28 November 2008

To escape from it all...

I will admit it: when I lived in New York, when I was having a particularly blue day and some plumbing problems with my apartment (a constant onslaught of rushing water sounds that grated on my last strand of sanity), I booked myself a hotel room at the Algonquin Hotel.  I was with Exbf at the time, but his Murray Hill apartment-- much as I loved it-- would not have been the source of solace, the tool of prevention for an impending nervous breakdown, that I needed.  Also, all it takes is one particularly emotional girl and one helpless-feeling guy to turn a beautiful relationship upside-down.  No, it was the Algonquin for me.  They were having a ridiculously cheap deal online, and I figured that it was high time that I took care of myself.
There is something about a hotel room that calms the nerves.  It gives me a vacation from myself-- I am a blank slate, an out-of-towner, a gallery owner, a world traveler.  I once treated myself to a luxurious dinner at the Chase Park Plaza hotel in St. Louis-- I ordered a glass of white wine, trout, and warm chocolate-chip cookies with vanilla ice cream.  I kept my cell phone on the table, brought a book, had the waiter validate my parking and told him that I was in town on business.  (I actually lived right by the university, 15 minutes away.)  A hotel room brings that sense of freshness to me-- its soft linens, pillow mints, and heated towel bars speak of possibility.
To say that I snapped out of my funk from that one night at the Algonquin would be a fallacy.  But I will say that the Algonquin is a snapshot from a bygone age, when Dorothy Parker and Truman Capote ruled the city and acerbic wit was served with every dirty martini, along with the requisite two olives.  The hotel lobby, with its soft piano jazz and its Ruby Slippers cocktails, was a refuge, a soulmate.  I know that I slept well that night.  What is it about a hotel room that clears the mind...?
Leonard Cohen once said, "You always have a feeling in a hotel room that you're on the lam and this is one of the safe moments in the escape.  It's a breathing spot.  The hotel room is the oasis of the downtown.  A sanctuary.  A sanctuary of a temporary kind, therefore all the more delicious.  But whenever I come into a hotel room, there is a moment, after the door is shut and the lights you haven't turned on illumine a comfortable, anonymous, subtly hostile environment, and you know that you've found a little place in the grass, and the hounds are going to go by for three more hours.  You're going to have a drink, light a cigarette, and take a long time shaving."  Oh Leonard-- I wholeheartedly agree.  Minus the cigarette, of course, and add a bubble bath to that shave.
Algonquin Hotel, New York City
Thistle Hotel Bloomsbury, London
Intercontinental Hotel, Prague

24 November 2008

Every little thing she does is (clearly) magic



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photo by LeAnn Mueller
The sound at Park City, Utah’s Sundance House is terrible, and a chunk of the crowd is more interested in chattering and munching on hors d’oeuvres than paying attention to the duo on guitar and piano, even if it is the debut performance of what will eventually be known as She & Him—the collaboration between indie-music darling M. Ward and movie star Zooey Deschanel. This 2007 Sundance Festival audience doesn’t get high points for attentiveness—they’ve already pretty much ignored Glen Hansard of The Frames playing alongside Markéta Irglová, his co-star in the buzzing film Once.
Hansard is just another in a long line of musicians who’ve successfully crossed over to the silver screen, following in the footsteps of Tom Waits, Kris Kristofferson, Mos Def and Will Oldham. But the trail going the other way—from acting to music—is littered with punchlines: Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon, Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze. So, for the lucky few paying attention, hearing Deschanel croon standards like “Mr. Sandman” and “I Put a Spell on You” in her seductive soprano is a treat. She and Ward are in town to help promote The Go-Getter, a film that closes with the pair singing Richard & Linda Thompson’s “When I Get to the Border” as the credits roll. Anyone with children or a Will Ferrell fixation heard Deschanel’s lovely voice in Elf, so her collaboration with a quirky guitarist who’s also from Southern California isn’t a complete surprise.

Singing has long been more than Deschanel’s hobby. In 2001, she started playing in a cabaret act with fellow actress Samantha Shelton. “I did a lot of music and stuff in high school,” Deschanel says, “but as an adult, I just needed a way to play music, and [the cabaret thing] was a safe way for me to be able to sing and test out the waters. I would transpose all the music for the band, and it’s amazing to see all the core structures that Gershwin and Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart used.”

