Renee’s “Get Your Ass Out of Bed!” Baked Oatmeal

I hate mornings.

OK, that is a vast understatement. I loathe mornings. I think mornings are an abomination. To paraphrase Garth in Wayne’s World: if Morning were an ice cream flavor, it would be pralines & dick. Morning is the guy in the Hummer H3, going 60 in the passing lane while talking on his Bluetooth and texting on his iPhone 6; you can’t get around him, and you know he’s going to fuck up your day.

I know I’m not alone.

Some people bargain with Morning: “I’ll tolerate you if I can have a delicious cup of coffee,” they say, or, “OK, I’ll get out of bed, but only if I can take a nice, warm shower.” Me? I only drink coffee a couple times each week, and I prefer showering before bed because I’m too lazy to blow-dry my hair. What does Morning have to offer me?

“How about a delicious baked good for breakfast?” asks Morning. And I’m all like,

yoda_proceed

Look, I may be 110 pounds lighter than I was last year, and I may be eating all the vegetables that can reasonably fit into my gaping maw, but a sweet treat is a sweet treat, and anyway I’m only human, so don’t fucking judge me, OK? I only get out of bed for three reasons:

  1. I have to pee.
  2. My house/bed/cat/body is on fire.
  3. Food.

No one wants to hear about #1, and (thankfully) #2 has never happened, so let’s focus on #3. Presenting: my “Get Your Ass Out of Bed!” baked oatmeal.

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Ta-da!

I’m going to level with you: I go to bed thinking about this at night. It has a gooey texture, enough sweetness to be pleasing without cloying, lots of flavor, and is packed with all sorts of good-for-you stuff, like bananas, oats, and blueberries. It’s easy to make in advance to eat throughout the week, and the recipe can be modified to make more if you want to share with your family (but I’m an asshole, so the recipe below only makes 6 single servings – enough to last me an entire workweek of early mornings). Let’s get to the good stuff; detailed instructions with pictures follow, but you can find a link to a printable copy of the recipe at the bottom of this entry.  (more…)

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#thestruggle

Guys, look. I have a confession to make. It’s really difficult, but I hope you will proceed with open hearts and open minds.

Here goes nothing…

I’m fat.

I’ve been fat my entire life. We were poor, and my mom made ends meet by working at McDonald’s, which meant we often used her employee discount just so we could eat and still pay the electric bill. Dinners were usually cheeseburger value meals, and breakfasts were sausage biscuits with a hash brown, always washed down with Coke. This became my comfort food.

I went on my first diet at the ripe old age of 8. I weighed over 100 pounds.

I stayed fat.

By the time I turned 15, I was so tired of continuously despising my body that I made the conscious decision to stop hating myself, stop chugging SlimFast shakes, and stop eating Cardboard Lean Cuisines. Do you understand what that means? I was tired of dieting before I could even legally drive a car. 

Suffice to say, I did not develop the healthiest relationship with food. I came to almost fetishize it, especially the unhealthy, processed meals churned out by places like Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and of course, McDonald’s. I remember clearly obsessing over things like a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell, only to rush out at my first convenience and partake in an almost bacchanal fast food binge that might involve going to Taco Bell for the pizza, McDonald’s for some fries, and Arby’s for mozzarella sticks. I’d then hole myself away in private – my car, or my room – and eat.

And eat.

And eat.

And then throw up. 

I ate when I was happy.

I ate when I was sad.

I ate when I was bored.

When I was reading a book.

Or watching TV.

Food became my best friend, and my worst enemy. This fucked up, abusive relationship with food has made me its prisoner my entire life.

Well-meaning friends and family would approach me and gently – and sometimes, not so gently – suggest I lose weight. I’d indulge them for a month or two by joining them at the gym, or walking around the park with them, then stopping by Sonic and eating jalapeno poppers and a peanut butter milkshake alone in my car on my way home. 

I just couldn’t stop.

I made a point of rarely weighing myself. I tipped the scales at around 250 pounds when I graduated high school.

Then probably 275 when I graduated college.

Then 300 in law school.

Then 350 around my 30th birthday.

