Speaking lately in Last Nights.

(Note from B: The frinternet is down again, which means I haven’t been able to post this, let alone perfect it. I’ve got all kinds of blog ideas that are just piling up without any outlet. This could damage me, if left untreated. Sorry for the infrequent posts. This one I wrote on Sunday.)

Last night The Art Table played at a wedding. Well, more accurately, Holly and the Non-Italians played at a wedding and I sat in for a few of the requested classics. Holly and I also kicked off the set by singing that Moldy Peaches song Anyone Else But You that they sing at the end of Juno (which the bride and groom had danced to five years before Juno ever came out, so it was their song first!) We also sang Mable, which was really the reason why I drove up to Green Bay this weekend, and once we realized there was only one vocal mic I ended up signing with Holly on hers while someone else played my drum part… so we all got to hear what Mable would sound like with a real drummer! (For those of you who missed it–it sounds pretty awesome.)

The wedding was held at the National Railroad Museum, which looks really neat inside with all of the party lighting and the train cars and such, and while Holly and the Non-Italians were setting up I sat on the front steps of an engine car and took the scene in. There was so much energy in that canyon of a room, with the wedding party dancing and Holly testing the distortion from her pedals and some little boy wearing a Mardi Gras mask beating away on the drums like he was the happiest kid alive. I glanced up and saw the Wisconsin flag hanging from the rafters, and the train cars lined up in a row, serving industriously as the backdrop of all of this. Life was pulsating. The noise of joyful conversation and laughter mingled with white lights and then kind of swallowed me up and I was for some reason overjoyed. I remember thinking, or maybe praying, “God, can you beat this?”

I don’t know what prompted me to say something like that. Even as soon as I thought it I realized it was ridiculous, because A) of course God could beat it, but more importantly B) God was there anyway, whether people were aware of it or not. Sometimes I forget that when I’m in a secular place. I feel like I’ve checked God at the door and any fun that I have is fun without him. Sometimes I feel like if I’m having fun while I’m not in church, if I’m having fun while drinking a beer, if I’m having fun while rock and roll pounds against my eardrums, then it must be wrong. But that’s a lie, and an unfortunate one. That’s the kind of lie that can lead to guilt, and what about this weekend should actually cause guilt? Nothing, really. Fortunately, guilt never came. This weekend was just fun. I had a great time with my friends and family, with the fireworks and art supply shopping sprees and too-big burritos, with the rock and roll wedding party and, hey, with church too. It’s really a great relief when you realize that there is nothing wrong with having fun, at least not inherently. And it’s a different kind of relief to be reminded that God is still there in the midst of it, no matter what.

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The United States of Pyromania.

Last night my brother put on his annual fireworks show, which promises always to be entertaining, and occasionally life-threatening. Between being dive-bombed by a flaming ladybug and nearly scorched by a poorly-aimed spinner, between the clouds of sulfurous smoke and scattered bits of blasted paper packaging, I was able to grasp at the American Spirit of liberty and justice for all. Or maybe, more accurately, I was taking hold of something more general, more human than national, more existential than patriotic. Here is the truth: Being alive can be a lot of fun! It has nothing to do with being American, really (although we did cap off the night with a somewhat obnoxious rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic). But it isn’t un-American either. We drew a mark across the sky, and watched it come alive. We’re alive!

The night before this I had a fairly narcissistic dream that went thus: A friend that I knew from college had written his memoir, and when I attained a copy I saw that I was a huge part of his story. It wasn’t exactly a flattering portrayal of myself, and I spent half of the dream preparing to point out to others all of the inaccuracies, but nevertheless it was very much about me and I was proud of that. I’m not actually friends with this person anymore–in real life we grew apart a couple years ago–and I doubt that he would actually include me in his story as more than a brief mention. You have a name but no one knows it, and no one’s going to write a book about you. I’ve begun to write a version of my own story (I think everyone needs to do this) imbued with countless artistic liberties and fantastic, but purposeful, twists of reality. Maybe I’ll finish it before I die; that is my realistic and attainable goal. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned in this life. I hope that’s not narcissism. At least not any more than this blog is.

The apparent evolution of a blog.

These days, all I want to talk about and/or write about is the brain. It’s really interesting to me! And it makes me think that I probably made the right decision to enroll in this psychology class, and that makes me happy.

When our house settles it makes these loud clicking noises which I normally sleep through, or else I don’t hear them from my bedroom. But last night for some reason I slept on the pullout couch in our living room. I heard the clicking lightly weaving in and out of my dreams for a few moments, unconscious that it was the house settling or anything else, and then suddenly my brain interpretted those noises as someone trying to take the locks off of our front door, to break into our apartment and do me harm. Instantly I was wide awake, my heart was racing, and my breath quickened. And do you know what was my very next thought (while I was still very afraid for my safety)? I thought, “Sympathetic Nervous System!” which is the nervous system that produces the biological responses to potential danger known as our fight or flight response. Anyway, in my confused but alert state it took some time to assure myself that the noises were simply part of the building (and meanwhile I experienced the “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” phenomenon I had only just learned about that morning while reading Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers at the library… would the prowler just break through the front door already, so I can either fall back to sleep or be killed??) Anyway, I mostly just found it amusing that my first response was to recall a bit of brain anatomy, as if I were being tested on this information even while I slept, even on the brink of a terrible event.

