To pause before, between … a musical interlude is needed

There’s a beautiful, melancholy Johnny Mercer song about the end of October and the memories that time of year calls up. “When October Goes” is one of my favorite sad-and-lovely songs. I kind of want one for the end of November, too. This moment just before December catapults us into the big year-ending flourish of Christmas and the new year, this limbo when I’m in the emotional sugar crash of coming home from a holiday with my family … it needs some kind of wistful, musical pause. I need some hand-holding into the wild ride that’s about to start.

Years ago during a family vacation to Dublin, my mother, sister, and I took a day trip a couple hours out of the city. The tour company we chose had drivers who were known for singing on the trips. We didn’t know that until it happened, and I’m glad we didn’t. If I’d heard anything about singing drivers, I’d for-sure have chosen another tour company … and I’d have missed one of my favorite experiences from that excellent trip.

On our ride back into the city, our lovely driver, Jimmy Doyle (yes, really), began to sing “Dublin in the Rare Oul Times.” His voice was low and mournful, and it so fit both the song and our moods as we watched the countryside go past after a long touring day. We weren’t melancholy exactly, but we were, too. Our trip was almost over, everything was beautiful and would soon be left behind and so yes, a pretty, melancholy serenade from a gruff bus driver with a gorgeous voice was beyond perfect.

That’s what I want to draw things to a close before I start playing all my Christmas music. Because yes, I have lots of holiday songs I can’t wait to start singing. I have an advent calendar from Diamine Ink that I can’t wait to start opening (can’t wait!). I have Christmas cookies to bake and swap. I have presents to wrap. I’m not trying to sink into any kind of melancholia, but I want to honor this, this little moment in between. I want Jimmy Doyle singing me from one space into the next.

Ring a ring a rosie as the light declines / I remember Dublin city in the rare oul times.

Throwing Away My Shot

I’ve known for a few months now that I was going to have a chance to shoot a free throw on the court at Madison Square Garden. Part of the reason I bought my tickets was that free throw. The idea of standing on that court where I’d watched so many games, where I’d seen so many great players, was too good to resist.

So I knew … but I didn’t do anything to get ready for that moment. Instead, I spent most of my time thinking of ways to get out of having to take the shot. I had no illusions, was entirely certain that I would miss the basket by a fairly large margin. I was mostly concerned about embarrassing myself in front of the dozens of people who’d be on the court with me.

Last night was the game, Knicks v. Pistons. I haven’t been to a professional basketball game in a long time, and it was fun to be there, fun to remember my long-ago history of being an avid fan, of traveling to games as a teenager, of shouting myself hoarse, of my favorite cheers from high school, of following NCAA games with my sister … of having the Knicks break my heart every year, and Patrick never getting his championship ring.

The Knicks came through last night, however, winning 96 to 84. That was satisfying.

It was also clouded by my growing nerves about the foul shot moment that was fast approaching. It came, it went. And no one’s blowing up my phone trying to sign me for a WNBA contract. (heh)

I worried that I wouldn’t get the ball anywhere near the net, pretty sure that I don’t have the upper body strength or the awareness of what to do with my body to propel the ball correctly. Yeah, right on all counts. Mine was one of the more glorious whiffs of the night, at least in my eyes. Alas.

There was this shining moment, however, when I looked like I might actually know what I’m doing:

Foul Shot_3-8-20

The ball felt good in my hands — light, manageable, small and tossable. I had a brief flicker of, “Maybe … ”

And three seconds later it was the walk of shame off the court to get my coat and get out. Sigh.

I have other talents. And it’s good to remind myself of them in moments like this.


It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Three Short Years — SOLSC 13

I met with my mentee this morning for a couple of hours. I’ve been volunteering with Girls Write Now for three years now. It’s so hard to believe it’s already three years, and that Naima is about to graduate from high school. Being her mentor has been a great experience for me — and for her, too, I hope! — and I’m excited to see her move into the next stage of her life as she starts college in the fall, and I’m already thinking ahead to what I’ll do next year. Yes, I can re-up as a mentor and meet a new, equally-wonderful young woman to work with. And it’s likely that I’ll do exactly that. But Naima and I clicked so instantly and our meetings were great from the start. Surely I can’t get that lucky twice in a row.

