-POWERED BY PATRONS -
welcome to my latest Patreon Thing! this is Thing #10 (the Bowie “strung out” tribute was #9) and yes, things are just getting weirder and more awesome. good evening. it’s february 25th, 2016.
everything will become clear once you listen/read.
short story: jason and i challenged each other to write 11 songs last week in seattle, i wrote one, and the next day, jason recorded it in his houseboat. (he also played accordion and…some other stuff. just listen.)
fact, and every writer will back me up, short things are harder to write than long things.
motherhood leaves me little time to edit, so the song is almost 11 minutes. i make no apologies.
listen FIRST, then read!
the footnotes are an integral part of the song. this is a GESAMTKUNSTWERK, folks, even though it only has a few chords, you got me?
i highly recommend printing this out, or – if you must, even though i cringe when neil does it – taking your iPad/phone into the bath (but please, airplane mode, people!) and reading while the song plays. i also recommend a glass of wine (or a nice chamomile tea) with your bath, a hanky, and some lavender epsom salts (excellent for overall body relaxation).
if you are a parent and would like to add your own confession in the comments, i would feel less lonely. everybody else would, too.
i look forward to coming back here tomorrow and reading.
i can’t say it enough, the patreon is making my recent fuck-it-all-and-make-it-and-put-it-out approach to music possible. if you want to support more thing-making, please join (for as little patronage as $1/thing) the beautiful and growing patreon community at https://www.patreon.com/amandapalmer.
“A MOTHER’S CONFESSION” (the lyrics)
our son is four months old1 his name is anthony or ash for short2
and he’s too small to do things by himself3
we were in L.A. over christmas in a rental and we jury-rigged4 a place
to change his diapers on a shelf5
i was peeing in the bathroom and had left him for a second6
cause i thought he couldn’t move and he was safe7
as i came out i saw him falling in slow motion to the floor8
it was probably the worst moment9 of my life
and then i accidentally stole a thing of chapstick10 from the safeway11
i didn’t see it ’til i got out to the car12
i would have usually returned it13 but i was overwhelmed14
and late15 to take the baby to my cousins16 which was far away17
in my defense i’d bought like $8718 worth of groceries
and the chapstick was a $1.9919…
i know it wasn’t the right thing to use20
to use my newborn21 child as an excuse
but it felt like a real reason at the time22
and as i pulled out of the parking lot i cried23
and as i pulled onto the highway i said “right….
at least the baby didn’t die…right?
at least the baby didn’t die….”24
and then we went to sarasota25
to see neil’s cousin helen
for her birthday she just turned ninety-nine26
we were also there for sidney
who was ninety-four two days before
but he was sick27 so mostly it was ash and helen time28
she survived the warsaw ghetto29
and she always30 says “i love you”
when she sees you ’cause she knows you never know
she’d worked for months while i was pregnant
on a gorgeous handmade blanket31
her almost-hundred-year-old hands crocheting every row
i’d been emailing her pictures32 of the baby and the blanket
every day since she had sent it in the mail
but they were of one that someone else had knitted33 34
she was really nice about it
then i went and shoplifted a pair of stupid sunglasses
from goodwill35 (they were on my head36
i’d tried them on and left them there)
but that’s not really bad compared to
when we left the baby in the car37.
at least he wasn’t in there very long.
…and not directly in the sun.
and thank god no-one walking by happened to notice what we’d done.
i’m even scared to put these lyrics in a song.
everything is relative38 and everyone’s related39
i can’t do that much right now
but take care of this baby40
i figure everything’s technically all right
if at least this baby doesn’t die.
(i’d also like his dad alive. so honey….careful when you drive41 42).
and then i took a plane43 to washington alone44
so we could visit jason webley who’s his godfather45
he’s playing the accordion46
i couldn’t wait to see him and share tales of my disasters
over dinners in his houseboat when i saw i’d lost my passport47
so i got a rush appointment at the place where you replace them48
and i drove the baby in and on the way i got a speeding ticket49
when the cop came to the window i was shaking and i said i’m sorry50
but you couldn’t hear me that’s how loud the sound of screaming was
cause he was hungry and i think that i was speeding
’cause i panic when i hear him cry51
my god what kind of a mother am i52
and as i pulled out of the breakdown lane i cried
and as i pulled out on the highway i said “right.
at least the baby didn’t die. right?
at least the baby didn’t die.”
while i was waiting for my passport i was hungry so
i twittered for good coffee in the neighborhood53
and there i saw a woman who was sitting at the bar
and it was noon and she was drinking54
and she called across the diner at me “how old is your baby?”
