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

May 2005

May 2005: The Don CeSar, Atom Bombs, True Love & Nimble Cumulus


The Don Cesar St Petersburg, Florida

One of the very last of the historic old Florida hotels. Like a pink sand castle with matching pools, the Don is a gallant old school gentleman who still dresses for dinner and has all the romantic promise of a Cole Porter song, or an early Fitzgerald novel. Given a beach-steeped interior to the rooms, the slightly grand, very Southern plantation feeling main rooms hearken back to an era when the trains took people to “winter” in Florida—the Don melts time, offers a graciousness almost lost and puts innocence square in the realm of one’s vacation. Bonus Round: “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” A Benmont Tench song that nails every burning nuance of desire beyond one’s finger-tips, strung like boardwalk lights against the tableau of the Don, that’s exhaled with wet tortured desire as the closing track on Rosanne Cash’s brilliant, about-to-be reissued Kings Record Shop.


Rain on the Roof

Lying there. Listening. Drops falling, unstopping, gently knocking. You roll into another; or curl around a pillow. Sinking into the sound—or perhaps the sound sinking into you—there’s a plane of relaxation that is submission to how simple the tranquility of rain can be. And if it’s a full-on thunderstorm pelting, with the flashes of lighting and crashing rolls of thunder, there’s an electricity that passes through that peace that connects you almost directly into the current of how alive life is.

Otaku

The ultimate take-no-prisoners, fire-in-the-(w)hole consuming passion. When there’s a job to do, one can execute it—or one can bring the heart, soul and commitment that celebrates every aspect. The latter is otaku—and it could make the world we live in an exponentially better place.


Athens Diner Franklin Road, Nashville, TN (near the Sutler)

A diner. A real honest to goodness “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore” heart of the Midwest not-so-greasy spoon. More than likely it’d be downtown Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Jersey Turnpike—but this actually is nestled into what used to be a fast food joint in the demi-rundown Sutler district on the south tip of Nashville. Greek in origin, it’s a classic breakfast any time—or gyro, souvlaki, feta-drizzled salads with soft give-when-you-bite-it pita and some of the creamiest, dreamiest rice pudding ever.

True Love

On a hilltop, with aquamarine water spilling everywhere, the most glistening thing was this utter love between two wonderful people who’d survived the alienation, bruising ache and not quite enough to find the courage needed to find a way to be open. To see it in action, free range like butterflies mid-migration, was a breath-taking thing: one that warmed and inspired, creating a sense of “if them, why not me?” in everyone who witnessed the wedding—and tweaked even those hearing about it to consider the merits of believing and seeking rather than settling.


Atom Bomb—Blind Boys of Alabama

Old school, deep-soul Southern gospel. The voices feel like caverns of faith, dusty for the journey, but fraught with their witness. Fresh from their I Saw A Light collaboration with Ben Harper, this straddles the more contemporary reality of how it used to be—right down to an undulating take on “Spirit In The Sky”—with the rural classicism of “Old Blind Bartemus.” Metaphorically-speaking, the title track is a perspective realigner that’ll sow clarity in a world gone the tiniest bit mad with 24/7 full-immersion news channel drama and conflict. 


2 Glasses of Wine

That second glass. Red or white. The one where the knots in your mind gently loosen. It’s not drunk or even buzzed, just a subtle ebbing of tension—leaving your body the way the sand washes out with the tide.


The Ice At The Bottom of the World—Mark Richard

10 stories, each written in a distinctive voice that is both chipped and slightly overgrown. Almost evoking Flannery O’Connor in the stray details that tell volumes and twists that’re almost grotesque, yet deeply true. The winner of the 1990 PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award, The Ice At The Bottom of the World is deeply funny in places, heartbreakingly painful in others—and all come to fruition with compassion and pacing. An easy plane read, a tuck-in-a-bag and-go time-killer, but one of merit rather than frothy disposability.