But those decisions are for another day. Today was about laughing over cups of tea at our favorite cafe and doing some writing. I found some great writing prompts on the Warren Wilson College website, and we’ve been working through them. We’ve tried writing stories using only one-syllable words (so hard!) and writing a story that’s 26 sentences long, each sentence beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Today we wrote about our first names — why they were chosen for us, what stories are attached to them, what they mean.

I have a few months of Sunday morning hangouts with Naima left. I’m already feeling nostalgic for them.


We’re almost halfway through the 2016 edition of the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

It’s alright if you love me …

Had an audio flashback yesterday that’s still playing its tune today. I was sent back in time to the first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “Breakdown” was an instant favorite for me. Something about the way Petty sang those first lines:

It’s alight if you love me.
It’s alright if you don’t.
I’m not afraid of you running away, honey.
I get the feeling you won’t.

I’d never heard anyone sing like him. The sound of his voice, the sound of that lyric. They just clicked so hard for me. I was young and unworldly enough that I didn’t fully understand what Petty was singing about, but the song communicated with me all the same. Fox (my younger sister) and I used to sing this song all the time. I was Petty, she was the Heartbreakers. If we’d grown up Irish, “Breakdown” would have been one of our party pieces.

Heard five seconds of the intro guitar behind a promo for a news show on my way out the door yesterday … and I was cast back, back upstate, standing in the living room in front of the stereo, singing with Fox.

Woke up with the song in my head today. First thought, before “snowmageddon 2015,” before conscious thought. Thanks, NPR, for that musical time travel magic.

Something inside you
is feeling like I do.
We’ve said all there is to say.

Baby —

Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me.
Breakdown, honey, take me through the night.
Breakdown, now I’m standing here, can’t you see —
breakdown, it’s alright.
It’s alright.
It’s alright.


It’s Tuesday, friends. There’s snow on the ground, and it’s a Slice of Life day. Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see the rest of the day’s slices.

SOL image 2014

The one about me and Elvis.

(Not that Elvis.)

There have been a few slices this month about music and memory, songs that take us back to some particular place, time, person. I’ve written a few posts like that, too.  (My favorite is the one about Prague and She’s Crafty.) These new posts are inspiring me to dip back into that well.

There are so many songs, right?  So many memories tied to music.  The first workshop we did for Girls Write Now was “Music Memoir,” and I wrote a piece about a song that called up sadness over the loss of my father.  And then there’s the one about When Doves Cry and the memory of falling in love in Ljubljana.  So many songs.  So many memories.

The one that keeps tapping my shoulder tonight is from the same trip that gave me the Beastie Boys memories of Marek.

I spent a lot of time walking during that trip to Prague.  And a lot of time alone.  My friends all had school or jobs, so their days were spent in their lives and we would meet up after dinner.  So during the day I walked, from one end of the city to the other, through tiny cobbled streets, in and out of parks, up to the castle, back and forth across the bridges over the Vltava.  I listened to music most of the time because it was a way to put up a wall. (Hmm … that probably needs explaining, but that’s a longer story.  Maybe tomorrow.)  And although I listened to a lot of different music — Jimi Hendrix, Joe Jackson, Joni Mitchell — the song that is locked to the city for me is Elvis Costello’s (The Angels Wanna Wear) My Red Shoes.

I hear the opening beats and I’m sitting on a bench by the river, writing in my journal, trying to find the words that will make the golden light and the smell of lilacs stay alive on the page, trying to keep track of the few words I was learning in Czech, starting to work on a story that would grow into the first long story with a fully completed arc I’d ever written. I hear that song and I’m riding the tram, and I’m walking, walking, walking … up to the castle, back down through the gardens, around the Old Town, around the Kampa, stopping for coffee or ice cream (two of the three kinds of “food” I knew how to say in my first days in the city), and then starting over again.  I remember the gorgeous garden I discovered on some side street, the gate open and the ivied stone benches too inviting to pass up.  I have no idea if that was someone’s private home, a school, a business.  There was no one around for the whole time I sat there dreaming.

I haven’t been back to Prague since that trip. I imagine it is hugely different now (that visit was in the mid-80s, after all).  I hope I would still find it magical, still find at least some of the tiny corners of loveliness I found on those long walking days.

_____

Find all of today’s slices on Two Writing Teachers.

SOL image 2014