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All content copyright 2009 by Holly Gleason. Web design by Lauren Carelli.

April 2005

April 2005: Saguro Crosses, Birthday Surprises, Egg Times & Springsteen’s Prayer

Saguro Crosses

They grow 150 into the air—and continue reaching for sun, even as they grow arms perpendicular and up, for centuries. They have woody ribs that allow them to grow so high, that protect the main water source deep inside, that allow woodpeckers to bore holes inside them—holes that scab over without killing the saguro—so that the giant cacti can be home to others. And when the woodpeckers move on to their next nest, any number of smaller desert birds can take up residence. But what is truly breathtaking about the saguro is the way they stand so tall and proud, often against the horizon, looking like a desert casting of the crucifix. Saguro cactus are humbling in their plain reach-for-the-sky dignity. Without being flowery or celebrated, they stand in the burning sun and remind us of the greater sacrifice made. And standing on a dirt road in Tuscon, as this year’s Easter was just beyond dying, looking at the saguro crosses made me feel connected to something far larger than my day-to-day.


Devils & Dirt—Bruce Springsteen

It’s not the ghost of the Ghost of Tom Joad, though no doubt drive-by exposure will evoke the Steinbeck-invoking album of lost souls high and dry on the faded edges of the American Dream. Instead Devils & Dirt is a blood-coursing meditation on desire and fear, falling and the potential for flying. “All The Way Home,” “All I’m Thinking About” and “Maria’s Bed” are as rife with want as anything since “Rosalita”—and even when it’s about desires beyond the flesh,songs like “Long Time Comin’” elevate our wants from acquisitive to inherent of the human condition. Gently raw, utterly organic, it’s the hushed places of Springsteen’s mind where the prayer of life gets spun—and we can all understand how to recover from the falter, find compassion for the not-quites and understanding for the way desolation turns people so many ways. “Jesus Was An Only Son,” indeed.

Birthday Surprises

Depends on the person. But it’s that thing that is so deeply personal, so utterly them, that whatever else happens, it’s made a memory. Maybe it’s sending the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gopher mascot with a cake, maybe it’s remembering that someone loves old books. Perhaps it’s even just an armful of flowers when they’re not expecting it. Birthdays are not to be fretted, they’re to be celebrated. Let’s re-calibrate by making someone else’s big day special, and see how good it feels.

Egg Timers

The gift of 3-5 minutes. Eyes closed, mind still, released from the right now. And no fretting over “how long” or “am I done,” because you’ve put your trust in a little miracle of wonder: the egg timer. Any hardware store, Wal-Mart or William Sonoma has one; no excuses. Ommmmmmmm….

Word:The Quality Music Magazine

Another positively genius British music magazine—with a sampler that spans and scans so many musical possibilities. Not one to sensationalize the bitter and the bitchy, the balance between hard truth and real life in their Joni Mitchell cover story from the March issue—or the tartness that marks street hassler Lou Reed’s talk with Sylvie Simmons tempered with a genuine softness to Ornette Coleman open up other facets to the artists they embrace.

Graveyard roses

They are low to the ground, a tangle of branches covered with small flat evergreen colored leaves. But the roses—equally flat, almost as two-dimensional as Georgia O’Keefe rendered them—are bursts of rich velvety color scattered and splattered all over these jumbo cushions of flora in the desert. Like the moment when a birthday snapper pops, only static, graveyard roses just grab your attention, hold you, scream beauty in a barren place—literally (the desert) or figuratively (the graveyard).

It!  Paula Froelich

Paula Froelich doesn’t require a whip and a chair to keep the boldfaces—and their minions—in line from her perch at The New York Post’s much-vaunted Page 6. As a queen of the gossip column—and she is the heir apparent to anyone who matters/ed, our lady of the juicy tidbit rules with a sense of humor, a cut-to-it clarity and a willingness to tell the truth. Here, in a book subtitled 9 Secrets of the Rich & Famous That Will Take You To The Top, Froelich lifts the veil and explains just how momentum is created. Not particularly mind-boggling stuff, mind you, but laid out with such no-nonsense truth-telling, that anyone willing to work from the real should find some kind of broader-based perspective/exposure than whatever they were trying to force wasn’t delivering. And the voice that she chooses to write in—personal, ironic, even sarcastic—takes all the sting out of the truth.

