Friday, November 15, 2013

Beth’s Music Moment: It’s the end, the end of the Seventies

Beth's music moment6[4]I am finally caught up with all my online class lectures! It’s amazing how far behind I got with that week in New Orleans and my subsequent difficulty in adjusting back to normal life. Good thing, because I start a new class on antibiotics next week!

Today I finished up Week 3’s lectures in History of Rock Part Two, and I loved it so much that I got a little verklempt. It was about punk and new wave in the late ‘70s. That was MY time. It brought back so many great memories of Shane and I (and our friend Steve) discovering all this great music and being so caught up in this movement that was so far removed from what most people at our high school were listening to. They were into Kenny Rogers and Air Supply, and we were blowing pictures off the walls with “Death or Glory”! (Yes, that really happened, and we still crack up over it!)

We seemed to have a knack (Ha! Knack...get it?) for learning about groups before they hit it big here. I recall loving Tom Petty when I heard “Breakdown,” and had a couple of early albums before they hit it with “Damn the Torpedoes.” I had the early Cheap Trick albums before “At Budokan.” We always joked that we should be A&R people! For whatever reason, these small town kids were plugged into the broader music scene and so into finding new music. It was really a heady time in music, and there was so much happening and so much great music. That continued for Shane and I through much of the ‘80s as we loved telling each other about new bands, and it continues to this day as we turn each other on to music we think each other would like. We’re music buddies, so we’re usually in tune on that. Haaaa, I made a pun! In tune.

It was also interesting to me to hear the professor’s confirmation that yes, punk really did originate in New York City. I’ve maintained that since forever, but there are those that feel that it originated in London. No...its roots were in the US, with bands like the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and the New York Dolls. There was an underground scene going on in New York, and Malcolm McLaren heard about it and created his own version of it with the Sex Pistols. Then it started getting attention because of the Pistols’ bad behavior, and it came back to the US and came up from the underground. The record companies defanged it quite a bit, because they weren’t going to risk their money on unreliable and volatile acts like the Pistols, who broke up very quickly. But what an influence they had! They were like a punk rocket, flaming out quickly but leaving a huge sonic boom in its wake.

Another interesting thing was that this period marked the end of what the prof has dubbed the “hippie aesthetic.” That is the idea that music should be serious and of substance, that the musicians should be seen as professionals and virtuosos in their craft, and that the songwriters, the songs, and the music should be “authentic.” Two very different musical styles set this idea on its head at the same time, for very different reasons. Disco was all about “let’s dance,” and it really didn’t matter who the artist was...all that mattered was getting out and shakin’ what your mama gave you. Punk said “fuck the virtuosity,” and you got kids who could barely play making records and up on the stage. Very much a DIY mentality. There were of course exceptions to that, but that was a pretty pervasive attitude. Definitely a garage band attitude. I had never thought of it in those terms, but that seems dead on to me.

I was also fascinated by the idea that this was a time when bands and artists were looking back to the roots of music and using irony in their approach. The best examples of that are Debbie Harry purposefully taking on a Marilyn Monroe look, and Elvis Costello and his Buddy Holly specs. Rock and roll was old enough by then that it could look back and plumb iconic looks and sounds from the beginning of rock and roll. A lot of us were old enough to understand the cultural references and to “get it.” It was a perfect time and perfect music for people of my and Shane’s age to plug into that.

I enjoyed this week’s lectures so much. I try not to get swamped in nostalgia and I still love finding great new music—and for anyone who says that there isn’t any good music these days, well, you just aren’t looking hard enough, because there is a lot of great stuff out it out!—but it was a lot of fun to revisit one of the most influential times in my musical development, and look at things a little deeper and in the context of the time.

Rock on, Citizens! You know I will!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A flood of memories

Disco sucks
Oh dear, almost a week since an entry?! Okay, I have excuses:
  1. I was sick for one day this week.
  2. I’m still behind on my online course lectures and have been scrambling to catch up.
  3. I’ve got something in the works that will be cool and fun, and I’ve been preoccupied with that.
  4. Umm...Sheeba ate my blog entry.
Three of those are true.

As I was watching my course videos today, one of the History of Rock videos made me laugh out loud and took me right back to the late ‘70s when I was in high school. It was about the rise of disco, and the visceral reaction that so many rock fans had to it. I was one of those rock fans, and so was was our friend Steve.

We HATED disco. I still remember Shane and Steve taking a copy of "Saturday Night Fever" outside and flinging the LPs like frisbees up onto the garage roof. The prof talked about the big anti-disco rally at Comiskey Park in which a Chicago DJ blew up a bunch of disco albums in the middle of the field, and that resulted in the Chicago riot police being called out to control the crowd. You can’t make this shit up. Since we grew up so close to Chicago, we got WGN (this was pre-cable and satellite, remember!), and it was a big deal around here even before it was picked up by the national news. I remember it all very well!

He talked about the possible reasons for why us rock people hated disco:
  1. Reaction against promiscuity. They don't talk about sex, drugs, and rock and roll for nothin'. Sex is kind of a huge part of rock and roll, in my opinion, so we wouldn't reject disco because of that. Besides, you know...horny teenagers!
  2. Homophobia. Again, no. Most of us hearing disco on the radio had no idea that it had its roots in gay culture. And I've never been homophobic, even when I'd never really thought about that much. None of my business, anyway!
  3. Racism. Nope. Although I was accused a while back by a black friend of possibly being racist because I didn't like disco. She had said other such things in the past, and that was the last straw. That's still a joke between me and Shane...if I ever say anything even remotely anti-disco (I disputed Donna Summer's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, for example), Shane says, "You racist!" The Ohio Players rocked, and their funky music was cool. I loved the Spinners and the Supremes and Stevie Wonder, and racism had nothing to do with my dislike of disco!
  4. Lack of musicianship and seriousness; mass-production. THAT'S the one! Having grown up on rock music on FM radio, hearing this drum machine bullshit on AM radio was just putrid to me. I liked guitarists and singers and drummers and songwriters who really poured their heart into performing and writing. Disco just seemed like cookie-cutter pop crap to me, with no real substance behind it. But I've always been a sucker for good lyrics and good musicians. Disco was the antithesis to "good music" to me. It wasn’t "real music."
I was writing to someone about this today, and I said that I've mellowed since then, and I even like a lot of current electronic dance music, but it still strikes me as having a harder edge than disco did. It was such a weird time, with progressive rock, mainstream pop, disco, and punk all converging. I still remember the Dark Days when "You Light Up My Life" (sappy mainstream pop rather than disco) was #1 for how many fucking weeks? I'd listen to Casey Kasem every week, and he'd get to #1 and say, "And for the leventy-leventh week in a row, it's Debby Boone at the top with..." and I'd go "UGH!" and turn off the radio. Haha!

