Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Music

On Friday night, I went to Jones Beach to see Crosby, Stills & Nash with my dear friend Janice. We were by far some of the youngest people who were there by their own accord -- as opposed to the teenagers and children who were their with their parents, some of whom looked rather bored and engrossed in their text messages. While I've listened to a good bit of CSN(Y) in my life, I'm no die hard fan; however, I was truly humbled to see these great musicians and to hear them harmonizing so beautifully after so many years.

They played a good many covers that night, like "Ruby Tuesday" and "Norwegian Wood." The one that brought tears to my eyes, unsurprisingly, was "Girl From the North Country," which was part of a set of "songs we wish we'd written." Maybe it's because I truly am a huge Bob Dylan fan, or maybe just because the harmonies were so amazing and the melody so beautiful to begin with, that I got a chill through my spine and tears in my eyes and wished it would never end.

These songs made me think long and hard about my taste in music. My top favorite artists include Bob Dylan, The Band, Bob Marley, Joan Baez, Van Morrisson... I also love The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Arlo Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Fairport Convention, The Doors... How many of these artists have died? How many are well past the age of retirement now? Though many still perform today, the music that I hold near and dear to my heart is from decades before I was born. Is it really "my music"? Then again, what does "my music" really mean?

Sure, there are more modern bands that I've loved since childhood like Nirvana, Sublime, and Pearl Jam, but even they were around when I was in elementary school. Hell, Kurt Cobain died when I was in fourth grade, and Bradley Nowell when I was in sixth grade... Yet I loved them. Then I grew up and moved onto bands like Phish and Yonder Mountain String Band, while continuing to discover even more Grateful Dead than I'd ever known existed. I was introduced to The Shins and Sufjan Stevens and The Postal Service by a good friend, which likely paved the way for me to discover some modern music all by myself. I now count Beirut and Arcade Fire and Dr. Dog and Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver among my favorites.

But the music that I still turn to when all else fails is those first few mentioned before, namely Dylan and Baez and The Band. Of course, I have only my parents to thank (or blame) for this, depending on how you look at it. In some ways, I feel like my adoration of the music of the 60s and 70s has hindered my discovery of new bands. When there is such a huge amount of amazing music that was created 20 years before I was born, there's a lot of time to make up. And since I didn't really even start really getting into music that wasn't on the radio until I was about 15, that's a full 35 years of incredible songwriting to cover! Only when the prospect of going to concerts came up did I realize I needed to know new music and I needed to know it now. Thank god for friends who told me, "Buy this ticket, go to this show" or I would never have seen bands like Moe or Assembly of Dust.

I guess that while the music I love the most is that of my parents' generation, it is still "my music." It's what I love, what I find solace in, what gets me pumped up and happy, or what calms me down and brings me back to earth. And while I do think I'm a bit lazy about finding modern musicians, that's ok. There are so many beautiful singers and songwriters that I will be fortunate to even discover a few of them. But I really ought to make an effort to see more of them in concert... Then again, I should also be fortunate that great bands like CSN are still alive and kickin' -- and playing truly amazing music. And I will most definitely go to see them perform while I still have the chance.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Our futon broke last weekend. Rather, I broke our futon... I was sitting on it as I Facebook stalked my friends from childhood with my mom (no joke), and suddenly it just came crashing down. So we put the mattress on the floor in front of the broken frame, moved the coffee table over, and have proceeded to live for the next week like this is a perfectly normal and acceptable way to hang out in your living room. It's not, of course. Yet I don't really mind. It's nice to just kind of flop down on the ground, read, watch TV and movies, waste time on the Internet, and occasionally sit up to eat off the coffee table. It's like camping in my own home.

I really ought to be more grown up than this by now. I mean, on the outside, I seem like a perfectly responsible adult. I'm nearly 25, I have a boyfriend of 5 years, I graduated on time from a good college, I have had two full time jobs in the 3 years since school, I have held a second part time job for a year and a half, and I actually have a savings account! I have never worried about not being able to pay my rent or feed myself... I can even feed my cat! All of these mean that I am a responsible adult! Right...??

Then I look around my apartment from my little nest on the ground and I see bizarre things. A futon mattress on the floor is the first glaring clue that I am not a real grownup. And why is there an empty lemonade bottle sitting inside the plastic pitcher we use to water our plants? Judging by the multitude of dead and dying plants on our windowsills, perhaps it's because that pitcher doesn't get much use. There is an air conditioning unit sitting on the floor and a fan is sitting on top of that. Nick's boxers are for some reason crumpled on the floor by the piano. On a chair in the corner there is a pile of unread magazines about which I keep saying to myself, "Someday I'll read these...Someday..." Our ironing board is never used for what its name specifies, but rather as another surface where we can pile all our crap. Speaking of crap, my bedroom looks like a bomb went off around my closet and dressers. Yes, I have multiple dressers. Three to be exact. And yet my clean and dirty clothes, many of them folded carefully by the nice ladies at Big Apple Laundry, are strewn across multiple dressers and the floor, as well as on a kitchen chair which has been kidnapped by my room and held for ransom. We aren't just messy or disorganized. We're hopeless. Well, it's mostly just me. I am the guilty party most of the time when it comes to not putting things away or doing stupid things with food and clothing that don't make any sense. Nick's pretty good about being domestic. I'm more than hopeless. I'm a lost cause.

