Life Lesson

There is a life lesson that has taken me too many years (decades) to figure out. Partly because I've spent the majority of my adult life renting apartments rather than owning a home. Partly because I've spent the majority of my adult life obliviously walking around, skirting responsibility and commitment. Partly because I'm a hammerhead.

Having something beautiful is a luxury, a delight.

Maintaining something beautiful is work.

This applies to many things.

A home. The picture below is the entryway of a mansion in Galveston. It was built in the early 20th century, and it is gorgeous. Hand-carved wood all over. But, it takes a team of employees and volunteers - along with large grants - to keep it up.
The Bishop's Palace - Galveston, Tx
The Bishop's Palace - Galveston, Tx

Or a patio with flowers. Flowers have to be watered regularly, and weeds will grow through the bricks unless we are vigilant.
Cat's Paradise

Jewelry - Silver will tarnish and must be polished.
Pendant - Silver, 18K and Opal by Barry Perez

Talent - musical, artistic or any other talent you may have developed - requires continued practice, or you will lose the skill, the edge, the ease and the beauty with which you perform.
The Talented Jorge & Nicole

Friendships and relationships
Courtesy of Pexels 
Courtesy of Pexels

I was walking home this afternoon from brunch - just before it began to rain. I passed a beautiful house, a house that I would have loved to live in. It occurred to me that the bigger the home, the more there is to maintain because there's that much more to break down. A few years ago I wouldn't have considered that. I have moved in with my partner – the same one who, without my having to call, came to pick me up when it began to rain – and I have begun to learn what it means to truly be responsible for something and its maintenance. The old house we live in has a leak in the roof and it's entirely up to us to fix it. There is no office to call to come take care of it. And, we either mow the lawn or it becomes a forest, regardless of how much I'd prefer to be laying around reading. I could leave when I got angry, or I could finally figure out what it takes to make a relationship work. I have a lifetime of leaving that has become a habit, a way of life. I am having to learn a new way of life.

The lesson hasn't been easy or without tears. But, I have grown so much in the last few years that I almost don't recognize myself. Has it been worth it? As far as I'm concerned, yes. (You'd have to ask my partner for his perspective.) I have a long way to go, but I am so glad I have begun.

Thank you for reading.

The Autumns

February 21, 2013

The art of the album seems to be lost. I don't know if the advent of electronic music downloads caused it, or if maybe it was more special to begin with. Celebrated albums like The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon are few, which would be why they're celebrated. All throughout my music-listening career buying an LP/CD/Cassette tape has always been kind of a crap shoot  There might be a song you hear on the radio and so you buy the album and there is precisely one song on it that's worth listening to. Or, your favorite singer/band comes out with a new album and you rush to buy it, and you slowly come to the realization that you're not as impressed as you had expected to be. Then, you might just decide that you're completely disappointed.

But, in this day and age of instant and total gratification (one could have written the same opening phrase 20 years ago; it's just more-so now than it was then) does anybody even care about albums as a complete art any more? It's a lot more convenient for me to be able to buy just the songs that I like, and though I could be missing something wonderful, I'm saving a lot of money in the process.

There is one album, though, that I'd like to bring your attention to: the self-titled album by The Autumns. I downloaded one song from a site I had a subscription to (totally legal – they were promoting indie bands). The song was Slumberdoll, which is a very nice song by itself. I let a friend of mine at work listen to it and she emailed me asking for the name of the band... then she emailed me threatening to choke the life out of me if I didn't tell her the name of that band right now. (I might be exaggerating.) It's got a sound that is not like anything I've heard before and I'm at a loss to describe it. The instrumentals are... I don't know. I truly have nothing to compare them to so you'll have to listen to samples here:

I've read mixed reviews. I recently was at Goodwill – a favorite Sunday afternoon activity of mine – and I came across an earlier work of theirs, In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour. That CD is from 2000; the predecessor of The Autumns, which is dated 2004. The style is absolutely the same, but I like The Autumns much better. I felt they were more developed and more sure of themselves. I read, though, a review that compared the 2nd rather unfavorably to the first, so I suppose it's a matter of taste. (Judging from the language of said review, I'd say that he/she is more used to writing reviews of music than I and perhaps a better source, but I still hold firmly to the opinion that The Autumns is far superior to In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour.)