It has to stop, I told myself. I felt horrible, physically. My knees and hips ached. I had trouble breathing. I would regularly eat until it hurt, able to easily scarf down an entire Chipotle burrito bowl, plus 2 bags of chips and a side of guac before being overcome with nausea and regret. I never felt comfortable; I was in my own way.

When we settled into our new apartment in Seattle in October of last year, I weighed 360 pounds. 

Holy. Shit.

My fear of food overcame my obsession with it. I almost stopped eating, and when I did eat, I fretted over what that food was doing to my body. Oh my God, how much fat is in this?, I would wonder to myself as I picked up my fork. I developed crippling anxiety, exacerbated by being in a new, unfamiliar city. I became acutely aware of the slightest pain or twinge in my body, and started compulsively checking my heart rate, worried that I would keel over at any minute due to the years and years of abuse I’d heaped upon my beleaguered body. My nerves killed my appetite, and soon I was barely able to eat anything. I forced myself to choke down a fruit smoothie each morning, and at least tried to make a good faith effort to eat some dinner each night.

I’d gone from one extreme to another. I lost nearly 60 pounds in 6 months – a victory, perhaps, but at what cost?

By April, I could no longer cope with the power food held over me and my life. I started counseling, and began simply counting my calories – not to ensure that I wasn’t eating too much, but rather to make sure I was eating enough. Some days I had trouble making it over 1000 calories; now, after a few months of therapy and regular daily meditation, I eat between 1500 and 2000 calories each day, averaging out around 1800. I practice what I call “mindful eating,” by which I mean I focus on what I am eating in a positive light, and try to realize when my body starts to feel full so I can stop eating before I get sick. Instead of thinking about the 1/2 tablespoon of butter I used to grease the dish for my baked oatmeal, I instead think about the heart-healthy fiber in the oats themselves. I stop eating if I find myself wondering, “Am I feeling full now?” because the answer is probably “Yes.”

I’ve lost an additional 30+ pounds since April.

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On the left: me in February 2014 @ approximately 315 pounds; on the right: me in July 2014 @ 275 pounds.

But the struggle continues. 

It’s hard for me to resist cravings for junk food, especially during the hormonal hell that is PMS. I made the decision to give into them during this one week of the month, just so I don’t feel irate and miserable. Usually, I can stop myself from going overboard: I buy a bag of Cheetos, portion them out into single-serving baggies, and eat 1 each day to keep myself from losing control. I allow myself to eat one meal of Pizza Rolls because it’s one meal in one week out of dozens of meals in a month. I try to keep it in perspective.

But slip-ups happen, and I find myself going on a binge, after which I have to fight the overwhelming desire to purge. I’m worried that if I allow myself to do it once, I’ll do it again.

And again.

And again.

I don’t want to be that person anymore.

I’m glad I’ve lost weight, but I’ve clung fastidiously to my 15 year-old self’s pledge to NOT hate my body. I never felt ugly or unworthy, even at my heaviest. I realized, though, that there is a difference between hating my body, and hating how my body feels. I don’t hate my body; I love how I look, and I have ever since I made that promise to my teenage self 15 years ago. What I hate are the aches and pains, the constant anxiety, and the unbearable fixation I had (and still have) with food. I plan on continuing to fix my broken relationship with my body and with the food I eat. I’ve spent years saying I love my body – and I really do love it – but now I am trying to treat my body as if it is loved.

It won’t be easy.

But that’s what makes it the struggle.

What’s Keeping Me Awake Tonight

I can’t sleep.

The wind is restless tonight, and so am I. Our curtains keep billowing open, just enough for the streetlights to drag their slender orange talons across my pillow. It isn’t the wind that’s keeping me awake, or the buzzing glow of the streetlights.

No, it’s time travel that is keeping me up this cool, clear night.

I’m not here right now, you see. I’m 10 years away, in the summer of 2004. It’s a giddy time; it’s the summer before I graduate college, and I’m sharing a dorm room with my friend Sonia. Across campus, my friend Bob lives in community with the religious brothers and priests, and we work together in an office on campus. Sonia and I spend evenings marathoning episodes of Law and Order: SVU while living off fruit snacks and Top Ramen. Bob and I engage in a prank war that includes me stealing his underwear and replacing his boxers with several pairs of $1 women’s panties I found at Wal-Mart. We get drunk, we eat greasy truck stop food at 1:00 in the morning, and we laugh.

