Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mean Reds

One of my favorite books is Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Many people have seen the movie, but I know far fewer have read the book. I would recommend this short novella to all who have ever felt the need to belong while at the same time, to not be tied down. The underlying theme is that you should never love a wild thing for the more you love a wild thing, the more inclined they will be to break away. As Holly Golightly says in the book, "...you can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky."

I've always felt a certain kindredness to Holly. She seems always to be running, while at the same time standing still. She is a strong female character with an inherent weakness for never giving up on her "friends", even when her friends have given up on her.

Holly describes the concept of the Mean Reds. What we nowadays call "depression", Holly describes this feeling as being afraid yet not knowing what you are afraid of. There are times when I have often experienced the Mean Reds myself. I think everyone goes through them from time to time. It's when they start to take over your life, that you have to wonder if maybe you should seek professional help. I will not lie...I've been that low...so low that I needed to reach out to an unbiased third-party to help me through. That was several years ago after a nasty episode with someone I credited at the time with being the one true love of my life (I now know this to not be the case), and my married co-worker. No need to go into details - you can do the math and maybe understand why seeing a therapist was a good option for me back then!

It's been years since I have been back to therapy. Nowadays, I try to combat the Mean Reds with other distractions - I call those Warm Fuzzies. Things that I enjoy doing, that bring me happiness one way or the other so that I may impart joy onto others (yuck - I sounded like friggin' Pollyanna right there, didn't I?!). Do you remember when you were a kid and learned the story of the Warm Fuzzies and the Cold Pricklies? I do...it was a concept that stuck with me throughout childhood and (obviously) till today. It was an important lesson to learn so young in life...that being warm and inviting will get you much further than (frankly) being a cold-hearted bitch ever will. Unfortunately, there are still those people out there that think being cold and callous is the only way to get through life. The challenge for the Holly Golightlys' of the world is to learn to identify the signs early on and extract yourself from the situation so you do not encounter the Mean Reds. I am by no means advocating that one should run away from their problems, but simply don't entangle oneself in the pettiness of others and you will be fine.

I know....easier said than done.

Back to the idea of not loving a wild thing...when I think back on my relationships, the ones that always seem to start off well, the ones that are actually good for me, usually end up with my pushing the other person away and not letting them in. The relationships that were the unhealthiest were the ones that I fought tooth and nail for, and miserably lost. We always want what we can't have, right? I propose as well that we often reject what we need the most. After all, isn't it easier to be alone than than to make a romantic relationship work with someone else? That's all fine and good until you find yourself in bed alone on a cold Saturday night with your down comforter from Ikea and a 15-pound cat keeping your feet warm. (YES..I speak from personal experience). So the question remains, like Holly, am I better off being a wild thing, or will allowing myself to be tamed be to my benefit?

Any lion tamers out there?

The Art of Toast

I love toast. I love toast in the morning. I love it at noontime. I even love having toast for dinner. Sometimes - like tonight - I will even go all out and have toast for dessert! With a little bit of honey, my mouth won't know the difference between the toast or the pint of dulce de leche in the freezer. And dare I say - the toast is probably a little bit healthier! I am, after all, using whole wheat bread as the toast foundation upon which I build my tasty dessert.

When I was a kid my mom used to make the best toast. It was always browned to perfection, with just the right amount of butter, spread on at exactly the right time so that it melts into all the little nooks and crannies. mmmmmm...I used to love her poached egg on toast. You would pierce the yolk of an otherwise alabaster egg and the sunshiney yellow gooeyness would seep out onto the bread creating a tasteful combination that was a joyful start to your day.

And we can not forget the sheer esctasy that is French Toast. Day old cinammon swirl bread, sliced thick and allowed to soak in an egg batter before frying up in a generous slab of butter...6 minutes over medium heat, turn, then 4 minutes on the other side. C'est magnifique!

People make fun of me because I insist on having a toaster oven - you know, like grandma has. I say "pish-posh"! I like my toaster oven. It allows me to make toast out of any kind of bread - whole grain, sprouted wheat, ciabatta, baguette...even the occasional blueberry muffin has taken a turn in my trusty toaster oven. Though I will say there is nothing worse than having to dig out burnt-on blueberry muffin from the heat coils of a conventional toaster!