and she smiled at us nursing
and she said she had a daughter who was grown
and then she paused
and said she also had a son55
and when i’d paid and was about to leave
i picked him up and crossed the room and touched her sleeve
i said “hey this baby wanted to say hi.”56
and she held him tight and she started to cry.57
and i’m sorry that this story’s gotten long
and that everybody’s crying in this song.58
and as i got back in the car i turned the radio and heater on
and sat there with the baby in the back.59
and they were talking about syria and climate change and ISIS
and the candidates’ positions on iraq60
i feel so useless in this universe
i know i could be doing worse
i’m trying hard to stay at peace61 inside
i know it’s hard to be a parent
but my flaws are so gigantic62
…i wonder if i should have had a child.63
and as i pulled out of the parking lot i cried
and as i pulled out on the highway i said
at least the baby didn’t die.
at least the baby didn’t die.
at least the baby didn’t die!! right?!
at least the baby didn’t die!!
(i may not make it to the passport place on time!65)
at least the baby didn’t die.
(and they might suspend my license for a while!!66)
at least the baby didn’t die.
(and i might get caught for retroactive theft!!67)
at least the baby didn’t die.
(and i might get turned into the DSS!68)
but at least the baby didn’t die69.”
1 he was actually just about to turn five months when i wrote this song. he was born on september 16th, and this song was written on february 11th. so. yeah. saying five months felt not right but saying “almost five months” wouldn’t fit and to be honest about it i feel like the song is better if the baby is smaller. i don’t know why i thought that. i think maybe it makes me feel less guilty.
2 his name is Anthony David Karl Gaiman. i’d always thought i’d name a boy after anthony, because of how much anthony meant to me in my life, but only if he was dead. and when i was pregnant, anthony was sick but not dead and not necessarily dying. and you don’t name a baby after a not-necessarily dying person. that’s just bad luck. so neil and i talked about the name for a while after we found out he was going to be a boy, and at first neil wanted to name him damon. i mean: damon gaiman. i thought it was hilarious and neil did too but all of neil’s older kids were like NOOOOOO so that idea was cut short by family veto. and then we talked about ash one day walking around walden pond…because it just floated through the air and sounded cool…and we kept on walking and trying out different forms of ash with every letter of the alphabet put in front (bash? kinda violent. cash? too country. dash? we liked dash, but art and francoise’s son was dash. gash? SO GOTH. lash? we talked about lash for a while. what a sexy name, right? sash? perfect if he goes into ballet…) then anthony died. so we named him anthony. or ash for short.
3 that’s not really fair. he can do a LOT of things by himself. he can eat his own toes, he can grab his toy cloth pig, he can boob-hunt, he can wiggle around, he can even kind of play piano…i just meant, obviously, that he can’t change his diaper by himself, or be coordinated enough to stop from falling off a thing once he starts to fall off.
4 jason and i had an argument about this. well not quite an argument but i’ve actually always wondered if it’s “jury-rigged” or “jerry-rigged”, because i hear people say both, and i’m so confused that i say both all the time. so while writing this song i finally googled it. it’s TECHNICALLY jury-rigged. grammarist.com says: “A little-used definition of jury is intended or designated for temporary use. It’s a nautical term of unknown origin, and in its early use it usually appeared in the phrase jury mast, referring to a temporary mast put up to replace one that has been lost. This is the source of the verb jury-rig, meaning to assemble for temporary use, and its derivative adjective jury-rigged. Jerry-rig is a variant spelling of jury-rig. One could call it incorrect because it entered the language several centuries after jury-rig and is obviously derived from a misspelling of the original, but it is widely used and is accepted by some dictionaries. It would be easier to dismiss jerry-rig as incorrect if we didn’t have the separate adjective jerry-built, which means built of bad materials. Jerry-built may or may not be etymologically related to jury-rig (its origins are mysterious), but all major dictionaries agree that jerry is the correct spelling in this case.” (http://grammarist.com/usage/jury-rig-jerry-rig-jerry-built/)…after i sent this link to jason (who was across the room, making dinner) he argued that even if the correct expression is jury-rigged, people say jerry-rigged, and so i should feel free to use either. but by the time i found out that one was actually correct, i felt like i could never go back, and now it will bother me every time i hear someone say “jerry-rigged”.
5 so to call it a SHELF is actually not accurate, it was more like a…random surface in this rental house. kind of like a built in table. the worst thing about the whole episode was the fact that the floor was made of hard tile. i tried to fit that into the song. it didn’t fit.
