Thursday, January 14, 2016

Remembering David Bowie. Still.

I keep thinking about him. Listening to his songs.

Being surprised that I'm so moved by the loss of him in the world. Reflecting on his significance to me personally but also on how he shaped popular culture, almost insidiously.

Most importantly, I've bathed in the human connections of the last several days — talking about David Bowie with my dearest friends, and also with casual acquaintances, people who by their own admission weren't huge fans, but nonetheless have been, like me, unexpectedly moved by his passing. It's incredible to talk to so many people, from college students to my mother-in-law, about their impressions of him.

He really was, in a multifaceted and astonishingly unique way, The Man Who Sold The WorldOn himself. On the idea of relentless personal reinvention. On the idea, as my friend Jonathan Piercy said, that "being yourself doesn't mean you can't be a million different things."

Monday, January 11, 2016

RIP David Bowie

Recording sessions for Low in Berlin in 1977 with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.

David Bowie died. I stumbled across the news on an iPad, a device I never use to look at the news — I was simply using the light from its screen, trying to find my socks in the darkness of pre-dawn. David Bowie helped me find a lot of things in the occasional darkness of my life. His unapologetic idiosyncrasy helped me find the permission in myself to be idiosyncratic. His music — so much music — has been the soundtrack to my life for 40 years. Some of it — the best of it — was made in full collaboration with my other principal musical heroes, pictured above.

 David Bowie was one of my heroes. It's as simple as that.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Off to see The Wizard

It's hard to imagine the ludicrousness of writing about "how great the Wizard of Oz is," and yet, here I go.

I always assumed it would be the first movie she saw. That turned out to be Cool Hand Luke, but you can't control everything, am I right?

Having just returned from Vietnam, having missed Christmas, having missed New Year's, having missed my girls on these special occasions, I've been having the most wonderful time, these 48 hours since coming back to Kansas, er, Kentucky, I mean. And all day long for some reason, I kept thinking "Maybe it's time. Maybe tonight." I kept this opinion to myself, as I've learned to do with a four-year-old because once THAT idea gets out of the bag (or the wicker basket, let's just keep belaboring this), it AIN'T going back in. After a day of napping, wrestling, snacking, frolicking, reading, errand-running, and playgrounding, we come back home and Libby Lee, who's upstairs with Lucy, calls down: "Daddy? Can we watch A MOVIE tonight?"

It cost well over $2 million to make, and
earned just over $3 mil. It was a flop.
This is not a question often heard in our house — though that question is certainly soon to be heard more.

Lucy and I have been very tight-fisted where screens, TV and movies are concerned with Libby Lee. I just feel like those things are forever once they've been made, so why rush into them? That having been said, I've been waiting for this since Libby Lee was the tiniest bundle of joy — waiting for us to be "off to see the Wizard."

So, yes.. Yes, we can watch a movie tonight. Tonight we can watch … The Wizard of Oz. I went the extra measure. I joke that we always just kind of pretend that the TV is broken, but that's easy because it's got a cool cover over it, and it's just sort of never on, except maybe after Libby Lee has gone to bed. But for tonight? I re-attached the stereo speakers, and Libby Lee stuck close by me, as I sorted wires and plugged plugs.

The fact is, while doing some testing, we stumbled into a good 20 minutes of Pee Wee's Big Adventure and I watched as she sat — again the best word here is rapt — on the arm of the couch, with her fists under her chin, like some kind of poster for kids watching movies. And it was great, too, of course. Once everything was ready to go, including a couple of false starts (such is the world of, ahem, acquiring movies in the 21st century), Lucy and I both asked Libby Lee: "Do you want to keep watching Pee Wee's Big Adventure? It's OK if you do. We can watch The Wizard of Oz next time." Uh-uh. She said, with complete confidence "No, I want watch The Wizard of Oz."

And so we were off to see the Wizard.

I didn't expect that I would be pushing down tears as the intro credits rolled and straight-up wiping them away and trying not to heave too audibly as Dorothy Gale wings into Somewhere Over the Rainbow, in glorious sepia tone.

My god. Who knows how many times I've seen The Wizard of Oz? Is it the most universal movie in the Western world? I like to think so. Still, I haven't seen it in years. That sepia. As a kid I used to long for the the black-and-white part to be over because it seemed boring. I wonder if that's true. Not according to the look on my four-year-old's face as she sat between her parents, absolutely rapt and mesmerized, with a slight thrill of a smile, a kind of excitement at finally seeing it. It was like a Holy Grail (that will come later, of course).