The allegations against some about the dislike of promiscuity, possible homophobia, and possible racism may be true, but that was never the case with me and Shane, or any of the rest of my circle who hated disco. It was just a matter of loving music, and musicians, and their talent for writing songs and playing their music. We didn’t see a whole lot of that in disco, and that was why we were the ones proclaiming, "Disco sucks!"

Hey, two lists in this entry. The listmaker in me is happy.

Rock on, Citizens!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Social identity

Social identityI continue to try to get caught up on the lectures for my online courses, and I continue to struggle! I’ll get there. That week in New Orleans really set me back, but ask me if I care! The good news is that my sleep schedule is getting back on track, I’m keeping up with my workouts (and I’m happy to have added weights back into the mix, after taking some time off because of a strained neck muscle), and I inexplicably managed to drop a few pounds over the past couple of weeks. I have no idea why, but I’ll take it!

Today I read the required articles for the Walking Dead course that I’m taking. This isn’t a course just about the show; it’s more like looking at a global disaster in terms of social, governmental, health, and ecological changes. They use the show as a backdrop and as examples, but it’s actually some pretty fascinating stuff. It’s also one reason I love the show so much, because it makes me think about how drastic the changes would be, in all aspects.

Anyway, this week's topic is about social identity, which is defined as a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). I found a couple of quotes from the articles really interesting:
“It is, however, important to recognize that sometimes we perceive ourselves primarily in terms of our relevant group memberships rather than as differentiated, unique individuals.”
“Self-stereotyping is a cognitive shift from perceiving oneself as unique and differentiated to perceiving oneself in terms of the attributes that characterize the group.”
This is really making me think. Ow! Haha! But seriously, this dovetails nicely with my recent entry about my paradigm shift. I wrote that when we categorize others, it’s way too easy to demonize them. It leads inevitably to an Us vs Them mentality. Is it possible to do that with ourselves? I think it is!

In the course of my life, I’ve found myself having a hard time being a part of any sort of insular group, or identifying with one particular group very strongly. I’ve never been a “joiner.” There have been times that I tried, but I always end up resenting the commitment. This is not the same as resenting the people involved with the group; I’ve made some long-term friends through some of these associations, and I continue to value those friendships.

I think it always bothered me to be lumped into a group, or to feel obligated to a group. I’m not deluded enough to think that I’m some sort of a rare flower; I have too many like-minded friends to think that I’m something special. But I’ve always had a certain sense of individuality, and a tendency to not want to “conform,” whatever that means. There have been many times when I haven’t quite fit in with others. I’ve always been driven to be at least a little bit beyond the norm. I wouldn’t call myself a rebel, Dottie, because I’ve led a very traditional life of Birth, School, Work, Death (not the last one for me...not yet!), but I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been a little different. I’m cool with that. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

I wonder how that would play in a disaster, though? Would I still be that way when the number of people has dwindled so much that you have to depend on others for survival? Going back to the show, although Michonne spent a lot of time on her own, she has willingly joined the group. Several characters, including Daryl, have mentioned that it’s impossible to survive alone. Would I be able to set my loner attitude aside and become a fully integrated member of a group? I’d like to think so.

That was good food for thought today. Then my brain started to hurt, so I stopped. Heh.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Beth’s Music Moment: The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County

Ghost Brothers2Last night, we attended the penultimate (got to use that word...yay!) show of this musical collaboration between native Hoosier John Mellencamp (he wrote the music), Stephen King (he wrote the dialogue and storyline), and T Bone Burnett (he produced the music) at our local theater, the Morris Performing Arts Center.

We had reasonably good seats. Pffft...screw that...front row, baby! We were right in front of the character called the Zydeco Cowboy and the band was right behind him. This was cool for me for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.

This is a really dark story that is based on an incident in Mississippi in the ‘60s, in which a guy killed his brother in a dispute over a girl, then committed suicide with the girl. The musical brings it into the present, with a haunted cabin and another pair of feuding brothers. It’s a fun story (well, ‘fun’ being a relative term) full of ghosts and guilt, but it was so dark that we actually joked about it afterwards, talking about how pretty much everyone dies! My sister and brother-in-law went with us, and Tom said, “They should have killed the little kid off while they were at it!” It’s not a real happy story, but what would you expect from Stephen King? There were little snippets of humor sown throughout that were very much in King’s voice. I’ve read enough of his novels—like all of them—to know that sense of dark humor!

The real star of the show for me was the music. Even before the show started, they were playing zydeco recordings, which delighted me but also made me miss New Orleans. It’s not every day you get to hear zydeco music—even just recorded—in South Bend! The songs were classic Mellencamp. I could hear his musical stamp all over them. Even better was finding out that the band was Mellencamp’s band. So we were basically hearing a Mellencamp concert without Mellencamp singing.
As an aside, there was some applause before the show started, coming from the back of the theater. We saw some people standing and applauding. Turns out that John himself was in the house! We found out later that this was only the second performance he had attended, so it was an honor to have him here! When I wrote on Facebook about him being there, Cousin Shane said that when he heard that, he expected to see a picture of me with John, wondered what was wrong with me, and said I must have been off my game last night! I had to laugh...somehow I’ve managed to get people to expect pictures of me with musicians. It’s not that easy! Anyway, that was funny.

Okay, back to the music. This was Mellencamp’s band. No wonder they sounded so tight and the musicianship was so incredible...these guys have been playing together for some time, and they have the reputation as one of the best bands in the business. Mellencamp is known as a hard taskmaster, and he expects his band to be pretty damn close to perfection. They really did sound great, and I was especially impressed by the guitarist, Andy York. We were right in front of him, so I got to see him step offstage and bring out cool guitar after cool guitar. I’m no guitar expert, but I knew the Gretsches! He also played banjo a couple of times, and even a washboard vest, which was another fun reminder of New Orleans.

The music had even more of a country twang than Mellencamp’s often does, with some zydeco elements and western elements thrown in there. Although I’m obviously a rockgirl, I love other styles of music, too, and I’ve always loved Mellencamp. The songs were so beautiful and the singing was so well done that by the last number, I was wiping away tears. I love it when music can move me to tears, and I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it. Maybe one day I’ll do a Music Moment about Mellencamp, because his music has meant a lot to me over the years, and I’ve seen him in concert several times. Never a bad show! We got the soundtrack, and I’m looking forward to listening to it again.

