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Mar 26, 2017

April 10th
The I Want You play at ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, MA.

Mar 21, 2017

Here's A Reminder About That Time You Cut Your Bangs Too Short

"Michelle, we care about you and your terrible decisions.
We thought we'd remind you not to make any decisions at all at 3am, especially not to spontaneously cut bangs.
Michelle, you're not good spontaneous in the morning.
You're better when you pause. Pause next time, Michelle.
Pause for longer."

Married Filing Jointly

Thanks to a Vegas chapel and H&R Block, Joe and I have new pet names, or insults, depending on circumstance and inflection.

Mar 18, 2017

If It Ain't One Thing It's Your Mother

Today is my mom's birthday! I called her first thing this morning to wish her a happy day. Because it's a Saturday, Louie doesn't have to work, so she has the whole day planned. But first, out to breakfast, so she had to get off the phone. We set a time to talk next week. When we do I'll ask how today's plan turned out. There is always a story. Here are a few.

JoAnna, aka JoAnna PajamaMamacita, or Jo, is just over 17 years older than I am. If you are currently navigating the world with a teenage child, ask me about having one of those creatures for a mother. I have stories, man. And so does JoAnna, both from the perspective of being a teenage mom and then, in the blink of an eye, raising an intense teenage girl.

My mother and I agree that the years have been a wild ride. Two tempests in the same teapot. Even when we were spinning in the same direction the two of us could at any moment collide and make thunder. Sometimes we fought, sometimes we just didn't talk. There was a lost decade in there when we spoke not a word.

The House Of "Anything Can Happen"

One of the great things about my mother is that she makes good, logistically-solid plans, which she is ready to toss aside the instant something better and more exciting presents itself. Though this mode of operation may not always work out, it's way more interesting than the linear way. She seemed to be saying, not with words but just by example, "You could take the shortest distance between two points if you want to get there fast, but then you miss everything." What she did say was, "We'll play it by ear." I was apparently more of a methodical planner from the womb, and she'd drive me nuts with "play it by ear." But things always seemed to work out in the end.

Playing it By Ear

She would go pick up a sack of chicken feed, and come back with another new dog.

She told me and my brother Michael, then about 11 and 8, that she wanted to adopt a black baby boy. My brother was crushed when it did not work out.

She'd give herself hennas and facials at home, but she did it all on the same day. She had been to cosmetology school, so she had creams for her eyes, a different mask for her "T Zone," whatever the hell that was. So some days we'd come home to Chief Zoomba walking around, making us grilled cheeses looking like Ricky Ricardo in the baby episode.

One time she decided she was going to sew her own kitchen chair covers. But she bought so many yards of the same fabric (something pink with flowers and paisley) that she had enough left over to make curtains. And a valance. And she made a table cloth. And some napkins.  And then, you guys. she made me shorts. Wide-legged, floral pink paisley shorts, for my squat little troll body. If I wore them in the matching kitchen I disappeared from the waist down. My aunt Sharon said it was "child abuse." I might be leaving out other things she made with that fabric.

One day when I was in high school I came home to three baby lambs in the living room, each one wearing a Pampers diaper, with a little hole cut out for their tails.

There was the time in grade school when she cut my hair exactly like Dorothy Hamill, and then every single one of my friends begged for the same cut. It was the start of a school-wide fad and an in-home business that lasted for many years. I swept up the hair.

Hot Pants in the City

"Hot Pants"
When we were little kids, one Christmas my mother went shopping but she forgot to eat all day. She passed out on the sidewalk in Midtown. A contender for Louie's favorite story, basically it goes, "...in the middle of Fifth Avenue with bags and bags from everywhere, shoes and toys for the kids, and she passes out on me. I didn't know what to do. I got all these bags---" The number of bags and how-many-degrees-it-was changes with each telling, but the final line is always the same.

"And she was wearing hot pants. I thought I was gonna get arrested." I think it's a prostitute joke. Maybe it was a kidnapping joke, he was eight years older than this raven-haired tart passed out on the sidewalk, half naked in winter.

The Same Old Story

Now that our relationship has (finally) leveled out onto some nice, flat and straight track for awhile, my mom is the best woman in the world to me. My mom is the goddamn sun. After everything we've been through, I mean when I think of how she got to where she is -- got all of us to where we are --- she did it with such strength and grace. Oh yes, she shrieked like a banshee quite often, but if anyone could pull off "graceful banshee," it is JoAnna. And she would have had just the right shoes for it, too.

