Tuesday, December 29, 2009

this thing hurts like hell / but what did you expect?

i know i've posted this before, but it bears re-posting. since i heard it, i've listened to it more than a hundred times. i put it on my ipod on the drive back to montevideo from punta del este yesterday, during a stretch of rolling hills and farmland(1), after which i listened to kid a in its entirety. that sets the general scene for where my mind was at. today we went to the cemetery in montevideo where there are plots for both sides of my dad's family-- one from 1903, and one from 1936. we put some very nice daisies(2) on each of them, and i listened to this song on the walk from one to another, just to be alone with my thoughts for a minute, since i've had increasing trouble over the last couple of years getting in touch with more than surface-level emotions. it really helped.

on the drive back the day before, i got to thinking about a few things that i hadn't had the time or desire to chew over very much recently. i'm not particularly interested in going into a detailed overshare, but i have been undersharing for a good while and since i assume only my friends (and only a few of them at that) read this(3), it may be worthwhile. my farcical relationship over the summer is something that has not totally settled in my mind, but it definitely bothers me. when i listen to the song i posted above, apart from the bits that trigger very specific personal memories, it mostly reminds me of how hard i tried, in that instance, to be the sort of person i've always wanted to be-- calm, reasonable, interested, flexible, supportive, etc. basically, an adult. and guess what? i did! i totally fucking did. best boyfriend ever. i would recommend me in the future. part of being a good person, in my mind, is doing what you can and having faith that other people will do the same. when that turned out not to be the case, i at least rest easy knowing that it absolutely was not my fault. the trick, though, is this: when you've been so burned, you've got to still be able to extend that faith to other people, but even if you (as i have) tell yourself that you are, and can, and will again, it's hard not to be a bit wary. as much as i feel like i've grown into somebody pretty cool, it's still difficult to allow chaos into my pretty well-ordered world. in fact, i think it's harder to allow myself to feel any sort of more-than-surface-level vulnerability now that i feel in control of things a bit more, since, you know, i've grown up a bit since i was 16. or 18. or 20. or 22. whatever(4). i don't know whether it was the drive, the music, the several months that have elapsed for me to unconsciously go over and over all the crazy bullshit that happened and try to find some sort of rationality in it or accept it for being insanity, or the insane driving down here in a recalcitrant stick shift truck, or what, but it feels pretty good to at least feel scared or tired or sad in a less controlled way. being in a strange country(5) helps that. and, of the many, many things i like about this song, my favorite part during the first couple days of my trip has been the first crescendo into the chorus:

She said one day to leave her
sand up to her shoulders
waiting for the tide
to drag her to the ocean
to another sea’s shore.

This thing hurts like hell
but what did you expect?

who doesn't feel that way? fuck, man, i started feeling strange and guilty for NOT feeling like i was buried to the shoulders. but this is not a sad song, and really, i'm not telling a sad story. it's just life. lots of things remind us of that. including the chorus:

And all you can hear is the sound of your own heart
And all you can feel is your lungs flood and the blood course
But oh I can see five hundred years
dead set ahead of me
Five hundred behind
A thousand years in perfect symmetry

there's beach and sea absolutely everywhere you go here. and it's not a bad place to think about anything.

(1): the eucalyptus trees are all planted in straight rows, probably about a meter apart, so from a distance they look like patches of forest. when you drive by, though, since their trunks are mostly free of vegetation, you see the lines perfectly in a flip-book or stop-motion effect, and the foliage makes for a kind of archway. it's like driving through the alhambra. so wonderful.

(2): we bought them from a lady at a stand across from the cemetary, who we talked to at length. long conversations with strangers happen all the time and i expect they will continue as the trip goes on. they're usually wonderful and interesting and she was no exception. turns out she is italian (from salerno, south of naples), has lived in montevideo for a long time, has family in italy, australia, and toronto and so has been to all of them though she speaks no english. she said, interestingly, that americans and canadians "son frios" or are cold. i thought that was pretty interesting, and from her perspective she's exactly right. as an example, she said, with apparent amazement, that her son lives in an apartment building but knows none of his neighbors! it's amazing to people here. everyone, and i mean everyone, is extremely friendly, neighborly, and helpful, to the point that they even tolerate my crappy spanish.