The summer is typical for the Midwest: bright and balmy, but punctuated with violent, unpredictable thunderstorms that would shake the windows in our rooms. The day might start out clear and calm, then cloud over and pour buckets, then give way to sun again. Summers are like that, you know: tempestuous, but full of possibilities. I think that I, on the cusp of turning 21 and heading into my final year of college, felt like the living, breathing embodiment of Summer.

And then my mom died.


It wasn’t unexpected. In fact, she had been dying for years. She developed Lou Gehrig’s disease as I entered high school in 1998. It started out as a few unexpected falls, then spells of numbness and forgetfulness. In 2001, she sent me off to prom and watched my high school graduation from her wheelchair. She cried when I left for college because she couldn’t make the three-hour trip to move me into the dorms. I was the first in our family to go to college, and it was her dream come true for me.

She wouldn’t live to see me graduate.

During the winter of 2002, we had to move her into an assisted care facility. The following year we met with a social worker at the facility, who helped us draft my mother’s end of life paperwork, including her wishes to decline life support when the time comes.

The time came in July 2004.

Tonight, I’m awake because I’m back in my dorm room on a Saturday morning. I’m still sleeping when the phone rings. It’s early, but I roll out of bed and answer it, since I’m on the bottom bunk and Sonia’s on the top.

“Hello?” My voice is still thick with sleep.
“Hey baby, it’s Daddy.”
“Hey Papa. What’s up?”
“Your mom has stopped eating.”
Silence.
“OK. I’ll come home.”

And that’s it. I hung up the phone.

“Is everything all right?” Sonia is awake now, looking down at me from her bed.

I remember this so clearly. I remember walking over to our bunk. I remember resting my head against Sonia’s mattress and saying, “My mom has stopped eating.” Then I remember crying while Sonia stroked the top of my head.

I’m sleepless tonight because I’m back in her room at the nursing home, for the first time since Memorial Day weekend. So much has changed in such a short time. My mom is awake when we arrive, and her eyes are wide and wild. They’re the only part of her body that she can control now, and they’re looking at me, saying something. Saying…saying what? I can’t bear it. I try to talk to her, and I try to pretend that I’m calm, that this is just another day for me.

But I can’t keep up the charade. I excuse myself to the bathroom, where I spend the rest of the visit. I cry until I vomit, then cry some more. I alternate between body-shaking sobs, and stomach-clenching retches. A kind nurse taps gently on the door, offering me some saltines and water. A little while later, my dad knocks on the door; visitation is over. We have to leave.

I am tossing and turning tonight because I remember feeling guilty when I walked over to kiss my mom good-bye that night ten years ago. My eyes were red and my face was puffy. She must have known where I had been and what I had been doing. Maybe she could even hear me through the bathroom wall. I remember that I didn’t want her to think it was her fault I was sad.

Because it wasn’t.

My mother’s hospice nurse, a short balding man with a soft voice and thin-rimmed glasses, is a reassuring presence during this time, silently reading National Geographic and using small blue sponges to pat water to my mother’s lips. My dad listens as the quiet man explains what happens when the human body shuts down, and my father seems oddly soothed by the clinical nature of the explanation. “Her urine will turn the color of tea towards the end,” he tells me, pointing at the drainage bag that hangs over the edge of the hospital bed. I nod mutely, also oddly soothed by this information. My father, siblings, and I spend our days and nights at her side, leaving only to go home and shower. The routine takes a toll on us, and one day a gentle nurse says, “You go on home and rest. We will call you if anything changes.” Reluctantly, my dad agrees, and we leave. I collapse into my bed around 6:00 a.m., still wearing my jeans and t-shirt.

And now, tonight, I am awake because I’m back in my old bedroom with the black and white checkerboard walls, lying in my bed with the pastel plaid comforter, wearing my Sesame Street t-shirt, and waking up to my dad howling in the doorway.