Strong Arms

It used to be great hands. Or eyes that open into broad valleys of the soul. Or smiles that melt icy rooms. Now it may well be strong arms—attached to hands of discerning touch being a bonus—that are the most alluring thing of all. Arms that can bind, hold, envelope and enclose. Arms that makes one feel contained, calm, alive, on fire. Arms that have done, created, measured, lifted, consoled. Arms that define every good thing about a man.


Surfing

400 issues in. An instant vacation with perfect binding. It is a state of mind, an understanding of being in-concert with the forces of nature, the power of the ocean and the mastery of one’s soul. There is much peace to find, many vistas to hurl oneself at—all without leaving your desk or couch. And the boys are cute!


Throwing Dice With Kix

There is no more arms wide-open into it all human being than one Leon Kix Brooks, the pride of Louisiana and a soul deep Ferris Bueller with not just a weekend, but total access pass. If a Roman Candle wore gator boots and sunglasses late at night, it could well be the man who wrote the Dirt Band’s wincing “Modern Day Romance”—and somewhere there at the tables, he says, “Pick two—and throw ‘em with the same hand.” He just keeps laughing and rattling his chips, utterly, totally, wholly committed to the moment. Even me—a girl who doesn’t gamble due to a tragedy involving a sterling silver piggy bank and no restraint—isn’t afraid to wager with this one. We should all find more people like this in the world, and even more importantly, find ways to channel that effervescent inspiring karma into our own lives to set others on dazzle.


What we need are more people who specialize in the impossible.
—Theodore Roethke

Seriously. Cant is a somewhat rigid religious doctrine. Other than that, it’s just about refusing to accept what you’re given rather than seeking what you dream. The impossible—with commitment, clear-thinking, a willingness to make it happen and a gratefulness when it does—isn’t nearly as beyond reach as you think.


St John Chickens

Silky feathers, skinny legs, scurrying across dusty dirt patches and snatches of park. Their necks hunting and pecking in elongated, liquid movements broken up by that hung up rhythm-catch that is the same rolling undulation that marks reggae from the inside out. Hunting and pecking, scratching, head cocked to consider you and your rush-rush, these chickens are thinner and taller than our domestic bred-for-breading ilk. And when you catch a mama hen with a brood of chicks trotting about, all scattered wily nily, it’s the joy of moments poured into a sun-coated moment in the simplest form.


“American Hot Rod” Discovery Channel

Trapped on a video shoot with two red-blooded American males and too much chilly drizzle, “American Hot Rod” was the viewing du jour. Join up—or head out. The amazement of how wry the technicians were. The soap opera tension of the egos and lives entangling. The beauty of the cars—in this case a woody—being created, enhanced or restored is a testament to the allure of the truest form of American heavy metal.


Girl Talk

Behind the gossamer curtain, it’s just a whole different thing! Convention’s stripped away, the real gets dumped on the table, poked through, filleted wildly, taken down. And there is always laughter, great copious amounts of laughter. Joe Jackson’s right—“It’s Different For Girls”—but it’s not about empty locker-room boasting, so much as girls on the down-low, pulling-no-punches, how-it-is-and-then-some on everything. A guy friend of a California photographer and her right hand landed at a table with us, both shocked and delighted. The best news? He didn’t flinch; though wishing to participate, he invoked perhaps one of the rarest “Almost Famous”‘s of all—blurting “I’m GAY!” [which he isn’t] when it was his turn to throwdown. 


Forever Blue (Solo Piano)—Chuck Leavell

Sensual doesn’t always mean sexual. Indeed, sometimes the carnal is only the veneer. And in that realm of the senses, Chuck Leavell evokes shades of blue and green, the deepest nuance of dark chocolate on one’s tongue, that sweet, rich smell of Turkish coffee, the way sun spills on long grass—making the space between blades seem to fraught with everything, the paisley complexity and thickness of a Persian carpet upon closer inspection. There are so many options with those 88 keys—lagging hipster, rolling barrelhouser, Charley Brown euphoria, shimmering poet/painter/passionista, full church raver, Chopin nocturnist. To bring them together seamlessly, to lovingly coax “Georgia On My Mind” to a place where peaches ripen languidly and the spirit responds from an essential place, this is the gift of subtlety and zen occupation of melody lines and passing chords. 
(Evergreen Records, 655 Charlane Dr, Dry Branch, Georgia 31020)

The Over/Under Line

The smart, smart producer made the best non-linear use of this boxing/bookie shorthand, and the motif works in so many places. The over/under line is the round where it all goes down. Pick a round below and if the fight ends before, you win; if it goes longer, you lose—- and should the round be the “one” that’s called, the bookies go home happy. In a world of complicated systems and too many details, this is a clean way to delineate an outcome in a neat tidy “there you go.”

