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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Proper Thanksgiving Etiquette
or Emily Post would totally do a spit take

Okay, so there's this long time YouTuber named Ze Frank who has been creating eclectic videos for upwards of eight years maybe. His odd, humorous and thought-provoking observational videos are the inspiration behind the Vlogbrothers, aka John and Hank Green's highly successful YouTube presence. He also brought us the hilarious True Facts about Hedge Hogs.

Now he's tackled proper etiquette for your Thanksgiving table. Question: which fork does one use to consume a penis legume?

Billy's messed up, yo.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In Which Sometimes One Captures Greatness On Ones iPhone

Okay, so, yeah that happened.

What. You didn't watch? Go back and watch, paying particular attention to roughly 1:30 in. Hilarious!

Stumble, tumble and keep on playing. That's Rock 'n Roll, BABY!! Epic. That's my favorite band, putting every last drop of unbridled energy out there, leaving the stage in an exhausted, sweaty heap after the overwhelming, mad rush of unconditional love from an exhilarated, hoarse, completely sated sold-out DC audience. Is it any wonder why I (and thousands of others) adore these four men so much? That right there, that's the perfect example of why I go back to the Old 97's well time and again. They simply never disappoint.

But I've started with dessert, as it were. I'm a girl after all, and we chicks consume a meal backwards sometimes. Life is short.

Anywho, my latest traveling troubadour adventure started with a 6am Megabus ride to Philly after a late night musical outing with Geo (yes, Geo partook!!) and friends to see The English Beat at the Hard Rock Cafe. Dave Wakelin and company are always a great time. Near constant dancing ensued mainly of the white guy variety. The Beat were the third band on the ticket, so they didn't take the stage until 10. When we checked out close to midnight, they hadn't finished their main setlist yet, but we had heard most of the songs we came for by then, my thighs were burning from bustin' moves and my ears were buzzing like a thousand cicadas on a warm summer night. Ska-tastic!

But I digress...

First of all, Dude, Megabus is made of awesome!! Uber comfortable seats, clean, free WiFi, outlets to recharge, a noticeable lack of fragrant hobos, all for a mere FIVE BUCKS!!

Seriously. Get on that shit! Five bucks! I spend $5  in gas just to drive to the New Stanton exit of the Turnpike. That's it. Pittsburgh to Philly on a fiver...sweet, SWEET deal.

Did I mention the lack of stanky, skanky Greyhound creepers? It's true.

Part one of the week's 97's double shot was a new venue, Union Transfer near Chinatown. It used to be a Spaghetti Warehouse. An Italian food chain in Chinatown...yeah, no wonder that didn't work out. Better for us, because the space provided a terrific setting for a rock show. High ceiling, cavernous general admission pit, balcony, front lobby made for merch and a top-notch sound system. Very impressive.

Similar to the tour in September, this leg of the Too Far To Care anniversary shows began with a short solo set by Rhett. He's an unbelievable showman, giving his all, working up a sweat no matter how long or short his appearance on stage. In Philly, he pulled out California Stars, Need to Know Where I Stand and a very spirited Johnny Cash cover The Wreck of the Old 97 (for obvious reasons). In DC, he took a more sentimental route with Picture This and Sometimes after we were treated to an unplanned a capella verse of the narrative rich Holy Cross. A critical string had broken on his acoustic, but instead of pausing to collect another guitar and starting over, he kept singing. His smooth voice bouncing off the walls, washing over the silent crowd transfixed by every unaccompanied note. Spontaneous applause erupted when he finally started strumming his secondary guitar. It was a beautiful moment.

Between the solo and band sets, was The Travoltas. Helmed by Old 97's producer and Texas native, Salim Nourallah, this five-piece band in their matching tan polyester suits delivered light, poppy, Beatlesque tunes that kept the audience with them throughout their set. A pretty big feat for any opener. Buoyant in spirit and playful with each other, Salim roamed around the stage caressing the bald keyboardist's head, tossing scarfs at the guitarists and leading the crowd in a clap along. I'm not exaggerating when I say they are THE BEST opener I've every seen for the 97's. So fun and engaging, they easily won over both cities. Usually one suffers through the first act, patiently (or not) waiting for the headliner, but I (and other multiply-show fans) was giddy to see them again.

Pictures Collected

They are adorable and deserving of all the accolades they've received! And so so so very nice!

As I've said too many times to count, one of the greatest joys of being a Rhett Miller/Old 97's fan is the circle of friends made based on a mutual devotion to these guys. There are always familiar faces in the front row. Even though I was traveling solo, this trip was spent Murry side in Philly with Tracey from NJ and a group of her friends, some of them new to our obsession. I always have fun seeing a show with Tracey, singing and dancing with cocktail in hand.

After a rousing performance of Too Far to Care, which in itself is a perfect setlist, they played a nice assortment including Oppenheimer (a rarity), Question including the French verse usually reserved for Rhett's solo shows, and the every catchy Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You). F.U.N!

