A few weeks ago, Howard Stern was playing a live clip of Alanis Morissette on his show. I expected to hear derisive laughter after the snippet, since Stern is such a (insert Tim Allen grunt) "guy's guy" and he couldn't possibly like Alanis Morissette, could he? Well, I was wrong. Stern likes her a lot, and said something like, "Those American Idol singers need to listen to Alanis sing something. Now there's a singer."
That's one reason I like Stern. One minute he's doing some stupid, somewhat offensive skit, or interviewing a porn star, and the next minute he's showing himself to be neurotic, self-loathing, or perceptive. He's unpredictable, and not for the outrageousness, but because of all his contradictions. I like that he was basically, but hedgingly, in support of the war in Iraq at first (which I kind of was) and later felt duped (which I also felt). He's just like a regular guy, and I like that during my five-minute commute in the mornings. I'm even thinking about getting Syrius in January when he moves over there, although if I'm going to get satellite radio in the next year, it might be XM for the baseball feeds. We'll see.
Anyhow, back to Morissette. Stern's impressive plug of her made me grab Jagged Little Pill from my stack for the trip. The CD came out the year I graduated high school, when I was just getting into buying CDs, and I liked her a lot. I saw her live for one of my first ever concerts and there was a moment when I was on the ground at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, MI, during which I felt like she was singing just to me, and I was just twenty feet away. I felt like Wayne in Wayne's World looking up at Tia Carrere with "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" playing. I was 17 and in love with this wild woman with the crazy hair.
I probably haven't listened to it in years, instead much preferring her second CD (Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie) and having only scant interest in her last couple of albums. Still, it's the ten-year anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, and Morissette re-recorded the whole thing as a thirty-year old. At first I thought it was vaguely desperate, or at least that it would be viewed as such, but I heard a cut from it at the bar the other night and really liked it. I'll buy it eventually.
But because of these mentions of her lately, I brought along Jagged Little Pill to listen to. Eh, it was alright. Still so much of it was killed by radio overairplay (that was when, like, rock radio actually played female artists) that I had a hard time listening to say, "Ironic," without flipping ahead. But a few of the songs really stand up, and I look forward to hearing how she's reworked them a decade later. This woman can sing; it's a real person you're listening to. She's not pristine like a Celine Dion, but that element of flaw and roughness is what I think makes it intriguing. George Jones' blacks-holding-slaves novel The Known World is the best novel I've read in a couple years, and it's because Jones tries to do so much, bringing in magical realism towards the end in a novel that thrived on realism, so that it could have veered off course, but does not. Morissette's voice reminds me of that - she could have railed it in, but I'm glad she didn't. I like it when artists try to do a lot and put it all out there.
So that's what I listened to on the way up to Michigan, along with a lot of Common, the Beatles, John Legend, John Mayer, Mos Def, Heather Nova, and Ella Fitzgerald. I was doing a lot of flipping.
Somehow, leaving "first thing in the morning" today meant getting on the highway at 11:09am. I set the alarm for 7, but was so tired from my latenight cleaning and packing that I went back to bed for a bit. Plus I had to mow the lawn before I left for a week because it already had a week's growth on it. I couldn't very well mow at 7am, could I? So I mowed at 10:30 and was gone by 11.
The drive went well, going quickly because I had plenty to entertain me. Besides all the music, I listened to the "Fresh Air on Writers" CDs I checked out from the library, which was Terry Gross (I don't want to see what she looks like because I'm wildly attracted to her and feel like it will ruin my perception of her if I look) interviewing the likes of James Baldwin (just before his death in 1987), Stephen King (just after getting plowed over by the guy in the van), Allen Ginsburg (just before he died of cancer), the guy who wrote Where The Wild Things Are, John Updike, and others. It was very good, and I may even play parts of the Baldwin interview for my students.
Holden slept almost the entire way, rolled up in a ball in the back seat. I stopped just four times on the 12-hour trip, eating a BK veggie sandwich and a shrimp salad at Burker King for dinner but otherwise just drinking things like sugar free Red Bull, coffee, and pop to stay wide awake. I decided to disembark from the highway at a different point than usual to make things more interesting, and it actually made the trip quicker going through the southwestern Michigan burgs of Sturgis, White Pigeon, and Paw paw than cutting up and jumping on I-94. And when I say I did it to "make things more interesting," it was really because I just blew right past my exit.
I can't wait to see South Haven in the sunshine tomorrow. It's a beautiful town with miles of sandy beaches on Lake Michigan. It's a nice place to visit even though I remember feeling trapped while in high school. I'll be hitting the beach and going out on the boat with a book tommorow.
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