November 13, 2009

Chris Cornell's Like Suicide

This is an old post from 2006 that I'm resurrecting because I'm deep into a Cornell nostalgia kick lately, and because I just found a pretty incredible live video of the song.   The sound quality sucks a tad, but the performance is fan-freakin'-tastic.

The song "Like Suicide" (from the Soundgarden album, Superunkown) is arguably one of Chris Cornell's most beautiful and most poetic. The story goes that Chris was sitting at home working on the music that became the song when he heard the sound of something hitting the window in another room. His first thought was apparently that someone was trying to break in. He went outside, walked around the house, and found that a bird had flown into the window and was flopping around on the ground below with a broken neck. He apparently had to take a brick from the edge of the garden and finish her off, then he went back inside, sat down, and wrote the lyrics.

To me, that story makes total sense when compared to the lyrics. I read a post at some forum or another, though, in which some guy analyzed the song as being about heroin use. The dude went through the song line by line and explained all these metaphors that he saw as describing someone's experience with heroin. I think that interpretation really sells Chris Cornell short and I've felt compelled for a long time to rebut the guy's analysis of the song. So, here goes:

Heard it from another room
Eyes were waking up just to fall asleep
Love's like suicide
Dazed out in the garden bed
With a broken neck lays my broken gift
Just like suicide

So far, fits Chris's story exactly. The one line that I'm still not sure of the meaning of is "Eyes were waking up, just to fall asleep", but Soundgarden-era Cornell is chock full of damned obscure metaphors. The line "With a broken neck lays my broken gift" is a beautifully poignant description of what he found.

And my last ditch
Was my last brick
Lent to finish her
Finish her

Bit down on the bullet now
I had a taste so sour
I had to think of something sweet
Love's like suicide
Safe outside my gilded cage
With an ounce of pain
I wield a ton of rage
Just like suicide

Again, these verses describe the event Chris alleges the song is about. To take that brick and put the bird out of her misery was so difficult, it left "... a taste so sour, [he] had to think of something sweet." It was an act that couldn't be committed with detachment, it had to be fueled by the sadness and frustration stirred in him by the sight of the injured bird.

With eyes of blood
And bitter blue
How I feel for you
I feel for you

She lived like a murder
How she'd fly so sweetly
She lived like a murder
But she died
Just like suicide

I have to admit that I listened to the song for a year or so before I made the "murder/suicide" connection. Having read in the past that Cornell's a bit of a nature junkie, and being one myself, I finally realized what I think he meant by those references. To watch a creature like that fly can be so beautiful, it just kills you ("She lived like a murder, how she'd fly so sweetly"). For that same creature to die in such a way, both literally in the act of flinging herself against the window and figuratively in the unnecissariness of her death, feels senseless in the way that most suicides do.

To me, there's no question that Cornell's explanation of the song is valid and it says a lot about him as a person. That he could be so moved by the event to sit down and write such an incredibly touching description of it indicates that he's a more complex character than your stereotypical "rock star". By insisting that the song is about heroin use, the guy at that other forum seems to see Cornell as nothing but that stereotype. In doing so, the guy makes both himself and Chris Cornell seem sadly one-dimensional. Personally, reading Chris's explanation of this wonderful song gave me a lot of respect for him. But maybe I'm just naive.

Random babblings: Officially stir-crazy

So, I was diagnosed with the H1N1 flu virus earlier this week.  Found out Monday morning that the boss jr. and his little girl were diagnosed with it over the weekend.  By mid-day, my throat felt funny and I was achy.  The boss sr. got wind of how I was feeling and threatened to dock my pay if I didn't get my ass out of the store before I made other folks sick.  Tuesday morning I went to the dr for a sinus stab, I mean swab.  Normally it takes up to 10 minutes to get the test results, but the doc was back within five and writing out a prescription for Tamiflu

I've spent the rest of the week in sweat pants, alternating between the computer and the easy-chair in front of the tv, occasionally shuffling into the kitchen to nuke some chicken broth or boil water for a dose of Theraflu.  I'm fairly hearty and not exposed to kids most of the time, so it seems as if the worst of it is about over.  Thank whatever the heck's above, too, because another day of lolling around the apartment would've left me curled up and drooling in a corner.  Even having the kittehs around hasn't helped, as I've now seen how they spend the day when I'm away at work:  sound asleep.