I will admit that I felt that it lagged a bit in the beginning, and really took a bit to get into the meat of the show. But right after the intermission, it felt like things kicked into overdrive. The story really gained momentum, and the music just soared. I loved it. Ken said he thought it was one of the best shows he’s seen at the Morris, and I would definitely have to put it right up there. The music was just outstanding. The cast and band got a standing ovation at the end...I hope John was still there to see that and know that we enjoyed it!

After Ghost BrosAfterwards, we went to Madison Oyster Bar for a couple of post-show drinks, and as we were all sitting there talking, a guy walked in. It was the Zydeco Cowboy! I went over and said hi and told him how much we enjoyed it. He said, “Oh yeah, I saw you! You were in the front row, and you were really getting into the music!” I laughed...yeah, that’s me! We talked for quite a bit, and he and Ken talked even more. We bought him a beer, and he was a super nice guy. His name is Jesse Lenat, and he’s known Mellencamp for like ten years. I think that’s how long Mellencamp and King have been working on bringing this musical to fruition. I asked how it is working with Mellencamp, and he confirmed what I’ve always heard: he’s tough, and he can be prickly, but he’s a good guy. He said they’ve gotten to the point where John seems to look on him as kind of a kid brother, so that’s pretty cool. It was very enjoyable to talk to him, and I’m glad we got to tell him how much we enjoyed the show...and I’m glad that he noticed how much I was enjoying it!

The show ends in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I believe that show was tonight. I don’t know if they’ll try to do another run of it or not, but I’m thinking that this is probably it, at least for the band. I’m truly glad that I got to see it, because I thought it was a great show. I highly recommend the soundtrack album.

I noticed in the trailer that Stephen King says that if he sees someone in the audience wiping a tear away, that makes his day. Mission accomplished, least with this girl! I shed more than one!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A paradigm shift

New paradigmI used to hate that phrase when I heard it in meetings at the lab, but it seems that I have experienced a bona fide paradigm shift of my own.

Or maybe it was more of a two-by-four upside the head.

Either way, it was quite an epiphany. Settle back, because this is going to be a long one (that’s what she said). Okay, I’ll stop with the dick jokes. This is important…at least to me!

I wrote last week about our fun vacation in New Orleans, and one of the funnest things was seeing a band called the Daywalkers. They have a Facebook page up now, so go check it out and like I always say, show the band some love! We were cruising down Bourbon and heard some unmistakable washboard playing. It was Alex, who we had seen a couple of other times when we were in NOLA, but with another band. Turns out that he’s in a new band, the Daywalkers, and they are even more fun and talented than his previous band, at least in my opinion. A better mix of music, lots of great energy, and some harmonizing that makes your heart take wing. Shut up! I can be eloquent sometimes!

Anyway, I kind of took a shine to the guitarist. I wrote about Jason previously, about how he was really nice and sweet, and invited us out to his other gig one night. You know how you sometimes just feel like someone is kind of cool and would probably be an interesting person to know? That was the vibe I got. I can’t explain it, but sometimes you just dig a person.

So after seeing the band a few times and chatting with Jason a bit and having him tell me that he was on Facebook, I found him there and sent a friend request. He accepted fairly quickly, and I looked at his profile. Turned out he is pretty conservative. He’s from Texas, so I should have guessed that, but for some reason, I didn’t.

Here’s where my epiphany comes in. I went through this thought process:
  1. Oh man...I’m a liberal, and he’s really conservative. He’s not going to like me anymore!
  2. Wow...can I really be friends with someone who is so conservative?
  3. Holy shit...did I just wonder if I could be friends with someone—this cool and nice guy who is a fantastic musician—just because he’s a conservative, and I’m a liberal? That is fucked up.
It was like someone tossed a glass of cold water in my face. I felt ashamed of myself. Was I so far gone that it would even occur to me that I might not be able to be friends with someone because he is conservative? Was I such an asshole that I would think so little of HIM that I would assume he wouldn’t like me because I'm a liberal? To be somewhat easier on myself, it wasn’t so much that I was thinking he might think that was just that I’ve been burned that way before when a relative defriended and blocked me because of my opinions. That hurt me deeply, and I was afraid that was going to happen again.

My fears were unwarranted. The next time we saw them play, he gave me a grin from onstage, and when they took a break, he came over to say hi, and shook Ken’s hand and gave me a hug. I said, “Thank you for still liking me even though I’m a crazy little liberal!” He shook his head and said, “Nah. You’re not a liberal.” I laughed and said, “I really kind of am.” He said, “You guys own a pickup?” I said actually, yeah, we do. He said, “Then you’re not a liberal.” After a brief discussion of guns, in which I said it might make him feel better to know that I’m a responsible gun owner, he said, “You own a gun? You’re not a liberal.” He was cracking me up, but he was just so matter-of-fact about it, it seemed like it was no big deal to him, and I felt even more ashamed of myself for doubting him and for being so unfair that I had actually wondered for a brief moment if we could really be friends.

The thought occurred to me that my Dad would have loved this guy and would have immediately started talking to him about guns. My Dad was a super conservative guy, and we didn’t always agree about stuff, but we could have civil discussions about it. I loved him completely and with no reservations, so how the hell did I get to the point where I would actually wonder—even if only for a split second—if I could be friends with a conservative? What happened to me? I thought of my cousin Curt, who is also a conservative, but was my protector when we were at Ball State, and with whom I have always been able to have great philosophical and political discussions. We met up with him and his wife a while back and we once again found many things on which we had common ground. My brother-in-law Tom is a conservative, but we are also able to discuss these things, and at the end of the day, I still love him like my own brother, and I’m reasonably certain he still loves me.

It was a real eye opener. I pondered this quite a while, and I resolved to make a change. I can’t change others, but I can change myself. I realized that while those of us on the left may talk about the “conservative bubble,” in which opinions are confirmed and reinforced by what people read and watch, on the left we have our own bubble. It is a closed loop of confirmation bias. Granted, I don’t think our bubble is quite as impenetrable as the conservative bubble, but it is definitely still there. I don’t watch FoxNews, but I also stopped watching MSNBC quite some time ago. I will probably upset a lot of my liberal friends by saying that I don’t even watch Rachel Maddow!

My viewpoints aren’t changing. But I hereby resolve to raise the bar when it comes to discourse. I was always able to have such discussions with my Dad, I can have them with Curt, I can have them with Tom, and I hope to have some fun and interesting discussions with Jason not about politics, but about music. As I told him, if we can’t come together over music, what CAN we come together over? Music is sacred to me, and I still feel horribly ashamed of myself for even thinking that we might not be able to be friends because of our political differences. Seriously. Shame on me.