(3): dangerous. i may make this invitation only but i feel like that'd be a lot of work. bah.

(4): i may join a gym in the new year. i still either eat way too little or too much. i'm not ever as funny as i think i am. it's a process. it's certainly not done.

(5): that is especially strange because a lot of things seem so familiar but aren't,

Monday, December 28, 2009

alecsander trip diary vol. 3

updates on last post:

1) i forgot to mention that i've seen several men who could most accurately be described as "the uruguayan dave matthews." no further comment seems necessary.

2) soon after i wrote about blah blah blah what do i do here, we went on a long walk down the boardwalk next to the beach on the way to dinner. it was goddamn gorgeous outside. we went to a chiviteria (a place that serves chivitos, which are awesome/disgusting hamburgers, kind of like if five guys used steak instead of ground beef and piled egg, ham, cheese, and god knows what else onto a gigantic bun) and naturally i just had a big bottle of patricia, one of the local beers, instead. everyone drinks out of 3/4 L bottles here so that was just the proper serving size, and i started feeling much more at peace with the world. still didn't go dancing or meet any cute or nice argentinian girls, thanks be to challah.

3) we saw steve's doppleganger on the beach the next day. WHAT. still didn't befriend him. seems like a good omen, though.

that takes care of that. the next day we went to the beach, which was really nice. the water was pretty cold but i still really enjoyed it, which is reasonably weird for me. got a bit sunburned on my shoulders. we then went to visit some relatives and ate, then we drove up north 20 miles or so to jose ignacio, which is this strange little outpost with lots and lots of rich people.(1) it was really beautiful and deceptively quaint until you realized that everything was made out of money, even though none of them were particularly gigantic. it's the most exclusive enclave of very rich argentinians and expats. watched the sun set there. by the time we finally made it home, alive but shaken(2), we were exhausted and had to be up early. so ends that day, and today has been quiet but involved a lot of thinking but that either deserves a post of its own or no post at all, depending on how open i'm feeling like being, so we'll leave that for later.

(1): the first day we got here there was a picture on the front page of the newspaper of kevin bacon and kyra sedgwick walking in jose ignacio, which was weird. apparently uma thurman is there now.

(2): all of us forgot the loaner cellphones we've been using, and we were in two cars, so to communicate we stopped and one person got out. this worked pretty well in quiet beach towns, but given how insane the argentinians who have overrun this country drive, it was a terrible idea for our relatives to decide to stop ON THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY and run back to talk to us. she continued to try to talk to us as we were yelling at her to get back into her car until the yelling got very loud and somewhat vulgar (my bad) but we didn't die. it was touch and go for a minute.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

alecsander trip diary vol 2

today was reasonably uneventful. it's about 11pm as i write this, and the companeros are out shopping for something or another, and i decided to stay at the apartment in punta del este where we're staying for the next couple days. some thoughts:

.) i've seen a lot of really beautiful women holding hands with relatively dumpy men. this sounds like my entire life history, so maybe something about being uruguayan makes people who should know better decide to slum it a bit. who knows.

..) everyone here is still nice looking, though some of them are argentinian; you can kind of tell who they are. they look like jerks and drive like jerks. dec. 26 is the first day each year when uruguay, and especially punta del este, gets invaded by foreign tourists, so despite the fact that it's cloudy and raining on and off, tons of people are out.

