Mornings (or why I’m glad it’s now Xmas break and I don’t have to pack lunch)

Before I forget and get too heavily involved in being awake today, I need to tell you that I had a vivid dream about Hamilton Leithauser. When I woke up, I clutched my chest and said “Hamilton Leithauser and I, like, got together!” Five minutes later, I stretched yearningly toward the still warm pile of pillows that I sleep on and prayed “Let me go back to sleep, let him come back!”
“Dreams don’t come back, Sarah. You had a nice dream and no one can take that away from you. But, it isn’t coming back.”… Thanks Josh.
As I whirled around the kitchen, karate-chopping the air and bribing Jonah to do anything at all toward getting ready for his day, I remembered the details. I got out the lunchbox and the Spongebob brand edamame packet. I remembered that the whole band of the Walkmen was involved in a sort of Situation Room-type problem solving convention on my behalf. It was like an episode of Scooby-Doo. It involved putting Jonah on an airplane after he had been deemed a security risk? I put a juice box and a frozen ice pack shaped like a baseball in Jonah’s lunch box. The Walkmen were trying to help me take Jonah home! They sat in computer chairs and used phones.
“Eat those chocolate bunnies! (Some sort of organic junk food cereal) They are crying in there, because no one wants them. Just eat them out of the box. That’s what cool people do.”

(This post is a fragment I attempted a month or so ago, but I had to stop and do something else. Hamilton Leithauser was wearing a white button up shirt in my dream. We were also at some sort of diner place that served breakfast which makes sense because his name is actually Ham. He is the perfect man; his name is Ham.)

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GOAT (greatestofalltime) — Captain Beefheart

Last night, I was half asleep and half drunk in my bed watching the Biggest Loser finale on my laptop which was perched eye level to me on a pile of unopened shipments when I decided to check my mail one more time before I passed out. Our old friend Theda Boo let me know via facebook that my Captain, our Captain was no longer with us. I smacked sleeping Josh on the arm and urgently frowned in his face. “Captain Beefheart is dead! Captain Beefheart is dead!”

“Are we going to tell Jonah?”

“I don’t think he should know.”

My smile is stuck.

Two things: there is an non-erasable well of phrases and stances etched into my brain by Don Van Vliet and Captain Beefheart was the best personality of all time.

I love him because:

  • I love the blues
  • I love random poetry that is delivered with style and purpose!
  • I love painting
  • I love people who KNOW they are the shit
  • I love the way he dances
  • I love the way he growls
  • I love the way he glares
  • I love the way he created a “commune” of art slaves and forced them to live out his vision in Trout Mask Replica
  • I love the way he wouldn’t let another person drive his car when he was having a panic attack
  • I love the way he frustrated and infuriated people, but they couldn’t ignore his genius
  • I loved how it was all about SOUL with him. Yeah, he had clever song titles, but he was all feeling and all substance. He is an artbrat with a heart of gold!

I love how you can tell someone you love Trout Mask Replica and they will be like “This isn’t actually music and you are just listening to this to be obscure and difficult.” and you can then hand that person a copy of Safe As Milk and tell them to go fuck themselves. It’s like Picasso: standard awesomeness and then next-level awesomeness.

I love how my husband can be like “How do you love Trout Mask Replica when you hate jazz?”. Trout Mask Replica isn’t jazz, fools.

My memories of Beefheart:

I had a copy of Safe as Milk on tape in my car in Japan. I listened to it 70 percent of the time I was driving.

I first heard Trout Mask Replica all the way through after being awake for more than thirty hours. My friend John and I had been out all night at clubs in Tokyo. He lost his keys. We went back to said dumb clubs at 5 am and hoped anyone had his keys. They didn’t. We took the subway home. He made me stop at a musical equiptment store. I crawled under a display table and curled up into the fetal position. He got embarrassed and I got to go home. When I got there, I put Trout Mask Replica on a small cd  player next to my head. I fell in love and the tweety bleary procession of it all really fit with my reality of sleep deprivation.

My sister Johanna and I then spent months studying it. We imagined living inside the pictures.

“Is he just pointing a lamp out into the world in this one?”, she asked.

We repeated the phrases A squid eating dough in a polyethelene bag is fast and bulbous, got me? and That’s right, the Mascara Snake, fast and bulbous! and We run on beans, laser beans! I wished my name was Zoot Horn Rollo.

Later that year, we were visiting Ohio and my older sister Susan had a boyfriend who dug through my travel cd case.

