What’s good about the South?

posted September 30, 2004

Blog #4

Sometimes secession seems like a good option. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the North won the Civil War. I’m glad we no longer have the scourge of slavery, and that the Union held and all that. But just think: if the South had succeeded in seceding, John Kerry would surely be a shoe-in today. Of course, if the South had seceded, George W. Bush would be Czar of Texas instead of our president. (If just Texas had seceded, or Florida, or Tennessee, for that matter, but that’s four year’s ago’s story.)

Other compelling reasons to secede: if New England were its own country, we could be on a different time zone and have Daylight Savings all year long. Here’s why: we all (up here in the Northeast) complain that just when we need that extra sweet hour of sunlight the most, in dour November, the government takes it away from us, as if it were tax dollars or school music programs. Their argument? “Little Georgian school children would have to wait for the school bus in the dark otherwise,” they say. If you examine a map of the US, you will indeed see that Georgia is quite a bit west of New England, indeed neighboring Alabama is in Central time. But if New England were its own country, all we’d have to fight with (we meaning me, here in Western Mass) would be those cranky down Easters in Bar Harbor. They’d probably want TWO extra hours of daylight savings time. And then the sun wouldn’t come up here until 9 am!

We rehearsed as a full band last night over at Katryna and Dave’s house/studio, the great and mighty Sackamusic. Dave had reorganized the furniture, by which I really mean electric music making machinery, amps and the like. I got to Sackamusic first. Amelia said, “Come sit down to dinner, Nerissa. Sit here, next to me,” and she pointed to a tiny plastic purple chair at her play table. I obliged. She was wearing maroon pants with yellow numbers all over them and little braids in her hair.

“Oh, Amelia,” I said. “I love you so much it hurts.”

“Why does it hurt?” she said, cocking her braided head.

“Because,” I explained. “The place in your body where you love is here,” and I pointed at my heart. “It’s called your heart and it’s a muscle. And when it really really loves someone—which is its job, you know—it has to work hard, so hard it hurts a little. But in a good way.”

“In a good way,” Amelia nodded vigorously. “Nerissa, I love you.”

“Thank you Amelia!”

“You know how I know? Because my stomach hurts. Just a little. In a good way.”

Dave Hower got there at 6, followed immediately by Paul Kochanski and we plunged right in, playing straight through the two full length sets we’re doing at the Iron Horse this Saturday—not repeating a single song. We practiced for four hours straight without a break. Although by the end my voice was tired and so was my right shoulder, it was the most fun I’ve had in months. Sitting in that room, bathed in the sounds of those fine musicians, I felt invigorated, suspended.

Maybe we could have a weekly—or even monthly—local gig. I need to play with these people more often.

Maybe just Texas could secede. I’d miss my friends in Austin, though. And I’d need a passport to get there.

I just went through files and files of old Nields memorabilia in the hopes of finding something to inspire a chapter for The Big Idea, my novel about a family from Jintucket, Massachusetts who is also 3/4ths of a rock band. Came across most, if not all our old newsletters. As I was reading through them and chuckling to myself, Patty called on her way down to Mohegan Sun to watch the WNBA.

“Listen to this,” I said.

“Wait!” she shouted. People on cell phones are always shouting. “I called you for a reason! Is the moon full tonight?”

I pulled out my handy ephemeris, for I am an astrology guru-to-be.

“Yesterday,” I said. “Why?”

“Because everyone’s driving like maniacs! “ Patty wailed.

“Lunatics,” I corrected her. “Now listen to this.”

(from the Nields Newsletter #19, winter 1997)

We write this from the Beautiful South! Namely the dressing room of Carrboro, NC’s finest club, Cat’s Cradle. We love this club, and we haven’t even sound checked yet. They gave us jellybeans and popcorn cakes. ‘Nuff said.

We love the south. It’s warmer plus they have Waffle House.

