A Ballad For The Dog Next Door

Dear Neighbor’s Dog. Kindly shut it. You bark constantly. Yesterday morning you woke me up by barking for ten minutes continuously and only stopped in time for my alarm to go off. You went on a barking spree at 2 AM the other night. Look at your life choices. LOOK AT THEM.

I can’t decide whether I should bribe you or punish you. I’ve considered giving you peanut butter, hoping you will take it as a peace offering. But the stronger impulse is to crack my window and blow the highest, sharpest note on my penny whistle as loud as I can in your direction. I am so tempted.

Then I remember I’m seeking retribution against a dog and I stop and feel ridiculous. You’re not conscious of what you’re doing. Yesterday the sermon was about not blaming ourselves or others, but instead seeking to approach conflict with love and understanding. I understand you. You are old and cantankerous and lumpy and probably smell funny, and I would bark a lot too if that was my life. I understand you, but I do not approve.

Plus sometimes you have that little enforcer Chihuahua growl at me through the fence with all his tiny, impotent rage. Fight your own battles, Dog.

Still, I’m torn. When you don’t bark I wake up and peer out between my blinds and wonder if you’re dead or something. I worry about you. You are pretty old and pretty lumpy. The neighbors seem to just leave you in the yard all the time. I’m not sure you have a doghouse because I don’t want to spend any more time staring into my neighbor’s yard than I already do. (I know it’s creepy, but I haven’t had Internet so I need to satisfy my voyeuristic urges somehow.)

All of this mental anguish over you and we’ve never even really met. I would greet you at the fence, but there’s the whole funny smell issue and it might mean I have to talk to my neighbors. I’m not sure how to navigate a conversation with people from the South. They talk to you even though they don’t know you, but do they really want to talk to you or is it just social obligation? Are they just hoping you’ll offer a quick reply and kill the whole exchange before it can metastasize into a full blown discussion? I worry I’m missing certain inflectional cues because I’m not used to the accent yet. Everyone sounds like they come from “True Blood” to me.

And you look like a licker. Not into that.

Listen, Neighbor’s Dog. Once you were young, and less lumpy and smelly. Once you were probably less cantankerous (or maybe you were meaner and now you just move too slow for it to really be effective – but let’s go with the first option). Remember that time and have sympathy. Bark in joy. Bark at the thrill of a fresh breeze or a fat squirrel or a loud truck or a biscuit. Do not bark in rage or frustration.

Remember, I’ve got the penny whistle next to my bed.


P.S.: Hey world, I’m posting this from my OWN Wifi for the first time ever!


Good News; You’re Not Depressed, It’s Just Food Poisoning!

A throwback to my last summer in Nashville.

A throwback to my last summer in Nashville.

It’s officially been 7 [seven] days since since I arrived in Nashville!  After a very productive phone call with a much beloved Berklee teacher (the summary of which was “Calm down, you’ve only been there for a week and you don’t even have furniture yet”) I’m feeling more composed.  I have less to kvetch about.  I’ve come to grips with the death of my chair, I went to a great service at the Unitarian church, and had an awesome lunch with a friend at coffee shop that I haven’t been essentially squatting in for the past week (I love you Ugly Mugs, please don’t kick me off your wifi).  As such, I figured this would be a good time to reflect on my last first week in Nashville.  What follows is an entirely true story.

This isn’t my first brush with the Music City; last summer I had an internship at an awesome publishing company on the Row.  I sublet a room near Centennial Park, which – for those of you not familiar with Nashville – is sort of like the Boston Public Gardens but slightly more sketchy (and for those of you not familiar with the Boston Public Gardens, I once watched a lady buy an unmarked duffle bag from a guy in a hoodie under a bridge in broad daylight while three separate wedding parties competed for prime photo shoot locations above them).  I didn’t understand until well into the summer that I was one of the few people using the park on a regular basis who didn’t also live in it.  

Centennial Park also features a life-size replica of the Parthenon - don't ask why.

Centennial Park also features a life-size replica of the Parthenon – don’t ask why.

This is how I developed one of the litmus tests I use to make sure my life is still on the right track: Never be the weirdest person in a public park.

While walking around the ornamental pond one afternoon, pretending I wasn’t calling my mom for the second time that day, I passed a woman with four young kids.  I didn’t see what she was holding but when it made a quacking noise I figured it was kid’s toy.  But then, she started to complain loudly, “This thing is gonna shit all over my car before I get home.”  I turned to stare with fresh eyes.  This woman was carrying a live duck that she had plucked from the pond back to her rusted-out white pick-up truck. 

