2011: What I Heard

December 29, 2011

2011: What I Heard, originally uploaded by erin m.

Of the many, many things about my life that have changed in the last 12 months (hi there, New York; two new tattoos? Sure!), there is one small, simple change that has had the most profound effect on me.

It’s the difference between telling someone “I shoot concerts” and telling them “I used to shoot concerts.” I used to do a lot of things in my life–I used to play the flute, I used to date guys I shouldn’t, I used to have long hair, I used to collect Star Wars trading cards. But when I stopped doing all those things, it was because I grew out of them, or they just weren’t something I felt was especially important anymore. But concerts? Live music? A year ago, you’d have had to pry my camera out of my cold, dead hands, the finger still twitching reflexively on the shutter, to get me to willingly stop taking photos of musicians on stage. Or, as it turns out, you just have to offer me a job in another city with a night schedule that makes going to concerts a virtually impossible luxury.

So this year, I’m celebrating the shows I saw, because somehow through it all I managed to see and shoot some incredible musicians this year. I did it because it’s important to me, and I did it because apparently I get twitchy if I don’t. I made the time to do it, sacrificing sleep, vacation time and sobriety, because standing around in a room full of 500 sweaty people watching a group of even sweatier people singing their hearts out is something I just really like to do.

5: Dismemberment Plan, 9:30 Club, January
For about 4 days last January, the D in D.C. stood for Dismemberment. We ALL went to the one of the shows, and The City felt like it was on a unified mission, and that mission was to have a fucking party. I went to the Sunday night show at 9:30 and stood on the balcony, surrounded by people I knew. I’ve often described this night to people as the reason I finally decided to move to New York, because as I stood up there gripping the rail, it felt like I knew everyone there. I loved that place because of that, and I needed to move because of that. Here’s a clip of the Ice of Boston at the end of one of those shows. One. Big. Fucking. Party.

4: Weakerthans, Bowery Ballroom, December
The Weakerthans dedicated each of their four nights at the Bowery to one of their main albums; I took the two in the middle as vacation days from work and lived a sleep-coffee-bowery-sleep-repeat schedule for two days. After months of no shows at all, these two nights made me feel normal again. Here’s a version of “Reconstruction Site,” the title track for Night No. 2. And here’s John K Sampson all by his lonesome, being quirky and Canadian and waxing slightly-less-than-poetic-but-no-less adorable about Occupy Wall Street before launching into “One Great City.”

3: Avett Brothers, DAR Constitution Hall, February
I wrote this show up for We Love DC, and also got to shoot it for them, and everything Deep and Meaningful (and Long and Rambly) that I have to say about the Brothers Avett you can find there. With the benefit of 10 more months’ reflection, I’ll just add: The Avetts sing in “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” that you should “decide what to be and go be it.” If that night at D-Plan was one of the reasons I moved to New York this year, that Avetts line was one of the things that got me thinking about it in the first place. Here’s a slightly cruddy version of that song from that night (included mostly so you can see Joe Kwon ROCKING the hell out of that cello).And here’s “I and Love And You” from the night, because it’s simply beautiful.

2: Middle Brother/Dawes/Deer Tick, 9:30 Club, March
This was my very last night as a DC resident. I got to spend it shooting Dawes. Without the usual first-three-only limitations–I had the ENTIRE show, right up at the stage, no rail. I wrote it up for We Love DC, and I’m done using words to try to convince every single person I know to listen to Dawes and Middle Brother (and Deer Tick now, too, because this year’s album sold me on them), because they’ve heard it all before. This was probably the single greatest concert experience I had in Washington, DC. It probably would have been the greatest show I saw this year, but for …

1: The National, Beacon Hall, December
Yeah, that’s right. I’m putting The National ahead of MIDDLE BROTHER. ME. I’m doing that. That’s how good this show was. This is the exact moment I was fully committed to the decision that this show–their first of six in a row at the Beacon–is the best I’ve ever seen. I was pretty much already there thanks to this one, though. And this one. I’d always liked the National somewhat passively, and I lucked into a photo pass because I have amazing friends who have amazing sisters, so going into the night I was just jazzed to SHOOT again. Glad to know the rules, glad to do something I’m good at, glad to try my hand at something I’d been getting rusty at. And them BAM, out of nowhere (well, actually, straight out of Bryan Devendorf’s drumkit), a band I’d always kinda sorta liked on studio albums became the band that put on the greatest live show I’ve ever seen.

