Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Swedish musician Anna Ternheim played the Doug Fir this past weekend to an eager crowd, instilling a sense of quiet reverence from her audience. Her delicate voice, coupled with a solid backing band comprised of members from Loney, Dear, balanced out into sheer perfection as Ternheim crooned into the dimly lit venue.
Her third studio album, Leaving On Mayday was released on Aug. 11 and showcases her talent not only as a musician and singer, but also as a lyricist. On “Damaged Ones,” she painfully draws out the lines “what keeps you from moving / are you afraid to be loved? / See how my hands shake / I was raised on it like a drug.”
Her expressive voice tugs at your heart, compelling the listener to stay riveted to the sound of her voice sings out over intricate baselines, delicate string parts and atmospheric percussion.
Monday, October 5, 2009
So this is kind of cool. I'm not a huge fan of Lenn Kravitz and his work, but Justice seems to have jazzed this song up enough to make it more interesting. The video is pretty funny too Reminds me a little of Twin Peaks meets West Side Story. I couldn't embed the video, but you can find it here.
Forget about Zombieland. I'm excited for the Crazies. A remake of Romero's original 1973 flick, it takes several of my favorite things (infectious diseases, violence and zombie-like creatures) and wraps them all up into a bloody, messy package. The writing will probably be less than amazing (we can't all be 28 Days Later, now can we?), but man the trailer looks creepy:
According to the book that comes with Gwen, her father lost his job and then left the family. Eventually Gwen and her mom were unfortunately evicted, and now have to sleep in a car.
I suppose this is a good thing. Since homeless populations are on the rise in the country, and unemployment hitting all-time highs, there should be a doll that speaks to the homeless children of our nation. Oh, wait … the Gwen Thompson homeless doll cost $95! I guess then, Gwen is a great tool for educating rich kids about those folks they see on the street, as they ride by in their stretched limos.
Hey, if rich kids can afford to buy a homeless doll, why not take it a step further, and just rent a homeless person to play with until they get tired of it.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
So, in a crazy turn of events, the Flaming Lips are apparently filming a music video in Portland and they want YOU to be in it. BikePortland.org had this to say:
The plan for the shoot makes Portland’s annual naked bike events sound fairly run of the mill. “I’m having one of my giant space bubbles covered in fake fox fur,” [Wayne] Coyne said. “Its going to look like some giant fur egg, and the people on bicycles are gonna sort of be born and erupt out of this fur, vaginalistic thing.”
Coyne in a “giant space bubble.”
...The video is being made for the final song, called “Watching the Planets,” on the Flaming Lips’ upcoming album appropriately titled Embryonic. The song is “an epic…march, almost. It goes on this hypnotic groove,” Coyne said. The video’s concept is still emerging: “Maybe I’ll even get naked for the video, too. I don’t even know how it ends — maybe it ends with them all getting clothed and making me get naked and shoving me back into the giant fur egg. I just came up with that right now.”
The shoot is from 10am to 10pm on Wednesday, September 23rd. Participation is on a drop-in basis. The sign-in table will be the basketball courts near the top of Mount Tabor.
Giant fur egg? Simulated birth? I'm there...
I went to the naked bike ride. It was amazing. Getting the Flaming Lips and a camera involved could only make that kind of situation more epic.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I love Bladen County. They put out good music by good people like Y La Bamba and Alan Singley. For this reason, I am pretty excited for their ginormous showcase at Musicfest NW this Saturday. It's taking place at Rontom's at 2:30 and won't be over till late into the night. Sixteen bands, zines, and a whole lot of love. In preparation for the showcase, Bladen County has put together this dandy little compilation album for free. I suggest you go here and download it immediately.
