond descending her staircase in a gorgeously-mad scene of devastated ruin.

Jennifer Tilly’s grating high-pitched squeals in a feathery pink extravaganza, telling of her thrilling, show-stopping numbers in a musical called ‘Leave A Specimen’.

And one of my favorites – the silk robe that Celine Dion wears in her 1996 video for ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’.

THERE WERE THOSE EMPTY THREATS AND HOLLOW LIES
AND WHENEVER YOU TRIED TO HURT ME
I JUST HURT YOU EVEN WORSE AND SO MUCH DEEPER
THERE WERE HOURS THAT JUST WENT ON FOR DAYS
WHEN ALONE AT LAST WE’D COUNT UP ALL THE CHANCES
THAT WERE LOST TO US FOREVER
BUT YOU WERE HISTORY WITH THE SLAMMING OF THE DOOR
AND I MADE MYSELF SO STRONG AGAIN SOMEHOW
AND I NEVER WASTED ANY OF MY TIME ON YOU SINCE THEN

A confession: I was never a big Dion fan. She annoyed the fuck out of me with her Adult Contemporary bullshit. (I still find ‘Because You Loved Me’ to be one of the most joyless exercises in listening that the hearing world has been cursed to endure, and don’t even get me started on ‘The Power of Love’, whose bombast simply wouldn’t stop.) But in the years since I’ve softened on such stuff, and Dion’s so kooky and good-humored about everything (her own over-the-top zaniness included) that I came around. And the robe she wears in this video went a long way toward changing my stance.

WHEN YOU TOUCH ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN YOU HOLD ME LIKE THAT
IT WAS GONE WITH THE WIND
BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME
WHEN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN I SEE YOU LIKE THAT
THEN WE SEE WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
THE FLESH AND THE FANTASIES
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
I CAN BARELY RECALL
BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW

Drama. Intrigue. Devastation. Loss. And that’s all before she starts singing. In the aftermath, she haunts the house where her presumed love once lived, her only companion a robe that billows behind her in desolate beauty. At the time this song was released, I was about to fall in love again – a typical fall practice for me in those days. Everything was imbued with the import and passion of a person in their early twenties. I lived in a fantasy world; it was the only way I knew of to survive.

‘Evita’ was about to come out, and though my heart was pining away for the uninterested, I tried to focus on the Madonna movie, and on the drama of this video. The fantasy of a robe was an easy-to-accomplish escape. Like a heroine who lost her love in a tragic motorcycle crash, doomed to roam the hallways of a windy mansion, I walked from room to room (literally, as there were but two main rooms in the Boston condo) and felt the various fabrics fall and swirl about me.

By that point I had amassed a decent collection in various styles – silk and velvet, beaded and embellished, trimmed with feathers and fringe, tied with tassels and trinkets. They were a comfort, a balm on a troubled and restless heart. Just because I was alone didn’t mean I couldn’t do so in fabulous form. There is an exquisiteness to misery when it’s dressed just so. As the great Diana Vreeland once remarked, “Elegance is refusal.” Refusing to feel was a discipline I learned while draped in the softest silk, idly running my fingers across a faint damask pattern, absent-mindedly dragging a pool of velvet and feathers in my wake. If there was a martini within reaching distance, so much the better. Retreating into a frivolous fantasy was my way of finding warmth on cold October nights. Wrapped in a robe, I indulged in make-believe, and if you think you are fabulous for long enough, sometimes it comes true.

IF YOU FORGIVE ME ALL THIS
IF I FORGIVE YOU ALL THAT
WE FORGIVE AND FORGET
AND IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME
WHEN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS
AND WHEN I SEE YOU LIKE THAT
WE SEE JUST WHAT WE WANT TO SEE
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
THE FLESH AND THE FANTASIES
ALL COMING BACK TO ME
I CAN BARELY RECALL BUT IT’S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW

That fall I floated along the amber-hued floorboards of our Boston condo, robes fluttering behind me in dramatic recreation of this video. Life is more fun when you have to pretend, when the worry and want is for the sake of drama over any real emotional taxation and desire. Pretending was a form of protection – perhaps the ultimate for of protection – and the best way I knew to pretend was to put on a pretty robe, a steely mask, and the nonchalant attitude of aloofness that repelled all sorts of messy feelings.

