Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear Phoenix: It's Over

This is a breakup letter to a city I never thought I'd leave.  In the words of Neko Case, "I'm sick of doing your dishes, town--I'm out." 

   Dear Phoenix,

   This isn't working.
    I'm tired of having to make new friends every three years when your economy turns over. I'm tired of your dead downtown and your 1800 identical Walgreens.  I'm sick of your white-collar hamburger values and and I can't stand your perfect f*cking freeways for another minute.  I'm sick of having to carry around a sweater in July to deal with the schizophrenic difference between your indoor and outdoor climates, and I'm sick of you getting dark at four o'clock just when your outdoor temperature finally becomes tolerable.  I'm sick of the cum trees. 
    I'm sick of your quaint little goat farms getting bulldozed for tract housing and not being able to go to a single restaurant that I went to when I moved here because you can't put together a functional community.  I'm sick of trying to talk over your terrible music on your terrible outdoor patios at your terrible dank-lit bars to your terrible dank-lit temporary residents.  I'm tired of you trying to pass off "shitty" as "ambiance." 
    I'm tired of your contradictory politics and your platform flip-flops.  I'm tired of you trying to cover up your B.O. with citrus body spray.  I'm tired of your classist snap judgments and the way I can't use the sidewalk to go anywhere without you making me feel weird.  I'm tired of all your goddamn trucks. 
    I'm sick of the way you spend so much money on psuedo-midwestern landscaping but you won't lift a finger to help out the arts or your city parks.  I'm sick of your HOAs and also all your empty downtown dirt lots.  I'm sick of your ugly-ass autoplexes and your terrifyingly homogenous apartment complexes.  I'm sick of the bars you put down the middle of your city benches.  
    I'm sick of the fact that it takes your public transportation TWO HOURS to get me from one suburb to another, and then you complain about the gross brown pollution cloud.  I'm sick of your bitching about the heat.  It's the desert.  It's f*cking hot.  STFU about it already.  At least we don't live in a barren cultural landscape devoid of any neighborly feeling---oh, wait.  Yes, we do. 
    I'm sick of how hard you try to be like L.A. without investing in any of the things that actually make L.A. kind of sweet.  I'm sick of your obsession with new cars and big houses and fenced-in yards.  If I see another cement-block wall, I might throw up.  I'm sick of your weird fusion chain restaurants and your uncomfortable seating.  I'm sick of your disgusting man-made turquoise lakes, and your total waste of potable water in the form of misters and decorative fountains.
       In short, Phoenix, I got to know you better than almost anyone else, and you kind of suck.  Good luck with all that.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

This Week's Book/Music Choices: 6/12

    I've been desperately wishing for one of those books that come along only every few years and change your whole worldview. (In order, since high school, mine are: The Great Gatsby; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; The Will to Power; The Hero and the Crown; Eat, Pray, Love (Dear Elizabeth Gilbert, it annoys me that I have to change all my commas to semicolons in order to accommodate your book in a list); and Loving What Is). Last week I dropped $40 at the bookstore in search of the next one, the results of said shopping spree being $30 of FAIL, because apparently if you buy a book by Michel de Montaigne you're really just buying an abridged version of Seneca, although the Kurt Vonnegut/Lee Stringer dialogue by Seven Stories Press was fun.  Though not particularly enlightening.
     So I mentioned to my father today that I was going to go read Seneca when I got off the phone, and he was like, "Oh, who is that again?" which was strange because my father is a philosophy professor.  I told him he was a Roman stoic philosopher and I could really probably use some stoicism in the face of my recent breakup, to which he (my father) said, "Yes, good idea.  We did the stoics in my class this past year."  And a bell went off in my head (yes, I get bells in my head when something important is happening, or else when I'm in Amsterdam and the weed's really good) and I said, "Epictetus? Is that right?" and he said, "Yes, the Encheiridion," and I promptly hopped right on the Amazon website and downloaded the (free!!!) Kindle version for my phone and pretty much spent all day reading it. Yes, on my phone. And it's AMAZING.