The ad hominem attacks from me stop. I will still disagree with people on issues, and I will point out something I feel is wrong, but when we slap labels on ourselves and on others, it is far too easy to demonize and vilify them. Meeting Jason was an important reminder to me of something that I’d managed to forget: there are real people behind the labels, and sometimes they are cool and interesting people who it would be a pleasure to know. To automatically exclude some people is to cut yourself off from what might be a very enjoyable experience and friendship. As my wonderful friend Lisa pointed out, if someone doesn’t like you because you’re a liberal (or a conservative), isn’t that pretty much the same thing as saying they don’t like you because you’re black? An excellent point.

When everyone is shouting, no one is listening. It might make me feel better to go off on a political rant and attack a politician I don’t like, but what purpose does that serve? Conservatives aren’t reading it, and if they do, they’re going to be turned off by my rhetoric and not pay attention to my point. If I rant about something, I’m just preaching to a liberal choir. I still remember those Palin fans attacking me on Twitter and basically calling me a pot-smoking whore who never did an honest day’s work in her life. How is that accomplishing anything? How did that bring me over to their side? It didn’t. It just made me think they were rabid dogs who enjoy calling people names. I’m not going to be that person. Not anymore. I refuse to participate in that sort of behavior. I refuse to even entertain the notion that I might not be able to be friends with someone because of their political leanings. That being said, neo-Nazis and KKK people can kiss my sweet ass. There are limits to my new style!

So that was my epiphany. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but this is kind of a game changer for me. I’m still rather amazed that it came about because of a Texan playing guitar in a Bourbon Street bar. That’s actually kind of cool, though, isn’t it? If you’re going to have an epiphany and change your ways, having it happen because of a Texan guitarist on Bourbon Street is a pretty damn cool way to do it. Hell yeah.

This is also a reminder to me that we can affect people in ways we might never imagine. Jason has no idea that I’ve been thinking all this stuff, but I hope to tell him about it. Words and actions can have an impact. Just a simple act of friendship made me completely rethink my behavior and my own words. How amazing is that? Doesn’t it make you wonder how you affect people that you encounter, even if it’s only a brief encounter? Maybe something as simple as a smile at someone when they’re having a bad day can make a difference in their life. This has made me resolve to always do my best to be a positive influence and a kind person, and to make people feel better for having met me. I know I won’t always succeed, but it is something to strive for.

I hope Jason and I will be friends going forward. Even if that doesn’t happen, I will always be grateful to him and will always remember him for helping me to realize this about myself, even if he has no idea what he did! Thank you, Jason. You’re a peach! *mwah* And I would be happy to call you my friend. I hope you will want to say the same about me.

You all can still expect me to have my opinions, but you might see a kinder, gentler Beth. Just don’t piss me off, okay? Then all bets are off. Ha!

Friday, November 1, 2013

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

SkellyIt’s Halloween clearance sale time!

My mission today was to get us a couple of rain ponchos for tomorrow’s ND-Navy game. It’s looking like we might have rain, darn it. But the good news is that we get to tailgate with a group from Ken’s work AND the Blue Angels are in town and are going to do a flyover right before kickoff! This is very exciting, because they’ve been idle since the budget cuts, so this is the first time since then that they’ve flown. What an honor! My nephew Michael is a huge fan, and he’s in seventh heaven, going out to the airport to check ‘em out and everything. All my local friends have been posting about hearing them fly overhead, and I heard them, too. It’s an unmistakable sound!

Anyway, that was the mission. As always with a trip to Target, there was mission creep, as our friend Mark likes to say. I was successful in getting the ponchos, and even saved a few bucks by getting myself the kids’ size. That’s where the savings stopped. I made the mistake of checking out clearance racks and got some tank tops and t-shirts (although I did save some money on the t-shirts because I got them in the girls’ section) and even a couple of bras—NOT in the girls’ section, and anyone who says so is going to get a stern look from me!

Then I found the Halloween clearance aisles. Uh oh. I’m actually rather proud of my restraint. I limited myself to just a few things. I passed on the skull, but got the little fella above. I have named him Skelly, because I’m super original with my nicknames. Just ask Groundy the Groundhog...she’ll confirm that. I also got a cool “adult ball mask” made of black metal with red glitter and clear beads, because I was just in New Orleans and I wanted a mask, dammit! I’m not quite sure what the “adult ball mask” is meant for, but it sounds fun, doesn’t it? Heh. Also scored a couple of pairs of fishnet tights, because a gal can never have too many fishnet tights. Those babies don’t get runs in them...worst case scenario, you’re going to tear a hole in them, but then you can wear them with a more punk kind of outfit. Reuse and recycle, Citizens! It’s the responsible thing to do.

I meant to do a more serious entry today, because I’ve been pondering something quite a bit. It’s a dangerous thing, I know. But time got away from me today, and I want to really think about this entry and do it justice. For now, I’ll just say that sometimes we have no idea how much we can have an effect on others, even in a brief time. One person I met last week has caused a profound shift in the way I look at things and a real attitude change in me. I don’t mean to sound all melodramatic, but I can honestly say that what transpired was an epiphany for me. In the words of VP Biden, it was a big fuckin’ deal.

For now, enjoy a little rockabilly with the Stray Cats, Daddy-O! Fishnet stockings are Brian Setzer-approved, and that’s all right with me!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Feel free to laugh at my plight

Beth SelfieLast Saturday in New Orleans, Ken and George and I headed out in the afternoon to find a place to watch our games. We had Notre Dame vs Air Force going on at 4, and George had his LSU Tigers vs Furman at 6. The problem was that the ND game was only on CBS Sports Network, and not every place has that. But we finally managed to find Ryan’s Irish Pub on Decatur, who post all the games they are showing that day in a note on the door. One of the bartenders kindly turned the TV closest to us to the ND game!

During the course of the game, in which we had to deal with some Alabama fangirls whose voices were seriously like nails on a blackboard, we had a bite to eat and a bunch of beers. The first time I went to the restroom, I came out of the stall to wash my hands and laughed out loud when I saw where they’d placed the bathroom mirror. All of about three inches of my head was showing, and I was even wearing sandals that had two-inch heels!

It cracked me up so much that I came out to the table and grabbed my phone to get this picture. Ken and George thought it was hilarious, and when I posted it on Facebook, a lot of my friends thought it was hilarious, too. My friend Stephen said it might be the funniest selfie in the history of the Interwebz. Everyone laughed at me! *sob* But since I was laughing, too, I couldn’t blame them. Believe me, I got over being short a long time ago. It can be frustrating at times, but it also has its advantages. I can handle plane rides fairly well, and there’s pretty much zero chance of being decapitated by a rotating helicopter blade.