So in case you didn’t hear, I broke my foot. I was stage diving at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC and forgot that you need to have people there to catch you in order to execute the move with optimum grace. Then, three days later (having temporarily established myself as a “stool” performer, something I’ve feared and loathed since the late 70’s during my brief Donny & Marie observing phase) in Birmingham Alabama I fell OFF my stool in the middle of “Alfred Hitchcock” (what can I say? That Les Paul is heavy!) and tumbled forward, making contact with first the mic stand, then a cup of hot tea and ultimately the floor. The combination of the sound of the Les Paul hitting the monitor at full volume and the hot tea falling into my ear led me to the conclusion that I had become deaf. I was very sad. Then I noticed a fan was video taping the entire event. That made me sadder. Then the water fell out of my ear and lo! I could hear again!

I must say, there is something empowering about having your absolute worst performance nightmare (i.e. falling on your face) actually occur and living through it. I want to thank those hundreds of fans in Birmingham who gave me the courage and support to finish that show. Okay, I lied there were only 37 fans there, but still.


Patty was laughing so hard she had to stop the car by the side of the road, but not so hard that her capitalist brain wasn’t whirring.

“Leave all those newsletters on your porch tomorrow,” she said. “And I’ll take them to Paradise Copies and make them into books and we’ll sell them at your Iron Horse show on Saturday.”

I do love the South. Reading the newsletter reminded me of this. I love the South the way I love certain parts of my own personality. Not necessarily the co-operative parts but absolutely crucial parts nonetheless. Like the part of me that likes pink frilly things. And astrology.

My friend A. from Uruguay says, “From a foreign perspective, especially a Latin American one, there’s really no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Kennedy was just as brutal to us as Reagan.” I’m trying to hold on to this as some sort of consolation just in case I have to mourn in November. There is a south beyond the south.

I even love George W. Bush. I do. I don’t want him to be president, but I have grown to love him, yea these past four years. I cannot tell a lie. There is something endearing about his bemusement. There is something sweet about his visage. He doesn’t make my heart hurt the way Amelia does–though he does make my stomach hurt sometimes. Who’s to say that’s not love? The “worst” happened in 1997-I fell on my face at a gig-and I survived. Much worse things actually happened after that, to me, to the USA, to the world. In the face all this, the pain of this beautiful planet and her lovable craven misguided well-meaning greedy humans, what can we do other than exercise our little heart muscles to the point of near exhaustion? And play on.

The Comments

Join the Conversation. Post with kindness.

  1. Nerissa,

    Thanks for your post today. Amelia sounds quite adorable. Don’t kids, with their innocent wisdom, just put everything in perspective?

    If Patty actually does make copies of all the old newsletters, any chance she’ll sell them online for those of us who can’t get to NoHo?

    Have fun with the Crackerjack band!

  2. Nerissa,
    Were Amelia’s pigtails both on the sides of her head, or was one in the back? 🙂

    Ahhh…to let GWB be Czar of Texas…I’m joining your prayer bandwagon…Dear God, please help John Kerry to be assertive and forceful tonight. Please help him to talk about Iraq, and not Vietnam (bravo for going to war, but let’s focus on today’s issues).

    Enjoy the IronHorse shows!
    ~Kris (who still has What Would You Do with a Drunken Sailor like a broken record in her head!)

  3. Hey Nerissa:

    When you’re done blogging, could you come downstairs and help me find the blackcurrant tea? Also, the pesto went missing behind all the avocado halves and onion bits and mangos hiding out in the Fridge. Maybe we should clean it out.
    And I think we need to talk about the wedding. Inviting ALL of your fans really seems impractical. Not to mention pricey

    I love you.

  4. Please, Nerissa, be kind to dour November. Some of us were born in that month. To us (we use the royal plural, you see) November is the last gasp of Autumn beauty before Winter closes in. Winter has its own beauty, but Winter is hardy and stands on two feet; Autumn is fragile and needs our embrace.
    🙂 Stephen
    P.S. How do you pronounce dour – dow-er or doo-er?

