We All Wear Masks (To Cover Up Our Scars)
Under the Covers – Playlist
“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
“It Ain’t Me, Babe” by Band Of Skulls
“Shoplifters Of the World” by Tanya Donelly and Dylan In The Movies
“Mad World” by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews
“Something” by Jim Sturgess (from the film, Across the Universe)
“Tears On My Pillow” by Clem Snide
“Make You Feel My Love” by Adele
“Chasing Cars” by Vitamin String Orchestra
“Fell In Love With a Boy” by Joss Stone
“Islands In the Stream” by Feist and Constantines
“Closet” by Juliana Hatfield
“Suspicious Minds” (live) by Pete Yorn
“Float On” by Ben Lee
“Everyday” by Fiona Apple and Jon Brion
“Teardrop” by Newton Faulkner
“My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Raveonettes
“When Doves Cry” by The Be Good Tanyas
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Annie Lennox and Heff Moraes
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Tori Amos
“Use Somebody” by Laura Jansen
“Crazy” by The Kills
“With Or Without You” by 2Cellos
“Wicked Game” by HIM
“Wild is the Wind” by Cat Power
“You Really Got a Hold On Me” She and Him
“Go Your Own Way” by Lissie
“Perfect Day” by Metric
“Under the Milky Way” by Sia
“Landslide” by The Smashing Pumpkins
“Such Great Heights” by Iron And Wine
(I’ve written many odes and essays, poems and lyrics, and stories about, and within, Los Angeles. This piece started years before, called something different, but with some of the same sentiments and theme. It was time for a revisit, a refresh, and a revision. Another look at me and the city I was born in, and always seem to come back to)
Los Angeles, I’m Yours
Los Angeles as a character, as a love interest, as that unrequited thing that I never quite keep a hold of, as the abusive lover, as the errant mother, as the forgiver of all sins, the desert angel, the city of sin, the bridge between my kind of heaven, and hell.
Los Angeles as my first love, my last love, my true love, my biggest mistake, repeated, re-ran, rinse and run me through again. Los Angeles as regret, as salvation, as part of my goddamn DNA.
Oh, Los Angeles, I’m yours, I’m leaving, I’m coming back, I’m here again.
I think of Trixie and her dream of the South, her lover that the ocean would take, their fantasies of leaving this city lasting longer than they did. Or did Trixie come back? Did she fall for Loring? Not as hard as she did for her “Grace”, but then again, we all only fall that hard once.
But Loring, he was her second best love maybe, in a city that seconded for Los Angeles. Maybe.
Did she learn to hate it as much as LA? Did she come back here, new perspective in the palm of her hand, and say “I’m back, so do your worst.” Or your best? Did her new love, that maybe-second-best-love, see this city differently?
Did she ever end up in the South at all? Or was that all too full of memories, or could-have-been-memories. Can a city be the one that got away?
Los Angeles, she never gets away for long.
Jenny sings about leaving, about returning, about being wrong and cruel, but coming back anyway. The palm trees bow, in reverence? In mockery? In forgiveness? In understanding? Would they leave, too, if they could? Would they ever come back?
I leave so many things only to come right back.
But some I leave, for good. Or, are those things the things, and people, who leave me for good? Do I ever leave anything, for good?
I hold so many memories under my skin. Every kiss, every promise, every lie, and every lover I ever thought was the one, was love, was everything to me. I never completely let them go.
But what is that hold about? Is it the storyteller in me not wanting to lose character and plot points? Is it the nostalgia junkie who can’t stop looking behind her. Tapping the memory vein for one more fix?
Thank god I don’t really believe in a god, at least not the kind who would turn a girl to salt for looking back.
If one of those lovers came back, yes, even the dead one, maybe especially the dead one, would I turn and run? Would I fall back in? Would I let them back in? Are any of them my Los Angeles? Am I any of their city of angels?
