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I think I must have always been a writer. I think it’s something you’re born with. Part of you that is lying in wait. Patiently, quietly, waiting. Eventually, it awakens, stretching it’s arms and looking around, bleary eyed… blinking in confusion before the realization settles in… I am home.

I was in the third grade. Her name was Ms. Abraham. She was the anti-teacher. She was a rebel in a school of proper, southern, cardigan-wearing teachers. She was statuesque in front of the green chalkboard. Gum popping between her red painted lips. She was loud. Brash. She would roll her eyes and tease us while still commanding our respect. I felt more at home in her classroom than in any other. Her unique brand of sarcasm and affection and high expectations were both exhilarating and comforting to my eight year old brain.

She introduced me to writing. Creative writing was a staple in her lesson plans. The rules were simple. Use correct spelling and grammar. Other than that? Write about whatever you want. We would cut pictures out of magazines and use them for inspiration for a story. The lack of rules was confusing at first. The freedom to do whatever we wanted was unsettling. It was perfect.

My writing soul was born in that classroom.

I didn’t keep extensive journals or write a novel on the rainy summer days of my youth. I spent my free time reading, listening to music and running around the neighborhood with my friends. But I was writing, constantly writing in my mind.

I would lay on the floor of my room and daydream for hours while I listened to my favorite albums. I would concoct stories inspired by the songs. I could spend an entire day like that. Lost in my own mind.

I would rest a dog eared book on my stomach after devouring it and replay words and phrases over in my mind. Marveling at the sequences that rolled off the page and became a part of my thoughts, seeds of future inspiration.

I would lay in bed at night, never able to fall asleep at a decent hour. I would stare at the streetlight that filtered through my metal blinds and replay events of the day, editing and re-phrasing conversations, scripting and narrating.

I had scribbled notes and half stories and partially filled notebooks. But most of my writing took place in my head. Permanence was not a concern. It was the exercise that I was seeking, not documentation.

In college I slid between majors looking for my place. I dabbled in Biology and Journalism before finally settling on an English Major. My desire to indulge in classes that involved reading and writing drowning ideas of practicality. I told myself I’d get a job writing after college. I pictured myself working in a busy magazine office, surrounded by people who loved words as much as I did.

What I found was that getting paid to write usually involves paltry freelance fees that wouldn’t support a broke post graduate.

My desire to write became a notion. A luxury that would have to be set aside while I paid the rent and student loan bills and tried to avoid eviction from my apartment.

But it was still there. I was still narrating in my mind. I was still daydreaming and imagining how I would “write” whatever was happening in my life. I would relish road trips. Hours to drive with nothing but music and the wind and my thoughts.

Then life started moving fast. There was no time to actually write. There was work and marriage and then children. I thought less and less about my dreams of writing and focused fully on raising my children. Instead of listening to music for hours, I consumed parenting books and studied learning techniques and tried to create a warm home for my family. I could have made time to write. But for the first time since third grade I had little desire.

That all changed a few years ago.

I was driving by myself, I had the windows down and the music turned up. My music was on shuffle when the song shifted. An abrupt shift in tempo had me reaching to skip the song, but I paused.

Slow streams of music filled the car, begging me to listen. I slipped into a warm bath of words and sounds. I was transported.

I was back in third grade, running through neighbors’ back yards. I was back in my bedroom laying on the floor with my headphones on listening to music. I was back in the woods lounging in a makeshift fort telling stories with my friends, making plans for mischief.

The lyrics broke through the veneer of mom and wife and carpool driver. I listened to poetry playing out in haunting melody, the words swirling through the air like blue smoke, the tendrils finding their way to me. I breathed in the words and felt my eyes burn. Tears started spilling over, trickling down my cheeks. I laughed as I wiped away the tears. I hit repeat and took the long way home, not ready to let the feeling go yet. The song… the words… they stirred me. They opened up a part of me that I had filed away for future use.

My writing soul had been gently nudged awake.

I needed to have words in my life again. I needed to write. I needed to take the voice that had been accompanying me all these years and put it on paper.

