Rock of Ages

By Gloria Harrison

Notes

I’m three years old. My parents call me outside one day and point at the sky, from which water is falling onto the hard, dirt-packed floor of the Mojave. I can’t imagine where this water is coming from, but it’s everywhere, making the air smell like wet earth. I’m amazed. Later, I’m playing outside, digging earthworms out of the dirt with a spoon, when I spot the biggest earthworm I’ve ever seen. I’m thunderstruck with joy, but as I try to approach, my dog and my best friend, a cockapoo named Gnome, jumps in front of the worm, barking like he’s crazy. I keep approaching when, suddenly, the giant worm lashes out and bites Gnome, who yelps and falls to the ground. The worm rattles off. I run inside to get my mom, to tell her that a worm just bit the dog. She gets to him just in time to take him to the vet and save his life, as he has just done mine. My mom holds me on her lap and we sing my favorite song. “Say, say little playmate – come out and play with me. We’ll climb up my apple tree.” I think about how I wish I had an apple tree with rainbow slides and branches brimming with playmates.

Note to iSelf

By J.S. Breukelaar

Salute

Must update the nano. All my music’s on my classic, but you can’t run with a classic, so the nano has my running playlist on it. Also, it seems, last year’s Halloween Party list, and I’m sorry, but “Monster Mash” just won’t get me off today. Neither, for some reason will Pantera’s “Cowboys from hell.” Must be all the glittering water and sunlight. ‘High noon, your doom’ just doesn’t feel right.

It’s that time of the week, time for me and my beat-up ASICS to hit the road. Not the track or the treadmill, just some good old asphalt. The Sydney Bay run is a short, hard run and you don’t want to over-think it. The terrain is basically flat apart from a two-story flight of steps leading up to the nasty Iron Cove Bridge.

The Supergroup.  That mythical entity that carries such soaring expectations that it is remarkable that any of the bands ever make it into the studio.  It’s like the Honors Society kid who letters in three sports, dates a cheerleader, and is a top flight boxer- how can he fail, right?  Until it’s ten years later and the sheriff is tucking the eviction notice into the pocket of his work shirt while he’s passed out on the trailer floor with a needle in his arm.

What’s a Supergroup?  A gaggle of well-known musicians from different bands (and often different genres) who come together to form a new musical entity.

Just like the Honors kids, Supergroups start out with great pedigrees, lots of breaks, and doors swinging widely before them, but that doesn’t always mean that these advantages translate into something memorable.  But when they do click it can be one of the most exciting spectacles in music.

Supergroups are the embodiment of our musical fantasies come true.  “What if?” becomes reality.  This is the stuff that even casual music fans stop to ponder.  Die hard musos can come to blows over them.  Somewhere in the world right now, there is an intense, late night, cocaine-fueled debate raging about the ultimate Supergroup.

kurt suicide scene

A despairing friend called late one night to say that he was looking at a photo of himself as a toddler holding his father’s rifle.

“I have an appointment with that rifle,” he told me. “I’ve always known I was going to end my life with it.”

He’s fine now, thank God, but his remark brought to mind a journal entry I made as a teenager, in which I said that I was sure I was going to kill myself one day; it was only a matter of how and when.

It sounds kind of loud where you are. What’s that music in the background?

I’m conducting this interview while waiting for an egregiously early flight from Kennedy to LAX. I believe that the song in the background is a smooth jazz version of Neil Young’s “Helpless, “ which may be one of the signals that the apocalypse is nigh, so this could be a short interview.

You’re right on the verge of the release of your first book. How does that feel?

It’s certainly exciting, but I’m a writer so I feel obliged to temper that excitement with equal parts anxiety and depressive defeatism. Mostly, it’s an extraordinary relief. I feel like I’m coming to the end of a particular cycle and I look forward to seeing what the next installment is going to be like.

Wow, that was a long awkward silence.

Sorry. Interviewing myself makes me feel put on the spot. I fell pressed to come up with deep and insightful questions. Instead my brain is making a noise that resembles the buzz of the lighting fixture in the crappy hotel I stayed at in NY.

How about just asking the question that you think interviewers are skirting around half the time? The one that goes like this: With your memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, aren’t you just a narcissistic opportunist who is exploiting not only your experiences as an international teenage prostitute but also your relationship with everyone you’ve ever known?

Not everyone I’ve ever known. But seriously, I think that’s a question I asked myself many times throughout the process of writing this memoir. What are my intentions? Am I telling this story in an effort to get to the heart of something more universal, or am I just splattering salacious details across the page? It was a question I asked and then eventually it was a question I had to discard, because too much introspection about purpose can be paralyzing. In the end, I just had to sit down and tell the story in the most honest way I knew how. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide if the product of my efforts is meaningful or exploitative.

You talked with an impressively bright group of journalism students last night. What was the most difficult question they asked you?

It’s interesting that the stickiest part of the evening for me wasn’t their questions about sexually transmitted diseases or even about my strained relationship with my family as a result of this book’s imminent release. Rather, the most uncomfortable moment for me came when I was talking about the real narrative drive of the book being my struggle to love myself.  I told them that I felt confident saying that I’m a beautiful woman today. As I was saying it, I realized that, in fact, I didn’t feel at all confident. Self-acceptance remains an ongoing struggle in my life. I think that when reading a contemporary confessional memoir, the tendency is to expect some big lesson will be learned. A sense of resolution is important, but it can also be a reductive demand to make on a narrative. In Some Girls, I tried to clarify some questions rather than offer answers.

What is the significance of Patti Smith in Some Girls?

In Some Girls, I call Patti Smith “the barometer of all things cool and right.” Throughout the book, when confronted with difficult decisions, I ask the question, “What would Patti Smith do? But Patti Smith plays a larger role than a just being a moral compass; she’s also the vehicle for forgiveness when I ignore that moral compass and go way off the rails. I refer to her as my fairy godmother, but she’s more of a shaman figure- an interlocutor between the known and the unknown, the possible and the impossible.

What was the coolest thing that happened to you yesterday?

I picked up a copy of Bust magazine and saw that Some Girls is written up in back to back articles with Patti Smith’s new memoir Just Kids. What are the chances? It was freaky. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

Did someone actually ask you yesterday in an interview if you thought you were as cool as Patti Smith?

It might be the most hilarious question I’ve been asked yet (and that includes the “sex tips to please a prince” kind of questions I got from German Cosmo). But I suppose if I had really learned the self-love lesson, I would have answered, yes. Yes, I am.  But I’m not there yet. It’s a work in progress.



As I am about to put an end to an 8-year procrastination on recording my second album, I have gathered some thoughts from that stretch of time, that I would like to share.

I write songs; Folk/Pop(ular) songs (I’ll call them folk songs) as opposed to classical (formal) music, to make a simple differentiation which probably leaves many things unaccounted for.
I generally think the following:
A folk song is comprised of three elements.
Chords  –  Vocal melody  –  Lyrics

Many of the songs I love express feelings so universal that I and others feel the urge to sing them in the shower or play them around a campfire.  These three aforementioned elements are all that is needed to transfer a song from one person to another.  Each person who chooses to recreate a folk song brings to it their instrument of choice and style of playing, their unique voice, and the character with which they deliver the lyrics.