Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, September 20, 2014


The Replacements have been a favorite band of mine since high school. It was something about Paul Westerfield's voice that first got to me. It's raspiness and depth. The soul embedded deep within it like a star set in stone. I remember singing along to their albums, Let It Be, Tim, and Pleased to Meet Me, with my best friend Tracy. My favorite song was Alex Chilton. The lyrics reference a singer that Westerberg idolizes but I knew none of that. I only knew that the words touched something in me, like a Pied Piper speaking to me making me dance.

"I'm in love.  What's that song?"

So when I found out The Replacements were playing in Queens, New York the same week we were on vacation there, I was overjoyed. Their only solo show (meaning not in a festival) was a must. I bought floor tickets for hubby and me on Stubhub not even blinking at the forty dollar upcharge. I didn't care. I was going to see The Replacements on the floor in New York City.

It was this punk rock girl's dream come true.

By the Thursday night they were playing, we had busied ourselves to the point of exhaustion. We had arrived in New York on Sunday and had seen Grouplove in Central Park, the Broadway musical Wicked, and had visited the Empire State Building, the 911 Memorial, the Guggenheim and the Statute of Liberty. My feet were blistered to the point that every step I took sent tingles of pain through my feet and my back was killing me.

None of that mattered.

We spent the day walking Williamsberg and then left to Forest Hills Stadium at four in the afternoon.  It was an hour train ride and we wanted to beat the rush hour. We arrived about five and walked the three blocks to the Forest Hills Stadium, which used to house the US Open, and marveled at the quaintness of the architecture. We sat outside and had food and waited for the doors to open.

By six thirty, we walked inside and listened to a New York alternative rock band called Hold Steady.  They rocked it and their enthusiasm was contagious. But, I was there to see The Replacements and my excitement was making me tap my feet in the merch line as I waited to buy a t-shirt and a hoodie and wait a second, might as well get a poster too. I wanted to memorialize this night in every way possible.  

At the bathroom, Benecio Del Torro walked by me and I tried to take a picture but couldn't get my phone out in time. Eventually, we made our way to the front of the stage on the floor. I scooted my way to second from the stage but eventually got pushed back to third or fourth. A fat drunk guy, a Chris Farly lookalike, kept pushing at us trying to get past us and a girl with straight hair and glasses pushed him in the face and told him to get back. I told her she was "bad ass" and she smiled. The lights dimmed and The Replacements came on with a flourish. Paul was wearing a red and yellow cowboy shirt and matching pants. His sidekick Tommy Stinson wore a checkered blue suit. They were dapper and seemed happy to be there.

The song "Favorite Thing" started out the show but I was waiting for "I'll Be You" and "Kiss Me On The Bus" and other favorites like "Color Me Impressed", "Alex Chilton", "Unsatisfied" and "I'm in Trouble". I wasn't disappointed and their set list was a satisfying best of with a little Jackson Five cover thrown in for good measure. Paul Westerfield kept a cigarette lit and would smoke between sets taking a long drag and blowing it out the side of his mouth.

But this blog is not about the set list or what they sang or how the sound system was.  It is about how The Replacements made me feel. I felt transformed into my younger self when I would jump up and down at concerts and lose myself in the music. When I had no worries except for what homework was due and how I would get it done in the morning. My feet didn't hurt any longer and my back felt loose as I screamed along to every song. My voice was hoarse but my spirit was not.

I felt as if I could conquer the world one song at a time and all my troubles faded away into the New York ether. That is the power of music in the end. It takes us away. The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and yes, The Replacements, made people feel something they hadn't before and that is why they have a place in musical history.

It’s the feeling the music gives you, like we are all invincible and we are. Really we are. I only need to listen to a Replacements song to remember why I listen. Why I shout the words out and shake my head to the beat. It's as if my body remembers what my brain has forgot. We are all young.

Friday, September 12, 2014

State of Mind

"...Now I'm down in Tribeca, right next to DeNiro, but I'll be hood forever.  I'm the new Sinatra and since I made it here, I can make it anywhere.  Yeah they love me everywhere.  I used to cop in Harlem.  All of my Dominicanos right there up on Broadway... " (Jay Z: "Empire State of Mind")

We leave for New York on Sunday and I am listening to Jay Z's song, "Empire State of Mind".  Whenever I hear the song, I think of San Francisco.  It may seem odd that a song about New York reminds me of the Bay.  But, I first listened to the song at VONA in Northern California.