I started writing. I wrote chapters that I had been composing in my head for years. I started writing for an audience and terrified myself with the thoughts of eyes reading my words. I started fretting over cliches and phrases and obsessing over what to write about. I felt nauseous the first time I hit Publish.

I still do. I feel nerves and fear and extreme vulnerability every time I publish.

But I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep listening to music that inspires me. Music that is written with pain and passion and longing. Artists that turn phrases that have my head spinning in admiration and envy.

The more I write, the more I find myself returning to what always sustained me. I will lay on the floor after my evening workout with my headphones on, lost in a song. I’ll brush off the thoughts of dishes piled in the sink waiting for me. I’ll take the long way home to feel the wind on my face and absorb the music. I’ll brush off my to do list for a few more moments of nourishment. I sit at my laptop and shuffle through my music until a song plays that has me feeling… something.

Music has always been my compass. It’s guided me through pain, through heartbreak, through grief. It’s been the salve for open wounds and the outlet for seething anger. It’s been the inspiration I was seeking.

It woke me from a long sleep. It reminded me of who I am. Of where I belong.

I am home.

 

 

 

 

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Have you ever been excited about something, only to be let down? You feel energy firing up your senses and you give yourself over to the moment. But then the moment feels… dull. Boring. Lackluster. You’re left wanting. It can be a detached lover or a singer on the stage just going through the motions. When complacency resides where passion should burn, the disappointment floods you.

But… when there’s passion? When a singer looses his mind on stage? When art is inspiring? When someone’s words touch your soul? Those are the things we live for. That is what drives us to do great things, to connect with others. Beyond merely surviving in this world, passion is what gives us life.

Today, I’m on Elephant Journal writing about Sex, Art and Rock and Roll. I would love it if you would join me there:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/sex-art-rock-and-roll-how-passion-fuels-our-inner-fire/

“All your life you’ve never seen
woman, taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?” 

-Fleetwood Mac, Rhiannon

There are two things that get me so excited I can barely contain myself. Well, three, but this isn’t that kind of blog now is it? I’m talking about discovering new music and new books. Music and books are (almost) everything. Both can touch your soul, transport you, intoxicate you.

That’s why I’m so incredibly lucky to know Helena. Because Helena is words and music. She lives them, breathes them and (thank god) writes them.

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Yes, that Helena. Dilettante, author, music aficionado. Helena who introduced me to Jessica (who still haunts my darkest dreams), Helena who wrote the amazing Memoirs Of A Dilettante (which I gobbled up like a bag of white cheddar popcorn), Helena who is a virtual walking encyclopedia of music (good music that is- we’ve had wonderful Facebook chats where she’s introduced me to some kick ass music.)

Today Helena is announcing her forthcoming Memoirs Of A Dilettante, Volume Two.

Eeeekkk!!!  I know! It’s so damn exciting!

Coming Spring 2015.

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Cover art by the supremely talented writer/ artist/ poet Hastywords.

And to whet your appetite and hold you off ’til Spring, here’s a little somethin’ somethin’ about the book:

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two is the second collection of reminiscences, following Helena Hann-Basquiat, a self-proclaimed dilettante who will try anything just to say that she has, and her twenty-something niece, who she has dubbed the Countess Penelope of Arcadia. 

Speaking of Arcadia, this volume delves into Helena’s childhood, as she revisits what she calls the Arcadia of the mind — that place that keeps us trapped and holds us back from our potential. Some of her most personal stories are included here, interspersed with hilarious stories of misadventure. It’s not a novel, really, and it’s not a memoir, by the strictest definition. But most of what follows, as they say, is true. Sort of. Almost. From a certain point of view.

Discover Helena’s tales for the first time or all over again, with new notes and annotations for the culturally impaired — or for those who just need to know what the hell was going through her mind at the time!

***

Helena is going to be running a crowdfunding/pre-order campaign at Pubslush, a community focused solely on indie writers, and has set up a profile there to launch Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two.