I looked at Facebook today and it seems that everyone is getting married. And I mean EVERYONE. Not my close friends, thank god, but about half of my high school class. Ugh. And they have children. LOTS of them. I can barely even keep houseplants alive, and I worry every day that my cat doesn't get enough attention. I can't even fathom what it would be like to be responsible for another human life. I'm barely responsible for my own life! In the last two nights I went to three different parties. Yesterday I didn't get off the mattress (it's not a couch anymore, it's a mattress) all day. I spent my whole day watching YouTube videos of kittens and puppies, reading about serial killers on Wikipedia, watching "Grandma's Boy," eating bacon sandwiches, and snuggling with the cat. Today, after waking up at noon, we spent most of the day waiting for some legendary pizza at Di Fara. That's what you do when you don't have kids. Serial killers, kittens, bacon, and pizza. All this and more in between drinking Bloody Marys and lots and lots of beer!

Good thing Rachel turned me on to Hyperbole and a Half. This little blogger makes me feel better about myself, because apparently we're just about the same age and she lives in squalor as well. Only she has pet rats, so I'm jealous. I held a ferret the other day and now all I want to do is go adopt some rodents. Anyway, this girl is hilarious, and while she is a famous blogger and I am not, she makes me feel like I'm not a total failure. Does it matter so much that my houseplants die? That my apartment is a mess and frankly, I don't care?!? Since I'm not married and living in suburbia with a bunch of kids, DOES IT MATTER?!?! Hell no. Posts like This is Why I'll Never Be an Adult and Am Adult help me come to the conclusion that the longer I can perpetuate this absence of real responsibility, the better. I have my life together for the most part, so who cares if there is a random teddy bear sitting in the middle of my living room floor covered in cat hair? At least I'm not on crack. At least I have a job. At least I have an education. At least I'm not fat. HAH. I win.

New York City enables the Peter Pan Syndrome to take hold and never let go. Here, it is perfectly acceptable, perfectly normal, to simply never grow up. To live life as if you will always be young and the future is only a dreamy destination to be arrived at someday, but that day is far far away. And the real world is only as real as you allow it to become during the work week, because when the weekend arrives, you're free. Free to drink and sing and slack off and stuff your face full of terrible foods, and wear what you want, or not wear anything at all. Free to not budget or plan ahead or worry about what your grandchildren will think, but just live in the moment and always, always go with the flow... And even during the week, there's always happy hour.

So does it matter that for the duration of writing this post I've simply been procrastinating the cleaning of my apartment, as I have planned to do all day and then promised my boyfriend I would do? Does it?? No. He knows and I know that I'll get to it eventually, when the motivation strikes me. Because right now, I'm young enough and free enough that I can do that. I can say, "I'll do it when I feel like it." And the world will not come crashing down. Everything will be fine. Because I am a responsible adult. Responsible for me, and only me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moon Shadow

My cat is sitting next to me, snuggling with the remote control and purring away. Just a moment ago I leaned over to pet her and she swatted a claw-less paw at me. I said, "Hey, stop that!" She froze, then saw my still extended hand still hovering over her head and rubbed her little cheek against it as if to say, "I was only kidding. Please pet me."

The purring is what gets me. It's taken little miss Moon Shadow Stugalas a long time for her little kitty motor to start running at what I would consider a normal speed. After I found her on the street and brought her home with me nearly two years ago, she rarely purred. I've heard that purring it something only domesticated (as opposed to feral) cats do because it elicits the right response from their owners. Basically, it's their adorable and soothing way of manipulating us into petting them. I'm not sure if it's true or not, but if it is, my little Shadow eventually learned this tactic and started using it to her advantage. Since she rarely purred before, I'm mighty impressed with her.

Besides purring, she used to rarely let us hold her. While she was obsessed with following us around the apartment (hence the name Shadow...the Moon was added later) because she didn't want to ever be alone, she was not the most cuddly cat. In fact, she was not cuddly at all. About 10 seconds after we'd pick her up, she'd be struggling to get down. We finally started dealing with this in a way she could adjust to. Rather than force her to stay in our arms (tough love), we would set her down gently and give her a little stroke once she reached the ground. Eventually she was letting us hold her for longer and longer periods of time. It still kind of amazes me when I pick her up and she settles against my chest or shoulder contentedly purring away, and doesn't make any move to get down. Eventually I'm actually the one to willingly put her down. That's crazy.