Shut up...it was an experiment!

And let's not forget about my panini press...that makes a very tasty toasted cheese sammie when I am in a hurry! If I could have a brick oven in my kitchen, I would install one just to make bruschetta the way they do at Macaroni Grill. Mmmmm....

In case you are wondering - no! I am not high. I just have visions of toast points dancing around my head, the way some people think about chocolate or sex...well...I think about those too, but in addition to the toast!

Oooohhh...you know what is really good?? Baguette toast, with a little nutella spread on it, shared with the one you love... *sigh*

But don't get any crumbs in the bed! That will just really spoil the mood!

Music And Me

I've been thinking a lot lately about music and how I relate to it in my everyday life. It seems these days in order for me to focus on any task, I need to have some sort of music going in the background. Depending on what I am doing, it can be something as chill as St. Germain, as energized as New Order, or as profound as this guy whom I've mentioned a couple times in previous blogs (and who is currently grinding away in the background as I type this).

I read somewhere once that "music enriches us all, and the seeds for appreciating it are planted in childhood". Based on my own experience, I do firmly believe this statement to be 100% true. My parents - my father especially - laid a solid foundation early on for music appreciation. My dad still grooves to the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Elvis. He also digs folk music - the Chad Mitchell Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary. And he LOVES showtunes...don't even play Red and Black around him or he will happily serenade you. When my mom was younger she certainly had an appreciation for folk and classical music; then again, she also had a "thing" for John Denver. If she were a teenager, it would have been akin to a massive crush on a teen pop idol, a la Leif Garrett. I vividly recall once on one of our many car trips between DC and NH we took during the 80s, a radio station somewhere in Connecticut played Calypso. My otherwise "keep in turned down to a nice, pleasant decibel level lest you ruin your delicate ear drums" mother, nearly drove us off the road reaching for the volume control, proceeded to jack it up to full blast and sang along at the top of her lungs. When the song was over, she literally begged the radio to play it again. It was a bit frightening actually. However, it does drive home my point that music can have an amazingly profound impact on the listener. It can reach down into your soul and pull something out that you otherwise keep hidden away.

I've been to many a music show in my day - from huge stadium rock concerts, to orchestral/ symphonic presentations in world-class concert halls, to funky jazz jams in back-alley clubs, to down and dirty hip-hop and reggae performances at smaller, local venues. The music may vary, but the emotion it provokes is a common theme no matter the genre. You can see it in the audiences' faces, in their body language, the way they bop their head to the rhythm, tap their feet in time to the music. Human beings are organically predisposed to respond to music. The fortunate few among us who possess the gift to create music are to be regarded as modern-day heralds, calling out to the masses to rejoice in their inherent passion.

Do you remember the first album you ever bought? Mine was AC/DC, "For Those About To Rock". Seriously. I loved it - played it over and over again. I wish I still had it. I would play it now. I was 10 when I bought that record. Three years later, I hit puberty and subsequently discovered the perpetual boy band and it was all pop, all the time, until I was introduced to the pleasures of funk and jazz while in college. From there, my tastes gradually evolved into the eclectic mix they are today. My preferences vary depending on my mood...ambient, funk, soul, rap, country, jazz, pop, electronic, grime, even house and trance. I always say I will listen to anything once. More than likely, I will listen more than once, and usually grow to like everything I hear. I view the whole musical experience as a lesson in acceptance and tolerance. I believe that shutting yourself off to entire genres - to the point where some people won't even walk through the loathed section in the store - is contrary to human nature and doesn't allow one to grow in mind, body and soul. What upsets me more are those people that do not allow music into their lives, because they are too busy letting in misery and negativity and are incapable of enjoying the relief that music will bring them. I am sad to report my mother has become one of those people. Ironically, it was around the time that John Denver passed away, when the music died for her.

My hope for my mother, and others like her, is they will one day feel again the good vibrations, allow themselves to tap their feet, and open their hearts and minds to the possibilities that music presents...whether the message being expressed is one of joy or sorrow, life or death, love or loss.

Music is Life.