In typical fashion for a city filled with bike enthusiasts and brewers, Hopworks Urban Brewery is hosting a free, all-day bike-in Oktoberfest on September 19. The March Fourth Marching band will be playing some sick jams and the Sprockettes, a bike dance troupe, will be there too. I have no idea what a bike dance troupe is, but it sounds both entertaining and dangerous (two things that generally make for a good performance).There will also be a plethora of other bike related activities for the whole family, some more live bands on a "keg-supported stage" and two new organic beers being unveiled. It's a little overwhelming just typing all of that. Bring your bike, grab a beer and try not to crash on your way home.
Ride Oregon has more information here.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
One of the best displays of innovative art that also has a broad appeal is Daniel Barrow's Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry currently at the TBA festival and being performed at the Art Museum. A story told by the artist with projections of comic-book like depictions, Everytime employs some really amazing imagery, full of symbolism, a little gore, and deep emotions.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Yes, it is that time of year again. Time for T:BA 09, with its experimental and questionable art and performance, it has become a premier art festival in the Northwest, harnessing talent from all over the world.
Last Meadow is set to an original score created by first-time composer Neal Medlyn and lighting by longtime collaborator Lenore Doxsee. Mining movement and text from James Dean’s East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, Last Meadow creates a non-narrative collage of sensorial confusion, aka an America where the jig is up and the dream has died. Last Meadow is about the space of waiting, when things don’t move forward, don’t happen as they should, and mixed messages are the only ones we get.I won't be able to give you my thoughts on it until tomorrow morning, cause I am going to what will probably be one of the highlights of the festival, the Explode into Colors performance with Janet Pants & Chris Hackett later tonight after Last Meadow.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I especially love how her eyes kind of roll back and the sound that accompanies it (kind of a television static from Poltergeist type thing). Creepy, yet moving.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thank you to Look at this Fucking Hipster... I think.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
So what gave Blink 182 the idea that they could ever become relevant again? There is a reason that I haven't listened to this band since I still thought zip binders and skater shoes were a fashionable choice. This latest publicity stunt only furthers my belief that these guys are getting a little pathetic. As quoted from the press release I received:
"blink-182 has teamed with photographers Jered Martin and Lisa Johnson to create special limited edition t-shirts for each stop on the tour. The shirts will be limited to 182 pieces per night. Once they are gone they are gone. The screens and film will be destroyed and never printed again."
Gasp! Destroyed? After only 182 a night? How ever shall I continue to breath if I do not obtain one of these unique and original shirts? Oh wait, I forgot for a second that I don't really care. Get over yourselves guys, you are not a pivotal rock band and you never will be.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Steinberg comes across as self-absorbed, selfish, pathetic, melodramatic, self-depreciating, self-pitying and possibly a sociopath. He tells the reader what people are thinking and feeling rather than showing through events, making him an unreliable narrator.
On page 164 he admits that after likening his history to a Greek tragedy while regaling his tale to fellow addicts as they blankly stare at him, he adds that it was, “just Neil babbling nonsense.” It comes across as an insult to the less educated addicts’ intelligence, but “just Neil babbling nonsense” is actually a good description for the entire book.
It is not a Greek tragedy. There was no family curse (his parents didn’t drink) and no gods intervened in his life. He drank too much and one night he slapped his wife.
Even with his over-the-top praise for his wife Edie, at several times during the book he starts blaming the “bitch” for calling the cops on him when he slapped her, causing him to go to jail and then rehab.
Since the book’s written in present tense, it’s difficult to tell whether that was his opinion only when he was trying to sober up or if that’s still what he felt while writing the book. Seeing as he remains bitter toward her throughout the book and repeats how it’s her fault he has to go to rehab, my guess is the latter.
Memoirs are usually written in past tense, so that the author can relay events as well as reflect on how they’ve learned from time, maturity and distance. Without any intellectual interpretations and random tangents that lead nowhere, Steinberg’s book comes across as little more than a drunken ramble.
