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

March 2006

March 2006: South by South, Monkey Mind, Pineapple Mint Margaritas, Gram Parsons and Flossing


monkey mind


Ahhhhh, the Buddhists - and their delightful name for the incessant chattering in the back of our minds. So much nicer a tag than “nagging self-doubt,” “endless recrimination” or “anger without bottom.” The monkey mind is what steals our peace, leaves out tranquility in pieces.


salt in your Maxwell House


At a hardcore honest-by-Gawd truck stop, somewhere in West Virginia that might not have even been a dot on the map, in the lost hours of the night when it is ONLY truckers and hard drivers, the sweet little waitress blushed when we raved and queried about the coffee, that tasted so good staying awake was no longer the primary reason for imbibing.
   “Oh, it’s just Maxwell House,” she said, off-handedly. Pressed for the difference between mere mortal Maxwell and her elixir of the lords of the highway, she leaned in conspiratorially: “Well, I put a little bit of salt in the basket. For some reason, it just takes out all the bitter.”


Pay The Devil - Van Morrison


The Belfast Cowboy turns his ultrasuede aged in Irish Whiskey voice to classic country songs, bawdy old r&b (what he does to Big Joe Turner’s “Don’t You Make Me High” is better burlesque than the Pussycat Dolls) and a few well-turned originals that flex timeless, but - especially the title track - offer road wisdom from the cradle of cliché‘s. His rendition of Rodney Crowell’s oft-cut jewel “Til I Gain Control Again” may well retire the jersey with its shimmering need, doubt and will to survive the most painful parts.



Sheepskin Seat Covers


On a cold day, you slid into that car that might as well be the air inside an ice cube and you can say a silent blessing for the wool that comes between you and the temperature. They heat up quickly, they look outdoorsy in an impossibly refined way - and they cushion your frame as you travel wherever the day might take you. A luxury that makes as much sense for the increase in comfort


Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.
      -Mark Twain


There is nothing sneakier than just walking straight up the middle. Who lives like that? For those who want to believe, seeing someone walking the walk is flat empowering; for those always looking for the back-end, other shoe, built-in “yeah, but.” is outright confounding. Ahhhh, the give both people something that brings them up just like you want AND to heighten the ability to brush your teeth while looking yourself in the eye.
   Ah, Samuel Clements. making Mark Twain the ultimate real life insurrectionist in a matter of a dozen words.


My Little Outlaw   baby t’s


Running impossibly tiny, the range riding ole cowboys with their smokes and their lassos give the children’s toy a reason to survive beyond the nursery. My Little Pony - two actually - support a couple highwaymen/ high plains drifter/old hand with no irony, effortlessly exponentiating the image.


where the sky and the sea seamlessly collide


It is a blue, lighter almost than powder blue. deeper than looking into an aquamarine. It was a balmy day, with a little bit of wind, the kind they covet in Pooh’s 100 Acre Woods - and driving along State Road, it was as if cares and desires and reasons were never ever present in a world of right-here, right-now. Looking out at the horizon, there wasn’t really one: perhaps a few stray clouds along the edge, some waves near the shore. but everything else just melting effortlessly into a whole. In that moment, the interconnectedness of it all became beyond obvious. Oh, to be present enough to not miss those visions when they present.


Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White


“Some pig,” spun a spider to spare the runt. And over the course of a season, lessons in life - allegorically delivered - were shown through the dynamics of a barnyard, a wrotten conniving named Templeton (the Rat), a dear little girl with a heart simple and pure named Fern and a victory of sweetness over the how-it-is of resignation to the status quo.
   As a children’s story, it is a wonderful tale about things with tails. As a reminder for grown-ups, it’s a delightful reality check about the things kids can teach us. And, as proof that things for the young are often more profound as we mature, E.B. White’s fable could be the Holy Grail.


tableful of small flames


There is a low coffee table in front of the sofa in the tv room. On Oscar night, I scattered different sizes of votives candles around, plus a monster tri-wick deal… and enjoyed the caramel glow. Since that night, the addiction to that warming, softening light has grown in ways that may not be healthy, but melt all over the people, the spaniel, the moments—making them that much more magic.