...) mi hermana and i are traveling with people whose ages range from 50 to 70, which makes things a bit weird-- we don't know exactly what to do with our time. i certainly have no plan whatsoever to go out dancing, as seems to be the only option as far as nightlife here, and since it was gross out today we couldn't just go to the beach, so i feel like i'm going to rapidly run out of ideas as to how to spend my time. i used up my "i'll sit around and play guitar while you go out" night on the second night here, so i'm kind of at a loss. some relatives suggested ("hilariously", but discomfitingly as they are decades and decades older than me [and this went for both men and women, which naturally also depressed me]) that i should find an argentinian girl who is sweet (cue them miming a big butt) and nice (cue them miming large breasts). uhhhh.

....) that brings me to my next point: communication. trust me, i'm trying to get by as best i can, but let's face it: i spent 15 years taking spanish, speaking spanish on a daily basis, hearing spanish, etc., and i have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that i can't do it. plus, going to latin america doesn't magically make me outgoing, so it's not like i'm going to wander up to some people and befriend them with my hopelessly rudimentary spanish skills.(1) so, i mean, what can i do? i feel like an ugly american waste of space, but fuck, it's 11pm and lunch was at 5pm and i don't want to eat again or go to a club or frankly meet people. so what am i doing here?? all my visions of disliking traveling with relatives as a child are playing through my head, but that's just me being neurotic. and i can't even be neurotic in spanish.

so, we'll see. we may have more family around, and i hope the weather gets better so i can wander off to the beach. maybe there are american tourists(2) here that i can meet and dislike. i am kicking myself that i didn't introduce myself to steve's doppleganger yesterday. maybe it was my weird faith that all moustache-sporting people are wise(3), but i feel like he would have known the thing to do.

i have not ruled out busking with neutral milk hotel songs. let's all hope, for the sake of the argentinians, that it doesn't come to that.

see you soon america! te extrano.

(1): it also doesn't particularly help that i've structured my entire personality around being "funny" and "charming" or whatever weak approximation i actually am, so communication is especially important. i can't, i don't know, flex at people. that's how other people communicate, right? i'm basing this purely on watching MTV spring break specials while in middle school but i have sort of a hunch that i'm a little right.

(2): big ups to h-burg

(3): they have to be, right? they were wise enough to grow a moustache!

Friday, December 25, 2009

alecsander trip diary vol 1

hola, blog. me llamo al;ec.

i'm in uruguay, in this adorable british-style hotel, and it's been a long-ass two days. let me try to begin at the beginning:

we had christmas morning on christmas eve, which was wonderful, and headed out to the airport around 1:30pm. Hour zero.

traveling with abuela, hermana, padre, and my brand new sunglasses which i am in love with because it turns out i'm extremely borgeois-y, whoops, sorry class warriors-- i'm hopping off the bus for some lanvin shit. naturally we arrive with a ton of time on our hands, and the stress meter for the companeros is probably a 7 or 8, for no discernible reason. my overall goal is to make sure everyone feels comfortable without micromanaging each other, and it's going poorly; i settle for an overhot cappuccino. by the time it cools down and i drink it, i feel a little better. we leave madre at the security gate (she's got a week off with just the cats and her fifty-eighth masters thesis), and go through-- it takes me 30 seconds, including random screening patdown(1), and wait for the rest to catch up, which takes forever. console myself with an unexpectedly large sam adams at the gate, which interacts wonderfully with the cappuccino and lack of lunch in my stomach, and getting on the plane is cheerful, as is the flight to miami.

hour five: bienvenidos a miami(2). given that it's christmas eve, we walk through the terminal as the shutters on every restaurant fall like dominos. this causes great consternation among the members of my family who are more food-driven than i am, which is to say all of them, so the companero stress meter increases one tick every time we try to get food as they close the places down, so it's at approximately 900. i walked around the terminal looking for a beer. oh, btw, we don't board the plane until hour nine, so, yeah. simmering. i think about my sunglasses for a while. larry king is playing on a tv screen with the sound on, and it's one of those animal episodes, so basically it's monkeys climbing all over a lizard. things are a little surreal.

