Wednesday, December 31, 2008

in with the new

2008 was that year in my life where the changes that were beginning manifested themselves, the year that I moved out and the world around me opened up more than I ever thought possible.

I'm not one of those people who tries to be "weird" or "random" but I've always been open for letting things just happen as they were evidently meant to be, but it gets harder and harder to explain how I can be so incredibly in the box and yet so out of it at the same time.

Evidently "meant to be" included immersion in cultures very different than my own, random music-making and staying out all night on front porches, spending Saturday afternoons hanging out with refugee kids, exploring new corners of the city because there are always new places to discover, slacking at Edgewater Park, ending up with a time slot on the local college radio station, having my ideas about the world spontaneously turned upside-down and reaffirmed at the same time.

I don't have much but I am surrounded by amazing people and the work of God is always evident. That's all I'll ever need.


So I get a phone call today from someone telling me that because of the car accident, I'm entitled to a free chiropractic exam recommended by the doctor. This all seemed kind of weird, as they said they're not affiliated with any insurance companies or lawyers so I've put some of my mad research skills to work and it turns out this is part of some scam.

What I want to know is how these people got my cell phone number.

Monday, December 29, 2008

rust belt christmas

This Christmas was the Christmas that my sister got engaged and the car crash that left me in a state of thanking God and awe at still being alive.

We were on our way to get some Ethiopian food on the east side Tuesday night and got no further than the Cleveland-Lakewood border when my friend started skidding on the ice and we spun across four lanes of interstate traffic before getting rear-ended on the other side of the road by the on-ramp.

As scary as it is to feel like you're on a Tilt-a-Whirl but with huge cars sliding towards you, I felt this weird sense of peace as my roommate and I prayed and realized that even as we weren't in control at all, God definitely was.

It looked like it was going to get ugly when the one guy got out of his car and started screaming at my friend about how his car was brand new and he was a Cleveland cop and that we were all in trouble but when I started dialing 911, he shut up pretty quickly. Didn't ask us if we were ok, just ranted about how his shiny new Ford Fusion was smashed up.

Meanwhile, we're standing on the side waiting for the real cops to come as cars slide like bowling balls down the highway. When they told us to move the car off the road at the next exit, we refused saying there was no way we were getting back on there.

Nobody was hurt too badly and we walked up the hill to a White Castle and I was craving everything on the Church's Chicken menu but decided against it and Kristy and her dad showed up to pick us up. In the meantime of Triple-A towing Daniel's car, her dad made a new friend that we gave a ride to.

But it really was a good few days here, the usual good food and good times with the family. I'm realizing more and more that these things are not something that everyone has, when I talk to friends who say that they spent Christmas alone. If you've got no one to spend the holiday with and it doesn't have any spiritual significance for you, that's got to be depressing as hell.

In the coming years, when this wouldn't involve inviting a crowd of lost souls over to my grandparents' or whatever, I'd like to at least make this time less solitary for others.

Checked out that Faberge/Lalique/Tiffany exhibit at the art museum, which is the first time I've been there in forever. The new wing feels so different, but the exhibit was great even though I couldn't look at the Faberge eggs without thinking about how the Romanov family died a few years later. As far as modern art goes, I love the whole Art Nouveau era and still don't understand why it fell so drastically out of favor. The museum store isn't as cool as it used to be though, because it now sells things like this:

Otherwise, totally loved the momentary thaw, spent the day with Kristy doing our usual running around with cameras taking graffiti pictures, hanging out at the West Side Market, getting cold at Edgewater Park. We revisited the Fun Wall, but someone painted over the building down there with that nasty gray color.

Still some good stuff around, but I wonder if the legendary spot's days are numbered.

Sunday, my roommate's sister was in town and we ended up hanging out with people from church doing the potluck thing, watched the Browns lose pitifully, still finding ways to laugh. Her sister and another good friend of ours were Steelers fans so they were entertained. I still still can't totally hate on Pittsburgh due to some kind of misguided Rust Belt solidarity I inherit from my dad, so I hope they do well since we were hopeless this year.

Had dinner with the Ethiopians, watched cute little kids run around, joked about how we nearly killed ourselves earlier in the week in pursuit of savory dishes and injera, and ended up with beautiful jewelry and scarves that our friend's wife brought back for us.