6 okay. not a second. i mean, peeing takes more than a second. that’s a turn of phrase. the truth is more awful, i was also doing more than peeing. this is where the guilt starts to creep in. i was downstairs in the house, and upstairs were allan amato and olga nunes, who had asked me if they could come by and interview me for their documentary about art. and i’d said fine, and was juggling getting ready for shooting their thing and taking care of the baby, and was not only peeing but putting on eyeliner. so i was in there for more like…three minutes. maybe less. maybe more. the irony of all this is that you can watch the interview, which was filmed about 15 minutes after this all happened. i’m not sure if i look weird, but i felt weird. https://vimeo.com/152328042
7 he managed to push himself, for the first time, with his arms, to the edge of the table. i could hear him cry from the bathroom, which was about 15 feet away…
8 …and as soon as i heard him cry and was rushing out to see if he was okay, he was just slipping off the edge. he didn’t actually fall in slow motion. it just seemed it. i ran over, with my heart in shreds, wondering if maybe i would have a paralyzed baby, or at least a baby with a broken bone. i had just been talking to my aunt sonia about how one of her twin sons had a broken arm at three months because he slipped out of her grip. he was crying so woefully. i held him to my chest and rocked him and rocked him and took him to the bed. and fed him. and then i looked over his entire body and he seemed to be okay. but now i had that image stuck in my head of him falling (like the recurring dream sequence in the brady bunch of marsha getting hit in the nose with the football over and over). the image will still not leave my head. it is stuck.
9 worst SHORT moment. i was okay about a day later. i spent the next day in a kind of a shivering shock, checking his body for possible broken bones or wrong things. the worst LONG moment was probably that time in 1996 i had the worst hangover of my life, maybe i’ll do that song next. with footnotes.
10 here’s how it happened, and i’ll even come clean about the time it happened in new york, like a month later. i go shopping. i have the baby. the baby is asleep in the car. i need to take the baby into the store. the baby’s car seat fits in his stroller, which is great. it means he will stay asleep. it is very good when the baby stays asleep so that i can shop without having to entertain or feed him. but. i cannot wheel the baby and a shopping cart at the same time. they both take two hands. i am not sure what other people do. i refuse to look these things up on the internet. so i improvise, and i’ve found his entire car seat fits into most grocery carts. this is AWESOME. it means i can park the car, run to the place where the shopping carts are, run back to the car, insert the baby, and then wheel him around the store. it also means he gets covered with groceries. you see where this is headed. so twice now, i’ve done a huge grocery run and gotten to the car (in this particular case) or home (in the case of the small package of cinnamon) before i realize that the baby had lost groceries hidden within or atop him. i now check the baby REALLY carefully before i leave the store. note that i am being a really big person and not making some cheap shot joke about the baby being the thief here. he’s just a baby, he can’t steal anything yet.
11 this was in sarasota, so the song is out of order. i know. the original lyric was the truth: it wasn’t a safeway, it was a Publix. Publix is a chain of supermarkets in florida. the hilarious thing is that i was getting it confused with the supermarket in L.A., which is a Vons. but no, neil confirmed, it was the Publix in sarasota where i accidentally stole the chapstick. it was jason who made me change it. we were working on the song in his houseboat and he was like, “what’s a publics?” and i was like “it’s a chain of supermarkets” and he was like “i’ve never heard of it” and i was like “well it’s only on the west coast” and he was like “amanda we’re ON the west coast, we’re in seattle” and i was like “i mean CALIFORNIA” and he was like “the lyric is going to confuse people, it isn’t clear it’s a supermarket” and i was like “i think people will understand” and he was like “i would forgive it if it was a weird supermarket-y sounding supermarket but it isn’t, it sounds like it could be something else because it’s a real word” and i was like “publix isn’t a real word” and he said “yes it is, the public’s opinion on donald trump is divided” and i was like “but it sounds so good with chapstick” and he was like “change it to safeway” and i was like “ugh fine.” i’m still not sure i made the right decision. i’m clearly not sure about ANYTHING. i think i’ll use “publix” if i ever play it live again, just to be like OH YEAH. (see exhibit A for a picture of the sarasota publix).
12 mind you – this is a GIGANTIC shopping mall parking lot. it’s florida. you’ve been to florida. so the car is like miles from the store. i should shut up here, i think. (again, see exhibit A).
13 this is the truth, and in my defense i have walked BACK into stores on at least a dozen occasions in my life when i got like halfway down the street and realized i was still holding the pen/chapstick/banana/whatever in my hand that i forgot to put on the checkout counter. this time i was just like FUCK. it had taken so much drama to get the groceries and the baby out to the car. i was like: they will forgive me. will they forgive me? i don’t know. do you forgive me?
15 not true. this happened in florida and when i wrote the song, i thought it had happened in california. so i lied, but by accident. kind of.
