Saturday, May 31, 2008

If I had a tank of gas

I would drive out to the Eastern Shore right now. Listen to the sound of the ocean rolling on the sand. Breathe in the air. Sink my toes in the sand. Track satellites across the sky.

If I had more gas, I'd do what I did in 2001 and drive to the Florida Keys and commune with the fish. Watch the lizards spin on the walls, read in the moonlight, feel my skin brown by the day and taste the salt as I rise from the clear waters out in the Tortugas.

If I had a plane ticket, I'd fly to Bangkok and lose myself in temples and canals. Giant shrimp and cuttlefish grilled on a stick, stoned backpackers seeking island refuge, monks with begging bowls.

Instead, I have a headache from tears I would rather have not shed and from my need to bite my tongue as best I can. It's exhausting to try to do the right thing some days.

But in a moment, I will have a lime and raspberry popcicle and Neil Finn singing on my headphones. It's not exactly a moment of exotica, but it is an escape that will work for this Saturday night. Each day, I feel like I lose something with my friends as they move on with their lives and I move ever backwards. I will try to take heart in these lyrics tonight.
Together alone
above and beneath
we were as close
as anyone can be
now you are gone
far away from me
as is once will always be
together alone

anei ra maua (here we are together)
e piri tahi nei (in a very close embrace)
e noha tahi nei (being together)
ko maua anake (just us alone)

kei runga a Rangi (Rangi the sky-father is above)
ko papa Kai raro (the earth mother is below)
e mau tonu nei (our love for one another)
kia mau tonu ra (is everlasting)

Together alone
shallow and deep
holding our breath
paying death no heed
I'm still your friend
when you are in need
as is once will always be
earth and sky
moon and sea

Sunday, May 25, 2008

That's Entertainment!

Sorry the last post was such a bummer. Some weeks are better than others, you know?

Money stuff always blows. And speaking of things that, uh, blow...

Although it's not a refund from Verizon for the phone call, they accidentally gave me a gift of sorts Saturday night. Well, not so much a gift, but an extended biology lesson. Sometimes, when the batteries are running low on my remote, you press a button and instead of getting the pressed number once, you get it three times. If that three-digit number isn't a legit channel, it will throw you to the end of the channel listing, somewhere in the 800s. Usually, that's something in Chinese - bad soap operas, Chinese home shopping, you name it. This time, I tried to dial up some late night news on the boob tube, but the numbers stuck. I know 888 is a lucky number in China.

And I, apparently, won some Beijing bachelor's jackpot.

How do I put this? There certainly were Asians on my TV, and they were offering some drama, but... well... it was of the tremendously nekkid variety.

Yeah, somehow I had hardcore porn on my TV. And I mean seriously hardcore.

Of course, being the curious type, I decided to watch. Hey - it was free. I was home alone. I'm an adult. What's the harm, eh? Apparently, my freebie movie was called "Eleven Girls in Three-Ways." Lucky me. There was no dialogue. (Okay, there was a leeetle bit of dialogue. Usually it was in the form of grunted commands from guys with a lot of tribal tattoos. Or queries about whether the female participants liked it "that way.")

For the most part, there was just a lot of... uh... penetrating action. Yeah, that's the way to describe it. And a lot of ass-smacking. I was waiting for the one woman to stop the action and say, "Knock that shit off! I work an office temp job tomorrow!" I hope the director bought her an inflatable donut.There were also lots of strange camera angles. Really strange camera angles. I'm not going to describe it (you can thank me for that), but I dubbed one of the shots the "scroto-cam." Use your own imagination, kids.

Hell, one sequence was being shot by a male participant. And if he's going to shoot film like that again, he needs to work on his abs. His midsection was getting in the way.

But, perhaps I have said too much...

Hey - single girls with no cash can't be too choosy about entertainment, eh? So when something free falls into your lap (eek - poor choice of phrase there), you have to go with it! I went into the On Demand system today and found out that sucker costs $14.99 to rent for six hours! (Perhaps "sucker" was a poor word choice, too.) Doing the porn math, that's roughly 20 cents a minute (it was 72 minutes long, according to the on-screen info) or, if you split it between the eleven girls, that's a buck thirty-six per girl. The filmmakers didn't give us a, uh, head count (snerk) on the guys and I didn't count the actual number of three-ways; sorry I'm missing those equations for you.

This morning, the Sasquatch took me to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - it was fun, by the way! I really enjoyed it. Good movie, good company!

Now, Indy runs 120 minutes, and the matinee ticket for the 10 a.m. show was $7.50. That means, Indiana Jones costs you about $0.06 a minute, compared to $0.20 for the bad porn.

Who knew Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg were such entertainment bargains?!?

I'll take a 65-year-old bruised and battered Ford over horny, shaven strangers any day.

Wow. That's something I never figured I'd be writing.

Strange days, indeed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Beware Verizon FIOS Customers!