Watching it now, with Libby Lee, the sepia seems so sublime, so surreal, as surreal as the technicolor Land of Oz that lurks behind that door just a few minutes later. I am no less mesmerized than her.

Libby Lee and I had read it over Thanksgiving. It was her first "big book." In fact, I'd never read L. Frank Baum's peculiar masterpiece. Again, stating the glaringly obvious, it was amazing. If you have never read The Wizard of Oz, do yourself the favor. And if you have the opportunity to read The Wizard of Oz aloud to a young child? That is an opportunity not to be missed. I'm grateful that I was given the opportunity, and will treasure it always.

Last night was so special, the three of us on the couch, both Lucy and I beaming occasionally at that small face sitting between us, transfixed, taking turns squeezing her, or holding her hand, occasionally singing along, noticing and sometimes exclaiming over details we'd never noticed, or had forgotten. Trying to shut up as much as possible, actually. All while a little girl sat stock still, eyes wide, wide open, mildly slack-jawed, with the tiniest trace of a mesmerized grin for 101 minutes.

I never want to forget it, and that's one of the reasons I'm writing now. Watching it (and 30 minutes of Pee Wee) helped take some of my anxiety away about my daughter and TV and movies. For a little while longer, we can control 100% of what she sees in our house; and there are some wonderful, wonderful things to see. I think I can see how "movie night" can work for us and can be a real family thing. I hope that's true.

And no matter what, I hope Libby Lee always remembers the first time she was off to see the Wizard.

The WONDERFUL Wizard of Oz. 

You should read about the history of the movie, which was the 4th film version, in case you didn't know, and considered a cinematic flop, at the time.

An urgent visit to Lexington's Yu Yu Asian Market:

My first trip inside a store since returning home — in a vain effort to hold onto Vietnam memories. Clockwise: green tea (looking for the right style, definitely not some epicurean variety, is my guess), instant weasel coffee (instant coffee -- who knew? The weasel part — you don't want to know), Dragonfruit. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

#Ukulele shopping on "guitar street," Saigon #vietnam #holyshit #santa #koa #vietkoa #soprano kinda tough to find but I'll persevere

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I am reinvented. #closeshave #burmashave

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@singerinsaigon classing the place up by magnitudes

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we had to. I'll take the blame. #kfc

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So — Does one say: "Welcome to Saigon," or "Welcome to HCMC?" #wemadeit #howdysaigon #Vietnam #motorbiking #hooray

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Pleeeeeease #mephisto boots: you've seen a lot of action with me. I need you to hang together just a little bit more .... #Vietnam

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My eyes well up with tears as we approach #hochiminhcity aka #saigon because while I do miss and love my home and family, I just cannot begin to describe how #Vietnam has enriched my soul. So, as a distraction while I pretend something's in my eye, here's some #geometry for @eamesdemetrios

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Let's roll, ladies. Next stop: #saigon #hcmc #hochiminhcity #Vietnam

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

The comeuppance to a popular joke of mine, when paying the tab in the US: Here in #Vietnam they actually DO take Diners Club, it seems. #probablynot

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Dinner last night with the Frenchies and the Norwegians:

Turns out the world is full of interesting, cheerful, insightful people, who speak many language, including English. Lucky for the ignorant, fat, monolingual Yankees, right?

(as I mention from time to time, if you're reading this directly on Facebook, you may be missing some photos. I strongly suggest hopping over to for the full effect)

And magnificent sunsets

Good evening and good morning (respectively) from Mũi Né. Saigon looms but a day or two away.

I've shed some tears thinking about this, because it signals that we're near the end of our motorbike odyssey through Vietnam. There are no words, though I've  written many, to truly describe how deeply and profoundly this journey has nursed, challenged, and enriched my soul. So I'll stop now, because I'm getting teary, and I choose to eat more breakfast and write more later.

Here's what the south calls an "omelette." Delicious, but a total departure from the "piggies" that the Northerners call "omelettes." This is more scrambled eggs poured into a blazing hot skillet and swirls around with ham and tomatoes. Blam, onto my plate. As I've mentioned before, most hotels offer a free breakfast of Dionysian proportions -- fruit, eggs, bread, coffee, tea, the best damned strawberry jam I've ever had over and over -- and I eat, like, five of them. Thankfully, the Viets live to serve and I've never been castigated.

Also, the "bacon" is actually bacon, but nowhere have I encountered a cook who knew how to crisp it. (Chris says this is true the world over). I suspect many places actually steam bacon. Not complaining, just observing. In fact, think I'll order some more. Now.

Best Day of My Life, So Far. And it's only 8:30 am.