Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Miracle Music

This topic is not strictly regarding the erotic, but whenever I encounter real life magic, I think it’s worth reporting.

I posted recently about Les Stroud’s new CD “Long Walk Home” which he sent to me as a gift. The title song on the CD, composed by Les and members of the Northern Pikes, happens to be (for me) one of those songs you encounter once a decade. The kind that you want to replay as soon as the last note sounds. The kind that uses your mind as modeling clay. The kind that tweaks and piques your soul.

I’m not saying anyone who listens to this song will experience what I do (life’s not like that), only that it’s the music and not me that’s working the magic. I always love Les’s voice. I’m a big fan of the Pikes--“Dream Away” is nearly in this same category, but not quite. But it’s this particular song that transcends. It’s the combination of all the elements in it: the shushing percussion, the haunting electronics, the heart-tugging chord progressions, Les’s plaintive voice (his “come with me now” is irresistible), the classic-Pikes-sound bridge, the relief of the lilting bluegrass at the end that ultimately yields again to the melancholy of the song.

You can combine such elements and be assured the resulting song will be a great one. But “Long Walk Home” goes beyond being simply good to listen to. It has an effect beyond auditory for me. Every time I listen to it, it seems to probe at my brain like water stirs up sand, dislodging feelings and memories I’d lost for years. One minute I’m remembering how it felt to be wandering the vacant lots near my childhood home, picking wildflowers. The next it’s the memory of looking forward to seeing some guy I’m crushing on at a high school football game. I’m transported to other times and places, in my own life and sometimes even scenes I’ve never actually lived.

Far away, beyond the crest of hill or around a street corner, Les and the Pikes are playing this song, leading me on like the Pied Piper through the village of my own soul. It’s amazing.

That’s the miracle of music. Now, I love to write more than anything in the world, but I’m not sure writing prose or even poetry can achieve what music can. I’ve drawn and painted and worked in clay, and although I’m sometimes thrilled to be able to create beauty that didn’t exist before, the visual arts can’t quite do it either. But music can be magic, and is, remarkably often. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be able to do what musicians can do.

I am familiar enough with the creative process to suspect that such miracles are not deliberate. It’s probably not as if Les decided one particular day, “Okay, enough of this regular stuff...today I’m going to write the mind-blowing song.” I’m guessing he and the band put all they had into this one and hoped it would be special, but probably even they didn’t know what this piece of music would be capable of once it was done.

I wonder if Les and the Pikes listened to this track after it was mixed and looked at each other and said, “wow.” Did they not even guess what the song was able to do? Or did they know instantly that it had that power?

Guys, please Google yourselves and find this post and email me. I’d sure love to know what it’s like to be able to work real magic.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Clothes, Self-Esteem and Sex Appeal

My husband and I are big fans of the show “What Not to Wear,” in which fashion experts Clinton and Stacey help poorly-attired women (and sometimes men) revise their wardrobes. The ulterior motive of the pair is always to demonstrate to these women that each is beautiful in her own right, and by making the most of those assets, can come to believe in herself. It’s really quite heartwarming at times.

Now I’m not the worst-dressed person I know, but I’m no fashion plate either. I probably dress as nicely as anyone at my office, but meanwhile, I have my daughters to compare myself to. In particular my younger daughter, Amanda, is quite the stylish dresser. Yes, I have the chronic problem of so many mothers of young women: my daughters are eye-catching. :-)

Well, Friday night David and I watched WNTW, and I suddenly began to get the itch to clothes shop. I haven’t spent much on clothes in a long time and I had coupons and a gift card to use at the mall. Yesterday off I went, and returned with two pairs of capris, three skirts, a dress and camisole, and four tops. (And spent only $100 out of pocket, too!)

A number of these pieces feature the empire waistline. It’s funny how through the years I’ve had many favorite clothes that were high-waisted. I had a green print mini dress with bell sleeves in the 60’s (can’t you picture it? could have used go-go boots to go with), and in the 70’s I had a pink babydoll top that I must have worn to a dozen basketball games. Well, the empire waistline is back, and I’m happy to see it.

In spite of doing sit-ups all my life—one of my doctors once remarked on my rock hard abs—I have also always had a pot belly. I’m afraid sometimes these things are just genetic. High waisted clothing lets a woman show off her trim and shapely parts (waist up and knees down I’m good), while keeping the rest a secret.

The empire waistline also has always suggested to me romantic and feminine things. It’s the style Juliet wore, for example. And it’s also the style for maternity clothes. When you’re wearing a high-waisted dress, you can cradle that little belly of yours and be reminded that women are not built like men for a reason. You can actually appreciate the “heap of wheat” as it is called in the Bible, instead of loathing it.

I got home from the mall and immediately changed into one of my new outfits, a sleeveless empire waist top and full skirt made of 100% cotton in a fun print—sort of a cross between ethnic and funky, in brown, turquoise, lime, orange and yellow. This put me into the mood to make some jewelry, so I whipped up a batch of mojitos and took my beads out onto the patio for cocktails with David and Amanda. I felt young and fresh and attractive, and better about my body than I had in years. The necklace turned out great. We had a lovely evening, especially after the lights were off.