“Oh Lord, I knew it! I knew we shouldn’t have left!”

He is clutching his head, pacing in the hall and looking paler than usual.

“She’s gone! She’s gone!” he moans.

It was July 28th, 2004.


Ten months later, it’s a hot day in late spring, and I’m sitting in the stifling field house at school, sweating profusely under my cap and gown. I’m graduating college today. It’s Sunday, May 8th, 2005.

Mother’s Day.

I cry harsh, bitter tears as speaker after speaker talks about moms: students thank theirs, while the president, deans, and provost congratulate the mothers in the audience for their children’s achievements. People are smiling, camera flashes are going off, and the guy in front of me has light-up Mickey Mouse ears attached to his mortarboard.

But I’m crying because it’s Mother’s Day, and mine isn’t here to celebrate with me.


I’ve made it through this post without having a real purpose for writing it. I mean, I wrote it because I can’t sleep, and I can’t sleep because my mind wandered back to those sweltering July days from years ago, and those memories ripped open a wound that will never fully heal. I wrote this because I started crying, because I had to tell the story of losing my mother, because I had to put to words the gaping hollowness inside my chest.

It’s been ten years, yes, perhaps…but for me, it will always be as if it were yesterday.

Mom & Dad, Feb 1983

6 Reasons I Will Never Write for BuzzFeed (Plus 1 Reason I Would)

Hey, have you heard of this crazy website, BuzzFeed.com???? Imagine the Huffington Post had a regrettable, drunken threesome with Upworthy.com and the quizzes from “Seventeen” magazine; BuzzFeed would be the unholy offspring of this debauched mess.

And let me tell you: people love it.

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Seriously. My Facebook news feed is wallpapered with BuzzFeed listicles, quizzes, and videos. “What Superpower Should You Have?” cries out one quiz, while a list boasting fuh-fuh-fuh-FIFTYThings You Will Never Be Able to Forget includes such rare and ancient artifacts as Flintstone vitamins, Little Golden Books, and MS Paint. I would say, “We all can agree that this is dreck, right?” but apparently such a consensus is not possible.

“B-but Renee!” you sputter. “How can you hate BuzzFeed? You probably hate kittens and sunshine, too!” Well, first of all, I have a long history of loving kittens and tolerating the Day Star. Secondly, I wouldn’t say I “hate” BuzzFeed as much as I am befuddled and flabbergasted by its apparent success. A BF-loving friend accused me of “being a hipster” when I told her that I didn’t much care for the site – and this “Are You Actually a Hipster?” quiz on BuzzFeed confirmed that yes, I am a total hipster douchebag.

pot kettle

This same friend also said she liked BuzzFeed “before it was popular,” so…

Hipster or not, I just can’t get behind the BuzzFeed craze. Well-meaning friends have often suggested that I look into writing for the popular site – I’m assuming because I have both a pulse and an Internet connection, as little else seems required of the staff. Even though the thought of being “Renee, BuzzFeed Writer” gives me some serious dry-heaves, I decided to try my hand at a BF-style listicle – I mean, I consider myself open-minded, if nothing else. So, here it is:


 6 Reasons I Will Never Write for BuzzFeed (Plus 1 Reason I Would)

1. I have standards.

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2. BuzzFeed is the armpit of the Internet.

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3. The content is lazy.

fat and lazy adt

 

4. It’s also unoriginal.

get drunk out of ideas

 

5. The writers appear to do very little actual writing at all.

writing is hard

 

6. I simply can’t; that is, I have lost the ability to can.

PRIDE AND PREJ

CANT2

 

CANT3

 

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7. And finally, the 1 reason I would write for BuzzFeed…

tumblr_m9xpmuXUOB1qk5lz9o1_400What can I say? Integrity doesn’t pay the bills.

 

The One That Got Away

Everyone has a story about “the one that got away.” Maybe it’s an ex-boyfriend, or a childhood friend, or even a job. We replay these missed opportunities over and over in our minds, like a Choose Your Own Adventure comprised of regrets and what-ifs. Oh, of course we’re happy with our lives now, but what if X instead of Y? What if I’d drunkenly agreed to make out with that guy in the dorm bathroom in college? What if I had soldiered on and finished law school? I mean, I probably wouldn’t be happily married with a bustling private practice of my own, but I would at least have a good story to tell and a marketable career.