Beth selfieI don’t recall how it came up, but a couple of days later, Stephen made some comment about me being a meme. I was like, “Hey, I’m not a meme!” He said, “You are if I have anything to say about it.” And he made the second picture. I about died, and could not stop laughing for quite a while. He really brightened my day, and I definitely needed it then! Well, I always like having my day brightened, but that was especially appreciated at that time. Stephen and I have met in real life, so he knows I’m not kidding when I say I’m short!

Another friend, Alaina, posted the video below, which just shows that I have lots of friends who are simpatico, because I immediately thought of this song, too!

Coming up this weekend, we’ve got Notre Dame vs Navy, and it looks like the Blue Angels are going to do a flyover. Super cool! We’ve also been invited to a tailgate with Ken’s engineering group at work, and that’s super cool, too! What would be really wild is if I run into David Robinson at the game. He’s a Navy grad, you know, but his son is playing football for Notre Dame, and the Admiral will be there. If you think the bathroom mirror selfie is funny, imagine me standing next to 7’1” David Robinson!

Carry on, Citizens, and Happy Halloween, you little maniacs!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The fine art of surfacing

Coming up for airAs I mentioned, I’ve really been struggling with this transition from full-blown party vacation mode to my much more uneventful everyday existence. In retrospect, perhaps it was a bad idea to do all that laundry in one day. It just made things feel that much more mundane and tedious.

The past couple of days, when I’ve woken up in the morning, I’ve heard the sound of a lone saxophone coming from far away, like what you often hear in the French Quarter. Obviously, no one around here is playing a saxophone at 9 o’clock in the morning, and it’s not like we have any super close neighbors out here. Except for Neighbor Dave, and I’d be willing to bet the farm that he doesn’t play saxophone at all, let alone plays it that well! So I knew I was hearing it in my head. Lingering memories of wandering around the Quarter, hearing great music everywhere, even from street musicians. For this music lover, it’s pretty much heaven on earth.

I’ve been in a funk since we’ve been back, and I was unable to snap myself out of it just by having a stern talking-to with myself. I made the good decision last night of writing to Shane. He and Matt just got back from a great two-week vacation to California and the Southwest, and Shane is going through a very similar post-vacation blues. He totally got where I was coming from. He went from being in the desert, sitting around a campfire, and looking up at the stars to dealing with customers and the frustrations of his job. He said he’s been thinking of being back there and looking up at the stars. I read that this morning, and I sat here and cried, because he got it. It’s not about not loving what I have here. It’s about enjoying myself so much and feeling such incredible euphoria for an entire week, and then returning to a much more quiet existence. I knew I’d find my happy place again, and I told Shane we could help each other get through this, but I honestly wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to snap out of this.

While the thorn in Shane’s side was dealing with the endless flow of customers and their “issues,” for me, it is the current state of politics and the hyper-partisanship. I had a bit of an epiphany while in New Orleans when I was talking with Jason, but that is a story for another day. Let’s just say that something has gotta give, and I am going to stop the pettiness and demonization of people. It’s the right thing to do for me. It’s unsustainable. It achieves nothing. But anyway...more to come about that in another entry.

I really feel for anyone who is going through a genuine chemical depression, because I was just going through a little period of post-vacation blues, and I was feeling awful. Those of you who know me in person—or even if you’ve never met me and just know me through this blog—know how much that goes against my nature. My friend Dan mentioned in a comment on Facebook a while back that “Beth is one of the happiest people I know.” That made me feel good, because I’m glad it shows. To not feel that usual cheerfulness is just alien and upsetting to me. To top it all off, I had a horrible drowning nightmare this morning, where I fell into the ocean and was getting swept out to sea. I haven’t had one of those in ages, but it’s obvious to me that it’s a sign of anxiety. I remember thinking in the dream, “So I guess this is how I’m going to die, but there’s so much I still want to do!” Not a good way to wake up, and it made my mood even more black this morning.

I’m not gonna lie to you, girlfriend and boyfriend, I was a hot mess!

But I got my act together and headed out to the grocery store. First of all, it was great to be behind the wheel of my Mustang again, to hear its roar, to hit it and tear up the road with the leaves blowing behind me. Nothing like a muscle car to make you feel a little more empowered. At first, I had NPR on, but I thought, “Fuck that!” (sorry Diane’s not you, it’s me) and cued a Green Day CD. I cranked it up louder and louder, and sang at the top of my voice. I was blowing out the cobwebs, and it was working! I was feeling better by the time I got to the store, and I made sure to try to smile at as many people as I could, and just that simple act seemed to help bring me out of my self-absorption. On the way home, I listened to the same song and cranked it and sang again. As I was getting close to Nutwood, I thought about taking a little spin around the dirty back roads, but I knew I had too much to do, and that yogurt wasn’t gonna refrigerate itself, right? Besides, I was feeling pretty okay by that point.

After putting away the groceries, I went out to do my workout and I hit it hard. I’d taken a month off of weights because of a strained muscle in my neck, but I was ready to pick it up again and it felt great. Viva la endorphins! I spent some time in the afternoon catching up on my online courses, and History of Rock Part Two is going to be even better than Part One, in my opinion.

I find it fitting that what I’m probably missing the most about New Orleans is the music and getting to hear such great stuff starting in the early afternoon and going most of the night, and music is what pulled me out of my funk. It has been my solace for as long as I can remember, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Thanks, Green Day. I needed that!

Here is the song that blew out my cobwebs, “Dirty Rotten Bastards.” Really fun to sing along with, with lines like “Calling all demons, this is the season, next stop is therapy.” This IS my therapy, guys!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Laundry day from hell (that’s what she said edition)

Vintage laundryUGH! Let me just bitch about this and get it out of my system.

I didn’t go anywhere today and decided to tackle Laundry Mountain. By the time I got everything separated, I had three huge loads. (That’s what she said! I’m sorry, I just had to.) By the time I post this entry, I’ll be finished with #3, so I can legitimately say that I made Laundry Mountain my bitch. HA! So there.

I can usually spread things out in the week a little more (go ahead and fill in your own “That’s what she said!” comments when you find it necessary), but I really wanted to just get it out of the way and done. It’s not so bad when you can spread it out (see the beginning of this paragraph), but doing it all in one day is just so incredibly tedious. I did other things, too, like got my workout done and talked to my Mom, but it was in between hanging and folding.

BLEAHHH! I’m sick of laundry! Fuck you, laundry! [flipping laundry the double bird]

Okay, I feel better now. Thanks.

