Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top Three Bad Holiday Fashion Sightings.

Tis the season for gaudy, perplexing, holiday-themed garb.

1. World Gym: Man, in his sixties and skinny, strolling the weights area in clingy red workout pants and a Santa hat.
2. Ferry Building: Man, in his fifties, wears a light brown work shirt adorned by a red, glittery tie, a bit too short and a bit too wide.
3. Tres Agaves: A group of men in their thirties and forties, accompanied by women, parade into the restaurant wearing the worst holiday sweaters you've ever seen. I don't know who dreamed up the theme for this type of gathering (maybe inspired by Bad Sweater Guy?), but my (Santa) hat is off to him or her.

Personal example: When I was in grade school I had a red and green plaid, pleated wool skirt that I saved to wear for the holidays. I LOVED it. If I remember correctly, it also had thin matching suspenders in the same material. I also had a small, knitted wreath pin that I liked to wear. It was green with a little red ribbon affixed to the top.

Have you worn or witnessed any special holiday ensembles?

Music: "Last Christmas"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Living Out (Too) Loud.

I almost didn't post this because it is embarrassing on multiple levels. But then, embarrassment is the type of occasion for which this blog was created.

Recently, I came home to find a neatly folded piece of paper under my door, with the following written in very straight longhand:

Christina ( & guests)

Your surrounding neighbors are being overwhelmed by loud music from your apartment so asked me to let you know "it's just too loud" for an apartment building.

They figured you're probably not aware so wanted you to know....just lower the volume & enjoy your favorite tunes!



The previous night, I had been listening (modestly, I thought) to music on an iPod dock in my kitchen for about two hours. It was an anomaly: Usually I don't use the dock for that long, but I was cooking a couple of things and was in an especially good mood. To be fair, the playlist did include songs by Usher, Ludacris, Jill Scott and other artists that no one would like hearing involuntarily across a wall. (What would one like, or at least not mind, hearing involuntarily across a wall? After many years of apartment living, I can tell you the answers are traditional jazz and/or piano.)

Let's give credit where it's due: the note above is a masterpiece of shaming. Let's take it one piece at a time:

1. Christina (& guests). Initially, I found this salutation perplexing, as I am alone for the majority of time I spend in my apartment. I wondered why anyone would assume I was having people over just because my music is on. Then I thought more closely about the evening in question and realized how much I talk to myself (or the computer or a movie, etc.). In particular, after completing one of the dishes I was working on, I exclaimed "THIS IS SO GOOD" multiple times upon tasting it. It turns out that *I* am the offending guest in question, and my own occupancy of one is still too high for this apartment.

2. Your surrounding neighbors. Really? My apartment borders on four others: above, below, and on each side. My upstairs neighbor is too noisy to complain about noise. My living-room neighbor is too far from my kitchen to be disturbed by my iPod dock. That leaves my kitchen-wall neighbor and my downstairs neighbor. I am convinced only one of them objected and the manager, either out of solidarity with the one neighbor or simple sadism, decided to wordsmith it into a gang complaint. Either way, the effect is to isolate me as a bad seed among several model citizens. One can imagine Susan fielding multiple calls from a community of people offended by my presence: "Hello? Yes, I’ve heard about 502. She’s a real problem. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that, sugar, I’ll take care of it right away. Oops, I have another call, can you hold? Thanks. Hello? Hi, John! Yes, I’ve heard. Is it really that bad? Dear me. Of course, honey, I’ll take care of -- Can you excuse me? I have another call…"

3. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed is a pretty impressive word for music that happens twice a week for an hour at most, if that, and always before 11:00 p.m. In fact, I kind of like the idea of my surrounding neighbors on their knees, gasping for breath and clutching their heads, so overwhelmed are they by the relentless onslaught of my hardcore… R&B music?