Today is Dec. 29. You know what I’m doing tomorrow, on the second to last night of the year? Going to a concert.


Atticus Tour @ 9:30 Club

I was talking to a friend this weekend about concert memories, and again today the “what was your first show” conversation popped up on Twitter. Craig’s was Primus, at the 9:30 club; mine was Lilith Fair in Hershey. Jim chimed in about the week in 1993 when he saw both Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, prompted by my own memory of a really shitty Pumpkins reunion show at 9:30 Club about four years ago–one that taught me an important lesson about revisiting things I had loved as a teenager. (Also, because DC is the world’s biggest small town, it turns out Jack recorded that show from directly below where I stood on the balcony, resulting in a clip that I watched a few dozen times years before I even met him.)

But the other night, I was listening to Dismemberment Plan’s “Emergency & I,” an album I associate with all things DC: the 9:30 Club balcony, friends at afterparties with the band, hearing first-hand memories of the songs’ origins in the ’90s, J. Robbins’ Office of Future Plans opening, Travis in a Frager’s t-shirt. That weekend, everyone I knew saw one of the D-Plan shows, including the many friends who stood on the balcony with me. There was drama there, too, that I mostly wanted to ignore, so I could stand there, hold the familiar rail, and think, “This. This is what I love.”
(That was also the show that helped cement my plan to move away from DC. I love the place, but for someone nursing a craving for a little more anonymity, that room seemed awfully small at times that night.)
So still, that show’s probably in my Top 5. Last summer’s Delta Spirit show at 9:30 is probably secure up there, too. They’re just these nights that you walk out of knowing you got more than the sum of your ticket and service fees.
And so now I’m curious. I have friends spread out across Facebook and Twitter, thus the resurrection of this mostly dead blog space, because I want to hear from both of them, and I want them to hear from each other, in a space that isn’t limited by character counts. So come on team, tell me about your favorite show.

9:30 Club

Sometimes, after a breakup or a falling out or some crazy emotional experience I need to distance myself from, I lose music. The songs that once offered a soundtrack to a connection have to go into hibernation for a while until the battered parts of my psyche repair themselves enough to deal with hearing a particular melody or a chord again.

Last summer, I lost Postal Service, because a boy I cared about had a habit of strumming Recycled Air on his guitar. (Once, hanging out after wed broken up, I begged him not to play any new songs, because I couldn’t deal with losing more music. He played a Radiohead song, and I muttered a silent thank you in my head, because who gives a damn about Radiohead?)

I measured my return to normalcy by how I would feel when a Postal Service song came on, which, in the hipster-infested corners of DC, happened a few times a month. One night in October or November, drinking with Dave and Jack at Wonderland, it launched me into a rant about how Over It All I was, which of course meant that I really wasn’t. One afternoon a few weeks later, I was feeling confident and used the album to launch me through an afternoon of designing at work. “I got Postal Service back,” I e-mailed to Katy, and I had, mostly. “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” was still pang-inducing, but that one had the double hit of being a breakup song ABOUT SOMEONE LIVING IN DC, so it took a while longer.

In the meantime, I found Owl City, which sounds exactly like Postal Service but doesn’t have all the baggage my brain associated with the latter. This is vital, because I need some sort of background music to my life sometimes, something I dont have to listen to but that can alter my mood on a dime. And the ambient background nature of artists like Owl City and Postal Service do that pretty well, which lets me get down to the business of designing something or writing something or photographing something. Losing Postal Service for a while meant losing time while I tried to concentrate on doing the things I love.