Yet, the guy isn’t the one that got away from me, nor is the career. My missed connection isn’t a degree or a lover; it’s a city. I still feel its streets beneath my feet and hear its collective roar in my ears. I still have my favorite Chinese restaurant in the city on my phone’s speed dial (China Fast Wok), and I still remember the number of my regular bus route (74), the way to my best friend’s apartment (Fullerton to I-90 E, exit 52C, left on W 18th, right on S Clark), and how the smell of tamales permeated my neighborhood on Friday nights. It’s been nearly four years, and these memories continue to fill me with an achy longing that starts deep in my heart and spreads through my body like blood through veins.

It’s been nearly four years since I let Chicago slip through my fingers.

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[Image by Reddit user FloridasVelourFog]

My love for Chicago is strange and nonsensical, as the years I spent there weren’t particularly happy. I was pursuing a law degree that I didn’t really want at a school that I didn’t particularly like. My two bedroom apartment had creaky hardwood floors, drafty wood windows, and cost $920 per month. It didn’t include a parking spot, so I wedged my car in amongst the others on the street outside. A reckless driver later left a dent that rendered my rear passenger side door unusable, and bountiful snowfalls left it buried for weeks on end. Gunshots rang out blocks away from me, and gang graffiti peppered the alley behind my building. I had few connections in the city, and spent most of my time either aimlessly riding the ‘L’ train, or shut away in my apartment eating cereal while watching kitten videos on YouTube. I nosedived into a deep depression that led to extreme insomnia, entire weeks of absences at school, and eventually, my departure. I had to leave my beautiful city.

It wasn’t you, Chicago; it was always me.

I live in Seattle now, and it feels good to be in a large, vibrant city again. We have culture and convenience at our doorstep. On clear days like today, we can look out our living room window and see Lake Union dotted with tiny white sailboats against a serene backdrop of distant snow-coated mountains in the east. To the west, the Space Needle and EMP Museum teem with tourists. On New Years Eve, we simply took the elevator down at 11:50 p.m. and stepped out onto the sidewalk to catch the midnight fireworks display at the Space Needle; a few weeks later on an unusually cold morning, we watched the Seahawks’ victory parade from our window while other fans froze outside. We’re in a good place.

Seattle is also much safer and cleaner than the city I left behind. Chicago saw over 400 homicides last year, compared to Seattle’s 29. Chicago spent this winter enduring near-recordsetting snowfalls; Seattle had one measurable snowfall, and it melted within 24 hours. Where Chicago summers are coated in a thick, sticky haze of smog and sweat, Seattle summers promise to be pleasantly warm and breezy. Chicago is tough to escape; drive an hour away from the city, and you’re still close enough to be in its suburbs. Drive an hour away from Seattle, and you’re either in the mountains, in the water, or in Tacoma (two of the three are fairly pleasant). Objectively speaking, it seems that Seattle is vastly preferable to Chicago.

But Seattle lacks the ‘L’ train that I loved, even when it was crowded with drunk-on-Old-Style Cubs fans who blocked the doors and belted/slurred “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” when I asked them to move. Seattle doesn’t have a decent pizza anywhere within its city limits from what we can tell**, and we only recently found a Chinese restaurant that is unpretentious, cheap, and delicious – but they don’t deliver, which means they aren’t in my phone’s speed dial and they will never know both my order and my cats’ names (as the driver at China Fast Wok in Logan Square most certainly did). Sure, Seattle has great coffee on every block, but so what? Chicago has Intelligentsia for the snobs, and Starbucks/Caribou for everyone else. Chicago felt like home the minute I arrived; over six months after our move, Seattle still feels like a surreal vacation.

It isn’t a vacation, though. It is my home now. These streets are my streets, and these people are my neighbors. Seattle may not fill the hole Chicago left in my heart, but I hope it will eventually carve out a spot of its own there.