16 there are two sets of cousins in this song. were were at my california cousins over christmas. katherine is my main cousin there and then there was robert, who died just after anthony, who once played ukulele on the beach with me (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsvI0KWoaTE), and gus, and guy and michelle, and betsey, and maureen and maddy, and frank, and annie, and brent, and grant, and mac…and more.
17 here’s a lie: the Von’s (which was the Safeway, which was the Publix) was actually only like two miles from my cousins’ house in california where i was late to be the time that i thought i was remembering when i wrote the song. so yeah i was lying there, not by accident. i just wanted my case to sound solid.
18 what’s weird here is when i wrote the song and was remembering the wrong supermarket, it was actually a grocery run i did of like $450 because it was all the stuff for christmas day. but the run to the publix, which is the safeway, which was the actual story, i think i actually only spent like $60. but still.
19 i admit: i made that up. it was a loose chapstick. it couldn’t have cost that much. i just googled to make myself feel better and most single chapsticks costs like a dollar. i am very relieved to see that mostly online you buy chapstick in a three-pack and that the three-pack is like $2.82. point = AFP. (see exhibit B).
20 this is just a random interesting songwriting note: the original draft of the song had ” i know it wasn’t the right thing to do; to use my newborn infant as an excuse” with more crunched in timing, but jason said he didn’t like it. i trust jason. most of the time.
21 i felt weird about saying “newborn”, because, he’s kind of not. i mean, what counts as newborn? what counts as NEW? i just looked it up online:
“new·born ˈn(y)o͞oˌbôrn/ adjective 1. (of a child or animal) recently or just born.”
so i think i’m in the clear there. i mean, he was kind of just born. how are we defining “recently” here? i just googled again and wound up on the website of the World Health Organization…they say “A newborn infant, or neonate, is a child under 28 days of age.” so here i am, lying. they also go on to say ” During these first 28 days of life, the child is at highest risk of dying. It is thus crucial that appropriate feeding and care are provided during this period, both to improve the child’s chances of survival and to lay the foundations for a healthy life.” so there the WHO is, getting fucking meta in my googling about my own song. HOWEVER, i don’t really know if this can count as a lie because i DO state his age in the first line of the song.
point = World Health Organization. (http://www.who.int/topics/infant_newborn/en/)
22 it really did. but also i felt really guilty. you know that feeling?
23 so, a note about this car part. it’s a time-collage of tears. i’ve cried a lot since having the baby and often in cars and often after doing stupid shit. this moment may not have actually happened, but it might has well have.
24 this part is true. every time something has started bugging me lately, especially something really mundane, i’ve been clinging onto this mantra. it’s very useful.
25 hear that drum? it’s quiet, but it’s in there. so, jason lives outside of seattle in a houseboat. we were all sleeping on the houseboat. and that’s the drum that jason saw FLOATING DOWN THE RIVER OUTSIDE THE HOUSEBOAT the first morning we woke up there. jason was like: “do you see what’s floating down the river?” and i was like “no, what?” but he was already outside getting in his canoe. i stood there holding the baby thinking that this sort of thing probably happens to you every morning if you’re jason webley. red bass drums just float down the river and call to you when you wake up in the morning and you get in your canoe and go rescue them. that’s what makes you jason webley. i got some pictures of the drum rescue. (see exhibits C and D).
26 it’s a lie. she just turned ninety-EIGHT. but i tried really really hard to find things that worked with the story that rhymed with eight and i just couldn’t make it work. i tried, i swear. i felt really bad about this, because as you can see in a second, i already screwed up royally with the blanket. on the other hand, sidney really did turn ninety-four. i wondered for a second if i should lie about him, too, and make him ninety-five, but that would have just made things worse, i think. i think helen will be really nice about it. i’m kind of nervous about her hearing this song. at least it doesn’t have any swears in it. helen doesn’t like it when i swear. wait, are there any swears in this song? i had to think about it for a second. i don’t think there are. anyway: sidney’s birthday is january 30th and helen’s birthday is february 1st and they’ve been married for SIXTY SEVEN YEARS. they were married after helen escaped poland and moved to new york after the war, in 1948.
27 it’s a half-lie to say that sidney was SICK, he wasn’t SICK so much as in the rehab center next door in a wheelchair most of the time because he fell three weeks before and broke his arm and hip. when you fall and you’re ninety-four it’s a drag. but i couldn’t fit it in and make it work. so i kind of lied. i mean…sick is usually reserved for not-broken-bone sick. what do we call that? what’s the word for sick-from-broken-bones? laid up? i needed one syllable. sue me.
28 for awesome ash and helen time, see exhibit E.