Princess Citrus Flower Hand Soap


It’s pink and glycerin. Smells like citrus and sunshine. You press down, instantly the cruddy build-up eases, maybe even melts away. It came as a gift from a dear friend… and I keep it on my kitchen counter to help me clean up—with love.



optimista/pesimista beer and wine glasses  pollino glasses


Half-full? Half-empty? Without even opening the debate, reality check the people in your life - and wet your whistle doing it. And for those who choose not to partake of the adult libations, the beer glasses are a perfect size for juice, soda, tea or water. Impossibly clever, absolutely conversation-starting, utterly reminding about the decisions we make about how we choose to view our reality.
www.surlatable.com



the thaw



Perhaps it is not quite spring, these are the moments of hope. the moments of promise. the moments when you don’t need all the layers, can allow the sun to touch your flesh and warm you to your core. Even the dirt seems to sigh with gratitude at the frozen clutch of winter loosens. The thaw - even if it only lasts for days - there is nothing like it.


South By Southwest  Austin, Texas  March 15-19


It all starts Wednesday. With a keynote address by Neil Young, more roots music and beyond from all over the world… Austin, Texas is the live music capital of the world on its worst days, for SXSW, the city kicks up its game—with only the very best in the clubs, the most impassioned hangs wherever you go and the kind of people you crave and wonder where they are. For 5 days in Austin, somewhere—maybe the Continental, maybe the Cactus Cantina, maybe La Zona Rosa—kicking it up. With local talent that is bottomless, the idea that you also get Beth Orton, the Pretenders, Rodney Crowell, Ghostface, the Plimsouls (Peter Case’s first band), Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet, the Arctic Monkeys, Kris Kristofferson, it’s no wonder South by hasn’t imploded a la the New Music Seminar all those years ago. Guess when you’re cool, none of the parsley of adulation matters.


Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.
 

In life, some things are not negotiable. You can talk about the relativity of facts. the subjectivity of truth. the way it’s all how you see it. When you can get a group of people to sign on to whatever you’re putting out, it must be right, right? I mean, could several hundred thousand Hitler fans be wrong? Ahhhh, yes. the moral compass. Clarity of personal examination - and the depth of doing the right thing, even when it’s not popular are everything William Penn is talking about.


“The Aristocrats”  DVD


You could make the argument the joke isn’t funny - and it does have all the curbside appeal of the kind of joke 3rd graders tell that corner on gross, rather than humor - but as an x-ray lens into the comedic process of everyone from Phyllis Diller to Robin Williams, the staff of news-skewering The Onion to flat-voiced Stephen Wright, even full-tilt, no facade Whoopi Goldberg and method comic Sara Silverman, it is a refractive prism of insight. Not quite as linear as “how the comedic mind works,” you can filet the various processes and marvel at how far-flung the imagination can romp - as well as witness a survey of American comedy (occasionally flexed by Brits like a hilarious Eric Idle) that is staggeringly comprehensive.
   Not for the faint of heart or stomache, not to mention the easily offended - and absolutely not for the young, innocent or easily offended. It is a documentary in the end. and that may be the best way to approach. And the bonus footage of nearly 100 of the best comics alive telling their famous joke might serve as a reclamation for the premise for those NOT amused.


KNOWING it’s not you


Things happen. You can find nothing that you’ve done. You ponder, puzzle, muddle, do psychic yoga knots. And then, you realize: you can find nothing, because there is nothing. Sometimes it’s everything else for the other person, things you can’t see.
   And for those of you who can’t go on faith - recently, my own sweet self - there is the sincere outreach. Sending a note, explaining that I was hurt to a manager I adore for the seeming “thanks, and out.,” it was heart-melting to get back a note saying, “You can’t get rid of me that easily. and I don’t let people like you go” with a quick establishment of his reality.
   When you care, if you can’t “know,” then ask. Because KNOWING when it’s important may be the greatest balm of all.



lemon yellow


It is the color of sunshine, the tang of curd, the joy of bright. Lemon yellow - it bursts out, leaps off the page, declares joy with no words. As we emerge from the cold, the dreary, the gray - there is no more direct antidote to everything about the winter that brings us down!


hot cocoa made with coffee


Some mornings, you just can’t face that dreaded steep. Maybe it’s an afternoon where you crave a little treat, but couldn’t possibly face something overwhelmingly rich and sweet. Get them to make the hot cocoa with coffee rather than milk. You wake up; you get the comfort of a childhood favorite, you get the endorphin-rush of the chocolate while also plugging in to the jagged go-go-go of the coffee. And yes, decaf can - and does work - if it’s just the taste sensation you’re after.


