On seeing Peter Gabriel and Sting: Rock Paper Scissors 2016

 

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I don’t even know where to begin, but I guess I’ll start. I’ve mentioned on this blog before about my love for pre-1975 Genesis and about my obsession with Peter Gabriel back when I first heard Games Without Frontiers. I will never stop being a huge Gabriel fan.

The Eighties were huge in music for many of us born in the Seventies. While punk still lingered in the back of our brains, new wave, and a lot of fusion had taken over the pop scene. There were genres, of course, but it was such a great time for music that you’d hear Lionel Richie played next to The Cure and not bat an eyelash. One of the bands that really stuck with me were The Police. Their catchy reggae and punk inspired tunes hit feelings of nostalgia no matter when they were played and even if their songs were new. When Sting aka Gordon Sumner, branched out on his own, his music was an extension of that. Although you can separate The Police and Sting, you can’t separate the musical styles as a whole because Sting wrote a lot of the music and lyrics. Andy Summers eccentric guitar style is still iconic and Stewart Copeland is still a god of drums in my book. The Police catalogue lives in vinyl records and VHS tapes in my home.

I remember hearing Fortress Around Your Heart for the first time while waking up one morning. I’m sure many teenage girls were seduced by that song and ran out to get The Dream Of Blue Turtles. Or maybe that was just me. UNF, THAT video. *swoon* 

I caught  Sting every time was on television including his appearances on Saturday Night Live (elevator!) and one of the greatest music shows ever, Night MusicI’ve seen him perform solo live a couple of times and with The Police during their reunion. His shows are incredible and besides being great pleasing his fans, he’s such an underrated musician and poet.

In the Nineties I took my mom to go see Peter Gabriel with me because I’d never seen a concert with her that wasn’t salsa music. My little Colombian mom stood there cheering and putting her hands up in the air like she was a long time fan. Well, it turns out she listened to every mixed tape I made her and tried her best to understand me because she’s an awesome mom. That night we hugged and we had the best time ever as mother and daughter singing along to “Sledgehammer,” which was the only song she hadn’t made up words to, since although she’s fluent in English, it’s hard for her to gauge words when sung sometimes. It’s adorable.

When Sting and Peter Gabriel’s Rock Paper Scissors tour was announced, I called my sister. I took her to her first all-ages show (Weezer) and had also bombarded her with mixed tapes of Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and Sting. I needed to see this concert with her. The first time we saw Sting together was the night I had announced to her that I was pregnant with my first child. As I jumped along to the music that night, she kept trying to hold me down to keep me from hurting myself, worried because I was pregnant.

This year, we’ve both hit some hard times. Thus, when I called her about the Sting/Gabriel concert, she immediately said, “LET’S DO THIS.”

Last night was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever had the pleasure of being present at (and that’s saying a lot since I’ve seen some incredible shows). Peter Gabriel started the night off with a rock hard version of Rhythm Of The Heat (you know that BRRRRRONG from the film Inception and the looming drums in most film trailers? Inspired by this song).

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People light up their phone flashlights in lieu of lighters to “Love Can Heal.”

Sting followed after with If I Ever Lose My Faith In You. It’s definitely one of his more pop driven tracks, however, it started what was a great back and forth feeling for the night. Peter Gabriel would drive in, then Sting would answer, and the night felt more like a nice rollercoaster ride of greatest hits and some new tracks as well. As they came up to explain their formula for evening, up on stage the two looked like to best friends about to duel at karaoke. Gabriel would josh on Sting’s looks, while Sting would play up Gabriel’s versatility as a showman. I laughed. I cried. I turned to look at my sister and dance with her. Both of us overjoyed at reliving our teenage hood (we’re eight years apart) together for once.

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Gabriel and Sting comedy night.
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Sister best friends forever.