My bill just arrived and I discovered I was charged $30 for a 9 minute phone conversation with my brother in Germany. I always use 10-10-987 for my calls, since I can't afford "standard" rates. I am beyond furious, as a FIOS rep just told me "sometimes the 10-10-987 doesn't get 'picked up' with FIOS and that's not Verizon's routing problem." Too bad, so sad, I'm out $30. I'm so angry. Every available penny of every pay check is taken up in living expenses. I haven't been able to put a dime in savings for months. I still have $0.77 there. If something bad happened to me today, someone might as well smother me with a damn pillow in my hospital bed because I couldn't afford to do shit to take care of myself.

You know, I keep the FIOS service because the bundle is cheap, cable TV is my main - and 98% of the time, only - affordable remaining vice, and the Internet I use for working at home. But I have to figure out now what I can cut out for next month in order to pay this extra on the bill. Goddamit. What do I skip? Laundry? Gas? A prescription? A doctor's appointment? Fuck!

I'm running out of "good stuff" I can try to sell on eBay or on the Intranet at work. That cupboard is pretty damn bare. And no one wants the crap I have left over.

I really need to talk a walk now and cool down, but I'm not supposed to be walking far.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuckety fuck!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Little More Screen-Free Time

Time for a little more time away from the glow of the monitor. Last weekend's foray into fewer screen hours helped with the headaches, so I'm aiming for that again. I'm sure I'll have something to write at some point, but until then, enjoy some more good music.

First up - a killer, killer, killer performance of a beautiful - and beautifully crafted - song:

Amazingly, I had never seen the following video until this week. It's from 1986. I was living in the UK at the time (where I bought my first Crowded House single, which still has the HMV price tag on it) and I didn't have access to MTV then:

One of the little delights in that video is the appearance of Neil Finn's wee little kiddo, Liam ("introducing Liam"), a musician in his own right now, and a hirsute one at that:

400% hairier than his toddler self!

And, now, two gems from another of my favorite singer-songwriters, Michael Penn. This first one is, unsurprisingly, the tune that made me a Michael Penn fan in the first place. It's a good entry point into MP's sepia-toned world:

But that radio-friendly tune is just the tip of the iceberg, kids. Go listen to his other music. This next one is off "Resigned" - one of my absolute favorite MP releases. The video for the song which you can see here was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. (You can find it as an extra on the "Boogie Nights" DVD - you'll see Phillip Seymour Hoffman pop up in the video!) It's one continuous tracking shot in one of the world's longest hallways, in a courthouse in L.A. Sadly, the video is locked from embedding in blogs. Here, however, is a live performance of this cool tune:

Okay, time to wander away from the keyboard. Housecleaning and some Ex Machina reading awaits...

Enjoy Memorial Day, folks. Between showings of Indiana Jones and BBQs, please take a moment to remember the meaning of the day.

Remember them well, those who have died for us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This is what makes it all worthwhile...

I'm breaking with my "no posts about work" policy simply to say this -- if you are in DC and have the time, I hope you will go visit the exhibition "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul" at the National Gallery. It opens this weekend, but I had the pleasure of seeing it this morning at a press event. These priceless, millennia-old items on display - gold, ivory, bronze, glass, stone - represent the cultural wealth of a country that once thrived at the heart of the Silk Road. The pieces of gold you may have heard of before, referred to as the "Bactrian Hoard." Equally as remarkable are the Begram ivories (featuring some curvaceous babes of Bactria) and delicate glass bottles and goblets that somehow have not shattered to dust over the course of 2,000 years. (I love the fish-shaped bottles!) Honestly, it's all quite magnificent.

My friend and colleague, Dr. Fredrik Hiebert, National Geographic Explorer and Archaeology Fellow, is the curator and driving force behind the exhibition. His work to inventory the rediscovered artifacts - hidden by heroic Afghans who put their lives on the line to protect these precious pieces of history from the Taliban - led us down the path to the exhibition that now graces the National Gallery for a few short months this year before heading to San Francisco, Houston, and NYC and then back overseas.

A tremendous amount of work went into making this exhibition happen. I can guarantee you - a lot of weekends, late nights, and vacation days were lost to securing the funding, negotiating relationships, handling logistics. So many people, both here and abroad, have worked so hard to bring the project to fruition. And today, seeing Fred and his Afghan colleagues so warmly received and applauded for all their efforts was so cool.

It's at moments like that when you realize you are part of something much bigger, much better... it makes it all worthwhile... the endless paperwork, revisions, budgets, careful diplomacy - everything needed to actually get this stuff funded and off the ground... suddenly, you're not a paperpushing scribe - for a fleeting moment, you're part of history, peering out from behind the curtains as the main players take the stage. At one point in my life, I wanted to be one of those players, but now, I am happy to make things happen behind the scenes. (The dress code is more casual backstage.)