Just as I would not sit next to a drunk in a bar as he pours out his entire self-pitying story to me, I did not want to finish Steinberg’s stream of consciousness. However, I sledged through 270 pages to warn you readers to stay far, far away from this book. There are many superior addiction memoirs. Unless you prefer a drunken ramble by a man who hits his wife and isn’t able to show appropriate remorse.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Add to that that I've always felt the show lacked truly standout musical numbers (the closest being "La Vie Boheme") and it just lacks appeal for me, someone who is in general fairly tolerant of musicals.
In any case I have elected not to see the touring production in Portland but would be interested to hear the take of anyone who did.
Thoughts? What's the mysterious attraction behind this thing?
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Not only is "June: damp dungeon edition" speeding towards a close but the mopey Seattalites of Sunny Day Real Estate are reuniting to give my 17-year-old self the best birthday present ever.
Since Sunny Day Real Estate has broken up the genre they helped found has gone down the worst possible path but SDRE actually made emo that was kinda, sorta good (remember?). They, along with Get Up Kids, will be play this year's Music Fest Northwest on September 16.
Hit the link for the full (and pretty bad-assed) lineup.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
It was bound to happen some day. Sexy Clube, an adult website in Brazil, has developed a mirror that attaches to your computer, letting you see if anyone is behind you while you...uh...you know. Thanks to the folks at this fantastic blog for this hot tip on internet safety.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
If you're curious, you can check out more stuff from Nite Club here.
No word on what the accident was, but all I can say is that the world lost another great artist. My thoughts will be with his family, friends and everyone at KRS.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Favorite quote: "Now her mind ain't no good because the penis done ejaculated all in her brain."
Monday, May 25, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
In addition to my various longstanding gripes with adulthood (water bills, responsibility, general malaise) I have also recently added "not being able to play with legos all the time."
However, the folks at Lego have apparently been reading my fucking mind again as they have recently announced the "Lego Architecture Series" that seems squarely marketed at kick-ass adults such as myself who still want to play with blocks but wish to do so under a flimsy veneer of "culture."
The price range on these puppies is all over the place ($299 for the Taj Mahal, $19.99 for the Space Needle) but with a nerd-gasmic set of designs in the works this could easily be my go-to distraction/reason why I can't pay my heating bills over the next year.
If the following photos don't make you really really excited I probably don't want to know you:
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Many thanks Pampelmoose!
Monday, May 18, 2009
Man, when the AV Club gets it right they are hard to fault. In this interview with veteran character actor Charles Napier there are enough interesting tidbits to fill several bestsellers.
From being pulled off the streets (literally, he was a wino) to being signed by Alfred Hitchcock within 24 hours, from fighting in WWII to talking with Russ Meyer about how Ernest Hemingway bought him his first whore this is just an amazing interview. Enough Hollywood lore to satisfy the die hards and casual fans.
Seriously: Check. It. Out.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
If you missed Dan Deacon's recent (and decidedly kickass) Portland performance then all is not lost. NPR has got your back (hasn't it always?) with a live broadcast of Deacon's Washington D.C. show this Sunday.
It's going to start streaming at about 10 p.m. eastern which means you'll have to be up in the wee hours of the morning to catch it over here, but if ever there was an artist capable of waking you the fuck up it's the electronic monster mash of Deacon's live band.
Full detail here.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
As many have surely noticed, the Willy's "Best New Band" issue came forth this week and though this year's choices have resulted in some contentious words from certain Vanguard staffers we can at least all agree that free shows are a good thing. And the Willamette Week has provided us with just that.
This Saturday Berbati's will host BNB winner Explode Into Colors as well as Nurses and local riddilin junkies White Fang in a celebration of their best-new-band-ness.
I'd recommend showing up before the official start time of 9 p.m. as this one is likely going to be packed to the gils.