I found the little devil on an October morning in 2008 when I went to move my car. She came scampering up behind me on the sidewalk, mewing adorably, and what was I supposed to do? She rubbed against my legs and followed me for about 20 feet. It was unbearable. I called my boyfriend and explained the situation.

"Uhh, hi sweetie. I found this really cute little kitten on the street and she's really sweet and skinny and she's following me and I'm going to bring her home with me and--"

"Put it back."

Needless to say, I showed up at the apartment 5 minutes later with the cat in my arms. I blended some lunchmeat with some cereal to make a wet food of sorts (which she ate ravenously), put some potting soil in a wash basin for a litter box, and ignored Nick's glares as I promised to take her to the shelter that night. Instead I went to Petsmart and bought toys after work, as well as flea shampoo. Then I went to Duane Reade and got litter and food. I came home to a pile of puke on the carpet and a freshly used litter box. I scrubbed her down in the tub as she stood there still and terrified, looking like a pathetic, emaciated otter. I picked the encrusted flea dirt from her tummy and rubbed her paws until they were finally white instead of beige and could feel every delicate bone in her tiny little body. I did the same thing the next two nights, and she only ever made one pathetic attempt to get out of the tub.

Two weeks later we decided to keep her officially. In that time we pronounced her the most docile and loyal creature we'd ever met. We took her to the shelter and had to leave her for three days so we could get free shots, a free vet visit, a microchip, and a minimal adoption fee. It was horrible. I literally had to fight to get her back since they deemed her "unadoptable" because she had shown "signs of aggression." I was devastated, but I cried and hung around long enough that they realized I was serious, then agreed to reevaluate her in the morning and go through with the adoption. I took her home the next night. I took her to the vet, who disspelled my belief that she was only about 6 months old. She was actually a year and a half, but was stunted in her growth. I was happy to have a tiny kitty and proceeded to furnish our home with all the silly crap that you buy when you get a new pet. It was like she was finally ome for good, though she'd been with us for about three weeks. And then her true colors came out and her real identity was born.

First, her name changed. She was soon renamed Moon Shadow due to my parents' belief that Shadow was simply not creative enough for a black cat. And because she had gotten her name due to her penchant for following us (underfoot always, meaning we tripped on her and stepped on her many times), it only seemed right to take my mother's suggestion of naming her for the Cat Steven's song... "I'm being followed by a moon shadow... Moon shadow, moon shadow." Thanks, Mom. Now I look like a ridiculous hippie every time I tell people my cat's name.

After weeks of thinking she was so incredibly docile, she suddenly became the rambunctious and playful, albeit somewhat frustrating, girl we came to love. Running through the apartment at 4 in the morning, attacking us as we walked by her, biting with no warning, staring at us creepily, rolling around on the rug, scratching the rug, learning to ignore us when we yelled at her for scratching the rug, then finally, scratching the rug just to spite us when we weren't paying attention to her. She used to literally scratch it and stare at us as we clapped our hands and yelled, knowing we had no other defense. I never did break out the spray bottle...I guess I just spoiled her. My little baby could be a tyrant at times, running along the back of the couch and swatting our hair, biting our ears, jumping on our arms with teeth bared. She never really wanted to hurt us, we realized, she was just trying to play. And she ALWAYS wanted to play. She just didn't quite know her limits.

Shadow has grown up a lot in two years. She is now much calmer, much more willing to just sit next to you and enjoy being stroked. We can hold her, listen to her purr, laugh at her antics when we break out the feather toy, smile when she gazes longingly at the mourning doves on the fire escape, chase her around the apartment when she gets into a hyper mood, and not get freaked out when she stares at us with her huge green eyes from far away, because we know she'll lose interest soon enough and go sleep on "her" chair. It was strange to realize one day thatshe had changed so much -- although she had been a fairly normal cat before, just a little hyper, she had truly become domesticated. It made me realize just how wild she had been from living the first year and a half of her life on the streets. I'm happy to say that will never happen again.

Over the course of writing this post, she has run around for a moment, eaten some food (in the kitchen), drank some water (in the living room), scratched the rug, rolled aroundon the floor, and now she is back next to me, stretched out and purring while her little tail twitches. And she looks so content. Someday she'll have little brother and sister kitties (and doggies!) to entertain her. But for now, she is an only child, a tiny little bundle of black fur and white paws that I am so happy to have. I think she's pretty happy to be here, too. I think she knows followed the right person down the street on that day in October...