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Thursday, November 12, 2015

M Train by Patti Smith

Patti Smith - Beacon Theatre - 11/10/15 - Photo by Stephen Cipolla

"It's not so easy writing about nothing." - Patti Smith "M Train"

It's not so easy writing a review about "M Train" either. I picked up Patti Smith's latest memoir hoping the muse she has always been to me would emerge after I read it to inspire and lift me out of my writing doldrum. Instead, I found myself slipping deeper into it, and unable to even write an in-depth review. I decided to just highlight a couple of passages and throw in a couple of thoughts.

"Without noticing, I slip into a light yet lingering malaise. Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue." - Patti Smith "M Train"

It's hard to reflect on the past while living in a totally different present. And I, the invisible person sitting across from Patti at her favorite cafe, watching her daily routine as she nurses her black coffee, nibbles on brown toast with olive oil, making notes or compiling lists, find myself feeling sort of sad for her. Not for the glimpses into her past which many of us never had a view of before, but for the tales she tells of the present.

Drinking lots of black coffee, opening a can of sardines over the sink for dinner, binging on crime tv shows, and spending a birthday and New Year's Eve alone, seems like a routine not associated with anyone "famous." Even the times she is away from her NYC home traveling around the world it doesn't seem like she's "living the dream."

My cousin, who was friends with her mom Beverly when she was alive, says not to believe it. "That's just what she wants to portray," he says. "She always performs on her birthday and New Year's Eve. And she eats very well, she's friends with a lot of famous chefs. I could go on, so don't go feeling too bad for her." Okay then.

"Not all dreams need to be realized. That was what Fred used to say." - Patti Smith "M Train"

As a devoted fan of hers from the beginning, oh, how I resented Patti when she married Fred "Sonic" Smith,  moved away from music, moved away from NYC, and moved to Michigan. When I was 19, I couldn't understand her throwing away her "rockstar" status to become just a wife and mother. Just a wife and mother. Just a wife and mother. It wasn't until I moved away from NYC to Virginia and became just a wife and mother did I understand "just" was a ridiculous word to use.

"Becoming a parent and being responsible for one’s own blood, a tiny helpless thing shifts our place in our universe. We find we are no longer in the center and our self-preoccupation forcibly dissipates. That is a good thing. One can maintain their ideals, their artistic vision, and sense of self while still relinquishing one’s place in the center. That is how we evolve. That is how we develop a sense of humanity, placing others before ourselves." - Patti Smith answering a question on Goodreads.

After reading "M Train" I feel even worse. Clearly, the days she spent with Fred seem like when Patti was happiest. How could I resent that?

"We want things we cannot have. We seek to reclaim a certain moment, sound, sensation. I want to hear my mother's voice. I want to see my children as children. Hands small, feet swift. Everything changes. Boy grown, father dead, daughter taller than me, weeping from a bad dream. Please stay forever, I say to the things I know. Don't go. Don't grow." - Patti Smith "M Train"

Yes. The wish of many of us...

"All writers are bums, I murmured. May I be counted among you one day." - Patti Smith "M Train"

I don't think Patti has to worry about that. Congrats to her for making the New York Times Bestseller List again, like she did with "Just Kids." Unlike "Just Kids" which focused on the past, "M Train" dips into it. I'd say it's more of a melancholy memoir about nothing extraordinary, written beautifully, and leaving this reader wanting more. The way I see it there's three more books in Patti...2 more memoirs...The Rock 'N Roll Years, The Mothering Years, and a crime novel. The last will be the hardest for her to write, and the first one is the one I want to read most.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Why did the vulture cross the road? To get to the dead possum...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Carvins Cove in the Fall

I've lived in Roanoke for over 20 years and this past weekend was the first time I've ever been to Carvins Cove Natural Reserve. The 12,700 acre park is located in Botetourt and Roanoke counties. There are over 50 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. A daily pass will set you back $2 per person. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, kayaks, Jon boats, and paddle boats are available for rental, prices vary. You can fish all year. For more detailed information click here.

My husband and I hiked on one of the easier trails and then we just sat and watched the water. So peaceful, so tranquil, so beautiful. I liked it so much I suggested we get a fishing license next time we head there. I wouldn't mind sitting on the shore, rod and book in hand, just relaxing...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fall Foliage in Botetourt

We drove through Botetourt County yesterday on our way to Fincastle to see if anything was going on in that town. We vaguely remembered going to a restaurant there many years ago which I felt was haunted. I couldn't tell you anything about the food, but remember it was a pretty "classy" joint with white tablecloths that had a crystal chandelier above our table. What was strange about our experience there was that if you looked at that chandelier in the mirror at the end of the restaurant you could see it swaying every so slightly, back and forth, back and forth. Not so underneath it.

We tried to find Main Street where we assumed it would be but didn't see anything like it. We parked the car and went into the Botetourt Museum where the saddest mannequin in the world resides...

She's sitting in a jury duty box, but she looks so freaking miserable. I think it's because her breasts are sagging.

I asked about lunch options, specifically about that restaurant, but the lady in the museum said if it was the place she was thinking about that closed a couple of years ago. She said there was another one too, but that also closed a couple of years ago. The only place she knew of was of a pizzeria down the block from the museum. Since we weren't in the mood for what I'm sure would have been sub-par Italian food, I pressed her for any other recommendation. Sadly, she said that was the only place in town. Wow, that's one reason I could never live in a town like that. Even with all the crappy Roanoke restaurants at our fingertips, good or bad, there's at least options. Disappointed, I suggested we head back towards the interstate and hit the Cracker Barrel.

On our way there we stopped along the sides of the road to take some pictures. The fall foliage was absolutely beautiful! Here are a couple of shots...


I don't know how the idea of visiting Carvin's Cove popped up, but it did, and after Googling it we decided to check it out on our way home. Pictures to come in another post...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Canoeing in Explore Park

This past weekend we went searching for some brilliant fall foliage to, that's a tongue twister...but none was to be found. Instead, we wound up at Explore Park to see what was going on there. New to me was the visitor center, which was very nice, but I was disappointed that all the other buildings that I had visited with the children during numerous school trips, were shuttered. There's still 14 miles of hiking and biking trails for those who love the great outdoors, but they are of little interest to me.

As we were getting ready to head back out, we stumbled upon some folks carrying a canoe out of the woods so figured something was going on in the river down below. Yup, there was...

He made it!

Roanoke County is still deciding what to do with the park and is offering citizens a chance to let them know what they'd like to see up there. Until October 31 you can complete this survey to give your opinions. Since the only thing that would interest me is re-opening the historic Brugh's Tavern restaurant, I'm not going to bother, but if you're an outdoors enthusiast you might want to weigh in. Let me know if one of the options is to put a casino up there...