One of highlights of the night for me was Sting starting off with the first verse of pre-1975 Genesis’ Dancing With The Moonlit Knight (“selling England by the pound”), and then plow right into Message In A BottleIt was as a response to his and Gabriel’s reaction to Brexit this week. Oh and they played so many hits, so many wonderful renditions together of each other’s music. Peter Gabriel did Sting’s If You Love Somebody Set Them Free in his lounge inspired glam style. And that’s the thing, while both of them are prolific songwriters and accomplished musicians, while Sting is Sting by his presence, Peter Gabriel’s been glaming it up with the likes of David Bowie and Robert Fripp for ages. For me, Gabriel is one of the most influential artists out there, not just because of his music, but also by what he always brings to the stage. Whether it’s in costume changes or weird ass dance moves, but Gabriel’s voice transcends the persona he projects up there and brings shivers especially when performing this song:

 

Here’s a setlist for the night: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/sting-and-peter-gabriel/2016/air-canada-centre-toronto-on-canada-43ffa7ef.html

Needless to say I am on cloud nine for a while. By chance because it was Gabriel, I got to see Tony Levin play with two tight lineups in one year (with Peter Gabriel last night, and King Crimson earlier)! I am in prog-rock heaven.

I died. I came back to life. I am refreshed. The dark will back as always, but for now, I have music.

I adore my sister. We’ve both seen each other through thick and thin and best and worst. Last night was the best, not just because of the music, but because it’s a reminder that no matter what, reach out. Don’t give up.

“At the end of ‘Don’t Give Up,’ when the pounding bass takes over, I found myself skanking, dancing reggae style; I was in Jamaica in the spirit of Bob Marley; I saw the break of my marriage, my move from Los Angeles to Rome, my change of name, change of face, my own struggles and determination to make it again ’cause I have friends’ who would help me not to give up.” Armando Gallo, Peter Gabriel, (Omnibus Press, 1986).

 

“‘And Englishman in New York,’ was more of an open tribute to Quentin Crisp. The pair had met when Sting suggested him for a role in The Bride, and their friendship grew when Sting came to New York. ‘He’s one of my heroes and one of the most courageous men I’ve ever met. He was homosexual in England at a time when being so was physically dangerous, and he was himself, with no apologies, in such a flamboyant and brave way that should be an example to us all.'” – Sting, from Sting: the biography by Robert Sellers, (Omnibus Press, 1989)

 

AND BE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY.

 

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Although they delved into some old stuff, I still wish they’d played these two songs (I was just in the mood for them…although my Gabriel and Sting choices change day by day):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncreative Writing: Alanna McKnight

My friend Alanna McKnight sent me an email recently: 

“Just wanted to drop you a line to say you’ve inspired me.

For the class I made the Rossetti dress for we have the option of doing a creative piece. Everyone has been saying I should do something with the dress, so I am, but I didn’t just want to re-make the picture with the poem, so I’m re-making the poem as well. Inspired by you!
I’m taking apart Rossetti’s poem and putting it back together in the same sonnet format. It’s a tricksy exercise! It may take a couple goings over to get something I like.

Also, is it cool if I cite you in my statement explaining the creative work?”

Excited, I asked her to let me know when her finished product was done and here it is:

“The original sonnet and painting can be found here for a frame of reference of what I work working with:

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/rossetti/works/beauties/sibyllapalmifera.aspx

My version of the poem keeps the rhyming scheme, and used every word.

My version of the painting incorporated some of the elements that Rossetti used (like the dress, the roses, the censer).

The final assignment will be submitted in a frame with the poem and image together, like Rossetti’s were.  It’s for Prof. Lorraine Janzen-Kooistra’s “Modernity and the Visual” course.”

Photo by Dan Henderson http://valhallaimages.com
Photo by Dan Henderson http://valhallaimages.com

Beauty’s Soul- after Rossetti By Alanna McKnight

And in the sky my Beauty drew in thy death,

Or fluttering over her mystery; And how, in what awe

Can it, life, irretrievably, under one known law

Struck by flying voice, by woman; of her breath

Whose beauty and terror I shake beneath

Where to love as hers, that passionately draw

The long allotted ways; fond heart flight and saw

*

Her hair- The sky, or thy shrine, and bondman wreath

And how of the Lady daily enthroned,

I praise And which eyes, and palm of hand, and feet,

And which guard thee, and bend on thy beat

Are still following her gaze as to the sea

Though this sea is simply many days

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Alanna took out some time and answered a few questions for me:

1. How does it tie into the course?

The course is about nineteenth century visual culture. We were given the option to do a creative assignment, with the suggestion of taking a Victorian poem, and creating an image to go along with it, something that would invoke the feeling of the materials we’ve covered. Some people opted to try lithography, which was really cool, others are doing photo collage. I originally wasn’t going to do this optional assignment, because I don’t see myself as being particularly creative. But I made the dress for a presentation I did about Sibylla Palmifera (Soul’s Beauty), and sort of got peer-pressured by my classmates into doing it.