The big secret, though, were the hundreds of original songs Deschanel had stored on her computer. She’d been writing songs since she was a kid, and by her early 20s she was recording demos, layering vocal harmonies over piano and guitar.     

Ward convinced Deschanel to send him some of the demos, and the two decided to record an album. The idea that this might come across as just another Hollywood starlet’s vanity project never struck either of them. “We talked about songs, we talked about records and music and how to record stuff,” Ward says. “And I guess the best way for me and Zooey is to record in some sort of bubble you create for yourself that doesn’t really take into account Bruce Willis.”

They quickly discovered that they shared an affinity for timeless music; they’d even grown up listening to the same oldies station in Los Angeles, K-Earth 101. “When I met Matt,” Deschanel says, “I was like, ‘I don’t want to record with anyone else!’ It was so clear to me: ‘This is the only person who will be able to do this. This is the guy who has to make a record with me.’”

“After I heard all of the songs,” Ward says, “they sounded like they all fit together in a really interesting way that I had never heard before. I just felt like I had been exposed to this great artist that nobody really knew about as far as her songwriting. When people think of Zooey Deschanel, they didn’t used to think ‘songwriter.’ The whole thing was just a complete no-brainer. These were awesome songs that needed to be heard.”

And they are. If you would’ve suggested back when we launched the magazine that Zooey Deschanel would write most of the songs onPaste’s favorite record of 2008, we’d have thought that about as likely as Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California. But the 13 songs on Volume One are lovely throwbacks to blissful ’60s pop, tastefully arranged and produced by the über-talented Ward. And Deschanel loves her new career so much, plans for Volume Two are already under way.

“I would rather be a songwriter than be an actor,” she says. “I’m grateful I’ve been so fortunate to have success as an actor, but being a songwriter is just creatively so satisfying. I know this is silly because I’m 28 years old, but this is all new to me, to be playing shows—there are people who know the words to the songs and are singing these melodies that were born in my bedroom. It’s amazing to me to give them a life, and they go and live on their own. I feel like that’s sort of some little microcosm of what parents feel like with children.”

23 November 2008

Following Lola: How to crawl out of a hole

I am sitting on my couch, in flannel pajama bottoms, wrapped in a soft-as-clouds blanket, and I am just so infinitely sad.  I miss my students, and I miss the positive changes I feel I was making in their lives.  I miss the bond we had and them telling me they finally felt understood.  I miss making them excited about material they'd previously considered as dead as its authors.  And as selfish as it sounds, I miss the sense of purpose that I gained by teaching them.  I am nowhere near an excellent teacher; I am not even a good teacher yet.  But I will be, and the primary reason is because I care.  I understand why I had to leave-- because it was a toxic environment full of teachers and administrators with the mental maturity of middle-schoolers, and that is not the atmosphere in which to learn about teaching-- but that doesn't change the fact that I feel like part of me is missing.  And that I feel completely purposeless as I sit at home, waiting.
I am awaiting my next placement, and I know that my next group of kids will be just as amazing and that I will find a way to touch their lives.  I just ache that the people who were supposed to be helping me become a groundbreaking educator are so incapable of modeling the values they want our students to exhibit.
This is my state of mind right now.  But I feel like I've been dwelling in negativity, and it's starting to turn me into the same bitter, hateful type of person against whom I've been railing.  That is not the type of person I am, and it is not the type of person I want to be.  As much as I struggle with faith and positivity, I can recognize that this negativity is only going to bring me down.  I don't want to be angry anymore.  I want to be the better person.  I want to take the high road, and I want to crawl out of this hole.
I will take a cue from Lola and make a list of lovely things to snap me out of it:
1) Ginger tea (I am sipping some right now)
2) The word "parapluie" (and the delightful film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg)
3) silhouettes
4) a stroll up the aisles of Trader Joe's
5) Brideshead Revisited and its lovely, luscious language
6) dry Austrian white wine
7) rain boots with bows at the tops
8) speaking of bows... (these)
9) a lavender-scented bubble bath
10) buying myself flowers...the types a boy would never choose
11) jumping in crunchy leaves
12) Lula
13) sugar roses, sugar mice
14) lantern-light
15) repeating to myself that I deserve more, I deserve more, and the path to brilliance is rarely easy

small steps, right?  
"I want to hear jazz with my eyes closed, and dig my toes into the sand dancing. I want to climb to the summit and yell and sleep under the stars. I want to laugh my head off and play marbles and sleep in and eat croissants in bed with butter and marmalade and spill coffee and wear lace and trip holding your hand because I am listening so closely..." ~Sabrina Ward Harrison

21 November 2008

We're the movers, we're the shapers, we're the names in tomorrow's papers, it's up to us now to show 'em.