I only work 2 days this week, which still feels weird. But I do get to see a very dear friend tomorrow that I haven't seen in two years, and that's going to be a wonderful thing

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

playlist 12/23/08

common - time travelin'
madlib - slim's return
angelique kidjo - voodoo child
folk implosion - my ritual
luiz bonfa - manha de carnival (black orpheus soundtrack)
tricky - joseph
gua - gatwitch jal jak (african garden compilation)
pharaoh's daughter - haran
keur moussa -magnificat
john coltrane - my favorite things
tesfa maryam kidame - tezeta (ethiopiques vol. 10)
jeff buckley - corpus christi carol
john frusciante - ramparts
U2 - miss sarajevo
mogwai - 2 rights make 1 wrong
pearl jam - let me sleep (it's christmastime)
cafe tacuba - tengo todo
dis-moi la verite - bamba, sory (golden afrique, vol. 1)
breakestra - recognize
soul messengers - savior in the east
chambers brothers - love, peace, and happiness
lonlon nyeku - napo, tchandikou ma (golden afrique vol. 1)

Monday, December 22, 2008

everything old is new again, or my year in music 2008

Unlike the previous post, this has nothing to do with Autotune or bad holiday music.

I don't really have a year-end favorites of 2008 because I hardly listened to any new stuff this year and overdosed on obscure Numero Group discoveries, old favorites doing new things, and a lot of trip-hop and African pop.

So, here's a very limited sample...

The Gutter Twins - Bete Noire
(As if there hasn't already been enough Lanegan/Dulli love here)

Funkadelic - I'll Stay
(favorite Funkadelic with Eddie Hazel cut outside of 'Maggot Brain')

The Dirtbombs - various live
I used a really bad comparison to describe the awesomeness of their live show like seeing Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana at the same time.

Cafe Tacuba - Encantamiento Inutil
(video is lame but the song is gorgeous)

Digable Planets - black ego
(this was the soundtrack to several lazy sunny Saturdays driving around Cleveland in search of graffiti and adventure)

The Roots - Rising Up
(favorite cut off the new record)

Randy Watson Experience - Morning Bell
(awesome chilled Radiohead cover, thanks to ?uestlove & friends)

Diplo - Sara
(don't know why I didn't get this earlier)

no expectations

3 days til the holidays and most of my presents are wrapped except for the massive quantities of coffee that I'll have to obtain at some point to make the relatives happy and not feeling neglected.

A good friend of mine came up Saturday afternoon who I haven't seen since this summer and got to hang out with the Burundi kids who instantly adopted her and by the end of the afternoon they were showing each other dance moves.

We went in search of the tacky Christmas house in Westlake with all the inflatables but they didn't have any up this year so we did some low-stress Christmas shopping at Half-Price Books and drove to the old hometown of Parma to get the best Vietnamese food in the city at Tay-Do and catch up on life.

The holidays came quick this year and I'm not stressed out at all. It's so good to feel that way.

Also, that awful "Wonderful Christmastime" song is evidently unavoidable on every radio station in this city. I don't know why anyone ever thought that song was a good idea but evidently being a member of the Fab Four means you can make complete crap and people think you're a genius. See: anything that John & Yoko did together and Ringo's solo career.

This is why I'm a Stones fan. We've got no such expectations.

Anyway, when I was driving to the Rapid station I heard an even worse rendition of "Wonderful Christmastime," which I never even knew was possible. Evidently Rahsaan Patterson is responsible for this. Seriously, this whole Autotune thing needs to stop.

Friday, December 19, 2008

i hate that song that says "let it snow!"

Once again, public transportation is AWESOME because you can let other people do the driving for you instead of pulling over every ten minutes to scrape the rapidly freezing sheets of rain off of your windshield and driving with the windows rolled all the way down because there's a covering of ice on that too and you can't see a thing. Got all sorts of weird looks from people as I'm driving down Detroit Road to West 25th with the windows down, the heat on maximum and the Afghan Whigs cranked up.

But tonight I'm accompanying my wonderfully talented roommate providing dinner music at a nursing home and hoping that I'll be able to get out of downtown without too much craziness.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Due to the water main break downtown, I ended up going home early yesterday, which was really nice, like a snow day for grown-ups, especially since I ended up hanging out with Kristy for the first time in about 5 months since she's been on a whole other continent.

We chilled at her house, listened to music, caught up on everything that's happened since we last saw each other, made chocolate covered pretzels and it was just so good to be seeing her again. She also hooked me up with some beautiful cloth, silver earrings, African tea, and cassette tapes (Tuareg desert blues! Nigerien hip-hop!). She'll be going back this summer with a friend of hers to bring medical supplies that are hard to come by over there.

Hit up the library, did some more Christmas-gift-shopping and got all existential in the Westgate mall parking lot thinking about how much we have and how little everyone else does.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

all i want for christmas...

but to you, I'm nothing but a number...