“You know, Captain Beefheart has normal music, too” he said. Of course I knew this and I secretly wrote him off, but he did take us to a store in Columbus called Magnolia Thunderpussy (!) because it was the first day the Captain Beefheart collection was coming out on cd. I couldn’t afford it, but I begged the clerk to allow me to touch it. It was wrapped in pink plastic.

Later, my friend Marshall gave me The Dust Blows Forward anthology for my birthday. Later still, my friend Marshall came over here and uploaded every other Captain Beefheart album plus this thing called Grow Fins: Rarieties into our iTunes. Because of this, I have 293 Captain Beefheart songs in my computer. When I listen to all-shuffle, he is well represented!

My son is weird and my son is thorough. He got an iPod for his birthday and learned how to read this year. He got interested in our iTunes list. He wanted to go alphabetically through it. He got to the song Abba Zabba (all three versions that we have!) and fell in love. There was a week over here where Jonah could reliably be found in his room dancing and singing along to that song. Then, he got into watching the Ice Cream for Crow video on youtube. He’s five. He discerned that Captain Beefheart lived outside in the desert and decided he wanted to write him a letter. He made him some drawings and wrote some words on them. I had a hell of a time figuring out where to send them, so they are “filed” away somewhere in the laundry basket full of artwork in my kitchen. Captain Beefheart is the only person Jonah has ever wanted to write to.

This post is hastily done and ill conceived. I am in a flurry of making buckeye balls and just trying to deal. Nonetheless, if you have a moment, watch this documentary. It’s really good and not on Netflix last time I checked (it’s in 6 parts on youtube). The one on Netflix is not that great.

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Diet Donkey Kicks

How did I ever get through night classes without QuikTrip? For those of you who don’t know, QuikTrip is a kind of heaven/gas station that has recently invaded Tucson. They have an armada of peppy employees and all kinds of snacks. They have something that I keep daydreaming about that seems to be cherry-cake-flavored donut holes in a container that fits in your car’s cup holder. Most importantly, they have the promotional red mug. The mugs were handed out on the day the gas station opened and, with them, you can just go into the QT and get any kind of drink you want for free for three months. Any drink. Coffee. A milkshake. A Slurpee. Diet green apple tea. Whatever. You can go in and get a coke, drink it, and then get another one. You could do it all day.

I didn’t actually go to QT for their grand opening. The closest one to me is actually not that close. It’s on my side of Grant, by the freeway. Josh called in the middle of the day to tell me his boss had gotten everyone mugs and that I should check it out. I thought he was saying that I could get a free soda that day. I failed to comprehend the 90 day part. I failed to comprehend that QT has ten thousand different options for drinks. I failed to comprehend any of it, and because of that, I confiscated Josh’s mug as soon as it all became clear. It’s his fault; he isn’t an emphatic speaker. He was probably muttering when he told me about it.

I was enamored of the free cokes, but the kicker came when I realized they had energy drinks in their fountain drink lineup. A diet, sugar free no carb energy drink. For some reason, I decided it was called “Donkey Kicks” (even though, on closer inspection, it is actually called “Rooster Booster”). Diet Donkey Kicks is my new best friend. It is strawberry flavored and totally vile. But, it’s free and on my way to class. After weeks of frustration, it has dawned on me that it is actually easier to get to my classes this semester without using the freeway. Easier, but still forty minutes away. Thanks NAU. I have to turn up Grant at the old Slaughterhouse and drive up Flowing Wells until I want to scratch out my eyes. Then there is all of the construction that is going on around the Foothills Mall. Before QT, I was a sad little girl. But now, I can stop and get a free energy drink in a mug filled with ice. I also buy one of those terrible low-carb candy bar things that tastes like paste and shoes but is supposed to be chocolate. This is a good thing to do fifteen minutes into a late afternoon drive. Then, I can eat this garbage as I wend my way to my mind-numbing teacher education classes. Then, I can act like a cracked-up eight year old for the entire class.

I am not the only one around here that feels this love. Every time I go to QT, my heart swells with the feeling of community as every single family in the Tucson metropolitan area files in and out of the soda section at the back of the store, happily filling up their red mugs. Kids getting milk shakes, business dudes getting coffee. We’re all so smiley and kind. It’s free. Who cares if we have to wait to get a straw because there are fifty people back there? In the class that I volunteer in, they had a writing prompt to tell the teacher about their favorite store. One little girl was fervently writing, so I ambled over to her desk to see what the fuss was. You guessed it — she loves QuikTrip. It seems that her whole family has been blessed with red mugs and her mom takes her every day after school to get a slurpee. I told her that I had stopped there on my way over to her school. We high-fived.