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Hunk of the Day: Troye Sivan

As a semi-wise woman once said, I believe the children are our future. Troye Sivan may not be a child anymore, as he graduates into adulthood with this Hunk of the Day crowning, but he is most definitely the future. Not only as an openly-gay musician and actor, but as the new wave of a world where one’s sexuality no longer defines or pigeonholes them. It’s a world of possibility and hope, and no matter how much haters may want us to go back, we never will. Witness the matter-of-fact way in which he incorporates gay characters and storylines into his videos. Thanks to Mr. Sivan for leading the charge, and for making such great music. See his latest ‘There For You’ video below and then head to his website for more magic

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Memories of the Rose

SOME SAY LOVE, IT IS A RIVER THAT DROWNS THE TENDER REED

SOME SAY LOVE, IT IS A RAZOR THAT LEADS YOUR HEART TO BLEED

SOME SAY LOVE, IT IS A HUNGER, AN ENDLESS ACHING NEED

I SAY LOVE, IT IS A FLOWER AND YOU ITS ONLY SEED.

It was one of the first songs I learned on the piano, and to this day I can still play the opening chords and melody. A hit for Bette Midler before I was old enough to walk, ‘The Rose’ is one of those classics that has endured thanks to its timeless lyrics and beautiful balladry. For me, it conjures memories of my grandmother.

Whenever she’d visit, she would request that I play it for her, and she’d sit and listen in rapt fashion as only a grandmother could. Occasionally, as was her disturbing way, she’d mention that she would like me to play it at her funeral. A macabre and rather unsettling notion for a kid to contemplate, and when she did pass away, years later, I was in no condition to play ‘The Rose’ on the piano even if I wanted to. Still, there was something beautiful to what we shared as she bravely challenged her mortality and I vainly sought to put the idea from my head.

In many ways, my grandmother was a timid woman. Afraid of the world and often afraid of people, especially those she didn’t know, she taught me caution and quiet. She relied on and deferred to my grandfather while he was alive. He died before I was born, so I never saw her interaction with him, and by the time I was old enough to notice such things, she was more of a widow than anyone I’ve met since. I knew that she’d gone to work in a factory during the war, and I knew that such an act wasn’t for the meek or quiet, so I assumed she kept her strength and power hidden away. Of course she never had to show it to us children: as grandmother she doted on and adored us no matter how we might misbehave or push our bedtime back.

IT’S THE HEART AFRAID OF BREAKING THAT NEVER LEARNS TO DANCE

IT’S THE DREAM AFRAID OF WAKING THAT NEVER TAKES THE CHANCE

IT’S THE ONE WHO WON’T BE TAKEN WHO CANNOT LEARN TO GIVE

AND THE SOUL AFRAID OF DYING THAT NEVER LEARNS TO LIVE.

For all her apparent meekness, she still held a certain sparkle and pizzazz, particularly when in comparison to the staid and strict way my parents behaved and expected us to behave. My grandmother was the one who taught me how to make a fashion statement, whether in a string of crystal rosary beads, or a glittering clip-on costume earring. She would wear sequins on her scarf, and carry handbags dripping with beaded tassels. Conservative in almost every other aspect, particularly in the leather-bound chignon that kept her hair ever-pulled away from her face, she showed her spark with her jewelry. I learned the power of a statement piece, and when we got to visit her home in Hoosick Falls I had hours of fun in her jewelry boxes. In that way, my grandmother lived in my imagination.

She would tell my brother and I stories of Greta Garbo, and how she was the greatest star in the world and then simply disappeared. The mystique she described lent her an air of mystery and magic too, and we begged her to trot out those Garbo stories at every bedtime. Try as I might, however, I could never place my grandmother among the youth from a former era. I desperately wanted to picture her laughing and sipping at her favored glass of beer (“with a good head on it” as she used to say), but I couldn’t reconcile the kind elderly woman who tucked us in with someone who would kick her heels up on a table and smile for the camera. Yet I know it happened. I’ve seen the picture.

WHEN THE NIGHT HAS BEEN TOO LONELY AND THE ROAD HAS BEEN TOO LONG

AND YOU THINK THAT LOVE IS ONLY FOR THE LUCKY AND THE STRONG

JUST REMEMBER IN THE WINTER FAR BENEATH THE BITTER SNOW

LIES THE SEED THAT WITH THE SUN’S LOVE IN THE SPRING BECOMES THE ROSE.

As she grew older and more feeble, as she lost her senses and her memory, she receded into the childlike innocence of old age. Shrinking into a tiny woman, she moved further and further from those youthful days of boundless energy and bold, shiny bracelets. The hesitancy and shyness that marked the bulk of her adulthood dissipated, and in rare instances she would get a glint in her eye of remembrance and fire. I wondered if she wished she had let loose more, or if she realized she had lived just enough. Whenever I have a moment of doubt before a moment of indulgence, I often think of my grandmother. She would have thrilled at this necklace, she would have run her hands appreciatingly over this scarf, she would have approved of these fancy shoes. She would have gotten dolled up and turned it out, just for a trip to church. She would have put on the pizzazz and sparkled, just for a moment, and she would have smiled like a beneficent queen. I learned that from her too.

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