2. What made you get uncreative with it? 

I chose to go this route because the idea of taking someone else’s poem and slapping my own image to it didn’t appeal to me. I had looked at the words of the sonnet while preparing my seminar about it, and loved the words that were used. I remembered reading about your experiences (specifically the OCAD class), and thought that would be a cool way to go about it. The words were all there, they just needed to be shaken up. Likewise with the image. The elements were there, but they weren’t mine. There was another story that wanted to be told that were begging to be released.

3. What did you get out of the experience of uncreative writing? Would you do it again?

Taking the poem apart and looking at it for just the words, taking away any content that was there, and putting a new identity to it was fascinating. I started wondering why specific words were used, like “Bondsman”. What an odd choice! But I had to use it, because it was there. At times I got frustrated thinking “if only I could cheat, and add a word, or break a word up, or make it plural, or possessive”. It forces you to look at your use of language, and your habits of writing. I think I’ve only written two poems in the past 14 years, and they’ve both been for school, but I certainly have a specific voice. Being “uncreative” (which is so not the right word for this!) forces you to use that voice within specific confines. I would certainly do this again. It’s like fridge poetry, except more awesome.

P.S. Also, do check out Liz Worth‘s blog Rewriting Andy Warhol: http://bit.ly/13In5Fq  

R.I.P. my cat and friend, Asha.

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If anything, my cat taught me not to give a fuck. Cats don’t care what you think.They don’t care if you’ve had a bad day, they demand to be petted, fed, played with, and groomed, at times, but really, they couldn’t give you the time of day. You are a vessel of convenience to a cat. Ok, they care if there’s a bird outside the window or where the hell the pointer light is, but other than food, they don’t care if anyone in this world exists, but them. It’s an honestly raw and a very zen like way of living. There’s less suffering for all, really.

Friends of cats make narratives about them. I do it all the time. I look at my cats and anthropomorphize their thoughts and actions.

“I’m staring at a wall looking into the essence of my soul outside of my soul. Om.”

“Oh I see the human is eating. Time for my treats. Stop eating, human.WHERE ARE THEY?”

“You look upset. I’m going to use this opportunity to get some pets. Pet me until I scratch you. kthx!”

“Ha. You failed at that glowing box game thingie….I HEAR CHIRPING WTF WHERE BE THE BIRD?”

“I see you’re having a bad day. Look at me. Stick your head into a pillow. Don’t worry about the breathing part. Just do it. Where’s your God now?”

“Look at me. Now look at my head. Look at me again. Look at your hand. Now look at my head. Look at your hand. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO.”

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Cats make me amuse myself, and by doing so they amuse me to no end. I guess we also like to pretend that our cats are very different from one another and that they have different personalities, hence the imposed narratives. They do have their individual ticks, fears, triggers, exciters, and motivators.

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Asha was my first cat. Before her I didn’t really care much for cats. I was mostly a dog person. My friend Heather (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Se%C3%B1orita-Serpiente/319600203736?fref=ts) was having trouble with her dog bullying her older cat. She put a call out on facebook wondering if anyone would take in Asha. I was home for most of the day for my kids and volunteered to take her in. I thought it would be a great way to get my kids to connect with something outside of their parents and school (I’d read autistics share an ethereal existence with cats). My husband picked her up and Asha came home to live with us in our then house which we called Casablanca.

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Like most cats, Asha hid under a bed for two days before coming out to explore her new home. For the first few weeks she’d stay at the doorway of the living room and look like Batman overseeing Gothman. I’d pass by her, give her pets, and call her The Dark Night. Then after a bit, she got used to the chaos of the kids. She’d get bolder and sit beside us as we hunkered in for a night of tv watching and book reading. She wouldn’t sit in our laps, but she’d sit at the top of the sofa or sleep on the carpet. Her favorite time was bedtime. I’d tuck the kids in and head back to the living room. Asha would meander over to the kids’ room and look in on them, kind of trying to make sure they were asleep. When she was sure, she’d start turbo-ing around the house, up and down the stairs. Since she was a bit of an overweight kitty, all you’d see was this fat black fur-ball slowly try to speed through the house. It was a hilarious sight to behold.