hour nine: on the plane. do make say think playing on ipod. neck pillow. 9hr flight, 11pm to 8am (11am local time). ready to sleep.

hour nine and one quarter: ipod out of batteries. baby crying and running through the aisles without parents bothering to run after her. neck pillow is making my neck sweaty. first world problems.(3)

hour eighteen: land in uruguay. not exactly well rested, but not feeling horrendous. the customs women are all beautiful.(4) i'm starting to notice a creeping understanding of where i come from, because i see people who look indefinably more like me than americans, yet they're all speaking spanish.

hour twenty: at the hotel. it's gorgeous. two stories, ivy-covered, british-style. we have a terrace on our room. hugo chavez stayed here two weeks ago-- he signed the guestbook, and there are pictures next to his signature page of him signing it. he has a cool signature. i'll see if i can upload it.

hour twenty two: we go over to meet up with some relatives. they are wonderful, and i can understand almost 90% of what they are saying, and i even get some on-the-ground information about uruguayan politics and talk a bit about american politics in spanish.(5) meet some tiny cousins; they are SO CUTE and really friendly. i taught martina (who can't be more than one and a half) how to fist bump and explode. she loves this game. hearing young kids speak in spanish is adorable and embarrassing because they speak so much better than i do. it takes an hour to leave, duh. uruguayan goodbye.

hour thirty one: back at the hotel. nap and dinner were mostly uneventful, but the companero stress level has been blissfully low. god, am i tired. we're going to punta del este tomorrow, and i've got absolutely no idea what else is going to go on while we're here, but i'll try to hit some of the fun highlights. i'm making mental notes. i figure since i never used this as a tour blog the least i could do is tell you minute details about the things that i notice, though the footnotes should hopefully help to keep the main story thread.

(1): the TSA guy patting me down was middle aged, glasses, moustache, and when i saw him, slight smile. he explains that he is going to give me a limited patdown, and i say that i'm glad i won the contest. naturally, my pants are ... reasonably fitted. i understand his wry expression. we part ways.

(2): my dad doesn't realize this is a will smith song as he says this repeatedly. naturally.

(3): the guy sitting in front of me may as well be steve's long lost relative. he's got a waxed handlebar moustache, about steve's height and build, carrying a small-body martin guitar, seems like a really nice dude. i wanted to befriend him, but, you know. i didn't. i did, however, almost get a picture of him to photoshop into jeter family pictures.

(4): one looked like a uruguayan natalie portman. this is what i mean by indefinably more like me than americans-- uruguay is strange. we talked with other family members today about which ones, when in europe, are spoken to in english first and which are spoken to in spanish. anita, who is tall and has red hair and constantly is addressed in english, speaks only enough english to know when this is happening and set people straight.

(5): the problem is that none of us have slept more than 4 hours, so focusing on understanding what everyone is saying, especially as things get louder and louder and more chaotic, and trying to speak (speak!) spanish, is utterly exhausting. i, and we, felt a little rude but our exhaustion was showing on our faces.

Monday, December 14, 2009

late to every party

the rough story of my weekend in three cryptic songs that i really like, two of which i heard today:

ugly sweaters and all: come one come on

c'mon rick!: the guy you didn't want to invite came and got drunk

the fall of rome: the next morning; give me my sunday, and every day, to myself

Thursday, December 10, 2009

cause every win on this record's hard won

i was thinking about how much i love the wrens today, and i remembered there's a pre-album version of "this boy is exhausted" -- so, it's history lesson time. take a seat.

pre-album version came out on a drive-thru records comp in 1999. this was a mere 2-3 years after they'd been screwed over, but a stunningly short 3 years from when silver came out (when they used to put records out, you know, pretty frequently). so it's kind of punk rock sounding and wonderful, and some of the lyrics were different, but the main difference between this and what ended up on the meadowlands in 2003 was the chorus: the 1999 version features charles singing "i will never give up / this boy is exhausted," whereas the meadowlands version just has a guitar playing the melody followed by them singing "this boy is exhausted." that and there are a few painful new lines: "a VP's faith is one single long;" "the woven strap wins the galloway girls;" "every win on this record's hard won." yeah, this is a pretty autobiographical song.