To top it all off, the view out the window has been one of solid grey skies and November rain.  All. Freaking. Week. Long.  As if not leaving the apartment wasn't isolating enough, the rain pouring down the window pane and creating a mud river out back has felt like a psychological barrier to the outside world. 

But don't get me wrong.  It's not the people I miss.  It's not unusual for me to go through an entire weekend speaking to no one but store clerks and restaurant wait-staff.  It's the world itself that I need to be in, breathing the air, seeing the trees and sky, dodging the ignoramii on 270 as I fly to freedom...

Bah.  Seems the antihistamine in Theraflu Nighttime is kicking in and I'm getting loopy.  Enough already.  I'll be out and around tomorrow.  Try to avoid me, as I'm probably still contagious.

Blow Up the Outside World

Nothing seems to kill me no matter how hard I try
Nothing is closing my eyes
Nothing can beat me down for your pain or delight
And nothing seems to break me
No matter how hard I fall nothing can break me at all
Not one for giving up though not invincible I know

I've givin' everything I need
I'd give you everything I own
I'd give in if it could at least be ours alone
I've given everything I could
To blow it to hell and gone
Burrow down in and
Blow up the outside world

Someone tried to tell me something
Don't let the world bring you down
Nothing will do me in before I do myself
So save it for your own and the ones you can help

Want to make it understood
Wanting though I never would
Trying though I know it's wrong
Blowing it to hell and gone
Wishing though I never could
Blow up the outside world

November 8, 2009

Tour de Greater Homewood/Jack Yates Memorial bike ride

Today was a gorgeous day for a bike ride, so that's exactly what 40 (edit: 80!) or so Baltimoreans (and wanna-be B'moreans like me) did.  But this ride wasn't to be only for fun, as it also commemorated cycling enthusiast and community activist, Jack Yates, who was killed in a hit-and-run collision with a truck earlier this summer.  So with dual purpose, we set out from Gordon Plaza at the University of Baltimore and headed off into the hilly streets of northern Charm City.  There were so many places and things that I wanted to snag photos of, but there's no way I could've kept up with the group if I'd stopped that much.  Hopefully what I did capture will give some idea of the great time had by all.  

The guys of the North Baltimore Bicycle Brigade put together a terrific route that headed first up towards and through Charles Village, along a short stretch of gritty Greenmount Ave, around Venable Park, back over and up the killer hill on Charles past Loyola College, and into the beautiful, park-like neighborhood of Springlake Way. 

After a break to enjoy the scenery and annoy the residents, we cut over to Roland Park for a cruise up and down Roland Avenue, before heading down for a short run along the Jones Falls Trail and a stop to pay homage at the site of Jack's accident. 

At the corner of Lafayette and Maryland Avenues, everyone stopped to raise their bikes in a moment of silence honoring Jack.  The ghost bike placed in his memory is a moving sight, but even more sobering were the remnants of a bicycle-shaped police chalk line designating where he was hit and dragged around the corner.  It was a sad reminder that no cyclist is immune to tragedy, no matter how experienced a rider they may be.  No amount of vigilance and alertness will save you, no rights to the road provided by law will protect you, when things just plain go wrong between a motor vehicle and a bike. 

But on a day like today, with a glorious blue sky and warm sunshine, it's best not to dwell for too long on solemn thoughts.  It's so much better to pedal along with a bunch of friendly folks on a relaxed ride, celebrating the freedom of being on a bike, in the memory of a man who did so much for this part of the city.

Here's to you, Jack.  I never met you, but I'm glad to know that you were here for at least a while...   