Endorphins

Endogenous morphine. Hello? Narcotics you kick up yourself? A-men and Halle-loo-yah!

Porgy & Bess—Miles Davis

It is Miles Davis’ 75th anniversary—and the grandmaster of cool, a man who re-wrote the rules and possibilities is as timely now as ever. This—considered by many to be his wonderwork with Gil Evans—takes the songs known on a sub-cellular level by almost any American drawing breath, and it casts them in a sultry, yearning, exultant light. The notes merge into each almost, practically exuding the sweat of desire, in a way that can make even casual listeners go “Damn!” as the mind wanders into mergers of a fleshier sense. Listen and dream.


“Bad Boyfriend” Garbage

Bleed Like Me takes the ravenous techno-libidinal plunge to Warhol-esque places, especially the title track (perhaps the best spotlight on self-loathing behaviors tempered with compassion since Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side”). But it’s on the buzz-saw driven taunt flashfire “Bad Boyfriend” that Shirley Manson’s icy do-me challenge is set to its best kinetic burst, promises of the instant-combustion tempered by the whispered moan and knowing beckon. A driving track that rocks, a searing vocal that melts polar caps, a feisty call to arms and hips and thrust and buckle swirls and tears—and reminds us that even when deeply controlled, that restraint can make rock as—or perhaps even more—hard and dangerous. Take the straight-razor in your teeth and find the nearest pole.


Canyon Ranch Tuscon, Arizona

As a spa, there may be no brattier place on the face of the earth: the ladies locker room alone has a hot and medium hot Jacuzzi, sauna, steam and inhalation room, quiet area, nude sunbathing patio, cool down room and products and drinks and cold cucumbers/washcloths to one’s heart’s content. There are exercise classes, a yoga dome, an aquatic center that is painted with what appear to be Native American hieroglyphics, three more pools, a golf training area, plenty of tennis courts, every exercise machine known to man—and the trainers and exercise physiologists to go with all that. And they have the beyond tasty, calorie-saavy spa food you’d expect.
   And all of that is wonderful, but it’s only the sprinkles. The rest of the sundae is the high-level medical/mental opportunities—practitioners of integrated medicine, acupuncture, biofeedback, nutritionists, chiropractors, massage therapists who do more than shiatsu and Swedish and deep tissue. This is a whole other realm of health care—one where the patient takes charge, gets preventative, seeks a deeper way. And the mantra to all of it is: choices. We got’em, get to make’em—leaving the “victim” empowered. That the Tuscon campus is adobe cottages, littered with flora from the Southwest and any other arid climate, it’s Georgia O’Keefe in an adult summer camp reality. Whatever it is you wish to find, want to do, experience with regard to one’s health or fitness, it’s here. Absolutely.


Kissing Boys (or Men) Just To Kiss Them

The ones who slavishly adore you, who practically shudder when they kiss you. And sometimes, that’s all it has to be. Lips against lips as hearts race, palms sweat and nothing more is meant or intended. There are some pretty rakish, mysterious men who can be quite content with just this; and it maintains the tautness of desire for as long as you both shall breathe.


Weekender Bag  Lilly Pulitzer

Aside from the beyond cheerful prints—mine is giant pink asters cast against a color that can only be described as falling somewhere between lime and Kelly green—they may be the MOST functional throw’n'go I’ve seen. Leather carry handles. Web over-the-shoulder-strap. Outside pockets—both ends and the middle panel between the handles—all snap. Inside is waterproof nylon lining—with several pockets configured for cell phones, beauty products, even jewelry pouches. In this time of lost luggage and screenings of checked bags that often result in locks coming off, and heavens knows what after that, this is roomy enough to get what you need where you’re going. Simply genius. Simply absolutely.


Children of Rock Stars issue  Rolling Stone

It’s just come off the newsstands, but you should be able to find it here and there. The children of Jerry Garcia, Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle, Gregg Allman and Cher, Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, James Taylor and Carly Simon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono address the upside down life that is the privileges and baggage of growing up in the shadow of pop culture supernovas. Doubt, insecurity, perks and lessons learned in atypical ways are the theme for the cover story—and also the non-sensational examination of the return of rough(ed-up) guy Mickey Rourke, the tough guy actor who ran himself out of Hollywood, became a boxer and is now en route to a resurrected acting career.