29 this is true. helen was in the warsaw ghetto. she and her sisters all escaped the gas chambers in different ways, and how they escaped is not my story to tell. helen is one of the most wonderful people i have ever met, and it has been so important to me that she and little anthony are getting time together. they have a kind of connection that leaves me in awe. they span almost a century. if you think about it, if ash lives a hundred years, they’ll SPAN TWO CENTURIES. think about how long a time that is. (for more awesome ash and helen time, see exhibit F.)
30 this is actually true. i don’t think i’ve ever visited helen and she hasn’t begun or ended a visit with “i love you” while she grabs my hands and said it at least once during the visit. i try to be more like helen lately and when i am with someone i love, i just say it all the time. it feels nice. if you think about the fact that you might die any second (and guess what, you might) it makes it easier. try it.
31 this is a totally true story with no embellishment or un-embellishment. she gave us the blanket when we first went down to florida, three weeks after the baby was born in tennessee. i couldn’t believe that she had spent so much time, SO MUCH TIME, making this gigantic and beautiful thing for our son. i imagined her sitting there day after day, putting all of this love and handiwork into the blanket. she’s ninety-eight. her hands are old. she gets tired really easily. it just felt…huge…
32 real emails. this part is true. (see exhibit G)
33 … which was why i was so shame-filled when the blanket mix-up happened. helen’s blanket is sea-foam green (see exhibit H).we were given another one, a smaller one, by someone else, at some other time. i don’t even remember when. that one was blue (see exhibit I). they looked NOTHING ALIKE. i mean, i had no goddam excuse. the only thing these blankets had in common is that they were hand-knitted. (or hand-crocheted, i’m never sure which is which). in my defense, i had a three week year old baby when helen gave us this blanket and my mind was melting down the inside of my spine. i was lost, pretty much all the time. this is, i would like to point out, the same trip where i stole the chapstick, at the publix. anyway…after we left florida that first time, i started emailing helen all these pictures of ash and the blanket. ash in the blanket. i noticed she wasn’t responding. and then she was like: “amanda, that’s not the blanket i made. mine was sea-foam green and that one is blue.” do you know how horrible it feels to get an email like that from a ninety-seven year old woman? it feels TERRIBLE. when i started writing this song, it was basically a song to purge the blanket-guilt. it’s almost worse than the baby-falling guilt. it’s hard to say.
34 and did you notice that i didn’t mention who knitted the other blanket? i am adding this here and i don’t even need to, but this is confessional. i can’t remember. i can’t remember who gave it to us. if it was you, please write to me. you’re going to get your own song.
35 this was the goodwill in seattle. the worst thing about this is that it was the BEST goodwill i’ve ever been to. so there are a few ways of looking at this. first of all, in my defense (i am saying that too much) i spent about $200 in this goodwill. i bought a skirt and a suitcase and bunch of nice dresses and clothes for TED and a jacket to wear during my surprise david bowie performance there which was PERFECT (did you see it? it was PERFECT, see exhibit J.)
36 this is a lie. they were actually hooked over the handle of the stroller. i tried them on, liked them, had lost my other sunglasses somewhere, and decided to buy them. i was, once again, using the baby as a replacement shopping cart and covering him with clothes, which he seemed (i am not kidding at all) to really enjoy. every time i went to the dressing room to try on clothes i was like “don’t forget the sunglasses are hooked on the stroller, amanda”. and then i forgot. i was a few blocks away when i realized it, and already in the car, and again, made the unethical choice. i am not defending myself here. i should have gone back. these sunglasses cost $3.99. (to see the sunglasses in question, which i haven’t lost, please refer to exhibit K). i really want to get my philosopher friend josh from yale involved in this whole situation, because it’s an ethical one, and he studies ethics, and he would probably be quick to point out that my calculating was unethical. i mean, if the sunglasses had cost fifty cents would it be more or less ethical? what if they cost $49? the whole point is that i measured using a scale of capitalism instead of a scale of ethics and i shouldn’t have done it. at this, point, though, it’s too late to send the chapstick and the sunglasses to whence they came (i mean, goodwill would probably not put them back on the shelf…would they?). so i’ve decided my ethical failure should result in two checks (exhibits L & M), one in which i pay the publix back their $1.99 and one in which i pay goodwill back their $3.99 plus $100 because they’re goodwill and not The Man.