One of the great things about Fred is that he doesn't forget the people who help make things happen. He takes the time to thank you and recognize you. Along with being a scholar, he's a real gentleman and a fine human being. When I opened up a copy of the exhibition catalog, I was really touched to see my name among those he personally thanked. How neat!

Thank you, Fred. And thanks to the people of Afghanistan for sharing these remarkable pieces of the past with us.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tater Toot

This is possibly one of the most tasteless things I'll ever post here, but since I experienced it, I feel the need to share it with you. I'm not living this nightmare alone!!

At an undisclosed location in the metro DC area today, I got into an elevator just as someone else was getting out. The lone female departee was wearing heavy perfume - strange, cloying, unpleasant. It trailed out after her, along with another scent. She'd ripped a massive fart in the lift - again, strange, cloying, unpleasant. I tried with all my might to not breathe in, but I had a few floors to go, and I had no choice. I prayed that, when I reached the bottom, no one would be waiting, thinking I'd left the stinker for them.

But here's the weird part: the perfume odor mixed with the oh-so-noxious fart and - as god as my witness - it smelled like a baked potato.

A baked potato that had farted, that is.

I swear, perfectly mixed, equally balanced in the air was that familiar scent of an oven-toasted tuber wrapped in aluminum foil with the equally familiar and fairly disgusting scent of bachelor innards after three days living on Cheez Whiz and cans of Chef Boyardee pasta.

I know - you're reading this, thinking, wow - she's gone off the deep end. But it's hand-on-Bible true. If baked potatoes could fart, THIS was how it would smell!

Though I was totally grossed out, I still had the giggles for a good five minutes.

Handy hint ladies - if you've just filled up on fiber, don't reapply the Eau de Eeeeeek. And don't assume the ventilation in the elevator is going to save your reputation if you're suddenly overcome with the urge to gaseously purge. You may be taking everyone around you on a bizarre "sensory journey" they're not ready to take! Let's just say, it's gonna be a good long while before a big Idaho baker is back on my dinner plate...

Friday, May 16, 2008

This just in...

I've been good about staying away from the keyboard today, but I had to write about this.

The Sasquatch just let me know that Robert Mondavi died today. I'm sure he was a decent businessman, and I hope he was good to his family and friends.

That said, the man was a complete tool to me in my only interaction with him. I wrote about it out here back in 2005, and then, I kinda-sorta kept his identity out of the picture. Well, kinda.

But, now that he's dead, I can confirm that it was "Robert Fucking Mondavi" (his words, not mine) who once called me a bitch in the middle of screaming at me over the phone in Moscow. The words "rich dickhead" came to mind at the time. I didn't appreciate it. To this day, I've made a point of never buying or drinking any wine put forth by his various and sundry enterprises.

An acquaintance of mine (one of my first Internet blind dates back in the day - a guy who looked like Mario Batali, without the Crocs) met Mondavi at a wine tasting a few years after he unjustifiably ripped me a new one during his Rich Jerk Hissy Fit. My acquaintance called him on it, in front of a bunch of people. Mondavi remembered doing it. He gave pseudo-Mario a bottle of wine in response. Of course, I never saw any of that wine. I guess I can appreciate that at least Mondavi had the presence of mind to say, "Hey, sorry I called someone you went on a date with once "bitch." Here, have a bottle."

(If only you could see me roll my eyes through the ether.)

Adios, Bob. Hope you find the afterlife to be whatever you truly earned.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Some music while you're on hold...

While I take my little blog vacation, enjoy some fine music:

Good song, fun video - now I want to spin around at a traffic circle:

I love this one, but the line about "where the banshees cry" always makes me think of Spinal Tap:

And for something completely different, but quite wonderful:

And remember, wherever you go, make a little birdhouse in your soul!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Time for a couple of days off

Not sure what the deal is, but I'm getting nausea-inducing headaches first thing in the morning and just around the end of the work day this week. I used to get the morning headaches quite when I worked for "Ill Will" many moons ago, but I think those were caused by stress when I worked for the insane woman who chewed her thumbs until they bled, and then drew little symbols in her blood on office memos.

Go figure.

I think the morning headaches right now are a result of not being able to get a physical therapy appointment for a week. I must sleep like a pretzel, and that can't be good for all those healing bones.

As for the end of the day headaches? I think it's just too much time staring at the computer screen and not being able to take walks throughout the day right now to get my eyeballs off the monitor.

Things will improve with time.

But I think I'll cut myself a long weekend of slack here at the Church of the Big Sky. I'm taking what the Russians would call a "malen'kiy pereryv" - a short break. See if a couple of evenings away from the keyboard will stave off the head thumpers.

Next week is nutty with work events, too, so things will be spotty for a bit. I'll Twitter here and there, but look for something the following weekend.

Yeah, while the rest of America is bbq'ing, I'll be blogging.