Click here for more of my photos from the ride.  Also check out a brief but very cool video by Liam, here

November 7, 2009

There was a time when all I wanted was my ice cream colder...

Little Cream Soda

Well every highway that I go down
Seems to be longer than the last one I knew about
Oh well

And every girl that I walk around
Seems to be more of an illusion than the last one that I found
Oh well

And this old man in front of me
Wearing canes and ruby rings
Is like containing an explosion when he sings
But with every chance to set himself on fire
He just ends up doing the same thing

Well every beautiful thing I come across
Tells me to stop moving and shake this riddle off
Oh well

And there was a time when all I wanted was my
Ice cream colder, and a little cream soda
Oh well, oh well

And a wooden box, and an alley full of rocks
was all I had to care about
Oh well, oh well, oh well

Now my mind is filled with rubber tires
and forest fires
and whether I'm a liar
and lots of other situations where I don't know
what to do at which time God screams to me
“There's nothin' left for me to tell you”

Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well

Much dukkha these days.  Another Hallow's Eve has come and gone and I feel that I barely acknowledged it.  I celebrated, to be sure, reading M.R. James all month, then heading up to Philly for some cemetery exploration and Haunted Poe with a buddy.  But I didn't feel the day the way I normally do.  Why not, you ask?  Well...  It would seem that a mid-life crisis is brewing.

I've whined incessantly about work in this blog and unfortunately it's one of the root issues of my current batch of bitching.  The recession forced a second batch of layoffs at the beginning of this year, and our marketing director was one of those to get the axe.  The president of the company took on the PR mantle and the decision was made that I would assist him in keeping track of all the myriad contracts and schedules and minutiae that goes into marketing a high-end jewelry store.  My existing responsibilities were to be delegated as necessary amongst my compatriots on the administrative staff (all two of them, and both as fed up with, yet still grateful for, their jobs as I am), but that really hasn't happened.  This has been the pattern at most of the jobs I've had--  I'm apparently viewed as being capable and conscientious.  So when there's work to be distributed, my name seems to be the only one in the hat.   

This has been both a good and a tremendously bad thing.  With business slowing down due to the economy, my duties as inventory manager slowed down along with it, leading to days filled with irresponsible intarwebs surfing.  So having to quickly get up to speed on what's involved in marketing was stimulating and activating, even if it wasn't particularly interesting. But this type of work goes against my nature.  The things I've always been good at, that were noticed by my supervisors, have been my attention to detail, thoroughness, focus, and efficiency.  I work best, and happiest, when I have a single task to focus on with minimal interruptions.  I can apparently handle having multiple, varied responsibilities, but doing so drives me crazy.  I become stressed and scatter-brained, and lose the very qualities that got me stuck with all those responsibilities in the first place.

The result is that I begin to make mistakes.  After a potential doozy the other day, the boss gave me the "I think you're doing a great job" speech and then began to gently lecture me on how I need to learn to handle the stress of dealing with shifting priorities and last minute, deadline issues.  It took all my will to not roll my eyes at him.  I believe he sincerely meant to be supportive, but he forgets that I've been in the retail business for a long time, I've understood for years all of the things he was telling me.  The sticking point is whether I want to learn these things.  I don't, for the simple fact that I don't enjoy such chaotic situations and that I don't feel they're necessary.  If I did, I would've developed the required skills a long time ago.

Even worse is that this situation is sapping my confidence.  I've felt for a while now that I'm becoming a "jack of all trades, master of none."  Being involved in so many aspects of the business has taught me a variety of things, but not with any depth.  I don't know what I'm good at anymore.  I feel that I'm at a loss to assess my skills.  If I were to try to break out of the retail industry to do something more meaningful, how would I present my abilities on a resume, how would I sell myself?