37 i don’t really want to write this footnote. because of all the things in this song, this one feels the most incriminating. like, even in the footnotes, i’m fucking terrified that the parent-police are going to read this and knock on the door and take my child away. it would be easy to blame this one on neil, but the truth is we both fucked up and we left the baby in the car. i’m not going to go into the details. even i have my limits. ask me over wine in a bar sometime. at least he wasn’t in there very long, on a cool day. and not directly in the sun. and thank god no-one walking by happened to notice what we’d done. i mean: that could have been bad. HOWEVER, it has been comforting to realize that almost every parent has fucked up in this way at least once. after i played this song a few days after writing it, in seattle, where jason and i were doing a benefit for the everett animal shelter, a handful of people talking to me after the show confided their horrific “when i fucked up” baby stories. i wonder if i’m now going to become a receptacle of people’s horrific baby confessions. bring them on. i’ll take them. every one of them lightens my load. actually, maybe there can be a confessional as part of this song-post. i’m going to look into it.
38 it is!
39 we are! kind of.
40 i wonder if that’s going to come off as disingenuous. i mean, i AM doing things other than taking care of this baby. i am clearly accidentally shoplifting chapsticks and sunglasses, flying in planes, doing shows at TED, putting out david bowie cover records, writing long songs in jason’s house, and, you know, stuff. maybe herein lies the problem. maybe mothers of small babies really should just lie in bed and gaze into the eyes on their infant and nurse and listen to john coltrane and drink juice. i did that for the first three weeks. but then i didn’t. i think there’s one very obvious skill i have lost, that i was never very good at in the first place: editing. i am a shit editor. give me a few weeks and i can write a short song. give me a day and that fucker’s going to be 11 minutes.
41 this is kind of a way of throwing focus. neil is probably a better driver than me, overall, and we do have a speeding ticket coming down the pike (no pun intended) in the next verse. but come to think of it he did back the car straight into a tree about a week after the baby was born and the bumper was dented and he was really angry at himself and the funniest part was that we were leaving a yoga class. he was in fucking space. i tried to convince him to forgive himself. but anyway, i don’t want him to die more than ever, and i’ve always had a thing about him dying, mostly because i get stuck in my head and start thinking about how he’s older than me. and then i remember that any of us could get hit by a bus at any time and i look at my friends who have partners with HIV and i look at my friend zoë whose husband jeff just got taken by cancer at age 43 and i look at anthony who died at 65 and i look at all the people dying randomly everywhere at random ages and i just stop worrying about it because who has the time.
42 i wasn’t sure where else to put this picture but it seemed relevant somehow..it’s neil changing the baby on the back of the same ill-fated rental car in which the baby was abandoned-not-for-very-long. sometimes you just have to change a baby. neil is a champion diaper changer, whether or not he is macgyvering the changing station. (see exhibits)
43 he’s been really good on planes (see exhibit N)
44 i mean, not alone, because i was with the baby, but not with neil. alone-with-a-baby is totally a thing. i’ve actually gotten really into being alone with the baby, because he just IS and doesn’t need to make small talk about anything and i like hanging out alone with him in cafes and bars and stuff because it’s basically like being alone only you have to change diapers and occasionally feed the baby. i actually caught myself in conversation the other day saying “i’ll be there in three days” when i actually was talking about the baby and me. so i corrected myself. we’ll be there. we’ll be there, me and him. me. and him. us.
45 he makes a really good godfather. ash is his sixth godchild and he’s thinking about holding an annual Summit of the Godchildren. jason has been my real true friend for so long, and i treasure time with him. i’d found out about TED being early this year, and in vancouver again, so i hit jason up to see if he’d be in seattle, where he lives, so i could come introduce him to the baby. jason is liminal: (ˈlimənl/ adjective, technical 1. of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process 2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.) we met in australia in the street when we were both busking, back in 2000, and we stayed friends. then in around 2007 he introduced me to michael, my boyfriend before neil, and then he introduced me to neil in 2008, and then he officiated mine and neil’s wedding, and when i was just about to have the baby, he visited the place where i was giving birth in tennessee. he stayed for a few days and left for a plane about three hours after i went into labor, so he never got to see the baby. he’s a human threshold, this guy. the thread that threads me. anyway, when i showed up at his houseboat in seattle, we thought we might make some music together, but didn’t decide what, and then one night the power went out and i slept on the floor with the baby and he slept in the loft and we stayed up all night making each other giggle and challenging each other to write 11 songs the next day. well, 11 songs total, 4 each and three together. i wrote this one, on the upright piano in the houseboat (see exhibit O) . jason wrote one about the local donut shop (it’s actually good, believe me) and we tried to finish my children’s song, “the butt song” together. i just checked what day that was: it was the 11th. of february. i liked my song enough to ask him if we could record it the next day, and so we stayed up til like 3 am, and we did it. (see exhibit P for some photos of how charming our workspace was).