All because of some clothes.

Now I’m not one to be superficial, but if $100 can give a woman this much of a boost concerning her sex appeal, I say, spend it. And to the inventor of the empire waist and those designers who regularly revive it, I say, thanks to you from us petite, bulgy-bellied women everywhere.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Makes Our Marriage So Good?

This was the question my husband Davie asked me over beers at the Carleton Grange Pub Saturday afternoon. We chatted about the subject for awhile and came to some very meaningful conclusions. Maybe some of these points will speak to you, too.

1. Basic compatibility. One big aspect of marriage is sharing the same living space. Davie and I happen to have a lot of living habits in common: we are morning people, we are clean and neat, we like having a plan, we are careful with money. We have very similar taste in TV shows and movies, we both like cats and not so much dogs. We both love to talk at bars, and to shop, and to hang out with our daughters. All this just means we get along on a day to day basis without chafing. That’s actually kinda huge.

2. Independence. Opposite side of the coin: We each have separate interests that drive us to spend time apart. I obviously have books to write, and also polyclay art, and cooking, and so on. Davie is a big fantasy reader, PC gamer, poli sci/current events guy and is working on building his first computer. We often spend the entire night in separate pursuits but then get back together and talk about it all, seeing as we find each other’s pursuits perfectly interesting to hear about.

3. Comfort and ease. When Davie and I first dated, he had trouble believing he was in love with me because our relationship didn’t stress him out. His prior love affairs had always been fraught with anxiety—he was always convinced the girl didn’t care for him or would throw him over at any minute. Never had that problem with me. And seeing as he’s the most forthright, honest, faithful guy in the world, I never have a care either.

4. Not too much “in love.” Now, coming from a romance author, this one might give you pause. But truly, there are some problems that come with being head-over-heels obsessed with a mate. First of all, you get addicted to that feeling and if it fails, you may not have another bond to fall back on. Secondly, your obsession may cause you to neglect yourself and your own interests. Thirdly, you may experience the opposite sentiments of those in #3: anxiety, jealousy, fear of abandonment, etc. I’m a very firm believer in being in love with your fantasy men—guys in your imagination—and having a more stable sort of bond with your real life mate.

5. Appreciation. Maybe it’s our past failed relationships, but both Davie and I never take for granted the devotion of the other. We are very aware of all the things we bring into each other’s lives and all the benefits we reap from being together. We think about it and talk about it on a regular basis.

I won’t lie to you that there is quite a gulf of difference between the romances I write about and the one I live. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that romance makes the world go round, but I also feel the best way to tap into that joy and excitement is the imagination. Meanwhile, though, there’s no replacement for loving someone and being loved by them.

I’m pretty lucky that way.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Gift from Les!

As my regular readers know, I am crazy about Survivorman. Well, not only Les Stroud when he wears his survival-TV-show hat, but just as much when he’s singing. I’ve been counting the days till the release of Les’s new CD recorded with that awesome Canadian band, the Northern Pikes. I listen to his self-titled first CD at least once a month after playing the thing daily for the first couple weeks. If you think this guy is good at building a shelter out of crashed plane scraps, you should hear him play guitar.

Yeah, I really dig the man. So imagine me Friday night when I got home from work and my husband said, “You got a package from Les!” And it was true! There was a package from that Huntsville, Ontario address and inside was the new CD.

Did I ask for this? No. It came to me out of the blue! I mean, think of it: Survivorman himself deciding, “Hey, I’ve got to send a copy of my CD to my writer fan in Wisconsin!” Please understand, he doesn’t know me personally--he just did this to be nice. It all started when I blogged about him and ordered a couple of things from his online store, and
he sent me gifts on top of my order. For a blog post! Gosh. So I sent a copy of Soulful Sex: Volumes I & II to him as a return gesture. His assistant Wendy and I have exchanged a few emails too--what a nice person she is! Anyway, over the past year so I have definitely gotten into all things Les Stroud.

So, when I released Soulful Sex: The Paranormal, Science Fiction and Fantasy Collections a couple months ago, I had to send a copy up to Ontario to Les. You see, one of the stories,
“Spacewrecked with Joel Fennimore” is basically Survivorman in Space, and Joel is a sort of futuristic Les Stroud. My little tribute to this inspirational guy.

I don’t know if Les actually got a chance to read it and liked it, or if he was just being a sweetheart on general principles when he sent me the new CD. Either way, a person just doesn’t get an unrequested gift from a celebrity every day. I really can’t believe it, actually!

And the CD? Well, it’s awesome! It’s just my luck that my favorite musician in the world does his music as a sideline (although it used to be his primary vocation back in the day). Don’t get me wrong, I adore the show, I get pretty swoony over Les’s wilderness adventures, and his film work is amazing. But it’s the music that sends me most of all. The title track on the CD, “Long Walk Home,” is (at least to me) like something from another plane of reality. It transports me to this weird place where I want to cry but also never want the feeling to stop. With most songs I like, I can tell what it is that makes the song good: nice chord progression, zippy beat, excellent melody, whatever. But with some of Les’s songs (same could be said of “After Neil Young Dies,” “Clouds,” and “All Restless Souls”) I can’t even get my mind around what he’s done to make them work like they do. The magic is transferred from the performance directly to my emotions with no comprehensible link in between.

