Friday, August 11, 2006

are you here for the party?

Cloudy days are generally good. Always have been in my eyes.

I remember when I was a kid I always played basketball better during cloudy days, and to my kid-brain it seemed somehow surprising. Sunny days=sunny disposition and all around good feelings, right? Everything's better when it's sunny (at least if you listen to enough Beach Boys). I was probably 14 or so and certainly took this as a signifier of my own 'depth,' my complicated dark sensibilities that made me, a unique little snowflake, so doubtlessly backward I actually prefer cloudy days to sunny.

As i think about it now, it's far less complicated than that. Sunny days are hotter days. Mild temperatures, mild temperaments. And, when you're outside in the sun, especially playing some kind of sport, the sun is in your eyes and affecting your performance. Depth not required

But still. I remain convinced cloudy days are good--especially when you don't get them very often. I visted Portland earlier this month, a trial run of a trip to decide if we were going to pick up stakes and move to the pacific northwest--land of Powell's, mild temperatures, affordable real estate and yes, all those magnificent, thought provoking cloudy days.

However. There is a big difference between Los Angeles cloudy days--even Greater Cleveland area cloudy days (where I grew up)--and Portland cloudy days. Or at least it seemed as such that weekend.

It snowed. In March. The temperatures, day and night, changed by only five or ten degrees (between 30-40 F, which isn't really a difference). But what really stuck out were the clouds, this heavy, slate-colored sky that said in a booming, stern voice, "THERE IS NO SUN TODAY," followed by a softer but still serious rejoinder, "There was no sun yesterday. There will be no sun tomorrow. There will be no sun next week. Check back with us in May, flesh-creature."

It was windy, cold and damp, and of course it was. In the process I even made a local goth girl angry. The move, at least this year was off.

If any Portlander is reading this you're probably laughing hysterically at me, the sissy-boy Californian who got scared away from your town (and thank god for that, you're also thinking) by a little weather. And I sort of did--that and the fact none of the papers or writerly outlets in the ara felt like acknowledging my existence while move was under consideration. Portland, it seems, is a great place to live if you're a truck driver or machinist, but beyond that...the job market seemss in a bit of trouble.

Maybe we'll try it again one year. I still really like the city, I still really like the people, and I feel a real affinity for the land and all that magnificent green everywhere. It just definitely seemed as if a "Not Now" message was being broadcast in colored halogen lights this spring, and you ignore such messages to your peril.

I mean, seriously. Snow?

'Helpless' (Live), Ryan Adams with Gillian Welch

This Neil Young cover perfectly suits a cloudy day. Or even a sunny one (as we have here now...dammit.)

I am not a Ryan Adams fan. I think he is, for want of a better term, a boob. I think his over-sensitivity to any criticism that occasionally manifests itself thorugh getting into pissing matches on blogs is tiresome. I think he should shut up and stop leaving whiny messages on Jim DeRogotis' voice mail after he dares slag his live show. I DO think he could release one great album a year instead of three 'pretty good ones' (though not necessarily that he should), and so on.

But, I also think he's ridiculously talented. "Heartbreaker" was magnificent, and partly because of his collaboration with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. For one album, to me at least, it all lined up. Nothing before or since has really struck me, and it must've been really nice to see all those folks together live (and at the Exit/In in Nashville, no less, where this is theoretically taken). All Gillian really adds is a backing vocal, a soft sigh in the chorus but it is perfect, I say to you, perfect!

And even though I go either way with covers sometimes (either reinvent it or nail it, there's no middle ground--and some songs shouldn't be covered--but more on that later), this one hits just right. Ryan, for all his glorious faults, flaws and foibles, utterly nails it. And you even get a little bit of his irritatingly self-effacing banter at the end as a bonus.

I hope the clouds come back tomorrow.

Buy 'Heartbreaker' from Insound


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