Canadian Cold Feet.

When I say that I’m German and French, I guess what I really mean is that I’m German and French Canadian.  So I’ll be planning a visit to Montreal to explore my roots.

When I say that I’m working on a graphic novel, what I really mean is that I’m standing at the base of this mountain and I’m excited but a little bit scared to death of the climb.  Okay so I’m holding this grappling hook and don’t quite know how to use it, although I know its uses are endless and my potential, too, is pretty great if I could just figure it out.  It’s that nervous feeling you get when you’re about to give the speech of your lifetime, or when you suspect that you’re beginning to fall in love.  Things could go either way, success or disappointment.  Learning is inevitable.  It’s a great place to be, but at the same time there is something so comforting about stable, solid, sea-level ground.  Sometimes it’s hard to take those upward steps. 

Metaphorical enough for ya?

Weekend in paragraph form (Second Edition).

It was one of those weekends that is almost too overwhelming to write about. So I better just write about it, or it will go forever undocumented, it will be in the past, and eventually forgotten.

No, I can’t. Too much happened. I can’t even write about it. But I’ll give it to you in one breath:

Drove to Milwaukee, Emily made me dinner and taught me how to wear makeup like a real woman, Molly and Arek joined me for burritos, Molly hosted a very exclusive art show, met up with Holly, took a bus to Chicago, the bus driver was crazy and held us hostage, K and N gave us a place to rest our heads and the confidence to take public transit, JENNYLEWIS was unbelievable, drove to Green Bay, the Art Table Reunion show was sloppy but fun and Rebecca, Shawn, Anthony, Andrew, and Andrew came which was awesome but unfortunately Rachel came two minutes too late so we got some pancakes afterward and I didn’t really sleep all weekend long but that’s what Tuesday nights are for.

But if I can repeat one part of that for emphasis, Jenny Lewis really was unbelievable. I’ve been able to hear her sing live three times now (once with Rilo Kiley and twice on her solo tours) and she is maybe the one person I’ve experienced who sounds even better live than she does recorded (and recorded she sounds pretty dang fantastic). It was a little strange watching the Secular Queen singing in a church packed full of hipsters, but it was mostly just great. Here is what I gleaned from some Youtube scavenging:

(These are from the show I was at, but I didn’t take them)

A new one:

An old one:

A cover:

In other concert news, I’m going to see Tegan and Sara in Minneapolis which I’m pretty excited about, and I’m thinking I might need to see The Dears when they come to town. Before Jenny it was well over a year since I’d been to a concert. I need to make up for lost time.

(Never said I’d win an award for the writing in this post, did I?)

(Photos by Molly and Shawn)

…Or you’ll end up like me.

Yesterday I was dropping something off at one of the elementary schools and I noticed a message scrawled on one of the dumpsters, graffiti style, positioned such that all of the kids leaving school would not be able to miss it. It read, “Do you homework.” Can you believe it? Isn’t that beautifully ironic?

You should think about going to this. (And then go.)

Show’s at 9pm….

When art feels right.

So…I’m working on a graphic novel.  I don’t know why I haven’t written about it here yet.  Well, yes I do.  I haven’t written about it because as long as no one knows about it I can’t be expected to finish it, and that takes a lot of pressure off.  Except that I need a little pressure.  I wouldn’t have completed my NaNoWriMo manuscript last year if I weren’t constantly mouthing off about it here.  And besides that, I’ve already started talking to people about it in the non-digital world.  It’s partly an accountability thing, but it’s also just really exciting for me and I want to talk about it!  Let me put it down in black-and-white: before I die I would like to finish this book.  Or a different one completely, but I’ve already got a decent start on this one.  It feels like things are clicking, you know?  And I’m not talking about the story which needs quite a bit of work, but I’m talking about the entire creative process.  I feel like I’ve fumbled around looking for the right way to use my interests and talents and maybe I’ve finally gotten on the right track.  I really do love this comic book stuff, and I like drawing and I like writing and I want whatever I do to be accessible to anyone who wants it, not just some wealthy art collector.  This feels right.  And I worry that by writing statements like that I might be inflating my expectations and setting myself up for disappointment, but I guess that’s a risk I’ll take.  I feel like there may be a few more risks involved with this whole process anyway.

Pays ta…

My mom has these catch phrases that we have heard so many times growing up they feel like age-old proverbs, even though I’m pretty sure she was the one to invent them.  One of these catch phrases was interactive; she would say it when we were doing chores and something of personal value turned up: a toy that we had lost ages ago and considered gone forever, an important homework assignment we had resigned ourselves to redoing; a favorite article of clothing that had been missing since laundry day.  It would happen on chore day, or perhaps just an isolated, inspired moment of cleaning.  The lost item would turn up, maybe we found it, maybe it was our mom, and we would cry out for joy.  Mom, never missing a beat, would smile knowingly and say, “Pays to…” and we, the kids, would have to admit, “…clean.”

Mom: “Pays ta…”

Kids: “…clean.”