For more information, and to follow the progress, Become a Fan at http://HelenaHB.pubslush.com

And in case you’re not yet familiar with Ms. Helena… 

The enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.

She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

In 2014, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, several e-books which now make up Volume Two, as well as a multimedia collaborative piece of meta-fictional horror entitled JESSICA.

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell.

Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or http://whoisjessica.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat.

Check it out, check her out (her blog, I mean) and let me know what you think! All praise and thanks may be left right here in Comments….

 

Pull back the curtains and took a look into your eyes, my tongue has now become a platform for your lies

-Cage the Elephant, Back Against the Wall

I am posting all the lyrics for this one. Because there is no singling out of the best line. It is all pretty genius. And if you have the chance to see Cage the Elephant live… well, you must. It’s a crazy blend of energy and mayhem and pure adrenaline. We saw them on a one night trip to Vegas. They were opening up for The Black Keys. My husband (Joe) and I rode up in the elevator of the hotel with the band before the show. Joe chatted it up with them while I sat there with a stoopid grin on my face. The called me “Ma’am”….  A’hem, anyways…  They put on an insane show. Matt (lead singer) crowd surfed out of the building. The lyrics to this song read like a poetry slam and it rocks. Enjoy.

Back Against The Wall

Tonight I’ll have a look
And try to find my face again
Buried beneath this house
My spirit screams and dies again
Out back a monster wears a cloak of Persian leather
Behind the TV screen I’ve fallen to my knees
 I said you got me where you want me again
And I can’t turn away
I’m hangin’ by a thread and I’m feelin’ like a fool
I’m stuck here in between the shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away, I need to get away
Blanket of silence makes me want to sink my teeth in deep
Burn all the evidence of fabricated disbelief  
Pull back the curtains, took a look into your eyes
My tongue has now become a platform for your lies  
I said you got me where you want me again
And I can’t turn away
I’m hangin’ by a thread and I’m feelin’ like a fool
I’m stuck here in between
The shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away, I need to get away
Now you know, Yeah you got my back against the wall
Oh god I ain’t got no other place to hide, Chained down
Like a sitting duck just waiting for the fall
You know, yeah you got my back against the wall…
Deep in the jungle
Camouflaged by all the fallen leaves
A hand holds up the sky while shamefully I make my plea
The altar’s callin’ but my legs won’t seem to stand
Guess I’m a coward, scared to face the man I am
I said you got me where you want me again
And I can’t turn away
I’m hanging by a thread and I’m feeling like a fool
I’m stuck here in between the shadows of my yesterday
I want to get away, I need to get away
Now you know, Yeah you got my back against the wall
Oh god
I ain’t got no other place to hide
Chained down, like a sitting duck just waiting for the fall
You know, yeah you got my back against the wall

Now, you know, yeah you got my back against the wall,
Oh God, I ain’t got no other place to hide,
Chained down, like a sitting duck just waiting for the fall,
You know, yeah you got my back against the wall.

“Cause there’s a this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat…”

-Arctic Monkeys, Do I Wanna Know

I used to love making mixed tapes. I would make them for myself and for my friends. The ultimate was when a guy would make one for me, that was the way to my teenage heart. The last mix tape I made was actually a mix-CD for a friend who’d just had her heart broken. I always believed (and still do) that music heals. It helps you purge your demons when you’re angry, it helps you sort out your pain when you are going through a break up. It feeds that crazy energy you feel when you’re falling for someone. So, for you, I have put together a mix tape. There’s something for everyone. Love songs, Lust songs, Songs about heartbreak and songs for songs for the anger and bitterness for love gone bad. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it helps you get through this holiday of chocolate hearts and roses and cheesy cards.