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Walter Martin

When Walter Martin of the Walkmen took the stage before their set last night, I briefly buried my face in Josh’s chest. “Hamilton!” Then, I noticed his weird dark hair and the fact that no one else was reacting. Oh wait, not Hamilton.

I was so excited: a band that I have been completely obsessing over this year decided to come to Arizona in the same week as the release of their new album. I was even more excited when I found out it was in some tiny little club. They aren’t unheard of. There was no question. We were going to stupid Tempe. We were going to see The Walkmen.

There were two opening acts. A nice Canadian folkrocker named Dan Mangan. He had a catchy sing-along at the end of his set about how “Robots need love too”. I’m not one hundred percent sure that this is true. Every boy that I love is some form of a robot and I think that I love them because they don’t *need* it. I rolled my eyes during the sing-along, even when the guy was standing up on the bar. I went to talk to him after his set and said he didn’t seem like a robot. He kind of flirted with me and like, took my hand. Not a robot.

Second was Japandroids. They were awesome, but, by this time, I had decided we had to plant ourselves in the crowd so as to not be far from the stage when The Walkmen started. This meant no more gin and tonics because you couldn’t drink up front. Oh god was it hot. Why was it so goddamned hot? The smart guitar guy from Japandroids had a fan blowing on him the whole time. He seemed quite humbled to be on tour with The Walkmen. At the end of their set when they played their only song that I know, he dedicated it to them saying that “Bands like us don’t usually get taken on tour by bands like them”. It was charming. The song, “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, was in constant rotation in my car last year while my sister was dying of ovarian cancer. Its sweet refrain of “Oh, we used to dream/Now we worry about dying/I don’t want to worry about … dying/I just want to worry about those sunshine … girls” actually helped me. I thought about saying this to him when I saw him after the show, but I couldn’t. It seemed like a bummer. Instead, I brightly said “You guys were great!” Der.

So, The Walkmen set. All the little girl gushing and I screamed myself hoarse. They played all of the songs I wanted to hear. Maybe they didn’t play “Red Moon” and maybe I never have to hear “The Rat” or “Little House of Savages” again, but still. Hamilton can sing. I mean, really sing. It was a thousand degrees. Their drummer is a force of nature. I was expecting a watered down shitty set because of the heat and because they wear adorable clothes like dark jeans and button up shirts and loafers. They were amazing through and through. I was not once bored or disappointed. Really tight. Magical. Hamilton Leithauser is exactly as beautiful as I expected him to be. He is rail thin and solid muscle and he has impeccable timing. He’s cool, but not intimidating. I got over the fact that I was standing about seven feet away from him at some point and actually got to hop around to the music. It demands it. When he sang “New Country” alone with the guitar player as the first encore, he took my heart forever. It was beautiful.

(Plus, there are pictures from the show!)

(this youtube clip is from the actual show last night, thanks to the guy who uploaded it)

As much as I love Hamiton and he has replaced Greg Dulli as my indie rock boyfriend, a funny thing occurred during the course of the show. Walter Martin started to happen. He was the bass player on the newer songs and the keyboard on the older. When he was playing bass, he was right in front of us, but to the back of the stage. He looked like he was thinking smirky things. He was stylish and his face was just like Hamilton’s, but maybe dreamier? I kept looking at him. I liked his pants, I liked how when he was at the piano, he hung on it like he needed it for support. I liked his totally silent smart face. Walter Martin, I love your face.

When we were walking back to the hotel (we walked because we thought we would be drunk), I told Josh of my treachery. “I, um, think I like the bass player guy just as much as I like Hamilton.” “Oh God, Sarah, so fickle. He’s just a shorter version. I think it’s his cousin.”

Flurry of googling today after driving home revealed that Walter Martin is indeed Hamilton’s cousin. It also revealed, in the form of a Pitchfork list, that I am totally in love with the smirky things he is thinking. Please read the part about the card game or about Yellow Man. The Whoopi Goldberg radio show. His ringtone. Aww, shucks. I would totally marry him if we weren’t both already married to other people. Although his favorite song is Louie, Louie and mine is Woolly Bully, I’m sure we could make a go of it.