I'm nothing if not a bit off-kilter...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Inappropriate Laughter

I annoyed the crap out of the upstairs neighbor tonight. He's back after a couple of weeks of being away from Chez Merde. His absence brought blissful, blissful silence. But now, the pounding, swearing, and door-slamming have all returned in full force. Ugh. I did not miss him.

I called my sister the social worker tonight and we got each other laughing like idiots about all sorts of incredibly crude stuff, like "Jackass 2". We watched that a couple of Christmases ago - eating carry-out steak from some place in Iowa in front of the boob tube at her house. We laughed so hard that night, I couldn't breathe and she thought she was going to toss her cookies.

Guilty pleasures. What can I say?

Her Internet access is spotty at home, so I read her some entries from this great LiveJournal post the Sasquatch sent to me a few days ago. I laughed so hard, I wheezed as I read the insane "Engrish" to her. And Angry Indian Doctor stomped on his floor, rattling my ceiling and windows. Of course, it wasn't even 9:30 at night then. He usually waits until 11:30 or so, himself, to start swearing up a storm or fighting with his wife. Recently, he and the missus developed a new habit: loud, carpet-burn-inducing makeup sex on the living room floor. It's quite the accompaniment to my evening television viewing. Somehow, "Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe" seem even more dirty when people are grunting, squealing and thumping around just above your head.

Rug burns. {{shudder}}

But even when the cranky man upstairs is pounding around (you may read "pounding" any way you want, kids!) there is something healing in a good belly laugh, and I had a few of those tonight. Who cares if the peeps upstairs have to hear me for once!

And, remarkably, my spine isn't screaming at me.

Good enough for a Monday, I reckon.

Three-fer (or is that tree-fer?)

I heard that increasingly familiar BOOM this morning - the sound of a tree coming down on my street. Literally, the third time in one month. There must be some disease affecting them. And 24 hours of steady rain surely weakened an already dying thing. This time, the tree missed buildings and cars (for the most part - I have a tiny bullet-type ding in my windshield) but has me temporarily trapped. E-mailed my boss. I'll be late this morning. And, since I woke up with a nasty sore throat courtesy of gunk coming up through the air conditioning vents and the cold damp weather, I'm not going out to take photos in the rain this time.

When the chainsaws stop, I'll go out and see if I can leave.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I really do know better...

...than to ever stop at the Hellmouth 7-11. Home to so many strange episodes in my already strange life, the convenience store of Satan continues to confound me.

Yesterday, after a fruitful run to Big Lots (where, as usual, I was the only native speaker of English seeking bargains among the crap), I decided to run in and grab a gallon of milk and an early Sunday paper at 7-11. What could possibly go wrong, eh?


I grabbed a gallon of 1%, which was only slightly more expensive than gas in Montgomery County, a Sunday WaPo, and, for good measure (and potassium), a banana. The Indian clerk at the check-out counter was a woman roughly my age. She started to ring me up and said, "So, you are going out to dinner now?"

I looked down at my newspaper, banana, and milk. Strange stuff to take along to a restaurant, especially at 3:30 in the afternoon. "Uhhhh... no. I'm going home. Think I'll take a little nap, and then do some housecleaning."

The clerk offered a sad smile. "Ah... your children are not taking you out to dinner?"

I was still confused. "Umm... I have no children."

Again she said, "Ahhh, I see. Then your husband will be taking you out to dinner?"

Ah-ha. I got it. Mother's Day. "Uhhh... I'm not married."

The clerk stopped ringing up my stuff. "Then you will be taking your mother out to dinner?"

This was getting a little obnoxious. "Unfortunately, my mother died in 2001." (More than she needed to know, but I was vexed.)

Putting my paper and banana in a bag, she responded, very sadly. "So, then, you are like me. No one to love and no one loves you."

My jaw just about hit the floor. I wanted to say "Speak for yourself, sister!" but instead I just said, "I hope your weekend improves."


Since Mom passed away, I don't put much mind to Mother's Day. All of my sisters are mothers, as are the vast majority of my female friends. But I'm not a member of that club. It actually offends me when friends tell me that I will never really know love until I have a child. So, because I'm childless, I'm incapable of Real Love? WTF?

I fear I would have made a pretty crappy mother; I can't keep a plant alive. Some of my friends have even said that to me (about children, not plants, that is.) And, while I never necessarily saw myself with children, it still hurts - stings really badly - to have people I love and respect tell me I wouldn't be good at a pretty damn common, central, human, womanly task.

I would love to say that I am a woman without regrets, but that would not be true. In many respects, I feel that have been a failure at the basics of being what 90% of this planet considers a woman. I've never been good enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, educated enough (mostly thin enough, I know) for any of the men I've loved in my life to want to even consider me as a partner. I will never know that apparently transformative experience of being a mother. The truth is, except when there are deadlines at work, no one actually needs me.

