Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'd Rather Be Bad Than Good

I'm grooving along paying bills while listening to The Jody Grind and this song comes on. Isn't that the root of all choices? Would you rather be bad? The song's really about not seeing a certain guy anymore because with him she'd rather be bad. It's the pull of the brassy.

If you were to do a little search of my google history you'd discover that at least once per day I search for, are you ready?

Amy Winehouse news.

Yes, I keep up with her exploits daily. I have both Back to Black and the indi release that wasn't available in the US until November, Frank. I've listened to both of them enough times to have memorized every word, every nuance, every bit of angst and beauty. People who know me are finding my Winehouse Obsession, well, odd.

You see, for the most part, all my choices in life have been of the "I'd rather be good" variety. Don't get me wrong - I have my vices and tattoos and explosive love affairs like any other girl. But for the balance of life I've made the good choices. When I was younger I had a really robust creative period fueled almost entirely by bourbon. Did I write really great stuff then? No. But I did learn I had something to say. Once I wasn't quite so soaked I learned how to control and shape my words. What amazes me about Amy Winehouse is that she has range, control and a searing honestly. Soaked. Soaked and pickled and on the absolute edge. She's made the choice of being bad and made it all the f'ing way. I don't think she has many moments of being good. She celebrated her marriage by carving her husband's initials into her belly with a shard of broken mirror. That's so bad it's nearly unbelievable.

We all know Good has rewards. Even when we have these moments of bad, we still strive for good because we know it's gonna pay off! Bad might be fun and it has it's attractions for artists - that razor edge is where most new ideas come from. Being raw and creating something new doesn't happen on the top floor - it's a dark, basement activity. Some lucky artists can go to that place mentally - they don't drag their body down, shooting up between their toes or carving themselves up, they learn to do it all in a place they can come back from. I don't think Amy's coming back. And if she does, she'll be Marianne Faithful - utterly ruined, yet resolute.

I was watching Project Runway this week (this isn't as much of a segue as it appears). One of the looks sent down the runway was worn by this lanky model with black hair done up in a beehive with a side pony tail. She looked hot. And obviously Winehouse inspired, without the missing teeth, bloody ballet flats and white powdered nose, of course. There was Michael Kors gushing like a GIRL, goofy smile and lit-up eyes, about how much he loved Amy Winehouse and how great the look was.

Watching a middle-aged, iconic, man gush over Amy Winehouse made me realize something.
At the end of the day, I think we love to watch people who actually would rather be bad than good. Especially when they make things happen. It's just too bad the creative forces being bad calls into the world eventually decimate the artist who tries to wield them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Got Milk?

A Warning: If you are squeamish about mother-type things (most especially that mother of all mother things - the breast) then just stop reading right now.

Okay then. Breastfeeding has been on my mind lately. No plans to take it up again, of course, but I've had one of those odd full-circle moments that sometimes happen in life. My first baby and I had a really tumultuous nursing experience. Her mouth was itty bitty and my breasts were incompetent. We made it eight weeks. The other mom's in my little post-partum yoga group would gasp and avert their heads when they saw my breasts - they were that bad. After several bouts of really severe mastitis (if you don't know, that's this lovely thing when your tits feel like masts) my midwife (MY MIDWIFE!) said, "time to quit, darling. Your health is declining and the baby is losing weight."

So, I became intimately familiar with cabbage leaves. Later that year I was at one of those faculty mixer-type things that grad students who teach sometimes get invited to and the wife of one of my favorite professors was there. We began talking about mother-type things because my friend was about to rush off to nurse her baby. The prof's wife got this look on her face that, for some reason, stuck in my head. It was a look both proud and defiant, with just a glint of malice. She then said, "My youngest is five and I still have milk."

Huh? She then went on to declare that she didn't actually nurse the child anymore, but the milk just never completely left. My brain tucked that little moment away.

Flash forward a few years. I have my second baby and triumph above all nursing issues. I nurse him for nearly two years and even after I cut him off he keeps asking for another three years. Poor thing. The reason I cut him off to begin with was because he was the most acrobatic nurser of all time and I just could not see allowing my nipples to continue to stretch like Cirque props.

I'm haven't been sad to give up nursing. Until recently. You see, there's this baby boom in my neighborhood and our discussion boards are full of all the young mother's giving each other nursing advice and lamenting the stares and shock of strangers.

And now I understand the professor's wife. Saying to women in the full flush of their childbearing years that I HAVE MILK is a certain claim on your own youth. Milk is bounty, it's beneficience, it's beauty, it's the elixir of life (literally!). When you have milk, you are a woman with every piece of your physical passage of life intact.

When it's gone for good, a piece of your youth goes with it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Writing The End

At 8:08 last night I wrote those two magic words that every aspiring writer (and, really, probably EVERY writer) loves above all other words.

The End

Wild Iris has now run it's course, fulfilled it's arc, circled itself, Freytaged, reached denouement, whatever other term you can come up with for (repeat after me)

The End

I don't feel the sense of deflation I did when I finished Silver Lining, mostly because I already have the next book plotted out and I can't wait to start it. That's a nice feeling. But not nearly as nice as (repeat after me)

The End

Of course, I'm going to bask in the afterglow all day today before I have to face the two least fun words in writing

Edit and Polish

But, that's tomorrow. And in those immortal words of Scarlet O'Hara,

Tomorrow is another day.

Which were, of course, the words written right before (repeat after me)

The End

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Character of Landscape

I left my house early this morning to get to my chapter board meeting. Where I live is just east of downtown, which means I have to take one freeway and then go through an interchange to get to the mother of all messes - the Downtown Connector. Someone in an office somewhere in Atlanta decided it would be a GREAT idea to take two major north/south interstates and combine them as they went through downtown. Brilliant.

Traffic on the connector can range from terrible to horrendous at any given hour of the day. It's my only route north, however, so a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I have a trusty minivan and I know how to merge.

This morning, however, the connector was nearly empty. You see - the one thing guaranteed to empty the freeway in Atlanta is the threat of snow. Even though only a light mist drifted about the city everyone else must have been at home by the window (wringing their hands, I'm sure). Since I wasn't gritting my teeth and using my spare hand to flip off other rude drivers, I had the ability to enjoy the downtown landscape.

I love the city. The buildings stand in their rows like patrons at the bank on the day social security checks are deposited. Varied, resolute, stout, clean, dirty, ornate, prim., expansive. The mist obscures the tops on days with bad weather - making the tallest buildings appear to just disapear into the ether. The jumble and hodge podge is my kind of landscape. I prefer the mess and brilliance of man to the uniformity of nature. Each window on each building is a story waiting.

I suppose I'm not just a people-watcher. I'm a building observer. For me, landscape is perhaps the greatest and most important character study.