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Audrey’s Birthday

My homework avoidance level is near comical when I would prefer to make a blog post about my cat. I am halfway through a glass of wine and can’t concentrate on these boring Pavlov questions, so here goes…

September 11th was Audrey’s third birthday. Audrey is our cat and I often refer to her as “the worst cat ever”. By this, I mean that she is easily in the top three of best animals I have ever known. I’m hard on those I adore.

I got Audrey at a Petsmart right before the Christmas of 2007. She was actually playing in her shitty little cage thing. Jonah wanted her, and — when we took her out of the cage — she purred and wrapped herself around my neck. The manager of the store declared her “full of beans”. After we got her home, she cost $1ooo in medical bills. She had the kennel upper respiratory thing. She would sneeze these horrible green wads of garf all over our house. Nonetheless, we were in love with her instantly and didn’t even mind that we had to give her fish oil and homeopathic weird stuff in her food. She was worth it.

Audrey will never grow up and she will never stop playing. She can play fetch with a hair tie for an hour. She seems to think she is a dog and does literally everything with us. Whereas most cats prefer to sleep all day, run away from loud sounds, and look down their noses at all of the people they live with, Audrey is always always around, runs toward chaos, and really just watches over us. Although my son Jonah regularly tortures her, she gets very upset when he is in trouble and reaches her little paws under his door when he is in time out. She has escorted us to our neighborhood pool more than once. She walks right up to the edge and screams down at us “Get out! Get out, you fools! You’re in the water!”. She goes with us on every walk we take as a family. She walks about ten feet behind us, without fail.

Audrey has a “cat door” on our kitchen, so she comes and goes as she pleases. This means everyone in our neighborhood knows her. Some call her “Squirrel Tail”, some call her “Frederick the mailbox cat”. One lady kept her in her house all night, but — because everyone knows her — another neighbor demanded that she be returned to us. My neighbor explained that Audrey regularly comes to visit her and climbs around on her counter. I have had people tell me that Audrey refused to stop standing on the hood of their car even after they had started their engines. She gets into people’s vehicles. Josh’s cousin’s car. The truck that delivered Jonah’s bed. Our cars, all of the time. She is often actually in the car port when I get home and follows me out into the street when I leave. She is very territorial. She doesn’t go far from our house, unless we are out walking. I have seen her chase people walking their dogs but only when they were right in front of our house. I mean, she chases dogs! Wtf?

Oh, she annoys me all of the time. Mostly with the hunting. This is a cat who has dropped a dead dove on my foot at seven in the morning. She has run into the house and dropped a dead hummingbird into my purse. One spring, she brought at least three (live) fledgling birds into the house. I have come out of the bathroom to a baby snake whipping around in my hallway. I can’t tell you how many dead lizards I have had to deal with and in how many states of decay. I can’t tell you how many live lizards I have had to take back outside.

I recently attempted to adopt another cat. Audrey wasn’t having it. She ran her clear out of town. Sorry Ella, I hope you found other people.

I am a terrible pet owner, because all I got Audrey for her birthday was generic Walgreen’s kitty litter that had a hilarious label. Nonetheless, she knows how I feel. I can’t imagine life without my little worst cat ever.

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Selfish Gene

Oxford University Press, 1976.

* I LOVE old paperback covers of good books. I love them. I only really have a few around here that qualify, so… Please submit yours? I would post them and give you credit and let you write whatever you wanted.*

my e-mail is Please, please, please.

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Actual Dandoland

Girls just want to be saved.

When my best pal Teresa and I were sophomores, we fervently wished that Evan Dando would materialize right in front of us on the godforsaken army base where we went to high school and say “Howdy”. We were lonely and we hated almost everyone in sight. We deduced, based on his soulful singing, his ability to always cock his head, and the way that he seemed actually wiser and more defiant than his bimbo-y image, that Evan Dando would be really fun to hang out with. That he would embody “hanging out” and that — given our stressful and depressing surroundings — we actually needed him.

Plus, Evan Dando was hot. Plus, he sang “Ride With Me”. Plus, he was a beautiful soul person and we went to school on an army base.

Dandoland! Dandoland! It became a chanty religious thing, as we loved to play with words and — did I mention — we were bored? Evanism. A Jolly Green Bus Stop. Oh god. Sitting on the top of the hill during lunch wishing that Evan was there making dandelion (Dandolion!) chains with us… singing the Cure song “Just Like Evan”. Ha! That was supposed to be this whole post somehow and I was supposed to make it awhile ago and it was supposed to be nostalgic and about the Pitchfork countdown. I was supposed to end on the note that I wouldn’t have been lonely if I had known my husband then because he loved the Lemonheads and would have been sweet to me. It’s true. He would have been.