This school district should be ashamed. I guess it just goes to show, the great ones are always doubted.

"We are each going to make a toast for change. And what that means is from this moment on, every voice that told you you can't is silenced. Every reason that tells you that things will never change disappears. And the person you were before this moment, that person's turn is over: now's your turn." ~Freedom Writers

20 November 2008

A passionate existence, and some Bloomsbury, please

I am currently inspired by the nonconformist Bohemian belles, the Garman sisters, occasional scandal-makers and prominent Bloomsbury set personnes d'importance.  Of course, today the sisters (namely Kathleen, Mary, and Lorna) are relatively inconnues.  They were lovers of life and lovers of many lovers...Vita Sackville-West, Roy Campbell, Laurie Lee, Lucien Freud... And they were drama queens, all of them.  As Kathleen said, "What muddy pitfalls one inadvertently steps into in search of the rare and the beautiful."  Do you see any resemblance to the model featured in "Dreams of Tomorrow" in the latest issue of Lula?
Kathleen Garman
Lorna Garman
Mary Garman
   Lula #7

18 November 2008

To market

I have been so inspired as of late by the myriads of fantastic, whimsical blogs in this wide universe.  Thank you all in my "ephemera, etcetera" links for providing me with such art, beauty, and zest for life.  It makes me feel as if mermaids were real.  And it makes me feel like my life, by extension, is beautiful, even if that beauty consists of humdrum realities like reading Oscar Wilde's poetry while drinking ginger tea and soaking up the wafting scent of a Baked Apple candle.
This past Sunday was such a glorious day.  It reminded me of my old inspiration searches in New York, but of course this time I forgot my camera.  I will try to paint the words.  My friend Sara and I visited Eastern Market by Capitol Hill in D.C.  As we drove through the streets of ramshackle (in the best possible way) houses, I noticed, up ahead, a glimpse of magenta.  Inching forward, I discovered that this gingerbread-house-made-real was a pillared wonder with pale pink siding, magenta shutters, a magenta base, and a mid-pink chimney against a white background.  It could have looked garish.  Instead it looked like a dreamworld, the setting for a Sofia Coppola film or a Lula photo shoot.  It was the sign of things to come.
Eastern Market is full of colorful textiles, old maps, Punch cartoons, clusters upon clusters of pearls, lavender pashminas, homemade soap, antique watering cans, floral and berry bouquets, Bronte books, photographs of silvery fountains, leather-bound journals, fur stoles, china.  Inside a small garage-like building we found hosts of the freshest fish-- beautiful sea bass-- and meat, homemade soups cooked by a Slovakian grandma, British jam, pumpkin gnocchi, chocolate ravioli, rosemary bread, clover honey, tomato sauce, triple-berry pie.  I wanted to live there.  Only bubbles floating through the air and a Glen Hansard-like troubadour would have made the moment more magical.
I spend my nights listening to A Fine Frenzy.  I want to inhabit her world.  She would be an excellent leaf-crunching partner. 
razzmatazz's flickr photostream
Watching the sky
Watching a painting coming to life
Shifting and shaping
Staying inside, it all goes it all goes by... 
~(a fine frenzy)

14 November 2008

Out of the darkness

That last post was depressing. Here is something lovely and timeless.

Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements?

