BBQ drummies, corn, and blue cheese mashed potatoes. We eat well!
Juniper’s monthly bath (shower, actually) day landed on a very cold day.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
Since they were all the rage when I was a kid, I have loved ceramic Christmas trees. Aside from damaged ones at the thrift store, I’d never seen them for purchase. The holiday decorating gods must have sensed my need because I received a catalog from the Vermont Country Store, and voila! They have them in multiple sizes, white or evergreen, and you can buy different “lights,” too. I chose the holly leaves and am pleased as punch. They also have bayberry scented candles, and we’ve been jammin’ on the nostalgic scent of Christmas every night since it arrived.
Peggy, my best friend from Pittsburgh, sent me cookies! They’re from Cheryl’s and positively delicious, too. She will also be delighted to see that we’re doing a little puzzling (a toughie comprised of house plants leaves) while eating them. Thank you friend! Love you LOTS…
Happy Birthday to my Grandma Tess, who would be 98 today!
While working out the other morning, as I belted along to Birthday by the Sugarcubes, the idea for this next playlist hit me. Why not a song from every band I’ve seen in concert?! So hear (see what I did there?!) we go, and mostly in order too.
Loverboy – Turn Me Loose. Joan Jett opened for Loverboy at Big Mac – for non-Colorado natives and those born too late, McNichols Arena. It is long gone, but was great while it lasted. My Uncle Chris took me to the show, and I remember us lamenting that we had no lighter, only matches.
Quiet Riot – I met the band! The high altitude had Kevin DuBrow sucking on an oxygen mask. Poor fella. – Bang Your Head
White Snake – this and Quiet Riot were the same show. My hair was kinda big, and I felt pretty darn cool. Is This Love
INXS – my FIRST show at Red Rocks! Oh, Michael Hutchence…) – Don’t Change
the Doobie Brothers, and in keeping with the theme, smoked a doobie with some random guys at the show, also at Red Rocks – What a Fool Believes
the Cure – I saw them at Fiddler’s Green with my friends Jeremy and Matt, more my brother’s friends at the time, actually, and I have zero recollection how our trio planned it all, but went we did. A great show on a perfect summer night, followed by a meal at the bastion of teenage post concert food fare: Dennys! I drove like the sometimes wild teenager I was, with Jeremy quipping from the back seat, “They told us to never do this in Driver’s Ed.” Well, my friends, it wasn’t Driver’s Ed, and we needed to get on home. Close to Me.
David Wilcox – How Did You Find Me Here. Saw him at Chatauqua in Boulder, with my best friend at the time. We waited for him after the show, and found ourselves suddenly shy when he came out, but he knew all the same.
Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down Again, my favorite of theirs, forever and always. I was teenage-y and angsty, driving under starlit skies.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters – I remember my parents seeing them somewhere in Boulder when they were first starting out, my Dad, of course, agreeing Todd’s head was rather large. We saw them first, packed like sardines at Herman’s Hideaway, then for a local band’s dream come true, their first show at Red Rocks. We were all in love with the moment. They have more famous songs, but this is my favorite: Midnight Radio.
Peter Gabriel – In the tube station, somewhere near Hampstead Heath, on the first day of our honeymoon, we found ourselves with mouths agape at a poster for him playing that night at Wembley. Exhausted and out of our depth, we decided not to try to figure out how we might go, but the thrill of the poster remains. We finally saw him on the WOMAD tour, with absolutely no regrets. Humdrum.
Seal – Violet. The song always dazzles. And OMG, I forgot about his hair!
U2 – The first and best time was for the Joshua Tree tour at Big Mac. I spent the night with my best friend, along with a guy who was a friend of a friend, in his camper to buy tickets at Peaches Records and Tapes on 72nd & Federal. We slept little, talking about our mutual love for the band, their music the soundtrack to the night. It doesn’t get much play around here anymore. The Unforgettable Fire.
Public Enemy – the second time I saw U2, they were the opening act, though none of my fellow concertgoers were fans, so I silently sulked in the parking lot – the original and best Mile High Stadium, while we waited for their set to be over. Fight the Power (the most awesome 2020 version). Chuck D….
Pearl Jam – This was the height of their fight with Ticket Master, and fans reaped the reward. It was an electric night at Red Rocks, the band playing their hearts out. I still remember what I wore and still have a crush on Stone Gossard. The name alone, peeps…. Garden.
Lyle Lovett – I’ve mentioned this before, but here goes again. Another night at Red Rocks, and on the day Jerry Garcia died. On the news before we headed to the concert, a distraught fan (a Boulderite on the Mall, of course) said, “Now I know what people felt when Jesus died.” That is dedication, my friends. Cowboy Man.
Willie Nelson – A national treasure and everyone’s favorite pot head. Sorry, not sorry Cheech and Chong. I wrote about seeing him, gosh, twelve years ago! The feelings remain the same. And the song? A tough call. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.
the Black Angels – the LOUDEST show of our lives (at the Wonder), our ears ringing even after sporting, in true old people who enjoy their hearing fashion, hot pink ear plugs. Yowza. But, but, but, oh what a show!! Fucking fantastic that. Young Men Dead.
Dolly Parton – Our last show at Red Rocks, maybe the very last we see ever, as we’ve grown to prefer a quiet life without the burden of jostling crowds. And this, my favorite song of hers: Mule Skinner Blues.
As is my wont when visiting my parents (last weekend – and my cousins and aunt, too!), I take pictures of pictures – mostly times long past. These are my Great-Grandparents Tillie and Howard. I love her closed eye smile, a rare moment of pure joy.
Bake early and often, peeps!
I give all credit for my love of music to my dad. He can keep the beer, however.
My cousin Angela and Grandpa Marv. She’s in her late 30s now!