Berbati's Pan, May 9, 9 p.m., FREE, 21+
Saturday, May 2, 2009
by Jeff W Guay
I can hardly think of a director's body of work worth revisiting quite as much as Jim Henson's. The craft, creativity and sheer entertainment value of a his early commercials and experimental films, showing this weekend at the Northwest Film Center, at once reinforce the charm and skill of his puppetry, but also illuminate his ability as a filmmaker of other strengths. The program begins with black and white commercials, starring early versions of favorites such as Kermit and Rowlf, for everything from bygone domestic products to homeowners insurance. There's an innocence and transparency to these 1950's advertisements, and Henson's comic timing and farcical nature make these commercials feel more like sketch comedy than the manipulative advertising we're more used to these days.
“Do you drink Wilkin's coffee?” a tadpole, perhaps an early inception of Kermit, asks a chubby, gruff-voiced monster while pointing a cannon in his face. “No!” replies the monster, and the tadpole blows him away, then points the cannon at the camera. “Do you drink Wilkin's coffee?”
The commercials are sure to be the audience pleasers of the program, but Henson's experimental, non-puppet short films are worth seeing as well. “Time Piece,” a 1965 short stars Henson as a sex-obsessed hospital patient, in the throws of a psychedelic identity crisis between caveman and proper dinner guest. The editing is meticulous, with everything from Henson's footsteps to the flow of inner-city traffic moving to the beat of its jazz soundtrack.
The program in its entirety gives us a chance to absorb Henson's technical wizardry, and to appreciate his knack for comedy in pieces that are not particularly intended for children. The commercials are perhaps some of the best of their day if not of their century, and rare interviews with Henson and the opportunity to see “Time Piece” in it's entirety are all wonderful reasons to catch this screening.
MUPPETS, MUSIC & MAGIC: JIM HENSON'S LEGACY
COMMERCIALS AND EXPERIMENTS
Sunday, May 3rd
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
We start our story in the mid 80’s. Ronald Reagan was still in office. People weren’t yet convinced that McDonalds was all that bad for you - after all, would a clown sell you something that could be detrimental to your health? Surely not. Video had been killing the radio star for a minute before rap got in on the act. Walk with us as we take a brief stroll down memory lane….
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Local duo Experimental Dental School released their new album, Forest Field, as a free download today on their website www.experimentaldental.com.
Originally from Oakland, where they shared stages with Bay Area bretheren Deerhoof, they moved to PDX a couple years ago to hide in a basement and record. This is their first album as a two piece, and it follows suit that it's their tightest yet. Gone is the smorgaasbord of sound from earlier efforts like Jane Doe Loves Me or Hideous Dance Attack. They've stripped it down quite a bit, I mean they still sound like a dissonance-dance party/rock and roll science experiment, but Forest shows a lot more of the bones and muscles of their sound.
Shoko's voice is absolutely perfect, and her drumming, sexy, dancey and to the point, really holds these songs down. It makes sense that her presence is more relevant now that the band is a two-piece, and thats a wonderful thing. Jesse Hall seems more confident as a vocalist, and while he still bends his guitar riffs into dissonant weirdness, he does so with a new bareness. It's like a no-nonsense approach to a whole lot of nonsense, craziness applied in a straightforward manner. This record is the best no-money you'll spend today.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I'm pretty sure this one is actually Golem
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
From the New York Post:
Jennifer Aniston's honey-colored highlights and unadorned 'do on the red carpet only look effort less - in reality, the laid-back-looking locks cost an estimated $50,000 to achieve.
More details here.
Is there a direct correlation between aging, going solo and wearing a cowboy hat? Are the three mutually exclusive? Perhaps not, but Michael Gira's set last night at the Doug Fir would show evidence strongly in favor this.
The night started with Larkin Grimm, a strong bisexual female singer/songwriter. Go ahead, google “strong bisexual female singer/songwriter,” then scroll down a few, you might find her. She wears her sexuality on her sleeve, or she would, but sleeves are probably a function of patriarchal fascism, so she doesn't have any. Her best song, for instance, was about a distant galaxy where everyone has their own spirit orgasm.
