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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: BILL FRISELL-Tiny Desk Concert #191 (February 3, 2012).

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.

billI’ve been aware of Bill Frisell for decades.  He has played with just about everyone that I like, and I’m sure I have his guitar on about a dozen albums.  And yet I don’t really know all that much about him.  I certainly didn’t know what he looked like and, honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Tiny Desk Concert.  I feel like most of the places I know him from are noisy avant-garde music.  So I was pretty surprised to hear that this would be a concert of delicate reworkings of John Lennon songs.

From the blurb:

On this day, Frisell came to perform the music of John Lennon. Now 60, Frisell witnessed the birth of The Beatles and all that it meant to moving the world from cute, catchy songs to sonic adventures — a world of music we don’t think twice about anymore. After all these years of hearing The Beatles’ music, he’s still discovering it, finding small phrases in the songs we know so well — “Nowhere Man,” “In My Life” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Frisell introduces a lot of songs by saying that the Beatles have been a huge part of his life.  And yet, he’s never really played them by himself in this exposed way.

Bob describes some of the gear that Frisell uses, like the

Electro-Harmonix 16-second delay, a pedal I used to use in live performance in the 1980s. I know how fragile and sometimes unpredictable it can be, but it’s the backbone of Frisell’s bag of many tricks. With that equipment enhancing Frisell’s nimble, deft fingerwork and uncanny sense of melody, it all adds up to a brilliant and disarmingly humble performer.

I didn’t recognize “Nowhere Man” for much of the song—he’s exploring areas and pockets of the song–but every once in a while the vocal line peeks through.

When he starts “In My Life,” he plays what sounds like the opening notes to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” I was sure he was going to play it so it’s quite a shock when he doesn’t and then he takes a really long intro solo before getting to the familiar melody of “In My Life.”

For such a legendary figure he is amazingly soft-spoken and humble.  He’s even embarrassed that he’s reading the music rather than having it a part of him.

There’s a pretty lengthy intro before he gets into that very familiar melody of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”    This one is my favorite of the bunch because of all the effects that he plays on it—echoes and reverses and all kinds of cool sounds that emanate from his guitar.  And “Strawberry Fields” is always present in it.

This is 20 minutes of very pretty, sometimes familiar music

[READ: December 25, 2016] “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I have read this story before (and I’m pretty sure one of the Sherlock shows did an episode of this story).  It’s probably one of my favorite Holmes stories.

But first thing’s first: For this story, carbuncle is not the first definition: an abscess; but the second: a bright red gem (except this one is blue). (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: THE CRANBERRIES-Tiny Desk Concert #197 (February 23, 2012).

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.

cranbI really liked The Cranberries’ first album, but was turned off by them when they got overplayed on their second album (If I never heard “Zombie” again…”).

I didn’t realize that they launched a comeback of sorts back in 2012.  And this Tiny Desk Concert was a stop on their tour.  They play five songs–far more than most bands.  They may have been one of the biggest st bands to play up until now.

For this set, they strip down to acoustic guitar, tambourine, electric bass and Dolores O’Riordan’s vocals.

One of the things I liked about their first album was her delicate voice.  She found her more aggressive voice on later songs (where her accent really leaks through).  And that brash style is present here.  Which makes “Linger” sound a little odd and a little less pretty.

They play two then new songs which I rather like: “Tomorrow” and “Raining in My Heart.”  Since I’ve no expectations about them, I find her voice works very well with them.  They also seem much simpler than some of their earlier songs and she not doing anything unusual with her voice..

“Ode to My Family” (the doo-doodoo-doo song) sounds pretty good in this setting.  Although I always laughed about the “does anyone care” refrain because well, sometimes I didn’t.

They take a request to play “Zombie” and I have to say I really like it in this acoustic format.  She straps on an acoustic guitar and plays most of the “leads.”  She definitely does some unusual things to her voice, but overall its sounds good.  Somehow the electric bass really adds to all of the songs–I never noticed how much it added before,

Overall, the “lads” sound good and her voice has maintained its power.  Although I can help but think she looks a lot like Billie Joe Armstrong with that haircut.

