November 2, 2022
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November 2, 2022
November 2, 2022
If you would like to spend about half an hour contemplating aging and impending death with several versions of a beautiful song, I seem to have you covered. [The footnotes are partly for me, but also I showed this to a friend who copyedits. 🙂 ]
Over and over again these last weeks I’ve been seeing various situations I’ve been in from different angles. In some cases, it’s because there is a factual thing going on in which I have a different role than I did the last time I was in that story. Other times it’s been a song or someone else’s story that comes into different focus. As I told my friend F., when I was asking for their thoughts on all the connections I was seeing: “Apophenia turned to 11, it’s fun but it is a LOT. Help?”
It’s as apparently trite as the song “Both Sides Now” — but that song is not trite. That song is profound and heartbreaking. When I hear Joni sing it as a young woman, with her clear, high-pitched voice, I find the song is precocious and bittersweet. Even at 26, her wisdom was shining out.
I actually first heard it sung by Judy Collins, and although Collins herself has grown on me over the years, the horrible bouncy (electronic?) (harpsichord?) in this recording, at that tempo, made Joni’s compelling, specific, original lyrics feel rote to me.
Hearing Seal sing it at Joni’s 75th birthday concert, I was openly weeping in the theater. His phrasing, the instrumentation, the gravity of his performance, all contributed to an elegiac mood. “So many things / I would have done / but clouds got in my way”.* When he spoke directly to her across the concert hall, I felt like I had snuck a glimpse at their private life. So beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3J2nqeDf2g
Joni performing it at Newport this year had me straight up ugly crying. I’ve seen the recording several more times now, and I no longer sob or weep so hard I have to stop the video, but that has happened a couple of times. (I find it’s actually more cathartic if you keep watching while you cry, FYI. Ymmv.)
Joni Mitchell. Many of us thought she was done. She was a lovely old lady who came out to various events, was praised, didn’t say much, had horrifying health problems. But Joni in 2022 has significantly recovered from a stroke that ruined her hands, among other things. She can play guitar again. She relearned her own songs by watching videos of herself playing the songs. She performed at Newport this year, her first public performance in TWENTY years. It was an emotional performance and viewing experience from the get-go, but when she sang the lines, “And now old friends are acting strange / they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed / well, something’s lost and something’s gained / in living every day” she knocked every bit of breath out of me. I was not alone; I’ve seen many accounts of people saying that was the actual second** that their tears started.
More than one friend (and nearly every asshole on the internet) has mentioned Wynonna Judd fidgeting during the concert when she wasn’t actively singing. She looks so uncomfortable at times. Well. Wynonna’s mama, Naomi Judd, shot herself in the head the night before she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, just under three months before Newport. Naomi Judd was depressed and frantic and miserable. She decided to kill herself rather than be seen in front of her peers and fans looking older or fatter or lower-voiced or crazy or…. When I see Wynonna watching Joni, I see a woman thinking to herself: Mama. Joni’s doing it. You could have done it. You could have heard every person still alive who has anything to do with country music say nice things to you to your face***, but you noped out.
One true thing I know, after a challenging life to date, is that being dead is far worse than looking foolish or fat or old in front of your friends.
*I have been coming to feel that the period should go outside of the quotes. Perhaps because I read a lot of UK content? But this is not a careless error; it’s me as author(!) asserting a non-standard preference. If the universe keeps giving me presents, I will discuss this with Teresa Nielsen Hayden someday. (Patrick just posted that Making Light is going back up! Huzzah!)
**Side topic — the power of recorded music to invoke emotional states down to the split second. [Side side topic: I want to talk to someone who knows about music programming in NBA arenas. I have SO MANY questions.]
***In “Girls Against God”, Florence Welch opens with “What a thing to admit / That when someone looks at me with real love / I don’t like it very much / Kinda makes me feel like I’m being crushed”
[NB — I have a LOT to say about this song, and also the album. It’s tremendous. That might be the topic on 11/2.]
September 18, 2017
In kindergarten, no one else knew how to read, so I kept my mouth shut about it. My kindergarten teacher was gobsmacked when they assessed my reading skills at the end of the year and discovered that actually, I could read at a fifth-grade level, at least. (They ran out of readers to test me with, because my school only went to fifth grade.) 🙂 First grade was much happier for me, because I was free! Freeeeeee! And the librarians had been told about me, and they offered me ALL THE BOOKS. <3 I couldn't possibly love librarians more than I do.
September 17, 2017
The following was originally posted on FB on September 15, 2014.
Sometimes people want to know how I turned out “like this”. That’s a long story, y’all! Thankfully, I’m in no rush here, I’m from Louisiana, and we know when to take our time. Here’s a fairy tale from when I was tiny:
When Mama and Daddy had a little bit of extra money, Daddy would “get cleaned up” and we would go to this seafood restaurant in Baton Rouge that he loved. I must have been about three or four years old when this happened: We were there, and a rich family, I mean RICH, was there, enjoying themselves a big seafood dinner. (I only understood these folks were rich later. I mean, we *all* like our fried shrimp in Louisiana, right?) They were so entranced with our family that they came over and started talking to us. I was sitting at the table *reading the menu out loud to Mama and Daddy* and talking about what I wanted. I had long black hair and looked like a china doll, I have been told. My mama, y’all will remember, was an exotic and beautiful Mexican woman, and my daddy was just as handsome as a movie star, in my mind, at least, in his 40s and all cleaned up. This gorgeous, though poor, couple had this exquisite bitty child reading out loud from the menu. The family made friends with us and kept in touch. They were well educated, well-to-do Catholics, and they sent me books and bought me pretty black patent leather shoes and when their daughter got married, they asked me to be her flower girl. So I walked down the aisle of a huge Catholic church in Baton Rouge, about six or seven years old, with black hair loose and wavy down past my bottom, and a beautiful dress they bought me. Mama and Daddy got dressed up so fancy like I had never seen them before, and we went to a party that filled my head with images of parties for the rest of my life. I DRANK CHAMPAGNE OUT OF A FLUTE, Y’ALL. Just a little sip for the flower girl, because *everyone* should have a toast to the bride and groom, cher. There are pictures. This really happened and I am not even making it up.