Gram Parsons


An impossibly broken-hearted voice, ravaged at the edges, twanging in the middle. The sounds that poured from his throat made him the embodiment of the grievous angel, beautiful, sorrowful, knowing, aware - and yet ever hopeful, ever willing, ever consumed by the way life fills and fulfills you.
   He was a rock refugee who saw that the unbridled far-flung truth of country - most usually delivered with not one atom of self-consciousness - were as infused with the kicking rebellion of the Stones’ brand of rebellion, and merged the swerve between opposing camps in a way that showed just how hardcore, unapologetic and emotionally intense hillbilly music could be. Classic songs that were forgotten shone next to originals that built on the archetypes and folded hippie truth into the established themes for a common ground that opened the earth, took the younger generation’s imagination hostage and gave credence of bluegrass harmony structures even as those twining and aching tones of Emmylou Harris introduced a reason to believe in all that is good about even the most hurtful human emotions. Catharsis in a Nudie suit. it just didn’t get any better, more honest of beautiful.


indigo hyacinths


Stalks of tiny trumpets, all the color of new Levis washed 32 times. Lushly succulent, oozing a scent that is powdery and floral without grabbing the back of your throat, but rather reminding you that the scent of nature is one that transfixes with subtlety. They are neither too large or too tiny, strong enough to hold their own without betraying a flower’s fragility, wispy edged enough to maintain their intricate loveliness that separates flowers from hardy botanica. Emerald stalks and leaves for contrast only soften the indigo like some kind of Tahitian cloth worn around a native woman’s waist.


flossing as meditation


Something so tedious, so mundane, so necessary. In a world where mindfulness brings us deeper into the moment, how many times have we numbly trogged through this function. But to really think about your teeth, what they do for you, how they are rooted in your jaws, the way the gums buffer and hold. it makes something so rote take on a whole broader sense of meaning, even evokes a gratitude for the wonder of how we’re made. Think about it, no, breathe slowly and try it. and then consider all the other places you can bring this practice to life.


pink feather tree  (w. grosgrain bows)


The ultimate girly grrrrrrl Christmas tree knows no season - or reason, beyond joy and love and the kind of present only friends who truly know you would bother giving. And so it sits, in my living room, as a cherished companion of all truth, beauty and insight.
   But something so precious deserves decoration. And so, the bolts of ribbon are poised and ready: two kinds of pink (one polka dot, one solid) and naturally the de rigueur chic/punk/soigné black. To jettison that which most embrace for its conventionality, to embrace that which explodes one’s essence, creates whimsy, brings laughter. ah, now that is a gift that continues long after the initial burst of gratitude burns off.



Captivating  John and Stasi Eldredge


In a world where women are often expected to perform as men - to negate their emotions, blunt their softness - Captivating: Unveiling The Mystery of a Woman’s Soul is about jettisoning those bias to embrace the truth of the double X chromosome’s essential being. It is not some Phyllis Schafly Total Woman tract, designed to sublimate one’s strength, power or conviction, but rather about integrating the things that set women apart without undermining their ability to function in a patriarchal society.
   It also addresses the complicity of the contract that our participation in believing the undermining, marginalizing voices in our subconscious creates - one that replaces truth with lies designed to hinder. Be warned: this IS a “faith”-based book, but one that speaks truths about faith as an internal rather than institutional process, and also one that believes in divine gifts that are ours for the embracing.


new doormat


To invite new adventure. to signify a new day. to reach out to what’s coming next. Nothing is more tactile than a new doormat - or as easily executed. Buy one today. Smile when you put it down. Remember how great new beginnings feel, and how simple they are to invoke.


