Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nutwood downtime

Nutwood spring 2013Things have been pretty hectic with Ken’s job lately, and it seems like we’ve had something(s) going on every weekend for a while. Although we always have ourselves a real good time, I think we were both wanting a weekend Nutwood staycation.

There were definitely some options this weekend. There is a Blues and Ribs Fest going on downtown at the Cove; there is my family reunion tomorrow; and my cousin in Chicago is coming down for a visit and wanted to know if I wanted to get a group together and go out for drinks. I made an executive decision and declined them all (although Ken and I discussed the possibility of the Blues and Ribs Fest), and when I told Ken, I could tell he was relieved. I just knew that we both needed a weekend at home with no obligations and no place to go, especially because he’ll be making a weekend trip to Omaha at the end of this week. (He’s looking forward to meeting up with our friend Mark. Love & Rockets, Mark! Wish I could be there to give you a big hug!) And Michael, please keep us in mind next time you’re in town, because we’d love to meet up with you!

Last night we stayed up late, slept late (Ken later on both than me, which is unusual!), and we have just hung around here doing our thing today. A brief workout for me, a longer one for Ken while I sat on the deck and read. (I’m making great progress on From Here To Eternity and really enjoying it!) Since it looks like we might get some rain this evening, I’m going to make burgers on the electric grill tonight, and we’ll watch the Stanley Cup finals. Go Hawks! Gotta cheer for Chicago, but I don’t hate on ya, Boston. I’ll be happy for you if you win, too!

Tomorrow looks to be a nicer day, so lawn mowing will commence. There will be grilled T-bones, baked potatoes, a nice Cabernet, and a salad for tomorrow’s meal. It’s shaping up to be a pleasant weekend, and I think we both needed a stay-at-home weekend.
I’m happy that I have someone with whom I am simpatico. We’ve been doing enough lately that I just knew that we both wanted this weekend at home, and I’m glad that I made the right choice and that Ken supported and agreed with it.

I hope your weekend is as pleasant!

Friday, June 21, 2013

I got a rock ‘n roll car

Slick2I made a beer run this morning, and I was waiting for a lady to back out of her parking space so I could get in there.

She backed out and as she passed by me going the other way, she smiled and said something to me. I turned down the music and rolled my window down all the way and said, “What?” She said, “Nice car!” I grinned and kind of flapped my hand at her, like “Oh you!” and thanked her.

It was just one of those pleasantries you sometimes get from strangers that makes you smile and brightens your day, and I thank her for that. You rock, lady!

What was funny was that I was listening to Green Day’s “American Idiot” CD (on heavy rotation in my car right now), and the song was “Homecoming.” It’s a rather long song that consists of five distinct parts and subtitles (“American Idiot” is essentially a rock opera, remember), with one of them “Rock ‘n Roll Girlfriend.” That part includes the lines “I got a rock ‘n roll house, I got a rock ‘n roll car.” I’m not so sure about our house (Although the Retro Lounge might be a little bit rock ‘n roll...our property is a little bit country. Haaaa! I slay me!), but I think my car could reasonably be called a rock ‘n roll car!

I listened to “Homecoming” twice as I was driving, and I was struck by just how damn good it is (the whole CD is great, actually). I love the different tempos and beats, a little bit of wistfulness followed by full-blown rock bombast. This stuff is anthemic, with the martial beat of the drums at the end and the chanting “Home...we’re coming home again!” Makes me want to pump my fist in the air and sing along!

Although it’s not part of the Broadway Theater League season package in 2013-14, the Morris will be bringing “American Idiot” (the musical) here this year, and as season ticket members, we’ll get first dibs on seats. I am so psyched about this one, and I think it’s going to be a blast. I’m not sure how they can recreate the sound of Green Day and the CD in the theater, but the Morris has a pretty kickass sound system, so I’m thinking it’s going to be great. This will be kind of weird, though. These are balls-to-the-wall rock songs, but it’s a musical. I’m guessing that the crowd will sit for most of it, and I will be cool, don’t worry! I hope there will be plenty of chances to stand up and dance, though, because this isn’t sitting-down music!

I’ve never had a chance to see Green Day, but I’m going to start watching for them. I would love to see them. Talk about a high energy show!

Rock on, Citizens!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beth’s Books: Classics

From Here To EternityI have GOT to make a graphic for these book entries!

I’ve really slacked off on my reading lately as I caught up on back issues of Rolling Stone. I’ve been in music mode for a while now, and I really enjoyed diving into that as we began to get some nice weather and I was able to sit out on the deck. Now that I’m all caught up, I’m getting back into some books.

