We’re about to have houseguests and chaos and July is my favorite of the months. I am trying to enjoy every July day, because I miss it every day that is not in July. Like, every one. That’s quite a few, so every day, I am saying out loud, “It’s July, which is my favorite.” If this sounds to you like I’m brainwashing myself, you underestimate my ability to argue with me, because I am also like, “August is boss, Ta.”
Obviously, there’s a lot to be said about June, too.
Summer has arrived.
A week ago and a half ago, there was a commotion in my office and a co-worker walked toward my desk with tears in her eyes. I’ve seen this before, but I mumbled, “Why are you crying?” She delivered news and I stood at my desk for a long time, until I sat down and stayed there. If you’ve worked in an office for any length of time, you’ve participated in a scene like this. In this office, some of my co-workers have worked together for thirty and forty years; I’ve been in this department for twenty-odd years. My friend Anne, with whom I’d had a rollicking lunch a week earlier, died unexpectedly. Anne, who appeared on PIC as Mary, often stopped me in my tracks with hilarious and sensible chatter, and unusual requests. I am sorry now I didn’t write down more of our wild conversations because she was truly an original.
This morning, Anne was on my mind when I was up in the attic. In the middle of cleaning cat boxes, I looked up and found the glittery hula hoop Anne gave me following my first hip surgery. I’ve always been terrible with hula hoops, so when Anne turned up with one before my stitches dissolved and said, “Practice,” I almost died laughing.
Years ago, before I really knew her, she asked if her daughter could join me to watch me jarring tomatoes or sauce, I don’t remember which. I lost track of time and forgot. When we next saw each other, she gave me a stern talking-to about agreeing to do something and not following through. After that, I was always careful with specifics. If I was buying Girl Scout cookies from Anne’s daughter, I delivered money on time. If we were having lunch, I was ready at noon. If we were walking through my garden and talking about plants with her daughter for a school project, I was prepared. Because Anne expected me to commit to whatever we were doing with thoughtfulness and equal enthusiasm.
In recent years, her intermittent health problems may have complicated her life, but Anne laughed about them. I sometimes found myself staring at a plate of food while Anne described some awful incident while Anne laughed and laughed. With an inch of distance from whatever annoyed or upset her, Anne made jokes and I howled.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but years ago, Anne decided we would be friends. As an IT professional, she frequently walked through my office, and we worked at making each other laugh, but one day, it was apparent to me she’d decided we’d be real friends. We got up from my cubicle, barged into my supervisor Gianna’s office and started riffing. Gianna was speechless for some time, then blurted, “What is this, a comedy show?” Encouraged, Anne and I fired off one-liners until Gianna threw us out, and she was laughing, too. I will never know why Anne decided we would be friends, but I’m grateful she did.
I will miss her very much.
I’ve been staring at the blank page for some time now. Here, you look at some pancakes:
On Friday morning, Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in France, devastating news in many ways. If you’ve ever suffered depression, you know someone else’s suicide can make you think itchy, uncomfortable thoughts. I won’t go into difficult detail, in case you have suffered depression, but please understand: I know. Also: other people know:
Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today we explore the righteous anger of Hole’s 1994 album Live Through This.
Oh boy. Live Through This was the soundtrack for my years-long swan dive into the dark. It completely captured my rage, anguish and inability to make sense of my life.
…for Love, who watched grunge break through to the mainstream only to find that the freedom and rebellion it promised was reserved for her male counterparts. In grunge, men could be scruffy and rude and defy gender norms—they could be rawer than the men modeled in synth-pop music videos or hair metal concerts a few years prior. Women, for all the space afforded them in the subculture’s spotlight moment, might as well have been Lilith.
By then, I was already Lilith, flying off the edge of the earth (that link references Enid Dame, whom I knew and loved.)
The album’s pummeling opener “Violet” baits the ear with a jangling guitar tone cut from the same cloth as R.E.M., and then drummer Patty Schemel churns the song into a fury. “Go on, take everything/Take everything/I want you to,” howls Love, her bitterness oxidized into defiance.
In a second profile of Love, published in 1995, Vanity Fair conducted the first-ever interview with the singer’s mother, the therapist Linda Carroll. “Her fame is not about being beautiful and brilliant, which she is,” Carroll said. “It’s about speaking in the voice of the anguish of the world.” That the anguish of the world would have a female voice was an idea new to the music industry. It’s still new. Love makes a bid for universality on Live Through This in that it’s hard not to get swept up in her energy, but she also acknowledges that female pain is marked, that it is compartmentalized and dismissed because it is felt by women, not people.
Siobhan, between jobs briefly and camping on my couch, saw me come home from a terrible job to a failed relationship in a disastrous living situation, howling this song and remarked, “Oh good, you have an anthem.” Violet was my anthem, but when I lost my home, my memory, my artwork and my man, it didn’t seem incidental that I also lost my singing voice and my ability to write by hand after decades as a prolific journal writer. I lost everything I recognized about me. Essentially, I spent four years in absolute darkness, six years building a new self and a new life, and the last eleven years teaching myself how to learn again, and a new way of living without much of a past.