Matrix Sleek Look Conditioner

It smells like oranges—which may be one of the most smile-inducing scents ever—and it makes one’s hair full and thick without weighing it down. With the finest of fine hair, it is always a challenge to get body without looking limp, to be shiny without being greasy, to let the silky action inherent to my kind of scalp cover maximize. This is a 2-minute soak—and an instant glisten, touch-me wonder.


The dignity of the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony 
May 5

Whether an executive or an artist, the Country Music Hall of Fame—most notably Kyle Young, Liz Thiels and Jay Orr—toil to bring a level of dignity and honor to the formal induction into the Hall of Fame that both weighs the notion of musical impact and the will to create a song tapestry that demonstrates the reason for inclusion. John Prine singing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” all by himself—and offering an ad hoc recitation of gratitude to inductee Kris Kristofferson—alone was worth the evening spent in cocktail clothes. To give history current and currency is the gift of the Hall of Fame. This is one more brilliant execution.

Friends You Never Saw Coming

Didn’t like him. Didn’t like him at all. Not one bit. No one made me wince faster or suck my teeth harder. But like a college dorm bathroom fungus that would not be denied, he just kept coming. And the tragedy is, I have no truer friend, no better sounding board, no bigger booster. When it’s just too much, it makes no sense, there he is, the friend I not only didn’t see coming, the one I almost refused to accept. And that is the grace of lessons learned through living. Loyalty, decency, caring and concern are a gift—one to be treasured and cherished every chance one gets, even the chances one wants desperately to avoid. Can’t think of a bigger gift this year, and it’s been a year of gifts beyond measure.


Poppyseed Chicken Casserole Barbara’s Franklin, TN

White meat chicken, a little sour cream, some poppy seeds—and a few secret additions—make this the ultimate sad day comfort food. Better than returning to the womb, especially with an order of the best turnip greens and one of those deliciously weightless yeast rolls, poppyseed chicken casserole is cause to rejoice.


Feet Up The Wall

On your back. The hips being the 90 degree angle pivot point, as your legs extend straight up the wall. It gets the “chi”—or energy—flowing back into your body. You can yoga breathe. You can feel the tingling begin. You can let your mind go. You can lie there—arms extended or at your side—and just be. Lie there for a while, for several minutes, let time stop. When you roll over, you will be renewed, refreshed, restored. Like magic, only easier.


Pirates—Rickie Lee Jones

As a too-cool hipster, Jones was a street-waif-urchin, be-bop Piaf—and Pirates brought charcoal sketches to a yearning sigh that broadcast desire as something floating softer and more ethereal than filmy scarves floating and falling from third story windows. The weightlessness of want that is “We Belong Together” alone is a shuddering shadow of how saturated that emotion can be, and even the juking stuff is shot through with a ragged, jagged reach for the moment now or gone that scrapes ones arms, ones cheeks, ones heart into paying attention. A whisper louder than a scream, a heart beat quickened to lift-off. Just listen.

Growth in wisdom may be exactly measured by decrease in bitterness.
—-Friedrich Nietzsche

Humanity or bad decisions—our’s or other’s, by the way—is never a reason to grow cold or turn away. Lee Ann Womack sang “don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter” in “I Hope You Dance” and Mark Miller offers the backboard of blind compassion, “do you know what your neighbor’s going through” in his brand new “They Don’t Understand.” Closer to home, one need only consider that whatever upsets us may have some reason so far beyond imagination -and that compassion will set us free, that freedom being the mark of real knowledge.