[READ: December 24, 2016] “Being Mary”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This is theoretically the final book in the Short Story Advent Calendar (wow that went fast).  But there is a bonus story for tomorrow (how cool!).  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This short story is about a girl, Laura, who is supposed to be Mary in the school Christmas pageant.  She has always wanted to be Mary (she is six now) and feels she was destined to play her.  Last year she was an angel, which was disappointing.  But at least she wasn’t Jezebel or Judas or “poor old Leah, the unwanted older sister.”

But tragedy has struck.  Literally. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: MIGUEL-Tiny Desk Concert #260 (December 31, 2012).

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.

miguelI didn’t know Miguel before this.  I’d heard of him, but I didn’t know any of his songs.  Given the above blurb I assume that his songs are poppy and really dancey.  But this acoustic performance is fantastic.  Miguel’s voice is great and he has amazing presence up there.

Miguel turned up in the NPR Music offices early one morning, after playing a show late the night before. He appeared light and calm, and betrayed no hint that he was nervous about stripping his highly produced hits down to their bones. Accompanied by just his guitarist, Dru DeCaro, Miguel eschewed flash and went big on small gestures — ingratiating ad libs, only one full spin and voice control that kept the songs close to his chest but emotive enough to translate to the back of the room.

He commands the room with little gestures like when he takes off his sunglasses or lifts his hat briefly.  And then there’s his winning smile.

“Do You…” opens with a fun lyric: “It’s Friday and I’m feeling good.” Then he turns to the audience and asks, “It is Friday right?”  The chorus is also fun, and rather unexpected.  “Do you like drugs?  Do you like drugs?”  “Well, me too”(too much laughter) “Do you like hugs?  Do you like hugs?  Me too.”  He hits an amazing falsetto in the middle of the song and then keeps it up high as he sings the next section.

“The Thrill”is his favorite song off his second album.  It feels like an anthem or a dance song that people might love.  It’s about being at a club, and this line struck me as interesting:

Jamie, Johhny and Jack know
Shoot ’em up, shoot ’em down, jus-jus-just sh-sh-shoot up
Dance it up, we never black out

It’s not quite as successful as an acoustic song, although he sounds great and comfortable singing it.  He does some small dance moves during the quiet end section.

“Adorn” was apparently a Grammy nominated song. I wish I knew the original for comparison’s sake.  But the song works really well with an acoustic guitar.  Frankly, Dru DeCaro is masterful at playing these songs–heavy strumming and even harmonics when called for–nice accents too.  Miguel hits some great falsetto hoooos and the ending where he goes high on adore and then ends with a quietly spoken “you” is nicely dramatic.

I don’t know what’s become of Miguel in the last four years, but if the pop music thing doesn’t work out, he’s got a  great career with just a guitar and his voice.

[READ: December 23, 2016] “The Lunacy of Gumbo”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This was the least story-like story of the collection.  Honestly, I’m not even sure what to make of it.

The narrator says that back in 1980, he was in Louisiana.  It was 11PM and they had been drinking all night.  Finally someone said they should have a gumbo and the narrator thought that that was insane. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: YVA LAS VEGASS-Tiny Desk Concert #241 (September 24, 2012).

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.

yvaYva Las Vegass is a fascinating performer.  With just her voice and a small stringed instrument she sounds like no one else I’ve heard.

The blurb says:

she infuses Venezuelan folk traditions with a punk aesthetic. I heard songs as allegories, songs that told stories and songs that felt like deep primal screams, all accompanied by a traditional Venezuelan cuatro — a small stringed instrument similar to a ukulele.

She does not use a pick and her strumming varies from delicate and soft to aggressive and loud   And her voice is really powerful.