Vidallia Onion Bisque Capitol Grille, Hermitage Hotel, Nashville

Pureed to where it’s thick without being lumpy, the sweet Vidalia onions are brought to their earthiest essence for this beyond-comfort-food rendering of a classic “cream of” standard. It has a piquancy that isn’t spicy, isn’t prickly, but it’s interesting enough to get your tongue to perk up. And the mini grilled brie sandwich served with it takes that whole comfort notion to a new level.

Purple Larkspur

Radnor Lake is carpeted with it—looking like fairy dust hovering just above the ground. Succulent blossoms on thin emerald green stems. They are abloom everywhere, and they offer the reminder of how nature covers its own debts with reminders of health, vigor and gentle loveliness.

Love Is Hell    Ryan Adams

In a world where perceptions can eclipse reality, Love Is Hell may be my biggest mea culpa of 2004. Adams J.V. antics as the auteur boy Courtney Love (all ego, no strum) felt more like rotted velvet and stale clove cigarettes than something that could carry delicate filigrees of electricity; and so, I missed this record. Thanks for the patient forbearance of my dear Trey Lee, the graceful wonders of the record recently unfolded as the road fell beneath my wheels on a lot of patched 2-lane blacktop—proper echo on the piano recorded in a room too large, wisps of cello, acoustic guitar chords with breathing space, the how of the recording building and reinforcing the lyrical sentiments. “Wonderwall” alone, with its broken howling that’s more husk of a voice than any kind of full-on life force offers the haunted a home and the broken a plaintive witness of passions undying ember. “I don’t believe that anybody feels about you the way that I do now” is a promise and a threat and a gift with a cruddy bow lovingly tied. In the vexation of confusion, there’s a jagged truth about beauty being so much more profound when it’s essential and soul-driving rather than cheekbones and 6-pack abs.


Biscotti Crunch  Joseph Schmidt

Deep dark chocolate, the kind that sinks into your tongue then pulls your senses into deep sultry places like that pearl in the Prell commercials is poured into a slightly thicker than normal candy bar plank. As if that’s not decadent enough, pieces of almond biscotti are scattered, giving a crispy, crunchy counter to the creaminess of the chocolate. Insane, just simply wonderfully insane..


Funk Aerobics

Wanna go J.Lo and be all “Fly Girl”? Well, if you find yourself watching the rump shaking moves from those hip hop videos, thinking, “Why couldn’t I?,” this is your chance. The bass propulses, the room throbs, the moves slam and just keep coming. Between laughing and grasping for your breath, it’s a way to pick up your pace, shake it like it’s payday, work your attitude and find your inner diva.


Paris Was Yesterday 1925-1939   Janet Flanner

For those who troll used book stores, Paris Was Yesterday is the New Yorker’s Paris correspondent’s recollections from the most romantic era of the “American expat(riated) writers” movement in perhaps the most romantic city in the world. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, Ezra Pound, the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore (as much lending library/social hub for the literary gems populating the Left Bank) are all captured—along with Josephine Baker, Henri Rousseau, Marie Curie, Baron de Rothschilde—across a tableau that includes Montmartre, the Café De Flores and Les Deux Magots, the Ritz, the museums and grand balls. Short almost jotted entries give it the sense of letters scratched as they happened, quick sketches of the people and the moments. But there’s a you-were-there evocation of the senses that flares the imagination and creates more points of departure for daydreaming than any beautifully shot coffee table could begin to evoke.


Rachel Ashwell Furniture  Target

With Shabby Chic costing two million billion dollars—to borrow from “Austin Powers” faithful nemesis Dr. Evil—the book cases, tables, room screens are rendered in solid wood, painted white and are utterly charming. For less than pennies on the dollar, you can bring the English cottage look to your home—and enjoy the fresh pastoral functionality that has made Ashwell’s empire so cozy/homey as well as profitable.

“Love truth, but pardon error.”   Voltaire


Love is hard, truth is harder. Compassion makes them both so much easier to negotiate.

Robin at the Window

The knocking wasn’t at the door, wasn’t anywhere obvious. But it kept up all morning. And finally, the right moment, the right moment—there he was! A robin, generously fleshed of crimson breast, pecking at the dining room windows, declaring it spring, wanting to make sure we were paying attention.
Just as it all sweeps up, away, this little red-chested bird spun us around.