I struggled to come up with a theory to explain what was happening as I watched, slack-jawed.  Maybe it was a pet duck and she had brought it to the park with her for fun, like for a play-date with the ducks that live on the pond.  Maybe she’s with the park service.  Maybe the ducks are free if you can catch them.  But I’m a realist at heart.  She had caught that duck bare-handed and was probably going to eat it later.  Now, I’ve seen people fish in public ponds, and I get it.  I’ve seen people hunt in state parks, and I get that.  I feel like these are socially acceptable ways to hunt for your dinner in public.  Grabbing the ornamental ducks out of a city park, not so much.  Or maybe I’m wrong, but it struck me as weird.

At this point, I realized I was gaping at her and that if she could snatch a duck out of the water without getting wet she could probably snap my neck without flinching.  “This is how bony, smart-assed Yankee girls like me go missing,” I thought and quickly moved along.  But there was a lot to think about.  How easy is it to catch a duck?  Did I just find a real-life ninja?  What if the duck had a family?  Was there a lady duck panicking somewhere out on the pond, searching for her missing ducky soulmate?  What if they had children?!

Existential, duck-related musings aside, the rest of my first week was pretty weird.  I received a drunken marriage proposal (he said he liked that I talked funny; I told him he had a very nice shirt but I normally need to see at least two outfits before I make decision like that, and that I had to decline); got flashed by a very disappointing flasher (who didn’t appreciate when I asked if he was serious); and learned that most people outside of the North East don’t rely on sarcasm as their sole form of communication.  My internship was awesome and I tried to pretend to be an exciting 21-year-old who was going to do something hip later and not just curl up in bed and cry while re-watching “Wildfire” on Hulu by myself.

The next weekend I didn’t want to go out.  I felt lethargic.  I had no appetite.  Food looked repulsive. I had been trying to go to a different restaurant every day but now none of my options looked appealing.  I became concerned that I was seriously depressed.  I lay in my bedroom with the blinds closed so that the atmosphere could more closely reflect the darkness of my soul.  I considered investing in a Silver Sun Pickups album.

After a day of moping I figured I should eat something, whether the blackness in my heart craved sustenance or not.  And as soon as I ate it I got sick.  I’ve never been so relieved to spend a weekend in a bathroom before.  It wasn’t depression, it was food poisoning (which is… better, I guess?).  I called my bosses – the only people I knew in the city – and explained that I was very excited to have severe food poisoning and not be depressed but it was getting old and I was starting to feel dehydrated, and did they know a doctor I could go see.

I then wrote a mildly incoherent yet defiantly cheerful reflection to email to my internship coordinator back in Boston (which received a slightly panicked response – I don’t know if they’d ever had a student file a police report and become extremely ill all in one week before).  Thus began my previous Nashville experience.  [Cue “Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song”]

I think, that may be part of what’s stressing me out now; my last visit was so action packed.  The slow pace and lack of furniture makes me nervous I’m doing something wrong.  No one’s asked me to marry them.  I haven’t even had to use my pepper spray once.  And I have yet to contract a norovirus.  

But as long as I’m not the weirdest person in the public park, I’m still doing ok.

A Eulogy For My Beanbag Chair [Garbage-Bag-Filled-With-Packing-Peanuts]

Farewell, dear friend.  You will be missed.

Farewell, dear friend. You will be missed.

At some point, this blog will be about music, because at some point I am resolved to be making music somewhere besides my empty living room.  Currently, however, my life runs on a series of tiny, circular tracks.  They are little things I’ve been doing every day to try and feel less uprooted.  I’ve become attached to things I shouldn’t be attached to.  

Like my “beanbag chair.”  At the moment, it’s the only “furniture” I have with the exception of an air mattress (which isn’t even mine) and a piano bench.  Last night tragedy struck.  I could hear an air leak for a while.  I ignored it.  I had double bagged.  What could go wrong?  But last night, I had to come to grips with the situation.  When I sit in my garbage bag full of packing peanuts chair, pink peanuts shoot in all directions from the top of it, like I’m the 1 millionth shopper and they’re firing confetti cannons off in my honor.  Frankly, it’s a little exciting when I think of it that way, as though the joining of my butt with the chair is so momentous of an event that it merits a fireworks display.  But then I look at the pink styrofoam innards littering the floor around me and I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness.

Oh noble garbage bag full of packing peanuts chair!  Your tenure in my home has been a short one [3 days] but I have cherished our time together.  Watching Youtube videos over the sounds of Verizon texting me about my data limit.  Playing an out of tune guitar late into the night.  Squeaking away awkwardly on a tin whistle.  You don’t judge.  You bear the weight of my sorrows, my joys, and my bottom as faithfully as you can muster.  But you are only a delicate creature, woven of discount polyurethane and airy styrofoam.  I charged you with a task too great: bearing the weight of both my troubles and my body.

