25 July 2011

Week 3: Seeing the Sign, Masked Brunches, and Doing the "Michael Jackson."

Week 3 seems to be the week that I hit my stride. Not only did I figure out a way to suffocate my inner demons, but I figured out how to release the rope that someone had thrown around my foot intent on dragging me down to the bottom with them. This also means, my blog for this week will undoubtedly be less entertaining than in the weeks before, as I found myself spending more time working. It felt exceptional.

Perhaps some of the most important advice I received this week came to me last night from a dear friend. She reminded me that I should stop blaming myself for someone else's inadequacies. And that I should take the first step forward, just to walk this way and let him walk that way...one foot in front of the other. And just like that I realized how many times instead of recognizing the inability of a person to give you what you need, we turn inwards. We seek some explanation within. We obsess over something we can't change. At that moment, the most wonderful thing happened, I felt unbearably light. Let it go.

So besides my own inner turmoil, what happened this week?

1. After rescheduling an interview, I took the afternoon to explore Condado. I visited my favorite beach park, then stopped on my way home at a little restaurant called Greenhouse for a mojito and tostones. It was nice to sit and reflect, alone.

2. Martes Karaoke at El Local with the family....and to finally get to see Carlos, Noelia, and Ralph again. There's nothing quite like dancing, singing, and laughing with my good friends...and remembering Ralph's astute observation about how much brand new relationships are sort of like Christmas. Not to mention, out of nowhere, someone decided to sing Ace of Base's I Saw the Sign song. Obviously, the song of the summer. And FINALLY, Jorell getting to sing Tarzan Boy.

3. Three great interviews at the UPR.

4. My beach days.

5. Some awkward sights...the teenage boy on the train with an out-of-control mullet singing loudly to Beyonce's Single Ladies...and another teenage boy skateboarding to the beach in a pair of blue crocs.

6. Meeting potential interviewees while out running errands.

7. A failed Tacomaker expedition with Eggie.

8. The rock n' roll show at Nuestro Son with Eggie, Jorell, Santos, and Carlos. I got a chance to see Marisol, which was lovely. Listen to some geek talk about video games. Watch my life flash before my eyes as I almost died from a mosh pit...particularly, my favorite was when the fella I thought was protecting me from the pit decided to join in...and proceeded to pick up another young man lifting him straight over his head and throw him into the pit.

9. July 23rd. A sweet--yet drunk-- late night text message.

10. Brunch prepared by Enrique and Magaly on Sunday, complete with a whole slew of 3-eyed masks and a history lesson...and of course, apple juice. There should always be apple juice at brunch.

11. Sunday. Beach. Mary Wells. Productivity.

12. My discovery of Orange Crush in the pharmacy near the house...and the fact it reads Crush China.

13. Going to Joel's apartment in Rio Piedras for his famous Huevos Rancheros this morning, which was delightful...and finding out upon arrival that Cholo was joining us. There was good conversation, delightful food, and the joy of seeing old friends. I'll have to see these two much more in the coming weeks.

14. Family dinners....with stories of Michael Jackson and more "incidents." I thought I'd never stop laughing.

15. The random moments when Enrique breaks out in song and dance in the living room.

What's planned for the upcoming week?
More interviews. More karaoke. Soul dance party. Chepi Fest in San Juan. And of course, more more beach days with my lovely friends here.

PR Week 3

Although I've got some classy videos.....they are taking forever to download, so I'll save them for another time.

20 July 2011


"I know this bar with a jukebox full of medicine...I know this song, with this one really killer line. I can't remember exactly, but it slays me every time." -Ani Difranco

It should come as no surprise to you that with a blog called Music Is Memory, that music acts as a primary organizing force in my life. In addition, due to the fact that my career requires me to spend hours upon hours at a computer in solitude, I spend many hours with music playing through my headphones. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting a new record or playing an old favorite through my headphones, while enjoying a beverage or two. In fact I could probably spend an entire day doing just that....wait, I think I have recently. If pressed, I'm pretty sure I could make a soundtrack for every phase of my life, every friend, every lover, and every road trip that I've ever had.