Turtles Sunbathing

It is slow and warm and the sun works from the inside out. There they are, after the long winter’s hibernation, lining every fallen tree branch, rock or whatever they can find. Turtles, lined up like cars on the LA Freeway, letting the sun warm their legs and heads, not really moving much, just feeling the feeling and savoring every sensation. Occasionally looking around, mostly though, just sunning. Exquisite perfection, really and it requires nothing but an open-eyed presence to see it and the patience to sink into it.

Paul Newman

Aside from being my father’s classmate and the man Mrs. Frankel—our crazy science teacher—wouldn’t go to prom with, he may be the true center of everything strong and decent about American men. Sensitive enough to tell deep, vulnerable truths (he is incredible in a Hallmark romance “Message In A Bottle,” which was airing on some estrogen network), but enough of a rogue with a twinkle (see “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid”), a tempest of intensity raging against his own humanity (“The Hustler,” “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”) or just about any role he takes on. He is everything we want men to be—and that is good.


Hibiscus margaritas  The Mirror, Nashville

The color of blood. The taste slightly tart, a bit tangy, very quenching. Tequila infused with dried hibiscus flowers is the base, and chilled, straight-up, no salt makes this a sophisticated, thirst-quenching grown-up drink of the first—and most creative—order.


The morning cuddle

There you are, in the tangle of sheets, a new day all promise. Encircling, rubbing, feeling the limbs stretch out. You kiss the top of the softest hair, you smile deep into the eyes—and you feel the warm mass of flesh and sinew luxuriate in how good it feels to be home, to be loved, to be together. In moments like this, every bit of the hard time your parents gave you about letting the dog sleep in bed with you is forever washed away.

“Without sports, what would you have to hold into?” ESPN On-Air Positioning


Five second snips from a life—illustrating the passage of youth to young man to husband to father—and tangibly demonstrating the emotional anchor that sports have beyond the cheering of the crowds and the thrill of victory. It is a tie that binds beyond the Sportscenter wrap-up, and shot in such a real life/real moment way, this promo has the same sentimental holding power as Coca Cola’s late-70s work.


Penny Lane Creme Blush NARS

Not quite peach, not quite pink. It is the color naifs turn when flushed with the recognition of want—or being found out. It is also universally flattering, can be worn with or without make-up and imbues a sense of healthful restedness—which for me right now is the deepest, darkest fantasy I can summon. Named for Cameron Crowe’s ingénue/heroine whose spirit was true, whose heart had wings, whose eyes shone and whose love for the music carried her over every travail, the innocence you channel will be your own.


The long gone lost


Like corks bobbing on water, they pop up. From nowhere, unannounced—bringing tales of what was and what’s happened, reminding you of times had, occasionally forgotten, always worth cherishing. And in the gap between then and now, there are all the moments to celebrate, commune in and share. The dear friend swept up in work, the ex-fiancée washed out to the past, the top-tier editor girlfriend, the charms on a too-crowded bracelet that should be looked at and loved as much as all that’s in play in the right now, right now.


Weathered polo shorts with rhinestone buttons

Closed cut, faded pastels, sparkly tiny buttons. It takes a standard, makes it sleeker, with a little wink and a nudge—and offers several other contexts (flirty skirt, close cropped pants with mules) to put comfort into a realm of style. Bratty in the best sense, easy beyond that.

Scott Weiland on Addiction Esquire (May)

Zero-to-melodrama potential is better than even money. But somehow Stone Temple Pilot/Velvet Revolver/junkie of the generation Scott Weiland sidesteps self-pity, shock value details to make his problem so much deeper than the common crackhead and self-righteousness. To understand the difficulty of being trapped in physical/chemical addiction is laid out here; and the understanding gleaned will serve beyond this obvious connection. A harrowing read for the commonness it actually demonstrates.