Love Songs:

Sideways -Citizen Cope  “These feelings won’t go away, they’ve been knocking me sideways…”   Lovesong -Adele  “Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am free again”   Moondance -Van Morrison  “Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?”   Ain’t Nothing Like You -Blakroc  “Pure heart, you’re super cool, you’re live and elemental”   More Than Anything In This World  -Lenny Kravitz  “I  search the whole world, I want you to be my baby, baby…”  Little Wing -Jimi Hendrix  “When I’m sad she comes to me, with a thousand smile she gives to me free”   Like A Star -Corrine Bailey Rae  “You’ve got this look I can’t describe, you make me feel I’m alive”   Where Are You Going -Dave Matthews Band  “I do know where you go, that’s where I wanna be”   Afterglow -INXS  “Touch me and I will follow in your afterglow”   I Will Possess Your Heart -Death Cab for Cutie  “It’s like a book elegantly bound, but in a language you can’t read just yet”   A Girl Like You -The Smithereens  “I am yours and you are mine the way it should be”   Sirens – Pearl Jam “I pull you close, so much to lose, knowing that nothing lasts forever”   Running On Faith – Eric Clapton “Then we’d go running on faith, all of our dreams would come true, and our world would be right, when love comes over me and you..”

Lust Songs

Hush -Deep Purple “She’s got lovin’ like quicksand, only took one touch of my hand”        I Want Some More -Dan Auerbach “I’m just a kid in your walking candy store”       Mistify -INXS “Some silken moment, goes on forever”    Lessons In Love -Neon Trees “All day all night, I got the lights in my eyes, and I’m fallen’ for you”   Crush Crush Crush -Paramore “Rock and roll baby, don’t you know that we’re all alone now, give me something to sing about”    Straight On -Heart “I’ve got to play my hand, what the winner don’t know, the gambler understands”    Gypsy Eyes -Jimi Hendrix “Well I realize that I’ve been hypnotized, I love your gypsy eyes”    Blunderbuss -Jack White “Doin’ what two people need is never on the menu”   Love Is Strong -The Rolling Stones “Love is strong and you’re so sweet, and someday baby we’ve got to meet”   Come Together -Sons of the Sea “I’d wait around with you for worse or better, but our halcyon days are few, it’s now or never”   Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is -Jet “She’s a loaded gun in my shaken’ hands, Am I in hell or the promised land”   Girl Is On My Mind -The Black Keys “Hold me close to you, not one thing that I would not do, if you would hold me close to you”    Do I Wanna Know -Arctic Monkeys  “Simmer down and pucker up, I’m sorry to interrupt, it’s just I’m constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you”    RU Mine? -Arctic Monkeys “I guess what I’m trying to say is I need the deep end, I keep imagining meeting, wished away entire lifetimes, unfair we’re not somewhere misbehavin’ for days”    I Want You (She’s So Heavy) -The Beatles  “I want you, I want you so bad, it’s driving me mad”    Your Touch -The Black Keys “And I’ll be good, like I should, waiting and such, misery I need your touch”

Songs for the Heartbroken

I Don’t Know Why -Stevie Wonder “I don’t know why I love you, but I love you baby”  All I Ever Wanted -Lenny Kravitz “Are we even? When I know I want you and baby you want me”    Old Love -Eric Clapton “It’s making me so angry, to know that the flame still burns, Why can’t I get over, know now that I’ll never learn”    Too Late -No Doubt “And in time it will end, and there really isn’t hope for the two of us, but right now I give in”    Baby Came Home -The Neighbourhood  “She left me alone and without, skin I could study about”    Why I’m Here -Oleander “I can’t love you anymore, I’m scared of the sound of it, and woman I just wanted more”    Gone -In Sync  “Been sittin’ here, can’t get you off my mind, I’ve tried my best to be a man and be strong”     Ex Factor -Lauryn Hill “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard, loving you is like a battle and we both end up with scars”    Too Afraid To Love You -The Black Keys “It’s heaven on earth in her embrace, a gentle touch and a smiling face. I’m just one wishing that I was a pair, with someone, oh somewhere”    Bell Bottom Blues -Derek and the Dominos “I don’t wanna lose this feelin’, and if I could choose a place to die it would be in your arms”