But for some reason, there were a couple of months at the end of last semester I forgot this. Somehow, I began spending far more time watching television and far less time listening to music. I'm not sure how it happened, but I do remember who reminded me of how much I absolutely love to just sit and listen. Navigating through playlists or youtube videos and enjoying the simple joy of discovery, to travel back through painful and happy memories...and sometimes turn it up so loud in your apartment that the sounds bellow out into the streets.

During a rather tumultuous "relationship" I had during the past couple of months, a man (to remain unnamed) reminded me. We shared a musical motif from the past. Songs, records, and bands that despite not knowing each other, we shared. Although Jawbreaker's 24 Hour Revenge Therapy meant different things to us, it was important that we had both grown up with it. We didn't have to do all the work of translation that happens when two individuals come from different musical motifs. And in a somewhat obsessive manner, we shared music with one another. Some days, we communicated primarily through song lyrics. Other days, he would come over and we'd lay on my couch, sharing headphones, listening to the music turned up as loud as possible-- recounting our memories of the songs and making some of our own memories to others.

And I realized how intimate it is to share music with someone, particularly by sharing the same set of headphones.

But then I started thinking about all the times I've shared music. Having friends located all around the world, there are many nights we find ourselves chatting, sharing youtube videos with one another...often going to the extreme, as my friend Amada and I have-- by synchronizing our listening by starting the song at the same time, while simultaneously typing out our favorite lyrics as the song plays.

More recently, at the height of the tumultuous "love affair" (I'm using quotes because exactly what it was has yet to become solidified in my mind), my friend Art came over to my house...and we laid on my living room floor and played Bright Eyes as loud as possible, while singing at the top of our lungs. Sometimes we got up to dance. Other times, we cried. And still other moments, we laughed hysterically.

Tonight, I spent a portion of my evening constructing a playlist for my dear neighbor Ashley, who is about to embark on an incredible journey that will land her in Wales for graduate school. She mentioned needing more "break-up songs" to help her break-up with the city of Nashville...and if there is anything I know, it is broody, sad songs. The kind of songs you can listen to, while soaking in all the sadness. Sometimes it is just necessary.

But I keep coming back to sharing those damn headphones. Lying next to one another on the couch, forced to stay close to keep the headphones in our ears, often with our eyes closed, just listening.

And now that things have ended, I'm left with the task of etching out my pain from an "exploitative situation" (see, I'm still not sure), by posting songs on my facebook wall that echo and resonate my dissatisfaction over the loss and emptiness. When I try to ask myself why I'm doing this? I suppose I'm still using music to share, to communicate, to write the words to the emotions I'm not sure how to name. But maybe more importantly, to demonstrate the impact it had on me, like a bruise that still hasn't quite faded.

All of this has reminded me of just how many of my memories and emotions I pack into music. Songs that once reminded me of a past situation have become reconstructed, with multiple memories embedded into just that one song.

"And if the sound of this it frightens you, we could play it real cool, and act somewhat indifferent." -Cracker

Furthermore, I found evidence of this power tonight when I came across a show that All Songs Considered recently podcasted. It is called "Cry Baby Cry: Songs That Make You Weep" (and you can listen to it here). Listening to both Bob and Robin recount their own memories attached to songs, as well as stories from listeners, was heartbreaking, even if at times it felt like Casey Kasem's long distance dedications.

So, there you have it.

And here is a video for you that resonates at the moment...

18 July 2011

Week 2: Crushes, Road-Trips, and a Sunburn

Once upon a time, Monday use to imply one of two things: Motown Monday at the 5 Spot or Manic Monday at Cafe 103...but that was a more simple time. So, tonight, I've got a dance party for one in my room-- while thinking about past nights at the Cafe and Motown dance parties in my house with my neighbors. Incidentally, this also means I'm looking for a dance party on the island...so folks, let me know if there is one happening.

This past week, I started interviewing. 2 interviews, 8 hours of data, and loads of follow up contacts. I also started working again, which was an incredible feeling.

Ultimately, I can safely say I'm on the right track now. There are no trains on this track.

Although I haven't secured any interviews for tomorrow, I'm trying to remember one of the most important lessons that I learned my first summer-- just let things happen and unfold naturally. So much of what happens on the island takes place on its own time, without being forced. Some days the person you are interviewing doesn't show up or sometimes you have to reschedule, but they always get done. It was this lesson that I lost sight of in the last month and a half...and so I'm glad to fully embrace it again.