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On my low days, I’d come home and she’d stare at me from her perch on the sofa, look at me with those big yellow eyes, and just be her indifferent self. If I sat down, she’d nuzzle me and purr loudly as I ran my fingers through her fur. She’d flop over and wait until I gave in to her demands. “That’s right. Get my scent all over you. RUB THAT BELLY. You’re mine,” was what I’d think she was saying in between each calming purr. It was such a soothing time petting her.

Asha used to be an outdoor cat. A friend, Verona (http://codebloo.net/verona/) does a lot to help out animals (she currently helps find homes for abandoned dogs in Los Angeles), found Asha and passed her onto Heather. So she’s very much a rescue cat, but a very laid back one. Asha has street smarts. We used to live in the apartment on top of Big Sushi in The Annex. We never had an issue with pests because Asha was a diligent guard cat. One night though, she had no idea what to do with her treasure so she dumped a mouse beside me in bed as I slept. I woke up and found a terrified mouse hiding under my pillow. I screamed. Asha looked at me from the foot of the bed like I was some sort of traitor. “How dare you hide the enemy!”

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I keep switching tenses (I apologize for this, but I’m leaving it as it is), because I don’t know what’s what when it comes to Asha today. She’s become such a constant to me over the years. One of the first faces I see in the day is hers. I keep telling my cats I’m going to eat their faces. Asha had a “buddy” in our youngest kitty, K2. The relationship between those two was of tolerance. It’s the best in lesbian marriages, I think. You see, Asha was already fixed when we got her and K2 wasn’t, thus she had to go through the kitten’s first stages of heat. When K2 would start howling for satisfaction, Asha would get right up in her face and stare at her. Then, when she thought the moment was right, she’d swat her in the face. “We’ve had enough of your impudence NOW CALM THE HELL DOWN.” That or Asha would hump her to settle her down. Of course, when K2 finally got spayed and had her cone of shame removed, the first thing she did was to go right up to Asha and give her a giant swat in the face as revenge. Then I couldn’t stop laughing. I told everybody.

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When not sleeping on the sofa, Asha would sleep by my feet at night and for the last few months she’d become a lap cat. She didn’t care if we had a laptop, a book, or a kid on our lap when we were on the couch. She demanded Asha lap time just by her Batman stare. “THE DARK KNIGHT REQUIRES HER NAP SO MAKE IT HAPPEN.” We’d always oblige. We spoiled her so much.

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Asha was a cat; black cat with yellow eyes who watched over my kids until they slept. She liked cat nip, a bit of tuna for a treat, and sleeping by the window in a sun beam. Asha didn’t care for mice and liked to watch the birds from the window by my desk. She was afraid of no one, but children in the house (with the exception of her subjects, my kids). The Dark Knight was actually quite fond of Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy and would often stand right in front of the television to watch the explosions. She was like every other cat in the world: making you love them just by existing and being their catty demanding selves. I didn’t take as many photos of Asha simply because when I did, she’d appear as this black silhouette. With a fat paw on my face or on my knee she’d let me know that I was never alone. She was enigmatic, would blend into the periphery, was as fat as a bear, and I love her so very much. Asha The Dark Knight McDonough was one of my dearest best friends.

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I hope we made her life enjoyable. I know we’re not an easy family to live with: chaotic, unpredictable, and on the go, but we make time for each other. Our cats are a big part of our family. They are our fur kids. Asha had a stroke today. Her heart gave out. She was 15 years old.

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Dear Asha, thanks for making me feel loved with each headbutt, with each time you’d give in to my cuddles, and for making me understand that sometimes to overcome the big things, all we have to do is stare at a wall for just a little while. There’s beauty in all the possibilites of an empty mind; a blank canvas. Now there’s this little black furry hole (and a forever dent in the sofa where you used to sit), in my life where you used to be.

That kid who used to try to poke you in the eye graduated into junior high today. Not that you care, but I’d thought I’d let you know.

May you rest in peace, stay sweet and party on, Asha. You deserve all the best laps, pets, and love in the world. One last one for the road:

“Whosa my little kitty? Whosa my little dark baby of the night? You are.”