46 this is a REALLY interesting lie! so…he IS playing the accordion, but not at the exact time i did the vocal. i did the piano and vocal in one take. i worked on the lyrics all day and kept telling jason i was almost ready to record it. but then we wanted to go see the donut shop that he had written the song about and then jason wanted to make soup for dinner and we needed to watch some youtube clips of bernie sanders on saturday night live and by the time we actually started recording it was eleven o’clock, so i practiced the song like once and it was so long we just started recording and it was also funny because it was just us in the houseboat with the baby so when the baby was making noise which was like almost all the time, we couldn’t really record, and then finally at like 2 am the baby fell asleep and i got a good, single take. but jason couldn’t POSSIBLY be playing the accordion at the same time because it was just me playing and the baby on the blanket (THE RIGHT BLANKET) and jason engineering the song (exhibit Q) and he was also sometimes holding the baby (exhibit R). so he couldn’t actually play the accordion live on the take, he played it like two days later and also used that day as a photo opp for this footnote shitshow (exhibit S). and while we’re doing jason-multi-instrumentalist show and tell… he added the glockenspiel that you hear (exhibit T). and he also played, as you know from way back in the story, the river-drum…all spiffied up (exhibit U!) but back to the point: he IS playing the accordion, but at the same time he’s also not. schroedinger’s accordion. and to make things even weirder, i’m technically playing the piano but actually I AM NOT PLAYING THE PIANO AT ALL. by the time you listen to the recording, i’ve played the piano ages ago, and jason has technically played the accordion more recently than i played the piano. it’s all so confusing and timey-wimey.
47 this is a half-truth. i didn’t lose it…well, i lost it once…but that was a while ago. like over a year and a half ago. i still, to this day, do not know how i lost it. it was in my apartment and then it was gone. so i had to go to the boston passport office at the time (i’ll never forget it, because anthony was sick and in the cancer halfway house at the time, not far from the passport office, and i went from being with him in the cancer-room to getting my passport to going out to lunch with a friend who i think was suicidal and then back to cancer land. and one thing i remember was seeing all the babies in the passport office getting their passports. it was, otherwise, a dark day.) my original passport eventually surfaced but by then it was too late, i’d been issued a temporary passport, and this was the one that i had to get replaced with a permanent one before i went to TED in vancouver, canada. you need a passport. and i’d started applying in summer, with superkate helping me with all the bureaucratic forms and applications and one thing led to another led to another and pictures were delayed and forms were wrong and here i was, a week before leaving for canada, with no fucking passport. so it wasn’t as bad as i make it sound. i lied. it worked for the song. are we getting the gist here? sometimes you lie more, and sometimes you lie less, and sometimes you lie to make yourself sound better, and sometimes you lie to make yourself sound worse.
48 this part is true. i got the next possible appointment at the seattle passport office, which was like an hour drive from jason’s houseboat.
49 this part is also true. i was going 17 miles over the limit, which had just changed from 70 to 60. (see exhibit V).
50 all of this is completely accurate. i freak out, like most people probably, when cops pull me over. and i was already freaked out from motherhood and passport.
51 there’s a kind of a nice silver lining here, i suppose, which is that because i got pulled over and had been panicking about feeding the baby, i got to feed the baby in the breakdown lane, which was what i had been deliriously thinking about doing about 5 minutes before because i couldn’t find a place to pull off and now maybe i wonder if i was self-consciously sabotaging myself so i could legally feed the baby in the breakdown lane and not have to pull off the highway to feed him and therefore have a higher probability of making my passport appointment on time. which reminds me, i lied again. i got the speeding ticket on the way to pick UP the passport after i’d already been in once to apply for it. the whole thing was a pain in the ass. but i thought i’d make this clear. this was trip number two. wait. if i’m being totally honest it was trip-into-seattle-from-jason’s number THREE because the day before i had to drive in to get a medical exam for another visa (it’s a long story). but i mention that because it was the drive-in-to-get-the-medical-exam-day that i saw the lady in the bar. spoiler alert if you’re reading these footnotes in realtime while listening to the song. wait, is that possible??
52 let me just pause here and say that i know how hyperbolic this song is, and i know what kind of mother i am. i am a normal mother. because everybody is totally weird, as far as i’m concerned. seriously. show me a normal person. i’ll give you $5.
53 this is absolutely true except see the last footnote. i wasn’t waiting for my passport (well, i was waiting in the grand sense, to get it the next day), i was on my way home back to jason’s after getting a medical exam for a visa. i asked seattle for a good coffee spot (https://twitter.com/amandapalmer/status/697111924400476161 and exhibit W) and a bunch of people twittered back and one girl mentioned the five point cafe (exhibit X), which i happened to be walking right by on the way to my parked rental car. so i went in.