She'd had no parenting. Nobody noticed if she went to school or took a bath. Nobody helped her with homework or bought her pretty things. Nobody worried where she was when she took off for days, on her bike. She swam alone for hours in the Connecticut Sound, long, strong strokes far out from the shore. She listened to records all night with her girlfriends, and of course her boyfriends. She embroidered leaves and dragons onto her faded bell-bottom jeans. Her wild mane of chestnut curls, she ironed flat and braided with daisies and dandelions. Her two brothers were good musicians -- Vinnie the drummer and Tony a gifted guitar player, they both played in bands with all these other guys.

I came on the scene in the usual way. There was this certain boy who played drums, mom liked him. Yadda yadda yadda, and here I am.

Somehow or other, this wayward girl raised me with a strong work ethic and a good moral code, and a love of art and books, and a potty mouth and a penchant for the rhythm section. She installed my bullshit detection system. She taught me how to cook.

Nobody's Princess and Her Daughter

We're Sicilian. JoAnna's grandmother was an off-the-boat hatchet-faced harridan who was almost certainly certifiably insane. Grandma Lucibello had 11 children, 10 survived into adulthood including the youngest, Maggie. Maggie had three, my mom her youngest. At this point it's important to know that it was a "thing" in those days for several generations to live together. Basically my mom was raised in an asylum. At 17 she got us both out of that asylum, fleeing, really, in the middle of the night. It all started with a cat. But that's another story.

The next several decades were tumultuous, but that girl danced through fire swamps, rode dragons and charmed bridge trolls without flinching. She got knocked down, she got back up. She got blown off course, she just shifted the baby to the other hip and leaned into the wind. We did things, and then we did the next things, and we made it. It's as though she had known the entire time that we were going to turn out awesome. In her teens, twenties -- two kids, no diploma, no big deal, as though she'd done all this before in a previous life and knew the back passages and magic words to secret doors that other people couldn't even see. What a dame.

We kicked around together, she and I, for about a year and then the Lombardi family got involved. JoAnna met Louie.

Rebels Without A Clue

Front steps of the old
converted school where we lived.
Eight years older and straight out of Central Casting, Louie was a total Guido. Cufflinks and Yves St. Laurent, wing-tip disco shoes and a pinky ring: gold, set with a milky brown stone he called a "tiger eye." Louie was the maรฎtre D at a steak house & lounge, which was apparently a thing.

When they met, Louie had recently made a pilgrimage to Europe to seek out his maternal grandfather's family. He went to Switzerland, Copenhagen, Prague, Rome. In Benevento, Italy he met those relatives, ate bread and cheese, drank wine, and apparently he bought his entire wardrobe for the next decade. There was a home perm at some point. Oh yeah, he was a smoooooov operator. Then my mom showed up, strong and lean from all that swimming and bike riding, with me slung on her nubile little hip. He chatted her up, she told him to get lost, and she hasn't been able to shake him since.

I think they really just knocked each other out.

When they began dating, Louie still lived with his parents on the second floor of a green triple-decker in a blighted little burg called Waterbury, CT. Grandparents on the top floor, some drunk uncles in the attic, and a rag tag assortment of sisters in a basement that reeked of cigarette smoke, Juicy Fruit gum and dime store cosmetics. That house was another asylum. Seriously, this was a thing people did.

Heck On Wheels (*hell tba)
Not the actual MG.

In those days Louie drove a blue MG. An MG is a cunning little 2-door roadster with no trunk and no back seat. He loved that car. He'd park her outside the green triple-decker, and he'd wash her with the hose. He'd polish her with Turtle Wax and a soft chamois cloth until his mother called him in for macaroni and meatballs. I was only a toddler but I did not approve of his lifestyle.

I was bookish and weird. Suspicious, staring sullenly from under dull brown bangs. I could talk but I wouldn't. I hated him. I stared at him sullenly when he would be there in the mornings, in my mom's bed, all brown and strange-smelling.

I stared at him sullenly when they danced The Hustle in the living room.

I started at him sullenly when he brought his strange-smelling things and put them in my mom's room. I crawled into his closet, inspecting shiny pointy shoes. I opened drawers I wasn't supposed to, and I turned over gold chains and rings, dog tags from the National Guard. I was especially captivated by the tiger eye pinky ring, which he didn't wear by then because he had started to work as a house painter and contractor. He kept the Italian shoes and clothes, but now he wore paint-spattered jeans and what my mother called "Guinea shirts." You may know this garment as a "wife beater," but I wouldn't hear that term for another 30 years yet. My brother Michael was born.