So, what happened last week?

1. I had two incredible interviews with people I've been wanting to interview for over a year. They were incredibly insightful and gave me some new perspectives on my research. Not to mention, the company was stellar.

2. I successfully navigated the bus to Old San Juan and even got to feel superior to the other gringos on the bus.

3. Within five minutes of arriving at Universidad de Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras, I ran into an old friend...the sweet Cholo. We got to catch up briefly and I'm super stoked to see him in the upcoming week.

4. I gave directions to a young woman who attends the UPR-Mayaguez campus, but only after mistakenly thinking she was asking me for directions to the closest waiter, not museum.

5. I had a wonderful meeting with a future collaborator, Alessandra-- while we shared drinks at El Refugio (one of my favorite spots in Rio Piedras).

6. Developed a crush and made tentative future plans to oooh and aah over said recipient of crush.

7. Family dinner...avocado egg rolls might be the most delicious thing I've ever put in my mouth. (Come on, Ashley, Michelle, and Cassy...get your head out of the gutter).

8. Jorell and Magaly's tiniest violin.

9. Finally feeling awake again. Really, really awake...though not being able to sleep until the wee hours of the morning, but also making some progress on my paper.

10. Beach days...like last Friday and today. Sadly, today, I've developed an intense sunburn. Yes, this is why they make sunscreen. You'd think I'd have learned that by now.

11. Although this is state-centric, Erin Bergner buying me a ticket to see Wilco in October.

12. Road trip to Aguadilla with Magaly, Jorell, and Eggie for Chepi Fest. There was good music. There was laughter. There were uncomfortable situations in the parking lot of the Wendy's. There were roosters crossing the road. But most importantly, there was Ace of Base.

13. Chepi Fest in Aguadilla. Chepi was a close friend of Jorell and Magaly that passed away last summer. Actually, I was here last summer when it happened and I remembered being moved by the emotions they shared with me. Chepi's loss impacted loads and loads of people...and when Jorell recounted to me at the show what people loved so much about Chepi, I was reminded of the loss of Charlie. It sounded like they were cut from the same cloth. Plus there was lots of great music and good friends.

14. The quote..."I'm pretty sure he has everything big."

15. Dragging Jorell away from the show...which resulted in Jorell and I almost fighting one another, Chester fries, and the wicked Gasolina (which folks, is awesome. It is basically a mixed drink in a Capri Sun pouch, complete with a straw and everything...GENIUS).

16. Jorell and I joking the whole next day about fighting.

17. Texting with Art on Sunday afternoon...and realizing they'll never let us share a room at rehab. (Sad face).

18. Making a wise, wise choice.

19. Going to the movies here. I particularly enjoyed the fact that popcorn only costs $1.70. The movie was fantastic, but perhaps my favorite part is when the Woody Allen movie was only in French and the subtitles were in Spanish-- and I got to practice my understanding of the language by figuring out what was being said.

So, there you have it...another wonderful week full of productivity, ocean waves, and the most fantastic friends. Here's to next week (Saludos!)...where I'll get to see more old friends (Joel, Carlos, Noelia, Miguel, Cholo, Bernabe....this means you, so make it happen)...and I'll continue to work. Not to mention, today, I realized I've only got a month left...and that made me a little sad.


Puerto Rico Summer Week 2

11 July 2011

Fevers and Shaky Hands (in the comfort of friends)...Week 1

Yes, the title of this blog is taken from Bright Eyes' album Fevers and Mirrors...because it worked and resonated. Tomorrow, I start my second out of six weeks on the island for my summer research. Since I don't pretend to make this blog about my work (nor do I care too)...I'm mostly posting stories and pictures from my free time on the island.

As many of you may know, the month of June was full of highs and lows...drastically high and low. And some of it followed me into the month of July. The details are unnecessary, but besides barely making it to the island-- after almost missing my flights, yes, both of them-- I knew that I needed to be here, not there. But at first I didn't quite feel that way, it took almost a week for me to adapt, to recoup, to heal, to feel like myself again. And now I can feel the island on my skin. I can hear it when I sleep soundly (finally, again) through the night. I can smell it when I walk through the streets, navigating my way in unfamiliar places. Seven days, it took me to come back. But I finally feel like I'm really back at home...and I'm happy to say it.