  5. Nerissa wrote:
    “I even love George W. Bush. I do.”

    Don’t forget those last two words, when it comes time. 🙂

    Jesus taught love of neighbor, even love of the enemy. It seems loving to me, in the total scope of things, to wish George W. Bush much happiness — in other employment opportunities, where he won’t hold all the marbles. 🙂

    In “Fiddler on the Roof,” a villager asks the Rabbi, “Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Czar?” “A blessing for the Czar, of course! “May God bless and keep the Czar — far away from us!” ” 🙂


  6. Nerissa:
    “I just went through files and files of old Nields memorabilia in the hopes of finding something . . . Came across most, if not all our old newsletters.”

    I have files and files of old Nields memorabilia too, in boxes in my basement, including all of the newsletters going back to 1994. Hundreds of Nields show set lists, although in the duo era the set lists have been in TN’s spiral notebook, like TK do, so I’ve had to write down all the songs for the past 4 years or so. Anyway, I’ve been trying to impose order on this Chaos in my Closet in tiny ten and fifteen minute spurts, for months, in between doing other things. But there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Better to light a candle in the window though, than curse the darkness. I’m hoping that I’ll get more work done on this Nields History project during Katryna’s maternity leave, when I’ll be otherwise mostly high and dry Nieldswise. Hearing of Nerissa’s stash in her her own Closet though reminds me that I’m just a dim bulb in a dusty basement, Nields History wise, compared to the true keepers of the one true flame, Nerissa and Katryna, with their “Many Mansions.” 🙂

    I started my own Nields Blog, “Nields World,” the day after TN started theirs. 🙂 Mine is from the perspective of an outsider looking in, though.

    “Maybe we could have a weekly, or even monthly, local gig. I need to play with these people more often.”

    Are the polls open yet? I vote for “weekly.” 🙂

    embarking on the Nields400 road trip tomorrow — “Gentlemen, start your engines!” — my 400th Nields show, Saturday night 🙂

  7. Nerissa,

    Thanks for the lovely thoughts expressed in your post. My fiance, James, and I are looking forward to hearing you and your wonderful band Saturday night at the Iron Horse. If I can make a request on-blog, could you please play a song for him at the early show? You know, the one that repeats his first name several times (James, James, James….) And could you also say “This is for Jim & Becky.” Thanks so much! You ROCK! (Or should I say, you FOLK!)
    May John Kerry be victorious!

    Peace and Love,
    Becky (and Jim)

  8. Hi Nerissa,

    Your friend’s comment re: the amount of difference between Democrats and Republicans IS perhaps something to take consolation in if we lose in November. I’ve been debating this issue with friends and colleagues lately, and a couple of them see our two major political parties as very similar entities. One of my colleagues recently said, “Democrats? Republicans? It’s Coke and Pepsi. What if I want juice??” (He’s a Nader fan whereas I stand by Dean’s comment that “When the house is on fire, you don’t stop to fix the furniture.”).

    By the way, I’ve been inspired to start a blog of my own. Not like you don’t have better things to occupy yourself with, but here’s the link just in case: http://coolwhitestare.blogspot.com/


  9. Nerissa,

    Thanks for the props about my dear hometown, Austin. It would be sad to need a passport to get there, but even this eighth-generation Texan understands that Austin is really the only part worth shootin’. Congrats on the blog, I see you got it syndicated so I won’t try to figure out how to do that seeing as I don’t know how either. I can’t wait for the next writing group, and I know you’re just dying for the link to my blog which is not quite as funny as yours: http://www.livejournal.com/users/crowgoddess

    -Meredith of the swiping-your-cookies-and-accidentally-writing-poetry Merediths, not the web-person Merediths

    p.s. Hi Tom!

  10. For Amelia, you should learn the Patsy Cline song, “I Love You So Much It Hurts Me.” Oh. Google tells me that Ray Charles sang it as well. See? It’s a good song.

    Weekly gig: Yes please! Where do I buy my season ticket? I’ll pay cash!

    Good catch on the lunatic-versus-maniac.

    –Adam, looking forward to the IH shows

  11. The South loves the Nields. Well, this girl (er, woman), who happens to be from the South and who has lived here her whole darn life loves the Nields.

