Tail Lighting It

Hey there –

The last week has been nothing less than a true test of my ability to trust everything outside of myself and not try to control all the moving pieces around me.

My trip to New York last Sunday and Monday fell apart in what can only be described as a cruel joke by fate. Luckily,. the only monetary loss was a bus ticket. The following days were filled with misstep after misstep. Without digging in deep – I started updating my resume and stopped buying iced coffee from Bloc 11 cafe every morning.

Last week was terrifying. I questioned a lot of things. I thought about moving home. I thought about moving to a different state. I thought about cutting ties, selling everything and backpacking wherever I wanted to go. I was set – I wanted to split and run like hell.

My anxiety would peak at night, often wine-induced, and I would sit in silence on my bed and worry and think and ponder every single little part of my life. This is what happened Saturday night. I had a movie on as white noise on my computer and I sat and started to formulate a plan to get the heck out of Somerville. I had rough outline formed in my head when I decided to make some tea. I got up from my bed and started walking to the my kitchen when my computer – without being touched – started to play a recording in Adobe Audition.

(It’s important to note that I’m a pretty big stickler for closing programs and keeping my computer desktop, folders etc. fairly clean and organized. I don’t function with a lot of windows open or idle. With that said – the only window that was open and idle on my computer when I started playing the movie on Netflix an hour before was Google Chrome.)

Anyway –

The recording was of Elio and I trash talking each other at the Soul Shop when I was trying to track my voice for the Shop’s Christmas record.

Again – this wasn’t open on my computer when I started playing the movie. I don’t know how or why the recording was up or started playing (3 minutes in, mind you) where it did – but as soon as I heard it, I just started crying – like a sobbing cry – and I immediately dismissed my plans to throw up my *tail lights* and skate.

My life has changed dramatically in the last year – I’ve lost friends, I’ve gained a whole lot more – I’m in a feast or famine freelance mindset – I’ve traveled alone – I’ve gained a small sliver of a different kind of confidence in my ability to survive. Somerville is my home – no matter how screwed up and suffocating it can get sometimes. Maybe New York or another city are in my future, but for now, I’m here.

It all sounds so cliche and stupid and ridiculous – but I think sometimes it’s really the little things that happen that help you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Thanks computer ghosts.

Day 4 of 365

Hello there –

I’m really excited about this year. I mean, 2014 was great; re: last post. But I have a good gut feeling about 2015. I think it’s going to be a pretty evolutionary year both personally and professionally for not only me, but for all of the people closest to me. The air smells of revolution – I think things are about to drastically change for the better. Sometimes I don’t do well with change…

…okay, MOST of the time I do TERRIBLY with change. But 2015 is going to be the year of trying new things, of handling people and situations differently, of taking a different, more passive approach to most things (excluding my career obviously because I will obviously always pursue that with an insatiable hunger). I think this new attitude of letting things happen instead of allowing the fear to take over and control all my actions will suit my endeavors well.

New Years Eve was great – it all came together at the end and I got to spend it with many of the people I care about most in this world.

This is Elio right after midnight. He’s having a good time too.

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Right after New Years Day was when I started getting the gut feeling I spoke of earlier.

A bunch of projects fell right into my lap the last couple of days. First, I attended a listening party for a fabulous Somerville artist named Julie Rhodes. I loved her story, (and her music – seriously, talk about the perfect collection of soul and darkness in one voice), so much I immediately asked her for an interview. We’re sitting down this week to figure stuff out, but I’m very excited to get to know her more and document her journey.

Second, a project I’ve been tossing around for a couple weeks finally started to come to fruition. I’m heading to New York on an unexpected trip Sunday and Monday to be an extreme “fly on the wall” for a Converse Rubber Tracks session with the band Wilder Maker. The lead singer/songwriter is a close buddy of mine and we’ve been discussing the prospect for months. It honestly took me meeting Julie to finally make some concrete plans with Gabe (singer/songwriter mentioned earlier). I had been feeling sort of depressed and bored after the finishing of the Soul Shop’s new Christmas record. I wont lie, I was feeling a bit uninspired. Chatting with Julie made me realize I have so much more work left to do. So I contacted Gabe that night and here we are. I love New York so I’m very excited for the trip… nothing makes me happier than a good, cheap, cheesy bodega breakfast sandwich – but that’s for a different post.

I also have a few other possible prospects in the works (interviews, etc) with some visual artists in the city – depending on time and my energy level, I might try to tackle those as well.

Third, (but not lastly because she’s lovely) I’m in the beginning stages of putting together an audio profile on a visual artist here in Somerville named Erin Shaw. I recently purchased an owl piece of art from her which I’M TOTALLY OBSESSED WITH. We chatted a bit when I picked up the art from her and I loved her story and asked if I could document it. I’m so pleased she said yes.