I recognize my personal failings -they are legion. And despite them - and the belief that the average American feels it's cool to mock the shit out of me - I don't look for sympathy. I don't want it. I shun it, as a matter of fact. I find it embarrassing.

That said, as my last single friends move forward to marriages and partnerships, though, I do ponder this: as space and time and obligations and commitments put distance between us, will I reach a point where I feel as absolutely empty as that clerk in the 7-11?

I pray not.

About a dozen years ago, I was in a rural market in Uzbekistan - somewhere on the road between Tashkent and Samarkand. The market was filled with old men and women of indeterminate age - their sun-leathered skin and gold teeth masking whatever youth remained. As I left, one of the withered women took my hands in hers. She bowed her head, wrapped in a bright green and pink scarf, and studied my palms. After a minute or two, she lifted her head and spoke to me in Russian. "When you die," she said, her eyes locked on mine, "Many men will mourn you, but no women will."

I found that funny and puzzling, especially considering my innate inability to build an intimate relationship with any man in my more than half a lifetime. And yet, once I was accused of breaking up a relationship because my platonic friendship with the male half of the equation was too solid. (It was a massive cop-out excuse from a woman who had PLANS and a fairly rigid timetable for marriage that her boyfriend didn't care to meet.) After the break-up, she informed me that she had discussed it with her boss - her boss who'd never met me - and they'd determined I was responsible for everything falling apart. Riiiiiight. So sorry, sistah. Not my fault, and I won't apologize for any friendship. Some of my closest friends are men. I can't attract them, can't make them fall in love with me, can't make them want me, but I can talk to them.

Helps to be a geek.


Well, that took a tangent I hadn't expected.

But doesn't every trip to the Hellmouth end up on a very strange path?

Happy Sunday, y'all.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Instant Karma, or I Like My T-Bone Well Done!

This morning, after viewing The Tree That Tried To Eat the Apartment Building, I headed off to work, as is my wont. I've never been fond of traffic circles, but just about any way I approach the office, I have to go through at least one. This morning's route took me off 16th Street, through Scott Circle, onto Mass Ave for a whole block, down 15th to my garage on M. Got all that? Good.

There's an exit off 16th Street to enter Scott Circle. Two lanes feed into the circle at a stop light. After the stop light, on the actual circle, there are three lanes of traffic; two go straight only, and the innermost lane goes straight or around the circle, with another stop light before you actually make that move. I use that innermost lane to go around to Mass Ave. (I know, this sounds like a story problem, no?)

At the first light today, I was three cars back from the front. Patiently waiting, I heard someone laying on the horn like his life depended on it. I looked in my rear view mirror to see a young dude in a little import sedan behind me waving his hands for me to move forward. I had, maybe four feet between me and the car ahead of me. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I come from the school of driving that says, "if you can't see the license plate of the car ahead of you, yer too darn close." Also, I operate within the laws of physics that decree my car can't occupy the same space as the stopped car ahead of me.

The light was red. There was nowhere for us to go. I raised my hands in the great shrug to the anxious driver, to say, "Dude, ain't no place for me to move!"

This was not, apparently, well-received. Dude responded to me with an aggressively shaken middle finger salute. Whatever.

The light turned green, and I followed the other two cars ahead of me into that innermost lane, and again waited for the next light to go green. Aggressive dude pulled up into the straightaway lane next to me, rolled down his window and started to scream at me: "FAT COW! DON'T YOU CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU, FAT COW?!? I HAVE SOMEPLACE I GOTTA GO!"

Nice. I just ignored him. If he doesn't understand basic physics or the rules of the road, nothing I could say to him was going to help.

Then, the light turned green.

And Mr. Hurry Hurry made a serious error in judgment. Let's just say, he failed basic physics. From the straightaway lane, he decided to turn left.

Directly into the side of a very large SUV that was making the left turn around the circle.

Yep, he t-boned that sucker. Big time. And, you see, when you're in a little Japanese sedan and you gun it into the side of an SUV... you lose, babycakes! The SUV may sustain some minor body damage, but your car will look like a vehicular accordion. (Ha -the Honda Accord-ion!) A cab stopped (perhaps as a witness, perhaps sensing an impending fare) and I continued on to work. Usually I stop for accidents I see, but this time, the cabbie could handle witness duties. And I wasn't entirely heartless - before leaving, I took a look over at the poster child for anger management and saw him cursing from his crumpled car. Yes, he had survived to be a jackass another day.

Karma, dude. It's a biyotch. I may be a fat cow, but at least I understand how traffic circles work. And today - for once - karma kicked the correct ass.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Thunderboomers are getting closer - time to shut down for the night!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Good Argument for Renter's Insurance

Sometimes, Mutha Nature doesn't just bring down swift arboreal justice on the cars on the street where I live.

Sometimes, she puts the smackdown on the *place* where I live, with window/floor/ceiling-rattling force.