On its own, the job situation would be stressful but tolerable.  As I've said before, despite not loving the work I do, I'm grateful to have a job at which that work is appreciated, especially in an economic climate in which so many people can't find a job at all.  But that issue's been compounded by the recent realization that I'm going to be 45 in a few brief months.  After that, it's only a few brief years to 50.  That thought has scared the crap out of me.  I'm a single woman with two cats and a minuscule 401k who, on her days off from a job that she just kind of ended up with, lives for riding her bike and going to museums.  It's like I've got some form of Peter Pan syndrome-- I take care of the most basic necessities and then all thoughts turn to play-time.  And,
aside from grousing about my job, I'd gotten to a point at which I was happy with this arrangement.  But I don't think I can be anymore. 

I can remember as a teen sinking into depression, thinking that I probably wouldn't live to 35.  Coming into my 30's, having survived thoughts of driving my car into a jersey wall along the highway, I instead began joking that the day my brain got soft and my joints got stiff would be the day I'd put my head in the oven (yeah, I've always had that morbid streak).  Growing old has always been one of the few things I was consciously afraid of.  But the fear of becoming senile and stiff-jointed has been joined by another-- How will I take care of myself?  Hell, how will I take care of my parents, who're edging up on 70, before I even get to the point of taking care of me?  How will I take care of my handicapped sister who lives with my parents?  Will I need to take care of all three of them?  

I've never known what I wanted to do with my life.  There were lots of lectures in my younger years, lots of being yelled at that "You have to go to college!!"  But no one ever sat me down and said "Hey, let's figure out what you enjoy, what you want to study and make a career of."  While I was an intelligent student, I wasn't a committed one.  Always at the bottom of the smartest class, when I wasn't skipping those classes to go play.  And there was never any discussion of how to choose a school, much less how to pay for it.  The assumption must've been the same my employers have made, that I was smart enough and capable enough to figure it out and no one needed to give me guidance.

Graduation led to an ultimatum:  Go to college or get a job.  Since I'd hated high school, had no idea what I wanted to study, and no clue how to pay for it, I got a job.  And I kept on working.  There have been a few times when I tried to stop and change course, but each time ended up derailed.  Even at those moments, though, thoughts of the future were vague at best, it was more a situation of "What do I want to be doing now?"

So here I am, at the mid-point of life and feeling my heart race at the thought of giving up playtime and buckling down to figure this shit out.  That thought makes me so tired.  I'm tired of doing it on my own.  I want help, but that's a problem in itself.  Back when help was free and available, I didn't know enough to reach out for it.  Now that I want it, it's still available but I'll have to pay for it.  But, thanks yet again to our current recession, paying for anything is becoming sketchy these days, as I didn't get a raise this year and things aren't looking good for one in 2010.  Which brings me full circle back to being dissatisfied with my job and feeling that I should be doing something else, but not having any clue of what.

Do I really have to grow up? 

Two songs have been bouncing around in my head in conjunction with this mood, so y'all get a two-fer:

 Disappearing Act

Come on now, the curtain is drawn
And tomorrow stands before you.
Dressed and draped in a coal black cape
Like a crow, he ignores you.
Look again, there's a beautiful girl
Covers sin in a Holy Land shroud.
It's the great disappearing act
Done once again for the marveled crowd.
As we're chasing our tails,
And biting our nails,
So strong and frail.

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down...
With barely the time to say
How did it get so late?
I'll never know

Step outside now, the door's open wide
And the minons are eager to find him.
Put a million miles under your heels
And you're still behind him.
Cover your clocks with your chains and your locks
While the seasons get hotter and colder.
Stretch your faces and lie about your ages
And still we're gonna get older.
As we're chasing our tails,
And biting our nails,
So strong and frail

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
We've run out of time to say
How did it get so late?
I'll never know
I'll never know

Hang on 'til your fingers bleed
And your hands unwind...
He will escape you every time,
From under your pillows,
Through open windows and out on the rails...

And we build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
Build and tear down,
With barely the time to say
How did it get so late?
I'll never know
I'll never know
I'll never know

Seriously, if anyone out there has any ideas to help me, let me know.  If not, then please excuse this moment of weakness and just enjoy the music.