After a book about politics, I decided to get back to the Modern Library Top 100 list. I’m on #62, From Here To Eternity, and I started it today. It’s a monster, over 800 pages, so it might take me a while to get through, but I can say that it grabbed me from the beginning with its clear and accessible writing (although I don’t understand all the WWII-era slang). The novel was published in 1951, and since there is already talk of prostitution and “the clap,” I’m going to bet that it was a bit controversial at the time!

This isn’t a review...I’m just barely into it! But I love it already for a couple of reasons. First, since it is set on a military base in Hawaii in 1940, it makes me think of my Dad. Not that he was ever stationed in Hawaii, but the characters are the kind of guys he would have been stationed with. It makes me think of my Dad in that situation, and these are happy thoughts. One of the characters is even a Chief Warrant Officer, which is what my Dad was. I also love the snappy banter that is so evocative of movies from that era. The rapid-fire dialogue can be a little hard to follow, but you can imagine people saying it.

I love this exchange between a couple of soldiers.
“And remember,” Warden said, “Mon-sewer O’Hayer says you got to straighten this mess up sometime today.”
“Your face,” Leva said.
“Your mother’s box,” Milt said, “Get to work.”
See? Snappy banter! Can’t you just picture these guys talking to each other? I sure can.
But what really got to me was this descriptive line.
“...two electric bulbs like burning tears dangling from the ends of chains increased the gloom.”

Now that is some fine writin’ right there. Anyone who is a reader or who enjoys writing will appreciate that particular turn of phrase. I’m still in awe of that line. It jumped out at me immediately.

I’m happy to be getting back into this list, because what I’ve found with many of these Top 100 novels is that the writing is just mind-boggling. There are current writers who can do that to me; Stephen King is one of them. In Joyland, the line that jumped out at me was, “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” Perfection! And so true. Some more than others!

I’ve noticed that many of these literary classics have more of such amazing lines. Lines that don’t just make me say, “Hey, that’s good,” they make my jaw drop and make me say, “Holy SHIT, that’s good!”

Some of these books have been a slog, and there have been a couple where I conceded defeat. (James Joyce, anyone?) But I’ve also revisited a few that I’d read years before and enjoyed from a new perspective (A Clockwork Orange, for example), and found some new favorites that I never would have read without this list (Angle of Repose). It’s been a lot of fun branching out a bit with some of these books, and it’s fun to get back into it.

Happy reading, Citizens!

Our big crazy Italian cousin

GandolfiniIt’s late and I need to get to bed, but I need to write a bit about this.

I am just heartbroken to learn that it really is true. James Gandolfini is dead at the age of 51.

“The Sopranos” means a lot to me and Ken. I had never watched it until I met him, but he was already a fan (I think that was one season into the show), and as soon as I watched, I was hooked, too. I think it was the first show that we really “bonded” over, and we never missed an episode after we got together. We got the entire series on DVD, and watched it again a couple of years ago. One of our weird “couple things” (all couples have them, right?) is because of a Bob & Tom skit that involves James Gandolfini and Charles Barkley. It involves trying a new food, some heavy Gandolfini breathing, and us saying, “Yeah...pretty good.” I’m betting that the next time we do that, I’ll get all teary-eyed.

The Interwebz was crazy with the rumor for a while, but there were conflicting reports. A couple of friends cited CNN as reporting it, but CNN lost all credibility with me because of their horrible reporting of the Boston Marathon bombing. I’m sorry to say it, but I just don’t find them trustworthy anymore, and haven’t watched for several months now. I thought the most credible report was from HBO, and then other national media finally began weighing in, and it turned out that it was sadly true. Celebrity death hoaxes are rampant in the last few years, so I wait for a lot of confirmation before I believe it. Frankly, I didn’t want to believe it was true.

I was in tears, as were several of our friends. Dawn lives in New Jersey, James grew up four towns over from her, and his father was the custodian at her high school. She lives not too far away from the place that was the Bada Bing, and she said that she drives by several of the locations in the show almost every day. She said she feels like her big crazy Italian cousin has died.

I think a lot of us are feeling that way tonight, Dawn. By all accounts, James was a genuinely kind and decent man, and he was obviously a wonderful actor.

My condolences to his family, friends, and all who loved him.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beth’s Books: Wingnuts by John Avlon

WingnutsHmm, maybe I need to come up with a cute little graphic for Beth’s Books, like I have for Beth’s Music Moment! Not today, though.

The subtitle is How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, and that is a good descriptive.

I’ve always liked John Avlon, because he seems reasonable, but he is always willing to call bullshit when it needs to be called (I’m talkin’ to YOU, Orly Taitz!).

I think he is very fair in saying that the wingnuts occur on both sides; but the majority of the book is about the right wingnuts, because you know what? That’s where the majority of the wingnuts reside. The rhetoric on the left can be bad, too. That’s why I stopped watching MSNBC. I catch clips here and there, but I’ve found that the shouting (I’m talkin' to YOU, Chris Matthews!) kills any reasonable discussion, and I find it rather unpleasant and unproductive. You can’t have a conversation when you’re shouting down the other person.

