I'm going down to the place tonight
The damp and hungry place tonight
Should all the stars shine in the sky
They couldn't outshine your sparkling eyes
But it's so hard to be the one
To touch and tease and to do it all for fun
But it's too much for a young heart to take
'Cause hearts are the easiest things you could break.
So why, yet again, am I bringing up my favorite band? Because my column is finished, that's why. I'm finished. Four months shy of 10 years, my time at The Stranger must come to an end. And since I've made a career of writing only what I feel (to ends both good and bad), let's just say there are some things, believe it or not, that I can't possibly put into words. An explanation for leaving serves as a perfect case in point.
What I will say, however, is that ultimately, The Stranger has provided me with the means to get the kind of education you can't get from reading books, despite the many biographies I've pushed over the years. The education came from having a job that afforded me the chance to experience so many memorable nights of music, so many awesome records, so many bands full of hope, and so many opportunities to make friends with musicians whose talents I observe in awe. I'm talking about all facets of the local scene here, including the people in the background who make things happen for the rest.
To every band who's had my support, and also to those I shamefully ignored (the forthcoming EP from the Lashes, The Stupid Stupid, is truly great, as good as Redd Kross, and I'm sorry I let their relentless self-promotion induce at least a year of stubborn refusal to pay attention), thank you. I mean that--hate mail included. (Poop packages, potential explosives, and death threats are not, though.)
In case you haven't noticed, 27 is the new 23. Yeah, I'm old enough that the action of Lloyd Cole signing my shabby copy of Rattlesnakes actually caused the strap of my sundress to pop off. (Thank the freakin' Lord for providing the slight chill in the air that demanded a cardigan.) And, back when I was 23--er, 27--I'd have scoffed in the face of anyone who believed that a journalist of my current "age group" would have a clue as to what was going on within their particular local scene's young bands. But fuck if I don't still rave tirelessly; weep even, when a band's hotly anticipated debut shakes the hell out of me with their obvious potential. I may not be writing within these pages, but I'll forever be thinking as if I still were. In case you hadn't noticed, I don't go down easily.
To that end, I've worked with some great editors over the years, but I have to give sole credit to current music editor Jennifer Maerz for making the paper's music section that which provides the city's best coverage. From her I've learned not only how to become a better writer, but that compassion and patience are attributes to strive for daily. She's quite a gal.
As people go, Stranger publisher Tim Keck is peerless in his understanding of human emotions, loyalty, and vision for the paper he hired me to write for when it was a third of the page count than that of the Portland newspaper I'd left behind. Two weeks into my new job here I was sure I'd made a mistake. (Steven "Hump" Humphrey and Brad Steinbacher sat side by side as they shared one desk; our receptionist, Nipper, had long hair; and the newly hired accountant Rob Crocker liked to blast the Cocteau Twins, much to my irritation.) I guess I should have felt uneasy about my future back then, given that during my interview for this job, I didn't realize Tim was the publisher, so I gave all answers and eye contact to everyone else in the group. I just thought he was some guy in a baseball cap who kept asking me about cigars.
Goddammit, I'm gonna cry like a baby if I write another word about leaving, so I have to let someone else finish this piece. Here goes already, but not before the scene is set: A couple of months ago I found something I thought I'd lost, a letter from my grandma written to me in 1976 when I was 12 and she was 67 or so. I can see her sitting there, alone at the desk that was her island, writing freely with a glass of some spirit set next to her, never knowing how much it would mean to me so many years later:
I was watching out of the door, looking at the changes in the colors of the trees, maple was a wreath of gold, now the ground is. I marvel at the trees across the railroad with shades of yellow, gold, and greens that one never sees until the contrast. I've watched for years and each year it looks more beautiful. Contrasting with such beautiful skies as today--alternate blues, apricots, white, and now light beige--until it darkens. But I know that the colors are still there.
I have your leaves to remind me each night. They are so lovely. Your gifts of wildflowers bring you to mind each day. I'll always think of you when they are in bloom--buttercups, daisies, mayflowers, cowslips--all the wildflowers and weeds that you brought me. Always in my memory they are there with you.
This is my way to say that you have filled my life and that I love you.
I have the letter taped on the wall next to my desk, and I'll always wonder if I ever wrote back after she sent it. It's due to her gift of language that I innately began writing, though I wouldn't begin until she'd been gone for more than a decade. (Way after I saw my foolishly imagined future with the CIA go to shit when a throng of University of Oregon hippies forced a plane full of recruiters to take their dirty business elsewhere. I'm sure she orchestrated that from the grave as well. And with that, once more, I digress.) Blame her for my lack of inner editing and foul maw, too, as she was a lady who spoke her mind, even if it meant hollering "horseshit!" while everyone else kept their mouths tight and quiet. I guess I inherited that trait, too.
Jeez, enough with the long goodbye, and didn't I already say I couldn't write another word through the tears? Just do me, and Nina Vivienne, a final favor--remember to take time out, each day, to notice the contrasts.