“i remember two years ago when I was supposed to take a week off in bordeaux. i booked a place to stay with no internet.
i brought books and DVDs and blank paper and rented a piano and was all set in my little villa to create and consume art.
i went totally crazy after two days of reading and drinking wine and eating chevre salads and riding my bike around.”
-Amanda Palmer, amandapalmer.net, June 21, 2009
April 17, 2012. I received an email from Good Records that began with a picture of Amanda Palmer, her face pasty either from the flash or sunlight hitting her gaze toward the sky.
She would be at the store that evening at 6 PM, and the length of her performance would depend on audience interaction. They would also be selling signed copies of her limited release Amanda Palmer Performs Radiohead (On Her Magical Ukulele).
At 8 PM, I realized I had forgotten about the show, and I phoned Good Records.
“Hey do you guys still have copies of that Amanda Palmer playing Radiohead cd you were selling?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he responded on the other line.
“Do you think you’ll still have copies tomorrow?”
“Unless a bunch of hardcore Amanda Palmer fans invade the store between now and then…”
I picked up a copy the next day, and it sat around my house awhile. I received a job offer in Seattle, and made arrangements to leave Dallas at the end of May. Carla and I packed, the house became disorganized, we stuffed every inch of my Subaru for our cross-country trip, and our hearts broke when my seven-year-old dog Phoebe died two and a half weeks before the move.
Two months later, we were in temporary housing in our new home, and I put the cd into my computer, and began doing further research about Amanda Palmer. She had married Neil Gaiman a few years ago, a writer I had admired since devouring his Sandman series toward the end of college. They had embarked on a project together last year, singing and reading onstage during a road trip, and funded the recording of this project through Kickstarter. I noticed that she would be playing with her band in Seattle soon, but was not sure if I wanted to go, and let that show fall off my radar as well.
More months passed, and at some point I received an email from her newsletter when I had a free moment to open and read it. The message referenced her TED talk in a passing hyperlink. I clicked on it, and from her account of posing as a statue on the street at the beginning of the speech, to her final question, “How can we let people pay for music?”, I sat rapt with attention. It was inspiring to hear this unique and new voice in music and art, and I could mark everything I thought before seeing the talk and everything after.
In spite of having discovered these projects of hers when they were nearing their conclusion, I have no doubt her next project will be monumentally different from any of these albums I have, and any of her other groups prior to those, but it seems likely my love will grow for it just the same, perhaps more quickly than it did for her work over the past year and a half. I liken it to that first taste of an unfamiliar wine that stimulates new sensations on my taste buds. I may not immediately crave another taste of the wine, but I think about it more throughout the day, and want to revisit it, and consider whether it is worth buying. I try to imagine my connection with it as I consume the remainder of the bottle, but all I had was a couple sips that I spit into a cup, a few glances at a label, and the text on a shelf-talker. Would I want to include it in my personal collection, and perhaps add it to the restaurant wine list or store shelves as my new preferred hand-sell?
At the end of “Do You Swear To Tell The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth So Help Your Black Ass, “she sings:
“and iiiii’ve already spent too much time
doing things i didn’t want to
so if i wanna’ sit here alone and drink wine
you can bet your black ass that i’m going to.”
As I wrote the first draft of this entry, on one of my few nights alone, I was not drinking red wine, but instead a Phoenix Mountain Oolong tea from my personal Taiwanese set. After countless infusions, it still yielded peach blossom undertones, and the first thing that came to mind when I re-read those lyrics is the moment I felt liberated from a long-term, unhealthy relationship, when there were no boundaries to when I went out for a drink, who I came to meet on any given evening, or how loud I played my music as I began writing the first entries in this blog back then, months before discovering Amanda Palmer.
Saul Williams said that each piece of art will speak to us based on the moment in time it enters our lives, much like the Buddhist saying that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’ Amanda Palmer slipped into that specific moment in time, and grew in my consciousness and desire. I am trying to plan an evening with the new record and a bottle of wine, imagining the ideal pairing. 2004 Domaine Lois Dufouleur comes to mind, a wine my sister and I picked up at the estate in Beaune four years ago. But we just drank it in celebration of Thanksgiving and my thirtieth birthday, and perhaps its balanced blackberry silk flavors are too soft to accompany Amanda Palmer.
Perhaps a sophisticated Australian wine such as Molly Dooker’s “The Violinist” better befits her audacious brand of artistry. “The Violinist” delivers something bold and round yet expansively nuanced and lingering. She sings of red wine, but if I want a white wine, even in the cold weather, you can bet your black ass that I’m drinking it…
And one day, I will write Part II of this post, wherein I will chronicle my love of Neil Gaiman. But that must happen after I read Anansi Boys and can wax about his wine references in that novel.