Here’s me holding the owl after I picked it up. Sorry everyone, but it’s not for sale.

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Along with these forthcoming projects – I’ve started to indulge in other pursuits, including sewing and, as mentioned in other previous posts, increasing the size and quality of my record collection. Both new hobbies are coming along quite nicely.

Here’s my sewing set-up. (Notice Erin’s owl in the top left as well as some corny fake deco art my mom picked up for me at the hospital gift shop in between chemo treatments. Also the bottle of bedroom Larceny in the bottom right corner just because it’s clearly the right thing to do.)

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I haven’t yet started anything with the sewing machine, but my first project will be a zip-up circle skirt… nice and simple. I already have the fabric, I’m just trying to fit in the time.

When it comes to the records – oh my I’m pleased. I inherited a bunch of great stuff from my dad, but he was definitely more into the classic rock and roll side of things, which I LOVE, but my tastes have evolved. As you can see, I’ve picked up some soul in the last year and I couldn’t be happier. Sam Cooke Live has to be my favorite record at the moment followed very closely in second by the Wooden Birds “Magnolia” and “Two Matchsticks”. Very, very different genres, but still so lovely.

Also – despite my last post, I’m only just purchased this TA record recently… it’s probably the best of the three they’ve released AND it names the Soul Shop and Elio in the liner notes which just adds to the loveliness of the record. I popped on side A when I got it and had this really intense visceral reaction to the song, “Titus Andronicus Forever”. I clearly remembered all the kids in the crowd at the Middle East going bananas in August when they played the song. I don’t normally listen to them, but any band that has that kind of connection with their fans deserves much respect.

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Hopefully the next post I’ll have for you will be full of photos from the studio and all the amazing bodegas in New York.

Check Yah Later 2014

Hey everyone –

It’s been a couple months since my last post and a lot has happened… The last six months have arguably been better than the first six. I believe my last post was from July, so here’s some bumper sticker moments:

– First full-time job out of grad school in a field related to (shocker here) broadcast journalism.

– I finally watched the Godfather trilogy for the first time.

– I also finally watched The Eagles documentary.

– I had an awesome three-day binge of Titus Andronicus in August where I got to not only see my best friend Elio play keyboard to two sold out crowds, but I also became buds with some of the TA dudes. I broke my phone and had to text with an actual keyboard phone for two weeks because these three days were so righteous, but hey – it was kinda worth it.

-I visited New York City for the first time on my own. Actually – it was my first time traveling alone EVER. I’ve been to Manhattan a couple of times, but that was with someone who really knew the city and guided me without much of my input at all. This time – I guided myself and made my own decisions. Elio and I have this phrase called “taking it back”. We use it in circumstances where we do something that was once connected to a person but isn’t anymore … Like if you were in a relationship with a person who always cooked and when the relationship ended, you either stopped cooking entirely or dialed it back because the act of cooking reminded you of the person. If – one day – you decided to cook after the downfall of the relationship and you made a meal for yourself, by yourself, then essentially you were “taking back” cooking. In this spirit, I took back New York City for me – all of the places and people were no longer connected to someone else – it became an experience and lesson for me – it became a story for me and only me. And it’s a great story.

– I started putting some serious energy into building my record collection full of killer live records – Donny Hathaway Live at the Bitter End is on it’s way to my apartment and I’m soooo excited.

– I was involved in the making of the Soul Shop Christmas record this year, mostly in the form of putting together an audio piece on the production process, (which you can find here). I also hung around on the couch for many of the sessions and provided what I’d like to consider emotional support? Possibly a mix of emotional support and heckling? In any case, I had a blast and Elio and Patrick produced one of the best records of the year.

One of my New Years resolutions, (I know they’re stupid), is to update this blog on a more regular basis. Also – to read more and spend more time alone. In any case, hopefully you’ll be seeing (or reading) more of me in 2015.

What’s in a Voice

Something incredible is about to happen.

Sometime in the next two weeks, I’m going to hear my mom’s voice.

This seems insignificant – most people talk to their parents on a daily basis. In fact, many of these “most people” would probably prefer NOT to hear these parental voices as often as they do.

I certainly used to be one of those people – sometimes my mom’s name would pop up on my caller id and I would groan: “What is she calling to nag me about now?”

How stupid, young and ungrateful I was in my early 20’s.

But this isn’t about who I was then – it’s about how I am now. And today, at 26, the thought of hearing my mom’s voice sends me into a nervous frenzy – the kind of state where I obsessively play with my hair or unfold paperclips or pace the lengths of hallways to calm my emotional and mental space.

She isn’t carrying bad or good news. In fact – she has no new news…her voice wont bring worldly observations or test results or opinions or congratulations because time stopped for her long ago. If anything – I have years of observations and opinions and job announcements and graduation moments to share with her.