My building, this morning:

What you can't see in the morning haze off the cell phone camera are the branches on the roof. However, you can see just how far this tree reached in the photo below, with the tree bits on the balcony and lawn on the other side:

Strangely, just after the tree fell onto the cars last month, I was wondering when one of the diseased tree husks was going to slam into the building. Fortunately, the crab apple tree right in front of my balcony is healthy and still blooming away.

Just a quick post over my morning coffee. BTW, Olivia Newton-John's intimate concert here at work was good last night. (No, I didn't have $500 for a ticket -- through the kindess of the foundation, I was able to snag a couple of gratis seats for myself and the Sasquatch!) Not many of her old classics of my childhood (just "Magic" and "I Honestly Love You"), but the songs she sang clearly came from her heart and from someone who has triumphed over a great deal of adversity in her life. ONJ has a lot of love for this fragile planet and gratitude for what she has been granted in her life. It may not have been a trip down my memory lane, but it was cool. She's nearly 60, just came off three weeks walking the Great Wall of China in April to raise money for cancer research and treatment, and last night she had more energy and life than I've had in ages! Good on ya, Olivia!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Happy Birthday, Air Jordan!

Today is my brother's 60th birthday. Hard to believe it. Impossible almost.

He is an ocean away and I can't sing happy birthday to him in person. Instead, I'll be sending him a variety of utterly tasteless birthday cards from Recently, I tried in vain to find a single card there that wouldn't be taken the wrong way, be completely misunderstood, and/or cause endless tears and a lot of bad phone calls from another sibling on her birthday. It wasn't possible. My brother, Air Jordan, on the other hand, will thrive on these. And, when we get a chance to speak on over the weekend, my congratulatory birthday phone call will - as all my calls to my brother do - rapidly devolve into humor that I would kindly call Not Safe For Work.

My brother and his husband are among the finest humans I will ever know. Kind, generous, funny, and simply wonderful men. I'm so sorry I missed their wedding last year, and I'm sorry I'm missing this important birthday, too.

Here's hoping the next milestone I can celebrate with you in person, dear brother. And we can be lewd, crude, and amazingly rude in person.

Until then, you'd better pray I don't find that manila envelope full of blackmail photos the Sasquatch and I culled from Mom's albums. Heh heh heh heh heh...


Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Thing Well Made

I mentioned Don McGlashan, his solo work and his former band, The Mutton Birds, in my last post. I got a comment from Spence, who has a website full of Mutton Birds gems and a YouTube channel with a bunch of cool videos. Of course, the Sasquatch headed over there immediately and found this:

That's Don McGlashan singing and playing his euphonium. Dang good stuff. Dang good song. Thanks to Spence for this!!

Here's a cut from Don's new solo CD, Warm Hand. This one's called "Harbour Bridge":

Next paycheck, I'm going to procure this CD. I hope he comes back to DC. Good stuff, kids!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Today, I am a Loungeroom Lizard

Oy, my eyelids are drooping. I fear I do look a little reptilian today. Do I ever need some jet fuel coffee right now. Good thing I'm in a coffee shop!

So, when I last wrote, I was a ball of emotion - anxiety, excitement, fear (of cars), breathless anticipation. Let me catch you up...

Friday was a very good day, indeed.

First, the attorney meeting went really well. We spent an hour together. I gave him the two-minute Reader's Digest condensed version of the past three years of my life, so he knew just how utterly messed up things had become before I got rammed last September. This guy was cool, confident, funny, and made me feel very secure about how he'll handle my case. Well, cases. A separate file for each of the two accidents. I no longer have to talk to the insurance companies. All he wants me to do is to concentrate on is therapy and getting better. Awesomeness.

I left his office feeling better than I have in quite some time. All the anxiety of Thursday seemed to vanish as I drove home, listening to Crowded House with the windows down on a gorgeous 80-degree day. I curled up for a quick nap at home -- I wanted to be rested before heading downtown to meet up with the Sasquatch for the concert. I blinked - barely felt like I'd slept at all - and suddenly it was 4 in the afternoon. I put two of those huge sticky arthritis pain patches on my back, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, and, for the first time in months, even put on some makeup. This was a special occasion, after all.

The drive downtown should have been easier, but you would have thought it was morning rush hour with all the cars jamming the roads into DC. I had told the Sasquatch I would meet him at 5:30, so we could bolt over to the 9:30 Club and he could get in line in the hopes of snagging a bar stool up in the balcony (one was already set aside for me and my bad back, thank god.) I felt bad that I was only able to pick him up at 5:45 or so, pretty much shooting down the chance at a stool for him. Some of my anxiety had returned during the drive into the city - mostly because I was, superstitiously, afraid my car accident/concert big bad voodoo karma was going to kick in. You can ask the Squatch-man - I was a bit of a biyotch behind the wheel. (And I apologize to my tall arboreal friend for being an uptight tool in the car!!) My mood lightened when a spiffy Mercedes convertible pulled up alongside us in traffic with "Nobody Wants To" pouring out the speakers. I knew the driver was headed the same place we were. One of the tribe, headed to Mecca, to hear the words and music and, for a few fleeting hours, be part of something bigger, something wonderful.

