Front Range Flannel

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Tara Jepsen and Bob Lake, photo by Taylor DeHart. 

Tara Jepsen is a comedian, writer, and actor living in Los Angeles. She’s been performing with the queer cabaret, Sister Spit, alongside Michelle Tea and Ali Liebegott since 1998. At the age of 36, Jepsen began skateboarding and in what follows, she discusses her experience, shitty meth motels, and a gentle giant longshoreman named Glenn.

I think a lot about what kind of person I want to be. At forty-one, I am haunted by the idea of turning eighty years old, remembering the people or events that led to pain and obsessive thinking, and wondering what the big deal was. I want that presence of mind now. Things go up and down and there I am, the string from the loose tooth of birth tied to the doorknob of death, perpetually wincing in anticipation of the invisible hand slamming the door. Best to give in and know some things will feel great, some like garbage, and that most of my feelings will (sadly) be captured by baby animals in the photo attachments of a sentimental email forwarded by my dad.

I don’t admire how some people age. I see a lot of fear and conservatism trickling into formerly risk-taking, open-minded friends. I want to see more resilient spirits who never lose interest in life outside their minds, homes and families. But most of all, I want to feel alive. I want experiences largely untouched by precedent, as well as some that are highly curated (snorkeling in Fiji whilst staying in a beach bungalow someday sounds good).

So at 36, I started skating with a group of women in San Francisco. We cruised along the Embarcadero, learning to balance on our boards and foot-push. Two months in, a friend brought me to the Novato skatepark, and I found that skating bowls was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Before, I would say I was happy thirty-five percent of the time. Now that I skate, I would say it’s a solid ninety percent. You don’t have to be a Shaklee vitamin sales supervisor to know that those are some solid numbers.

I hated being the least skilled skater at a park, so I pushed myself to keep learning and trying things I was scared of. I fell all the time and bruised my limbs to an astonishing degree. Oddly, this did not distress me. I felt overjoyed.

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Thirty-One Love Songs

To celebrate the upcoming collected stories concert series curated by David Lang at Carnegie Hall (April 22-29), we’ll be posting pieces from past issues of the Believer that tie into with the themes of each show. The third concert in collected stories is Love/Loss, featuring The Uncluded (Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson), Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon, Iarla Ó Lionáird, and Nadia Sirota, for which we’re posting Rick Moody’s essay on 69 Love Songs (from the May 2003 issue of the Believer).

REDACTING THE MAGNETIC FIELDS’S 69 LOVE SONGS UNTIL THEY SPEAK FULLY AND PERSONALLY TO THE EAR OF THE BEHOLDER

DISCUSSED: Guys Who Winnow the White Album, Neil Young, The Art of Courtly Love, Trademark Pauses, Philadelphia, Singing Homeless Guys, Gilbert and Sullivan, The Human League

It’s the fate of the good work to belong to the public. It’s the fate of the masterpiece to be bent out of shape, to be reimagined, remodeled by its audience. It’s the fate of popular art to be scoured for clues, understood only in part or misunderstood, and this can’t be controlled by the hardworking artist who came up with the work in the first place. The way a book or record or painting or movie thrives in the face of this barrage of refractions indicates its long-term durability. Those endless new translations of The Odyssey and The Divine Comedy, for example. Or what about the film version of The Virgin Suicides,or The Hours?“The Star-Spangled Banner,” wrenched out of its casing by Jimi Hendrix. Joni Mitchell singing Mingus. If something works, it can stand a little misuse.

What about all those guys, and they are mainly guys, who have sat around winnowing The White Album down to a single disc? Well, first you get rid of “Revolution 9,” because it’s too long and too abstract, and then you get rid of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” despite the fact that one admires McCartney more as one grows older; out with “Bungalow Bill,” out with “Honey Pie,” “Martha My Dear,” because it’s about a dog, etc. Before long, you are left with a record that has on it “Dear Prudence,” “Julia,” “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Helter Skelter,” “Birthday,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey),” “Cry Baby Cry,” “Yer Blues,” and so forth. In short, you’ve got an unbelievably great rock and roll album. Does it do the Beatlesa disservice? On the contrary. It indicates the bounty of material from which to choose. This is how some people pass an afternoon.

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Reincarnation in Exile

To celebrate the upcoming collected stories concert series curated by David Lang at Carnegie Hall (April 22-29), we’ll be posting pieces from past issues of the Believer that tie into with the themes of each show. The second concert in collected stories is Spirit, featuring Tuvan throat singing and Arvo Pärt’s Passio, for which we’re posting Tim McGirk’s essay on Tibetan Monks exposed to the twenty-first century (from the February 2013 issue of the Believer).

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE TIBETAN BUDDHIST DIASPORA EXPOSED ITS MOST REVERED ADHERENTS TO TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY DELIGHTS

DISCUSSED: A Typical Spanish Breakfast, Exasperated Nuns, Precious Ones, Hip-hop Aspirations, Dilemmas for the Reincarnated, One of the Most Erotic Scenes in Indian Cinema, Mumbai’s Most Notorious Gangster, Divination, Accurate Cricket Match Predictions, A List of Genuine Rinpoches, Steven Seagal, A Delegation of Lamas, Lithium

When I was posted in Madrid as a foreign correspondent in the late 1980s, Spain was still a very Roman Catholic country, which is why a newspaper story in El Pais caught my attention: a little Spanish boy living in the mountains had been recognized as the reincarnation of a famous Tibetan lama. I decided to see the boy and made the mistake of taking along the only photographer I knew, Derek, a paparazzo for the British tabloids.

I knew nothing about Tibet, lamas, or reincarnation. But the story seemed splendidly improbable. This was, after all, Spain, the country that had lent its name to the Inquisition. And the story seemed to show that Spaniards, at last, were shaking off their hair-shirted Catholicism and exploring other means of spirituality. The boy’s name was Osel Hita Torres, and he lived in Bubión, in the Alpujarras Mountains above Granada.

The village was hard to reach. It had snowed the night before, and the road spiraling up the mountains was glazed with black ice. At a mountain inn, Derek and I stopped for a typical Spanish breakfast of espresso and cognac. After downing his cognac in one swallow, Derek reached into his photographer’s vest and, grinning, pulled out a matador’s cap.

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