But it’s pretty obvious that the right wing has been a little more vicious and vocal for the past several years, and Avlon rightly focuses more on this. There is just more “there” there, right?

I liked what he had to say about people on either side standing up to the fringes in their own party. There is nothing wrong with telling a friend that they need to dial down the rhetoric a bit. We all want to move forward, but if we are unwilling to listen because of our own ideological “purity,” then nothing really gets done, does it?

If you’re interested in politics, I recommend this book. I follow John Avlon on Twitter and told him that his book was fantastic, and he tweeted back a “thank you.” That was very nice!

Different subject. The Twitterverse and Facebookosphere are exploding with the news of James Gandolfini’s death. I am also reading reports that this is another celebrity death hoax. I am hoping that the latter is true. If so, I’ve got a few friends who are on board with finding out who is responsible for this and making them pay for what they have perpetrated. Ya get what I’m sayin’? [cracking knuckles] Nobody fucks with the guy who played Tony OR fucks with his family like this. NOBODY. You hear me?

The Stones swag is here!

StonesPart of our ticket package for the Rolling Stones was some swag that would be sent after the show. It got here today!

[jumping up and down]

I had no idea what was in the box until I opened it up and saw Grrregory staring out at me. I said, “Ooooo!”

There are hardback programs, collectible laminates on lanyards, (those will be going in the shadowbox!), tote bags (at least one new grocery bag for badass rock and roll grocery-shopping me...the other one might be going in the shadowbox), and two knit blankets.

I’m not sure the programs sold at the show were hardback programs, so these are SWEET. Beautiful, glossy photos, and it was so cool to see the photo that is the one on the Mick t-shirt I got at the concert! I’m really glad I chose that shirt! Gorgeous...I want to reedus him. heehee

I spread the blanket out on the living room floor and posted a picture of it on Facebook. I said, “I want to roll around on it!” and our friend Russ asked, “Naked?” Bahaha! I said, “Hush, Russ.” Ken and I cracked up later when Sheeba checked out the tongue blanket and proceeded to give himself a tongue bath on the tongue. So meta. That’s my kitty! I said that I’m gonna walk around here wearing this em-effin’ blanket like a cape this winter!

Again, no regrets. It was a fantastic concert, my favorite concert ever, and a wonderful memory with my best friend. Opening up this box and seeing all the Stones swag was a fun moment and a great reminder of the show, and it brought a big smile to my face. It was like Christmas morning at Nutwood today!

You can count on me walking around here this winter with that rug on my shoulders like Mick’s flag cape here. I’ll serenade Sheeba and do my Jagger moves. I won’t slam anyone in the face with my guitar, though. Ha!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Not quite summer

Beth on the deck3
But it sure feels like it! turns me upside down
Summer, summer, summer
It's like a merry-go-round
I see you under the midnight
All shackles and bows
High shoes with the cleats a-clickin'
A temperamental glow
But then you let me go
Oh, got a hold on you, got a hold on you, I got a hold on you, tonight
Oh, I got a hold on you, got a hold on you, got a hold on you, that's right
Oh oh it's magic
When I'm with you (Oh-o, it's magic)
Oh oh it's magic, just a little magic (gotta be magic)
You know it's true
I got a hold on you
So twisted...under sideways down
I know you're getting twisted
And you can't calm down
I see you under the midnight
Love darts in your eyes
How far can you take it
Till you realize
There's magic in your eyes
I got a hold on you, got a hold on you, got a hold on you, tonight
“I see you under the midnight, love darts in your eyes.” I love those lines.

It was warm and humid today, and I love this kind of weather! It was just on the verge of being TOO hot and humid, but not quite there yet. Errands this morning (I was all smiles...did you smile at someone today?), and then a lovely afternoon at Nutwood. After an hour in the sun (with a couple of breaks to come in and cool off under the fan), I headed under the umbrella and read for a while.

I hope your day was as pleasant, and never forget...there’s magic in your eyes.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bacon ‘n Brews at the Batcove

Hawks3We had a nice surprise this morning when our friend Andy called us to wish Ken a happy Father’s Day! We are so happy that he is back safely from his trip to Afghanistan for the company he works for! They had a mobile lab where they did problem-solving with equipment and devices (to put it simply), and he was there for six months. I know we weren’t the only ones who breathed a sigh of relief when he made it back home this past week! Wonderful to hear from him, and I chatted with him for a while and we had some laughs, then Andy and Ken chatted and had even more. We’re looking forward to seeing him this fall when he comes back for a couple of Notre Dame football games. We love you, Andy! Welcome home!