4. "It’s Just Too Loud." Accenting the supposed plurality of this complaint, Susan employs the Zagat style for her review of my behavior. "Those who find themselves in the vicinity of Christina's apartment may find that they are 'overwhelmed' by the ambiance, which is 'just too loud' for your average abode. Visitors are encouraged to either 'bring earplugs,' or be forced to enjoy Christina's 'favorite tunes.'"

5. They figured you’re probably not aware. Well no, I was not aware, because not one signal was sent my way. No one banged on the ceiling, or rapped on my door. Now, when I put on my music, I have no idea whether it’s still offensive or not, because I cannot ask the person who has rejected my judgment of reasonable volume. The offended party’s choice of tattling precludes a dialogue.

6. Just lower the volume & enjoy your favorite tunes! The condescension here serves as a shaming coda. "Enjoy your favorite tunes" is like the squarest way possible to describe this pursuit. “Listening to music” is an essential human activity. "Enjoying your favorite tunes" is something you are granted or sold, for example in an airplane seat or on a "my first radio" built for toddlers.

Everyone envisions a moment when they have made it: It's that point where you can relax a little, sit back and survey what you have achieved. For some people, it's owning a vacation home. For others, maybe it's making partner at work. For me, a lifelong urban dweller, it is nothing more than a detached, single-family home where my ears can be free: No one above or below me, no casualties, just relative autonomy in the audio department.

I'm leaving these song links at the end of the posts because they are probably outros more than anything else. Wouldn't it be funny if I got a noise complaint on my own blog? I'm surprised I haven't already: "Golden"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Escaped Connections.

Several weeks ago, I began reading the missed connections section of Craigslist. The event precipitating this new habit will be related in a future post.

The environment on missed connections is hopeful and often sweet, though a bit more cynical than in the olden days, when seeking one's random lost love meant taking the trouble to dial up a newspaper and place a printed ad.

Are the people who post on missed connections starry-eyed romantics who believe in serendipity and love at first sight? Are they lust-struck people hoping for a hook-up? Are they embittered ex-lovers somehow brought to the point of trading veiled barbs in a public forum? Are they delusional misfits imagining "connections" that never existed? Yes! That's why it's so fun to read.

A typical Craigslist missed connections ad goes something like this:

Mrs Claus at Market & 3rd - m4w - 28 (downtown / civic / van ness)
You were part of Critical Claus? Marvin Gaye was playing as you swaggered over to me. You told me that you knew Santa and he said I had been a "bad boy" I just want you to know that I have actually been pretty good this year and I am expecting a lot for my efforts. For starters, I'd like your name and a coffee date. You are too cute and I was smitten. Drop me an email when Mr. Claus isn't looking.

The more tiresome ones involve people trying to resolve their relationship (and or breakup) issues:

i still think of you - m4w - 21 (USF / panhandle)
sometimes i still think of you and us. i wish it could have been different but its not.

And then, there's Donut World Man.

His first post was notable only because of his stated age:

outside donut world - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
you were standing outside of donut world tonight next to a bicycle. you were a strong, beautiful woman; standing there in the cold nights breeze, my goddess athena. i dont know if you saw me, i had a bandage on my finger, a accident when i was carving some wood. if you did see me, i would love to ride a bicycle fit for two with you.

A bit strange, but harmless enough, right? It wasn't until I went to compile his posts that I realized Donut World Man had been active multiple times per day.

On Dec. 7, the same day as the "outside donut world" post, he published two others (all pasted verbatim):

donut word tonight - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
you had a plaid hat, your dark skin radiated in the fluorescent lights. sadly sitting in the corner alone at donut world tonight, were you waiting for someone? i wished that you were waiting for me, but that would be too good to be true. no one is ever waiting for me, no one ever sits there longing for my arrival. all i want is for someone to be excited when i enter the room. but you werent, you remained in your corner as i got my coffee and chocolate donut and left. i wanted to say something to you. i wish i had.