“Mariposas” starts off slowly with some delicate strumming and her singing.  When she gets to the fast chorus, her playing is so hard and percussive that the song changes tempo incredibly.

Introducing “Tonadas Y Cantos” she says that people in Venezuela sing this song to milk their cows.  It’s a traditional song but she plays it a little harder and a little punk “because that’s who I am.”  She sings fast and aggressive (some lyrics so fast it’s impossible to even know what the words are).   And while most of the song is in Spanish, there are some English lyrics too: “What do you do when you can’t pretend anymore. What do you when being dead sounds good.  Be brave be strong.”

This song ends very abruptly and the next one starts just as fast—there was clearly an edit–I wonder what they edited out.

“Polo Margaritenoio” is a traditional Venezuelan song “with no author because someone stole it.”  The writer “was a woman who was very vulgar like me.”

Yva is a fascinating performer and while she’s not very flashy, she commands attention with her voice and her playing.  I only wish I knew what she was singing.

The blurb continues:

You can’t quite see her cut-off jeans and Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers behind Bob Boilen’s desk, but in attitude and style, Yva Las Vegass is punk-rock through and through.

As the show ends, she says “I worked my ass off, you can tell by how much I sweated in my wool hat.”

[READ: December 22, 2016] “At Christmas Time”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This is the first story on this collection that I have read before!  That’s not bad out of 22 stories.  (Or it’s very bad t hat I haven’t been reading enough stories).

I haven’t read that much Chekov, but I have read this one.  When I read it last time, I liked it but was more than a little confused by the ending.

I feel like I got a little bit more out of it this time, but the ending is still a puzzle.

This very short story is set up in two parts.

In the first part, an old couple from the country wish to send a letter to their daughter in the city whom they have not seen in four years.  She had gotten married and had sent two letters to them.  But they have not heard from her since that second letter several years ago.  Her mother, Vasilissa , wanted to send a letter sooner, but there was no one to write it for her.

At long last, and with so much to say, Vasilissa finally she asks Yegor, the innkeeper’s wife’s brother, “who had done nothing but sit idly at home in the tavern since he had come back from military service, but of whom people said that he wrote the most beautiful letters, if only one paid him enough.” She pays him 15 kopecks.

Vasilissa had spent so much time imagining what to say to her daughter.  But now that she is under pressure, she has drawn a blank.  Yegor asks what their son-in-law does.  He used to a be a soldier but now he is a door-keeper at a hospital.

Yegor begins writing some very formal sounding military instructions, “Fate has ordained you for the military profession.”  Of course the mother wants to tell her daughter about the famine and their poor crops.  And she wonders if she is a grandmother yet.

Vasilissa is revolted by this man (although I’m unclear if she knows what he is writing or not).  But she looks at him: “He was the very essence of coarse, arrogant, stiff-necked vulgarity, proud to have been born and bred in a pot-house, and Vasilissa well knew how vulgar he was, but could not find words to express it.”

The next morning, Vasilissa walked 11 miles to the post office and mailed the letter.

Part Two opens on New year’s Day, with the daughter’s husband working as a porter at a doctor’s office.  He receives the letter and delivers it to his wife.  The daughter is very excited to receive the letter. She reads the letter to her children.  And she is excited–laughing or crying, it’s hard to tell.  She reads of the snow and the warm fire and the doggie.  She huddles close with her children until he leaves the room.

The husband remembers back to three or four letters that she had asked him to send but which are still lying around somewhere.

And it’s super poignant.  And the more I think about it and reread it, the more powerful it is.

But then there’s a final line which I simply didn’t get.  I even translated the French “Charcot douche,” but it didn’t really help.  I can’t decide if those final words are meant to be significant or just suggesting that life goes on.

Incidentally, there are several different translations of this story available.  This one was by Constance Garnett.  Although I found the version online at Eldritch Press, translated by Marian Fell to be a bit easier to read–despite the fact that it was translated in 1915.

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: LUCIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #261 (January 7, 2013).

