Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Radio, Radio: The Angry Squirrel Edition!

Yes, kids, it's that time again. I'll be on the radio this Friday, talking about my recent run-in with the Wendy's chili-crazed squirrel (and other local wildlife.)

Tune into Metro Connection on WAMU -- the show runs from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST. I'll be the last segment, a few minutes before the end. In the DC area, you can find WAMU at 88.5 on your FM dial. Everyone can listen online at via live streaming or, later, in the archives. When the show is archived, I'll also have a link to it in the Radio, Radio section of my blog menu. (And for the father of Ceilisundancer, WMAL is 630 AM -- sorry I forgot to respond to your comment!!)

I'm working on more radio pieces over the holiday weekend. More adventures in the accident-prone/animal attack-prone/strangeness prone life. I invite you to come along, from the safety of your living room!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Song of the Day

I was getting an overpriced beverage at Caribou (which is a Native American word for "watered down coffee") a few weeks ago, and I heard this song come on their in-house music system. I liked it so much, I tore off a page of the Post and scribbled the lyrics down for a Google search. Found it. Dig it.

Here it is - "Your Heart Is an Empty Room" by Death Cab for Cutie:


Come along for a stroll with the Sasquatch and me through the midway on the final night of the 2007 Montgomery County Agricultural Fair ...

The photo above was taken by the Sasquatch.
I'm too short & couldn't snap the fish without
the reflection of the white light cutting it in half!

Want to see some better photos from the fair?
Visit the Sasquatch's blog for some good stuff!
He's got a good eye. (Two actually.)

Thanks for coming along!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

MoCo Midway (a preview)

Yeah, I so know it. I know I have fallen down on the job as a storyteller. All this shall pass. My brain is being sucked dry at the moment, but I'm looking forward to the Labor Day weekend to perk up the blog.

I owe so many people apologies for not having a spare moment to catch up with their pages -- Claire, Suze, Janet, Heather, Dariush, and so many others! Soon, soon, soon!

Later today, I'll post a bunch of my photos from the Montgomery County Fair trek last weekend. (And Heather, I'll be using that lovely account you got me to host the best of the bunch!)

For now, a little preview...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Uff da!

For those of you who did not grow up in a largely Scandahoovian Midwestern town, Wikipedia offers this explanation of "uff da' for you:

Uff da is an exclamation of Norwegian origin that is relatively common in the Upper Midwestern states of the United States. It roughly means "drats," "oops!" or "ouch!", especially if the "ouch!" is an empathetic one.

In Norwegian Midwestern USA cultures, "Uff Da" translates into: "I am overwhelmed."

"Uff da" is often used in the Upper Midwest as a term for sensory overload. It can be used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief and sometimes dismay. The term has been heard among men when a particularly attractive woman enters a room. Conversely, many Roto-rooter and septic system repair trucks have "Uff da" proudly painted on the back.

I've seen the "uff da" Roto-rooter trucks. Very amusing.

I am having an uff da kind of week. So much to do, so much to do. Looks like the timing belt is shot on the car - EEEK. Planned obsolescence at 100K is fine and dandy, but jeez louise! Did it really have to coincide with the brakes taking a mechanical dirt nap? I think the time has come for me to have to sell something I really prize - my 1929 Soviet charity auction poster. It's got wrinkles, it's not mint, but it is freakin' cool and a rare creature, for certain. Modern Russian paper stinks - paper of the 20s? It's amazing it isn't a handful of itchy dust! It goes beyond ephemera, frankly, and into the category of "lucky to have survived its own printing."

My sister found this poster - and its twin - in the bottom of a box at a garage sale in Iowa many moons ago. A couple of weeks ago, her husband took the twin poster (also framed) to Antiques Roadshow, where it was appraised.

And I'm bummed to say, it would pretty much cover the cost of the damn timing belt. Grrr!

I told a friend today, it's just a thing. Yeah, a thing with a tie to a very unique era in history - and with great design - but it's a thing, nonetheless. The thought of it in the hands of another Sovietica fan will make me happy at some point, but not quite yet.