My mom was clearly a captivating seductress. Because in order to be with her, Louie traded in that sweet MG for a goddamn used white Ford Fairlane. Trunk the size of a child's swimming pool and a long bench-style backseat. Pale blue vinyl that turned almost molten on hot days. The seat would burn the backs of our thighs if we forgot to put down a towel in summer. Rear wheel drive, because that makes sense in New England in winter. In 1978 it snowed a lot. You may have heard about it.

I stared at him sullenly when he was digging out the car, pouring salt and sand in an effort to get out of the driveway.

I'd like to say that things leveled out to more or less normal at some point.

Things Did Not Level Out To Normal At Any Point 

Through my eyes The Addams Family was a documentary, and The Brady Bunch was an outlandish fairy tale about three princesses. I watched a lot of TV.

Tears and Laughter

I don't mean to suggest that my mother and I always fought. Far from it! She was an amazing mom. She was able to stay at home with us until about 6th grade, then she had to go to work because we had no money. That's when our relationship began to first break down. It had a lot to do with the amount of work that it takes to manage a household. In an Italian family in the 1970s, the in-home workforce was "female." I knew of no family where the fathers or brothers did anything even remotely domestic. I called bullshit. There were a ton of chores and all of them were mine to do, and that meant I didn't have enough time to do my homework. Every night, just when I was getting into it, she would come home and yell at me to "get all that shit off the table" meaning my books and papers "and set it for dinner!" We fought about that, me crying and slamming my bedroom door.

There is something about teenage girl anger. These days I rarely raise my voice at all. When I think about it now, I crack up laughing. I loved when we moved to an older house. Not because anything changed in terms of the infuriating Chore Inequality between we women and the men, but because she got me a desk so I could close the door and study in my room, and also the sturdy doors of that old house were so much more satisfying to slam shut.

For all the rage and door slamming, the fights were really more of a bicker-fest over the small stuff. In reality, I was super plugged into my mom. I was weird and nobody else "got" me but her.
At Uncle Vinnie's wedding. It was held
in a firehouse. Mid-ceremony, there was a fire.
Of course I was weird, what else was going to happen? She grew me inside her, the same blood coursed through us, when she was in the throes of a chaotic adolescence. A baby ain't supposed to be swimming in that torrent of hormones and bad ideas. My first year on earth is a crocheted sling riding shotgun with Delta Dawn over here, fresh out of the tumultuous 60s. To pile on, the 70s were the weirdest decade in modern memory. Then the 80s said "hold my Wine Cooler." Me and mom held hands, planted our feet and stared the crazy down.

When we weren't bickering, singing or dancing, we cooked and cleaned and went to every tag sale and thrift store we could find hunting treasure. We took long walks, gathering living and dead things to make our temporary but spectacular "art" installations -- we'd arrange rocks and pussy willows and long grassy reeds and sprayed them into place with Aquanet. We painted eggs for Easter, we made Christmas decorations, we finger-painted and drew and sculpted a menagerie of clay creatures. She read to us. Even when we were older she'd read to us -- she read us The Prophet by Kahil Gibran in its entirety. We watched Jaws, Carrie and Close Encounters under a blanket.

We would make each other laugh until we almost pee'd. We still do that. And it's the kind of laughing where you start to worry you might actually damage an organ. Can't breathe, eyes streaming, abs start to ache. Twice this happened on a city bus. People were staring. To be the weirdest people on any city bus is a feat, but there we were, snorting snot and keening like a pair of wild monkeys on acid.

The DJ Saved My Life

The soundtrack to our lives was fantastic, connected through the hundreds of songs we played and sang and danced to; all my life I assumed every family made music a centerpiece, but I would come to find out that is not the case. Joe tells that he didn't really even get into the Beatles until later...meanwhile in my house, we put on skits to the narrative songs like Eleanor Rigby. We held singing contests in the living room. I thought Stevie Wonder was a god, because Songs in the Key of Life sounded like a very good bible to me (it still is). She showed us the popular 1970s dances and my brother became a crazy-good dancer. She sang us songs from TV commercials from her childhood, like the Good N Plenty jingle and something called Maypo. We watched Soul Train, Dance Fever, American Bandstand and Solid Gold. I knew who was Ginger Baker, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Mangione and Donovan (don't ask) and didn't get how come my friends didn't know these names. I loved Sonny & Cher, Ray Charles and Donna Summer. I loved everything Motown. She gathered us in front of the Motown 25 special, and that's why I know exactly where I was when Michael Jackson moonwalked on TV for the first time and changed the world forever. In those days, when something was on TV, you either saw it or you didn't. I saw it all.