If you're up for it, it's here.

I'm only halfway through it, but basically, Epictetus argues that the one thing in our possession is the will, and we are free because the will is both our only possession and the one thing that cannot be possessed or influenced by others. He then proceeds to draw from that statement an entire line of reasoning about which events and actions are under our control (anything having to do with our own will) and should therefore concern us, and which are not (everything else), and should therefore not concern us.  And he also, and very importantly to me right now, argues that our will should always align with reality, because "where a man is against his will, there he is in prison."  In short, our freedom and contentedness is contingent upon using our will to maintain said freedom, as the will is the only thing we actually possess.  And in the meantime he drops in some great enlightening insults:

"Wretch! You bear God within you, and know it not."

"How will I be received? How will [this great man] listen to me?"
"Slave! Just as it pleases him. Why do you care about what belongs to others?"

 On to music.  This is probably a tiresome place to begin a weekly music commentary for those of you who know me well, but we're starting with Bob Dylan.  First of all because I just bought f*cking awesome tickets for his show in Tucson, and secondly because I'm revisiting him after a few years away.

Playlist For When You Are (Somewhat) Voluntarily Stripped of the Company of a Favorite Friend:
1. "Most of the Time," off of Oh, Mercy
2. "I'm Alive" by Kenny Chesney, with Dave Matthews
3. "Girl from the North Country" by Bob Dylan, with Johnny Cash, off Nashville Skyline
4. "Smoke a Little Smoke" by Eric Church
5. "Wonderwall" by Oasis (yes, I did)
6. "Come in from the Cold" by Joni Mitchell
7. "Red Ragtop" by Tim McGraw
8. "Bartender" by Regina Spektor
9. "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight" by Emmylou Harris
10. "Smile When You Call Me That," by Jakob Dylan
11. "I Don't Want to Talk About It" by Crazy Horse
12. "One More Cup of Coffee" by Bob Dylan, off Desire
13. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash

1. I don't need to say anything about this song, really. It speaks for itself. Even if you don't do the whole playlist, listen to this song.
2. I just really like this song, and even though I have a vendetta against Dave Matthews I really enjoy his vocals on this; in general, this song is about being content where you are (personal theme for this, um, year?)
3. I love this version. It really brings home that the memory is from a long time ago, and it always sounds to me like the young man who loved this woman and the old man who remembers her are singing it.  And yes, that's Bob Dylan, and yes, he can sing.
4. This song is about a breakup but that's not apparent at first (kind of like Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi), and it's also relevant to my theme of being content where you are.
5. Shut up.
6. Oh, God, this song is just so beautiful, and that intro line has stuck with me since I was five and my mom listened to this album while she was making dinner.  Also it's about--well, not regret, exactly. Trying to find what you want and never quite succeeding.
7.   This song has been on my mind because I went to Tim McGraw's concert last week.  The banjo part just kills me, and it's one of my favorite songs to cover.  But it's also a song about loss, and how decisions you make sometimes force you into choosing what you didn't want. Also, country song about abortion as a real life decision=win.  Yay progress!
8. Just a really great viewpoint on a common theme, and a pretty melody from a great singer.
9. Love. This. Song. Reminds me of my hometown.  This is a remake, but she changed the very last line (from a repeat of "The highway goes on forever" to "There ain't no way to stop the water") which I love contemplating.  Also her version is way less jug-playing country.
10. My other favorite, Neko Case, sings backup vocals on this album, and it's a gorgeous country album by Jakob Dylan.  This song is about post-breakup bad blood, and the lyrics are phenomenal. THIS GUY SHOULD GET MORE CREDIT FOR BEING BRILLIANT.
11. Apparently Rod Stewart did a version of this song, but I hope to God I never hear it.
12. Gypsy country, by the Bobster.  What can I say? I'm a sucker for the violin.
13. This is basically the whole breakup process rolled into one song with some snappy Brazilian dance music thrown in.  Classic.