Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Forever Now

Sunday night I went to see the Psychedelic Furs and the Tom Tom Club here in Lexington. It was a fantastic show, which made me wonder why I hadn't tried harder to see the Furs again since the first time I saw them all the way back in the Mesozoic Era, i.e. 1983. I will amend that in the future, if possible.

I was looking at my old concert shirt yesterday and realized that to me, it really is an incredibly complex symbol and not just a garment. For one thing, it may be the oldest piece of clothing I own that has belonged to me alone. It's been kicking around with me for 28 years, so it's a part of me and my "style", whatever that means. My friends and family are all familiar with it, so they know what I'm talking about when I reference it (which happens more than you might think). It's something I had in high school, and everything that entails and implies. Then too, it's a piece I've altered, so it showcases the kind of things I do, my art if you will. 

For another thing, the Psychedelic Furs were only the second concert I'd ever been to, so that was a BIG DEAL. It was here in Lexington, and we had come to visit my grandparents for Easter weekend. There was an article in the paper about them, (which I kept for years afterwards) and the tickets were only $7, so Mom and I went. I was 16, and so excited. 

Really I had to go. I had an obligation. I was living in a small town in southern Ohio, and everybody else (as far as I knew) except me and my best friend were into bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon. MTV had come to our county the previous August, so people had been exposed to New Wave, and talked about it, but if people were listening to it, they kept it to themselves. 

Of course I didn't. Everybody thought I was smart and weird anyway, which was fair enough, so my being into New Wave was no surprise to anybody. Now I was actually in the same town as a real live New Wave band, British guys who'd been on MTV, who spiked their hair, who wore eyeliner. Eyeliner! I had to represent. How could I hold my head up if I didn't go see them? I can guarantee you nobody else from Wheelersburg, OH, was spending their Easter weekend seeing the Psychedelic Furs.

So we went and it was awesome. I was fairly nervous about the whole thing. I'd only ever been to see Cheap Trick before (with Saxon & Krokus opening, WTF?), and that was an arena show, which is a whole different ballgame. Would there be a lot of punks there? Would there be slamdancing? For sure everyone else would be a lot cooler than me. 

But I had to go. I'd seen the videos for "Pretty In Pink" and "Love My Way", and even without the video, LMW would be enough reason to go see a band. Plus, eyeliner!

It was a great show. There were some people dressed in garbage bags. I saw a couple of Mohawks. There was a little slamdancing in the back. Richard Butler had a lot of product in his hair, and yes, he was wearing eyeliner. He was beautiful. I wanted to marry him, which not turns out not to have been such a pipe dream after all, since his brother Tim, the bass player, actually did marry a girl from Kentucky and now lives in Casey County. See, dreams can come true!

I had to have a shirt to commemorate the occasion. I couldn't wait to wear it to school, and show everybody how infinitely much cooler I was than they were. The reactions were all I could have hoped. "The What Furs?" " ' Psychedelic?' " "Whuut?" "Who're they?" "Whut?" Most gratifying. 

Funnily enough, I still get that today whenever I take the shirt out for an airing, or even mention the Furs. "Christ, I know you people have heard of 'Pretty In Pink'. That's them". I used to date a horrible boy who would say "the Psychedelic Furs" which such a sneer in his voice. You know what, fuck you, because you're a jerk with a bowl haircut and you're so stupid you buy whole cassettes and will only listen to the one song you heard on the radio. Besides, your musical tastes certainly don't hold up to scrutiny. Asshole. 

Therefore, my shirt represents not only the Psychedelic Furs, who I really do love (and Richard, I'm definitely still available), but also all the other bands I love and who people always gave me shit for listening to. It's old and has yellowed with time, and has permanent smoke stains from when the house burned. (It was pointed out to me that a concert t-shirt that's been through a house fire is in fact, punker than fuck.)  I had to paint the neck and sleeve bands so it wouldn't look quite so bad, but I still love it. 

It makes me think of high school, of my friends from then, of being 16, of concerts, of 27 year-old Richard Butler dancing around with big hair and eyeliner, of the Concrete Blonde show I wore it to when they broke up on stage right in front of us, of 55 year-old Richard Butler dancing around with smaller hair and no eyeliner. It's all good times.

So I wore my old shirt to the show, though since I'm not a young girl anymore, I wore it with pearls and Chanel #5. I was right up front and Tim Butler sang to me. It was awesome.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I Was Going To Call This "For The Birds" But That Would Be Stupid

Another thing I've done for public consumption, and of course agonized excessively about, is this birdhouse I did for the Lexington Arboretum yearly birdhouse display and auction. I'd wanted to do it last year, but couldn't come up with an idea in time. That sort of worked out well because it gave me a whole extra year to think of something.

I don't remember when it hit me, but it suddenly occurred to me to do something with an embroidered or cross-stitch design (since I think about embroidery a lot anyway). Then all I had to do was think of how to implement it. I considered using or making a traditional house-shaped birdhouse and drilling holes in it, and good Lord am I glad I didn't, because the one(s) I finally did build out of polymer clay were quite enough of a pain. (Note to self: maybe do a small mock-up first next time. Also you probably won't go wrong scaling up your design.) 

A seemingly good idea that turned out not to be was using colored wire for the stitching. I wanted to use it for durability's sake, but it got too kinked and bent and broken (o, the story of my life, especially the men in it), so I just used plain old DMC embroidery floss and a needle and coated it with matte acrylic varnish when I had the whole thing done and baked. One lucky idea that panned out was using a large ceramic flower pot for the base, which was exactly the size and shape I had in mind.

The whole thing turned out OK, though I wish I knew how to get my polymer clay smoother when I'm joining seams in it. I don't know if it's a matter of practice or if there's a magical trick to it. I hope the latter, but I doubt it. Naturally I had my usual bout of panicky self-doubt while I was driving over to the arboretum to drop the birdhouse off, thinking, "Oh my God this is crap, I should just set it on fire except the fumes would probably kill me, and anyway I paid $10 for the entry fee so maybe I'll just set it on the doorstep and ring the bell and run away like I'm dropping off an abandoned baby." Which would have looked really stupid since the visitor's center is primarily made of glass and the dozen or so people inside would see me doing that and maybe call the cops because they thought I was dropping off a bomb or a bag of anthrax or something.

So I didn't do that, I took it inside, nervously, and the lady there was very nice and said, "Ooh, that's so pretty!" and "Did you cross-stitch that by hand?". (In my head, "No.") And I saw the other birdhouses, though not closely, since they were all shoved together on tables prior to display. They were very nice, but they weren't all a million times better than mine as I had feared, and of course nobody's stuff ever looks like mine, (why am I still always surprised?) so I left feeling pretty cool. Now I can get on with worrying that the roof and base are going to come apart, or birds will hate it and peck out all the stitching, or the arboretum staff will hate it and set it on fire, or it will just spontaneously combust, which would be kind of awesome.

In other news, I've gotten a lot of "favorites" on Etsy for my Carolina wren wall hanging  that I showed in my last post, which is of course nice, though I would gladly send it off to a new home in exchange for a little cash. But a very cool thing is that a couple of other Etsy sellers whose embroidery work I've admired for a while now favorited it also. That makes me happy.