    All of my Nields concert experiences have been amazing, and I’m so, so glad that I got that one chance to see you guys at the Iron Horse. I think I am still paying on that credit card I used to take the trip, but it was totally worth it. It was also a kind of last-hurrah trip with a person who was a close friend at the time and graciously humored my obsession.

    I really loved seeing you in Atlanta, though, and Birmingham, and in my hometown of Pensacola, Florida. I saw you at The Point in Atlanta in 1997, and by the time I moved to Atlanta in 2003, there was nary a trace left of The Point on that corner. I now live about half a mile away from that spot, and we actually picked this neighborhood because it had such great vibes from my concert-going experiences. It was a great choice, too. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in Atlanta — well, I won’t until we’re ready to buy a house, and then we won’t be able to afford this neighborhood.

    It’s also really special to me that I saw the Nields for the first time in my hometown of Pensacola, Florida. I was 18 and had seen much less of the world then than I have now, comparatively. I spent a week hunting down the newly released Guardian version of GOGOG (my first Nields CD), was entranced on my first listen, and quite starry-eyed, I’m sure, as I did my dorky little dance while watching the Nields perform at Pensacola’s Spring Fest. It still kind of blows my mind that such a cool band — my favorite band, ever! — visited Pensacola, because at the time it seemed like no one visited Pensacola, ever.

    Just a little walk down memory lane for me. Carry on…

    And come back to Atlanta any old time! I can’t wait for that day.


  12. Hey Blair! I remember you! Wow. I would love to come back to Atlanta. Maybe in the spring. Thanks for the memories!

    Love, an adrenalized-from-watching-the-debates Nerissa

  13. Hey, Nerissa, I just discovered your blog within the last week, and I’m hooked! I find myself clicking on it several times a day to see if there’s anything new. Your prose is a bright and alive as your song lyrics! Can’t wait for “Plastic Angel” and “The Big Idea.” I loved the New Haven Advocate piece too.

    Patty’s idea on the old newsletters sounds great. If we make it to the Iron Horse on Saturday (my wife has a cold), Patty’s sure to sell a batch to me.

    Regular full-band shows in Northampton would be a treat for those of us in driving distance. I know your set list for Saturday is set at this point, but I’d love to hear you do “New State of Grace” with the band sometime.


  14. LOL! Did you sleep a little better after the debate last night, Nerissa? It was a pretty good night for our boy, Kerry. Fingers are crossed that people were listening!


  15. I recently had the incredible opportunity of meeting and talking with Raymond Federman, who I am now a HUGE fan of, and your blog reminds me of something he said. He wrote a book called Loose Shoes (which they won’t publish in America) and wrote a small piece every day. He said many times he turned his emails to friends into stories. This is how I see your blog. I love reading it because it’s so lyrical, and I feel like you’ve turned it into your own little piece of fiction. (being an english major is taking over my life. I must analyze everything.)

    nichole, from buffalo

  16. I am surprised to hear this talk of practicality regarding weddings. (If practicality was the issue, the wedding industry would have to shut down!)

    Weddings are celebrations, and we fans are an important part of Nerissa’s life, so of course we should be there. Besides, I would bring a lovely present that would be worth more than the cost of inviting me.

    Actually, I will send a present anyhow because I am so happy for my favorite female songwriter, even if I do live in the South.

    Jeff from Charlotte

  17. Wow, where do I begin? How wonderful to be able to read the blog of my favorite musician. Especially from way down here in Texas. I’m a displaced Massachusettsian, now in the Air Force and stationed in San Antonio. I read the newsletters about upcoming shows and it just gets me depressed because I’m here, not there. I can’t go for a walk in the woods, or drive my cahr to a bahr, or go see Nerissa sing. I can’t even watch the presidential debate with people who think like me.

    One thing that usually helps keep me going: http://www.electoral-vote.com. It’s a site by a guy who puts together polls from each individual state in order to map out what the electoral vote would look like. He updates it every day. It may not look too promising at first glance, but then you realize that Kerry has a lot more states solidly on his side than Bush. And then you read about polls and their skew, yadda yadda, good news, save the world, etc., etc. Anyhoo, it can be a daily dose of optimism.

