I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars. But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.
Craig Finn opened for My Morning Jacket when I saw them in New York. However, we arrived late, so I missed him. I was fairly certain that Craig Finn was actually Neil Finn when I saw his name, so I expected Crowded House, not The Hold Steady.
For this solo venture, Finn has crafted some slow folk songs. He sings slowly and deliberately on these three acoustic songs. The melodies are simple and his voice sounds very California to me. He’s accompanied by Ricky Ray Jackson playing a great-sounding echoey slide guitar. In fact, I feel like Jackson is the highlight of the show.
“Apollo Bay” and “Western Pier” are from the solo album. They are story songs. The final song “Jeremiah’s Blues” is not on the record, but it’s fun to challenge yourself.
[READ: December 6, 2016] “Just Like Us”
Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar. Which is what exactly? Well…
The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas. This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.
I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived (a few days late for advent, but that was my fault for ordering so late) I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.
I really enjoyed this story about a girl and her mom and the struggles they have had. It opens with the excellent line: “It wasn’t easy to get kicked out of Happy Trails RV Park and Camp.” The owner put up with a lot. Including her son, who was rather a layabout. He was injured in a construction job and is on disability–meaning he doesn’t do anything around the camp either.
Nina was fourteen, part white, part Chinese. Her father returned to China when she was a baby and sent them money for the first two years. And then suddenly he stopped. So her mama had spent time with many different boyfriends. Her last boyfriend, Roy, seemed promising until she caught him cheating on her (for the third time). And after that she decided it was time to get outta California. So they got in their camper and took off.
There’s a line that I really enjoyed: “She turned on the radio…the lead singer wailed about a small-town girl escaping into a lonely world–the coincidence of a song about our lives.”
They had been driving what seemed like forever but had not yet gotten out of the state. They needed a rest and pulled into Happy Trails. Mama asked if they could have a discount if they stayed multiple nights and if she helped out around the place. The owner, Margie, took pity on them and let them stay.
Soon after Nina began helping out around the place, too and she got along well with that Margie–especially if they made fun of other people together. Her mama was getting some steady work in town–waitressing and what not. Nina found that she didn’t miss anyone from her school at all.
But despite her relative contentedness, the narrator doesn’t approve of her mama–she hates that her body is getting curvy like her mama’s. She hates when her mama wears her clothes. She won’t even admit that she likes Han Solo best because her mama had a crush on him too.
In he beginning of summer, the Nina’s cousin Ritchie came to stay with them. Technically he wasn’t really her cousin, just the son of mama’s best friend from high school, Sue. Sue was in jail for her third DUI and Ritchie was going to stay with them for a time.
Ritchie was half-Mexican. It turned out the Margie didn’t like Mexicans. She was happy to hear that the narrator’s darker skin was because she was half Chinese–that was okay. No one let on that Ritchie was half-Mexican though.
She and Ritchie had fun–swimming in the pool and hiking in the redwoods. Ritchie was a little bit of a troublemaker, but it was nice having someone her age around.
But soon enough, fearing that Ritchie was getting bored, she encouraged him to do something she knew she shouldn’t.
They sneaked into a tent on the camp grounds and stole something–in this case a Leatherman. She encouraged him to take it, and once he had, they began hitting three or four tents and RVs a day.
They made a point of only stealing one thing and never anything sentimental. Only something that would not be missed immediately.
They were almost caught once, when a camper returned to his RV to get something, and that moment–when they were holding each other and stifling a laugh–led to their first kiss. That kiss led to more and more.
But things couldn’t go on like that. Something had to give.
This was not a happy story–really nothing in Nina’s life would lead you to think there will be a happy ending for her, but she clearly has a strong resilience.