I Know I Gush a Lot About Astoria, But…

I’m going to do it again. Does this look like the view out the kitchen window of someone who lives in New York City? Because this is what I get to see. The robins are fattening themselves up on the red berries that flank our row house/apartment building. I guess because of all the trees around here, and the never-ending supply of food, they stay year-round, so I’ll get to see this big guy come January, when these branches may be covered in snow.

Robin

She’s a Girl, and a Robot

Last night I went to see cabaret/burlesque/performance art/not sure how to label it for the first time, to see my pal Brenda perform her stand-up routine as part of the show. The theme was “Trauma in TV Land” and Brenda rocked it with a funny comparison on how the popular TV of our youth was downright Puritanical compared to what kids are exposed to today. While John Hughes seemed edgy back in the day, how would he stand up next to True Blood and The Jersey Shore?

I also was mesmerized by a live performance by Girl Robot, who has a complete online musical. The first song in the musical explains her origins (her creator’s cat accidentally stepped on the keyboard, changing the XY to XX) and then shows Girl Robot romping hilariously through Manhattan, mystified yet clearly in love with the city. For some reason, perhaps because I’m a New Yorker who spends most of her conscious hours interacting with computers, I identify with Girl Robot.

Three Songs I Never Get Sick of

One of my job duties with WordPress.com is to write the daily prompts at Plinky.com, which is our tool for helping people come up with new blog posts. We call it our “cure for writer’s block.”

Because I am often quite busy at work, I don’t get a lot of time to answer my own prompts. Today, my co-worker Stephane (who does all the technical legwork keeping Plinky up and running) took the time to answer today’s question: Name three songs you never get sick of. Inspired by his decision to take time out of our busy workday to answer the prompt, so did I. And it was fun going down the musical memory lane…

Jesus, Etc by Wilco

This is a song about supporting each other, being a friend, in times of great stress. We’ve all been there, on both sides of a crisis — having it happen to us, or watching it happen to a friend.

Though this song was written before Sept. 11, 2001, the lyrics were eerily prescient, with lines like “tall buildings shake, voices escape, singing sad sad songs.” The album was actually set to publish on 9/11, but the horror of that day delayed the release.

In general, Wilco represents, for me, a growth in my taste of music. I grew up listening to country music — being from South Texas, that was the main option, especially if you wanted to see live music. Wilco is known as “alt-country” — the instruments sound like traditional country-western music, but the lyrics are a lot more grown up. I can’t get enough of them, especially this song.

Amarillo By Morning by George Strait

A lot of today’s country music has devolved into sophomoric and superficial songs that lack originality and focus on the “redneck lifestyle” (case in point: a top song on the Billboard charts right now is “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer”).

Even one of the genre’s greatest artists, George Strait, has (somewhat) fallen into this trend and I don’t bother with his current releases. But his earlier albums showed his knack for selecting songs (he doesn’t write many of his own) that are now legendary examples of Southern storytelling. “Amarillo by Morning” is the account of an exhausted, broke bull rider just trying to survive the Texas rodeo circuit.

The lyrics are poignant, but this is also one of the world’s finest Texas Two-Step songs. Anyone who has visited a Texas dance hall knows this *IS* the song to get everyone out on the dance floor.

I spent many a summer night doing just this, under the giant oak tree at the outdoor dances at Garner State Park in the Texas Hill Country. The song’s opening violin strains are enough to send me right back to being 15, in my too-tight Wrangler jeans, hoping a cute boy asks me to dance.

It Makes No Difference by The Band

I first heard this song while watching “The Last Waltz,” a Martin Scorsese film that details the last concert by The Band, who were famous in the 1970s. My husband had suggested we watch the movie, not only because he was a fan of The Band’s music, but also because the concert shows all the great artists The Band paired up with during their run — including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Neil Diamond. It’s a fantastic movie.

The Band has a lot of well-known songs, but “It Makes No Difference” is simply one of the world’s greatest love songs, a tale of deep longing and heartbreak. If you’re trying to win someone back, send them this song.

Personally, the song illustrates how I felt when Brendan and I were temporarily apart, after he moved to New York and I was in Texas. My intense sadness was what made me realize he was The One. This song will always get to me and serve as a reminder of how I never want to feel that way again.

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Late Summer Snapshots (I’ll Miss You, Summer… *Sniffs*)

Although Summer 2010 was mostly consumed by house hunting, car shopping, and traveling (and general acclimation to New York), we did squeeze in quite a bit of fun, food and friends. Few things are as calming and peaceful as upstate New York in the summer.

We discovered the beauty of the Basha Kill Wildlife Management area, a narrow-but-long protected marshland in Sullivan County. I can’t wait to go back with a kayak and a camera.

And we discovered the crisp, tangy, bubbly house white  from the Basha Kill Vineyards, located very close to the marsh:

We took the time to enjoy a playground (and we bought a car – see it there in the background? Yipee!):

And we chased the butterflies (or is this just a really pretty moth?):

And re-visited the always-stunning New York Botanical Gardens:

And hung out with our friends:

At the Automattic Annual Meet-up

I’m spending the week in Seaside, Florida, for my company’s annual retreat. It’s a mix of work and pleasure, and my loyal readers know that this sort of beach view is dangerously tempting for a beach bum like me. How can one work with a beach like this?!

So, today I took the afternoon off to sit under an umbrella and swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Large groups of pelicans keep flying by (BP didn’t kill them all!) and cute schools of pipefish can be seen darting under the clear, teal-colored water. I even attracted a skin-hungry catfish-shaped fish, who kept aggressively nibbling on me as I giggled-screamed, running for shore, while coworker Lori watched, amused.

Seaside is adorable – sort of a rich man’s Port Aransas, Texas – and our cottage is straight out of The Truman Show (the movie was filmed here).

Its also hot. We’re talking 95 degrees and dripping wet humidity. I’ll miss this come December, though.

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