Solar Cuticle Oil


Easily attained, even easier to paint on. As one’s cuticles rag and fray from the heat, from the wear and tear of daily life, a quickly absorbed painted on coat of Solar Oil works miracles in making one’s hands look refined and finished. A natural substance, this isn’t quite a miracle in a bottle, but the redemption it delivers one’s nail beds will inspire gratitude.

Te de Pluie candle  Mariage Frere


Darjeeling-grounded scent, Te de Pluie translates into tea of tears or tea of rain - depending on the level of poetry one would hope to embrace. A ruminative scent that opens one’s exquisite melancholy channels, Te de Pluie is the olfactory equivalent of lighting a fire on a chilly night of misting rain and considering all that one has lived, loved and experienced. Impossibly evocative and completely addicting.


sawa sawa


Anything said in Swahili brings a global nuance to the moment. But when has the universal “over and out” of okey-dokey been flung so far? Sowh-ahhh, sowh-ahhh gives you a way of acknowledgement that’s so juvenile, yet worldly. Exquisite perfection, really.


doctored chicken soup mix



Rough grain Dijon mustard. Curry powder. Hungarian paprika. A few shakes of basil leaves. Perhaps a dash of nutmeg or ginger. Maybe a splash of Worcestershire. This has been a year of “box soup” - and in that “how can I make this appeal,” there has been much experimentation. Indeed, frozen potstickers or pierogies bring their own textures, tastes, elements. Proving premade can be what you make it.



Biltmore  Providence, Rhode Island


And there it is. Extending straight up as a pillar to the way things used to be. Oversized rooms and way-high doors that even remodeled in faux-modern, demi-deco style witness the graciousness of old school elegance. Broad hallways, wrought iron railings and glossily polished staircases often covered with plush carpet. The graciousness of old school hotels can’t be covered over or eradicated, and they exist as a witness to what life beyond the disposable, plastic, for-now-and-why-else reality that we often find ourselves trapped in.
   As a lovely respite from reality, it’s a yummy indulgence. As a reminder of how much more we can make things, it’s a tremendous gift - because anything that inspires to aspire, to want, no to wish to create more is a wonderful thing, indeed.



stemless wine glasses


They look roly poly - to invoke Bob Wills’ Western swing classic - but, these wine glasses have even less chance of toppling, tumbling or otherwise losing their balance than the more conventional execution. And when you want a streamlined sort of reality, there are no extraneous angles or lines to mar the way the glass sits grounded with its base on your table, just curves that swell and accept the liquid that is poured so generously - or sparingly - into its broadly inviting mouth.

Lent


Forty days to reflect. Forty days to prepare. Forty days to expand. Forty days to forgo. Forty days to gently ease towards acceptance, joy, betterment.
   There are so very many religious reasons to embrace Lent. But even as a way to give ourselves a quietly evolving journey into our faith - whatever it would be, to make ourselves more humbly willing, to find those places that need mending, that is a reason to believe. However you get here, give it a moment of quiet consideration.



Pineapple Mint Margaritas  Sharkey’s Cantina, Oak Bluffs, MA


About as fresh as you can get. Satisfyingly sweet without being cloying. Pineapple juice with bursts of fresh mint wake up your tongue - and the tequila, which rises through the two tastes with enough electric dazzle to make you aware this is for big kids, makes you glad you’re alive and over 21. Easy enough to recreate in your kitchen, delicious enough to idle away hours and grease the conversation with strangers or old friends equally.



longer, slower


That which we enjoy, we should savor. Take the time, sink into every aspect, detail, sensation. Commit ourselves to the nuances of the things that make our pulses race, our anticipation quiver, our desire rapture. For that which is wonderful should be truly experienced, immersed in, experienced as completely as possible. In a world of faster, deeper, more, now-wow-pow, it’s about jettisoning the rush to the next thing, and committing to the good thing.
   And so it that my mantra becomes “longer, slower.”


breakfast cups


They are so oversized, like Alice’s Mad Tea Party or the Tom Petty video for “Don’t Come ‘Round Here No More.” They evoke hedgehogs and hedgerows, blend of leaves from the exotic far east, Ceylon, India, China and beyond.