Revolution Tea

It comes in a silk bag. It is top of the line tea leaves, with surprise elements mixed in. They come in sampler packages, too, to let you find your favorite without having to commit to 12 servings. Whether it’s Earl Grey with Lavender or Tropical Green or English Breakfast, you’ll be titillated by the varietals they bring together, teasing one’s tongue with exceptional quality and intriguing combinations; though you’ll pick your favorites more based on personal taste than which one is “best,” because quality is maintained and creativity in the pairings is ablaze.
www.revolutiontea.com 1-888-321-4738

Rock & Roll Circus    The Rolling Stones DVD

It was a moment, an out-of-control, excessive, only rock & roll kind of occurrence. The Rolling Stones wanted to stage a happening, raise a circus, steep it in the jagged primal lust of music, decorate it with carny decadence and invite their friends. It was on many accounts a demi-disaster, and yet it’s as true an artifact of the groovy London music scene of the late ‘60s that was a roiling boil of creativity and musical expansion. Now available for home consumption, there’s never before seen footage of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal and Keith Richards, in addition to the captured performances of Jethro Tull, Yoko Ono, Marianne Faithfull, the Who and meltdown versions of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “No Expectations.”

Agave Blossoms

Cactus flowers are gorgeous. But the agave—also known as the Century Plant—is a lot like the caterpillar and the butterfly. Give it anywhere from 50-90 years, let it collect its strength, nourishment, will to bloom; and then one day, it will push out a stalk that looks an awful lot like asparagus on steroids. It grows fast—a few feet every couple days—and it reaches for the stars. But as the agave pushes its stem higher, the bottom leaves begin to wither and fade. For for the agave to flower, it must surrender its succulent leaves—as the cactus dies to allow the flower to come into fruition. Sad, thrilling, transformative.

fish oil capsules in the freezer

Put in the icy cold. They won’t stick together and they don’t dissolve until they hit your lower digestive track—which is where they’ll be absorbed; and they won’t repeat, making this the uckiest of Omega-3 supplement opportunities out there not nearly hardly so. So much good can come from something so tricky, and this little trick takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.

Friends with exquisite taste

Sometimes it’s the littlest things—a well chosen book, a trinket that means nothing. Sometimes it’s a gift that staggers—either in emotional current or sheer opulence. Friends with exquisite taste can make nothing mean the world, and lavishness not intimidate. There’s been much generosity of all kinds in my world of late, and what touches my heart even more than the actual gift is the intention behind it: to be so understood and cherished is the humbling and thrilling aspect of what has been shared.

New Balance Stability Athletic Shoes

Rob the Sneaker Guy at Canyon Ranch looks at your feet, listens to your “issues” (mine are ankles that can turn on a dime, leaving me toppled on the ground) and goes to a giant closet. But even if he doesn’t have what you need just then, he knows where to go—and the New Balance Stability Shoes have given me a solidity I’ve never known. They grip, they anchor, the absorb and cushion the steps being taken. What a difference being properly set-up makes.

Bulbs Breaking Through the Earth

The green leaves poking up, resolute in their desire to find the sun. Shoots popping out of the rich brown soil. The promise that here-be-flowers is anything but a matter of time. Hope comes in stages, some firmer than others. The leaves that first break the soil, just little bullets of green, then rise up a few inches then 10 are as thrilling—almost—as the daffodils, tulips and crocus that dot the spring.


Golden Oreos

The albino of the Oreo family, this is like a sugar cookie with the creamy center. At first, you wonder, ‘What’s the point?’ Then you stop comparing and start enjoying; and find that in some ways, it’s far superior—because the vanilla just isn’t as forced.


Rodney Crowell/J.D. Souther/Shawn Colvin   April 7 Mercy Lounge

Songwriters who’ve cast feelings across broad and diminutive horizons, etched details onto melody like Irish crystal embellished with the wedding design. All acclaimed, all Grammy-winners, but for one night only—three artists, three voices, three guitars and the revelations of song set-up and camaraderie. For Colvin, it was mining lost gems from her Steady On that sparkled—and reminded the audience of the depth of her emotional, well-mined with images. For Souther, it’s his will to look at the tiniest details in the biggest sorrows—and a voice that’s the molten center of those emotions. For Crowell, it’s a man who’s able to bring truths most look away from into a gentle relief and then infuse them with self-acceptance and a dignity that imbues compassion. One day, perhaps, the tape run at WRLT—for they broadcast the first hour—might be a recording available to all.