And with that, I’m going to try to stop writing too much more about psychology, partly because I am far from an expert, and partly because it’s not quite under the umbrella of the topical goals of this blog (art, creativity, faith, and various acceptable tangents). But then again, this is the most recent direction my life has taken, and the handy thing about psychology (versus chemistry or calculus) is that it is very relevant to those other things. All of these things that fascinate me take place right there in that gross, squishy, and marvelous organ. I can’t wait to learn about the psychology of faith and religious belief. Or about the ideation process. About taste and preference and opinion and all of that. About emotion! So here, let me take this paragraph and do a 180 and say that you probably will have to read a bit more about the subject here. Or maybe you’ll enjoy that, depending on your brain.

Ponies in hand.

You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be all right.

After a post like yesterday’s, it’s only fair that I take my only ten minutes of free time today and share the good news, that in fact I still have free internet! Frinternet, I’d like to call it. Frinternet for all, I say!

This morning I ironed my shirt but I only got some of the wrinkles out. Maybe this had something to do with my method, using a partially heated iron on my kitchen counter, for lack of an ironing board. Do I approach all tasks in my life with such haphazard laziness? (There is, of course, a more colorful term for this.) I still haven’t mailed in my ponytail that I am supposedly donating. I open my mail weeks after I receive it. I can’t stop drinking soda.

Oh, but I’m not worried about those things.

Today in class we watched this talk by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor who is a neuro-scientist and also a stroke survivor. You’ve probably seen her on Oprah or other such inspirational venues. In the video she describes with fascinating detail the process that she went through as she realized that she was having a stroke, oscillating between a state of blissful detachment and frustrated logic due to damage in her left brain. As she was on the edge of consciousness before going into operation, Dr. Jill had the awareness that she would either live or die, and she surrendered herself to that. When she woke up she realized that she was alive, and also came to believe that by allowing ourselves to become intimately familiar with both our right and left brains we are able to experience Nirvana while living (at least that’s how I interpreted her statements, I could be horribly butchering them). Now it’s interesting to hear a left-brained woman who has lost some control of her left-brain to say this. But what about a right-brained woman such as myself? Will I find “Nirvana” by embracing my logical and mathematical side? Will I feel freedom by increasing the structure and rigidity of thought in my life?

Maybe one day, will I take the logical step to purchase an ironing board and allot adequate time for ironing my clothes? Will I order my days’ activities to minimize idle time and become more efficient in all things, including hair donation? Will I be able to face temptation and addiction in the face and say, “My left brain tells me that soda is bad for me in a variety of ways, so I refuse to put it into my body”? I don’t know if I would call those things freeing, but it could certainly lead to some positive life changes.

My left brain is telling me to wrap this up so I can get to bed. Then my right brain has some dreaming to do!

Summer is brain season. Grow yours!

Thank heavens for friends with internet! After a blissful year of borrowing (leeching?) an available wireless connection, the internet rug has, for the past four days, been pulled out from under me.  This won’t affect my writing patterns here any more than my already busy schedule does (did I mention I’m a student again?) but it does leave me feeling a little bit isolated.  Probably it’s a good thing, though.  One less distraction, and if it really is morally questionable to connect to an unprotected wireless signal that I’m not paying for, then it’s one less temptation in my life. 

Back to me being a student again, let me say, it’s wild.  Not in the freshman-year-party-like-you-don’t-have-a-sense-of-decensy type of wild, but in the brain expansion and attention challenging type of wild.  I’m in an intro to psych class which means a lot of technical and biological information in a short amount of time.  It means memorization and, as our professor reminds us, a lot of hard work. During one of our classes last week we were going through some particularly agonizing worksheets and I was actually holding my cranium in my hands. “My head hurts,” I told our professor, to which she responded, “That’s because your brain is growing.”

Can you believe that?  My brain is growing again!  It’s wild.  Science has never been a close friend of mine, but it’s really been managing to fascinate me (when it’s not overwhelming me).  School is cool, man.  Brains!

Weekend in paragraph form.

Emily chopped off my hair! (I asked her to.) It looks pretty dang cute, if I’m allowed to say so. Emily also turned 21 this weekend, and to celebrate we drank some homemade Cherry Bounce with our grandma and watched a bad 90’s teen movie with the gang in our grand tradition of watching bad teen movies (or sometimes GOOD teen movies. Aquamarine, anyone?). Emily, if you read this, I’m so happy I got to be home for your birthday! On another day, Holly and I played our old Art Table set for the first time in 10 months. I developed a pretty ferocious blister on my baby-soft right hand, but my drumming was surprisingly all right, considering how long it had been. Not that I’ve ever been a “good” drummer, but I was as consistently mediocre as ever. We also wrote a new song, which we may release on an EP so I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that the Art Table’s demise has never been more fun. I had my car fixed. It was very loud and now it is very quiet, and it’s also very clean, inside and out (my dad and I did that, not the mechanics). I went to church this morning but with all of the rain my head was in a little bit of a cloud throughout the service. Tomorrow evening I start my psychology class, which maybe I haven’t mentioned here yet, I’m not sure. The collaborative comic project is also beginning to take legs, and I’m officially moving it up on the list of priorities. What all of this means is that I’ll probably be writing even less in this blog than I have been already. Maybe I’ll surprise all of us and update it with regularity, but I’m pretty sure June is going to be consumed with other things. But what will June consume?

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