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.

luciusThis Tiny Desk Concert has a wonderful blurb:

We brought Lucius to the Tiny Desk because I fell in love with one joyous, catchy song: “Don’t Just Sit There.” That’s all I had to go on — I’d never seen the group live — and though I expected fun, we also got fabulous. Not only are Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig a winning singing duo, but their charisma and charm helps turn good pop songwriting into an endearing performance.

The two singers are dressed identically–although they don’t really look much alike, they appear almost identical up there (and I’m not sure who is who).  The three men in the band: Danny Molad, Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri fill out the group with guitars and drums and are also dressed identically–in crisp white shirts and suspenders.

“Go Home” starts out slow with a rattling slide guitar and simple percussion.  The two women sing slowly over the bassline.  It’s a pretty, nice song.  And then the chorus kicks in and while the song doesn’t really get all that much bigger, their voices soar incredibly, in close harmony. It is a remarkable change in texture in the song and they instantly won me over.

It segues into “Don’t Just Sit There” which is a beautiful song with a slightly faster quiet section.  But again, the chorus “did you find love” just soars with their great harmonies.  I can see why Bob fell for them.

“Turn It Around” starts out with an “aha ha” and claps and a more poppy singing style.  And I find that while I like Lucius overall there are parts that I really don’t.  Like the beginning to this.  And yet, once again, when they get to that chorus “looking through the wrong end,” the song is super catchy and wonderful and I find myself singing that part a lot.  Even with the minimal backing guitar and drums, it sounds great.

After the third song, they get high-fives and Bob asks if they want to do another.  Usually, they edit out this type of thing, but it’s really fun to watch the band discuss what song they should play as they sort their percussion parts out.  I loved watching them go through Bob’s box of interesting percussion instruments until they found good ones.

When they finally get around to the song, “Genevieve,” it is a bouncy percussion-filled fun song.  Of the four, it’s my least favorite but that’s because it doesn’t really soar like the other ones do.  But it’s still fun.

[READ: December 21, 2016] “Circumstances Of Hatred”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

There’s a fantastic plot point in this story that I don’t want to spoil.  And that makes it really hard to talk about the story.

But I really enjoyed it a lot.  And I can reveal the basic setup.

It had been 17 years since Nicholas was in his grandfather’s house.  And now that his grandfather was dead, Nicholas was willed the man’s property.  So he and his new wife Ann leave their current place in Victoria and head out to Halifax to make a new life in their new house.

Ann hated Halifax–the cold, the gray, the wilted produce.  And she hated the house. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-Tiny Desk Concert #237 (August 20, 2012).

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.

rufusPreceding his sister by a few months at the Tiny Desk was Rufus Wainwright.  I love Rufus’ delivery and style.  I really like his voice too.  The problem is I don’t really like his music all that much.  I wish I did, because I love hearing him sing.  But for some reason it doesn’t do anything for me.  We even saw him live (on a bill with Guster and Ben Folds) and left half way through his set because it’s such a different energy than the other two.

But I love this little bit of information about this show:

We’d never tried to squeeze a piano behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw a chance to have Rufus Wainwright play here, I wouldn’t — and he probably wouldn’t — have had it any other way

That’s particularly funny because now some five years later they have had all kinds of things behind his desk.

He plays three songs on the piano.

“The Art Teacher”is a sad story about, yes an art teacher.  Really listening to the lyrics (full of art references) makes the song come alive.

Before the second song, he says I’m promoting my new album Out of the Game…yes, you may applaud if you wish.  Covers a lot of genres of music, one is, briefly, country.  Today is a lazy hazy day in the South–while we’re near the South.

“Respectable Dive”is a slow song (the country song, but not sounding country here) and again, the lyrics are great.

“Montauk” is about several people.  His daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen and his fiance.  Viva’s bilogical mother is Lorca Cohen who is Leonard Cohen’s daughter.  The last verse is about “my mother, the great Kate McGarrigle” (Rufus’ father is Loudon Wainwright III).