“The female orgasm is outlawed in Georgia, where I'm from,” she began, and went on to preach the gospel of some ethereal orgasm wormhole. Very enlightening. Another highlight of her set was a lyric about sleeping with other women, where she describes a lover's legs “open like scissors.” Scissors? Really? I mean, its just too damn easy.
Perhaps I was all singer/songwritered out by the time Gira got on stage. Perhaps I just don't hold him to the same level of genius as a lot of Swans fans do. All I can say, and I say it because this is blogging and I can blog any opinion I have whether is valid or not, is that I was terribly bored by his set from the start.
What it comes down to, for me, is that while Gira has an amazing voice and great stage presence, his songs are one-dimensional when stripped this bare. Even when, in groups like Angels of Light, his instrumentation is minimal, the other musicians, in very subtle ways, flesh his simple chord structures into dynamic, moving songs.
Whether he's a legend or not, I gotta calls it like I sees it: When you're bored, you're bored.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
The Ravishers, are a sigh of relief from quite a few bland performances I’ve seen. They put on a great show. Whether you were following them from the Rock Savant days, or just being introduced, all spectators were exceptionally entertained.
Each member has a personality on stage that melds well together. Beyond having fun, it really did just seem that they were in their element, a vibe forwarded onto the audience. The Ravishers seem to have a handle on the show while working the stage, and just go with the flow. In the end, their performance was much like their music, keeping it simple so that the song can catch you up with it.
And that was really their greatest selling point. While The Ravishers appear fun, easy going and comfortable, it is their music that sets the foundation for a live show. A trait many live bands can learn from. There is nothing more annoying than a band that loves to jerk-off to themselves on stage, with forced poses, half-tolerable sound experimentation and awkward banter with the crowd.
With their own approach of indie-rock dabbling in the pop realm, they remind you of Phantom Planet’s early energy, and gives you the feel of bands such as the Lemonheads or a pinch Elvis Costello, that predate the gimmicky trend of indie-alternative riding the radio waves today.
There should be more shows to follow, so leave your dorm, house or back-alley cardboard box to support a local band that is one to watch, and won’t leave you disappointed.
Though bearing their former name of the Rock Savants, this video is of The Ravishers performing their song "Keep You Around."
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Villareal "Multiverse" National Gallery of Art, Washington DC from Walter Patrick Smith on Vimeo.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Why is this, you ask? Well I'll tell you, it's because they keep doing batshit insane things like running full features on such fascinating American institutions as "Pimp This Bum."
This seriously sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch. But it's not, it's one of America's foremost news institutions. Wow.
Monday, February 23, 2009
How's this for truly bizarre career decisions:
James Iha (late of A Perfect Circle and The Smashing Pumpkins) has started a band called Tinted Windows that apparently consists of himself and several other 30/40-somethings dressing like they raided the Jonas Brothers' dressing room and slamming out power pop of a style so aggregious that it might make Miley Cyrus blush (Hannah Montana, on the other hand, would remain quite composed.)
Seriously though, Tinted Windows sounds an awful lot like something you'd hear on Radio Disney.
OBVIOUS PRESCIENT QUESTION FOR THIS BLOG POST:
Is this an actual band or some kind of bizarre meta-joke?
No one seems to know, but given the group's presentation it seems like this one is for real.
Whether that is the case or not, you can be sure as shit that I'll be lip-synching these hypnotically catchy tunes into a shampoo bottle for at least the next few months.
Seriously, what the frak is going on here?
Although Ra Ra Riot at first seemed to defy this trend (they're good but they're not great) the group has been steadily growing on me. They manage to make a string section sound chipper rather than melodramatic and it is hard to argue with those hooks once they really sink in.