In other news, I'm up to my neck in projects at work. I was at the office until 10 tonight (after which I stopped at the Burger King on Connecticut and insisted on my money back for the moldy-bunned chicken club they sold me at lunch. I think they were surprised when I handed them the offending sandwich, which I kept in my office fridge today. Yummy.) I anticipate being at work about that late for the next couple of nights. My brain will be fried by Saturday, I guarantee.

Our stunningly cool weather will turn back to hellfire by the weekend, changing DC from a pale imitation of San Francisco to a fairly accurate depiction of Hades once again. Well, it is August. I can't grumble too much, I suppose.

Other than that, I'm keeping head above water. A little crankier right now, but a bright spot popped up in my day today. My friend Lunesse had her baby! Hooray, Lunesse! You and DLJ will be great parents. Can't wait to see the first photos!

And speaking of photos, the Sasquatch and I took a brain break at the Montgomery County fair last Saturday night - just a couple of hours on photo safari, but it was a blast. I'll pull out my best photos and post them here tomorrow. Corndogs and neon and lots of skanky chicks with bleached hair, big knockers and very visible tramp stamps. Ahhh, America!

Off to bed now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thinking in Russian

I'm working on a little project for a friend tonight, and it's taxing my brain. I haven't had to think intelligently in Russian in quite a while, and this particular task requires a literary use of the language. Other than buying the occasional item at my local Russian grocery store and talking back to the pretentious talking heads on the local Russian cable TV shows, I've been very linguistically lazy.

All the way home from the coffee shop today, I was running Russian rhyme schemes through my skull. I've been hunkered down with my Oxford and Katzen dictionaries ever since.

Brain full now! Merujo sleep!

This blog brought to you by the letter "ж" and the word "кофеин."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

Dear Republicans:

Please, please, please... whatever you do, don't nominate Vigo the Carpathian...

Vigo the Destroyer...

Vigo the Cruel...

Vigo the Torturer...

Vigo the Actor Named Fred Thompson... for president.



Yeah, I know Thompson didn't really play Vigo in Ghostbusters II. That was the late actor Wilhelm von Homburg. But every single time I see good ol' Freddie boy and hear his frighteningly right wing plans for America, Vigo is the first thing that comes to mind.

The resemblance is uncanny, no?

Thompson is so conservative, he makes a burqa seem fashion forward. If elected, he will do his utmost to make abortion illegal and push for a constitutional amendment to keep states from having to recognize other states' gay marriages. Jackass.

You know what troubles me? The possibility that millions of TNT-rerun-addicted Americans will see his face and think, "Wow. He's the District Attorney on Law & Order. He will protect us and take care of us and love us and tuck us in at night." I worry about this because we're the same country that loves Paris Fucking Hilton and American Idol and elected George Bush. A second time.

This shit keeps me awake at night.

Where are Egon, Ray, and Peter Venkman when you need them? Seriously, there must be some sort of containment unit to keep the ever-creeping fascism and brain-sucked apathy from taking over.




Dear god, who are we gonna call?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Shocked! Simply shocked, I tell you!

The Sasquatch just sent me news that simply astounded me with its utter unexpectedness.

Drumroll please...

Siegfried and Roy are... gay!

Yes, like the mysteries of their magic, they've brilliantly kept this secret so well all these years. I mean I would never have guessed beneath their glitter, tights, and giant codpieces they were something other than massively straight.


I mean, c'mon. Those two have been queens of the stage for a damn long time. I imagine the only people who ever thought they were straight were John Paul II and Michael Jackson. (And I'm not sure even the Pope was that naive.)

WTF? No, really. WTF?

Seriously - they really did put on one hell of bizarre Vegas show. For all that I dissed it in that linked post (mostly because of the price tag), I'm glad I got to see it before Roy was mauled into retirement. And it's nice they're finally coming out. But really, kids, if you didn't have a clue that these gents were flying a rainbow flag, you need your gaydar fixed. Now.

Okay, I admit that sometimes it's a tough call
between "Vegas" and "gay", but, c'mon!

Suddenly craving a Sunday at Perry's drag brunch,


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If not a year, how about a week?