 

** We discovered Kylie’s Chicago Pizza in Fremont a few days after I drafted this blog post, and I am happy to report that their pizza is as delicious as any I had in Chicago – yes, including Lou Malnati’s.

Commitment Issues: Of Painted Walls and Forgotten Blogs

I have a confession: I envy people who can paint their walls.

My jealousy doesn’t just stem from me spending the past 15 or so years of my life living in spaces that were never truly my own. It’s true that the bland beige-walled dorm rooms of college gave way to the bland beige-walled apartments of my 20s (and now, my 30s) in an endless parade of interchangeable anonymous spaces that were mine, but never really belonged to me. I may live in the dull-hued Kansas of apartment living while my friends bask in the glorious technicolor Oz of homeownership, but that isn’t what makes me envious of their lemon-yellow kitchens and peony-pink living rooms.

tara kitchen

But seriously, look at this and try not to be jellycups. It’s my friend Tara’s dining room, and it’s flawless, and you should check out her blog at http://thedomesticjunkies.com/ because her taste is impeccable.

My life doesn’t lack color in other areas, either; for example, I dress like someone who just had a violent altercation with a Pantone color guide and came out on top.

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Does this match? Like I give a shit.

So what is it that makes me turn green with envy when I see someone with a jalapeño-hued bedroom? It’s their confidence. It’s the self-assuredness that comes with looking at a wall of paint swatches at Home Depot, and walking away with The One. It’s the certainty that comes with settling on an answer – “Yes, this is what I want.” I long to feel that kind of conviction. I imagine that my steely resolve in the face of all matters decor-related would extend to other areas of my life. If only I could paint my walls, I would finally find the decisiveness I’ve lacked all these years.

That is, of course, patently ridiculous. Indecision just comes naturally to me. Some people are born to sing, or play baseball, or raise children; I’m starting to think that I was born to waffle. It’s what I do best, and I just keep getting better at it.

In college, I double-majored in history & political science, but decided to also pick up a minor my junior year. I was torn between minoring in English and minoring in philosophy. Now, I made a lot of mistakes in college, but opting to minor in philosophy is definitely in the top five, and maybe even the top three. This isn’t the set-up for some tired “DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT? HAW HAW HAW” a-philosophy-degree-is-junk joke. True philosophers don’t sit around smoking weed all day and saying shit like, “But what if the stars are just salt on God’s cracker, man?”

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We all know this guy, even though we don’t know this particular guy.

True philosophers ask questions other people never even consider about the world (we think) we know, and how we acquire this knowledge. It is through philosophy that I discovered I am an existentialist (more Camus than Sartre). I believe life is only imbued with the meaning we assign it, and our time here on Earth is short, so make it count. One of the chief problems of existential thought is the concept of “angst;” that is, the unbridled panic that accompanies the crushing weight of human freedom (that may be a dramatic way of putting it, but we existentialists have a flair for such luscious things). Angst is the feeling you get when you realize that nothing is holding you back from dying – or from living. Angst both longs for freedom, and at the same time loathes it. Angst is indecision’s best friend, because the very act of choosing one option over all others is irrevocable. It closes all other doors; it limits your freedom. I don’t understand how other people don’t have a panic attack at the very thought of making a decision. You assholes baffle me.

A good friend of mine – we’ll call him “Bob,” because that’s actually his name – encouraged me to ditch existentialism in favor of phenomenology (specifically, Ricoeur’s phenomenology). Phenomenology starts from premises similar to existentialism, but concludes that the act of choosing does not limit our freedom, but rather enhances it. Closing one door liberates you from the uncertainty of all other doors. You’re now free to roam about your life, unencumbered by doubt or guilt. These feelings are useless; they live in the past and prevent a person from moving forward. This concept speaks to me, yet I can’t shake the feeling of angst; I can’t stop knowing that Option A cancels out Option B, and there is no going back from this moment. Every minute – every second – is a point of no return. How can anyone get anything done under such circumstances? The pressure is suffocating.

That is why this blog has been gathering dust for the past few months. That is why this blog has a new address and a new title. I can’t decide what to write, and the act of writing just to write seems absurd to me – yet another classic existential concept. I am the Prodigal Blogger because I am perpetually leaving and coming back; a living, breathing,  human recursion like Sisyphus, except with less manual labor.