Check them out at the Doug Fir tomorrow night for a more thorough investigation.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
But n+1, a literary mag out of New York, took a different approach. They pretty much hate everything, it seems, only not really. That's a worldview I can get behind.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
In a series of bad dreams, Brad Pitt combines with Forrest Gump, E.T., Oliver from The Brady Bunch, the baby from Eraserhead, Tom Waits album covers, Dr. Zhivago, Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld, on and on, like robot locusts eating the inside of the movie theater in three hours."
Link: n+1 magazine
Monday, February 16, 2009
Oh, then came the videos. First the Las Vegas shots of him floundering about on stage, eventually falling off. Then his charismatic presence on Letterman caught all of our attention. It seems Phoenix is pushing the weirdness factor a bit more the further he goes.
Though word on the street is that we all might be victims of a well played hoax. You see Phoenix's brother-in-law Casey Affleck anounced his directorial debut recently for a documentary he was filming. The subject of said documentary, you guessed it, Phoenix's hip-hop career. A few hollywood lightbulbs went on over the heads of critics, bloggers and other folks who generally don't have much of a life. Could Phoenix's crazy antics be at the expense of a mockumentary in the making? I guess we will all just have to wait and see.
So what do you think? Has Joaquin Phoenix boarded the crazy train or are we all falling for perhaps one of the greatest jokes in hollywood history?
You said it token stoner dude.
I saw Friday the 13th last weekend on Friday the 14. Yeah that’s right, my lady is awesome. However, as most would expect, the film did not meet up to any of even the smallest of expectations, and produced a series of crimes that horror movie fans will be bringing the gavel down upon.
The film strays so far from the original’s feel, only borrowing the concept of a scary guy in a hockey mask, that fans of the original will be disappointed as it fails to hold up to its 1980 counterpart. All in all, this remake is a mix of first two Friday the 13ths. For those who are in-the-know, they should be able to spot a few nostalgic moments such as Jason’s bag mask as well as others.
But the sprinkling of nostalgia doesn’t carry the film through an array of poor film-making choices. Granted, the initial flick helped to establish some time honored horror movie clichés, but the remake takes these clichés to an embarrassing level, where there is no decent script, twists or turns, or inventive characters. Granted it is hard to pull off a remake, especially when it is of a well-loved franchise, but this remake gave me the feeling that they didn’t even try to create anything successful and banked on the curiosity of fans to garner ticket sales (big surprise).
The movie comes stock with all the drugs, sex and token characters as any other film. So much that it removes any of the original’s feel, yet still leaves the viewer with a sense that they have seen this all before, in the hundreds of horror movies to come since the original in 1980. You don’t have to make some novel work of art, but at least put some creative and innovative thought into it, especially while handling the re-imaging of a delicate classic.
Lastly, on a personal level, the star of the film, Jared Padelecki, appears to be quite a tall drink of water, and not only do you got him on a little Royal Enfield motorcycle, you dubbed over the bike, making it sound like a beefed up Harley. Come on! Couldn’t you just fork up the dough and got the guy on a Triumph? Padelecki looks like a circus clown on a scooter.
Interesting tidbit: Over the past four years Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles have come into homes across America each week via the television show Supernatural. To be honest, I do like the show and how each episode is like a mini horror movie. I was therefore intrigued when both actors would be coming to the big screen this year. Coincidentally, both actors were cast in remakes of classic ‘80s horror movies, My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th. And not only that, though Ackle’s Bloody Valentine remake came out first, Padelicki’s remake came out on Valentine’s Day! Whoa …
Saturday, February 14, 2009
First, the collection of classical music nerds starts getting street cred by playing with local indie artists, then they become a completely unlikely musical force in their own right and now they are (to my knowledge) the first "band" of their kind to sign to Kill Rock Stars. It's unlikely, to be sure, but the Cello Project's entire history has been anything but predictable up to this point and I can't think of a more deservedly talented group to join the roster of one of the region's finest labels.
With the forces of Slim Moon and the coolest classical music ensemble in the known world combined the sky is the limit.