Ah, Douglas Adams - may you rest in peace - I think of you often. The fact that I'm turning 42 this year gives me hope that I may finally find out the answer to it all. Like so many peeps my age, without even thinking about it, I make references to the Hitchhiker's Guide in my everyday life. (Babel Fish, anyone?) One Hitchhiker-ism that stays with me is the concept of taking a year off dead for tax purposes, as was the case with a character in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Taking a year off dead for tax purposes, indeed.

I'd really, really, really, very sincerely like to be him right now.

This has been a tough week. The car is still inoperable, the bus in my neighborhood is working on a "we take a detour sometimes" schedule, which means being at the bus stop at 6-something in the ayem, hoping that one will come eventually and get me to the Metro early enough so I don't have to hobble-run to the office, and my back is screaming so much, I'm considering taking my very last Vicodin tonight.

I'm trying (and failing) at smiling through some encounters with "difficult people" lately, and I cannot help but feel a little like a karmic punching bag. Today found me wondering if I was just being paranoid and then realizing that, no, indeed, some people actually were out to get me! I hope this bad karma will fade. Hope, hope, hope.

Let's face it - I knew the week was going to suck when I got the flat, knowing that I can no longer afford to just say, "Oh, just fix it, thanks!" But I really knew the week was going to suck like nobody's business when I sat in someone else's poop on the Metro.

Yeah, poop.

Crap. Doodie. A big dump. A right royal mess. In need of a scooper.


After waiting almost an hour and a half for the damn bus, I got to the Grosvenor Metro station, bolted for the Red Line train to Silver Spring, and was rewarded with a seat at the end of one of the cars. Ahhhh. A quiet ride to Farragut North! One stop down the line, I realized there is a copy of Express sitting on the seat with me. What the hell, I thought. I'll do a little reading.

As I pulled the paper up, it seemed a bit... heavy. It slid against my leg... aaaaand voila! Yes, the Express was being used to cover someone's surprise dump. Before I even made it to the Bethesda Metro, I had shit smeared on my black pants. SON OF A BITCH!

I had to get off at Bethesda, let someone know about the Express-hidden poop and tug at my shirt all the way back to Grosvenor, hoping no one thought I'd just crapped myself. Of course, since the bus to my 'hood was (and still is) running a strange schedule - and I wasn't about to call a cab and have myself thrown out for making a mess, I had to make the nearly one-mile walk of shame back to my apartment, change clothes, and start this whole thing again.

Waiting for the bus, a motherless fawn attempted to adopt me at the bus stop. I felt terrible for the poor guy as I tried to shoo him away. I kept imagining he was thinking, "Will you be my mom?" Which, of course, made me feel worse.

At least there wasn't any poop in my Metro seat on my second ride downtown.

I'm trying to be zen and hope that tomorrow will be a better day than today. Friday, I get paid, so I can have the car towed to NTB and see if the tire can be saved. My bet is no, but we'll see.

Right now, I'm just dog tired. My dreams have been near hallucinatory lately, and I have to wonder what tonight will bring. My favorite of the past week: a Fox reality game show where you shoot giant rare fish underwater with dart guns... with "celebrity" teammate Tara Reid (and her lopsided boobies stuffed in a bikini.) If you kill enough of the rare critters to cause some sort of icthyo-genocide, you move onto the next round where you get to shoot dart guns at Fox TV executives (again, with Tara Reid - wtf?)... while their families watch. I swear to God, I only had beef vegetable soup for dinner that night. Honest.

Tara Reid, dart gunning rare creatures (and people) for cash, and poop on my Metro seat.

Does it get any better than that? Really?

Dear lord, I hope so!

Yours, from the "I'm on the edge" zone,


Monday, August 13, 2007


I just read (via Fark) that venting/kvetching/complaining to friends can make your problems worse. (And probably make your friends want to kick you to the curb.)

So, I've edited this rantish post about a craptacular day to simply say this:

Today, I am Hurley. Without the lottery win. And immediate access to a beach.

Friday, August 10, 2007

An Act of Simple Devotion

Certainly, there are more important things in this world. War, death, taxes, a good job, a roof over your head.

Certainly there are.

Absolutely there are.

But while I can be as practical as I need to be - and lord knows being skint means having to be ingeniously practical - there is part of me that is hopelessly devoted to music. My music. The music that keeps me mentally afloat at the hardest of times.

It will sound foolish to some, surely, but I'm so tremendously disappointed that I won't be hearing Crowded House play in Philadelphia tonight, I could cry. Go ahead, roll your eyes, but it's true. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Neil Finn could make me swoon and sigh just singing pages from the phone book.

I've seen Neil solo a couple of times, and it's been fantastic. Not only is the music beautiful, full of hooks and anchored with lyrics that Paul McCartney *wishes* he'd written, but the Finn man has such a lovely rapport with his audience. He loves letting them sing along - he gets this almost rapturous smile on his face as his fans echo back his own words and music. It's a really lovely thing. You get the impression that Neil is one of those people you'd like to just hang out with in a coffee shop, talking about whatever, and he'd treat you decently and appreciate you - not just tolerate you like many pop stars probably would.

Sure, I don't know that's true. It's just a little daydreamy fantasy, but it's a very pleasant vision I'd like to hold onto. Go figure, when I have fantasies about musicians or actors, it's not about fame or steamy seduction, it's about hanging out and having a cup of coffee.

Or tea.

Yeah, sometimes the fantasy is tea.

Even when I was of an age when I more frequently went all crushy on pop stars, it wasn't about the hot luuuuvin', it was always about hanging out, talking, maybe taking a road trip somewhere. Honest. I've always had the most clean-cut fantasy life ever.

I think part of that comes from the fact that, in real life, I couldn't ever get any guys interested enough in me to even go to a coffee shop and talk. So, my psyche is forever taking baby steps, I guess.

Back in college, of course y'all already know, my big crush was on Thomas Dolby.

Dolby then

All retro suits and round glasses and floppy blond hair. Swoon material, for certain. Over the years, my crush faded. In its place, there's great affection, occasional vexation, and tremendous admiration. I once told a good friend - with a wistful laugh - you just can't have a crush on someone once you've seen pics of their kiddos in their cute Halloween costumes. Guess I'm just too Midwestern for that! I'm just so pleased to see nice folks in the limelight having a wonderfully normal, happy family life, that any crush is, well, crushed at that point. And hey, I'd take a friend over a crush any old day.

Dolby now

But I can still have my harmless coffee shop fantasies. Once, in a strange synchronistically dazzling moment, I had one of these fantasies come true when I encountered one half of Tears For Fears (the talented half) in one of those ubiquitous chain coffee joints right here in Bethesda. Freaked me out. I made myself late to work because I had to stop and say hello. And he was charming and kind and talked with me much longer than he was surely obligated to. Much to my chagrin, the Sasquatch probably walked right past said coffee shop on his way to the Metro and missed out on the whole chat. Bummer.

But moments like those are few and far between, even in my Weirdness Magnet existence. You just don't generally walk into a Bethesda Starbucks and find international pop stars nursing a tea in the corner. (I did encounter Adam Ant waiting for a prescription at a pharmacy here, too, but that's another story altogether...)

Crowded House then

It's not that I figured if I made it to the Crowded House gig in Philly tonight, I'd have any one-on-one time with anyone in the band. I'm not delusional, honest! It's just that, I've never seen them perform together, and the vibe that seems to come off all their gigs is warm and welcoming and you're part of the in-jokes. So many bands touring right now - the ones that have been around for a long time... I dunno... The rapport just isn't there anymore, either between the members of the ensemble or between the band and the audience. I think there's a lot of them going through the motions and just hauling in a lot of cash (overpriced Police reunion tour, anyone?) But when the band members are friends, when they genuinely enjoy each other's company and just soak up the energy of the crowd? Man, that's so good. Not to be trite, but we can feel the love.

Crowded House now

When the Sasquatch and I saw Erasure perform at the 9:30 Club back in 2005, we got that vibe from Andy and Vince. There just seemed to be such a deep friendship between the two guys on stage, it was genuinely moving and just enhanced the music on a totally different level. (By the way, Erasure's new CD, Light at the End of the World? Fantastic. If you love old school Erasure - the fun electronic pop we all danced around to in the 80s and early 90s, you will dig this. It's a total return to their roots, and I love it.)

I'm not sure that I'd want to hang out with Andy and Vince. (I couldn't keep up with Andy, the perennial clubber. Although I find the thought of Vince and his wife living in some quiet Maine town pretty hilarious. I wonder if his Yankee neighbors know he's this electronic music demi-god?) Some performers I love, but I imagine the coffee shop fantasy would fail.

Morrissey? Well, crap. He still makes my heart race a bit faster, but he probably wouldn't even want to shake my hand, let alone hang out, since I love a good steak and am looking forward to a juicy slice of turkey or two at Thanksgiving. On the other hand, Morrissey seems incredibly intent on connecting with his audiences. When he is on stage, he is there for you, dear listener. And that is a beautiful thing. No wonder he gives the ladies (and 10% of the gents) serious palpitations.

Joe Jackson, on the other hand, does not give me palpitations, although his music utterly kicks ass. Joe gave off a bit of an F-U vibe when the Sasquatch and I met him a few years back at a book signing in DC (although there were mitigating factors in JJ being less than cordial.) No coffee shop fantasies there, although I'd love to see him in concert again, with all his caffeine and nicotine energy pulsing through gangly limbs and a Gollum-ish pale face, powering out unbelievably, soulfully good tunes.

Just no coffee shop time with Joe, thanks. (He'd probably boycott coffee shops in Maryland, anyway, as they're all smoke-free, and Joe is all about being able to smoke wherever the hell he wants.)

Truth is, being musically talented doesn't necessarily mean that you have superior stage presence or know to connect to people or even want to connect to people. I assume, at the heart of things, musicians make music for themselves first and foremost. That need to create comes before the need to share. Some people have that added element of charisma or charm or a sincere desire to reach out to others - live, in person - that boosts them from "just" talented musician to successful performer.

Of course, there are some people who don't personally connect with their live audiences, yet that somehow translates into "mystery" and increases their cachet. The Sasquatch tells me Michael Stipe used to turn away from his audiences when he sang. That would have driven me nuts in concert, but it only served to increase his legend. Of course, now that Michael is comfortable in his own skin, we get to see waaaay too much of Stipe-y boy. I love me some good R.E.M., I'm just not sure I need to see him modeling for Marc Jacobs.

There was this alt rock-ish band I used to go see in London - Felt. Loved their sort of atmospheric tuneage. But they had so little rapport with us, it made the concerts feel superficial. I liked the music, but their lack of engagement with us in the here and now translated into a less passionate appreciation of their stuff on my part. When these guys took the stage, the lead singer simply muttered "We're Felt" into his mic, and that was that. The music poured forth, but there were no more words, no thank yous. Just nada, zip, zilch. I own everything Felt ever put out (great study music), but do I really listen to it now? Nope.

On the other hand, when Dolby returned to the stage at the beginning of 2006, there was such a sense of joy from his audiences, and seeing him grinning from ear to ear like an ecstatic Cheshire cat, reflecting our glee, just boosted the pleasure. Since there was no band with Thomas, there was no one to share banter. But he told us stories and acknowledged us - sometimes directly - in his cheerful, yet slightly shy English way. It will be really neat to see how the storyteller modifies his one-man show talk in September when he returns to us on the East Coast with the Jazz Mafia Horns. I've never seen him share a stage (except at IT conference panels, that is), so this will be fun.

The EP (available at or on iTunes) is really damn good!

But the relationship with the Jazz Mafia Horns is a relatively new one for Thomas, so it's not the long-standing blend of performance and life that Crowded House has behind it. Yes, the mercurial personality of late drummer Paul Hester is gone, but definitely not forgotten. But in his loss there seems to be an even stronger bond between Neil Finn and his remaining band mates. I've been reading concert reviews this week from other fans and the snippets of hilarious banter that these old friends toss back and forth and the efforts they take to engage the audience far beyond what I've personally experienced at other groups' gigs. Something that really touched me was the report from a New York fan who got to see a freebie preview show back in July. At one point, Neil added new lyrics to one of their classic songs, wondering what the next point would be when the audience would sing along with the band again.

That's just cool.