Sometimes, I wish I had just minored in English.

Friday I’m in Love: When a Cover > the Original

Welcome to the inaugural Friday I’m in Love post!

waynes world does this every friday

Ahem. She.

This is going to be a weekly feature where I fawn over something that made the week more tolerable, interesting, or just less awful. This week’s Love is Sharon Van Etten & Shearwater’s cover of the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Before we get to the fierce flawlessness that is the cover, let’s talk about the original. The video is below, but I encourage you to  first listen to the song without watching the video (I have my reasons). Click play and close your eyes:

Nicks & Petty collaborated on a number of songs throughout the 80s, and they obviously had incredible vocal chemistry, despite each having a decidedly signature style: Nicks is famous for her raspy, throaty delivery style, while Petty’s voice calls to mind Bob Dylan with fewer rough edges. The song itself is an exercise in tension, and Nicks’ & Petty’s voices tell the tale admirably: Nicks strains and belts like the angry woman who is frankly tired of her man’s bullshit, and Petty sounds like he could give a shit, even though he knows he’s a pain in her ass. A classic toxic relationship, right? But go back and watch the video…

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I can wait.

Did you see that? What a bummer, right?! They’re singing AT one another, and I’m pretty sure Tom is convinced Stevie has cooties. There is very little vitriol and a whole lot of indifference in that performance. “But Renee,” you say even though I can’t hear you, “It was the 80s! Music videos were mostly bland performance videos anyway!” OK, crazy person, I’ll indulge you. Yes, a lot of videos in the 80s were essentially performance videos of bands looking awkward. It was a new medium; exciting, uncharted territory that demanded to be explored. Maybe Nicks & Petty just felt uncomfortable. But really…look at some of their live performance videos on YouTube. Here, I’ll help:

They seem friendly, right? Petty refers to Nicks as an “honorary Heartbreaker” before introducing her and launching into the song. It’s really not a bad performance (though I have to ask – has there ever been a time when Tom Petty didn’t look like the Cryptkeeper?), but it lacks the fervor and angst the song seems to suggest. Enter Van Etten & Shearwater’s cover (the actual performance starts around 1:30, but feel free to watch the first minute and a half if you want to see an A.V. Club editor awkwardly flirt with Van Etten, or you’re interested in some background on the original):

I first saw this cover when it was recorded nearly two years ago, and yet the intensity of the performance still blows me away. I’ve heard of hate-sex, and I’ve heard of eye-sex, but hateful eye-sex is a new concept, and it abounds in this video. Van Etten and Shearwater frontman Jonathan Meiburg face one another throughout the entire song, Van Etten basically spitting the lyrics in Meiburg’s direction with an accusatory, yet sultry gaze. Meiburg looks back with equal parts defiance and self-assurance, delivering his lines with the snarky, cocky attitude of someone who knows he has the upper hand. “I know you really wanna tell me goodbye / I know you really wanna be your own girl,” he sings while his expression says, “But I know you won’t.” The entire chorus is an ode to emotional brinkmanship, as Van Etten and Meiburg stare one another down with venomous contempt, fighting for the final say in an un-winnable battle. This 3 1/2 minute performance packs more emotion than Nicholas Sparks’ entire oeuvre.

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YAWN.

The A.V. Club’s entire Undercover series is rife with other noteworthy performances, such as: Young the Giant’s fur-clad cover of R.Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”;, Scott Hutchison’s (lead singer for Frightened Rabbit) mournful take on the Lemonhead’s bouncy “Confetti”; Eef Barzelay’s (lead man for Clem Snide) gorgeous acoustic arrangement of Journey’s famed power ballad “Faithfully”; and Owen Pallett’s (Arcade Fire’s string guy) short and melodic violin-and-vocals cover of Guided by Voices “Game of Pricks.” Think it’s all a lo-fi acousticfest? Think again – GWAR stopped by last year to deliver a surprisingly listenable thrash metal re-imagining of Billy Ocean’s 80s mushfest “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” that is well worth your time.

Happy listening, and happy Friday!