I read the Plain Dealer online now since I don't subscribe to the paper anymore, and I saw a name I recognized as someone whose path I crossed this summer.

He also showed up to volunteer and help build a playground on West 89th. We shoveled mulch and nailed boards together, hung out and enjoyed the beautiful day and the sun when they ran out of work for us to do. I never saw him again after that and then saw the listing for a vigil his family was having because he got murdered.

And sure, he probably wasn't a totally innocent guy, and I had that feeling at the time as I watched him get stoned on the corner and noticed that he was pretty cryptic about his personal life, but none of us really are when it comes down to it. The idiot commenters on celebrate that another "thug" is off the streets, but what if that was your brother or sister or neighbor or cousin? What if he left behind two kids?

It's not that people I know haven't passed away. I've lost friends to old age, cancer, natural causes, freak accidents, suicide (the other thing I can't completely get past), and whenever life ends early or unnecessarily, it truly saddens me. My friend's husband just came back from Iraq and I'm so glad he's ok, but I think of how many other thousand kids my age never made it home, and the families and cities there where things went from bad to worse for the people living there.

I guess I see things like this in the paper all the time and it doesn't always sink in. It's a name and an age and a street name, another faceless statistic for some group to compute and explain why we're in the top ten in the nation in poverty and violence and for the people in the suburbs to justify themselves in moving out of the big, bad, city. As if we didn't have our own problems in the burbs, you know?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

playlist 12/16/08

fugazi - the kill / strangelight
omar rodriguez-lopez - grey (cancion para el)
regina carter - don't mess with mr. t
jurassic 5 - quality control
demacustico - brazil
lee perry vs king tubby - african roots
massive attack - man next door
kasai all-stars - drowning goat
louis mhlanga - international rhumba
femi kuti - truth don't die
toubab krewe - hang tan
mamor kassey - mossi gaydou
fela kuti - jeun ku ko
the upsetters - popcorn
gregory isaacs - reform institute
gaspar lawal - kita kita
outkast - liberation
gnarls barkley - who's gonna save my soul
beck - modern guilt
cafe tacuba - eres
william devaughn - be thankful for what you've got

Monday, December 15, 2008


I don't feel like I did much this weekend, because I ended up sleeping way more than I usually do. I never want to be that person who works all day and then comes home and doesn't do anything but sleep or watch TV, but I can see how easily that would happen.

Still, problems with the wheels on the Sexy Saturn notwithstanding, I did get some good stuff knocked out this weekend. While getting my tire patched at the Parmatown Wal-Mart, my sister and I knocked out some Christmas shopping which was no stress because evidently no one shops there anymore.

We threw a Christmas party for the Burundi kids, and they got to play games, eat pizza, and get some gifts. Brittany and I drank ridiculously sugary Tampico punch and enjoyed the chaos.

We drove out to Coventry and giggled at self-help books at Mac's Backs and I picked up this:

How awesome is that?

Otherwise, it was pretty chill, did some art, made some music, read some books. Kristy's coming home after spending five months in the West African bush so we'll be at the airport welcoming her home. It'll be great having her around again and hearing what she's been up to.

"They need to leave the planet. They need to go to Texas"

So says the guy on the Rapid this morning as we're heading into downtown talking about Cleveland's favorite football team. Usually I don't take the Rapid into work but today I felt like it and it was nice to have some freedom from the mundane in the early morning. It wasn't technically eavesdropping because the guy in question is one of those people who likes to have an audience for his theories on life, including how the world's going to end when we have an Irish pope.

Some people I know think they're too good to do that whole public transportation thing. I'm still convinced they're missing out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

totally irrelevant yet interesting

Since I do not have the resources to set out on great adventures to exotic parts of the world, I do what I've done since I was a kid and I just end up reading a lot. I walked down to the Cleveland Public Library on my lunchbreak and picked up a few volumes worth of travel writing about Southeast Asia, Morocco, and Cape Town.

So I was reading about this one girl backpacking through Vietnam and she mentioned this temple for this religion called Cao Dai, which evidently is a combination of pretty much every major world religion imaginable but mostly Catholicism and Taoism.

and I guess the Illuminati is somehow involved in this. I'm waiting for the Art Bell types to jump on this one

From wikipedia:

According to Cao Dai, before God existed, there was the Tao, that nameless, formless, unchanging, eternal source referenced in the Tao Te Ching. Then, a Big Bang occurred, out of which God was born (emanationism). The universe could not yet be formed and to do so, God created yin and yang. He took control of yang and shed a part of himself, creating the Goddess to preside over yin. In the presence of yin and yang, the universe was materialized. The Goddess is, literally, the mother of the myriad of things in the Universe. Thus, Caodaiists worship not only God, the father, but also the Goddess, literally refer to as the Mother Buddha. Note that God's importance and role is higher than that of the Mother Buddha. Also, the Mother Buddha is male, as are all buddhas. The Mother Buddha only oversees yin and is not a part of yin, which is female.

