Lady Vagabond

Now that my puppy is home, I can post about my fabulous weekend.

My fabulous midweek, incidentally, will include a reading at the Hopleaf in Chicago, hosted by Bookslut, that fine site, at 7:30 tomorrow. If you’re local, do come. Hopefully it will include quality time with Leah-my-heart,

, and

, too.

Anyway. My big Valentine’s Day present from

(other than a lovely autographing pen which has, though I have been gifted with many beautiful pens recently, become my standby and source of many a Say Anything joke–“I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen”–until such time as a Bad Motherfucker pen materializes, so that I can say “Bring me my pen, it’s the one that says Bad Motherfucker on it.”) was a trip to the Smoky Mountains, which was put off due to the fact that our every weekend since the 14th has been packed until this one. When I tell you our schedule is crazy, it’s no joke.

So we drove down to Tennessee, which has now been dubbed the Good Witch Sooj’s Country, and ate horrible southern fried food (including a place called Duff’s Smorgasbord), watched forgettable hotel TV, and had a lovely time.

kept hinting that there was a surprise on Saturday night, and intimated strongly that it was line-dancing, to my utter horror. This man’s secret-keeping skillz are fearsome.

So on Saturday afternoon, we drove to the surprise. And drove. And drove. And about 50 miles out of our destination he told me that he had found a Sufjan Stevens concert, and thus we were headed. Now, I love Sufjan. I don’t know why, given how Christian his music is, it has come to live so close to my heart these days. I suspect it is the presence of Midwestern Zen-Finding therein. Or the fact that in his songs, faith is not easy, but brutally hard, which solves the issue I have with Christian music, which is that it is all “Jesus is Awesome!” all the time, without the understanding that faith is a day by day choice, and doesn’t automatically make everything perfect, and therefore such music is ironically spiritually bereft, with all the religious punch of a kiddie meal with a plastic 3-years-and-under-toy. But I do love him, and was rather perturbed that he is playing with The Decemberists on my birthday in my hometown on the other side of the frigging country, so I was floored that

had gone to such an astonishing amount of trouble to make this happen for me.

Sufjan was great–nonchalant compared to some of the passionate live shows we’ve seen, but I guess that’s a Brooklyn hipster for you. I don’t meant to downplay his awesomeness, or the fact that I may have cried due to my own current emotional issues when he played my favorite songs back to back, but the thing is, I was totally unprepared for the opening act, and by the time Sufjan came on, he could have armpit-belched the national anthem and I would have called it all a night well spent.

We’ve seen a lot of live music lately, and with that goes some shitty opening acts. The worst were the Humanwine openers–I will try to say this succinctly. One: local 17 year old boy in desperate need of a haircut pounding a keyboard and singing mournfully: Mommy, why don’t you love me? I think my spleen would have leaped out and throttled him if I could. Two: three-chord wonder, possessed of some sort of magical superpower where I forgot their songs the second they stopped playing them. Astounding.

So I was not prepared for Irene and Vojtech Havlovi. The concert organizer, Bryce Dressner, told a story about how his sister had heard buskers on the Copenhagen streets and brought back their CD, and how they had all fallen in love with it. He and his mother had apparently just about literally turned the world upside down trying to find these unassuming, middle-aged Czech musicians, and it had been a years-long quest. But they were there. And they played for an hour straight, and they got an ovation you wouldn’t believe.

I can’t really explain the music (though,

, I think you’d love it). I’ll upload a track in the next couple of days. The thing to remember when you hear them is that there are no electronic instruments at all. They do all this with their cellos and a piano–which is played both on the keys and the strings. They made them cry like birds and scream like cats and played percussion on the cellos with their fingernails and then Irene sang and her voice was terrible and ghostly and cut me right to the bone. I don’t mean to sound like I was a wreck, but by the end I was in tears, when she played the piano, simply, no tricks, for the first time in the show, and her husband put his arms around her to play the extreme ends of the keys. This is a song you cannot play without embracing someone, I thought, and that was it for me. There was such an intimacy between them, it was so beautiful.

We bought all of their CDs and this will be my writing music for some time.

We spent Sunday meandering around the forest and Little Pidgeon River, and I missed California viscerally, missed Yosemite, all the places that are so tied to me and I have not seen in so long. I need to see that golden place again. I need to go up the falls.

We drove home. I go to Chicago tomorrow–such a life I have!

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