It took the love and kindness of those around me, for sure. Almost immediately upon arrival, I let myself open up to those around me-- particularly, Magaly and Jorell. Instead of pretending as if everything was going well for me, I let them in. And from that moment on, they've done nothing but give me the love and support that I've needed. When necessary, they left me to my own devices. Other times, they convinced me to go out and remember what I love so much about this place. In other words, they were perfect and it reminds me of why I love them so.

So, what? What the hell? (I'm pretty sure when I was recounting the details of my first "real" night of sleep in a week to Magaly tonight, Jorell was saying this in Spanish to me)

Well, here you go folks...some top events from the last week...
(in the vein of my posts from last summer)

1. The Carlos airport pick-up experience. We drove to PiƱones from the airport. I had my first piragua. When Carlos asked what flavor, I said any. The fella making them said something like, "I'll make her the anise one because it is good for the heart." Wow. I'm immediately blown away by the significance of this statement. I also had my first meat on the island, as we shared bacalaito and alcapurrias. Then we made our way to our favorite "airport pick-up/drop-off" beach for a little drinking, talking, and baptism. Carlos wasn't feeling so great that day, so we had a short time. But as I walked to the ocean, I promised to let the past month wash over me.

2. My arrival at the apartment of Magaly, Jorell, and Enrique. We talked about Jorell's time in Bloomington-- complete with some literature about how to combat sexism and homophobia (as you will see pictured). And that night, I confessed all to Magaly and Jorell.

3. Taking a cold shower, while the three roommates serenaded me as they practiced karaoke tunes before we headed out for an evening at El Local.

4. Karaoke Night at El Local. There was laughter, singing, and dancing. There was even the posting of a Stay Sick sticker. One of my favorite pictures so far from the trip is the picture from the karaoke of This Charming Man, where you can see the silhouette of the roomies belting out the tune.

5. The beautiful, beautiful ocean.

6. My first visit to Bebo's Cafe with Magaly, Jorell, and our roomie from last summer, M-m-m-Mario. It was so wonderful to catch up with an old friend-- and to have carne fritas at Bebo's.

7. The dinner Enrique prepared us-- I had my first piece of beef-- churrasco with arroz y gandules. It was fantastic. And the beginning of the masked dinners.

8. The bobcat....and its name.

9. Setting up my desk in my room and feeling like working, again. Finally.

10. Getting the opportunity to attend Ricardo Alegria's wake in Old San Juan. While it was strange (the dead body part and my limited knowledge of his work), I was glad to be present and pay tribute to a pioneer of Puerto Rican culture.

11. The longest experience ever at the K-mart copy center with Jorell. While I thought I might pass out, the hilarity of the day will never be forgotten. Plus, getting to see Jorell with his printed Master's Thesis was quite fantastic.

12. Un Final Fatal show at Executive Manolo with Eggie, Jorell, and Enrique.

13. Nellylandia with Eggie...putting up another Stay Stick sticker and making new friends- Marisol!

14. Sunday brunch of Huevos Rancheros with the family.

15. A day trip to Aguadilla....if for nothing else other than getting to try relleno de papa, which apparently took me way too long to eat...and subjected me to many future jokes about eating like a bird.

16. The rain that resulted in going to El Platanal with Enrique and Jorell-- after subtle convincing, "Come on Katherine, they have Medalla!" and eating one of the greatest sandwiches ever (as pictured). Pork shoulder on two platanos with two Medallas on the side.

17. And always, sitting with the family in the living room. Talking, laughing, singing, and sometimes dancing.

So, there you have it. A wonderful first week. A week that led me back. I'm so fortunate to have these gracious friends. You just have no idea.

Tomorrow, I have my first interview for the summer. See you next week, folks.

So, here are the pictures:

PuertoRicoSummer Week 1

And here is a video....

The first one is from the first karaoke night at El Local (which promises to be this summer's Manic Mondays)

I intended to post a video of the delightful Un Final Fatal...but after two failed attempts at uploading. I'm giving up for now.

Chau, mis amigos.