A Thousand Words

To put a button on this story, I was looking for just the right picture that captures the family gestalt. This is a good one.

What a dame. Look at her shoes. 
I will explain what is going on in this picture. This is the four of us in our living room in Washington, CT. Not pictured is a whole house full of people dancing, talking, eating and drinking and having a blast. My parents threw THE best parties, and this was a great party. And yet, here WE are, the host family, huddled earnestly...around the turntable discussing the next record. Because this is an intense, spontaneous meeting about what goes on next after Purple Rain. 

By our positions, you can see that we had each arrived at the turntable separately to sort through the albums. I was first, and JoAnna sat down next to me. Michael for sure slid over in his socks, popped and locked a slick dance move and stuck the landing. Not because I remember it that way, it's just that that's how Michael crossed any room in those days. I don't know how long we were huddled there, but one of our friends had enough time to take this picture. That person (who?) must have seen a certain something in this family tableau. Michael in socks (for sliding) and casually cool in blue paisley and gray cords. Louie, rocking the blue suede shoes (for dancing), silk pinstripe shirt (Italian finery) and Levi jeans. Louie is clearly the one talking right then. My mom, listening, her confidence and serenity contrasting with me, just barely visible back there but for that shock of dull brown bangs and eyes fiery with some very strong opinion. I don't remember what album we did put on next. None of us ever thought to plan the music ahead of time. I am sure of what JoAnna would have said if anyone had suggested it. "We'll play it by ear." ∎

Happy birthday, Mamacita

"The old lady weathered the storm pretty good, don't you think?"
Louie asked last time we were all together. You bet your sweet ass, ya goddamn Guinea.
Look at her shoes.

Related: Those Shoes Were F**king Fabulous

Mar 14, 2017

Key Change

There should be a name for the phenom where, every couple of years, you marvel at how many mystery keys you carry around.

Where do all these mystery keys come from?

You toss old, obsolete keys every Key Purge.

You toss the  laundry room key from two apartments ago.

You toss the key to a freight elevator located in a building that's been demolished.

You toss what might be a key to a gym locker, or it might be for the mailbox from the building where you worked six years ago, or else it unlocks a piece of luggage you're not sure you can even find right now.

You keep only the essential keys. But now you forgot why they were essential.

Quite the nagging worry, innit. Middle of the night, can't sleep.

You locked up something a number of years ago, but you don't know why you did, what it was or where the hell it is now.

Mar 12, 2017

Volume 1, Issue 3

The first fifty days of the new administration have ushered in an emotionally supercharged period in modern America. People in red states and blue states are in states of confusion, state experts state. 

"This is a highly unusual situation," says Dr. Harry Chopin Savage. Savage is an industry leader in applied data science. Dr. Savage is the author of "Big Data and Urban Civilization," currently touring colleges and universities giving talks on the long term effects of relentless mental stress on people living in medium-to-large cities. "This is not how any of this is supposed to work. Studies show that people just feel like giving up even trying to have a normal conversation, because every conversation eventually turns to what is essentially the biggest modern national embarrassment we, as a people, can remember."

Experts Warn:"Lucid Zombie State" Looms in Nation's Future

The stress of navigating 2017 America is beginning to take its toll. The concern is that a prolonged existence in a world in which provable lies are taken as gospel will lead to a kind of nationwide mental fugue, a "lucid zombie state." Dr. Savage and other experts warn that the massive effort required to act as though everything is normal is an incredible strain on the psyche,"both as individuals and as a society," says Savage. 

"Basically, basic human decency is at risk. Basically. The emotional toll for keeping a civil tongue anymore is quite high. On the surface things seem fine. But things are not fine. This ague state may not be the end of the actual world, but this is a big enough catastrophe that America as we know it won't be the same ever again."