54 it wasn’t noon, but it was close. it was around one o’clock. but still. and she was drinking. i’m not sure what, something reddish/pinkish with ice. but you know how you can tell the difference between when people are drinking and they’re drinking? she was drinking.
55 all completely true, and she added that her daughter was eighteen and her son was fourteen. and it was the pause that killed me. and if you were wondering, the coffee was great, the staff was great, i wanted to return many times (see what it looks like by consulting exhibit Y) i had an avocado benedict and am planning on sending @msmellymel some kind of magical gift for helping me technically write a verse of this song. thanks, girl.
56 i didn’t literally say that, but i said something close. there was something about the way she was looking at us. i have to say, one of my favorite things about having a baby is giving him away to other people. he’s like a little warm human rorschach test. insert him into human arms and watch what happens. amazing things happen. scary things happen. the dark gets pulled out of the light and the light shoots into the closet. it gets WEIRD when you hand people a baby. especially when most people don’t go around handing their babies to strangers. i will stand by this: babies like being held, by everybody. actually, no. THIS baby seems to like to be held by everybody. unless you’re freaking out and anxious, then he cries.
57 true story. and i’d seen it coming. and while she cried, she looked at me and told me she was going through a really hard time. and we talked for a second. and then i left.
58 sorry not sorry.
59 this is mostly a fabrication of space-time. there have been plenty of times i’ve sat with the baby in the back of the car (most memorably, the time i realized we’d left him there and i just sat back there rocking him and me in a terrified bonding session) but this time wasn’t one of them. this time i got in the car and drove away. but i did put the radio on. but it wasn’t the news. we listened to indie music on KEXP.
60 true-ish. even though i wasn’t listening to NPR, which is my car music of choice, i’ve been reading the news a lot since coming back from childbirth. i think it’s been a stupid idea. now i’m just sad a lot of the time.
61 this was jason’s lyric. i couldn’t find a two-syllable word for “calm” with the right emphasis. he found it. i love jason.
62 i really wanted to use “apparent” instead of “gigantic”. but i figure throwing a pun that stupid in at the end of the song was just not a good idea.
63 this feels like maybe the most important lie in the song. it’s not true, that i’ve ever thought this. it sounds good in the song, and there’s maybe some part of me that wonders, but not really. not at all, even. i had this child and that’s that. i’ve kind of closed the door on regret. i actually closed it the second i was pregnant this time. i was done deciding. i thought about whether it was a good idea to keep this line in, and fuck it. i did.
64 “everybody” is the assemblage of people (about 30 of them) who crowded into jason’s houseboat the night after we recorded the song and agreed to be our chorus. they named themselves “the shakarooners” because the event we had all just been to, the everett animal shelter benefit, was called shakaroo. i don’t know why it was called shakaroo. but…get it? sha….karooners? o well. the alternate group name was “the floating drum collective”. huge thanks to all of those people. you were awesome.
65 i did!
66 i’ve gotten three speeding tickets in under two years! they might! but they haven’t yet!
67 i haven’t!
68 i haven’t been!
69 he hasn’t! (exhibit Z)
exhibit A: this is the publix in sarasota. not the vons in hermosa beach, not a safeway anywhere.
exhibit B: three pack of chap-stick, $2.82
exhibit C: the drum that floated by
exhibit D: jason rescuing the floating drum.
exhibit E: ash and helen time
exhibit F: what the hell, more ash and helen time
exhibit G: the incriminating email (one of them)
exhibit H: the right blanket, with sidney and helen.
exhibit I: the wrong blanket:
exhibit J: the goodwill jacket from my TED surprise… (and al gore).
(photo from TED.com)
exhibit K: the sunglasses from goodwill.
exhibit L: checks to the publix (not vons or safeway) and to goodwill
exhibit M: neil is an excellent father/diaper macgyver
exhibit N: the baby flies with ease.
exhibit O: jason’s houseboat piano with my song on it
exhibit P: my lyric station, across from the piano.
exhibit S: jason playing the accordion
exhibit T: the glockenspiel overdub
exhibit U: the dog is named wilson. note hermann hesse books on shelf.
(all photos of jason playing things by nicole moon)
exhibit V: speeding ticket.
exhibit W: the coffee tweet
exhibit X: the coffee answer
exhibit Y: the five point
(photo credit: wiki commons)
exhibit Z: see? totally alive, right blanket and all.
all photos by amanda palmer unless otherwise noted.
thanks again to the patrons for supporting me in my making of The Things. please do leave blog comments, we’re readin’. and if you liked this experience, please share the page. this shit will never be in stores…it’s not even on iTunes. it’s just me against the music, i mean, me and you and the internet, people. long live the punk cabaret, and i’m off to change a diaper.
i love you all a lot.