Late one night at the end of February, stopped at a rest stop in Maryland on the way back from securing a place to live in New York, “Such Great Heights.” I had just accepted a job that would take me away from my city and my friends, the two main sources of strength I had come to rely on over the last six years. The move was (is) the right call, but that doesn’t mean I don’t waver about it from time to time. Hearing it then, near midnight on a Saturday night when it was just me, my friend Dave and the lonely Cinnabon worker who was getting me some hot water for tea, I knew everything was going to be OK.
But now, two weeks into New York, I’ve lost other songs. The Washington Songs — Dismemberment Plan’s “The City” (“all I ever say now is goodbye”), Magnetic Fields’ “Washington DC” (“It’s paradise to me”), all of Fugazi, a few fun Henry Rollins videos on YouTube — these sounds have a sense of place and that place screams Washington. The songs that are about the Washington D.C. I loved have to go hibernate for a while.

2010: Things I Did

December 31, 2010

2010: Things I Did

A few years ago, I testified before a house subcommittee. Officially, I “testified before Congress.” Unofficially, it was Eleanor Holmes Norton and a room full of empty chairs. But it was still the coolest thing I did that year, and it got me thinking along the lines of marking the passage of time by making sure I did one cool thing every year. One thing I could be proud of. One thing that would stand out. That was 2008. I went back and applied it to the few years before that–2007: Europe. 2006: grad school. In 2009 I actually ended up testifying again, and that was also the year I did MPW, which, among other things, helped me think about photography with a language and a vision that I hadn’t been able to come up with on my own.

Then came 2010.

And suddenly one event, one interaction, one moment couldn’t even come close to representing a year.

There are moments about this year that will be frozen in my memory. Dancing on my roof with a boy who, at least in that moment, said he thought the world of me, and I of him. Cooking. Eating a clementine and listening to the world wake up. They’re nice moments. They made me hopeful, many of them. But you can’t build a life on moments.

And there are moments I’d just as soon forget. Standing alone at a show with an extra ticket unused in my pocket. Waiting, because 7:00 means more like 8:30. Giving up. They’re sad moments. You can’t build a life on moments like that.

What you can build a life on is relationships. Romantic, platonic, casual, sexual, whatever label you want to give them, what matters is the people we know and how we treat them. Or, sometimes, how they treat us.

There is a magical serendipity at work when some people enter and leave our lives. I don’t understand it completely, and I think trying to would only lead to confusion, rather like putting your hand in a sunbeam and trying to catch the dust. I have worked this year, sometimes unconvincingly, to simply accept the movement of people in and out of my life. And what put the balance of this year so far into the positive were the people who came into it, and the people who were already there.

Every time something bad happened this year, there were people who made it hurt less. I was surprised to see how badly some people could behave, and how tolerant I could be of that misbehavior. What swelled my heart, though, was the reliable kindness and generosity of my friends, and of a few perfect strangers. I have tried, throughout the year and as it draws to a close, to make sure they all knew how much I appreciated them. Cookies were baked. Thanks were given. I still don’t think it was enough.

A lot of this happened in public view, on Twitter. And a lot of this happened because of Twitter, too. I’ve often told people this year that you absolutely cannot learn everything about a person just by reading their 140-character bursts; indeed, some of my most meaningful conversations happened in real life, but they were were with people brought together over Twitter. “Sure, @person, come on out and join us for a drink at Passenger.” One of my favorite parts about this year was meeting someone who simply liked what I had to tweet and suggested that we become friends. And now, we are.

This is the year I learned about community. This year wasn’t about one girl going through trying times and friends helping her. I mean, yes, at times, I felt frustratingly one-dimensional, and my dimension was blah. But the active communities I live in — built by my friends, by their own networks, by this city, by the networks of people online — being involved in them, taking advantage of them, living in them, THAT’S what made this year better. And by extension, the worst of it simply faded away.