Regular readers of this blog will recall
my lament for a really good crush back in March. I was wishing I could believe in the goodness and heroism of some guy again, if only on a fantasy level, the way I used to be able to in my younger days (like my early 40s, LOL!). I’ve been noticing lately that over a year out from the last new episode of “Survivorman,” even upon listening to his first CD for the thirtieth time, I’m still able to get as excited about Les as ever.

With this gesture, I think he’s put himself over the top. What a swell guy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Great Guys of INKYTNMO

What’s INKYTNMO? The 1,598-mile road trip I just completed with my family, with that name being derived from the states we visited. We journeyed from Milwaukee to a brief stop in Indianapolis, then on to Louisville, Mammoth Cave, Nashville, Memphis and St. Louis before looping back home. We had the time of our lives for nine glorious days!

Part of the fun of traveling is the people you meet and/or see on the way. This trip had no shortage of interesting sightings. In the Most Amazing Coincidence category: We picked out a fellow on the Belle of Louisville steamboat on Saturday who bore a slight resemblance to a certain star of home makeover shows. Our pal “Ty Pennington” turned up again at our hotel in Nashville and AGAIN at our hotel in Memphis! What are the odds? Meanwhile, a J.D. Fortune lookalike my daughter Manzi fell for at a Beale Street bar showed up at our hotel breakfast along with Ty.

Our St. Louis hotel turned out to be a hotbed of hotties. There was a big extreme sports event in town, and we discovered none other than Tony Hawk hanging out at the hotel bar. The next morning we saw a couple other famous skaters interviewed on local TV, only to see them live at the hotel restaurant for breakfast! Manzi forgot about “J.D.” and even Tony Hawk, once she laid eyes on Jesse Fritsch two tables over in the Union Grill.

But this column is not about men my kids find attractive, it’s about the ones I like! LOL So meet my favorite three guys from the journey....

Glenn Taylor, Louisville--Our first night of the trip we wandered over to Louisville’s Fourth Street Live. It’s a collection of restaurants, shops and clubs joined by an immense canopy-structure that covers the entire street. I can’t begin to describe it, but it’s way cool. There was a special “Beach Bash” on, complete with a pool and sand beach in the middle of the street. Music was provided by a most excellent cover band called
“This, That and the Other.” Everyone in the family immediately pegged the lead guitarist, Glenn Taylor, for me. It’s always fun when you spot someone who is exactly your type, especially when he plays guitar. Glenn bore a nice resemblance to a certain other person previously mentioned as my type on this blog, Cody Willard. Add vacation, beer, and a belly full of tasty appetizers and bourbon from Maker’s Mark Lounge and you have the picture of my happiness that night in Louisville.

Ranger Steve, Mammoth Cave--Sunday afternoon was our long-anticipated visit to Mammoth Cave. We were fortunate to be led on our tour by the wonderful Ranger Steve, a fellow who was a younger, more slender version of another heart-throb I’ve mentioned on this blog, composer John Williams. I’m not sure if Ranger Steve is a musician or not, but his charm lay in his fabulous story-telling abilities. As we descended ever downward into the cavernous abyss, he regaled us with tale after tale of 150 years of Mammoth Cave history. What could be more romantic than standing with 120 other people in a cave, by the light of two antique oil lamps, listening to Ranger Steve talk about subterranean discovery and disaster? Sigh.

Danny Umfress, Memphis--But the dream-man capper for me on this fabulous vacation came into our lives Tuesday night. We had discovered ahead of time that a band called Gary Hardy and the Memphis 2 was going to be doing a tribute to Johnny Cash that night at the Blues City Café. After gorging ourselves on barbecue, we headed over to the bar side of the Café, and on the way in we met Danny, who introduced himself and invited us to the show. We settled in with Jack & Cokes, and were treated to the most fantastic live sampling of old Memphis music you can imagine. Not only did Gary Hardy do a fabulous Johnny Cash, he knew everyone in the business and was owner for awhile of the famous Sun Studio. He was quite the storyteller too--funny and fascinating and a great musician. Meanwhile, Danny himself had played with Johnny Cash, and he proved to be a dazzling guitarist, the best I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. He also bore a resemblance to a certain person I have mentioned repeatedly on this blog, my main man, Les Stroud. Danny talked with us several times and seemed a sweet, gentle southern man. And believe me, I’ll never forget the way he looked at me during the opening riff of “Ring of Fire.” Danny, in my mind that will always be our song.

Ah INKYTNMO...how I miss thee! Who knows when I may again find my way down south in Kentucky and Tennessee, but I’ll remember forever Glenn, Steve and especially Danny, my dear southern boys.