When it’s all out of the way, I can focus on getting caught up on my online classes. I’m a week behind and we’re already well into the following week. I did manage to watch last week’s Vaccines video, so I’m not as behind on that one. The connection at the hotel was often wonky, though, and there were periods where I couldn’t connect at all. So I just blew off the rest of the lectures and figured I’d catch up later. Hey, just like real college!

I did manage to keep up with using the program to scan for outbreak cases for my Epidemics class, and picked up quite a few in my meanderings. I’ve found and isolated 31 cases so far. Yay! Some people have found in the hundreds, so they must be right in the thick of the pretend outbreak. The new phase is that some of us doing the scanning are also infectious, so we’re going to spread it when we scan. Yikes! If I’m lost in the carnage, please remember me fondly.

I’m also easing myself back into cooking, because I’m totally out of that mode right now. I’m starting easy with some kielbasa, and...oh, what the hell? One more: That’s what she said! Anyway, I’ll gradually work myself up to more ambitious options. Probably my favorite New Orleans dish is crawfish étouffée, and I had a couple of great ones on this trip. The first one was at Oceana, and maybe it was because it was the first full day there, but it tasted like ambrosia to me. The second one was at Desire Oyster Bar, and although it didn’t wallop me up the side of the head the way Oceana’s did, it was mighty good. I resolved to try my hand at an étouffée. I’ve made gumbo and jambalaya, but I’ve never attempted étouffée. I found my recipe from one of the cooking classes we took in New Orleans, though, and I’m going to give it a shot! I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find some frozen crawfish somewhere in town.

Hey, who do I gotta blow to get some crawfish in northern Indiana?!

I’m so sorry. I don’t know what is wrong with me. I’m in full-blown—HA! See?!—sassy mode, and I can’t seem to stop myself. Don’t worry about me. This will pass and I’ll be back to my usual sweet, angelic self and…

Bahaha! You guys know me better than that! I couldn’t keep a straight face. But I WILL calm down eventually and attempt to be a tiny bit more appropriate. I’m sure this is a lot to swallow. [deep breath]


Disneyland for adults

HalloweenWell, we’re back, it’s chilly, and I’m missing New Orleans. Waaaaah, Ricky!

It’s okay. I’ll snap out of it soon enough. I felt like this after the Stones concert, and I was okay after just a day or so. It’s just that first morning after, you know? I started feeling sad when we were getting ready to leave the hotel, and I actually cried in the cab on the way to the airport. Something about driving out of the French Quarter just really gets to me.

This might be the best time I’ve ever had in New Orleans. I’ve always had a great was great on our honeymoon, it was great with our friends Kim and Steve, it was great with Shane and Matt and George...but something about this time was even better for me. George came over from Houston to see us again, and it made me feel great to know that we have a friend who was willing to do that for us. But there was something more to it, and I’m not quite sure what it was.

The closest I can get to it is that I have a greater sense of my own mortality after turning 50, and I just want to enjoy every moment. New Orleans is an incredibly sensuous experience. The sight of the winding river or the sunlight coming through a tall window into an interior courtyard; the sound of a washboard vest or a smokin’ hot guitar lick or horses’ hooves clopping along a narrow street; the taste of a plump salty oyster or the burning sensation of a shot made with Everclear; the feel of the sunshine or the caress of a breeze on your skin or the sometimes cloying humidity; the smell of something good cooking somewhere, or the smell of you-probably-don’t-really-want-to-know-what. If you let yourself, you can become completely immersed in this city, and I’ve never felt it more than I felt it this time. I suppose you could not give into it, and just sit back and take it all in with a dispassionate air...but why the hell would you want to do that? I obviously haven’t been to every place on earth, but I think it’s a fair enough assumption that there is probably nowhere else on earth quite like New Orleans. I adore the place, and it got into my blood from my very first moment there. It’s still in my blood!

Beth and MariesSince I last updated, we saw the Daywalkers a couple more times, and they were all just incredibly nice. I had the chance to chat some more with Jason (the guitarist), and watch this space for a little more concerning him and the band soon...I hope! It sounds like there may be a CD coming soon, too...I hope! All these damn bruises I picked up down there will vanish soon...I hope! (Seriously. It’s bad. I’ve got bruises everydamnwhere.) We got to see them on Sunday, our last night there, and it was even more fun because the Saints were in town and won, so everyone was in a great mood. I’m still sore from dancing, but I wouldn’t change one moment! Thanks, you rock! Jason, you’re a big sweetie, and thanks for not hating me because I’m a liberal...although you swear up and down that I’m not. Haha!

We also seem to have found the perfect time to go: Halloween week. The oppressive humidity is gone, but the temperatures are still very pleasant. (I still kind of like it in the summer, because I hate wearing lots of clothes, but you know...hurricanes.) The place is crazy, with lots of people in costume, and I was thrilled to get to see my first New Orleans parade, the Halloween Krewe of Boo parade. The floats were amazing! I even got to dance with a bunch of Marie Antoinettes, and as you can see, George got photographic evidence. (That’s the Daywalkers in the background, too!)

We also got to see Gypsy Elise, who we saw last time and just loved. That last time, we got to the restaurant kind of late, but they kept playing past the time they were supposed to stop because we were all loving it so much and appreciating it. They kept playing for five people! We still laugh about grooving to “Word Up.” We got to shake our tail feathers at another place this time, and there were plenty of other people doing the same thing. Great to see her again!

Halloween3I got to meet lots of new people, and as I alluded to in the previous entry, that’s not always easy for me to do. I sometimes have a hard time talking to new people, but everyone in New Orleans is just so friendly, and so many people just want to have a good time, that I found it easy to strike up conversations and not feel as socially awkward as I often do. Maybe that’s another reason I love the place so much. I can be the kind of social person I’d like to be without stressing about it or working too hard at it. I don’t know. I’m probably over-analyzing that. But there’s no denying that when meeting Ken’s colleagues this time, I felt more relaxed and comfortable in that kind of situation than I ever have. I felt fine when chatting up Jason, and not shy at all. So many people don’t believe that I’m shy, but it’s true. I have to really work at it. It’s not quite as hard for me in New Orleans. There’s just something about the city that brings out The Happy in people. Of course, it sometimes brings out the Drunk Asshole in people, but that happens everywhere. I see it often enough at Notre Dame games!

Oh just struck me. What if I wasn’t just bringing out The Happy, but I ventured into Drunk Asshole territory? What a horrifying thought! Well, people were hugging me and shit, so I couldn’t have been too much of a Drunk Asshole-type. Unless the people hugging me were Drunk Assholes. *GASP* No, wait...Jason hugged me, and he was neither drunk nor an asshole. Whew. I think I’m okay.

Ahhhh, thank you, NOLA. You are a gem, and I couldn’t love you more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lovin’ NOLA and new friends!