You were leaving donut world as i was coming in - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
I think your big, beautiful eyes caught a glimpse of me as you were leaving donut world and i was entering. You were a blonde beauty, a little older in age; but there is nothing wrong with that. Every wrinkle on your spectacular face only added to your radiance. It looked like you had a family with you, perhaps your daughters and granddaughters. I saw no man, however; I need a woman like you in my life
I dont have a family I sometimes wish i did have one I gets lonely sometimes with out people around you too talk to
if you want to meet up,

So there it becomes clear that this is a very lonely and pathetic individual.

On Dec. 9, he posts three more ads that betray a bit more desperation:

donut world - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
i went to donut world this morning as always, there were a lot of women there but none of them spoke to me or even acknowledged me. they never do. why? i dont know. i just want to talk to one, i would like some company that is all

i guess she didnt want to talk to me - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
there was a girl who responded to one of my missed connections. she said she took a picture of me at donut world and was going to send it to me so i would know that she wasnt playing a trick on me but she never sent it so i guess she was tricking me. i dont think it was very funny i just wanted someone to talk to but i guess she didnt want to talk to me i dont know why

i saw you - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
i just want to talk all i want is too talk to someone why wont any one talk to me the are deer i scare away the deer there eyes they look with those doe eyes

And now we have reached the point where, if this were a movie, then the music would slow down and change to minor key. Dec. 10:

donut world - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
i am too tired to go donut world today besides i can never find any deer there. they are all gone. if you are the one with the big doe eyes i want to talk to you

alone - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
i just would like someone to talk to

i would like to go deer hunting this winter if anyone would like to join me

Okay? His most recent post is Dec. 14:

donut world tonight - m4w - 72 (downtown / civic / van ness)
you were drinking coffee alone at donut world tonight; i was too, but you didn't seem to notice me. as i was leaving, i gently splashed my coffee on to your lap, and your eyes glistened, like dew in a meadow at dawn. you looked like a deer in the headlights. i'm sorry i startled you.

coffee sometime? we could meet at the same place, same time, and i promise i'll keep mine in the cup.

When viewed separately, each of DWM's posts seem either harmless or crazy or both. But when taken together as a body of work, they seem like the thoughts of an individual who either has been, or will be, or should be, involuntarily confined. The bandage on his finger -- was it really from carving wood, or carving "deer"?

I wonder if I am the only one monitoring this situation.

Has anyone had a missed-connection experience? Please share if you have.

I am going to try something new: Each non-music-related post will have a companion song, for listening while you read or afterward, if you care to. I am going to sort of deejay my blog.

For this post: "The Wilderness"

Friday, December 05, 2008

One-Night Stands.

Do you ever find yourself craving a song in the way that you might crave a snack? You just want to hear a specific song, for no discernible reason. It's a really random one, too. Like, you might have to dig around for it. You play it a few times, maybe for one evening or over a couple of days, and then you move on. You probably come back to it from time to time, if it's meant to be. In some cases, you might feel a little sheepish afterward.

It's nice to be called, aurally abducted, by some rogue song in your brain's massive playlist. Almost like catching up with a friend, or sometimes making a new one. Hey there, how you been? I remember the times we had together. You sound the same as you always have. I forgot that you always did that thing on the chorus. And you know, I never understood you on that one verse, what were you saying, anyway? It's good to hear you again. We shouldn't let so much time go by.

This happens to me almost every day. I would like to start sharing these songs here. Maybe you share some of your own. Maybe you assert your opinion on the song in question. Maybe you have a better name for this feature. For now it will be One-Night Stands.

Today's haunt was "Distractions," by Zero 7.

What initially draws me to this song is the opening ethereal keyboard hook and the vocals of Sia, who always sounds like she is chewing on any given music as it travels through her. She is perfect for this, a very strange, cynical and solitary love song.

How do you make a song sound as if it's taking place at night? How do you make it all sound as if the whole thing is already a memory, even as it dwells in the present and future? How do you make it sound lonely?