check out the difference (ignore the shitty usermade video). 1999:

and 2003:

and, if you dare, remember that THIS BAND HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 20 YEARS. let me repost a great picture of them from 1991 plus the band commentary, from their website:

"Now, we don’t usually condone the zestier language here, but just look at this fucking mess. There are airline disasters less grisly.

Charles has given new meaning to the old sexist phrase ‘nice knobs’. It now means ‘knees’. He’s also going a little heavy on the “She Blinded Me with Rest-stop Sunglasses and Short-Pants” and looks, not so much further back in the photo, as he does much, much smaller than everyone else.
As if Kevin’s imagining him.

Kev has shed the top half of his exoskeleton to reveal the world’s tightest wristwatch and a surprising commitment to ‘Lite’ beer. But that’s all to distract us from a more sinister truth – Kevin Whelan…is a Centaur and the folded jumpsuit hides his bottom horsey half.

Jerry is mulling over an especially tough call on the last corner kick while moonlighting as the most intensely motivated salesperson at Foot Locker.

He in turn, is wearing the Pope Gregory hat – a stunning 28” likeness of Greg rendered in felt and beaver fur.
Water-repellent. Reversible. Sleeveless.

Good thing there was a camera there at the exact moment the four of us beamed in to lay claim to Least Cool Band in the Universe."

yes. so wonderful. i am going to move to new york so i can take guitar/recording/awesomeness lessons from them.

Monday, December 7, 2009


don't fuck around with me and fried tofu. you want a spicy marinade? i will give you a spicy marinade that will make you wish you were never born because you don't have enough taste buds to fully appreciate its majesty.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

big staahz

check this out:
O! the confessional singer! Just because you stick yourself in a bedroom and record very personal things about how hard life is for you, you think people will respond any other way – with this total indifference? If it wasn’t so specifically based around all, you know, you’re shitty last couple of years – none of it your fault, of course – and you didn’t call all of it Woe Is Me, maybe all your woes wouldn’t get a big F.U. Keep it to yourself.
GOTCHA SUCKA! not talking about me, though unwittingly may have been talking about me several years ago. glad i bought those pedals and those new shoes, eh? in actual fact, peter squires was really good and knowing about his faux-seriousness-- a song including a call-and-response line BURN! (WITCH!) was prefaced by the lines "while you were on that farm you must have eaten deadly nightshade and turned into a witch / because you look like a witch, you act like a witch, and you've been riding around on a broom / and so the only thing i can do is shoot flaming arrows at you."

maybe you had to be there, but he was a real nice guy and the songs were winning.

the real money quote (buried lede? [nut graf??!?]) was this:
There’s promise in DC’s Alecsander minimal folk-electronica blend.
sweet! i've got to meet that guy! wait, it's actually me and steve. great blog, though! i'm not sure where the promise comes from, but it may be that they got some shred of goodness out of the varied crap i've posted on the internet. either way, it's nice to get recognized a little and it was wonderful to see so many people at the show.

speaking of bands i want to meet: hi, the zombies! time to get out the music discovery formula!! let's see... formed in 1961, my friend emily's favorite band she mentioned to me ten million years ago, underappreciated, broke up before their biggest hits, funny-looking members, cult classic, wes anderson soundtracked, etc etc etc. pretty much right in my wheelhouse. but, FUCK they are good. (fun fact: peter played a cover of "this will be our year" to end his set. synergy!) you can bet that the new animal collective EP and the zombies will dominate my last.fm for the foreseeable future. here's a video with some really heartbreaking/warming family super8 footage.