Taken by itself the song Slumberdoll is wonderful. But, in the context of the complete album it makes more sense; it has a home. The music is not hard rock; it's more like Muse. It makes good listening in the morning when I first get to work. Or, in the evening when I get home. The lead singer's tenor voice slipping in and out of falsetto, the melancholy feeling that the instruments inspire, the smooth, confident way they play make me happy. The Moon Softly Weeps a Lullaby is purely instrumental and it's dark, slow and soft. On the whole, it puts me in a different place mentally, and the first few chords prepare my brain to be taken there. But, you gotta hear the whole CD to get the effect.

Please give these songs a listen. I haven't come across anything like them before. (I'm not likely to again, it would seem. They had one other CD in 2007 and then seem to have fallen out of the world.) This album is a work of art, but more so if taken as a whole rather than each song standing alone. It's the kind of thing that can sit on a shelf for years, and then be played again and the chords immediately sooth the soul again... and alert the senses to a imminent ride that you're about to be taken on, like the feeling you get when you first start rolling in a roller coaster ride that you're familiar with.


Rosa de Hiroshima

I came across this song much in the same way I came across the song for which this blog is named. I knew a man from Brazil and he introduced me to the singer Ney Matogrosso. It was actually a different song he wanted me to hear when he lent me the album – a greatest hits album. Of course, I listened to the hell out of that other song (Tem Que Rebolar) which his cousin would dance the hell out of when he got drunk. Oh, those crazy Brazilians. But, I listened to the whole CD and Rosa de Hiroshima caught my attention.

Then tragedy struck. Due to the disparity of civil rights in this country my friend was given a 5th-class ticket back to Brazil and there was nothing I could do about it. (We had dated I would certainly have married him if that had been an option.) But alas, it was not to be. I have spoken to him on the phone and we still communicate via email, but the CD in question remains in my possession.

I pulled the CD out the other day to listen to Tem Que Rebolar, and I remembered this first song on the CD. It is hauntingly beautiful. Reading the title, one doesn't have to speak Portuguese to know that it's Rose of Hiroshima. I speak some Spanish, so I can follow along a little. But, listen to it with an ear that doesn't understand the words. It's just amazing.

As usual I did my exhaustive research (I looked the song up on Wikipedia) and the only article I could find was in Portuguese. I was impressed that I understood it, most of it anyway.The song began its life as a poem. The poem was written by a rascal named Vinícius de Moraes, who, from what I gather, married 9 times, was known as O poetinha and was an integral part of the birth of Bossa Nova, along with Tom Jobim and João Gilberto. (I have also begun to explore Bossa Nova and I'm familiar with these other two gentlemen.) Quite the Bohemian, O peotinha was, working in music, literature – including poetry – and theater.

As a song, it was released in 1973 on the debut album of Secos & Molhados, featuring Ney Matogrosso as lead singer with his oddly soprano voice. It was a cry for peace in the nuclear age. (I'm of the generation that remembers thinking that any day the leaders of the nations were going to "press the button" and start a nuclear war, annihilating civilization as we know it.) It was released in an era of dictatorship in Brazil and ended up being one of the most-played songs of the year. They were rebels with a cause.

Watching the video one can't help but be distracted by the flamboyance of the singer. (Freddie Mercury had nothing on Ney Matogrosso.) But, just like Freddie, I can't help but be captivated by his talent as a singer and an artist. One can feel the message just from the aesthetics. Its beauty goes beyond the manifest. There is something about it, some underlying quality that defies expression with words. After listening to it a few times I felt it more than heard it. This live version is even better than the studio recording on the CD that I have. I can see that he's been on stage singing a while – he's covered in sweat. This song is slow. As the flute leads the introduction Ney covers his face with his arms and then opens up into the song. He has my heart, my soul in his hand as he sings slowly, deliberately in his soprano voice that just floats along with the flute. Then, after listening to it several times and I began to understand the words, they stabbed me in the heart. They exhort us to think, to think about the people affected, in harsh detail. And then the song ends, leaving me to die in the last lingering instrumental notes.

This is a song. This is art.