I am alternating between Regina Spektor’s ‘Samson’ and Elliot Smith’s ‘Memory Lane’, just because I particularly feel like being killed. Each song kills me. The flip flop between them is most unbearable, but just perfect for making one raw. Tears just hanging out. Something so authentic and poignantly detailed that the song kills you each time, every layer, even before you know what the hell it’s about. When I first heard ‘Memory Lane’, I lived with it on repeat for hours and returned to it often to loop and loop and it hit me on such a guttural level that I didn’t dare pay too much attention to the lyrics. I wasn’t ready to move past the overarching experience. One day, on tour in Italy, sitting on the beach on The Riviera, I decided I was ready to write the lyrics down and know what all he was saying. And when I did, the flood gates opened and I realized that it was all about my poor mother and wretched mental illness and I felt so sad for her and Elliot Smith and I felt awe for the inspiration that such illness sometimes provides. I have often thought that perhaps my choice of profession has turned out to be an homage to my mother and her illness, on the one hand, constantly trying to reach that inspiration and also recreating the pendulum of highs and lows. ‘I rock!’ ‘I suck!’ ‘I rock!’ ‘Who am I kidding?’ It makes me want to forego all of my worldly possessions and just write and write and write. Ahhh how life gets in the way…
‘Take what’s given me most cooperatively.’ It’s all about time.
My almost 9 month old son is asleep for the night and even though this is my turn to sleep too, I have poured myself a Dewar’s on the rocks and settled in for a few moments of remembering what it was like to be me before I was a mommy. Jennifer ordered a Dewar’s when we went to see Jesca Hoop at Stubbs and I decided that it would be a good idea to have a bottle of it at home. She told me, ‘DON’T! Well, actually DO! And tell me what happens, because when I bought a bottle it didn’t last a week.’ It has lasted and lasted, because I am usually too shattered to make myself stay up long enough to have a drink. Rather, I turn the light off and fret in sleepy delirium, not with it enough to just get up and catch up, until I fall into a deep sleep about an hour before Alistair wakes.
Previously I had begun to write about Precious, but I never posted it…
Precious is our neighbor’s dog with a death wish who has no idea how small she is. She chases after every car that comes down our street, yapping, and trying to play chicken. I have always hated that dog and judged the owners for not controlling her. All along, I have prepared myself emotionally, accepting that some day I might be the one to fulfill Precious’ wish, because no one can slam on their brakes every time they leave or return to their own home.
Their previous dog was killed by a car. I recall their little girl Tyler, who is as old as the years we have owned our house telling me one day, ‘Our dog’s dead.’
‘Oh honey, I’m sorry.’
‘She was hit by a car.’
‘Who hit her?’
She was just repeating what she heard, just like my British husband, when we moved here from the UK.
‘Can’t they hire some Mexicans to work with them?’
Totally innocent intentions, regurgitating what they had heard, but not yet understood first hand.
‘Honey, you have to be really careful about saying things like that.’
It’s like my father-in-law in a small village in Wales, who had never flown on a plane or left the U.K. saying to me when we first met, ‘How can you sing Blues if you aren’t black?’
I was reminded recently by my brother that Precious was nothing compared to the childhood dog we did a terrible job of raising for a while, before he bit a chunk out of my brother’s face and was later sent to live in the country with my step-mom’s cousin… Sparky pooped on our dining room table. He would steal a steak straight off the backyard grill. Sparky not only chased cars, but he bit tiresâ€¦ and we lived on the main thoroughfare for our neighborhood. Sparky would yelp and literally spin off like a ninja turtle from the tires of 18 Wheelers going 35 m.p.h. and never be deterred. I had COMPLETELY blocked this memory out until Matt brought it up and I was reminded that we judge the most harshly that which we see in ourselvesâ€¦ or as my dad says that they say in A.A. ‘Spot it. Got It!’
Ever since becoming pregnant, nesting, getting more friendly with the neighbors, which is profoundly easier with a baby… really it’s embarrassing that we could live here this long and not know all of our neighbors… I’ve been in super friendly neighbor mode. I want to reach out. I want to be someone they can call if they’ve fallen and they can’t get up…
So my new b.f. on my street, Luz , who grew up on an orchard in Mexico is helping me in what I consider the final frontier of adulthood â€“ my gardening. She clips things and sticks them in the ground and they grow an she coaches me on when to water and I now feel responsible for keeping these things alive, because they were a gift from her and because I do want to keep these things alive, especially the fig tree that I planted for my son. Not to mention that going out to water is a big event with a baby.
The eternally saintly Luz was not so friendly to a neighbor who walked over recently and started telling us her worries about the half way house that is on her block. It is one street and an entire world away. I could almost throw a rock and hit it. Mental patients. Not hurting anyone. I mean, my mom’s been in that scenario before. I feel for it. She comes over asking, ‘Isn’t there anything we can do?’ because apparently the lady who runs the place is switching out mental patients for Parolees. ‘I have grand babies and they are out of school for the summer.’ Knocking door to door. Bless her heart, pounding the pavement. My neighbor, the unofficial neighborhood watch man comes over and tells me the low down, makes his presence known to her. Shows me how she just took my $9 “loan” and went straight in to that house that all this time, I never knew was selling crack. Not to ever give her money and no matter what to never let her in my house. How he caught her trying to get in his car. How she dresses like a man sometimes and so he treats her like a man…
So one night, shortly after I had attracted the crack lady by suddenly becoming a gardenerâ€¦ there I was trying to transcribe the vocal part on ‘Great Gig in the Sky’ (just cuz) and considering the repeated whaling of me trying to match her phrases with a cold voice, I joked to my husband that Precious had come to bark on our front porch because she was being called like I was another dog. But Precious had never done this before and Andy remarked, that perhaps she thought I was in trouble. Then the soft knock of a desperate woman needing a fix, that neighbor from the world 1 block away who never came back to repay my $9 like she had promised. 11:57 p.m.on a week night and she’s at my door, clearly out of her mind jones-ing, asking for $3 (this time the story is that it’s a sick, hungry grand child). My husband, who has taken over as the heavy says one single word “No”. No meanness, no more information, just a clear message. And all the while, the mighty precious is standing on my porch, making her presence known. She’s got my back, as do all of my neighbors and I’ve decided that precious and I are simpatico.
We went out for a walk tonight and Tyler decided to join us. “Precious found a black dog.” Indeed, Precious was humping a black male dog about 4 times her size in another neighbor’s yard. Sup?
Currently listening :
Begin to Hope
By Regina Spektor
Release date: 13 June, 2006