Bourbon StreetI’ve got a bit of time here before Ken gets back from his meetings, so I thought I’d get a quick entry in.

We’re having an absolute blast, and it’s not even the weekend yet! I joked on Facebook that my liver deserves hazardous duty pay for this week.

We got to the hotel Sunday evening, checked in with no problems, and while Ken went foraging for beer (liquor stores everywhere, so no problem), I checked the channel lineup and was delighted to discover that they get AMC! So I didn’t miss my Dead, and I won’t miss them this coming Sunday, either. Yay! We went out for a bite to eat, and after the Dead, we headed out to Bourbon Street. We finished watching the Colts game in a bar there, then just started walking around.

We saw a couple on the street, and I don’t recall how we started talking, but we found out they were originally from Indiana, a small town where our friend Sam is from. We kind of hit it off and went to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for drinks and talk. The guy and Ken exchanged cards, and they actually invited us out to their condo in Idaho to go skiing at Sun Valley. Very nice!

That ended up being kind of a late night, but we still got up at a decent time the next morning and got our workouts in. I’ve been doing really well with that and have done an hour on the bike every morning! Probably a good thing to sweat out the previous night’s toxins, you know! Ha! Then it was back to Bourbon for some food (a muffaletta at Napoleon House...we realized we’d never been to that place before) and music. One of the places we often go is called Krazy Korner, and that’s where we used to see Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers. As we got close, we could hear someone playing the washboard vest, and sure enough, it was Alex from the Hellraisers! Turns out that Alex is no longer with Dwayne and formed his own band called the Daywalkers.

Quarter CatI might even like this band more (although Dwayne can play the hell out of the accordion). They do some zydeco, but also blues and southern rock. We had a blast dancing, and were there until the band stopped playing at 7:30. (There is more to this story, too.) Then it was a place for Cajun music, and this band included a fiddle player! We had more fun there, and the band was chatting us up, asking where we were from, that sort of thing, as well as the nice couple sitting next to us.

The next day we went back to the Krazy Korner, where the Daywalkers were playing again. Jason recognized us right away, and we chatted a bit during one of their breaks. He told me, “Hey, I wanted to invite you and Ken out to hear me play tonight.” He explained where it was, that he was doing an acoustic set, and hoped we’d be there. How nice of him to invite us as well as remember our names! After they finished, we headed back to the hotel for a change of clothes, then on over to his other gig at Kerry’s Irish Pub. It was an open mic night, and he didn’t play the entire time, but that worked out okay because then he came over to chat me up while Ken played pool with some guy he met. Jason is just super nice, and seemed happy that we came out. He was onstage when we got there and said, “Beth and Ken!”

Then I got roped into playing pool with Ken and the guy and his girlfriend, who were also super nice. I kind of held my own, and we ended up winning. Miracles DO happen...I’m a sucky pool player!

There is still more to the Krazy Korner saga! The following day, Ken was golfing with some of his fellow conference goers, so after my workout, I headed on over to Bourbon all by my lonesome to see what kind of trouble I could get into...and you know where I went! Jason raised his eyebrows and grinned, and when they took a break, he came over and gave me a hug and we chatted a bit. He said, “Hey, I can rub on you all I want ‘cause your husband’s not here!” (No worries...he was just being nice and making a joke.) When Alex came around with the tip jar, he said, “Hey sweet baby, welcome back.” When they were getting ready to play again, I motioned Jason over to where I was sitting, and he said, “Hey Boo!” I’m telling you, people, if you show the band some love, they’ll give it right back to you. I asked if they were here the rest of the week, and he said no, they were off Thursday, thank God, but they were at another bar on Bourbon on you know where I’ll be!

DaywalkersSince this was the middle of the afternoon, the crowd was somewhat spotty. There would be quite a few people in there, then it would clear out. At one point, I was the only one in there, and I looked around and raised my hands in a “what the hell?” gesture. Jason just shrugged, like “Yeah, it happens sometimes.” So when the song ended, I applauded and gave a “Woooo!” They laughed and the keyboard player said, “Yell louder!” Jason said, “That’s Beth. She’s the only one we need.” Awww!

Anyway, it’s been fun to make friends with people, and Jason has been especially sweet. I look forward to hearing him play again tomorrow! I won’t have to go by myself this time, because our friend George will be with me. He gets in tonight!

Oh, I had to leave before the band was done, because we had a dinner we had to go to for Ken’s conference. When they took a break, I went out to say goodbye, and Jason said, “Where you goin’?” I said, “Ahh, we got a stupid dinner we have to go to.” He said, “Oh, tell Ken to blow it off.” Haha! I said I couldn’t, but I’d see them again on Friday. He seemed okay with that. :) I said, “I just love you guys. You’re a blast and you make me smile.” I don’t recall if it was Jason or Alex who said, “Well, that’s what we’re here for.” See? Show ‘em some love! I am obviously enthusiastic about the music, and I think any musician appreciates that.

The dinner turned out to be quite a bit of fun, and there were some really nice people there that I was meeting for the first time. Usually I’m a somewhat shy person when around people I don’t know, but there’s just something about this city that brings out my social butterfly. Or maybe it’s the good side of the Inner Lizard...I don’t know. But I had no problem talking with people last night. I think this city just has so much fun energy that it rubs off on you. Social situations sometimes exhaust me, but New Orleans gives me so much energy that I don’t feel the usual exhaustion.

So let’s see what kind of trouble I can get into the rest of the time here…!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Taking a breath

Maxi's Oct '13Whew!

It’s been a busy week, and today I finished up the bulk of what I needed to do before vacation. After doing kitty care at Shane’s, I came home and did a couple of small loads of laundry. I like having all the laundry done before vacation, how about you? You know you’re going to have a bunch when you get back, so I like to have that done before taking off. Then I decided what to take and got all that folded and laid out. I took my final exam in the History of Rock course (29 out of 30! I missed a Beatles/Beach Boys question, darn it. I could take it again, but I’m cool with 29/30.), and I feel like I got the majority of things done. Now I can just enjoy an evening at home, and not have a stressful afternoon tomorrow trying to rush around before the game.

Notre Dame plays USC tomorrow night, and that’s always a big game. We found out earlier this week that our friend Andy was flying out to attend the game with his Dad, Bill. It worked out that we were able to get together with them for dinner last night, and we had a great time! If you recall, Andy is the one who got his doctorate from Cal Tech, and Ken and I went to his graduation at the culmination of our Route 66 trip.