Anyways, that has no real bearing on my life or that of anyone else I know, but it is interesting, I guess...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

wu-tang is for the children.

self defense 101

This is going to be me someday
Shopkeeper fights off knife-wielding raiders with cup of tea

Varsha Patel, 45, was about to take her first sip of the drink when two men wearing balaclavas burst in to her village store armed with 10-inch blades and made a grab for the till.

Reacting swiftly, she hurled the steaming tea into the face of one assailant and then threw the empty mug at his companion's head.

As she stepped back to grab a bottle of whisky to hurl at them, the two shocked thieves fled the shop with just a scratch card dispenser.

Other gems from the Telegraph, which for you Cleveland people is like the 19 Action Newspaper of the UK...

Primary school teacher tells class that Father Christmas isn't real

A grandmother was sent a machine gun intended for a police station through the post after an address mix-up.

worst feeling ever...

When something totally, utterly falls through the cracks. This happens more than it should.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

incoherent holidayness

So, I just realized Christmas is two weeks away.

I've been enjoying the Christmas lights, successfully avoiding much of the sappy holidays. Of all places, the first bad Christmas music I heard was on the radio at the African/Caribbean grocery store around the corner from where I volunteer. I got to hear the joyous strains of "We Need a Little Christmas" and that damn "Christmas Shoes" song with the children's choir while looking for plantains, jerk seasoning, and strong coffee.

Working two weeks of retail at a now-deceased Parmatown department store when I was 19 made me want to kill myself and denounce the capitalist system in its entirety after seeing people with three maxed-out credit cards trying to buy hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise, and getting cussed out and yelled at by bitter managers and angry shoppers who wonder why the temporary help can't find that certain sweater in that certain size.

I was able to go all local last year and I think I'll be able to pull it off this year too. Between Gypsy and Phoenix for the coffee drinkers in my life, and Local Girl and City Buddha, I think I'll be fine and not stressed out. I'm also trying to find a midnight Christmas Eve service to appease the inner Catholic still in me somewhere that wants candlelight and reverence and refuge from all the craziness.

My roommate and I were talking the other night and we decided that if we were to have kids, we're not going to buy them all sorts of crap for Christmas and instead have them learn how to give things away.

and on a less serious note, it's not truly the holiday season until you revisit this:

I still do not understand my enjoyment of stoner humor.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

playlist 12/9/08

It's a coffee and cinnamon pop-tarts morning. Got kind of folky later on in this set.

radiohead - there there
burial - shell of light
erykah badu - bag lady
soul coughing - lazybones
morcheeba - let me see
people under the stairs - l.a. song (sensitive remix)
tribe called quest - check the rhime
the verve - life's an ocean
U2 - 4th of july
the telescopes - spaceship
manu chao - mentira
souad massi - houria
soulsavers - arizona bay
red house painters - priest alley
nina simone - mood indigo
scrawl - guess i'll wait
r.e.m. - drive
julie miller & steve earle - all my tears
alvin youngblood hart & the carolina chocolate drops - city of refuge
calexico - dub latina
cafe tacuba - encantamiento inutil
john frusciante - a song to sing when i'm lonely
habib koite - i ka barra
sierra leone refugee all-stars - seconds (U2 cover)
bb seaton - summertime
raphael saadiq - 100 yard dash

Friday, December 5, 2008

light, bright, and sparkling

So it's been an interesting week... almost-drama that's amusing in its absurdity especially since I was unaware of any previous relationship, strange characters in and out of my workplace, and the small wonders and frustrations that is the daily grind.

I wish I was as gifted of a writer as Jane Austen because like her, I find the quirks and small dramas and greater universal issues apparent in my small little corner of the world fascinating. I wish I could capture and distill like she did, but I doubt I will ever be able to do that.

When I look back at my Kent State education, I'd have to say the highlight of my English department experience was my Austen seminar I took senior year where we read everything she wrote, along with "Reading Lolita in Tehran," "Persepolis," and the not nearly as exciting "Jane Austen Book Club" which maybe I'd appreciate if I was closer to middle age, but I'm not there yet and will hopefully be reading more exciting things than that.