My Grandma Frances, Dad, and Mom in 1972.
With my adorable cousins Stephanie and Allison, probably 1980. I am wearing one of my favorite shirts, ever!! It was so soft and had super tiny red stripes.
And to up the vintage vibe, I’ve got 1970s era Fleetwood Mac blasting on the hi-fi. Warm Ways, indeed.
Sun down on the street where I grew up and where my parents live still. Arvada, and no, silly spell checker, I did not mean armada. The clouds are smoke from the Cameron Peak fire, the beautiful detritus of dreams gone up in flames. These will travel south, cloak us and choke us at our own house, some 80 miles distant, in the days following.
Little Dry Creek, babbly and bubbly and ever on the move. How distant the memories of childhood days spent along its banks. Feet in the water, eyes out for craw-dads.
For two weeks in August, I descended, hard and fast off the cliff of depression. No right reason. No squirrel suit. No parachute. Every nerve and cell slowing to an excruciating crawl. As the days passed, I watched my movements, the swish of hand and step of foot as an alien in a new body might experience. Articulating joints and muscle concentrated and in hyper slow motion. My body but not my body.
Late one night, I made a tearful advance apology to Greg for a suicide I believed was inevitable and for which I had a solid plan. I felt as though every ounce of hope and purpose drained from my being.
Then, while lying in the bath (thank goodness for them!), I remembered another difficult time, from ages ago, and a description of the Dakini Bliss from Pema Chodron (I’ve included an excerpt about it after this entry). And so I asked myself, why can’t THIS be the Dakini Bliss again? Why the hell not? Once I realized I couldn’t reply in the negative, I knew the hardest part was over, hopped out of the bath, and told Greg I was safe.
A few years ago, I was overwhelmed by deep anxiety, a fundamental, intense anxiety with no storyline attached. I felt very vulnerable, very afraid and raw. While I sat and breathed with it, relaxed into it, stayed with it, the terror did not abate. It was unrelenting after many days, and I didn’t know what to do.
I went to see my teacher Dzigar Kongtrül, and he said, “Oh, I know that place.” That was reassuring. He told me about times in his life when he had been caught in the same way. He said it had been an important part of his journey and had been a great teacher for him. Then he did something that shifted how I practice. He asked me to describe what I was experiencing. He asked me where I felt it. He asked me if it hurt physically and if it was hot or cold. He asked me to describe the quality of the sensation, as precisely as I could. This detailed exploration continued for a while, and then he brightened up and said “Ani Pema, that’s the Dakini’s Bliss. That’s a high-level of spiritual bliss.” I almost fell out of my chair. I thought, “Wow, this is great!” And I couldn’t wait to feel that intensity again. And do you know what happened? When I eagerly sat down to practice, of course, since the resistance was gone, so was the anxiety.
I now know that at a nonverbal level the aversion to my experience had been very strong. I had been making the sensation bad. Basically, I just wanted it to go away. But when my teacher said “Dakini’s bliss,” it completely changed the way I looked at it. So that’s what I learned: take an interest in your pain and your fear. Move closer, lean in, get curious; even for a moment, experience the feelings without labels, beyond being good or bad. Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance.
Then the next time you lose heart and you can’t bear to experience what you are feeling, you might recall this instruction: change the way you see it and lean in. That’s basically the instruction that Dzigar Kongtrül gave me. And now I pass it on to you. Instead of blaming our discomfort on outer circumstances or on our own weakness, we can choose to stay present and awake to our experience, not rejecting it, not grasping it, not buying the stories that we relentlessly tell ourselves (Like the one uttering I needed to die). This is priceless advice that addresses the true cause of suffering – yours, mine, and that of all living beings.
When Greg and I first moved to Portland (1998!), and Hawthorne only had a handful of restaurants where we would actually eat, Bread & Ink was among our favorite places, one of those we enjoyed on a leisurely walk. A saunter of about two miles each way, depending upon which view or which house or which garden I felt like seeing that day – Greg never really cared. Their food, up until we left in 2014, was very 90s and always good. Fun cocktails, excellent coffee, nice servers. My favorite had a tattoo of a sparrow on her forearm, after the bible verse, she said, and to this heathen, non bible reader, a bit of new information, and a lovely revelation (Psalm 84:3).
But the reason for my choosing to go was always the Cassata. I remember reading the description the first time: ricotta, candied orange, & chocolate filling, chocolate frosting, and thinking, hmmmm. Could be alright. It really, really was. And so it became my dessert there, one that was not always on the menu, which was always a major disappointment, of course.
I hadn’t had any since leaving Portland (almost six years now – GOSH), and it, like every memory, came bubbling to the surface, out of the blue, and I had to have it. We were hosting Michael and Mary, and I fashioned our menu around it. Problem was, I needed to find a recipe. Type cassata into ye ole search engine and a couple rise to the top, neither of which is the cake I want. Add chocolate, and bingo, at least closer. I ended up making a 1-2-3-4 yellow cake, read through some cannoli filling recipes and got a feel for what I wanted to accomplish, then candied orange peels and made a dark leaning fudgy frosting. It gave me so many problems, but after literally jumping up and down in rage and frustration, it finally adhered to the cake. It wasn’t much to look at before slicing but made up for it, in spades, once it hit the tongue.
I also made a tomato tart, two kinds of crackers, a cheese spread, apricot mostarda, and blueberry gooseberry (home grown!) preserves. Then, for dinner, because this was a marathon, grilled rosemary chicken, grilled asparagus, a salad entirely grown by farmer Greg (two varieties of lettuce, carrot, onion, radish!!).
Of course we put together a puzzle, as we always do, talked and talked, and talked some more, and walked the dogs. The best of times among the best of friends – twenty-six years strong.