Then we headed out to do some quick kitty care for Shane and Matt, who are visiting Matt’s family in Wisconsin. All the kitties are fine, and all ate heartily!

THEN we were motorin’ to fabulous downtown South Bend, where we had tickets to see the South Bend Silver Hawks (single-A team for the Arizona Diamondbacks) play the Dayton Dragons at Coveleski Stadium, AKA the Cove. It was also a special promotion for Father’s Day: Bacon ‘n Brews.

This was on the Upper Deck, an enclosed room behind home plate, and it was basically a beer tasting, with different local craft beers paired with appetizers, entrees, and desserts. There was a little initial confusion, with the front gate staff directing us to the picnic area where a lot of events are held; there were plenty of people who we asked along the way who directed us to the right place. We hadn’t been to the Upper Deck before, so we appreciated the help.

Hawks1There was a little more confusion when they weren’t serving the food when they said they would be. But we settled at the bar and paid for a couple of beers before we got the food and beers included in the package. We took the time to get to know Ken the Bartender, a super nice guy who recommended several local breweries. If you haven’t been paying attention, craft breweries are popping up everywhere, and there are quite a few in our area.

We saw Drew, the guy renovating the State Theater. He was the one who posted about this special promotion, and I’m glad he did! I had messaged him and he said he was going to be there, and I finally saw him. We chatted with him a bit, and met his friend Mara (I hope I’m spelling that correctly), who is also helping with the renovation and promotion of the State.

We talked with Ben (that’s him in the picture up there), who is a master chef and the head of food services at the Cove. This was the first event of this kind at the Cove, and he was asking people’s opinions. We were honest.
  • This is a GREAT idea, and we hope to see more such promotions at the Cove!
  • Since this was the first time they’ve done this, we understood the delay in the food. But that shouldn’t happen again.
  • The cheese soup on the appetizer station was yummy, but way too salty. Back off on the salt!
  • The chocolate covered bacon with jalapenos and sea salt on the dessert station was the BOMB. Holy crap, that was good! All the food was of a high quality.
  • Have the TV screens showing a live feed of the game rather than other sports feeds. That is beyond Ben’s control, but Coveleski needs to do that, both in the Upper Deck and in the concourse.
  • Better direction and promotion. There was much confusion as to where this was among the staff. It took us a bit to find where it was. And we only found out about it because Drew posted it on Facebook; I looked for it on the Silver Hawks website and couldn’t find it. (Thanks for the tip, Drew!)
  • LOVED it that they were promoting local breweries! More of that, please!
He seemed to appreciate the feedback, and was genuinely seeking suggestions. Overall, it was a really fun and positive experience, and we said we’d love to come to another one of these!

I told Ken that this would be a great place to hold one of his bigger PMI meetings, so he made sure to ask Ben about that and get his card. It sounds like they can accommodate such things, and it would be cool to support our local ballpark!

Hawks6We also heard from Ken the Bartender that not only is the owner of the Silver Hawks planning on putting in more attractions (like a three-tier party pavilion), he is hoping to affiliate this farm team with either the Chicago Cubs or the Chicago White Sox! What-WHAT?! The Silver Hawks used to be affiliated with the Sox, but that changed a while back to the Diamondbacks. If they could get back an affiliation with one of the Chicago teams, that would be HUGE. We’re only an hour and a half away from Chicago, so having potential Cubs or Sox play here in South Bend would be a great local connection! Good things happening in South Bend!

As for the game, we lost 2-0, but it was a beautiful day, and we got some good sun and enjoyed it thoroughly. We got to see the Vegetable Race, which never fails to crack me up. This time it was between Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Mushroom. We were cheering for the Shroom, but Broccoli won it. They came right up our aisle afterwards, and I got to high-five Broccoli and Shroom, but Ken got to high-five all of them! SCORE!

But the best part of the day for me....

Ken went to get us a beer, and as I sat there, I saw the woman in front of me rubbing sunscreen on the neck of the elderly gentleman next to her. They were Dragons fans, and it looked like the woman was there with her husband and her Dad. It brought a tear to my eye, and I leaned over and asked, “Is that your Dad?”

She said, “Yes.”

I said, “I thought so. I lost mine three years ago. Cherish him.”

She patted my hand and said, “I understand. I lost my Mom 11 months ago. He’s 90 years old!”

I sat back and cried a little bit, missing my Dad. I think it was after the 7th-inning stretch singing of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” that I decided to step down to the elderly gentleman and I told him, “I lost my Dad three years ago. Can I give you a hug?”

He said, “Yes. I lost my wife a year ago.” He returned my hug.

That one was for you, Dad.

On the way home, we put down the top on the convertible and cranked up Foster the People and just enjoyed the beautiful day. This is where we live…this is us coming home.