Songs For Love Gone Bad

Top Yourself -The Raconteurs “How you gonna do it alone when I don’t pick up my phone, I’ll give a dog a bone, but I’m not gonna stick around to help you”    Grounds for Divorce -Elbow “Doubt comes in on sticks but then he kicks like a horse”    Hell and Back -Airborne Toxic Event “I held on as long as I could possibly, my blind faith pushing me to my knees…”     Moneygrabber -Fitz and the Tantrums “Don’t come back anytime, I’ve already had your kind, this is your payback, Moneygrabber”    Hang Me Up To Dry -Cold War Kids “Now hang me up to dry, you’ve wrung me out too, too, too many times”  Hypocritical Kiss -Jack White “My temper got the best of me, and when I say that I mean I know that every single thing that I said was true”    Bittersweet Me -REM “I move across, candy floss, I move like a tank, I move across the room with a heart full of gloom, I’m stronger than you think”    The Best of You -Foo Fighters “I needed somewhere to hang my head without your noose, you gave me something I didn’t have, but had no use”    Don’t Gotta Work It Out -Fitz and the Tantrums “Baby, you’re gonna need the doctor’s care, to get you over me girl, look what you’ve done”  Hemorrhage -Fuel “Oh hold me now I feel contagious, Am I the only place that you’ve left to go?”    Out of the Black -Royal Blood “And I promised you, like you promised me, but those vows we made, we boxed them in for free”

“I was a movin’ man in my younger days, But I’ve grown out of my ramblin’ ways.

I left that road so far behind, now I know, oh babe, I got mine”

-The Black Keys, I Got Mine

About 4 years ago my husband and I had tickets to go see Kings of Leon with some friends. I was looking forward to the show, thinking it would be a fun summertime outdoor concert. We settled into our seats with our overpriced draft beer and started chatting with our friends as we waited for the show to start. I was talking to my friend when the opening band started playing. I rudely stopped mid-sentence and turned towards the stage. I watched, mouth open, as two guys ripped through a gristly blues rock number. A drummer and a guitar player worked about 15 square feet of stage, surrounded by equipment covered in tarps for the headlining band. As they moved into the next song I started nudging my husband, trying to get his attention. He was engrossed in conversation with his friend and ignoring my pokes and elbows. Finally, by about the third song I punched him in the shoulder. He needed to hear this. Two guys, bare bones, no effects, no stage show, barely room to move, and a sound so rich and full and loud… I was blown away.

I had heard of The Black Keys.  I had read about them in Rolling Stone [read me], but I hadn’t really taken the time to listen to their music. I have never been more grateful to go to a show I was apathetic about. They finished their all too short set and I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin. I was so excited about what I’d just heard, I was ready to leave before Kings of Leon even came on stage. That night when we got home I downloaded their entire catalogue.

To truly appreciate the genius that is Dan and Pat, you must see them live. We have seen them six times since then. One time was at a two day music festival with dozens of bands. I watched the people around us as the band took the stage. I watched them chatting during the first song or two of the set. I watched their faces as they began to realize what they were witnessing. I watched them nudge their friends, their heads starting to bob to the rhythm. By the closing song, even the people in line for the Porta Jons were bouncing up and down and rocking.

They close every show with “I Got Mine.” This is the best live performance I’ve ever seen. I can’t fully describe what happens to the room/arena/festival when they play this song, but two guys are up on a stage controlling a crowd. No fluff, no antics, no production. Just bad ass music. The way it should be. Watch this performance and get a taste for yourself…

“All the years of paradise, paradigms, paralyze us.  You’re crazy.  All the cards you’ve organized, shuffled twice in front of my eyes, Everyone has needs, wants, a cold gun.  Lights low, go on baby go.  It’s a bad time, I’m on a tightrope.”

-Young The Giant, It’s About Time

This is the first single off Young The Giant’s new album that just came out on January 21.  I’m not completely sure what this song’s about…  a revolt, a rebellion?  A metaphor for a relationship?   Maybe all three.  But whatever the meaning, I love the lyrics quoted above.  Who can’t relate to that at some point (well, minus the gun).  This song is a little more rock than their previous stuff, which is probably why I was drawn to it.  It really shines when it breaks down at the chorus and then ramps up again…  Enjoy!