In March, I was walking around PAX in Boston, taking portraits of anyone who would let me. A guy dressed as Captain Hammer from “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog” caught my eye, and as I asked if I could photograph him, he asked if he could sing to me. Eight months later, in that weird way that life works, Captain Hammer — Jacob — sat on my roof with me here in DC. We shared a drink and talked about music and dancing and life. He is currently beating me quite fiercely in a game of Words With Friends.

In May, I joined the fine group of people at We Love DC. It’s been more than half a year, and I’m still figuring out what I want to be there, but as the months have gone on I’ve been grateful for the chance they’ve given me to experiment. I had forgotten, in my many years of being an editor, how to write. Or that it was something I was capable of being good at. And they help me get passes to stand for a few precious moments in front of the rail at the 9:30 Club with my camera. My first year in DC, I stood on the balcony one night watching the people in that spot, and I thought, “How cool must that be?” Thanks to We Love DC, I got to find out.

In September, I ran a 5K. I stood in front of 300 people to awkwardly deliver a speech about photography just because standing in front of strangers and talking is something I was afraid to do. In October, I shot my first and only roll of Kodachrome, one that expired six years before I was born, on a camera that was also older than I am. At least six or seven times — so often that I have lost count — I boarded an early morning bus to New York City just to walk around by myself for the day. On one of my favorites, in late July or early August, I sat on the Brooklyn Bridge as the mid-afternoon heat index neared 95 or so, and I just…watched. The water, the city, the tourists, the commuters. I love the part of me that decided to embrace wanderlust this year. I love the part of me that is excited by the possibility of spending a few hours on unfamiliar streets. I love visiting New York City.

I failed at a lot of things this year, but somewhere along the way, I succeeded at collecting a truly stellar group of people. Because of them, I had the opportunity to take better photos, write a few things I was proud of, to tread in unfamiliar territory. The mistakes will fade, but the successes and the people I got to share them with will stick in my mind and offer something on which to build an even better 2011.

2010: Things I Saw

December 30, 2010

2010: Things I Saw, originally uploaded by erin m.

2010: Things I Saw

This has not been a good year for movies. The summer was long and dry, and E Street, try as they might, just didn’t seem to have much to offer for large chunks of the year. (Sorry, guys, I still love you!) There’ve been years when this has been my hardest list to compile, such was the bounty of good films. I suppose that just makes the good ones this year all the more precious.

Top 5 Things I Saw in 2010:

“Hubble 3D” Sometimes it’s the movie, and sometimes it’s the way you see it. The evening I saw “Hubble 3D” at one of the Smithsonian’s IMAX theaters on the Mall was an especially good one for a lot of reasons not related to the film, but because of that the 45 minutes of pure science! will stick in my memory for a long time. For camera nerds, for space nerds, for movie nerds…it packed more drama and more pride in humanity into its short running time than pretty much anything else I saw this year.

“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” doesn’t have much good to say about humanity or science, but when you’re having that much fun, who cares? I saw it twice in the theater, and I have friends who saw it more frequently than that. Actually, just writing this paragraph makes me want to pull out the DVD and watch it again right now.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” was just plain fun. Everyone I know who saw it wanted to talk about it, and that got people who rarely step into a theater to step inside one for this movie. (Hi, Samer!) I think it was the only sold-out movie I saw this year, and the experience is marked in my memory as involving sitting in the front of a cramped dark room with 200 people frantically trying to figure out the game going on onscreen.

“True Grit,” which I saw on Christmas Eve, single-handedly saved the movie year for me. The scene where Mattie Ross is dealing with the man who sold her dead father a group of ponies is pure Coen brothers, and by the end it felt like watching a verbal dance, equivalent to any routine in “Black Swan.”

