Velvet – A-ha – 2000

Justine and I lived in a one bedroom apartment on Emerson street for 3 years.  We probably knew from our first date that we were going to get married and have kids.  And we got married after dating for less than a year.  But this apartment was sort of a magically creative time for us.  We had two long heavy folding tables that had an array of computers and art supplies strewn across them.  There was always some kind of media playing.  Fight Club was a favorite.  And the video for this song was on the internet and we played it over and over again.  We couldn’t find the CD.  I don’t think there was ever an American release.  And even now on Amazon, the CD seems to be selling as an import collector’s item.  I don’t know.  I’ve never owned the CD.  I just downloaded the MP3 from a questionable site because it was the only place I could find it.

She made dolls from Sculpey.  Some of them were very odd and disturbing.  One in particular that I remember quite clearly was a monkey.  She found a dress for it somewhere.  It was kind of like a clay sock puppet and it was about 16 inches tall.  There was another one that I found really disturbing that was a bizarre two-headed invention of some kind.  It was beautiful and horrifying, and it made her laugh.  That’s what I remember most about that apartment when we lived in it together.  Justine laughing and the disturbing dolls.

“Her skin is like velvet.”

I made these experimental stop action movies with plasticene models.  I have never been much of a visual artist.  The connection between a pencil or pen and my brain has always been rather painful.  My handwriting is atrocious.  But for some reason, one day I woke up and I had to make stop action animation.  Digital camera technology was just taking off, and it was finally possible to get a cheap camera.  We got one and my thoughts went immediately to stop action movies.

“Her face cut from stone.”

My most successful movie was of a purple head with eyes made of sculpey that moved.  There wasn’t much to the movie, but I did it.  I have no idea where it is now.  Probably on one of the 10 hard drives I have in a box somewhere.

“Her eyes when she’s smiling.  Would never reach home.”

Justine also started writing in her online journal at that apartment.  Online journaling and online social networks were in their infancy.  But it didn’t take long for us to have friends around Houston that we had met online.  And actually, some of these very early friends are still in our life.

“But hear how she sings.”

I also started recording all of my old songs that were worth recording.  This was a long project as it had to fit into work, conflicting schedules with my co-producer, Aaron Trumm, and lots of other conflicting creative obligations.  Numen was a work about everything that I had written or co-written that I felt needed to be recorded along with one original song.  A purging of musical thoughts and motifs that had been stuck with me for 10 years or more.  Some of them had been recorded or played with other bands several times.  I am so glad I got those ideas out.  My ideas have now taken a totally different turn.

“Her touch would be tender.”

One night we went to the Valentine’s Day Goth pageant at #’s.  Justine had been experimenting with hair extensions for months.  So she used the evening as an opportunity to get glammed up in this crazy goth outfit.  There were a lot of people that we knew there.  The organizers wanted Justine to be in the pageant, but she wouldn’t do it.  She would have won.  At least I think so.

“Her lips would be warm.”

There were so many evenings that we spent about two or three feet from each other for several hours creating stuff.  Sometimes she was just writing on the internet.  Sometimes I was writing code for work.  More often than not we had some crazy art project going.  But the tables were side by side and we just spent hours together making stuff.

“But when we’re together.  I’m always alone.”

And I never say it.  And I don’t know why.  But Justine is a great singer.  Some of the songs are just a clean alto that is very sweet.  Then she used to love to sing crazy Loretta Lynn songs like Fist City or You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man.  Or she did all of these crazy accents and immitations that I find very comforting to think about now.  Or she would do characters in stores.  Or profess the magical powers of her “Shaolin Wonder Booty”, which was a deadly weapon.

“But hear how she sings.”

There was also this incredible dollar store to Ebay thing that she had going on.  She would go to the dollar store, buy a bunch of stuff and sell it on Ebay for 10 times more than she paid for it.  Sometimes she got it wrong and we had 50 Star Wars lollie pop spinners in a box in a closet for a while.  But most of the time she hit a winner, and I would be totally baffled.

“Her skin is like velvet.”

I remember that apartment with a sort of magical quality.  There were people over all the time.  They would just stop by.  One time, these two kids knocked on our door because they were looking for an apartment that ended up being across the street.  We were making all of these things and listening to Nick Cave.  The girl said, “Is that Nick Cave?”  And we started talking to them.  They sat around and talked and made phone calls while we tried to figure out where they were trying to go.

“So I went to her home.”

We had lots of problems but we hadn’t invested enough yet for those problems to cause us any real trouble.  It wasn’t until we moved away from that apartment when Justine was pregnant that we really had to deal with ourselves.  Our history would visit us and we would deal with it and move on.  It was easy to do with nothing to lose.  But mostly I remember that it was where we fell in love.  And our soundtrack was Velvet.

“Her house like a palace.”

The important part was that we trusted that we weren’t going anywhere.  We had all of the running behind us.  Both of us knew exactly where all of the running gets you.  It gets you right back at the starting line where you have to run the whole damn race all over again.

“With things you can’t own.”

Velvet is this anomaly for me.  I had never been an A-ha fan before.  But Minor Earth Major Sky somehow crawled inside of me.  I never owned it.  Tried to own it several times and couldn’t find it.  Still don’t own it.  And the ethereal nature of Velvet was the energy of the apartment.  Everything sort of took place in a protective halo.  The music was a metaphor for this.  And the video is this morbid reflection.  I’m not sure if the song meant to convey the meaning carried in the video but it works.  And the metaphor worked for us too.  Everything that we were before living in that apartment together died as we created a new life.  A new us.  We cleared a place in the clutter for us to have something of our own.  Something uninfluenced by the tragedies of our time before.

“Her skin is like velvet.”

It was this clearing that we took with us and still own.  Reorganizing our brains to handle daily life and the stress of success, the stress of having something to lose, was only possible because of this initial creative outburst in that apartment.  Our tendency before this was to run or quit or worse.  But we took a peace and faith in our persistence everywhere.  To Hong Kong and back.  There is something to lose now and that is way more difficult to handle.  But so worth it.

“Hear how she sings.”

I still can’t find a place to buy the mp3 but here is the video. – Velvet youtube video

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