We got to talk and get caught up while enjoying a super yummy dinner at our favorite local place, Maxi’s. (Thanks, Katie!) It has definitely become our go-to place for when family and friends come in from out of town to visit. Although if you’re a vegetarian, you might be out of luck. Their steaks are delicious, and I’ve tried several other items there. I’ve never had a bad meal there, and we love to treat people when they come to visit! So come on by and we’ll take you to Maxi’s!

Andy and BethBill recently retired and is loving it. I’ve never understood people who hate retirement. You can’t let work define you. It can be a big part of your life, and it was for me for many years. Then you’re done and you can enjoy all the things that you never had time for when you were working! I’m very happy for him and glad that he is enjoying his retirement so much!

Andy is doing great, too. He’s dealing well with his six months in Afghanistan. Something like that can really put things in perspective and profoundly affect a person, but he’s okay. He’s dating someone and seems happy about that. He still seems to be trying to find his special purpose, just like Navin Johnson. I don’t doubt that he will find it. He is incredibly smart, has a personality that just lights up the room, and he makes no bones about it: he wants to change the world!

It was a wonderful evening, and I was so happy to be out and about with three great guys. We’ll try and hook up with them at a tailgate tomorrow before the game. I hope that works out.

Next big thing: New Orleans! I’ll try to update as much as possible. George is meeting us later in the week, and it will be great to see him, too! Good times, people, good times!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


BSL 4No, not for real, and not the crappy movie, either. (I almost threw things at the TV when a lab tech stuck his hand inside a centrifuge in a Biosafety Level 4 lab. NO! That would never happen!) Incidentally, the picture is from a BSL4 lab. I never worked in BSL4. The highest I got was BSL3, which was our TB and fungus room. We also did some anthrax testing in there, when that scare happened right after 9/11. I would love to get a chance to go inside a BSL4 lab, though! There are only a few in the world.

This has to do with my latest online class, Epidemics. In addition to the course video, forums, and quizzes, they are doing a real time epidemic simulator using mobile devices. I don’t know exactly how they designed it, but apparently, they have designated a certain number of cases and places where they are occurring. When we scan our location, we find out if we’ve spotted the local cases, and they are considered to be isolated. I’ve found four in my area. Out of two million cases, some 3,000 have been found and isolated, so that should give anyone pause. People are often contagious but not symptomatic, so that guy sitting next to you on the subway could be shedding virus or bacteria ALL OVER YOU. Think about that on your morning commute tomorrow!

The truth is that if an agent is highly transmissible, it would spread like wildfire. (There is a reason Michael Crichton named his surveillance program and facility Project Wildfire in The Andromeda Strain.) With the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices and high level of travel today, I think this will give a fascinating look at how rapidly something like this can spread. I should have a big week coming up, because we’ll be going to the Notre Dame-USC game on Saturday (massive influx of people to the area, 80,000+ people in the stadium), and going to New Orleans on Sunday. I’ll be able to pick up a lot of infections at both. Not literal infections. Virtual ones. At least I hope!

This course, as well as the course connected with “The Walking Dead” out of UC-Irvine, promises to delve into various aspects of a pandemic and the epidemiology associated with it. There are also sociological and psychological implications that will be addressed. All of these things are some of the reasons I love the show, so I think it will be fun to go a little deeper and think about it a little more.

Stay safe out there!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Dead night

Zombie nailsI found myself a tiny bit bereft today, because the season premiere had come and gone!

I think it was one of those deals where you anticipate it so much that once it’s over, you’re like, “Aww, man.” There was a little bit of that involved with the Stones show back in May, too.

I won’t write about it here—I did that on Facebook—but suffice it to say that despite a rather bucolic start, I’m pretty sure that shit is gonna get real very quickly. I think my prediction might come true. I think some sort of infectious disease other than the zombie microorganism is happening. The visual of the zombies coming through the roof was just fantastic. The splats were super cool, as was the zombie hanging by his guts. Wow!

I was pretty pleased with how my “zombie nails” turned out. I texted the pic to my sister and she said they looked infected! Perfect! That’s exactly what I was going for. Pus-filled nails? Success!

SlimeballsThe Slimeballs were also a success, and I think I might have to have some more tonight. Yum!

This week is going to be busy. I’m working on getting ready for New Orleans, and will have to start packing soon. This is also my busiest week with the online courses I’m taking. In addition to History of Rock and Vaccines, today the Walking Dead class started, and tomorrow, the Epidemics class starts. The latter two are kind of nice tie-ins.

The Walking Dead class looks like it’s going to be very interesting. I watched the intro lecture today, as well as a video where they talk to some cast members about the show (a nice feature). The Epidemics class will look at pandemic infections from a purely epidemiologic point, but the Walking Dead course is going to explore the sociological and psychological impacts. I think it’s going to be fascinating. My friend Lisa is taking it, too, so it will be fun to discuss with her!

If my online presence is down this week, this is why. Just a lot going on, but you can watch for New Orleans updates next week!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Something to cherish

RoyalMom had told me a while back that she’d cleaned up the case of Dad’s old typewriter. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with it, but he knew that Dad would be pleased at how well it cleaned up.

She said he typed all of his letters on it and used it often. As you can see, it’s an old Royal, and it’s a manual. I said if she was okay with it, I wouldn’t mind having it for the Retro Lounge. Not only is it a cool old typewriter, it was apparently a well-used and treasured thing of my Dad’s.

The thing is really heavy. If anyone ever breaks in here and goes all Annie Wilkes on me, I’ve got a Royal typewriter to bash her in the head with. I love that it’s turquoise and white—great retro colors that match the colors in the Retro Lounge. I’m not sure where I’ll put it, but I’ll find a spot, and I’m pleased to have it.

When we were at Mom’s today, I opened it up and was checking it out. For some reason, I’m fascinated by old typewriters. I guess I’m my father’s daughter! I took a typing class in 8th grade, and I learned on an electric. But we had a really old Royal manual—even older than Dad’s—at home that I often used to type reports for school. It still worked very well, although you had to really apply some force to the keys to get them to work. These things are almost works of art to me now.

Anyway, I opened it up and looked at it. There was a sheet of paper in there, and it looks like Dad had typed a few letters, probably just checking it to see if his old friend still worked well. A string of symbols and letters and then…

Royal2My name. The very last thing my Dad ever typed on his typewriter was my name.

My initial reaction was to smile and say, “Aww!” But as I thought about it a little more, I could feel myself becoming sad. I pushed those thoughts away.

For whatever reason, at that moment in time, I was in my Dad’s thoughts. I hope they were good thoughts, and not worried ones. That’s a reason to be happy, not sad.

I was going to cherish the typewriter already. That piece of paper with my name on it makes it even more precious to me, and the paper will remain in place.