My Brother the Secret Rockstar

My brother Aidan rocks. He’s kind, funny, creative, smart, responsible, handsome, and he likes dogs. This isn’t a personal’s ad for him (that would be awkward). It’s just how he is.

(photo credit Anne Mason)

(photo credit Anne Mason)

Most of you probably know this already though, because I really like to brag on this kid. I talk about him a lot. Once at a party in 2004, I smoked a hookah and then proceeded to talk at full speed for ten minutes about my brother to a room full of strangers. Finally, I paused, and noticed the circle of stunned faces. Later, many people remembered me as that girl who couldn’t stop talking about her brother. I don’t know what was in that thing.

Can you see why I had stories to tell about him?

Can you see why I had stories to tell about him?

But enough about me; let me talk about my brother. He’s graduating high school this month, and for his senior project (because Waldorf School is cool like that) he made an album. Because my brother is literally a rockstar. Only, he does it all in his bedroom, with a purple fleece blanket hanging over the bookshelf to dampen the sound. He only sings when no one is in the house. However, then he puts it on the internet, so now all of you can hear. Take a listen. It’s pretty cool. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother.


The Morning Blend

I want to tell you about one of my favorite hours of the week: 7:30 — 8:30 AM on Wednesdays. I wake up early on Wednesdays and have a long commute. That is when I have the little ritual of listening to the Morning Blend show on KBCS, one of Seattle’s community radio stations.

The host, a lady named Fionamoran, which is probably two words but sounds like one, sounds as sleepy as I feel. Actually, she sounds stoned. At 7:30 in the morning. The show alternates between little news programs and folky music, in a completely spacey kind of way. The news doesn’t overwhelm you. The music is broken up often enough that you know that you’re awake.

The news segments drift along in a predictable, dreamlike progression. This is helpful for a sleepy mind. First comes news from Bellevue. In Bellevue, citizens save each other with defibrillators in the gym and run for various local offices. That’s nice. Then there’s music, usually a lady singing, who may be wearing a cowboy hat or something flowy, but it’s radio, so I don’t know.

Then comes Earth Sky, a science show. Earth! Sky! A Clear Voice for Science! This is where they find life in distant galaxies and discover that the dinosaurs who left the tracks were swimming, not stampeding.  Cool.

More music.

Then Jim Hightower and his populist commentary. Usually this comes when I’m in a mass of cars driving over Mercer Island, also known as Poverty Rock. Mr. Hightower is cheerfully incensed about corporate power in his blowsy Texas accent. He exposes the world of politics to be one big Comedy of Tragedies, and he always lets me be on his side. It’s awesome and it never makes me cry.

Right on his heels — we’re running up against the end of the hour — comes Labor Neighbor Radio, the Voice for Working Families, with John Sanderfeld, who sounds like a cheerful robot. He also explores everyday atrocities, but sticks to local ones. Then more music.

Sometimes Fionamoran comes on to tell us what song just played. She reads every title like a foreign concept. Sometimes she says it will be Earth Sky, but it is Jim Hightower. She never apologizes. She just keeps going. I keep driving and drinking my oatmeal.

Then, often many minutes before the hour, she comes on to wrap things up. After that comes an indeterminate amount of a probably endless song that might be African or Caribbean or South American and I should be able to tell but I can’t but I like it anyway. It’s probably African, because the words I catch go “Africaaaaa, Africaaaaa,” and I think I hear marimbas. But other people might sing about Africa, too. You never know.

Eventually, it fades away, and on comes Amy Goodman, rocking out to the Democracy Now theme song, which sounds like superhero music. Then more atrocities, all through Sammamish. But I’m awake now, and can take them without a happy Texan voice.

And then I park the car and go for a walk somewhere beautiful with Squinchy. We see flowers and eagles and snakes. And then we teach little children about Walt Whitman and apostrophes, and driving back home again there is rarely anything interesting on the radio.

I Got Bees!

I got bees! Bees may be the only insect that could make that exclamation point happiness. Compare it to I got fleas! to see what I mean.

Also, it is true: I got a hive of bees.