When we got to 9:30, the line was already halfway down the block -- I'd read online that some folks were planning on lining up at 4:30, so the truth is, we likely wouldn't have been much closer to the front, even if I'd been on-time to rescue my friend from the corner of 18th & Penn. Sadly, the Sasquatch didn't get a stool, but he was a real trouper all night, standing next to my fidgety self, legs too short to really be comfy on a bar stool.

We had good company for the gig, snuggled up to the bar. Just below us, the Australian Embassy had rented out the other balcony tier, and the Aussies rocked out all night. Just behind me was a couple from New Zealand. Her parents had just flown in Christchurch in the morning, and their jetlagged selves were tasked with watching the kiddies while mum and dad saw Crowded House. (Apparently grandmum and granddad were cool with being abandoned on Day One, as they are Split Enz fans who had just gone to one of the New Zealand dates on the Enz tour just a few weeks ago. Cool family!) The folks to my right happened to be a Frenz forum member and his lovely wife. They're Maryland folks, too, and turns out he'd been here to the blog and had contacted his state senator about the cell phone legislation! I thought that was really amazing. (And if you happen to be dropping by, Above the Kitchen, thanks again for that! And thanks, too, for the good conversation - it was a pleasure indeed to meet you guys last night! Always nice to meet another Prefab Sprout fan, too!) To the Sasquatch's left was a huge Dolby fan. Small musical world, eh?

Now, what shall I say about the concert? Something I've waited 2+ decades to experience?

It was pretty brilliant. Really wonderful. Fan-freaking-tastic. Everything I could have asked for or hoped for in seeing one of my favorite bands ever.

I have to sing the praises of Don McGlashan, who was not only the opening act, but also the de facto fifth member of Crowded House last night, joining the guys on several numbers. If you're not familiar with this excellent Kiwi singer-songwriter, it's worth your time to investigate both his solo work and his work with the now defunct (but awfully good) band The Mutton Birds. The man is multi-talented, and over the course of the evening, he played the euphonium, guitar, pocket trumpet, ukulele, and a toy piano (which was hilarious.)

Most of the audience didn't give McGlashan his due - the chatter level never really eased up to let his tunes filter through. But some of the audience was grooving on it. Since this gig was also part of my Concert Trifecta 40th b-day gift for the Sasquatch, I was really excited that McGlashan played a Mutton Birds song my friend really loves, "A Thing Well Made." I think that made his night.

Crowded House made my night. The audience loved them, and the band showered us with love in return. They played for more than two hours - old songs, new songs, sing-a-longs, call and response, with the sound of 1200 happy people answering Neil's voice from the stage. There's something so wonderful in seeing the man who wrote these songs standing there, eyes closed, smiling away at us carrying his tune. It's not just a concert, it's a fairly transcendent experience.

Now, if you're going to see the Crowdies on this tour and you don't want to know last night's set list, close your eyes and page down a little bit (that's mostly for you, Aoife O'Meara!!) They played for almost 2 1/2 hours and played songs very old, very new (as in, unrecorded as of yet), and some songs utterly obscure - what Neil dubbed a visit to "Obscurity Corner":

Everything Is Good For You
World Where You Live
Isolation (new song)
Turn It Around (new song)
Distant Sun
Whispers & Moans
Nails in my Feet
789 (new song)
Either Side of the World (new song)
English Trees
Don't Dream It's Over
Four Seasons in One Day
Twice if You're Lucky (new song)
Weather With You

First Encore:
Locked Out
Private Universe
Into Temptation
Something So Strong
Washington Monument song (goofy, improvised on the spot)

Second Encore:
Pineapple Head
Mansion in the Slums (first time they performed it in 20 years)
She Goes On
Better Be Home Soon

They have such an amazing array of songs they could have played. This was a pretty damn fine setlist in my estimation. The song "Pineapple Head" makes me want to dance and spin around (a little tough on a bar stool in the balcony, but I danced in my head.) And finishing up with "Better Be Home Soon" couldn't have made me happier - Neil sang for us, and we sang for Neil. It was a lovely way to wrap up. The Sasquatch said he'd like to be as good at something as Neil is at making music. (Wouldn't we all???) El Squatchito also noted that, with all the songs he has in his repertoire, Neil doesn't use lyric cheat sheets or a teleprompter as many performers do with such a large catalog of work to recall. Songs from Split Enz, songs from Crowded House, from the Finn Brothers, from his own solo work -- Neil has them all in his head. So, even when he flubs a line here and there (and laughs about it), it's still remarkable that his cranium can call up so many words, so many lines of notes, at a moment's notice. Pretty astounding.

