Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - My First Anniversary

Well, it's close now and as usual I can't think of a thing to write about, but also as per usual I refuse to let that stop me. One year of blogging and I've used way more than my fair share cyberspace, abused the English language, and refused to be confined by a strict and structured syntax. I'm a grammatical outlaw! The posts have run the gamut from Really Really Horrible (most of the early stuff, Sundown, my distinctly strange idea re: calendar keeping - my apologies) to the Not Too Shabby (The Gospel, the boob drama, My Musical Epiphany). I got a few comments, only one of which was spam! (note to workfromhome dude - thanks! I open the junk mail when nothing else shows up in my mailbox). Each one was a thrill - it's a big ole cyber world and it's an honor just to be nominated. Noticed! I mean, noticed!

Anyway, it makes me happy.

And it's ALL About Me.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bestest! Christmas! Songs! Ever!

In no particular order and subject to change without notice.

1. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town – Bruce and the E Street Band. The intro makes me smile every single time.

2. Please Come Home for Christmas – The Eagles. I know they’re the Group Everyone Loves to Hate, but I love their version of this song. Schmaltzy growls, tinkling piano, a man who can sing ‘send salutations’ with a straight face – well, that’s not quite fair – he sings everything with a straight face.

3. Frosty the Snowman – Jimmy Durante and Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Burl Ives. Television staples of my formative years. I have a birthmark around my nose that gets, um, inflamed, shall we say, in cold weather. Mean kids used to tease me. I took great solace in Jimmy and Burl's tender songs.

4. I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Leon Redbone. I wanted to put him up for Frosty as well, but that seemed like overkill. A credible, understated cover of a classic. He also used to sing an All detergent commercial.

5. White Christmas – Bing or the Drifters. I love Bing’s voice and the way he uses it, more of an instrument than ‘A Voice’ – this is the definitive by-the-fire-with-the-one-you-love version. The fun, traveling to Grandma’s version with four hopped-up-on-sugar kids belongs to the Drifters. Da dooby do!

6. Joy To the World – Blind Boys of Alabama and Aaron Neville. Normally, I like men to sound like men when they sing. Aaron Neville is the exception, and this song is particularly striking to me because he’s singing way on up there and the Blind Boys are filling in all the steps on the ladder, with that gravelly growly bass just suggested, like a whisper from God.

7. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Brian Setzer with Ann-Margret. So, Setzer’s voice ain’t really up to this song, but Ann-Margret! Wow! She gets to play me in the movie.

8. Oi! To the World – No Doubt. Two minutes of ska-punk and also fantastic for over-sugared children. Nice little morality tale, to boot. Better than the Vandals' original (heresy, I know).

9. Up on the Housetop – Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band. The surf guitar version. Christmas is for sharin’. Share that wave with me, dude.

10. Fairytale of New York – the Pogues with Kirsty Maccoll. Happy Christmas, your arse! The seedy yet sublime side of Christmas and my Favorite. Pogues. Song. Ever.

Honorable Mentions:

Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy – David Bowie and Bing Crosby. I remember watching this on tv back in the day. Set new levels for weird: Space Oddity meets Crooning Relic.

Gettin’ In The Mood (for Christmas) – Really, almost anything Brian Setzer does with his Orchestra works for me. Horns! Guitar! Jump! Jive! Wail! This is a cool reinvention of In the Mood that always has me reaching for my Christmas Creepers and a couple of tats. I just wish I could dance!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Polishing My Hump

I’ll be the first to admit it: I hate snobs. I don’t necessarily mean members of the aristocracy or Daughters of the Revolution, although they can certainly meet the requirements. I mean anybody who thinks they’re better than me, more qualified, more entitled, more something that I’m not. Yes, I’ve got a 2 ton chip on my shoulder and I’ve earned it, baby. I also detest bullies and when the two combine, well, could there be two less attractive personality traits? I think not. Let’s call the snobbish side “Paris” and the bullying side “Ashlee”. When they merge into the creature we’ll call Parishlee, the synergistic effect might be scientifically fascinating to behold but few of us can appreciate that fact. We’re too busy being Pissed Off To The Power Of Infinity. I wouldn’t call myself a violent person, but many’s the time I’ve longed to bust my knuckles on smug smile.

Years of frustration later, I realize this is my own little (or maybe not so little) snobbishness. I’m so anti-snob, I’m a snob. At least I’m not a bully about it.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jingle Bell Boogie

Or, How I Learned to love Christmas Music

First admission: I’ve always loved Christmas music, so I didn't have to learn to love. One of my fondest memories is of going caroling with my neighborhood gang when I was approximately a kindergartner, looking up into the starry skies, bellowing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. I saw Santa flying his sleigh across the horizon, and I believed. Ok, now as an adult, I realize that was probably a satellite or an airplane or perhaps the figment of a sugar-frenzied imagination. But why let reality spoil the magic?

Second admission: my favorite way to fill up the gaps and holes in my tattered spirits is to practice judicious retail therapy. Me and my soul-soothing MasterCard have ridden out so many emotional storms together. New babies. First days of school. Graduations. Birthdays from Hell. Bosses from Hell. I can shop happy, I can shop sad. I shop, therefore, I am.

Third admission: I am a music freak. Not a music geek—I’m not that smart (or that anal), but to me, music is necessary. Like air. And Advil. I didn’t realize how necessary until the Great Musical Drought that began—well, before eBay. Literally. When it ended, I was like a sponge in the Gulf of Mexico. And I’m still playing catch up.

To recap: Christmas. Shopping. Music. Let’s head over to Amazon and see what’s in my shopping cart!

Brain Setzer Orchestra – Boogie Woogie Christmas.

Big band. Big hair. Big ups! Sleigh bells ringare ya listenin’?

Jimmy Buffett – Christmas Island.

Yes, it’s Christmas in Margaritaville. Kick off your flip-flops and find that large shaker of salt. Everybody’s favorite pirate was looking at fifty when he put this album together, and Merry Christmas, Alabama is a loving Christmas card to all the ports he’s known before. A surfer dude Up on the Housetop and an island version of Jingle Bells take the holiday into some uncharted (but fun!) waters. You have my permission to skip his cover of Happy Christmas (War is Over) – why, Jimmy, why? In penance, he gives us Ho! Ho! Ho! And a Bottle of Rhum, a bouncy ode to holiday stress and quite possibly the first Christmas carol to ponder the physical toll a brick chimney takes on Santa’s buns. It ain’t rocket science, but it’s fun.

Leon Redbone – Christmas Island

Same song, different singer and what a difference! Champagne Charlie brings that growling baritone to Christmas Island, looks for Frosty, goes to Toyland, gets lost in a Winter Wonderland—in short, he makes some vintage Christmas fun. (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays and I’ll Be Home for Christmas bring some Capra-esque nostalgia home—close your eyes and you’ll think you’re in a 40’s train station watching the snow come down—will you be home for Christmas? That Old Christmas Moon and Christmas Ball Blues will give the grownups something to dance to after the kids are in bed.

The Blind Boys of Alabama – Go Tell It On The Mountain

If I could only give you one reason to buy this album, it would be Joy to the World. With Aaron Neville’s help, this song transcends the ordinary, soars above the fantastic right up into the sublime. My. Favorite. Version. Ever. The Blind Boys of Alabama (yes, that’s their real name) throw down some of the leanest, meanest, praising-est sounds since Mahalia Jackson. Add Tom Waits, Chrissie Hynde and Mavis Staples. Stir once and apply liberally to your auditory instruments!

John Prine – A John Prine Christmas

‘It was Christmas in prison, and the food was real good…’—has there ever been a truer sentiment? Haven’t been to prison? Well, don’t let that stop you from enjoying Christmas with John Prine. He hasn’t been to prison either. Most of the songs on this aren’t exactly Christmas songs. The first two only mention Christmas in passing, but they’re two of the best songs Prine ever wrote, so look on them as a gradual and seasonal easing into the holiday mode -- that November gloom we all trudge through before the anticipatory arc of the holiday season. Mr. Prine is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and honestly, if he did John’s Polka Favorites or Uptown Boy – Prine sings Joel, I’d buy them.

to be continued....

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Elvis v. David Lee Roth

Costello, that is. Let's play!

Elvis radiates intelligence. David Lee Roth oozes sleaze.

Elvis has a 25+ year career. DLR used to be in Van Halen, and they asked him to leave. twice.

Elvis has a receding hairline with a tasteful cut. DLR has a receded hairline and stole Courtney Love's extensions.

Elvis wears black suits with snappy ties. DLR wears spandex animal prints.

Elvis covered My Funny Valentine. DLR covered Just A Gigolo.

Elvis is UCLA's first Artist-in-Residence. DLR is Howard Stern's replacement.

Elvis has worked with Paul McCartney, Burt Bacarach, Lucinda Williams and Chrissy Hynde, amongst others. DLR used to be in Van Halen. and was asked to leave. twice.

Elvis was on a Simpsons episode. DLR was a Behind The Music episode

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Post-Thanksgiving Thanks

1. No one died. Or even got sick! A huge blessing, because for the First! Time! Ever!, I cooked everything.

2. My sweet pink Crocs. Because I had to stand in the kitchen for hours and hours doing all the damn cooking, and my size 8 feet ain't used to such abuse.

3. My oldest two children, who are not exactly children, being 15 and 20. Steven volunteered to take the gang to the video store. Katie was such an ace cleaner-upper that it was comparable to folding it up and putting it in the fridge. No bribes, no guilt trips. Just genuine help.

4. The King of the Hill Thanksgiving marathon. Peggy Hill, YOU are my hero.

5. A day when I didn't have to load up the van and take somebody somewhere! I did leave the house, but only to take my frost-nipped plants out on the patio for a haircut. I hunted no car keys, I buckled no seat belts, I scraped no windshields

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Life is like an opera

I’ve often thought life would be more interesting if, once in a while, we didn’t speak to each other but sang instead. An opera in real life. Imagine: Hey, you stinking bastard, you stole my parking space! Or One pound of smoked ham, sliced thin please and a chorus of deli workers reply sliced thin! how thin? how does this look to you? People might be more deliberate with their words if they had to sing them. There are far too many people running around the world trying to talk the rest of us to death. Let it at least be melodic.

So, please let us designate
A day to musically enunciate
The humdrum chatter
That doesn’t matter
Our deepest thoughts
About robots
Our jokes, our curses
‘cause it ends in hearses

Let’s have a day of song!

I think it might catch on.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

So Says People magazine

Sexiest Man Alive Without Indoor Plumbing.

Sexiest Man Alive With Indoor Plumbing

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sweet Dreams

Don’t you wish you could pre-program your dreams? If I could, I’d have the one I had last night and another one (which I won’t describe on the grounds that I might embarrass myself) on all-night replay. It was impressive and I mean that in the literal sense – I’ve been thinking about it since I was so rudely awakened. Not that anything really happened in it, but, whatever.

It started outside at some kind of lawn party that was part Alice in Wonderland and part Gatsby. The light is that wonderful gray/yellow illumination just before a thunderstorm. I am holding a sweaty drink wrapped in a white napkin standing near a table and up walks Nick Lowe looking indescribably handsome in a black suit with white shirt open at the neck. He says something to me and I follow him, and we’re talking back and forth but he’s always ahead of me. The last thing I remember is looking down at him and there’s this white path that kind of disappears in the overgrowth of some incredibly dense and thick willow. I take a few steps and I can see more of the path. Then, dammit, I wake up.

So, I’ve been noodling around all morning (no, it’s work! real work, I swear!) on dream interpretation websites trying to discover the meaning of this dream, which sounds like a stupid thing to seek when I write it down – I guess I’m just interested in any hidden symbolism. Yeah, that’s the ticket. If I can only find that path…

Anyway, these are some of the things I found.

The sweaty drink: To dream that you are drinking alcohol, denotes that you are seeking either pleasure or escape. Hmmm. Pleasure AND escape for me, please.

The table: To see a table in your dream, represents social unity and the potential for a meeting or gathering. It refers to your social and family connections. Potential is good, unity is good, particularly in this social sector.

Black and White: Black symbolizes the unknown, unconscious, danger, mystery, darkness, death, mourning, hate or malice. White represents purity, perfection, peace, innocence, dignity, cleanliness, awareness, and new beginnings. You may be experiencing a reawakening or have a fresh outlook on life. Oh, my.

Nick’s Neck: To dream about any neck, denotes your present feelings of jealousy and resentment. It involves emotional problems involving a friend or relative. Oh, my redux. My feelings of jealousy and resentment are right now focused on a co-worker, but if I need to, I can work some up over Thanksgiving, taking the trash out EVERY SINGLE TIME it needs to be emptied and other household inequities.

The overgrown path: To see a blocked or windy path, denotes that you need to give serious attention to the direction you are heading in your personal and/or business life. You also need to take time out to consider and rethink the consequences before acting on your choices. Ok, I can go with that. I always do my thinking after the fact.

So, my little dream of delight is a lie! I am a disturbed and resentful bag of malice with homicidal intentions towards a family member, seeking escape but needing to consider the direction I am heading.

Some things are best left unstudied.

Nick, if you want me to follow, just ask!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My Prayer

May I Never Again Hear:

1. “My gyno.” I seem to only read it in Glamour or Cosmo, so I can’t really say I’ve ever heard someone say this offensive phrase. It evokes disturbing images of STDs and Panglossian denial. Is it prudish of me to NOT want to be on nickname acquaintance with the doctor who’ll be examining some of my most interior parts? This is not the ENT dude. This is not the mammogram ma’am. This is the doctor who will see if you’re a swamp-like miasma of excess and kink or an arid desert of denial. If ever there were a profession in need of some good euphemisms, this be it. And “My Gyno” ain’t one of ‘em.

2. Git R Done. Let me be clear: there is only one funny person on the whole Blue Collar Tour. Call him Tater Salad. Larry the Cable Guy – I just don’t get. At all. I live here in the South and I can say, with authority, that he doesn’t come from around here. He is absolutely alien to me. And when I’m at a soccer game, and some moronic boob calls out ‘Git R done!’ I get nauseous. If I worked at McDonald’s and some pinhead told me to Git R Done, I’d probably spit in his food.

3. “In all actuality.” I didn’t think “actuality” was an actual word, so I looked it up on the good ole M-W online. The state or quality of being ACTUAL! Why, you could almost say it was actually actual! A co-worker of mine is always using that phrase with what she thinks is an intelligent and thoughtful look on her face. Reality, actuality, causality, duality – it’s the new black. Or should I say the new Ism? Run; run quickly from the room when you hear those words!

4. “Going to hospital.” You can go crazy, nuts, insane. You can go to work, you can go to hell if you don’t change your ways, but everyone knows you can’t go home again. You can go to pieces, you can go to Wal-Mart, and you can go to school. You can go to Fort Sanders Sevier, but you can’t go TO HOSPITAL. At least not on this side of the Atlantic.

5. “Taking the dog a walk.” WTF? How do you take a walk to a dog? This sounds like one of those carny catchphrases to me. Don’t let ‘em get away, Sammy, I’m almost taking the dog a walk. Check your wallets, folks.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I Love the Smell of Sweaty 12-Year-Olds in the Morning!

Josephine’s final 2005 soccer game was last Thursday. We have been truly blessed by the Great Soccer Gods this fall – only one slightly drizzly game and this final one turned off cold as hell, but all in all, sun and fun at games and at practices. I’m strictly a vicarious athlete, but I’m an excellent Soccer Mom. I knew I was going to miss yelling ‘boot it!’ and ‘go, red!’ (or blue, depending).

Then, before I could completely thaw out from that colder-than-a-well-digger’s butt final game, there was Coach Mark on the phone wanting to organize an indoor team for the winter.

What I like best about indoor is that it starts on time every time, it takes one hour and we never have practices. It’s a minimum 3-hour time investment, being an hour away, but there are several large liquor stores on the way. If our first game was a barometer, it’s gonna be a long season. We did score. Once. On a PK, but it was my kid that kicked it in so big ups to the austinator. The scoreboard read 6-1 at the end, but the other fabulous thing about indoor is that the winning team can only be 5 points ahead. In the interests of sportsmanship and self-esteem and all that noble stuff they don’t teach in sports anymore. The actual score was probably 20-1, but I quit counting when it went into double digits. It’s a rebuilding year.

But the kids enjoyed it. Most of them are new to indoor, and it’s a major adjustment, going from large grass field to small enclosed astro-turfed oval. It’s like pinball-meets-basketball-but-with-no-hands. Very fast paced, lots of action and NO offsides rule to worry about. The perfect game for the average 12-year-old PS2 addict. And for the average Soccer Mom: cappuccino and warm cinnamon buns in the deli!

But does it have to start at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning?!?!?!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Second Sign of the Apocalypse

Or, Shoeless in Sevierville

You know those days, the days where it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. The days when even your dog doesn’t love you. The days when you walk thru a spider web in the dark and beat yourself silly trying to kill the brown recluse you just know is poised to bite. The days when the only possible reply to cheery good mornings is ‘eat shit and die.’ The days when there isn’t enough liquor, and automatic weapons are looking like the only solution to Sartre’s vision of hell. Have you had days like those? I have, and I had a really simple cure. Just kidding about the automatic weapons, btw. At least until the statute of limitations runs out.

My cure involved shopping. Shoe shopping, to be specific. There’s nothing like the little boost one gets from a new pair of saucy sandals or the pick-me-up provided by the smell of real leather. Sure, it’s bought love, but that’s the only kind of love I need on Those Days.

Yesterday, it didn’t work. No shoe in the store could do anything for me. For once, the Power of the Shoe failed. I went down every single aisle, tried on 45 different pairs and bought nada. Was it that I couldn’t find the right shade of brown? Were there no pumps to pump me up? (I am almost ashamed of that) Has Mootsies Tootsies run out of style? Or was it me? The boots failed to excite. The flats fell flat (I am ashamed of that one). There was nothing new under the fluorescent lights. I’m hoping it was just my mood, because damn I’d hate to lose my cure. I’ll try it again without children. It’s hard to focus holding a sticky hand.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fall Grumblings

I hate autumn. Erase it from the calendar, please.

Oh, they try to sell it to me every year with visions of nubby tweeds and riding boots. Pictures of some LL Bean-created autumnal utopia of pumpkins and Indian corn, where rosy-cheeked children drink apple cider whilst diving into piles of beautiful leaves, where everything smells like apple pie (again with the goddam apples!) and all God’s people are off on a hayride!

But it’s all a lie.

Autumn is the last hurrah before winter and Mother Nature tries to put on a fabulous song and dance so we won’t realize we’re on our way to the slaughterhouse. She fools us into believing summer will last all year long, or at least until we’re in the mood for snow when Christmas rolls around, and damn, we wake up and it’s the ruins of January and the Most Miserable Time of the Year. I used to believe in harvest festivals and Halloween. Until I figured out it was it was the carrot on a stick before the jackass’s eyes.

You have been warned.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Like, The Kings of Leon and the aftermath…..

I’m too old for some of this shit, I suppose. I probably should’ve sat on the balcony, but there I was on the fifth row. Can I be blamed for buying tickets the day they came out? The Like opened to a mostly empty house. I was predisposed to like them, considering their drummer is the daughter of EC’s drummer. Her name is Tennessee, and they were playing in Tennessee, so, according to their singer/guitarist, that made the show “special.” Special enough to do the same lame joke twice, even! Tennessee can bang the absolute hell out of her kit. I know nothing about drumming, but to watch her, with her head bowed and her hair all in her face like Cousin It, just rocking out, it was quite apparent she inherited way more than her fair share of talent. I liked the singer’s voice, kind of husky and dainty and ethereal but raspy all at the same time, and somehow reminding me of Tommy James & the Shondells doing Crimson and Clover. Meant to buy their cd on the way out, but they were mildly besieged signing stuff. Check them out here:

Cute bunny.

The Followill Brothers + Cousin, a/k/a The Kings of Leon, took their sweet time getting to the stage. Sure, The Like’s stuff had to be removed, and the guitars tuned (3 times a piece, by my count), but anything past 30 minutes is pushing my patience envelope and it’s not something I have a lot of. But when they finally appeared, they were firing on all cylinders from the first note. They only have 2 cds out, so not a bottomless Elvis well from which to draw. I think they played it all, but there was one new to me. Clocked in at just around an hour and a half. A two song encore. I did not chase their bus.

The bass player (Jared) is gorgeous AND good, so maybe I should have. I mean, they’ve all got the stuff: good looks and talent, but I have a thing for bass players. The drummer (Nathan) shaved the beard and took off his glasses, so he looks a lot more 21st century. The singer/rhythm guitar player (Caleb) grew out the goofy bangs and pumped some iron. To his stylist: dump the white pants or get the boy some flares to hide them bowlegs! Lead guitarist/cousin Matthew did a good Ramones impersonation with the black leather. He’s the one with the Normal Ears. I think the audience was about 60/40 male/female, and definitely skewed young. I felt ancient amongst all this vital youth but I tried my best to overcome it. Alcohol helped, but jeez louise - $5 a beer! They ain’t a chatty bunch, these Kings of Leon. They let the music do all the talking. Or shouting! My ears are still bleeding.

A lot of the kids were throwing those death metal signs at them and doing what I call the 8 Mile Dance: one arm up in the arm and doing a slight bow to the rhythm. It struck me as funny. I wore sensible shoes: the platform sandals with that wide and stable heel. The boots, even with a kitten heel, were just too wobbly (or was it me?). It was about 95 degrees (in October!), so too hot for the black leather (how does Elvis stand it?). I tried about seven different combinations of shirts and belts, which all made me look fat and frumpy, so I just went with the jeans, wife beater and over shirt I wore to work. I did add a little more muss to my hair, some eyeliner, silver earrings and my stained glass necklace. Felt like I was dressed to kill, probably looked like an idiot. Good thing I am blessed with a delusional nature.

They can play. And they haven’t succumbed to Rock Star Excess with the guitars and assorted stuff, although Caleb kept tuning his. During the songs even. A good evening out. I can look back when I’m 90 and know that most of my hearing damage came from that night.

If you’re interested -

same show I saw/heard, right down to kicking over the mic stand. The sound at my show was better.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The BassOMatic Axiom

If you would watch a fish in a whirling blender, you deserve to get splattered with said fish.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My Musical Epiphany

Stop laughing. I mean it.

I’d heard of them, of course. More times than I care to remember. I figured they were mythical or sensationalized, like G-spots or 100mpg engines. I’m a slow learner sometimes. Like, I just recently listened, really listened to Iggy’s Lust for Life. Hey, man, where’d you get that lotion? Of course I’ve had it in the ear before. That was kind of an epiphany, I suppose, not that I really learned anything from it, but it’s kind of amusing to picture that Royal Caribbean cruise commercial where the Modern Guys (and girls) are on the climbing wall – yeah, you’ve had it in the ear before.

But, I digress, as is my wont. I take my dog for a walk most mornings. Most of the time my 11 year old son comes along as well. One particular Friday, I decided to carry along my Walkman as well. See, it was my birthday and I’d been promised decent radio tunage. Let’s set the stage: it’s dark, really fucking (that’s for the Girls Who Say Fuck, may they rule forever) dark, the few lone lights shining are just absorbed by the blackness; it’s cool enough to make me wonder how long I can keep doing this in shorts and a t-shirt and there’s nobody around except me, Austin and Pawli. Austin knows how to keep a companionable silence. And Pawli just likes to sniff. So, I slip on my headphones and try to find the radio station in the dark. Did I mention that it’s really fucking dark??? The Hand of Fate takes mine and I roll that dial right into WSEV. And there’s the Epiphany: (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais. On the headphones, in the dark, with the dog and the boy. Midnight to six, man! It was absolutely perfect. Perfect for the darkness, perfect for my mood, perfect for walking the dog at an almost aerobic clip (something I’m sure Strummer never imagined). It’s a Perfect Musical Moment. And it’s my birthday. And it’s got nothing to do with nostalgia and longing for the Good Ole Days and Lost Youth.

I have a love/hate relationship with the radio. Remember that old Carpenters song? When I was young I’d listen to the radio, waiting for my favorite song…? That was me, with my green ball transistor, sitting on my orange fuzzy bedspread in Van Buren Missouri, trying to tune in John “Records” Landecker from far away WLS. May I never hear Stairway to Heaven again. And there were the College Commuting years, with Phil Williams and Worm Watch ’84. Too bad he was ripping off John Boy and Billy – when I heard them, I couldn’t listen to you anymore, Phil. No one likes a thief. Not that kind of thief anyway. There were the Silent Years, when I really didn’t listen to anything except my kids and sometimes my husband. As the millennium waned, I started tuning in again. And I found that the awful country station, that I’d been held hostage to for school closing/snow day information, had been reprogrammed to something called Today’s Best Mixx – for some reason, I’m picturing Sir Mix-a-lot here (Baby Got Back!) – and for a while, everything was groovy. The occasional Elvis, the Frolicking Fridays – enough bones thrown to keep me listening.

But, like the mythical hoop snake that feeds on itself, it couldn’t last long. Nothing spoils like success, right? The ads reached critical mass, the edge went out of the music (not that there was a lot, but for a while all that 80’s crap was fresh again), and the banter became infomercialized.

Now, I’m not a total idiot. I did graduate from college, even if it was a state school, and I managed one of them there Phi Beta Kappa keys while I was at it. I realize radio is not there for listeners; it’s there for advertisers. Like funerals aren’t for the dead, but for the living. But it’s symptomatic (there’s a big word for ya!) of the Great Bell Curve of Modern Culture: a handful of the incredibly excellent, a smattering of the astoundingly awful, and a vast seemingly limitless supply of the mindlessly mediocre. I won’t name names. Taste is in the eye of the beholder, or something like that. Everybody finds the stuff that speaks to them and I don’t mean that in the Son of Sam sense. Or maybe I do. Maybe Satan is telling America to listen to crap. Or maybe a whole lot of folks don’t mind listening to crap. And yes, I’m a perfectly ridiculous person with a size XXL ego and a big mouth who does own one Billy Joel album (it was a gift! from my mother!) but refuses to drown in the Sea of Bourgeoisie.

Anyway, what I found out, in one Perfect Musical Moment, out in the dark, out of the dark was this: I’m not dead yet. There’s lots of perfect moments, musical and otherwise, still to be had. And those moments are enough to keep me passing the open windows.

That’s pretty damn epiphanic, ain’t it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Will Not Be Moved

It started with the Back To School shopping. I've got 3 kids, 3 different lists and that aisle at Wal-mart was a frenzy of glue-grabbing, pencil-plucking, notebook-nabbing and folder-flinging that resembled nothing so much as a Green Bay Packers scrimmage. I couldn't face that defensive line, so I did what I do best. I procrastinated. And that was where it all went wrong. The very next trip, with the first day of school three days out, the Back To School aisle was gone, and Halloween had taken its place. I like Halloween. It's one of my favorite holidays. Low stress/expectations, costumes, candy - what's not to love? But I don't start planning for it in August. I hold Martha Stewart personally responsible. Her and her napkin rings and origami centerpieces and everything's so simple and easy. The hell it is, Martha, the hell it is.

And yesterday, the 21st day of September, the city of Pigeon Forge started hanging snowflake and greenery light decorations from every telephone pole in the city limits. It's 95 degrees, the leaves haven't fallen or even given a small hint of color, for that matter, but in the true American entrepreneurial spirit, we're getting ready for Christmas. Oh, the official kick off won't be until November 1st, the day after Harvest Fest ends. Winterfest will last until the end of February, if you can stomach it, when Spring Fest will start the Tyranny of the Themed Event all over again. I can't look at Christmas decorations for four months! I know there's something in the Constitution about cruel and unusual punishment, so this can't be legal, but it does draw lots of folks and thus lots of their Almighty Dollars. If our city were one of Jesus' disciples, it would be Judas Iscariot.

So, the revolution starts now. I will not buy the Halloween necessities until October. I will not allow any Pilgrim decorations until November. And I will not put up a Christmas tree until December. I will take said tree down on New Year's Day and put away all our decorations. Those of you who know that my Christmas decorations are still sitting in the den awaiting transport to the attic can keep your mouths shut. And because my favorite season is summer, I'm wearing my sandals and shorts until the first frost. I will wear white long after Labor Day. I will not remove my toe ring. I will keep my tan in protest of snowflakes and cold temps and frost and all the sins committed in the Name of the Dollar.

Mai Tais all around!

Friday, September 09, 2005

I got a symbol in my driveway

Summer time, and the livin' is easy.

That's what I love about summer - easy. Casual. Laid back. Not so many deadlines. No school nights. No looking for lunch money in a late-for-school frenzy. When the temperature rises, the rules go out the window so the fan can go in. People relax their personal spaces, smile more and wave at strangers. It's possible this stems from the shorts-and-t shirt dress standard, but it's kind of a chicken and egg thing. All I know is that winter and scratchy clothing make me cranky as hell.

So, summer has ended, boo hoo. But under a Knoxville skyline that refused to show me any stars, I said a mellow and peaceful goodbye.
(cue strings)

Jack Johnson. Surfer. Film maker. Bard of the Beach. This Year's Model. All Around Nice Guy and Environmentalist. Drove his alternatively fueled buses into K-town September 2nd and brought Matt Costa AND the Animal Liberation Orchestra with him.

It was a hot and sunny late afternoon. Traffic was heavy, but moving. We were late, as usual, so we took the interstate. I debated exits, mulling over the parking situation. Since it was at the World's Fair Park, I finally chose the Park exit (duh), and a very nice policewoman directed us to a nearby parking garage. Hordes of people (ok, youth of America)were converging on the park. Spaghetti straps everywhere. Some tie dye. A few dreads. The spectrum that is the University of Tennessee. My date for the evening was my oldest daughter, Katie, and this was her first real concert experience. I was supposed to chaperone a herd of her friends as well, but they decided not to go, had other plans, etc. We bought ourselves some spiffy organic cotton T's, got our id checked (at least I did), and found a place to drop our Doughboy blanket. I stood in a mob, an utter mob!, to get my one allowed beer - yes, it was obviously a college crowd. I managed to get most of it back to our spot in time to listen to the last of the ALO. Matt Costa came on, but was accosted with cries of Jack! Jack! Jack!, so that probably didn't feed his ego much. I don't honestly remember much about his set. He apologized for scaring a pedestrian while skateboarding and mentioned the Smoky Mountains and trout fishing to a big wave of applause. We were scoping out the crowd and trying to find my oldest son and his sweet girlfriend. Using cell phone technology and the extended arm point of reference, we were able to join them standing in front of the stage just before Jack came on.

Which was just after sundown, under a pink sky. I know he mashed Rocky Top into the beginning of one of his songs and the crowd went wild. I'm thinking it was his opener - that would make sense. I really should write these things down! So, I stood in the crowd, sniffing the occasional whiff of ganja, laughing at this young man who got on his friend's shoulders and flashed Jack, finding myself doing that old lady bobbing dance. Jack added a verse of the Cars' song Just What I Needed to one of his own, and I'd swear I was the only person in the crowd who knew. He also did some of My Girl in another. Matt Costa joined him for a really nice version of the Beatles' Two of Us, which is probably my favorite Beatle song, even if it is a Paul one. It was just very pleasant. Peaceful. A good, friendly vibe. I left #1 daughter with #1 son and returned to my Doughboy blanket to people watch and listen, telling my son that I'd stop embarrassing him now. And that sweet boy replied, "Mom, if I was embarrassed, I wouldn't have answered my phone."

Jack and his band travel on buses that use old vegetable oil (I think that's what it is) for fuel - kind of Back to the Future-esque. When we parked, I thought something was wrong with our car - there was this stench, somewhere between burning brakes and overheated engine. It was everywhere in the garage, and his buses were parked on one side, so a logical conclusion would be that the stench came from them. What you gain in fossil fuel savings, you lose to stink. But, big ups to Jack for using alternative fuel and for being part of the 1% thing. And he gave a "chunk" of the show's revenue to help victims of Katrina, so yes, his mom can be proud.

Did I mention the gang of fabulously coiffed lesbians? All black tanks and jeans and motorcycle wallets. Stunning. A deadhead accused me of littering. I should've educated him on the relative nature of evil à la Alice's Restaurant, but I gave him a rather gruff no! instead. He was still apologizing when I left. (I really didn't mean it to come out so harsh, but, jeez louise, do I LOOK like a litter bug?)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Things I'm Going To Hell For, Or Why I'm Damned, Damned, Damned

1. I have Dan Quayle Disorder. If you spell it wrong, I'll be sure to tell you. Even if I can't spell it myself. Particularly if you get paid to spell things right. A local newspaper (and I'm using that word loosely as it is basically a written infomercial) inadvertently merged performance art and syntax when they accused a local dj of going to "collage." Another local paper (slightly more respectable) wrote movingly of our social morays. As in eels. I had no idea they were such bon vivants, but I try to avoid slime with teeth.

2. I have lusted in my heart watching teenage boys play soccer. And my son was playing, so it was all awkward and confusing, just like high school.

3. I don't mind stealing music one bit. But I despise plagiarism. Maybe I'd think different if somebody paid me to spell things correctly, but I'd rather be credited than paid. The artists most worried about illegal downloads seem to be the most concerned with their bank balance; at which point, imho, they stop being artists and start being CEOs. I understand art-as-commodity, but they need to understand that it's a privilege to make your living doing what you love. And I don't want to hear the poor-mouthing. If you were under the impression Britney might be a Mensa candidate, you thought wrong:

4. I have no respect for the absolute sanctity of life. They may be living creatures, but if I find one of these in my tomato plants, we are not going to have a warm and fuzzy moment.

just icky, ain't he? and those are wasp larva/egg things on him; if I don't kill him myself, he's doomed to be eaten from the inside out. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hot Summer Nights

August 14. It was a hot and sunny Sunday, the kind of hot hot heat that's The kind of heat that turns the sky white. The kind of heat that stews you in your own sweat. The kind of heat in which blinking is almost too much work. The kind of heat that - well, you get the picture. In spite of the heat, the Mr. and I put on our best blue jeans and ventured to Knoxville to see Lucinda Williams. And eat. And drink.

First stop was the Preservation Pub, which normally orders food in from the Tomato Head if you want to eat. On this night, there was a Christian concert out on Market Square and only one bartender, so no ordering in. We refreshed ourselves and sought out another restaurant. The only other one open was incredibly packed with fellow concertgoers. Does everybody have to copy me????? We waited forever, but with drinks! Finally, we ate. As quickly as possible, a dash to the bathroom and out the door to the Tennessee Theatre.

Late as usual. Ran downstairs for beer. Ran back upstairs for ID armband. Got beer, found seats while Rob Jungklas played some dirty white boy blues.

Then Lucinda. The Tennessee Theatre is recently renovated, and while I think it is absolutely beautiful, something about Lucinda's voice amped up the bordello chic. I'd never noticed how much RED there is in the decor. And gold.

Lucinda knows something about that angel/whore archetype. If she's not wanting to Get Right With God, she's begging for someone to 'shoot [their] love into my vein.' Her voice, like John Prine's or Bob Dylan's, you either love or hate; it's impossible to be indifferent to it. It's powerful caterwauling, the perfect complement to the raw emotion her music captures. She's fearless in her writing. Brutally honest, brutally frank, she strips herself down to the bone lyrically. That said, she's curiously detached onstage - the cowboy hat stayed over her eyes and while she was chatty with the audience, the so-called fourth wall was certainly in place. I suppose when you open yourself up that much in your writing, you need to step back to perform it. Otherwise, the first three rows get covered in blood and tears.

It was a good show. Fanboys stole the unclaimed fifth row seats in front of me. She had some new songs to try out. Jailhouse Tears is gonna be a great duet - personally, I hear George Jones there. Unsuffer Me was one of those songs that fill the silence - the silence after your lover walks out, the silence after a friend has died. Where Is My Love was haunting, kind of like Are You Down. I was hoping for Greenville (and god help me, I shouted it out more than once) or Jackson. I got Essence, Ventura, a vicious Joy, and Lonely Girls, amongst lots of others. She told a story about writing one of her songs in Knoxville on New Year's Day a while back - for the life of me, I can't remember which one, so if you know, tell! For two and a half hours, she whispered and wailed and rocked and moaned. Kept me up way past my bedtime, but it was worth every minute of lost sleep.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I Was A Middleaged Evacuee - A Vacation Story

of sorts. of the hurricane variety.

On the Thursday morning Walmart run, I noticed that the gas stations I passed were doing brisk business. My tank was on the bottom half of a quarter tank, so I gassed up. Of course, I had to have a non-verbal confrontation with the pump, which refused to surrender the secret to making it function until I had swiped my card 7 times (note to self: scrutinize statement). That was the best idea I have had to date. Gassing up, that is, not swiping my card 7 times, for the very next day, we had to evacuate.

My dad woke me up on Friday morning (really, really early for somebody on vacation) with a traffic forecast: hurricane coming, heavy traffic all the way to Birmingham. Best to get out before the Mass Exodus that would surely come on Saturday. We had a Jenkins Family meeting at which we concluded that indeed we did need to bug out. The question was when. The kids (and me) wanted a little more fun in the sun. Sun-poisoned Dad did not. Surprise! we won.

And that's the strangest damn thing about hurricanes. It was absolutely beautiful on the beach. Doom was not writ large upon the horizon; all green flags and gentle balmy breezes - like one of those Corona commercials. All us vacationing types were enjoying the absolute hell out of it. However, the folks that lived and worked there were in manic hyper-super-overdrive, hauling seadoos out of the water, boarding up windows, securing dumpsters and trashcans. I heard the NBC news guy describe a hurricane as 'a blizzard with shrapnel' - only warmer, I suppose. We splashed and played. Austin caught crabs. Hermit crabs. Josie tried to break her record for largest amount of water sucked up her nose. Katie went shopping. I folded things and deflated things and shook sand out of things. Jim sat in the shade, drinking beer and smiling because I'd promised to do the driving, a condition of the final beach trip.

So, we loaded up the minivan with seven tons of stuff and Began Our Evacuation.

We thought we were being smart. We thought we were avoiding the great migration north.
We thought we had an easy drive to Montgomery. Of course, we were wrong.

Things were going so well. Across the Three Mile Bridge, a short hop on the interstate and then up 29 to I-65. 29 was a Goddamn Parking Lot. At 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Every gas station we passed had 40 cars waiting to get to a pump. Those that didn't were completely sold out. Walmart had blocked off its main entrance. Can you imagine Walmart EVER trying to stop you from shopping??? I suppose Hell was freezing over. The 29 to I-65 section of this trip ordinarily takes a little over an hour. We spent two and a half hours creeping towards the interstate; for some unknown reason, the traffic unsnarled beside a giant stinking paper factory. I suppose the odor had something to do with it. Anyway, we finally made it to the interstate, hit cruise control (a modest 75, thank you very much) and congratulated ourselves on our patience and understanding and General Good Humor in Times of Stress. But wait! Has there been a wreck? Our average speed drops to 3 miles an hour. We cheer when we get to 7 and think, that's it, we're on our way. And it will clear for a while, but then it will shut back down again - some bizarre kind of Anti-Movement Forcefield had a powerful hold on Lower Alabama. After all this togetherness, a Rest Area break was needed and granted. I stood in line in the women's room listening to the idle conversation you make with people you don't know when you're fleeing a hurricane and you need to pee really bad: are you from Pensacola? I'm going to my sister's in Chattanooga, if I can get there; I was with my dad in Mobile but my mom wants me back in Oak Ridge; the shelter won't take animals, so we're going to Birmingham. Sometimes just a couple of words (after Ivan) and a shrug. At the next rest stop, maybe I was recognizing a few faces. A camaraderie built up amongst the evacuees, a shared purpose: to get the hell out of Dodge before sundown.

Most of the time when I'm driving on the interstate, I don't have a clue what's going on over there on the other side of the median. At 3 mph, one has lots of time to look. And it was freaking me out - every state trooper in the state of Alabama was headed south on I-65. I saw a herd of electrical company trucks, maybe 30 in all, heading south PRE-disaster; I saw a convoy of ambulances doing the same. If there is any fun in evacuating a hurricane, this is where it ended for me. A big ole slap of reality hit me: it's a blessing that we have the technology to get a fix on these storms, but it's chilling to see the actual disaster preparations. Everybody's seen the pictures post-Ivan. The recovery's been slow. The road into Gulf Islands National Seashore's Fort Pickens area was 4 days away from re-opening after Ivan completely destroyed it.

see here:

Tropical Storm Arlene, the first named storm of the season, washed it away again. This is a place that needs to be hurricane-free for a long time. But tell that to the ocean.

And thank god for cell phones! With a beer in one hand and a cell in the other, Jim managed to find a Holiday Inn in Montgomery that took kids AND dogs AND had a vacancy. We took the scenic route the next day, as all four lanes of I-65 were restricted to northbound traffic; Jim had no faith in my navigation skill, but I was RIGHT, wasn't I honey? There can be such a thing as too much togetherness.

Long and short of it is: Dennis deflated down to a 2, I think, actually, at landfall. More comparable to Opal than Ivan. The rebuilding goes on.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Hot Child In The City

Took the gang out to Sundown in the City last night. Mic Harrison, formerly of the V-Roys, opened, with some loud metal band helping him out. The headliner was an Australian named Xavier Rudd, who played guitar and aborigine instruments that I can't spell simultaneously - really made some amazing sounds that pleased the Aging Hippies in the crowd. I liked it the way I like Jack Johnson's music. It's pleasant listening, good for work, but it doesn't grab me by the earlobes the way Elvis or John Prine does - the words don't really seem to be that integral somehow. And I don't mean that as an insult. It taps into a different part of my head - it's restful somehow.

Anyhoo, incredible people watching! Goth kids, preppy kids, kids who climb on rocks, chic grandmas, the afore-mentioned aging hippies, young hippies, Yuppy scum, anorexics by the dozen, and me and mine sitting in the middle of it all. I really didn't mean to stare. And I don't think of myself as nosy, per se, more interested in my fellow creatures. The rather plump lady chugging beers in a too-too tight pair of denim shorts was talking loudly about how her husband shouldn't buy her anymore beer because she couldn't stand up anymore - when Xavier Rudd starting grooving, she did too. As God is my witness, I have never seen anyone attempt a lap-dance standing up. And I hope I never do again - but it was like a train wreck. I couldn't look away. She's grinding into her husband, frontways, backways, sideways, sometimes with a rose between her teeth, sometimes chugging beer. Now and then, she'd take a smoke break, and some twisted part of my mind wondered if she could do other tricks with her cigarettes. I guess she had a good time. I know she's got a massive hangover this morning. I'd bet $5 that she passed out before any actual sex happened and I'd bet $10 that her husband was glad.

Since all these folks I'm watching are strangers to me, I make up their stories. The skinny girl puking in a trash can was holding a bottle of water, while her pony-tailed boyfriend held her hair out of her face - they looked like New Hippies to me, so I figured they were doing 'shrooms and that made her sick. Or maybe a bad veggie burger. She made a quick recovery.

The anorexic girl curled up in a lawn chair, while three older men stood talking around her - she was a trophy wife gone repentant, hating the middle-aged paw that caressed her bony shoulder in ever more possessive fashion. The kids with the pink hair - well, that was the most interesting thing about them. The gray-haired punk in combat boots was most likely a stockbroker (albeit a very cool stockbroker) reliving his wild youth, but somehow, aren't we all? Man in Green T-shirt was headbanging so hard I thought he was going to hurt himself, or somebody else - he looked an awful lot like an ex-boyfriend of mine, had time stood still. That ex-boyfriend would've been dancing just like that. Deja vu all over again.

And that was Sundown in the City.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

In Cars

Do you drive? Or do you pilot? You can drive a car, you can drive a truck, you can drive yourself crazy, but you pilot a van. Or at least I do - something about the way I'm placed at the front of this long cabin, surveying the sea of pavement ahead. Yes, it's a powerful feeling, a feeling of controlling destiny and passenger safety. In the driver's seat of my Plymouth Voyager, I feel just like Captain Kirk heading out to kick some Klingon ass. Phasers on stun. Engage the warp drive, Mr. Sulu.

I spend waaaaaaaay too much time in my van.

But the Green Bean blew up the other day. And I found myself driving a truck. Not an 18-wheeler, but an old pickup truck. An authentic truck, not some chrome-brilliant richboy's toy, but a real work truck. The kind of vehicle you can haul stuff in: 2X4s, shovels and rakes, lawn mowers, giant sacks of dog food, dogs, the annual deer carcass if you are of the hunter persuasion. And the view from the driver's seat changed.

In my van, I put on my sunglasses, crank up the stereo and recognize no one. I'm cruising. Sure, maybe I've got 4 kids screaming at each other and throwing food, but I'm cruising. In the truck, with the windows down (no a/c - this is a man's truck!), I'm right there in the middle of it all, smelling the tar on the pavement and hearing all these punkass fart mufflers. And my fellow truck drivers are recognizing me as one of their own. I get the Nod of Respect. I get the Wave of Brotherhood (nevermind that I'm a sister). They let me cut in front of them, because they know it's gonna be tough to hold that clutch on this grade in this traffic. I could get used to this. Courtesy, good ole boy style. In my van, I'm invisible, partly by choice but mostly because there are gazillions of vans in all the colors of the rainbow being piloted by my contemporaries, forty somethings (ouch) with kids and groceries. The truck made me visible, at least to other truck drivers, and ya know, everybody likes to be noticed now and then.

I'm thinking we van-o-moms need some of this camaraderie. Like motorcyclists do that low wave to each other in passing, we need a gesture of recognition.

Suggestions welcome!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I love....

Little baby ducks. Old pickup trucks. Slow movin' trains and rain. Thank you, Tom T. Hall.

Baby ducks are cute, aren't they? Especially when they're all fuzzy and yellow and peeping around the park. And then they grow up into the monsters from hell that hiss and chase me around the walking trail. I'm warning them all - well, all of them that can read - I've got pepper spray, and I'm not afraid to use it!

10 Simple Pleasures

1. rain on the roof when I'm sleeping. a cat purring at my feet makes this ultra-cozy. and waking up and realizing I don't have to get up anytime soon - icing on the cake.
2. cold vanilla ice cream on a hot cherry turnover
3. beer on the beach, under a strong summer sun
4. squishing barefoot through a summer rain -this is a lot more dangerous than it used to be, so watching those big fat summer drops implode on a puddle is almost as satisfying.
5. walking my youngest daughter to school, feeling the trust in her little hand which is growing bigger every day, so this is a fleeting treasure, as it was with her brothers and sister before her.
6. watching my silly old dog run. she does that just for the hell of it sometimes, and if dogs can smile, well, she's smiling when she does it.
7. making somebody else laugh out loud, especially my husband. the last time he did was when I told him he was allergic to the word "God" unless it was immediately followed by "damn." He's a very tough sell.
8. getting all the words AND the question on the Word Scramble puzzles in my local paper. I can either do them all immediately or not at all.
9. green lights all the way to work.
10. a freshly-washed vehicle.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Modest Proposal

Today is June 1, 2005, which is commonly written as 06-01-05. I'm going to spend the next two weeks either writing 05-??-05 or 06-??-06. Do you have this problem making the monthly transition? I've got a solution.

Let's get rid of the months. Let's just have 1/2005, 2/2005...365/2005. See how simple? Only one real change per annum. With this hole in the ozone layer, climates have changed and seasons have slipped off the track. April showers bring May flowers? Fuhgeddaboudit. April blizzards bring May showers, mudslides, mosquitos and the occasional avalanche. We redivide the calendar to more accurately divide the year. The Naughts, those first hundred days, begin in the dead of what was formerly known as winter. The Hunnerts take us from the frosty first days of what used to be spring into the pleasant part of the season formerly known as summer. Next up, the Binerts (or 'berts), from day 201 to 300, encompass both the Dog Days and Halloween, which I think would make that whole Back to School thing a bit more believable. Who can look at wool in August? Rounding out the year, we have the Trinerts, which would be mercifully short, so that we can look forward to the coming of the Naughts again come 01/2006. And we'll toss that Spring Forward/Fall Back crap while we're at it.

Are ya with me? Write your congressman.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Tisket, A Tasket, I Bought a Laundry Basket

I've been doing the Mom thing for 19 plus years now, and I swear to you, I thought I'd seen it all. Sweet bubbly smiles, nasty body fluids, sticky valentines, muddy sneakers, the little time warp kids fall into as they go to sleep that turns them back into babies (I have a sneaking suspicion that this is an evolutionary survival tactic - we moms can forgive a lot when we see 'em transformed back into the babies we remember). I can't tell you how many tubes of chapstick I've found in my dryer (cleans up better than crayon, fyi), how many toilets I've plunged because some newbie potty user was very enthusiastic about wiping. Kids do lots of peculiar things, just to see if they can. Like my oldest son stuck his head through the slats on the back of a rocking chair. And got stuck. Same child tried to fly. He put some thought into it: got every fan in our house in one room, got a towel for a cape, turned on all the fans and did the Superman Liftoff. He then discovered the Law of Gravity. His younger brother got a Power Wheels truck for his birthday. I found him in the street in the predawn gloom, merrily Power Wheeling his way to the store.

I thought I'd seen everything.

But I'd never seen two children get into a fist fight over a clothes basket.

It was all my fault of course. I bought two new baskets so that I could put each child's neatly folded clean clothing in his or her own basket, for him or her to put away. A nice end-run around the part of laundry I despise - the redeployment. An organized system to deal with an awe-inspiring weekly heap of smelly socks, questionable undergarments and mystery stains. I have about 4 baskets in varying degrees of decay. I threw out the most decrepit, drove to Big Lots and purchased two rectangular white plastic baskets. Took them home feeling like I'd solved a major problem, like I could be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Tossed them down in the living room and went to turn on the dryer. And when I returned, I saw this: in one corner, weighing in at 42 lbs and standing 48 1/2" tall, Josephine the Spitting Queen. In the other corner, at just under 55" and tipping the scales at 70 lbs, the Austinator. I left a living room and came back to a WWF Smackdown. There was hitting and punching and kicking and yelling and name-calling. There were tears and snot, but no blood and guts. Pouts aplenty. Sulking with style. Deep sighs and whispered threats. All over a damn laundry basket!

I read this book once about sibling rivalry. It claimed that each child's personal mission was to claim the exclusive love of the parent, which sorts out to this: each kid wants to be the favorite. And the favorite gets the new laundry basket.

Forget visualizing world peace. Buy all you want at Big Lots for $1.99 a basket.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Reality Check

This won't be my Stones year. I was there, in all my internet glory, logged in and ready to buy tickets at 10:00 a.m. The first ones I drew were limited view. As were the next and the next and the next. Finally, in desperation, I took two that would have been looking over Keith's shoulder, but from 10,000 feet up. Damn the home computer's useless dial-up internet!! I timed out before it could process my request, so I lost those tickets. Then I went insane.

I tried to buy seats that actually faced the stage. I tried to buy seats from which you could SEE the stage. I tried to buy seats from which you could tell which direction Mick tucks. I threatened. I pleaded. I let loose lots of colorful language and gesticulations. All to no avail. Freaking scalpers/ticket brokers/greedy maniacs in Charlotte. Nothing was left at 10:12. Nothing.

I should be disappointed, but I'm not. Angry. Bitter. Disenfranchised. But I was all that before. I don't want to see the Stones from the Ozone Layer. I don't want to see them with 20,000 strangers, That Drunk Guy and his girlfriend The WooHoo Girl (only there will be like 100 of each). The negatives are beating the positives senseless on this fight. I don't really like big crowds. I don't like to wade through piss and vomit in public restrooms (any restrooms, I should clarify). Parking's a bitch. I hate standing in line. All this to watch the back of Keith's head? The vague disappointment will disappear like smoke after a bit of retail therapy. Mick, Keith, you'll get your money anyway. And I won't have to pay $5 for warm beer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Bought any decongestants lately? Are you a meth manufacturer? A meth addict? Do you drink cough syrup to get high? I like a good Nyquil buzz now and then, but I don't consider myself an addict. I had an experience yesterday purchasing Claritin-D for my son, who though he is 19 years old and over 6 feet tall, becomes the biggest baby in the world when he's sick. He's a man, after all. I stood there in the aisle at Walgreen's - here are the allergy medications, the cough syrups, the cough drops. There's the Claritin. Where's the Claritin-D? Then I see the rack of cards. To buy this medication, you must take this card to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, I'm given the Once Over, like she's checking me out for meth sores, and asked to show my driver's license. Which she records in a log book. That I have to sign - why do I have to sign? Shouldn't she be initialling something somewhere? We have six people in our family and I only bought a 10 pack of 12 hour pills. If I go back in 3 days will she pull out that logbook, show me my signature and deny me drugs? Is this what happens with medicinal marijuana? God help me if I need morphine. Although, it would be simpler to purchase, with a prescription paving the way. I guess we're taking the War On Drugs to the drugstores and supermarkets. I steer very clear of methamphetamine. I think, no, I know, I would be all over that like stupid on W, and I can see a very clear picture of my life Going All To Hell. I mean, of course, worse than it is now, which is not bad exactly, but there's always room for improvement. I quit smoking 9 years ago. If I live to be 85, I will take it back up. I like cigarettes. A lot. When I was young and wild, I could never understand why people took downers. Why turn yourself into a zombie? But speed (and by this I mean amphetamines, not the toxic waste called methamphetamine) - the evening never had to end. That was a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away, but I can see how easily I could get sucked into that temptation trying to keep up with a job, a house, a family and still carve an hour or two out for myself. So, I will take the little cards to the pharmacist when I need Claritin-D (who should be paying me something for all these plugs). I will show photo id and I will sign the logbook, and all of this will make for a cleaner, safer Land of the Free.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Signs of Summer

1. Grainger County tomatoes.
2. Honeysuckle blooms.
3. Sandals. And winter white feet.
4. Lightning bugs.
5. The inverse ratio of homework to daylight. Is that right? I mean the longer the days, the shorter the homework.
6. Surf music.
7. The reappearance of The Six Flags Old Dude.
8. Strawberries.
9. The wafts of steak sizzling on your grill.
10. The reinstitution of the Kids and Balls Outdoors Rule.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In Search of: The Perfect Shoe

Yes, I'm a shoe girl. It's my most girly trait, I suppose. I have yet to outgrow a single pair since I had my first kid. I recently went thru the painful task of cleaning out my closet. I was brutal. I sort thru my clothes twice a year, as the seasons - well, IF, the seasons change. If I haven't been wearing it, I generally toss it, unless it's dressy. Or really really cute.

But the shoes. I never get rid of the shoes. I might NEED them someday. I think I can safely say that I have mourned the loss of many, many shoes. There were the satin sandals with the ankle straps. I think I actually threw up on them after a teenage misadventure. The Dr. Scholl's - did you know it is possible to stand on your toes in your Dr. Scholl's? Kids, don't try this at home. Platform wedges. Clownishly loud suede slip-ons. The workboots I wore planting trees (well, actually cutting down and burning them in uneco-friendly piles) with the BCTV. The brown quasi-roman sandals with the broken sole. The burgundy stiletto sandals I wore to my very last ever piano recital. I can't remember a chord, but I remember those shoes. The golden brown woven-leather clogs. So many good friends consigned to the Big Trashcan in the sky. But the time had come. No Imelda, I.

So goodbye snakeskin mules. So long, fuzzy clogs. Adios, beloved square-toed cowboy boots. I saved the dressy stuff, of course. The black pumps, the navy pumps - I've got weddings and funerals covered as long as I don't have to actually walk in them. I've forgotten how. If I ever knew! I seem to recall the sound of clomping, but I've tried to block it out. I could not part with my wellies, even though I'm afraid spiders might live in them now. I kept the espadrilles just because they are purple. The tan loafers likewise got a pass. They are preppy as hell, but the silver buckle is a fabulous and unexpected detail. Sneakers were kept. They pass thru life stages: exercise shoe, casual shoe, carwashing shoe. I kept the white slippers with the tiny little rose pattern that I took to the hospital when my first daughter was born. I bought her a white linen dress with matching roses. Our first (and last) Mother/Daughter outfit. I kept the brown platform sandals (with a merciful wide platform!) that make me feel like a Funkified Diva. Out went the Barbie Shoes, the fuzzy blue slippers with the strange rhinestone trim, the fantastically cute but stupidly heavy thongs from Old Navy. In stayed the ratty Keds I run to the mailbox in - they are easy on/easy off and absolutely machine washable. In the end, I could see the carpet at the bottom of the closet, spaces in the cabinet, room on the shelf.

Rack Room, here I come.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

wondering, wondering

all about me. I'm always wondering what my problem(s) is/are - and I'm convinced that somewhere, somehow, someday someone is going to walk up to me and say 'ok, fix this, this, stop doing that and smile more' or something, and My Life Will Be Perfect. Maybe I need my colon cleansed. A mantra. Perhaps some affirmations pasted to my bathroom mirror. Something - that is no doubt the heart of my dilemma, this quest for somethings - but anyway, in the eternal quest for self-knowledge, I did an online handwriting analysis today.

I discovered that: I'm sarcastic. No shit, sherlock. I'm an ambivert. That means neither extroverted nor introverted and has nothing to do with an amphibian fetish. I also have the best of two kinds of minds; I always knew there was something schizophrenic about me. I have an investigating as well as a creating mind. Oh my. I'm just cut out for the National Enquirer, aren't I? Diplomacy is also one of my best attributes, but I'm also candid and direct and I have a temper, which is "... a hostile trait used to protect the ego." The last half of that is dead on.

You can try it for yourself. It's free and painless, unless you get writer's cramp.

Monday, May 16, 2005

kids and sports

My name is Debbie, and I'm a soccer addict.

And I'm about to go cold turkey.

My 11 year old son, let's call him Austin because that is his name, plays on a U-12 AYSO team. The spring tournament started last Friday night. Austin got sick at school - nothing contagious, just his allergies making him miserable. We got him doctored up and he was fit to play Friday night. Normally, I don't allow a child of mine who has been sick enough to leave school to participate in any activities on that day. But we have an ozone layer defense - lots and lots of holes in it, and Austin is something of a dynamo on the soccer field. (apologies to non-US fans. I can't use the word 'pitch' outside the baseball context). In fact, just so you don't think I'm bragging (well, I am - but is it bragging if it's truth? ;>) or that I'm biased in my son's favor (I'm not - he's the AntiChrist most of the time), let me point out that his coach told me that he thought Austin was his best player. That's stretching it. We've got some offense, but they have some communication problems to put it mildly. One ballhog and two class clowns, and more dives taken in the penalty area than at the last two Summer Olympics. Anyway, it seemed important that Austin play. And he felt better. I didn't make him. Austin played well and played hard and so did everybody else; we won 2-1.

Saturday. The semi-finals. It's threatening thunderstorms, humid and no shade in sight. We beat this team before and our little guys are expecting to win today. One of our strikers is out, so we make some adjustments, but apparently not the right ones. The other team scores. Twice. We can't get within shouting distance of the goal. Our ballhog striker attempts to outwit their keeper by running straight at him. The goalkeeper is twice this kid's size and not clumsy. Ballhog's mama screamed herself hoarse at the previous game, so thankfully cannot scream HELP HIM!! to his teammates - he won't accept help, pure and simple. Anyway, we lose. Austin is upset, but drowns his sorrows in Gatorade and granola bars. He will live to fight another day. He did get teary telling his sister about it, but acheived that great grammar school triumph: he did not cry in front of his teammates.

Austin has always reminded me of a puppy. He can be a frolicking kind of kid, particularly when balls are involved. And he's good at it - basketball, football, soccer, baseball. If there's a ball involved, he can play it. It's one of my greatest and simplest pleasures - to watch him playing hard, absolutely absorbed in what he's doing and this big puppy smile that lights up his whole face. I suppose it sounds 1) boastful and 2) pretentious, but it's like seeing somebody do what they were made to do.

Anyway, BIG UPS!! to Coach Lee who takes the AYSO credo to heart: everybody plays.

How will I make it through the offseason?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Big Ups to....

1. The Pigeon Forge street department for fixing that crater on Middle Creek - my cd player thanks you! And my tie rods thank you, too!

2. All you bad Mothers everywhere! You know who you are!

3. San Jose Earthquakes! First game I've seen this year ended with a 1-0 win. Now let's work on scoring while I'm watching!

4. The pilots of a certain high-winged Cessna for illustrating with style that even in an age of GPS navigation, there are still men who won't ask for directions.

5. The Rolling Stones - this is gonna be my year!

6. me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Survived Mother's Day

Did you?

It's fast becoming my least favorite holiday. I know it's supposed to be all about saying a big Thanks, Ma! for all you do, but all it ever does is remind me, in BOLD print and brilliant detail, of all my shortcomings as a mother and a daughter. They are legion, and they have names like Sloth and Short-Temperedness, Forgot to Write Again and Next Week, I Promise. And, trust me, I know I shouldn't feel like that, so it compounds the guilt ten-fold! Oh, what a lovely holiday! Who came up with this idea? Could it be SATAN??? Yep, I've got a problem with Mother's Day.

but, I lived through it again, and that which does not kill me makes me stronger (or exacerbates those masochistic inclinations, whichever you prefer).

I neatly avoided breakfast in bed by getting up before it was ready. My daughter told me to go back to bed. I told her no. Anyway, I ate not-quite-cheesy-enough grits before I'd even had a cup of tea, so I think that was really sportsmanlike of me. My youngest daughter had hidden a lovingly made card under my pillow on Friday, so I had to be careful not to discover it all weekend. My housekeeping borders on the slovenly, but I do keep my bed made to keep Pawli out of it, so more sporting behavior on my part. I remembered to call my mom! I did not guilt trip anybody into taking me anywhere! In fact, I took my kids to the river for a picnic! I'm giving myself a solid B+ for the day's efforts.

note to self: when world domination is achieved, cancel Valentine's Day and Mother's Day ASAP.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Big To Do List

My senior year of high school, we were asked to articulate our aspirations and ambitions for our tender young futures. Mine reads like this: I have no ambition. Oh, the angst! the teenage gloom! Yes, I deserved a swift kick in the collective unconscious. I was reading too much Vonnegut, listening to loud punk music, spending too much time with bad influences and juvenile delinquents. And they wouldn't let me say Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, so really, what was I to say? But today, through the magic of the internet, I'm going back to high school to answer that question - (soon-to-be graduating student), what do you want to do with your life?

1. I want to see celery grow. Everytime I buy it at the grocery store, I think, what the hell does this stuff look like growing in the ground? Like green Roman columns? Like short palm trees? I want to see acres of celery on the hillsides of Tuscany or northern California or wherever it may grow. Is there special celery harvesting equipment? Celery House Rules?

2. I want to drive a Bobcat. They're so cute! Tiny heavy equipment! Girly industrial gear! This would involve purchasing new footwear (i. e., work boots), and that's always a plus.

3. I want to follow a river. Like the Mississippi. From source to sea, living out my own little Lewis & Clark fantasy. A good possibility of shoe shopping and the added allure of the occasional campfire to poke.

So, that's it. Nothing to compare with my classmate who wanted to be Quincy, M.E. But better than the generic Travel, Get Rich and Rule the World. It occurs to me that Hunter S. Thompson's untimely demise leaves an opening in the Gonzo Journalist world - I could try that too. Not because I'm that fabulous, but because that would be some Serious Fun.

Are You Tired of My Capitalized Emphatics Yet?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ground Rules

Should have done this on my first post, but better late than never.

Top Ten Things I Don't Wanna Talk About

1. You. At least most of the time.

2. God. Except where I need a colorful obscenity, or I'm drunk and philosphical.

3. Elected officials of any ilk, unless I want to take potshots at them.

4. My job, lest I find my self job-less.

5. Reality tv. Proof that Western civilization is riding a speedball to hell.

6. Michael Jackson. Just ick. ick. ick. ick. I want to wash my hands now.

7. Paris Hilton, unless I need a bad example. Don't fuck with my name, bitch!

8. My sex life. You have already met my breasts. The rest of me is less interesting.

9. Causes of the Week. If you've got money to give away, you can give it to me.

10. Cute Things My Kids Did/Said - at least not more than once a week.

And we (the royal one) are coming at you commercial free, 24/7/365 ad infinitum perpetuus. (that's hillbilly latin, btw).

Thursday, April 14, 2005

So, they called me from the hospital, wanting to look at my right boob again. This is NOT the news you want to hear after your first mammogram and especially when you’re a manic-depressive hypochondriac like me. My original mamm-o-grammer had told me that callbacks are common, nothing to be concerned about, etc. Sure they are. Common as dirt. Still, I’m not one to miss an opportunity to panic.

Fortunately, they were able see me the very next morning (which, naturally, made me worry that it was Really Bad and URGENT!). Again, I had to show them my driver’s license and the reception clerk was again unimpressed with my ‘will driving be involved?’ remark. I sat down to wait. Unfortunately, no new magazines. . There’s a friend of my mother’s on the other side of the room – I don’t want to explain why I’m here, so I keep my eyes on the floor, and send silly text messages requesting songs of inspiration. The nurse finally calls me AND my mom’s friend back together (irony is NOT just a literary device). A new room with two changing areas, a coffee pot, cookies and the omnipresent television, all under some very soft forgiving lights. We put on lovely open-in-the-front gowns and sit down, neither one of us attempting the coffee and cookies. We catch up on family gossip. The nurse takes her into the other room. Time of reflection and dread for me. Let’s send some more text messages! This is when I start screwing up. Not Dark Yet is a beautiful song. A powerful song. But it’s a real downer. Not inspiring. Not uplifting. And uplift is what we want when our breasts are involved! My mom’s friend comes back with good news, and now it’s my turn. We’re only interested in the right boob today, so this very nice, efficient lady takes a measurement on the original xray with her finger and draws an X on my boob with a black Sharpie. I hate the smell of Sharpies. She takes several pictures and toddles off to a radiologist for an instant read. I go back to the changing room and check messages. I’m amazed they are even being sent – I’m two doors down from that big hunk of magnet called an MRI. I’m likewise amazed there aren’t any signs telling me to shut it off. Anyway, I’m dressed again and here comes Nurse Efficient to call me back into the x-ray room. There’s a doctor in there. I don’t know much, but that looks like trouble to me. He gives me a watered down smile. There’s this little patch of calcification that, given my mom’s history, ought to be biopsied. Fuck me! This is my first mammogram! A BASELINE mammogram. I wait for him to tell me they’ll want to keep an eye on it on my next one. Instead he says, we can do a core biopsy on Monday, what time is good for you? Fuck me again! I’m supposed to be in Florida! Is it that urgent?? First good news is that it isn’t. It can wait a week or two.

Can I?

Sure I can, with the right medication. Which, in this case, was a week in not-so-sunny Florida with the offspring trying to read a stack of books and working (unsuccessfully, I should say) on improving my guitar playing. John Prine I’ll never be. However, if you need somebody to play a tediously slow Kumbaya, and you’ll spring for drinks, I can make myself available.

The actual biopsy was remarkably painless. My old friend, Nurse Efficiency, was the master of ceremonies. This was what is known as a stereotactic biopsy – and scientifically speaking, it was impressive. Like launching the space shuttle. My boob got Sharpied again, this time with an R – god knows I need all the help I can get telling my right from my left, but sad to say, it wasn’t permanent – somebody ought to let the Sharpie people know. Anyway, I lay on a table with a hole in it for boob R. The table is elevated and more mammography is done to guide the needle to the exact spot they want to biopsy. When everything is in place, the doctor comes in and does the biopsy. He asks Nurse E to get it x-rayed, I get a band-aid and an ice-pack. The doctor looks at his x-rays, gives me some post-procedure information and his card with his cell phone number on the back. That freaked me out. Doctors don’t do that. Unless it’s bad news. Can he see something already?

The wait begins.

While we’re waiting, let me attempt to describe the Strange Behavior. Not mine this time. Or maybe it was my Strange Perception of other people’s behavior. Judge for yourself. I got cards. Not playing cards. Thinking of You and Praying for You cards. Hell, as far as I knew, I wasn’t even sick! Did I look sick? Can they see something I can’t? And these people that sent them to me – I wouldn’t describe them as friends.

My hypochondriac paranoia ran amok. I teetered on the edge of a big Drama Queen meltdown.

The biopsy was on Monday, and the doctor said it could be as late as Friday before they had the results. Naturally, I didn’t hear until Monday and by then I was convinced I was in my Final Moments.

I was wrong.

All good news and nothing to worry about.

Thank you Jesus!

But, I’m kind of pissed. Not that I want to be sick, but I had the title of a lifetime: This Old Boob.

I could get them lifted…

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The older I get

The more weird and strange revelations are revealed to me at the damnedest times. Take yesterday as an example. I go to have my very first mammogram at my local hospital's outpatient center. While I'm watching the omnipresent Schiavo case unfold on CNN a very nice and professional nurse/technician is hoisting my boobs one at a time onto a metal plate and then pushing down on them with a plastic plate and telling me not to breathe. Two views of each. My breasts haven't been the center of so much attention since I stopped nursing five or so years ago. It didn't exactly hurt, but it wasn't exactly pleasant either. Anyway, as I walk to my car trying to rip my ID tag off (did they expect me to become unconscious during this procedure?), I am struck by the feeling of ownership. I've been toting these babies around for a good 30 years (early bloomer), and they've never really felt like part of me. In fact, for most of my life, they've been in the damn way. Like menstrual cycles and pantyhose, boobs were just a necessary nuisance. It would have been nice to put the whole Female Experience away in a closet until needed. Like a raincoat. My boobs have never (with exceptions Gwyneth Paltrow can appreciate) been big enough to stare at therefore they were/are non-threatening to other women, but boys seemed to like them. But I wanted to be loved for my brain. At first, anyway. Call me beautiful AFTER you tell me how smart I am. Not that I'm either, but we can pretend, can't we? So, these are MY boobs. Not my babies'. Not my husband's. Mine. Like my hands. My eyes and ears. MY boobs. Yes, I know. I'm a bit dense sometimes. The obvious never fails to escape me. I guess it was a feeling of empowerment that caused me to notice, doing something positive for my health. I've had approximately 50 pelvic exams (no, I'm not that old - I have 4 kids, dammit!), and never felt empowered. Only squishy. I guess boobs feel more like attachments, more like accessories; vaginas are internal, ergo they are inner, like small intestines and pancreata. They can, however, be accessorized.

I am 41 years old and I just found out I have tits.