I’m itchy now, trigger finger shaking, my hand gripping tight to the steering wheel. It takes all that I am to not keep driving away. I sneer at the street signs, the twilight setting sun, the fucking pink sky, it makes the tears come, fast and hard. I cry for the broken parts of me, for the loss and the stupid dreams that I can’t let go of. I cry for the regrets, for the times I’ve returned, for my lack of being able to ever stay away.
I cry most of all for what I thought this would be.
And I blame you, Los Angeles, I blame you for always bringing me back, for not sending me away, for forgiving me at all.
For instilling in me expectation. The dream of neverending sunny days, of hope, of happy ever after. Why do I ever believe things will last? Doesn’t everyone know that things always wane, turn smoggy and grey, turn away and turn off the lights, the passion, the excitement, the magic?
Why am I the only one to think those things can last forever? Like that Hollywood sign, like the stuck-bowing palm trees, like this goddamn heart of mine.
“Let Me Back In” by Rilo Kiley
from the album, rkives (2013)
Special thanks to Tiffanie DeBartolo and the books God-Shaped Hole (2002) and How To Kill a Rock Star (2005) for the characters mentioned, and for being two of my forever favorite stories, and to Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley for a song that felt/feels exactly like me and Los Angeles.
Re-launch day 2’s Top 5 Music Obsessions includes songs from the ’80s, ’90s, early 2000’s, and last year. It’s a running the gamut kind of Sunday full of songs that I can’t seem to get enough of lately. We start with Elvis Costello, our unofficial host for today’s Top 5. Costello is a musical someone I tend to take for granted, underappreciating (sometimes) how much I love his music until I run into a track of his and think “I love this song” immediately.
Liz Phair is one of my go-to favorites. I sometimes wonder if a week goes by when I don’t listen to something of hers.
Garbage is next, with one of my favorites of theirs. It may not be raining here anymore (though it was early this morning), this track still resonates with LA weather lately.
My forever favorite from The Kills follows-up perfectly, with their ode to the music business (and the vampiric nature of it).
Finally, and “last but not least”, is a song from Jill Sobule’s most recent album, produced by another favorite of mine – Ben Lee. Jill is so underrated, in my opinion. She is an exceptional singer-songwriter whose tunes have always hit me right in my music-obsessed soul.
Are you ready to press play?
Top 5 Music Obsessions – March 24, 2019
1. “Our Little Angel” by Elvis Costello
from the album, King of America (1986)
“She sits alone apart from the crowd,
in a white dress she wears like a question mark.
Friends speak of her fondly.
Enemies just think out loud.”
The songwriting power of Elvis Costello is another thing I know I take for granted. His music and skill as a singer-songwriter is something I definitely underrate. I think I need to do a deep dive into his catalog and immerse myself in the magic.
“Our Little Angel” was part of a Spotify Discover Weekly Playlist and I was immediately reminded a) how much I love his music, and b) of me and my life (and music collection) in 1986. This album (King of America) was one I remember listening to even more when I first lived on my own, in the early ’90s.
I love the idea of wearing a dress like a question mark. Every time that lyric comes up it stops me – in a good way.
2. “Divorce Song” by Liz Phair
from the album, Exile In Guyville (1993)
(live version – album version not available on YouTube)
“And the license said you had to stick around until I was dead.
Bu,t if you’re tired of looking at my face,
I guess I already am.”
This song. Fuck. This song is everything about break-ups and disappoints in relationships and yes, divorce (even if it isn’t actual divorce, but that kind of significant, big split). So many lyrics just break me. The one above, and this one, too:
“…it’s harder to be friends than lovers,
and you shouldn’t try to mix the two,
cause if you do it and you’re still unhappy,
then you know that the problem is you.”
Damn. I mean, I know in a capital KNOW kind of way what these lyrics and lines, and this song FEELS like.
I think sometimes people forget how rad Liz Phair is. She was one of the ’90s hit “It-Girls” who broke songwriting stereotypes, especially with her Chicago-made debut, Exile in Guyville, wherein she sang frankly about sex and sexuality and desire and of coming-of-age as a woman in the ’90s.