Try to wrap your head around this idea – imagine hearing someone’s voice almost everyday for years. Then all of a sudden – it stops. You have pictures, you have memories, but the verbal recognition of their presence is gone. You can recall what they sounded like and the memory of their voice is very clear. But the actual waves of vocal resonance no longer exist.

For the first time in five years – I get to hear my mama – one of the sounds that powered me through so pretty crucial life years.

It’s strange how I’m so hyped on such a fleeting thing as a voice – I mean, she isn’t even saying anything new!

(The voice is coming from a home movie from my childhood. I’ve never seen or heard the tape – but I’m getting it digitized soon.)

But just the thought of being close to her – even if it’s a voice from a tape and even if she’s only talking to baby Amanda and not current Amanda – is enough to emotionally incapacitate me.

I never thought I could be so happy and so nervous to hear her say ‘Amanda’.

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What It’s All About

I’ve lived a fairly solitary life.

That’s not to say there haven’t been people around – on the contrary, I love people. I’ve always had friends and acquaintances around me. However – most of them have been just that – around. We’ve connected … somewhat, we’ve had fun, made inside jokes, shared the sights and sounds of the world. But they’ve either faded away on their own or continued to be a somewhat surface type of friendship or relationship.

Surface shouldn’t be seen as a negative. I’ve trusted a lot of people – probably many I shouldn’t have trusted, in retrospect. But they were “surface” friends – the kind you trust and the kind you hang out with and have fun with. Maybe they stick around for a bit, maybe they move on eventually. In any case, they exist – you have fun – you move on.

I’ve lived a solitary life in that there have been very few people who have seen all of me … I can count those people on one hand. Those people are rare – they come around and you know instantly they aren’t a surface friend. They get you, they love you, they see all of you – all the unloveable parts, all the ridiculously ugly pieces of your personality you hide from everyone because if you showed that shit to everyone – you would actually live a solitary life because NO ONE would hang around ever again. But these people – the special people – they. just. get. it. And by “it” I mean you – all of you.

But because they aren’t “surface” things – it’s more than just someone to drink whiskey and talk with until 3 a.m. These special people are where the growth happens. By the simple nature that they know all of you and accept the funkiness – they are also the ones to know when you’re bullshitting, when you’re slacking and when you deserve better. They challenge you – they don’t tell you what you want to hear, they don’t say whatever they need to say to stay in your life – they know they aren’t going anywhere and they care too much to let you not be the best you.

Confession: I can be pretty self deprecating. LIKE really self deprecating. I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s just become a part of my vernacular – sad but true. A couple of months ago, I said something like “Sometimes I can be pretty unlovable” to one of my best friends. I laughed and went to change the subject. Before I could get the next two words out, he stopped me and asked, “Who in the world told you that and why would you believe it?” I was kind of surprised – people usually just let my negative comments go – no one had ever challenged me. I tried to brush off his response and continue talking, but he stopped me again: “I mean it – who in the world told you that and why would you believe it?”

^^That’s what I’m talking about. These people don’t let you get away with things. They hold you accountable for you – they challenge you.

(Point of this entry.) And these are the people who spur your growth. Without them – you’d probably have a lot of fun still and see great things and talk to great people and love life in general. But with them, you change – you grow – you learn from them and about them to learn about yourself (CHEESE). So grossly disgustingly chick-flicky – but so disgustingly true.

These people are rare, like I’ve said, but when you meet them you just know. And this is NOT all romance. Maybe you meet a great SO that is one of these people – that’s awesome! (Have super cute babies as a result!) But not all growth and connection come from romance …

These people, this growth – that’s what it’s all about. You can have a career and a family and memories and photos – but if you’re the same throughout your life – why does it matter? Aren’t you supposed to grow and evolve? Yes – staying true to who you are is important – but challenging yourself (or in this case, allowing others to challenge you) is crucial.

And on this note – it’s probably not going to be easy.

(This post is getting so cliché but I’m on a roll – so judge away.)

Because these people challenge you – you’re probably gonna meet up with some bumps along the way. You’re probably going to fight – you’re probably going to hate them from time to time – but this is what comes with having people in your life that aren’t just there to experience the surface with you.

I’ve been pretty lucky to meet some of these people in my short 26 years. When I first moved to Boston – pretty broken and wanting to live in a hole – I never thought I’d meet another one again. I’ve been lucky enough to meet one recently – one who’s challenged me more than anyone has in recent memory. It’s tough sometimes – (see above) – but I don’t know what I’d do without him these days.

 

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Family Roots

Hey Internet – it’s been awhile. I’d like to say I’ve been super busy, but I think the reality is I’ve been super lazy. I really should keep up with this more often. Anyway, I’m here now and that’s what matters.