And I neglected to file my nails.  Sorry bout that.

I find myself fairly devastated by this loss.  Seeing the peanuts on the floor fills me with a wild and uncontrollable anxiety.  They are like little pink pieces of brutal reality slowly filling my living room, threatening to drown me.  I try to ignore them.  I put them in another box – also filled with packing peanuts – and try to convince myself that that’s where they came from in the first place.  It is an unsustainable lie.  

I try to blame the chair for my other troubles.  Last night, I found, like, the biggest spider ever in my house.  He was as big as a dollar coin and just as frustrating.  He looked like the jumpy kind.  I slept with a towel shoved under my door to keep him out of my room.  I tried to invent some scenario where he snuck into the house in the chair or had been hiding in the peanuts or something, anything to make me wish my beloved chair good riddance.  But I can’t avoid the truth any longer.  The chair is not to blame.

I couldn't get closer nor keep my hand steady enough to get a non-blurry picture, but - trust me - he's giant and scary.

I couldn’t get closer nor keep my hand steady enough to get a non-blurry picture, but – trust me – he’s giant and scary.

I will miss you, garbage bag full of packing peanuts chair.  You will be gone too soon.  I will continue to so sit on you until my furniture finally arrives Wednesday-maybe-hopefully-probably-never, all the while fighting back tears at the sight of your slow deterioration.  You are one of my few small comforts right now, and I thank you for that.


Also I think I should invest in a stuffed animal.  Probably a slightly healthier thing to become attached to.  Not much healthier, but slightly.

New City, No job – Time To Start A Blog

As of five days ago I am a Nashville resident.  I mustered up all of my foolish, youthful exuberance, crammed as much of my life into the back of my car as I could, and drove down to what feels a little like the Wild West after spending my entire life in New England.  Now I’m down here with no real solid plans on what to do so I’m starting a blog.

First impressions: it’s hot.  Really hot here.  Like it’s 91.  In September.  And that’s not considered news worthy.  Also it’s very humid.  Why?  How?  Where is all this moisture coming from?  You’re not even close to the ocean, Nashville!  You don’t smell right – you have no sea-stink, no dead-fish-parfum.  You’re not allowed to be this humid.  I think they import the humidity from somewhere for effect or something.  It can’t be natural.

My instruments seem to be alright with it, but they’re living in the air-conditioned confines of my empty house.  Oh, that’s right.  As though to underline how unemployed I am, how frighteningly open my schedule is, I have no furniture or internet.  I write to you know from an excellent coffee shop down the street, person I’d like to imagine reading this.  My life is beyond spartan – I’d be pushing into Zen guru territory if it weren’t for the flotsam of clothes, books, and other odds and ends carpeting floor around my air mattress with no where to be put away.  I feel like one of the frogs I used to catch as a kid and keep in shoe-boxes.  The error of my ways is now terribly clear to me.  I’m so sorry frogs.  You deserved better.

My not quite zen abode.

My not quite zen abode.

I bought one of those mirrors the other day that goes on a table and tilts so you can put your make-up on.  I keep it on the floor where I imagine my dresser will be someday-maybe-never-if-it-ever-shows-up like some sort of bizarre, depressed totem.  I crouch over it in the morning and fantasize about having all my underwear in a drawer with all my socks.

In a moment of ingenuity, I did make an excellent beanbag chair out of garbage bags and packing peanuts.  I call it fernitur.  I sit there and eat frozen ravioli while watching Netflix violently disembowel the data limit on my phone.  It’s grand.

Fernitur, also known as a college degree at work.

Fernitur, also known as a college degree at work.

My community, the people that I truly loved playing with, are all back in Boston.  I’d like to think they’re reading this (hi guys!).  I’d like to be playing with them.  I miss them terribly.  When I tell people I’m here to do music a look of pity and disapproval spreads across their faces.  “Oh great another dumb kid who thinks she’s gonna be Carrie Underwood,” I assume they are thinking as they judging-ly look me up and down.  A grocery store checkout guy did this to me the other day.  My dad says I should say I’m here to do something else, but I’m not comfortable lying.  

The reaction people have to the bodhran (which for the uninitiated is an Irish frame drum) is pretty awesome.  Even if they aren’t too impressed when I talk about it, it pulls you so strongly to move and tap with the music that most people can’t help but get excited once I play a bit for them.  So I will introduce myself as a bodhran player.  And if they want to know what that means, I’ll tell them: I’m trying to make a living beating a dead goat with a stick.