I once saw Neil pull a woman out of the audience at the 9:30 Club to come and sing with him. She was so lovely, a bashful, zaftig woman who swayed to the music as she sang next to Neil - just another fan, but one with a great set of pipes. He invited her to come along and sing again at his next gig the following night in Philly.

And that's where I'd like to be right now. In Philly. Waiting for Neil and Nick and Mark and Matt to take the stage. Waiting to be enveloped in that music and mood that resonates with so many of us. I'd like to be part of that crowd, listening for familiar strings of notes and poetry that reminds us of specific places and times and makes us feel good or laugh or ache.

But the tickets were expensive for my empty pocketbook, and the car needs new brakes (as in, the brake light is now illuminated, which ain't good.) The rational mind won out; I couldn't justify the cost of a ticket and gas and a place to sleep, which would equal out to the cost of the brakes, more or less. So, instead, I've fantasized about someone giving me a ticket. Ridiculous, sure. But you know, a girl can dream.

Lemme go back a few years and explain why this situation is so much more painful than it probably should be for a grown-up. In 1994, Crowded House came through DC for the very last time before breaking up. April 1994, to be more precise. Okay, April 10, 1994. Lisner Auditorium. Sheryl Crow opened for them. (Might explain why Neil is the male harmony voice on "Every Day is a Winding Road.") But you see, when the tickets went on sale, I was out of the country. Kazakhstan, to be precise. I was staying in a foul hooker-ridden hotel (you'll read about it in the book) with none of "teh Internets" or even a reliable phone line. It was me, the hookers, the snow coming in through the hole on the balcony door, two TV channels that showed a Kazakh soap opera 24/7 and a hotel cafe that serve weevil-infested soup.

Good times, good times.

I had asked a friend to buy me a ticket for Crowded House while I was doing the grand tour of Borat-land. But he forgot. Honestly, he just forgot. He'd started dating someone new while I was gone, and, frankly, I think he had much more important (or at least more, uh, interesting) things on his mind than picking up a concert ticket for me. "Crowded What?" I absolutely do not fault him for this. He had no clue just how much I wanted to hear these guys. Hell, I myself might have forgotten, too, under similar circumstances.

When I got back to DC, though, the tickets were long gone. Sold out. None available. And I'm too much of a straight arrow to have even thought of finding a scalper.

Missing that concert was one of my big "things that got away" - I've thought about it many times in the 12+ years since, believe it or not.

That's how much my music matters to me.

Look, I've got no husband, no boyfriend, no kids. Music is a refuge for me. I have a soundtrack for my life. It makes me smile, it makes me cry, it helps me dream. And when I am in a room full of people who love that same music - and with musicians who want to reach out to you and feel the love you have for them - that can be pretty damn profound. It's a positive human connection - strangely intimate in less than intimate circumstances - that is often lacking in my "real" life.

And I'm missing it tonight.

Two nights ago, someone here in the DC area posted to the Crowded House forum - she had two tickets she could not use for Philly. She had given up on selling them and she wanted to give them away.

I was too late. I missed her post by minutes, but it was too late. I'm happy, though, that they went to someone else from the forum. Means they went to a fan for whom this would be a joyful experience. I was willing to light candles on my dashboard for the car to hold up and sleep in a rest area had I gotten the tickets. Just wasn't meant to be.

I just read a few minutes ago that Neil's voice is in bad shape after their gigs in NYC and they had to curtail a live radio performance for WXPN at World Cafe Live at noon. It's questionable as to whether his voice will hold up for tonight's gig.

Guess it really just wasn't meant to be.

I'll just hope that the boys come back for another tour. I'll hope that this CD sells well enough to call them back to this continent that has never been very kind to them sales-wise. I'll hope that the love they get from all their audiences will be enough. (And the revenue from the t-shirt sales, of course. Concert t-shirts cost more than some tickets now. Kinda makes me glad they don't make them in my size - no temptation at all!)

Okay, if you're gonna have a concert t-shirt in your collection,
this one's pretty cool.

So, Philly friends, fellow fans - enjoy tonight. Here's hoping for clear skies and good health for the man who has to belt 'em out. But hey - even if Neil can't sing his heart out, you can sing back to him. Sing one for me.