This morning, I listened to Live Through This to find out how I felt, more than twenty years later. Busy at work, I found there were songs I didn’t remember and songs I wished I’d heard recently. Credit In the Straight World is a fantastic song. I have little idea what the lyrics are about, but I love the jangly, swooping guitar sounds and Love’s voice skimming their surface like a skipping stone. “I don’t really miss God, but I still miss Santa Claus,” from Gutless, for my money, sums up Love’s ambivalence about men and authority figures. God punishes the people He supposedly loves, and giver-of-gifts Santa has no respect for personal boundaries. Either one could have behaved a little better if he tried, but at least Santa leaves presents.
Live Through This was released four days after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. On She Walks On Me, Love sings:
Hold you close like we both died
My ever present suicideMy stupid fuck, my blushing bride
Oh tear my heart out, tear my heart out
She walks over me
I was taking miserably bad pictures of my garden for a few weeks. Why? I don’t know. Inspiration left me and joined the Foreign Legion or something. This morning, I weeded the garden of plants I didn’t remember planting and plants I regretted planting. It was pleasant for me to spend time in my garden on a Monday morning. I suspect the plants on the compost pile might offer a different report.
The garden, as it is currently constituted, is difficult to photograph, by which I mean I suck at photography. The soil is dark and rich. The plants are vibrant shades of green. The chickens are surly and demanding, the neighbors are full of crazy and Andie’s garden cat Kitty refuses to come in the house since it stopped snowing. I go out the back door and have no idea what I’ll find, no matter how many times a day I crack open the door.
Tomorrow is a big day at my job. All Hell is going to break loose and for the next little while – hold onto your hats – I’m going to try staying calm and being reasonable. STOP LAUGHING! I’ve been reasonable once or twice. Probably. I mean, it could happen, or we could have blocks of chocolate delivered to my office, for general gnawing purposes. I guess therapy dogs don’t drive themselves places, but I can’t rule out ordering them from Amazon.
For a bunch of years in a row, I took a picture of the backyard garden from the top of the back steps, usually on Sundays because that was probably the day I charged the camera battery. Or milked the cow. I don’t have a cow. Anyway, taking pictures from that vantage point is a big old failure now. To show you, Poor Impulsives, the exceedingly homemade garden, I had to walk down the steps and walk around the entire ridiculously small garden, and what a sacrifice it was. You are welcome!
Almost as soon as we put up the temporary greenhouse, two storms came along and threw everything inside on the ground. Stuff is now growing on the floor. I don’t know what that is, exactly. Can’t wait to find out if it bears fruit or tries to kill me.
Pete and I built the plant prison with chicken wire sides, which was a total pain in the ass and was guaranteed to whack me in the face every time I tried to get closer to my plants. He revamped this dealio with plastic fencing along the sides and I am the very happiest of happy campers. At no time has plastic fencing attacked my person and the squirrels are totally out of the big raised bed.
I plant a lot of potatoes. Nothing is more fun than dumping out a container of potato plants to find wonderful new potatoes on the surface of the solarizing bed. Dudes, you can grow food in hilariously small spaces – if you can protect it from voracious wildlife. And your neighbor with boundary issues.
I like walking around the plant prison to the space near the higher raised bed. This is the center of the garden space and from here, I can see most everything. From here, I see things I should fix and things I should be patient about. Place your bets.
This is the spot where Andie’s cat Kitty likes to nap on sunny days. I love finding her here. I wish the squirrels were a little more nonplussed.
The other day, I took a weed-whacker to the yard. I like this part of the garden green and mossy, but weeds are aggressive everywhere. I was careful to pick the dandelion greens for the chickens before I weed-whacked this area to within an inch of its life.
It’s hard to tell from this picture, but lots of seeds are sprouting in the plant prison. This planting method is working for me. I have backaches, but for other reasons.
When I was a kid, the retired neighbors across the street spent all of their time and energy planting flowers and trimming their hedges and adjusting their pansies and I thought they were crazy people. Maybe they were. But about the plants: I get it.
I’m excited about getting up tomorrow morning to water plants. Because: craaaazy.
I came home from work with plans for my garden. My niece knocked on a window and I let her in. She collected two containers of compost and went through the basement to the backyard, where she added new material to the composter, spun it and added composted material to the solarizing bed.
In the kitchen, Pete said, “It’s going to rain in a few minutes.” He’s not a prophet. He’s weather-obsessed and seldom puts down his phone. I looked at him and looked at the sky above the tiny backyard. I went out into the yard and observed my beautiful and sweaty niece stabbing soil in the solarizing bed with a pitchfork.
“Pumpkin?” I asked.
“Yes?” she said.
“It’s going to rain in a few minutes. Can you wrap this up?”
“Yep,” she said. I went inside. She did wrap things up and was gone for no more than a minute when the pre-storm wind roared about the house. Pete and I wondered if our hanging plants would survive the maelstrom. Poor Topaz, terrified of thunder and lightning, cowered under my legs for an hour before the storm abated
Tonight, the air is fresh and cool. Pollen has been everywhere and overwhelming for a week, but tonight, feels more manageable. When I left work this afternoon, the air was summer-warm for the first time this spring.
I am ready for summer.