VONA is a writing workshop for writers of color that used to be held at USF and is now held at UC Berkeley.  As soon as I arrived, it felt like I was home amongst all the brown and black writers.  I had never had that kind of community before.  It felt like a real revolution.  Like I was part of something.  I made friends with many people, some for life, and the class was transformative.  I found my voice and I got the positive feedback I needed to feel like I could do the creative thing.  In short, I became a writer there at VONA.

But the thing I remember the most, I can still relive it if I close my eyes, is our last night in San Francisco.  The reading had ended and we went out dancing at a converted Victorian that housed a bar slash club.  The song "Empire State of Mind" came on and the place went crazy.  Many of the writers in VONA were from New York and it seemed as if they knew every word to the song.  We danced for what seemed like hours to the song, jumping up and down and swaying to the music with our hands in the air, all united in our joy.

Now, as I listen to the song again, it all keeps flooding back.  The memory of that evening will stay with me forever.  It was the first time I felt like I belonged.  And where I learned that I could really make it anywhere.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Letting go

Sometimes, you need to ask for help.  This has been a hard couple months and the other day, everything hit me.  I felt as if I couldn't breathe.  To say I was overwhelmed by it all is an understatement.  My anxiety boiled over like a teapot left over a flame too long.

Knowing I was drowning in the misery of it all, I reached out.  Flailing, I turned to my husband, my sisters, my friends, and finally, to a professional. And, my fatalistic and pessimistic view of the world was turned upside down because everyone was supportive, so supportive that it lifted me up.  And, I could breathe again.

One can't deny one truth. Life is hard.  And my life is difficult and complicated.  Clearly, things need to change.

But because of all of the support in my life,  I am able to think and plan and hopefully, make the changes to simplify my world.  You see, I've realized some things.  Everyone wants happiness and happiness is love.  And love is all around me.  Maybe, I just needed to see that I have all that I need: my writing, my puppies and my family including the love of my life by my side.

And, if a baby is not part of the equation so be it.  The things I have outweigh what is missing.  No longer can I focus on the missing pieces because truth be told, I am blessed.

Sigh.  Breathe.  Cry.  Repeat.  Letting go is hard dammit.  I would much rather try and control it all, but I can't.  I just can't anymore.

So my friends, here we go.  Time to get in the passenger seat and put on my seatbelt.  I may not know where I am going, but I can't wait for the journey.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The point of it all

It is five am and I am typing to the sounds of my husband snoring and my dogs cleaning themselves.  Lately, my black and white shih-tzu Frodo has been waking me up at five am to go outside.  He alerts me in one of two ways, by growling like a mogwai or by scratching at the bed.  I grumble to myself but get up and open the sliding glass door.  Chewbaca (Chewie for short), our golden shih-tzu (golden in color only, not in behavior as he has been known to drink my coffee if left unattended) follows Frodo outside where they spend ten minutes peeing on trees and rocks and glaring at our German Shepard Neuron (I didn't name him obviously) who cowers in fear of the two smaller dogs.

Usually, I can't get back to sleep and play on Facebook while the rooster crows next door.  We live in a rural area and despite my love hate relationship with the high desert, for now, it's home.  Other times, I just lay in bed and think.

This morning time is a blessing really.  It is time just for me and my thoughts and while sometimes I focus on the negative, letting my anxiety take hold in a way that I know is not healthy, the reflection time is key to managing it all.

I am not my sister Annie.  I cannot run every day and be supermom and see life in a sunny light.  Nor am I my twin Jackie who pushes herself to exhaustion with her doctorate program and her swimming.   No, I am just me.   A former Goth girl who has always had a dark side.  My therapy is my creativity.  I need it.  My job is exhausting in a fulfilling way, but I have come to realize that as a public defender, I see so much misery that I need an escape.

I see people, young kids, going to prison every day and I can't cry the entire day at work although I may want to,  My heart hurts with the sadness of it all, but I don't show it.  I can't.  I have a job to do.  

That is why I need this.  I need the hope of the written word. Every writer has to be somewhat of an optimist to write. We writers have to believe that someone will read our words and be moved.  That what we have to say matters. That there is more light than dark in this universe.  And that, is the point.  I think.