What made the concert all the better? I saw Crowded House with one of the best friends I will ever have in my life. Ever. Ever. And just before the music started, he excused himself for a minute and returned with a surprise. He put a big, cool Crowded House coffee mug down in front of me and said, "THIS is from Aoife O'Meara. And THIS is from me." With that, he handed me on of the fantastic live concert CDs from the Crowdies tour I missed last year, this particular recording being the Winnipeg concert. Once again, I was dumbfounded by the lovely, meaningful generosity of my friends. I love you guys - thank you so much for making a really wonderful evening even more wonderful.

I left on Cloud Nine. I didn't even stop to try to meet the band (although I understand they stayed and talked to a group of 20 or so fans for a while last night.) The night was great, and I was - remarkably for me - bereft of anything to say. (My voice was also shot to hell and gone from singing along and offering up my war whoops between songs.) It was good enough to have just been there.

So, since I didn't stop to say it last night, thank you Neil. Thank you Nick. Thank you Mark and Matt. Thanks for making my year. I hope you come back soon.

I'm sitting in the coffee shop now, done with back cracking physical therapy for the day, listening to the Winnipeg CDs on my headphones, still trying to wake up at 1-something in the afternoon.

One more day to recover before work begins again on Monday.

Did I mention, there will be a major blast from the past coming to my place of employment this coming Wednesday night? The final element of the Sasquatch 40th Birthday Concert Trifecta. A serious trip down Nostalgia Boulevard for children of the 1970s and 80s. I'm not naming names, but I'm hoping she'll be taking us to Xanadu. {{insert cheesy grin here}} One of the strangest, yet coolest perks of my job yet!

Things have been rough, guys, no joke. But now, maybe - just maybe - things are looking up. Sometimes when things are tough, I hear a Crowded House line in my head and I remember:

Love this life/Don't wait 'til the next one comes!

It's a very good thought, no?

I'm trying hard to love this life. And right now, this life needs a very large cup of coffee.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pain, anxiety, and the end of a 22-year wait

My back is on fire tonight - the pain is so bad, it's making my guts churn. I'm hoping a hot midnight shower will ease the pain a bit so I can get some sleep. Real rest has been fleeting for days, and I know it affects my concentration. Today, I had to really work to stay focused.

I'm incredibly anxious tonight. Tomorrow, I go to see an attorney about the accidents. I hope he can help me because I lose even more sleep worrying about what will happen if I am trapped in paying (or in my case, not being able to pay) out of pocket in advance of any settlement.

I hope to leave that meeting with a greater sense of ease and a little lighter of heart.

Because I have plans.

Tomorrow night, I finally get to experience something for which I've waited 22 years: Crowded House in concert. 22 years - almost virtually half my life. I can't explain how much this means to me. If you were reading this blog last summer, you might remember how crushed I was to miss the guys when they played in Philadelphia. This time, though, they're playing DC. In a club that only holds a little over a thousand people. It will be beautiful. And I get to share it with a very dear friend, which makes it even better.

I'm sad I never got to see the band when Paul Hester was still with the group, before his tragic suicide. But, like Paul's deeply missed mercurial self, that chance is gone with time. For those who don't follow Crowded House, Paul left the group while they were on tour in 1994. He up and left them in Atlanta. A handful of years later, Hester had a show on Australian TV called "Hessie's Shed" - I found this wonderful bit of footage on YouTube today:

Highlights for me:

"Just a general apology for leaving you guys in Atlanta..."
"What the fuck went wrong?"
"There, that sound right, Paul?!?"
"Violence is universal..."

That made me laugh and smile and feel a little sad, too, all at once. Paul won't be there tomorrow night, but I think much of the music is infused - in a positive way - with his spirit (and, with "Time On Earth" a bit of his ghost, too.)

Crowded House music brings me a great deal of joy. Whenever I sign a sympathy card these days I write the same thing for everyone: "I hope, in this time of grief, there is also time to celebrate the joy of a good life, well-lived." In the joy of the music that Neil and Nick and Mark and Matt will play tomorrow night, for me, there will also be a celebration of a good life.

And I will listen to the music, and my smile will be big enough to crack my face, and I will forget about the problems of the day. I'll say it again and again: Neil Finn could sing me the phonebook, and I'd be enthralled.

Cloud Nine. It's a lovely place.

I hope you are able to find these moments in your life, too.

More things coming up over the next week - things interesting, bizarre, and nostalgic. Stories forthcoming. Maybe a photo or two, as well, if I'm lucky!

Before I sign off for the night, here's a little more for you. First, a little gem from the past. I'm glad to see that Australian girls were feather-haired victims of 80s fashion, too. One of the audience members is even wearing an Esprit sweatshirt. Ah, memories!

And, now, the present - and the future. Here's Wednesday night in New York City, Crowded House and the PS22 Chorus. A hopeful sound, indeed: