Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Iris DeMent.

After the sublime Iris DeMent concert at City Winery a couple weeks ago, she was selling copies of her new CD at a table by the door. I wanted one, but as I was waiting in line I remembered that I didn’t have any cash. I watched and didn’t see anyone paying with a card, so when I got to her I said, “I don’t have any cash, can I pay with a card?” She handed me a CD and said, “That’s okay, it’s yours.”

I was taken off guard, and I said, “Are you sure?”

She said, “Yes! Do you want me to sign it?”

I thought maybe she’d misunderstood my question and thought I was saying I couldn’t afford to buy a CD, but I was insecure and star-struck and not at all sure what was happening, so I just said, “Yes.”

I went and told C about the odd encounter. He had cash, but I was too embarrassed to go back, so I told him to go give it to her. He went to the table, but she was deep in conversation with someone, so he handed the money to the girl standing next to her who was helping sell CDs, but she hadn’t seen the earlier exchange and she had no idea why C was handing her money, and now she was more confused than I was.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the CD. I don’t know why she wrote “Fa Steven.” Maybe she was as thrown by the whole thing as I was.

City Winery is a great venue. I’ve known about it for years but never went, likely because in years past it would have been a little steep for me. They serve great food and of course wine is their thing, so you can go early and have a beautiful (though a little cramped) dinner, and then have dessert with a glass of port when the show starts. Which is exactly what we did.

I didn’t catch the Iris DeMent train till her second album, which all in all is darker and sadder than her first. But J and I literally didn’t take it out of the CD player for weeks.

She brings the same depth of tenderness to songs about grief or Jesus or erotic love or anger. Or this song, which, as far as I can tell, is about songwriting. It is a song about work. What she seems to say in this, and in all her songs, is that music is necessary, that music is salvation. What she does -- and this thought is hard for me to pin down, it flits away as I approach it – what she does is she makes a case for the redemptive power being not so much in any idea expressed in the song (god, etc.) but that it is immanent in the song itself, in music itself. It is how I feel, but have never been able to really articulate, about, as a non-believer, singing gospel music. The songs have power. Belief is beside the point.

Maybe I’m getting overwrought or overblown about such sweet, simple music. It’s just that her songs move me in a way that feels out of proportion and I’m always trying to figure out why that is.

It could be her voice. I was going to call it ethereal, which it is, but the word on the page doesn’t look quite right because her voice is, also, the opposite of ethereal. It’s subterranean, not just rooted but it is the root, of that thing, that world, that was not my upbringing in a literal sense but that I recognize as a deeper, older kind of “home” when I hear the Carter Family or Loretta Lynn, or taste the salt of country ham and red eye gravy. These things in my blood, in my cells. I could not hope, or desire for that matter, to explain what that’s about.

Oh, Baby.

This morning at 9 – on my “day off” C calls it though I consider it my only day on, since it’s the one day all week when I can write or shop or run errands, see a doctor, read, or sit and think – C and I went to a dreary little windowless office to be fingerprinted. It was – I believe, after I send this form to Austin so they can make sure I did not abuse or neglect any children in Texas while I lived there – the last component of a lengthy, tedious application to the adoption agency. (My favorite section was the one where we had to list the addresses and dates of every place we lived in the last 35 years. Attach additional sheets of paper if necessary, and it was.)

I downloaded Your Baby’s First Year for Dummies onto my Kindle last week. We don’t know how old our baby will be when we get it, but it’s possible he or she could be fresh out of the womb, in which case we’ll need to know about umbilical cords, formula, and jaundice, etc. It could just as likely be a year old and I’ll need to read another book.

Months ago or more, we were talking about kids and realized we had similar feelings: we both had wanted to raise a child but had put that desire aside as we got older. Seemed like it was getting late and it probably wouldn’t happen. But of course in the last two years both our lives have changed dramatically and maybe it’s not too late. It surely will be soon, but maybe if we step on it there’s still a chance. I’ll be 53 next month, but I figure I’ve got at least another good 20 years in me. That’s long enough to raise a kid. And C is 9 years younger. (It is strange to think, though, that when my mom was my age, I was in my thirties.)

I had this unexamined thought in my head that there are lots of babies out there who need parents. Don’t you always hear that? It’s not true. There are very few infants, and everybody competes for them. Adoptable babies are even more scarce for same-sex couples because international adoptions are out. People create web sites, put classifieds in college newspapers, Google Ads, looking for pregnant women who for whatever reason are not keeping their babies.

Now that the application is complete, someone from the agency will visit us on Monday to do a “home study.” We still have a lot of work to do to convert our office into a nursery, cover up all the electrical cords, get a crib and diapers, formula, and the rest, but that doesn’t have to be done yet for the home study, which I understand is more or less to verify that our apartment is reasonably clean and that we have room for a child. It’s hard to know how to plan our preparation since we don’t know when the baby will arrive or how old he or she will be.

Okay, now I’m feeling the pressure to write everything I’ve ever thought about babies and childrearing in this blog post – discipline, circumcision, gendered toys and clothing, school, homemade baby food, Santa Claus – but I’ll save it for future days. Maybe I'll blog while the baby is napping.

The deal C and I made is that since he makes a lot more money than I do (like exponentially), he’ll be the breadwinner and I will be a stay-at-home dad. I have to say I’m a little terrified.

What a crazy life so full of I-certainly-didn’t-think-I’d-be-doing-this-now.