She was lauded and revered, wrote about in all the top indie magazines, and beloved by most of the girls I knew at the time. She was in her twenties just like me and my girls were, and she sang like we talked, and she could write one hell of a good song.
I was getting divorced for the first time right around the time I first heard “Divorce Song” and it hit hard. But even in other relationships, years later, with me older than “in my twenties”, this song has hit (and still hits) hard.
3. “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage
from the album, Garbage (1995)
“Pour some misery down on me.”
Its been raining a lot in Los Angeles lately, disproving the song “It Never Rains In Southern California”. As much as I love the rain (and I love it in big ways), I hate commuting to work in it. Driving in Los Angeles rush hour, while the sky leaks on all the drivers who (like me, to be honest) have little experience driving in water, is challenging, at best.
“I’m Only Happy When It Rains” has been in my head a lot during those long, rainy drives. And well, it is never a bad thing having Shirley Manson’s voice in my head.
Things about rain that do make me happy? Being in bed/sleeping in the rain, or doing other things in bed – in the rain – read books, watch movies, have sex (with or without a partner), writing, meditating, daydreaming. Cooking in rain. Coffee in the rain. Dancing in the rain. Kissing in the rain (such a movie trope, but damn it’s romantic). A fire in the fireplace in the rain (or with the rain outside). Literally, I’m happy when it rains as long as I’m not behind the wheel, in traffic.
Driving with no set time to be somewhere though? In the rain? Love it.
4. “Back Balloon” by The Kills
from the album, Midnight Boom (2008)
“Let the weather have its way with you.”
It is immeasurable how much I love this song. There’s a character I have been writing and developing and breathing life into that was born from this song, and from the way it makes me feel.
This is the stuff of vampire stories that do not fucking sparkle, and the stuff of eroticism and romance that are not in any kind of “50 shades”, but so much, so much, so much more.
This is the stuff where fucking and loving converge, in a song.
“Black Balloon” was the first song I heard of The Kills, and it was my first favorite (and is still my favorite).
The first time I heard it I was taken aback, and I couldn’t stop listening to it. Then, I saw the video and was enthralled even further. The correlation between the violence and drama and loneliness of touring and fame illustrated as a story about a vampire was brilliant and inspired. It quickly became one of my all-time favorite music videos, one I’ve shared, written about, and watched multiple times.
Check it out. Isn’t it cool?
5. “I Put My Headphones On” by Jill Sobule
from the album, Nostalgia Kills (2018)
“Janis Ian’s ‘Seventeen’.
that song from 10cc.
‘Alone Again, Naturally’,
someone has it worse than me.
Sam Stone, ‘Major Tom’,
Captain Jack and Delta Dawn,
Alvin Tostig, ‘Sweet Jane’
Music, wash away my pain.
I’ll put my headphones on.”
I got the chance to see Jill Sobule open a few years ago for Joseph Arthur, and recently (this past February) I got to see/hear her sing a few songs at Ben Lee’s Valentine’s show at Largo. I’ve always loved Jill’s music and songwriting so much, and this song is no exception.
The whole album, Nostalgia Kills, is fantastic. This song (“I Put My Headphones On” and “Island Of Lost Things” are two of my current favorites that I can’t get enough of.
What a great lyric – “music, wash away my pain”. I hear you, Jill. I put my headphones on a lot, too (and turn the music up, up, up).
Lately, I’ve really been needing music to take away my pain.
Top 5 Music Obsessions – March 23-March 24, 2019
Kodachrome is a Netflix Original Movie which was released in 2017. The Film stars Ed Harris, Elizabeth Olsen, and Jason Sudeikis. The story is set during the final days of a well-renowned and admired photo development system known as “Kodachrome”. A father and son hit the road in order to reach the Kansas photo lab before it closes its doors for good in order to develop rolls of Kodachrome film that the father, Ben (Ed Harris) has in his possession.