Builders and The Butchers with The Portland Cello Project: "Bottom of the Lake" from Douglas Jenkins on Vimeo.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
OK, this squirrel isn't from Portland, but DAMN. She's got some moves.
Click the picture for all the images.
More awesome weird shit @ http://www.kontraband.co.uk/
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The words "hack" and "genius" had better appear at least once in the comments for this one.
Sarah Hutchins' interview with Deborah Gwartney in today's Vanguard was interesting and (unfortunately) too long for our print edition so here's the full version in all its literary glory.-Editor
Running away was decriminalized in 1974 in the United States.
This is not a widely known fact but one that Portland State Professor Debra Gwartney is only too familiar with. About a decade ago, her two oldest teenage daughters ran away from their home in Eugene. They jumped on freight trains, traveling to Portland, San Francisco and other major cities. They mingled with a subculture formed by other runaway youths living on the street. Live Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love is Gwartney’s story of how she coped through this period of her life, continued raising her two younger daughters while trying to help her two older daughters and how her family was finally reunited.
Sarah Hutchins: A lot of people are likening your book to David Schef’s A Beautiful Boy. Is either of your daughters, Stephanie or Amanda, thinking about writing a memoir from their perspective?
Debra Gwartney: They’ve talked about it but there’s nothing in the works right now. The whole being part of the book’s publication has made them think about stories in a new way about what they went through. I of course tried really hard not to tell their story. They have their own stories. And I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it. I hope that they write about it. I think that would just be wonderful. It would be way different than Nic Shef’s book (Tweak) just because they had a much different experience. Drugs were involved but it wasn’t such as drug oriented story as his was, which good for him about it for writing it. That was very brave but theirs is more of a traveling story of jumping on trains. I just don’t think that story is told very often. People probably don’t even know that kids jump on trains and travel around the country and I think that there are quite a few of them that do it.
SH: What made you decide to write the memoir?
DG: I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I’m going to write about this. We’d been through this very difficult time and I knew that I wanted to write about it but I didn’t know what shape it was going to be or even what genre. I never seriously thought about writing fiction but it crossed my mind. I wrote just a very small piece about looking for Stephanie, the second daughter, in San Francisco, in the Tenderloin District and it helped me sort out a lot of my own feelings about what had happened. It was good in both the sense that I could practice what I want to do, which is to write nonfiction, and also just confront some of the unsolved emotions around that whole time. So I wrote that piece and I published it in a literary journal called Creative Nonfiction. It got quite a bit of attention and just made me start thinking maybe something bigger is here so then I wrote another piece for Salon and then I wrote another for a journal called Fourth Genre and several other pieces. I wrote a longer piece about the wilderness therapy for The Oregonian. They all just kept adding up so I thought maybe I could start putting them together in a book, which was not anywhere as easy as just compiling them as I thought it would be because then the book had to be shaped and shaped and reshaped and that took years. It’s been a long process but there was never one moment where I thought, “I’m going to write a book.” It just kind of evolved that way.
SH: Did you start writing because it’s therapeutic to write?
DG: I didn’t start writing because it was therapeutic to write but it turned out that it was therapeutic to write. I wrote because I felt like I had a story to tell and I wanted to tell it and see how well I could tell it. I wrote more out of a writer’s aims than a therapy aim but in the end it was helpful.
SH: Do you think that your book will help moms that may be going through something similar?
DG: Well, I hope so. Of course I hope that but I don’t know. I’ve heard from a few people who saw early reader copies that they found it helpful just to see how someone else had gone through it but I didn’t write it for that intention either. I hope that’s something that happens but I didn’t go into it thinking, “I’m going to help other people figure this out” because my story is only my story and their stories are completely different. Hopefully people who read it will feel less alone maybe that’s kind of presumptuous for me to say but it is nice to hear that someone else had a traumatic experience that maybe bears some similarity to yours.