I wish that written words had the capacity to convey the nuances of voice inflection in this beautifully familiar phrase, but alas, this is oral history.  You have to have lived it or heard it passed on to truly understand.

So speaking of oral history, the other day I was cleaning (wouldn’t mama be proud?) and came across a CD which I had long since forgotten about.

“Pays ta clean.”

It was an old bootleg concert recording from October 10, 1998.  Elliott Smith singing at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis.  At the time I received the recording I didn’t know him well enough to appreciate it, so I let it get lost among all of my other things.  Finding it this past weekend, I was ready to love it.  Backing Elliott in this recording are Sam Coomes on bass and Janet Weiss on drums (you know, Quasi),another element I wouldn’t have appreciated at age 16.  It’s great.  I want to share some of it with you:

(right click and “save link as” to download)

Bled White

Happiness/The Gondola Man

The Biggest Lie

You want to own this.

It’s a social art experiment.  It’s not pretty, it’s not exactly clever.  Is it art?  Why not?  Do you want to hang it in your home?  Would you be embarassed to show it to friends, and tell them you paid $1000 for it (even if you really got it for free)?

Lame was created in 2007 in Madison, Wisconsin, under the weight of looming deadlines.  It is a 3rd or 4th generation canvas (X-Ray imaging will show multiple images layered beneath the final work).  It is a mess of thickly applied paint and a visual testament of hours of mounting frustration, culminating in the thickly applied letters which read, simply, “lame.”  Does it describe the artwork?  The artist?  The purchaser?  The critics?  Does it describe something else entirely or is it just a series of marks that happen to resemble letters in the alphabet favored by 21st century Americans?

I want you to have this painting, but more importantly, you want to own this.  I want to give it to you for free, with but a few stipulations.  1. The painting must be displayed in a place where you will occasionally see it (that is, not on the back wall of your tool shed).  2. The painting must be treated as if it were a respected piece of art created by a respectable artist.  3. If anyone asks, you must insinuate that you paid a moderate sum of money for the painting (you can invent the price, or evade the question on the premise that you don’t discuss financial investments). 4. If you ever sell the painting, you must give one half of the money to charity. 5. You must pick the painting up or pay to have it shipped.  The first person to respond to this wins the contest.  If no one responds, the social experiment will continue in another form.

Is it art?  If not, can we make it so?

So said beneathe a sweatshirt.

It was a drizzley, grizzley day, but more than that, it was cold.  It’s the kind of day that would depress me to no end if it occurred in June, July or August, but somehow in September it seems to slip past me, escaping the abuse I would normally have for anything below 75 degrees and sunny.  And anyway, I spent some time last year defending the winter as something charming and novel, if not wholly enjoyable.  Who am I anymore?  Post-California winters have done less to damage my spirit.  And in fact today, once I got over the initial shock of the drop in temperature, once I resigned myself to a long, hot shower and then curled up on the couch with a blanket, I caught myself looking forward to winter, as if it were my  new guilty pleasure.  Who am I anymore?  I’m looking forward to the day that our landlord turns the heat on and my bedroom turns back into an incubator.  I’m looking forward to a scarf and mittens.  Who am I anymore?  This summer was too short, but it was hot enough to make everyone else complain, which means that it was perfect.  I’m done complaining about the weather. Heaven will be 85 degrees with a hot breeze–I’m content to wait for that.

Tennis the menace, and other sports puns.

There’s no need to say it in any clever way.  This past summer I began playing tennis.  I’m not great, but I’m not terrible, and I think I have potential.  I say this because I was something of a star athlete before I suppressed my athletic side sophomore year of high school.  From age 5 to 15 I was a formidable presence in the world of tee-ball, hardball, softball, basketball, and even volleyball.  I enjoyed it for about a decade, and then willfully gave it up to pursue things more creative.  I guess at the time I thought that these two parts of me, the athletic and the artistic, could not peacefully coexist.

But lately I’ve been allowing myself to get back in touch with my sporty side.  This weekend, for example, you would not believe how much sports I watched!  I watched parts of the US Open, college football, pro baseball, and even a commentary show on the Packers training camp.  Granted, these were just parts, and I probably would have chosen something else if I had the option.  And I’m sure that part of the thrill was watching it on my parents’ new big screen TV (for those of you who know my family, you know that the purchase of this TV was a historical moment long in the making) but I think that part of me actually enjoyed it.  Part of me was caught up in that spirit of competition that I thought had only settled on me momentarily during the 16 days of the BeijingOlympics.

I’m not the same girl I was between ages 5 and 15, obviously, but I’m not the same woman I was between ages 15 and 25 either. So maybe I’m a sports fan again.  I’m not saying I’m about to trade in my pens and paint and paper for a subscription to Sports Illustrated, but if I get the urge to join a tennis club or arrange my plans around the Packers schedule, I’m not going to fight it.  ‘Sall I’m sayin’. (That seems like something a sporty person would close a blog with.)

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