I was afraid that I would hate Jane after a whole semester of immersion but it turned me into a fangirl even moreso. Not that I run through the streets of Cleveland in empire-waist dresses figuring out when the next ball is, but I found the books entertaining in the extreme. I guess it's a predisposition for dry British humor that I always fall for and the hope against hope for happy endings in spite of my preconceptions.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

there goes the last dj, who plays what he wants to play...

I know I shouldn't admit this as a devotee of all things college radio, but I have the local "K-Rock" and all three classic rock stations preset on my car as well, in case I don't want to listen to ambient drone, macedonian pop, or speed metal. Besides, being a native of the North Coast, I still love my classic rock and the Gen-X equivalent thereof. Despite my excursions into other sonic territory, these are where my roots are. In my universe, you can't hear "Evenflow," "When the Levee Breaks," or anything by Soul Coughing too many times.

But I felt a small sense of loss, when I hit 92.3 and realize they don't have DJs anymore, because as corporate as the station is, they actually seemed to have some personality or something, and in some cases you got a sense of what they were into, as opposed to what was on the playlist. The generic voiceover format is disconcerting, as is the sudden influx of blandness (whether or not this is better than 20-year-olds with bad hair and who were signed by pete wentz is to be debated). I also think about how these people lost their jobs too. I know times are tough, but sheesh.

I keep hearing the claims of terrestrial radio being a dying format and maybe for some it is, at least the segment of the population that has satellite radio or the Internet or their iPod but for me and probably others, but for those of us with a tape player and some presets on their dial, it's still a big thing. I've got my personalities that I enjoy, and I appreciate the eclecticism of views and styles that I get exposed to, whether it's gamelan orchestras, Rastafarian philosophy, obscure garage rock gems, Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonations, or call-in shows where people talk about neighborhood community service, their favorite haunted Ohio spots, or the local hip-hop scene.

But then again, this is coming from someone who currently does not own her own computer, laments that she can't find blank cassette tapes anywhere, and gave in to having a cell phone only because it was cheaper than having a land line in her given situation...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

my girl, my girl, don't lie to me...

driving on the slick cleveland roads, skidding around the corner of 30th and St. Clair, laughing as I listen to the show before me.

playlist 12/2/08

radiohead - talk show host
cut chemist - the garden
caetano veloso - haiti
holly golightly & the greenhornes - there is an end
twilight singers - hit the street
keur moussa - ethiopie
manu chao - por lo suelo
antonio carlos jobim - generique (black orpheus soundtrack)
ceu - concrete jungle
blockhead - cavelight / breathe and start
seungchul ahn - my heart is azure
beginning of the end - funky nassau part 2
segun bucknor - la la la
black keys - i got mine (request)
cloud cult - da dum (request)
mexican institute of sound - el microfono
tinariwen - qualahila ar tesninam
the clash - london calling (live)
herbie mann - cajun moon
mark lanegan & kurt cobain - where did you sleep last night
gutter twins - bete noire
blind melon - 2X4
mike odemusu - chant
fela kuti - jeun ko ku
aretha franklin - rock steady

Monday, December 1, 2008


So in the spirit of holiday cheer and togetherness with family and friends, I forgot to renew that fun little sticker on the back of my license plate. I'm going to catch it tomorrow when I drive down here and hopefully avoid law enforcement figures in the meantime because I have neither the cash in hand or my registration papers.


Though I have to say this was a pretty good weekend. Hanging with my mom's side of the family, feeling really short (I'm on the taller side of average, but 5'7 feels lilliputian in the face of my 6'8 cousins), chilling at the apartment, catching up on desperately needed sleep and time to read, successfully avoided any holiday shopping madness.

Made it to the 5th annual Thanksgiving feast thrown by one of my former housemates and a group of our friends from the Kent State days. They've been doing their own Thanksgiving ritual for the past five years, born from a love of cooking, football, classic rock, and simple just hanging out.

There were fewer of us this year, most of us having graduated and scattered across the country, those who stayed anxious about an uncertain future in Cleveland, and there was no record player cranking out the Violent Femmes, Queen, and Jimi Hendrix, but it's always good to hear stories of Joel's adventures in Bryce Canyon, me and Danica reminiscing about our English major days and trading ESL teaching stories, reliving of past broomball glories, and the spirited discussions of politics, music, and sports.

By the end of the night, the food was gone, the wine drank, and the music had shifted down from Cake to Mazzy Star, and while I don't yearn for the carefree college days, it's good to know there's still a few of us still alive and kicking.