Gap Suede Hobo Bags

Maybe not as ornate as the pricier high-end designer models, but that spareness makes the Gap Hobo Suede Bag in many ways the more authentic choice. True, gypsy earthmamas aren’t going to go quite as ornate and prissy—and you obviously don’t have to worry about what happens to it while it’s “out of the house.” Funky in a caramel brown with turquoise beading. A must for spring!


128 oz

If you can drink that much water, you can insure the toxins get washed away. And that running to the bathroom keeps your joints from getting stuck or sore. Good for the lymphatic system, amazing after intense massage, it’s 16 eight ounce glasses—or if you wanna get “street” about it just 3 forty o.z. Malt Liquors. Something this good for you is almost worth the effort. Or wait, it IS worth the effort.

La Luna Berry Hill, TN

Greek-leaning, but as much Mediterranean, La Luna is clean, fresh food at its finest. Using high quality feta and lamb, they offer most of the traditional dishes stews, skewers, phyllo cigars, gyro sandwiches—in a charming indoor/outdoor building. The lentil soup sticks to your ribs, and the bring-your-own wine policy makes this a home-away-from-home—that is IF your parents understood the joys of olive oil, tzaziki and soft, doughy pita bread.

Mrs Meyers Liquid Hand Soap, Laundry Detergent Geranium Scent

Just the right thickness to hang onto your hands and get them really clean. Just the right thinness to meltdown to where it truly gets within the fibers of the clothing in the washer. Both leave you smelling sweet without cloying, a comforting not too flowery smell that is reassuring. Not quite return to the womb scented, but a place where small kids can play safely—and anything that evokes that ain’t all bad.


Cow/Cat/Cow/Cat

The cow has a swayed back and his head held high. The cat’s back is arched up and the head hangs down. Think of it as “the wave” for your spine; and if you can move smoothly from one to the other, maybe holding for a three count at the apex of each, you’re maintaining your back, your strength, your flexibility from all fours without too much effort. Considering all the trouble people’s backs give them, this is an easy go at your own pace stretch and strengthen that takes a few minutes and yields major results.

Ginger extract

If it’s good enough for soda, why not put it in your water? Without all the sugar and carbonation, the ginger has more spice and makes your tongue tingle. For those who think plain water is boring—and you KNOW you do—ginger extract makes for something easy and tasty, a few drops at a time.


Good Boys, When They’re Asleep—The Faces

Basic want’n'roll, loose blues grooves pulled taut over primal sexual tilt. Early in Rod Stewart’s career, he had a throat that was all bravado, gusto and musk; and the folks tinges and rolling grooves imbue an innocence in this sort of cavorting that makes its breakneck moments that much more charming. The randy bawdiness of “Had Me A Real Good Time” harkens back to a time when sex was about challenging gravity, “Ooh La La” merges knowing and wanting and the rompy “Stay With Me” maximizes moments of contact with a no-strings-attached, no-judgments-made truth-telling. How could one go wrong with a bubbling cauldron creation from Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones and Ian McLaughlin? If the more obscure doesn’t make sense to this Greatest Hits world in which so many of us live, put it on, let it play and watch what happens to your moneymaker about the third time through! A hip-slung mélange of mod rock filtered through country, carny, minstrel, tonky honk, rhythm & blues filters that’ll give you a reason for striped pants and eye liner.

Cold Plunge

Blow out an ankle. Blow up a knee cap. Be shattered by the thought of swelling, aching, immobility. Or be brave—and find a nice freezing cold (okay 48-50 degree) bath. Once the shock of just how cold it is wears off, you find yourself not numb exactly, but the throbbing ebbing away. And that shock to your system actually keeps the activity closer to where you’d want to be. Who knew? And yet, it really really works—though folks with blood pressure issues should make sure it’s okay before taking the plunge.

Goldfish Summer Weight Cashmere Sweater  J. Crew

In the relatively affordable cashmere department, J. Crew offers up a slightly lighter than bubblegum pink pullover—with a very florid, yet realistic goldfish on the solar plexus. Because the fish isn’t cartoonish, it’s cute in a way that allows dignity with one’s joie de vie. Happy stuff, nicely rendered.


Opening The Windows

Fresh air. Fresh fresh air! Nothing gets the temperature quite as right, or the soul as soothed.