Geezer Politics Are Going To Get Us All Killed

Dr. Savage suggests considering the ongoing effects of a doddering generation raised to lunge beneath their school desks as children, on the premise that would "save them" from a bomb that would vaporize a whole city. "Those people," suggests Savage, "were never quite right in the head, but who could blame them? The great American tragedy is that they think nothing of this terrorizing of our citizens. These geezer politicians are now risking the mental well being of yet another generation. We are all in permanent ready mode, like feral animals tensed for fight or flight, only there's nowhere to go. There is no desk."

There Is No Desk 

A Facebook poll reveals that 2 out of 3 Americans think that even the conversations with those who share their beliefs are stressful to have, even online, so for the most part people just stop having them. This emerging mode of alt-communication has effects on the data science used to measure public sentiment. Social media analytics, used for everything from marketing to other kinds of marketing, are in a sort of twilight quickening. Studies reveal that most studies reveal no useful data whatsoever.

"I'd buy stock in image tracking tech now," says an inside source. "People are so worn out that they just try to avoid talking anymore so they are using Stickies and Gifs. Along with that, we face unprecedented levels of sarcasm in the 25 to 65 demographic. We already skew for sarcasm correction in the 18 to 24 group, but this is a whole new ball game."

"How do you discern what somebody means by a posting a Gif of a dog taking a shit. Do they mean 'that's a relief?' Or do they mean 'I just can't hold this in anymore' or do they mean 'What you said just now is dog shit?' We're just not there yet with the image sentiment data science."

Figuring out what the hell anyone means anymore as the world spins crazily off its axis is the job of next-generation, advanced Big Data. Stalwart Halfrunt, team leader at Deepthought Global, explains the problem. "It is question of contextual speech analytics -- that is knowing your sentiment, not just tracking key words you write on the Facebook, on the blogs. Before, you could tweet out "Great job, Kansas!" and we count you in as a big supporter of all decisions Kansas. Now we can tell if you sassing, but remaining to integrate and very very very difficult as source of truth are up-votes, likes and shares for "Great job, Kansas!" How to figure out who peoples are agreeing with words, and who peoples are liking joke? I mean, Kansas is terrible dump. Given Kansas, the Dorothy would like better to stay I think Oz."

One Nation Under Duress

Any casual conversation online can escalate quickly into a knock-down, drag-out brawl between people that, in theory, are supposed to like each other. We are one nation, under duress, violently divided.

Harvard Community Affairs Consultant Dr. Sandy Vajaynaya agrees. "You want to have a normal conversation with an old friend, but then you find out her single issue with Hillary Clinton was that the candidate advocated for nine month abortions," Vajaynaya says. "I mean, if you're a single issue voter, shouldn't you at least bother to make sure the "issue" is a real thing?" Incredibly, this is a verified account. Randolph resident Jolee McGuffen, 48, did cast her vote for the Republican candidate based on the October 2016 debate, during which Mrs. Clinton's opponent did make such an accusation. "Hillary can say that that's OK, but it's not OK with me," McGuffen bragged.

"But," marvels Dr. Vajaynaya, "it's a complete lie. I mean it's not a matter of opinion. It literally never happened. That idiot voted us into this disaster based on a thing that never happened."

"If allowed to go on at this pace and intensity, the mental stress will virtually eat your brain," says Harry Chopin Savage. "Nobody knows what's true and what's a blatent lie anymore. I mean, the guy openly mocked a disabled person on national TV, the video got shared around to millions of people all over the world, yet his supporters persist in saying it never happened." Savage points out that the November 2016 incident, during which the Republican party leader contorted his right hand into a crumbled fist locked against his chest in imitation of New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski who suffers from a joint condition, would have meant the end of the presidential race for literally any other candidate.

"Goddamned Mother Theresa wouldn't have gotten away with that," Savage says. "The Republicans have constructed a seemingly impenetrable panopticon of alt-facts, a toxic bubble inside of which truth fizzles, while the lies, repeated by the leadership and parroted by millions of followers, become the new reality."๐Ÿ’ฉ


Wikipedia Passage on noted journalist Serge Kovaleski

What is happening right now

We have been talking about these clear knee mom jeans this morning.
I regret nothing.

Clear. Knee.
What's going on over at Nordstrom.
See, you'll have problems when you wear a black bra under a white...what the hell...?

Mar 11, 2017

If Only I Could Go Back And Do It All Over Again...?

"If I can do it, anybody can."
Um...yeah, no. 
Please tell me what the rest of your life is like, Horton.
Because, no.