Landing in Miami Before Sunset

It is molten golden, the clouds almost lit from the inside out. All of the tropics, the crowded Cuban housing, the chockablock layout of fields and water reserves. Tearing a page from Icarus, sun so close, ground below, you circle and turn—feeling beyond gravity. Alive. Gloriously alive. In a silver tube, above the world, hanging beyond the pull of the Earth, looking upon a place of so many stories and so many dreams, it’s an opportunity to be humbled by how much lies before us.


Elbow Macaroni

As Hellman’s mayonnaise season rolls out before us, let’s just have a moment to pause and reflect upon the classics. Whether slathered in Velveeta and baked to a runny, yummy mac’n'cheese, holding its own in a casserole or being the bite through anchor of the ultimate summer salad. They’re fun on your tongue. They make great necklaces, and the shape parallels everything good about a woman’s curves. Get a fork, and see.

Mighty Rearranger—Robert Plant & the Strange Sensation

Not quite the behemoth heavy metal band that he helmed, but Robert Plant weaves a filigreed mélange of Morrocan rhythms, swirling melodies that lean on dizzy, folkish tinges that remind one how big an influence Joni Mitchell was on Led Zeppelin and that ravaged moan that conveys heat, want, release, pain and every other physical sensation that defies words. A musical explorer, this will take you places, paint rooms saffron colors and suggest draperies thick enough to keep the light out and air heavy enough with incense to shift your spatial orientation. Looking forward. Looking up. Never back. There is the same charge in many ways as IV, but it only comes if you don’t reach for what you’ve already had.


Kept secrets

The old Southern saying, “You don’t have to tell everything you know” is one thing, but even more than the notion that knowledge held is power, there is the idea of keeping something for oneself. Sharing with those who’re dear to you, celebrating or sorrowing with those who truly love and cherish you makes what is held between the parties that much precious. Perhaps the greatest treasures in human communion: faith, trust, knowledge and smiles that signal that which no one else is privy to.


All Night Cuban Restaurants

Languid, yet electric. So much life buzzing in the lost hours, wired on intense thimbles of cafe cubano and a sense of now rushing through your veins. It is breakfast or lunch or dinner, hours lost in conversation, watching the locals churn and idle. It is being lost in an Ibrahim Ferrer record or Garcia Marquez novel, almost an Almodovar movie. Worldly, yet utterly local—it is the poetry of cultures merging and unifying without losing any of what sets it apart.

Form

You could see him from the treadmill, perfect posture, pushing back, then pulling with the arms. Looking just the way the diagram showed. Fluid, sweeping, legs extending out, arms coming in. Anything but a stork with an erector set. To understand that it’s not just about getting through it, it’s how you do it.

Tinkerbelle

Grossly inappropriate nicknames become impossibly endearing when bestowed by the singularly candy-hearted. For someone to know you so long, so well to then pivot and shoot something like this is not only an invitation to laugh, but it’s the kind of moniker to shoulder with pride—because an unseen facet that resonates for them but is secretly accurate offers the best part of collective experience in a word.
Bonus Round: Tinkerbelle bikini panties and matching anklets, all cotton whimsy, right there in the Target lingerie department.


Cumulus Nimbus

The Latin breaks down to heap of rain. And that is part of it. But to get the true depth of the cumulus nimbus—which is just awesome to say—one must get the whole picture phrase: cumulus nimbus undergoing vertical development. It spirals upwards, lifting heavenward like so many barrels of water and power to be released. Reaching upwards of 40,000 feet, cumulus nimbus releases incredible amounts of energy by virtue of the condensation of water vapor that comprises the cloud itself—and all pillowy marshmellowy downy reality that is from the ground looking heavenward, they capture the imagination and look like cottony crucibles of dreams.


“With all things, it is always what comes to us from outside, freely and by surprise as a gift…”

“With all things, it is always what comes to us from outside, freely and by surprise as a gift from heaven, without our having sought it, that brings us pure joy.”—Simone Weil

Day-timers and agendas be damned. If you’ll just be still long enough, look intently and don’t forget to open your fingers and your palms, there is much that you are given. It’s the whole point of the yummy list—all the wonder and excitement that’s just before your nose. Live it, people. Fly.