    I’ve often wanted the South to secede. Just wait to start the campaign until I get out. 🙂

  18. This has nothing to do with the South, or anything you said in this blog entry, but OMG the Iron Horse shows rocked. Rocked! Everyone on stage shone. Thank you, all. I can’t even pick out a highlight, it was all that good.

    Sadly, the few pictures I took (after getting Patty’s OK) suffered from lack of flash. C’est la vie.


  19. :::sigh::: it was weird not being at the IH shows last night, but it was good to be in Provincetown with the one I love most. We went to The Sqealing Pig for dinner and I kept wondering what N&K were playing. I missed you all dearly(band&nookers) and look forward to the next time I get to experience a Nields show:-)

    I adore the the little piece about Amelia….that’s so sweet 🙂 Children are precious & she’s a lucky girl to have such a wonderful family 🙂

    ~ April
    hopefilled since the 1st debate

  20. hi Nerissa, Katryna, cracker jack band, and Tom!

    hi Nields fans!

    first and foremost, I want you to know that you have made me incredibly happy by creating and using this blog. I love blogs (and bloggish things). I have a livejournal, myself, and since creating it two junes ago my level of web addiction has skyrocketed. I need to check my friends page every day. I need to find out what all my in-the-flesh friends, my online friends, and my authors and artists who have ljs or blogs have written, over those few hours i was offline. so being able to add you to the list of online-friends who make my day that much cheerier through posting gives me immense pleasure. thank you.

    I love hearing Amelia stories. the hurt-in-my-stomach story is just the last in a long line of gems (“I want one on the side and one on the back!” being my current favorite); thanks for sharing ^_^ and I can say through visual experience that she is indeed adorable – one or two springs ago I went to south-eastern CT to see a barn concert you two were giving, and Amelia was there (playing in the mud, if i recall correctly). ^_^

    Maybe we could have a weekly—or even monthly—local gig. I need to play with these people more often.YES. you not only could, you should, you must! It takes me between 40 minutes and 2 hours to trek to Northampton (depending on whether I’m coming from Wethersfield, CT, or Wellesley, MA), but I try to get out there at least once a month because I love it so, and this would be my reason no. 1!!! you must also make sure to tell us here and on the mailing list when these house concerts Patty speaks of are happening. I love the intimacy of house concerts, especially if it’s just one or both of you and a guitar. I drove for three-something hours to hear Cindy Kallet give a house concert. I would come for you.

    hmm, this comment is getting rather lengthy, so closing congratulations:

    1. YAY! for Katryna and Dave and Baby No. 2! even if said question mark should turn out to be Clothilda or GrizzlyBear, I’m sure she/he’ll be just perfect.

    2. YAY! for Nerissa and Tom! when you told us at the Iron Horse two nights ago, a huge smile of happiness came over my face and wouldn’t leave. I’m so glad for you. you deserve it, and each other (I’m sure, although I haven’t met Tom, despite casual peering between shows 😛 ).

    and, dude, if your wedding is in MA (or anywhere in New England, for that matter), you’re simply going to have to resign yourselves to a lot of wedding crashers. I like to tell people mournfully that I haven’t been to a wedding since i was 2 (truth), for the extremely sad reason that I haven’t been invited to any since I was 2 (also truth). so this may be my big opportunity to experience a wedding as a fully-capable-of-remembering-cool-things adult! I want in!

    *in which kate slinks off before she scares N & T too much… feel free to visit my lj: kayselkiemoon*

  21. Huzzah! There is a Nerissa blog!

    Ever since my brother took one of your songwriting classes and then sent me on a mission to purchase Greta, Play, and If You Lived Here as an introduction to your wonderful music, I have been a fan.

    I concur that New England needs to secede from the Union. And we would be free, and self-sufficient, and to piss off Bush, we could deny them certain staple imports, like maple syrup. Ha, ha!

    Going to Nields shows is an absolute joy. I am very much looking forward to the performance this Friday at Passim!!

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