This song is, as the blurb says:

Wainwright at his best. The piano lines flow with forward motion in a Philip Glass way, and there’s also a hauntingly beautiful story. Wainwright sings to his daughter Viva, [imagining her] grown up and visiting her two fathers in Montauk, a small community on the eastern tip of Long Island.

So I am torn between really liking his voice but feeling that his delivery is a little too slow to fully understand the great lyrics.  There’s so much greatness in his stuff, and yet I can’t find my way in.

[READ: December 20, 2016] “Defamer”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I really liked yesterday’s story and I really liked this one as well, even though it is very different.

This is a the sad story of a woman named Birdie.  Boy oh boy everything goes wrong in her life.  She works at an office.

Big boss takes a four-hour lunch.  He has suffered no major disasters in his life.  [He and his wife plan] their vacation to Maine a year in advance.  This is one way to live.

Birdie works in a corner cubicle near Bog Boss’ office… [She] makes $20,000 a year forwarding emails to people who make $15,000 a year.

Birdie assumes that her boss is having an affair on his four-hour lunches.  But one day she see him during his lunch break working at a deli, frantically making sandwiches for customers.  Nothing makes sense. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: MARTHA WAINWRIGHT-Tiny Desk Concert #252 (November 26, 2012).

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.

marthaI have been a fan of Loudon Wainwright III for many years.  He has a very musical family and Martha Wainwright is his daughter.  Kate McGarrigle is also her mom, so that’s some lineage.

I’ve enjoyed some of Martha’s earlier songs.  I especially enjoyed her song “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” which “was inspired by her father. She wrote the track as a response to her father’s way of writing songs about his family, rather than tending to them.”  Ouch.

But that was almost ten years earlier than this show.  Nevertheless, as the blurb says: “Martha Wainwright’s songs examine uncomfortable moments and life experiences gone wrong, but as she acknowledges in between songs at this Tiny Desk Concert, she often has to fudge her own life story to make the details more unsettling.”

I’ve always wanted to like Martha more, but I find her music to be simply … okay.

She begins with “Some People.”  From what I recall of her earlier songs, she seems more singer-ish and tuneful on this song, as if her voice has gotten more powerful.  She holds some really long notes, too.  As I listened to this song I kept imagining Patti Smith—in voice and attitude.

About the second song, “Can You Believe It?” she says “we are referring to it as the single which is always very funny.”  As an introduction, she says her husband is the punching bag for this album.  Anybody else would have left me by now.  But he has an “understanding of the power and importance of freedom of expression in art and also exaggeration.”  This song has her frank lyrics: “I really like the make up sex it’s the only kind I ever get.”  I can see why this would be marketed as a single–even if there’s a line about “a storm of shit,” it is one of the catchier things she’s written.

She explains that right as her mother, the great Kate McGarrigle, died her son was born.  This is her first song about motherhood–she assumes her son will want it to be her last as well.  What’s strange about “Everything Wrong” is that between the chord structure and her “ay ay ays”at the end of the lines, this song sounds  lot like Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks.”

So I find that I feel the same about Martha as I did before.

[READ: December 19, 2016] “Baby’s On Fire”

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 I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This may have been my favorite story of the book so far.

Marston’s protagonist is a forty-nine year old woman, Margaret.  When we first see her, she is climbing to her seat with two glasses of wine in her hands.  She’s trying to take off her coat–but she can’t put down her wine.  Her husband, Amos, is next to her but is not really helping.  I love that he “is shifting from buttock to buttock…as if by going through the motions of helping her in his mind he might actually help her.”

The two are at a concert.  She plans to rock out with her husband and then after the show go to a hotel and have wild sex–something they haven’t done in a long time.  I loved also that she imagined them falling right onto the bed when they got to the hotel.  “(OK maybe they would just fall asleep–it had been a long day–and do it in the morning).” (more…)

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