Whatever my point was supposed to be about nostalgia got ruined the night that I couldn’t sleep and I watched a million videos of Evan Dando performances and interviews on YouTube. It turns out that I still feel exactly the same about him. Like, as he is now, old Evan. Old Evan is the same as perfect 1993 Evan. He is awkward and sweet and funny and defiant and soulful and hard not to make fun of and I think he is smarter and cooler than all of us. I’m really bummed that I didn’t go see him play when he was here earlier this year. Basically, all that happened in the formation of this derailed blog post is that I found myself standing in front of a mirror at two in the morning — wishing I could go to sleep — but wishing even more that I could hang out with Evan Dando, chanting…

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Soul Urges

I love astrology. I can’t help it. Or, I could help it, but I don’t want to. It’s too fun and too easy to blame everything on. For instance, did you recently suffer through a massive communication breakdown that began roughly around August 20th? Never fear. This event did not occur because you are hyper-emotional and insecure and it also didn’t happen because you had PMS. It was actually a fated event because, on that day, Mercury went retrograde. Horrible communication breakdowns were the order of the day. All over the world. We couldn’t help ourselves. Everything will be better on September 12th.

I understand that believing in astrology is illogical. I don’t care. I am big fan of the scientific process and recognize that there is absolutely no basis for anything about astrology to be true and I still don’t care. Leave me alone about it and I’ll leave you alone about your stuff. Plus, I’m neutral on the idea of God. Could be. No argument there. I can’t really explain the existence of life, the properties of energy or where everything actually came from. So, why not?

I understand that it is difficult to believe that there are twelve kinds of people. However, it’s hard not to see the similarities between myself and others I know of my sign (Sagittarius). We all like to eat food and get inebriated. We all like to talk and go places just for the hell of it. We’re all friendly and love animals. We all like to read and eat food. We also all like to get inebriated and go places just for the hell of it. We all like to read to friendly animals or live out scenes from Dr. Dolittle. Mix and match.

There are exceptions, of course. Sagittarian Emily Dickinson never left her house. Unfortunately for you and your argument, I have been “studying” astrology for a long time and I understand all of its finer aspects, lesser influences and pressure points. I can explain away an exception to any of its rules with one of its other, less obvious, rules. For instance, both my younger sister and my husband are Scorpios (that is, their sun sign is Scorpio). While they have lots in common (tiny heads, hating talking, never farting in front of their spouses), they have differences, too. Josh loathes astrology whereas my sister, Johanna, texted me to tell me about the Mercury in retrograde thing. I will, off of the top of my head, blame this on their different moon signs. Your moon sign is concerned with how you feel about things. Johanna’s moon is in Aries which is an impulsive and self-centered sign. Josh’s is in Capricorn which is a wet-blankety and control-freaky sign. You could see how a person who is interested in herself would favor astrology whereas a person who does not like having fun would be against it… etc, etc. This is just a hypothesis and, I’m sure, not the actual reason. As someone who also has a stuck-on-herself moon sign (Leo), I don’t really care.

So, yesterday, I saw something great that confirmed my love of astrology. It is from a book by the fantastic Michael Lutin, Childhood Rising. There is a section called “soul urges” and, in it, Lutin lists the things that the people of your sign secretly long for and aspire to. He also tells you which people you look to as “parental figures”. I look to Pisces people as parents which is enormously helpful because both of my parents are actually Pisces people. Here is the all-true list of things I wish I were up to:

Soul Urges for Sagittarius

* To feel out of place everywhere
* To be drunk, drugged, or otherwise zonked out in bed
* To be unavailable for comment
* To be completely emotionally confused
* To join Adult Children of Alcoholics
* To just give up and check into a nursing home
* To build castles in the sand and live near the sea
* To connect deeply with the origins of Christianity
* To completely forgive your parents
* To laugh if the tornado gets your house
* To feel at home everywhere

This is good stuff and totally true. When I read something that dead-on, I don’t care about how dumb astrology is.

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A High Wind in Jamaica

I enjoyed literally every sentence of this novel. It was fascinating and psychological yet it never made me cry.

Learn more or order one yourself.

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I want this!

Please buy it for me here.

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