My parents gave me an old hive box, and I salvaged bricks from the vacant lot to elevate it.  Then Squinchy and I drove home from Auburn with 5000 bees on the passenger seat of the car.

I took the plug out of their box and out they spilled in a mass, humming and swirling, crawling all over the little box with the queen.

They flew around me in a cloud, humming, humming. I kept myself so calm, or did the calm come from them? From the flowers and the beeswax smell and the zzzmmmm zzzmmmmm zzzmmmm. I didn’t know I could feel so much for insects, but already I am in love with those bees.  It is as sweet and terrifying as any other love.DSCN3119

Then came the part that should be turned into an Olympic sport because it is harder than lawn bowling. Without letting the queen out, you have to replace the cork that holds her in with a mini-marshmallow. While wearing gloves. And veil. In a cloud of 5000 bees.

I did it, with no sports commentary, and put her little box into the hive, where the workers immediately began to eat the marshmallow between her and freedom.

Then I closed up the hive and went to get them some honey.

To work with my bees, I wear a veil and gloves and full raingear. Bees are like a rainstorm, I guess. Also, I am starting a fashion trend. As a bee suit, raingear works well. Mostly.DSCN3117

Before I went inside, I brushed all the bees off my coat and pants and the top of my hat. But in the quiet of the house, without the sound of the neighbor’s lawnmower, I could hear a muffled buzzing. I went back out and brushed myself off again. I went inside. The sound was still there. I went back out unzipped my raincoat.

Inside, on my chest, were fifteen or twenty bees.

My heart skipped a beat, for sure. They were crawling on my sweatshirt, which was pretty thick, but was also a V neck. My neck was bare skin. Yet none of the bees had stung me.

I brushed them off really quickly, none-the-less. Now I tuck my raincoat into my pants. Watch out, Paris.




My Goth Phase

“Do you need a goth phase?” Johanna, a very wise woman I know, asked me last spring when I was complaining about feeling like I was being too good all the time. (The downside of being a teacher is the same as the upside — you’re a role model all day long.)

“I don’t know about a goth phase,” I replied.

Well, needed or not, I had one Friday night. Nate’s cousin is the star of a big-in-Europe industrial band called Unter Null, and she was headlining a show in Seattle, so we went. The show was kind of like being at that bar in Star Wars, only everyone was wearing black, and everyone was very sweet. But there was a lady with horns and another with feathers, and a guy in what I would call an orc mask and one with three inch spikes coming up off his shoulders. (Was he having a pigeon problem?) Black outer-wear bras with studs were popular — maybe Madonna and a bulldog did a clothing line together? I was the only one there in pale pink.

This crowd believed in personal space. Even right in front of the stage, the only people touching each other were clearly sleeping together. Every time someone brushed against me, they apologized.  I could wriggle my way all the way to the front without touching anybody, just by walking in a zig zag. Every goth is an island, I guess.

Like the people, the music was not as clashy and edgy as I thought it would be. It was more like pop from another planet.  “If you want to dance goth, just pretend someone stepped on your toe and you lost your contact and you’re pissed,” said Nate, but mostly people were just bobbing like at any other show in Seattle.

Nate left me for the bathroom, and a guy came over and introduced himself. “Those are very exciting leggings,” he said, referring to my pattern tights (perhaps the gothiest thing I own, if goths wear brown tights from Garnet Hill). This happens a lot when Nate goes to the bathroom: guys tell me they like my tights. I’m not making this up, Nate. I thanked this guy and he abruptly ran away. When I smiled at another guy who was looking at me, he ran away too.

“Goths are awkward, damaged teddybears,” explained Nate. “Except for the sociopaths.” Which seemed about right. In any case, they were all very sweet to me, despite my lack of black. And at the end of the show, Nate’s cousin, who has a tattoo of butcher knives stuck through a heart on her chest and owns the stage like the rock star she is, was so horrified we, as family, hadn’t been let in for free that she insisted on refunding us from her own money.

But when we got home, there was Squinchy, worrying around like, “Where have you been? It’s 2:00 A.M. for goodness sake!” I guess even goths have curfews.