Speaking of, “Black Swan” is sliding into this final slot, even though I still have not yet settled exactly on how I feel about it. I love some movies because they make me laugh or forget or give me somewhere to disappear to for two hours; I love others because they dig in, grab my brain, and don’t let go. It’s so rare to see a film (a drama, even!) that features a complicated female lead at all, let alone one that’s actually good. A lot has been said about the male gaze and femininity and how they relate to the reception of this film, but beneath that there is just a well-crafted, well-performed story.

I also saw a lot of really, really bad movies this year. I used to be able to appreciate romantic comedies as light fluff, but this year they were so horrifically bad and joyless that even that guilty pleasure seemed lost. 2011, I am counting on you to give us better films than “Leap Year” and “When in Rome” (see: “Easy A.”)

2010: Things I Heard

December 29, 2010

2010: Things I Heard, originally uploaded by erin m.

2010: Things I Heard
In 2010, I listened to more new music and saw more live shows than any year ever. On that basis alone, this year has been a rousing success. In a year that veered wildly off the tracks at times, there was always someone or something there to help refocus my head; the simplest, quickest, most easily accessible trick to change a moment from angst to its opposite was to simply cue up a good song. I spent a lot of time with my iPod in 2010.

Top 5 Things I Heard this year:

Dawes, North Hills. One random day in February, I met a friend at Iota in Clarendon to see two performers I hadn’t heard of a week before: Dawes, and Cory Chisel. Technically, they were co-headlining, but Dawes came first. By the time their set ended, I felt bad for Chisel, who had to come out and follow a bunch of guys who left everything they had onstage (he did just fine). In the hour they played, I watched a room full of people convert from passive listeners to rabid fans, all of them aware that they were seeing a band at the cusp of something truly great. I was lucky enough to interview the band this summer and to hear lead singer Taylor Goldsmith describe that very moment when the band knows they have won over the room.

I enjoyed the Dawes show in February so much that when I heard they were playing in New York City in May, I figured what the hell, I might as well go up to see them. They were opening for some guy named Josh Ritter, who was touring in support of his latest album, “So Runs The World Away.” The album contains so many perfect lines, like this one from “Lantern”: “So throw away those lamentations, we both know them all too well/If there’s a book of jubilations, we’ll have to write it for ourselves.” It comes about two-thirds of the way through the song, most of which he has spent lamenting the difficulties of life. What I love about Ritter is that you can hear the joy in his voice every time he sings, and he can barely contain himself as he races to the most joyful part of the song. The iPod shuffle I go running with is loaded with nothing but Ritter albums.

Sometimes, music is just about having a damn good time. The Delta Spirit show at 9:30 Club in early July was like that. It was hot, it was crowded, it went late, and I don’t think a single person left that club disappointed. Same with the Drive-By Truckers at the end of July: a hot night, a sold-out crowd, people out for nothing more complicated than a good night with good music and good friends.

And then sometimes, you’re not interested in partying, and you’re not interested in the words of a lovelorn (if talented) boy with a guitar and a fountain pen. That’s where Spoon came in: “Transference” came out in mid-January, and I dutifully downloaded it and took a few turns through its tracks. I liked what I heard, but, well, the year got busy and I moved on. And then a funny thing happened: You know that iPhone app Shazam? You hold it up to whatever song is playing, and it tells you the name and the artist. I did that four times in two weeks songs from this album, twice for “Mystery Zone” alone. The album kept creeping up on me, and it kept being exactly what I wanted to hear.

What I love about music–and about this year–is that this list could have easily been 10 times longer. Old 97s had a new album this year, and so did the Truckers. Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans put out a disc together, and holy hell, the new Gaslight Anthem is incredible, and so is the one from The National. I discovered Owl City this year, and Cory Chisel up there made an album I could not stop listening to. Delta Spirit and Alejandro Escovedo both had new albums, too, and both got played into the double digits. 2010 pretty much rocked.

2010: Things I Read

December 28, 2010

2010: Things I Read, originally uploaded by erin m.