This summer has been a bit financially challenging – to say the least. I haven’t exactly been “slumming it” but I’ve certainly come face to face with the sad truth that I don’t really handle my money very well. We all have to face reality at some point and I guess 26 is as good a time as any to finally realize I need to clean up my act. With grad school done, my job prospects “in the works” and close to six figures in student loan repayments looming four months in my future, I’m trying to get my cash-money act together.

Part of this process means I work as much as I can. Luckily a lot of people take their vacations in the summer so I’ve picked up a bunch of reporting shifts – which pays most of my bills and lifestyle expenses.

On the side, I’ve been trying to work as many temp jobs as possible to help supplement some income. This week, I’ve been at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Back Bay. It’s been a lovely experience – not only is the building pretty fabulous, but it’s allowed me to explore my roots. For some time, my dad’s dropped the facts that “there’s a grandfather somewhere on some side that’s Italian” and that part of my family’s “from somewhere in Massachusetts”. I’ve just kind of accepted these vague assertions despite the fact that my last name is very French, my whole family (both sides) are fluent in French and I’ve been told (don’t know how or why this is) that I “look French” – again not sure exactly how someone comes to this conclusion.

Turns out – I’m very very very French. SURPRISE! From what I can tell, there’s no Italian whatsoever on my dad’s side and I have yet to find that link on my mom’s side. Not saying it’s not there – maybe it is and that’s where the story began. But in my surface research, all I can see is French Canadian heritage as far as the eye (and computer) can see.

(Disclaimer – I’d like to take the credit here for this research, but my conscience wont let me. The genealogists here at the Society did this surface research for me – I just said “wow” and held birth and death certificates in my hands after the fact. I’d say that’s still pretty important.)

The whole experience was pretty cool. I’ve never had any real curiosity about my heritage before and this opportunity just fell into my lap. However, getting a snippet of my roots hasn’t really changed anything for me… I’m not all of a sudden addicted or curious to find out any more information. Is that strange? There are people who spend hundreds of dollars to find this stuff out – who hole up in this library for hours and days at a time to find out where they came from and who is part of their history. I’m not kidding about this – this Society has members from around the world… I just got off the phone with someone from Utah who’s traveling to Boston specifically to use this library and map out their heritage.

…I have no interest in this… which I think is strange because a lot of my self-identification these days – and for the last couple of years – has been rooted in past experiences. I’m working through that, but nonetheless, let’s be honest, the past makes up part of my identity now. As I’m sure it does for many people. But finding out what my great great great great great grandfather did for a living – in my opinion – has no weight on who I am now.

Who I am now is Amanda – a person who loves hard and has the empathy of five people. A woman who loses herself in a good record, appreciates a good whiskey, is curious to a fault, tries and fails often and loves the color blue. And these things are just scratching the surface – but what they all have in common is that none of them have to do with my great great grandfather Pierre being a farmer in Quebec. We are who we are because of us – yes we’re physically here because of these people and our past – but our loves, our passions, our personalities, our quirks – are all us.

We are the sole proprietors of our stories – which, is pretty crazy cool in my opinion.

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Birthday

So far my birthday rocked this year. There are some things in the past that have cast a pretty ugly light on my birthday and I’ve worked pretty consistently the last year to make sure my 25th and my 26th (this year) birthdays were killer. I succeeded last year and I totally and completely succeeded this year.

This year was full of all new people I’ve recently welcomed into my life. I saw two friends play a show down the street from my apartment, hung out with one of best friends at my favorite bar afterward and then finally got a tour of a studio I’ve been dying to see for months.

My life has changed so much in six months. (Possibly gushy alert?) It’s a completely different scene from November until now. After leaving the studio, the same best friend and I had a pretty typical sit on my back stoop until the early morning – sometimes crying in each others arms – type of conversation. We talked about life and relationships and love. He left around 5:30am. I went upstairs to try and get some sleep. I ended up crying for a good half hour instead.

I’m not trying to sound cliche when I say this – but what I have right now – the lifestyle, the friendships, the loyalty, the experiences – is what I’ve always wanted in my life. Those close, real, honest to goodness connections that are inexplicable and easy and true. Those late night/early morning conversations about life and love and war… talking about everything from the concept of “the one” to Ukraine’s civil war. The idea that there are creative, passionate, driven people around me who are working ridiculously hard for little reward because they love music and art and culture.

I’ve never truly felt part of a community. I’ve had friends, I’ve played sports (kinda), I’ve been a part of many a club. But right now – where I am – I really feel part of something. I can’t explain what it is – I don’t really want to either. I’m just really happy – really, really, really happy. Of course there are challenges – keeping emotions in check, realizing your limits and when to push them, knowing what’s right and what’s wrong for you etc etc. But the challenges make the achievements worth it.

Tonight I get to further celebrate in one room with almost everyone I care about in this world. Birthday numero 26 COMMENCE.