I have recently forced myself to start dating.  Forced is the operative word here, and the rationale behind the decision is pretty threadbare: that it is cuddling weather, that Roommate is in the throes of something new and fresh and adorable, and that I'm missing the days when somebody looked at me with that fire and intensity.  I have no idea how to date.  This is completely new to me-- especially since the situation is so forced, with me trying out this whole online thing.  It's as if an airplane should be flying behind every guy I meet, trailing a sign that spells out AWKWARD.  I guess I've been spoiled in the past.  Things have been relatively easy.  We've met and stars shone and twinkled and universes exploded and I knew, without doubt, that this person would be important and meaningful in my life.  I'm starting to lose faith in the sparkles.  But at the same time, I just discount guy after guy because they don't send me spinning through a kaleidescopic frenzy of color and light-- and I want to hit the moon, as Doris Day would say.  
I struggle with this idea of whether the magic is instantaneous-- or at least arrives over the course of a few hours' good conversation-- or whether it creeps in on tiptoe...it arrives unexpectedly, wonder spontaneously churning through someone previously deemed unremarkable.  I don't know.  I just know that I will never tolerate being called ordinary, and I could never spend my time with someone who is less than extraordinary.  But when does that marvelousness manifest itself??  How many mediocres do I have to wade through?
I just want someone to drink hot apple cider with.  jump in leaves with.  make my cold toes warm.  send golden champagne sparks of love and wonder shivering up and down my spine.    

12 November 2008

Surviving falling leaves and changes

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes
I haven't made a mix in quite a while, and I decided to make what is in essence a Bittersweet Survival soundtrack to accompany me as my life shifts once again.  Let me know what you think.

1. And Then You Kissed Me by The Cardigans
2. True Love Waits Patiently for a Miracle by The Pipettes
3. One of These Things First by Nick Drake
4. Happy by Jenny Lewis
5. Go to Heaven by The Pierces
6. Alison by Elvis Costello
7. Nothing Better by The Postal Service
8. Here's to the Meantime by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
9. Cat Piano by Seabear
10. The Lucky One by Au Revoir Simone
11. Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Hearbroken by Camera Obscura
12. Breakfast in NYC by Oppenheimer
13. You Turn My Head Around by Dean & Britta
14. Change is Hard by She & Him
15. A Little Respect by Erasure

11 November 2008

Blog love

Just a quick post to proclaim Blog Love for Tiger Lily of The Unicorn Diaries.  Oh Tess.  Oh Lula.  Oh Sara Crewe, Mitford Sisters, snowy stuffed animals, and Peter Pan-dom.  I too know what it is to be a lost girl, but I carry a brass key on a chain around my neck so that I can always find my way home...
"I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in." 
~Virginia Woolf
"each life has its place" ~"Virginia Woolf," by Indigo Girls 

08 November 2008

Oh, poetry

I wish that I could do the types of posts I did in New York-- wandering the streets, finding beauty, finding those external realities that reflect my internal sustaining medium (ignore my flowery language here-- I've been discussing Tess of the D'Urbervilles again, and it makes me speak in the equivalent of a watercolor painting-- all blended, languid tones).  But unfortunately, time is a factor here, and also my discovery of such "gems" seems to be inhibited by my ignorance of this new area.  So I seek beauty in poetry.  I navigate these worlds as if they were my own.  After all, isn't that the purpose of poetry?  To give readers an alternate reality?

Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950).  Spoon River Anthology.  1916. 

64. George Gray 

HAVE studied many times 
The marble which was chiseled for me— 
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor. 
In truth it pictures not my destination 
But my life.         5
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment; 
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid; 
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances. 
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life. 
And now I know that we must lift the sail  10
And catch the winds of destiny 
Wherever they drive the boat. 
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness, 
But life without meaning is the torture 
Of restlessness and vague desire—  15
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.


07 November 2008

Take a breath.

It's been that kind of week.  And some changes will be taking place, starting next Monday...but I don't really want to go into it.  The purpose of this blog was never to air my grievances, but rather to find inspiration in the depths of the greyness.  I keep having an image of the tears I've been bottling up, cradled the the golden yolk of an egg in the bowl of a spoon.  Just settling in my lower lid, as if it may nest there or spill over onto my cheek...and then memories of fingertips brushing away those tears, tasting the salt, squeezing my shoulder and telling me that everything will be fine.
So what do I do, when the spoon is overflowing and the fingertips have left?  I curl up on my couch, with Once and Again DVD episodes, cocoa, and the latest issue of Lula.  And I ignore the millions of questions that are running through my mind, and instead I try to think about
 finding time to read Brideshead Revisited and how years from now, when I have my act together, I will look back in awe that I felt lost once upon a time-- and I will know that somehow that feeling subsided and I became fulfilled, and I felt infinite.

“Oh, and I’m adamant about this one—If he doesn’t like hot cocoa... On the other hand, if he knows exactly what to say…And if he doesn’t kiss you, but you feel like you’ve been kissed…”