Last year, I lamented that I had wandered away from books and words. This year, I think I read even less. I still always carry one in my bag, but something about my habits has changed so significantly in the last few years that I read fewer books than I once did. I still look at it as a temporary thing, and I embrace the other pursuits that have taken the time once devoted to stories between pages–including the words that come to me in other ways, maybe in a shorter format or a digital one.

Still, though they are fewer, they are no less mighty. Here, then, are the Top 5 Things I Read in 2010:

This essay by Neil Gaiman, reviewing a show by his fiance, Amanda Palmer, as she reunites with Brian Viglione to perform as the Dresden Dolls again. The essay speaks beautifully of love, creativity, partnership, friendship, loss, healing and the quiet moments that can exist when people give each other the space to be who they are.

“Cash,” by Johnny Cash. I started this book years ago; the bookmark left in it was an Amtrak stub from a trip home in 2006. This spring, I grabbed it again one morning on my way out the door, and it was a grand way to spend a few afternoons at Peregrine. The life was not an easy one, but the sentences relating its stories are pure poetry. I would have expected nothing less from Mr. Cash.

Which is why I also picked up “Composed,” by his daughter Rosanne. One exceptionally angsty August afternoon, I desperately needed to get out of my apartment, and Rosanne Cash was scheduled to speak at 6th and I Synagogue downtown. I went, fell in love, stopped to buy the book on the way home, and devoured it in a day or two. The Post’s Jonathan Yardley wrote a love letter to Cash and her book in which he says “Rosanne Cash isn’t just a writer and performer of songs, she’s a writer, period.” Just as you can hear the legacy of her father in some of Cash’s music, the structure of her writing has similarities to her father’s way of telling stories. It’s an honest structure, built with sentences that wrap you up in their twists and leave you feeling wiser by the time you finally reach the end.

This was also the year I finally finished “Pattern Recognition,” by William Gibson. The first in a trilogy of sorts, this one builds the universe in which “Spook Country” and “Zero History” also take place. It’s a universe I like inhabiting for a while and, like a lot of Gibson’s stories, you read it with the tingling sense that it’s more a cultural manual than a mere fiction.

Finally, it might not have been the smartest idea for me to pick up Nick Hornby’s “Juliet, Naked” this fall, but reading it actually told me a lot more about my own emotional health than I could have discovered without the book–namely, that it was in better shape than I had expected. Nostalgia? Heartbreaking music? A long, drawn-out breakup? Christ, Erin, are you sure? As Hornby often is, though, the book was just the right story at just the right time, and I was able to appreciate it as just a really good story told with the usual self-deprecating British charm that makes his world such a thoughtful one to visit from time to time. But man, after the year I’ve had, I wouldn’t want to live there.

Oh, you’re still here?

March 18, 2009

Hi, world.

In a development that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s met me, worked with me or otherwise dealt with me, this project has turned into the latest of a long list of neglected ideas and high aspirations that eventually crashed into the earth.

It’s the blog equivalent of a piece of space debris, shot up in some lofty ’70s-era NASA program as the pinncale of American engineering. It hung out up there for years, got old, eventually got replaced and then … floated. Floated in space and floated in the back of a retired mission controller’s mind as he drove to the golf course in a Houston suburb. “Now where did I put that thing,” he thinks as he screeches into the parking lot, driving like the shuttle pilot he never got to be. And then his Lexus is crushed under the weight of a piece of space debris hurtling back to earth.

Or, you know, something less fatalistic.

Every morning at 6:35 on the dot, WAMU breaks into Morning Edition with a certain familiar chiming. “It’s the birthday,” he announces, at 6:35:05, “of writer Marilyn Durham, author of ‘The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.'” Then, shortly after, “It was on this day in 1644 that the Dutch surrendered the city of New Amsterdam to the British, who renamed it New York.” It’s information that might force even the most nerdy of trivia geeks to evaluate the way they talk to their friends (“I don’t sound like that, do I?”). It redefines banal. It forces you to think “subduuued” with a pronounced Midwestern accent.