SH: When I went to Powell’s I was surprised to see the book not only in the memoir section but also under parenting.
DG: Yeah, it should be under parenting. I hope it’s under memoirs, too, but it is a book about parenting for sure. I’m glad that they put it there.
SH: How is your relationship with your daughter’s today?
DG: Great. Really good. Very positive. I do think that the actual writing of the book and showing them the different versions as I was writing it really opened up this whole new realm of communication among us. We talked out a lot of things that we hadn’t talked out before. And there are still little pockets of resentment and fear and sadness and all those things but mostly we’re just really good friends now. They’re well into adulthood. They have their own lives and they’re doing very well so it’s just been great. They have their heads together in ways that I think maybe they wouldn’t if they hadn’t had this early experience of tremendous self-reliance. Now they are both, well all four of them, focused and super responsible.
SH: Do you think that they ran away due to the constraints of society?
DG: There were very personal reasons in our family that made them decide to run away. But I do think that they felt that constraint. They talked a lot when they were younger about the rich kids at school who had a lot of privilege and entitlement. It was difficult for them at that middle school and high school setting. There does seem to be a kind of class hierarchy that some kids struggle against and just the mainstream expectations where not a lot of creativity is allowed in. I think that they were revolting against that in some ways. I don’t know if it was conscious for them at the time but they were very angry about it. They were really well read. We talked a lot about politics and human rights and things like that in our household and suddenly they felt that they were the ones being held back from what they wanted to do. It was all very complicated.
SH: What do you think of the subculture of kids living on the street? Do you think that it gives them more independence or is it a tragedy of our society?
DG: I think it’s horrendous. We need to have much better solutions. I just recently read another report about runaway kids and there are 2.8 million teenagers living on the streets. That’s more than Portland’s population living on the streets in the US. That’s not worldwide. There are 2.8 million homeless kids in this country. It just seems like a population that we never talk about, that we never think about. Bush signed a bill in October, not long before he left office, that I have some real problems with because it doesn’t support parents. It more supports runaway youth shelters and education on the streets, which I think is all good, but I also think that we need to start paying attention to bring families back together. Those kids out there on the streets are angry at their parents but a lot of times it’s because they have a curfew or they’re not allowed to drink in the house or they can’t stay out all night, things that parents should be able to say, “Don’t do this.” It’s just too easy for a kid to walk out the door, go downtown and find someone who will teach them how to jump on a train. I’m very concerned about it but I don’t want to become some kind of runaway youth advocate. That’s not what my life’s mission is about but I do hope that it opens up some type of dialogue about it.
SH: How does teaching affect your writing?
DG: Teaching is great for my writing, actually. It takes away time for writing but there’s never been a class where I haven’t learned along with the students. I’m challenged to think about my writing in a different way or I see a kind of technique or style or craft element that I can improve in my own work by talking about it with the class. So, it’s hugely helpful. I read a lot of manuscripts from students and I see a lot of the same problems cropping up over and over and over again so it reminds me to watch for those things in my own work. And I just like talking about writing. It’s a subject that’s very much alive for me.
SH: What are your current writing projects?
DG: I have a big project going but I’ve put it on the back burner while the book’s being published because I’m going to be gone so much on book tour but I’ve been writing a lot of individual essays for magazines. I just want to keep my work out there so I have a bunch of pieces coming out. I wrote an essay for Modern Bride about helping my daughter chose her wedding gown and I have a piece coming out in Hallmark Magazine, which is a women’s magazine and one coming out in Modern Love in The New York Times. But I’ll go back to the other big project that I’m working on in the summer, I hope.
SH: What is the big project?
DG: It’s a memoir more about my growing up years, my youth growing up in Idaho. I don’t really know the shape of it yet but I’ve been working on it for a year or so. Hopefully it will progress. More hard work ahead.
Debra Gwartney will be reading from her book Thursday, February 12, 2009 07:30 PM at Powell's City of Books on Burnside.