The key here is that father and son are deeply estranged, and the father, a well-renowned and admired photographer, is dying of Cancer. Time is running out on all counts, for Kodachrome, for the father/photographer’s life, and for forgiveness.
Written by Jonathan Tropper (Screenplay)
Based on an article by A.G. Sulzberger
Directed by Mark Raso
Movie of the Day
“No matter how good something looks, you can’t beat the real thing.” – Ben
I’ve been itching for a road trip something fierce lately, so revisiting a recent favorite road trip movie seems in order.
I love road trip movies. They are one of my favorite genres (or sub-genres) of film. I was discussing the appeal of road trip stories in movies and I came up with one of the main reasons I love them so. A typical movie is only an hour and a half to two hours in length, which is not a lot of time for real character development. But, put your characters in a car, somewhat isolated from anyone else sans a roadside gas station attendant, bartender, or waitress/waiter, and you are allowed some space and time to explore characters, personalities, nuances, and relationships. It also makes it all the more believable when bonding happens, or attraction, or even healing.
Also, admittedly I love a good road trip movie because I love a good (or even mediocre) road trip. Since life and responsibilities limit the amount of time I can hit the road for anything other than the daily commute, road trip movies let my gypsy soul live vicariously.
Kodachrome is almost completely a road trip story, from start to finish, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
It is also a movie about redemption and forgiveness, and the consequences of the “artist’s life”. Questions of family, of truth, of authenticity, of self, and of letting go of the past are all themes that weave throughout the story. And although the film centers on photography, music plays a significant role, as well.
Matt Ryder (Jason Sudeikis) is a record exec on the almost-outs. His character, at the start, reminds me a bit of Dan (Mark Ruffalo) in another one of my favorite films, Begin Again. They are both about to lose their jobs, they both love music and have an ear for it, and they are both lost internally, and to some degree externally, due to break-ups, and a past that has a hard hold on them. Matt seems to even teeter on that drinking problem that Dan (Begin Again) personifies, it just never takes full center stage in Kodachrome.
The “music business” is not the only way that music plays a part in Kodachrome, though. Mark’s record collection in his aunt and uncle’s home (Mark’s home since his mother died when he was an adolescent) sparks both memories that Mark shared with his father, as well as sparks a conversation, and connection, between Mark, and his father’s nurse, Zooey (Elizabeth Olsen).
A connection that starts to grow as the movie, and the road, unfold.
My one complaint lies with the character of Zooey. I wish they’d developed her as an individual more, instead of just affixing damage to her, and hinting at issues.
Too much of the time she felt like a plot device to both Matt, and his father, and it didn’t have to be that way. Elizabeth Olsen is a fantastic actor (one of my favorites), and quite capable of nuance and complexity of character. And, it was there. You could see it. I just wanted it unpacked more.
Zooey is important to everyone in this story. I wish they’d let her be important to herself in the film, as well.
Ben and Matt’s relationship is the real core of Kodachrome. There are moments when I hate Ben as much as Matt does for the obvious abandonment and neglect he gifted Matt as his father.
Other times, I feel for Ben deeply and want him to find redemption, and want Matt to forgive him. Ben and Matt’s story tugged on me because of my own abandonment issues with my absent father. I couldn’t help but root for them to heal before it was too late.
Overall, I really enjoyed Kodachrome. I loved the road trip setting, the subtext of art and the “artist’s life”, and the story of a child and estranged parent having a chance at a connection, and redemption. I loved the way Music was used and enjoyed the soundtrack, both Agatha Kaspar’s score and songs by Pearl Jam, Galaxie 500, The Indians, Graham Nash, and others.
Oh, and Live…
I even enjoyed the burgeoning, maybe love story that unfolds between Matt and Zooey, even if I wanted more of Zooey beyond her relationships with Ben and Matt. I was still rooting for them, as a “them”, somewhere down the “road”.
Side note: Kodachrome is a Netflix Original, and available to stream, and on DVD, through Netflix.