And yet… and yet, there’s something about it.  Then you hear that old piano and realize you’ve stopped getting dressed, that despite yourself you’re paying attention, that, once again, the man is taking up vital minutes of your morning and you can’t stop listening. You have awoken to Garrison Keillor’s Writers’ Almanac

I used to keep Writers’ Almanac a secret. I listened, but I didn’t want anyone else to know that I did. I’m bookish enough, thank you very much, without tromping into the office and announcing my morning routine of NPR and poetry. Then, one revealing summer, I learned of two friends who shared my secret shame. They too knew the draw and the agony of Garrison’s monotone recitation. One uses it as a push to finally get out of bed and shut the alarm off; another uses the Almanac as a signal that he’s running late and should have left the house by now. I stand alone among my friends, as far as anyone will admit anyway, as the One Who Listens.

Often I am rewarded for this. Some of the facts are fun, and some of the poetry manages to be moving despite the fact that I know it’s Garrison Keillor reading it. And sometimes, the sleep still in my eyes and shower water still in my ears, I’m not quite sure if my brain is processing the words it’s hearing. On Aug. 18, I e-mailed a friend at 6:38 in the morning with this breathless note:  “tell me you heard Garrison just now! He went straight from celebrating the anniversary of Lolita’s publication to honoring the birthday of Roman Polanski. With no twinge of irony! At all!” 

To this day I don’t know if Keillor was trying to be funny. Surely he was, right? Right? WAMU, I’m sorry but 6:35 is too early an hour for Garrison Keillor’s particular brand of irony. That’s why “Prairie Home Companion” runs on Saturday nights, when people are relaxed, and often drunk.

It’s a strange hour, 6:35. Few people are reliably awake, and those that are probably haven’t had their coffee yet. He used to come on about 75 minutes later, around 7:45, and back then he was my signal that I, too, had dallied too long and needed to go catch my bus. Then he disappeared one morning, or I started leaving earlier, and Garrison and I went our separate ways. 

About 2 years ago, I started filling in on an earlier shift at work. The first week I had that 7:30 start time, my body was still adjusting to the early hour and the darkness of the sky. Oh, but what’s that sound? Can it be? Yes! Garrison hadn’t really gone anywhere after all. He’d just moved up an hour, like the rest of us were on Daylight Saving Time and he stayed there in Garrison Time, like Indiana. 

Last Monday, Sept. 1, Garrison read two poems. Well, one poem and bits of another. I stopped that morning at the foot of my bed to listen, and picking out the right shirt wasn’t nearly as interesting as listening to the next line of Meg Kearney’s “Ticket.” By the time Keillor wound his way back to New York and the opening lines of W.H. Auden’s “Sept. 1, 1939,” I was by the overstuffed and not-well-maintained closet, fumbling in the dark for one of three different black skirts. “I sit in one of the dives/On Fifty-Second Street/Uncertain and afraid/As the clever hopes expire/Of a low dishonest decade.” I don’t remember how the rest of that day went, but it was a good one for Garrison. 

Apparently such a good one that WAMU had to replay the same tape this morning. Any other morning it wouldn’t have been noticed, probably. After all, every Garrison Keillor recording sounds vaguely familiar (that’s kinda the point). By the time “Ticket” finished, I thought I was in a particularly disturbing half-level of Dante’s Inferno, the one where you are forced to listen half-awake as Garrison Keillor reads the same poem over and over again. But when Garrison again welcomed “Sept. 1, 1939,” I’d figured it out and decided to be happy I got to hear Auden again. 

Twenty minutes later, I sat down in a Metro car at Union Station and opened my Post to Page 2. Shankar Vendantam, apparently, listens to Writers Almanac, too.

Excerpted from an IM chat:

Erin: “I want to be vice president, ya know?” 

Andy: I’m not sure I agree 100% with that economic policy, Lou

Also, she tried to ban books?!