My Sexy Bear Man Costume: The Story.

There is a story to my costume this year. Last year, my friends Jeannette and Jamie took me to see True Grit. As a lover of westerns & Coen Bros. films, I loved it. At one point in the film, Ed Lee Corbin appears as a strange bear man. Jamie turns to me and says, “That is so you.”

http://www.knoxville.com/news/2010/dec/24/bear-man-ed-corbin-true-grit-jeff-bridges/

Yes, yes it is. Bear Man is all things logical and ridiculous.

Then on Halloween, in the middle of some drunk talk (my third beer), I managed to vow to be “Sexy Bear Man” 2012. There was “sexy” everything out there. Why not Bear Man? Or why not ME as Bear Man?  There was some riffing on this idea and the ideas we came up with made me laugh so hard that tears came to my eyes. It was a great night with great friends. I remembered it.
Throughout the months as people have been reminiscing, the question came up, “What are you going to be for Halloween?
“Duh. Sexy Bear Man.”
“Really?!”
“Yes. I vowed. I’m sticking to it.”
Though doubts came up due to the whole slutty costume thing being un-feminist, my take has always been: I picked sexy Bear Man because it’s absurd. It’s me. It’s not a costume I picked off a rack or put no thought into. I’ve sewed. I’ve planned. I’ve had fun making it.
Tonight sexy Bear Man will roam. It’s a very warm costume. Rest assured there will be a photo and I will post it on this entry before I head out for Halloween festivities tonight, so stay tuned to this post for that. Anyways, below contains a clip of Bear Man (among other appearances by Ed Lee Corbin), in one of my favorite films.
Update: Here you go. Sexy True Grit Bear Man.

From the Maybe launch.

Photo by Jennifer Valencia

I started it off with an André Breton  poem and went from there. It was a very fun night. Thank you to all who came! Many thanks also to Playful Grounds Cafe for hosting the event.

To those who have asked for artwork prints, shoot me an email at j.valenciapoetrydotcom and I’ll arrange for it!

Paperbacks are available through me as well (always in my backpack), and you can still find them free and downloadable here: http://jacquelinevalencia.com/works/

Look for a story of mine in an upcoming ebook by Little Fiction called “Listerature” (out on March 7th), and some of my poetry in the next print issue of dead (g)end(er) magazine.

Now to get back to some submissions and editing. Ohhhh editing.

 

A review so far for “Maybe”: ”

“Great language & imagery in ‘ready’ (“sour planets outside my door”). I was totally delighted by MIMO– I am a Sci-Fi Sucker! ‘google maybe image pantoum’ had an amazing rhythm.”A.G. Pasquella

Tika

When I was newly married, I had a best friend. Her name was Tika. She was a tiny Jack Russell Terrier whose fur was all white with the exception of a single brown patch on her right ear. The runt of the litter, she trotted about like she was the princess of everything.

She was the only one besides my husband and my sister that I would talk to back then. We’d go for long walks, play at Centre Island and she’d cuddle up by my toes at night. When I was pregnant with my son, Tika would place her head on my belly and growl at it when the baby would kick. She made my dad, a man who disliked dogs immensely, fall in love with her quirky personality and unlimited devotion.

There’s not much I can say here about her without bursting into tears like a complete idiot at my keyboard.  Therefore, I will keep this post brief. She passed on when she was in someone else’s care in 2002. Tika, the most amazing dog in the universe, is no longer with me and hasn’t been with me for the longest time. However, not a day goes by when I don’t think of her and her following me and my husband everywhere we went. Sure, I have cats now, and they’re an amazing pair, but they’re not Tika.

Once upon a time, I sat at my keyboard about to reach out to strangers that were soon to become good friends. My anxiety and hermit-like cocooning was at its worse. Tika sat on my lap and I thought up this plan where she and I would travel all around the world together. I wouldn’t need anyone, but her at my side to show me to live for the next scent, the next fast moving object, or the next opportunity to run for it.

Since those plans can never be, I decided to sketch Tika and myself as astronauts in my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project.  This way, we’d travel the world together as I saw us exploring the universe.

I miss you lots, Tika.

You can a few of my sketches for the tour here: https://jacquelinevalencia.wordpress.com/sketchbook-project-2012/