Recorded in 1971, “A Case Of You” was first released on the 1971 album Blue with Mitchell playing an Appalachian dulcimer, accompanied by James Taylor on acoustic guitar.
“A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell
from the album, Blue (1971)
Song of the Day
“I remember that time you told me, you said,
‘love is touching souls’,
surely you touched mine,
’cause part of you pours out of me,
in these lines from time to time.”
Mitchell is said to have written “A Case Of You” in, or before, 1970. As with many of the songs on Blue, her break-up with Graham Nash is often cited as the inspiration for the song. It has also been said to be about Leonard Cohen. (from Wikipedia)
I kinda like picturing the last rumored inspiration. Something about “A Case Of You” being from an album called Blue, and Cohen’s song “Famous Blue Raincoat”, wants to reside in my imagination as a musical connection to each other. I’m sure they are not related, but I can tie those sonic strings together and see how they could connect.
Mitchell’s earliest public performances of “A Case of You” contain six lines that had changed by the time Blue was recorded. The line “I am as constant as a northern star” is an allusion to Caesar’s “I am constant as the Northern Star” from the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar, while the quoted line “Love is touching souls” is inspired by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. (from Wikipedia)
“A Case Of You” (live, 1974) by Joni Mitchell
My mother loved Joni Mitchell when I was growing up. She was part of her female folk singer obsessions. Joni was at the top of the obsession list. I remember hearing her music as a child, both in our living room and in our light blue station wagon. My mother always loved music. She instilled that love in me. I owe a lot of my own music obsessing to her.
All those trips to record stores. Her glorious stacks of albums. Those giant speakers in our living room that I would lie down next to, listening, and closing my eyes to the sounds, dreaming myself into every song. And those giant headphones that were almost bigger than I was. How I could completely disappear when I wore them. It felt like it was just me and the music back then.
When I grew up some, when I hit my adolescent years, it was then that I shrugged off much of my mother’s musical obsessions, replacing them with my own. I think it was all part of the coming-of-age/rebellion phase that every young person has to go through. I wanted music to be all mine, and I wanted my obsessions to be my own, too. Sure, there was some carryover. I mean, you really can never leave The Beatles behind, and my love for Fleetwood Mac stayed perfectly intact.
But, so many other albums and songs got lost in my quest to build my own life soundtrack. Joni and Blue and “A Case Of You” were thrown aside for a while.
Joni Mitchell’s album Blue, and my favorite track off of it – “A Case Of You” – was one of those (re)discovery gifts. One I’m so glad I allowed myself to have. When I play it now, at 50, and I can hear my mother singing it in our kitchen, or while driving me to school.
I can also hear myself singing it in my first apartment, or while rocking my first child to sleep in the middle of the night. I listen and remember driving up the coast with friends, all of us singing-a-long.
“A Case Of You” has made its way into mixtapes and playlists. The song feels like part of my childhood memories, part of my twenties, and part of my now, all at the same time. It feels like today, as much as many different yesterdays.
Another “A Case Of You” memory:
As children, my two closest friends and I would build the kind of forts you make with blankets and chairs backed up into each other, with tunnels added with the help of the TV tray tables we got from my Grandparents one Christmas. My friends and I shared one flashlight between us, and we would pass it off to each other when it was our turn to tell our version of the “scariest story”.
Sometimes we would lie on our backs, our feet outstretched and poking a little outside of our “suburban campsite”. The light and shadow casts would play in-between the crinkles and bends in the blankets, and we would point out shapes as if they were a ghostly set of clouds for us to name, and make into our scariest story shadow characters.
Our parents were all in the front room, music playing loudly, their wine-soaked laughter competing with the sound. Sometimes I would try to incorporate the songs into my story, ghosts carved out of Joni Mitchell lyrics overheard. “A Case of You” was my favorite for such a telling. Something about being “constantly in the darkness” and drinking an entire case of something (in my “scariest stories”, they were potions and poisons) worked really well.
Sometimes I wish we’d written all our stories down.