"This is the story of Victoria Lee..."

DC was girls night out with Steph, Melissa, Sheila and Cindy (from Pittsburgh). It was Steph's first outing since having her beautiful, chubby-cheeked cherub. What better way to spend your first night away than with your screaming girlfriends in front of your favorite band. Amiright? We met up at an Irish pub sporting an urban music soundtrack run by African Americans. Only in America. Ha! Whatev. The food was tasty and the drinks were heavy pours. By the time everyone got there, Steph and I were already buzzed. We were all in good cheer when we headed across the street to the 9:30 Club.

Won't Be Home No More -"you're getting smaller in my rearview mirror..."

Steph and I had the good fortune to be invited backstage to say hello before the show. At one point, Ken, Rhett and Steph all whipped out their iPhones to share photos of their kids. Rockers as Fathers. So sweet to watch them brag on their adorable progeny. In that moment, they ceased to be legendary Rock Gods adored by the masses, and were just proud poppas.


I feel like I'm merely repeating myself from post to post (I desperately need a new superlatives Thesaurus), but when they hit the stage with the explosion of Time Bomb (pun intended) the atmosphere was electric. They were charged up and having as much fun as we were, maybe even a wee bit more. There was extra umph in Rhett's windmills, head thrusts and hip shakes, Murry was thumping his bass and playing with fans on his side, Philip (trapped behind his kit) was boldly pounding out his signature beats, and Ken...Ken was so animated, roaming around, leaning into the front row, sticking his tongue out like Gene Simmons, tossing a week's supply of picks into the audience. Yeah, they were definitely having a good time on stage. They were all in, whether rocking our faces off or turning it down a little in the quieter offerings. And then as if the crowd wasn't already in a fervor after the show-stopping set closer, If My Heart Was a Car, they unleashed the finale's epic unhinging noted at the top of this post.

Which brings us full circle.

I never record Time Bomb, because I'm too wrapped up getting my freak on, singing and dancing with abandon. But when Rhett nearly knocked his mic stand over at the start of Time Bomb, the voice in my head screamed for me to roll on this, because something special was about to happen.

And it did.

That's the way to end a show, folks. Controlled chaos, as my friend Annie aptly called it. Brilliant, controlled chaos. And I will love them forever for it.

Philly 10/25/12

Lost Without You
Holy Cross
California Stars
Need to Know Where I Stand
Out of Love
Wreck of the Old 97

Too Far Too Care
Mama Tried
The Grand Theatre
Won't Be Home
Question avec francaise
White Port
I'm a Trainwreck
Every Night Is Friday Night
Rollerskate Skinny
Murder or a Heart Attack
Time Bomb

DC: 10/26/12

Lost Without You
Holy Cross (with unintended a capella verse)
Picture This
Sometimes (such a sweet, sweet song)
Out of Love
Wreck of the Old 97

Mama Tried
Champaign, IL
Brown Haired Daughter
Dance With Me
White Port
Won't Be Home
Every Night is Friday Night
Rollerskate Skinny
If My Heart Was a Car
Murder or a Heart Attack
Time Bomb

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Instant Replay In Honor of Veterans' Day And My Old Man

Okay, so I don't repost very often, but reading all of the lovely tributes on Facebook to fathers and grandfathers who served in the military made me think of my own father's life. He was a complicated man. An enigma. A puzzle that took me decades to sort out and put together. Thank you for indulging me.

I miss him more than I ever fathomed I would.

In Time Everything Is Illuminated 
or finally understanding your parent  

Okay, so last night I was sitting on the deck amidst a cool summer breeze, pitting what seemed like 3,000 gallons of freshly picked sour cherries so generously offered by our neighbors. The thing about performing a completely mindless, manual labor over and over again is it allows one's thoughts to freely drift from one's subconscious.  

In my reverie, I realized Sunday was Father's Day. Being as Geo and I have neither fathers living nor children of our own, Father's Day is a holiday which goes by uncelebrated and sadly, unnoticed in our home. Most of the time I completely forget on which day it falls. This realization lead me to thoughts about my Dad, and how, at 49 years of age I think I finally get where he was coming from. 

When we were kids, my Dad worked the afternoon shift at the Post Office so we hardly saw him until his days off. Even then he usually was gone all day Saturday either golfing or out with his brother. He usually returned drunk and raging about the war or missed opportunities in his life. He was a product of World War II--he smoked too much, drank too much and was haunted by ghosts that stared up at him from the bottom of a whiskey bottle. At the time we all were embarrassed by his weekly rants and could not for the life of us understand why he was unable to forget the past, enjoy what he had and move on. I was unable to forgive him then. I was too green.

I think I get it now. In time everything is illuminated.

Let's start from the beginning. My Dad had bad timing. 

When the war started his brother advised him to enlist instead of being drafted. That way he could choose a branch of the military and not get stuck in the trenches of the Army. Heeding his brother's advice, he enlisted in the Air Corp thinking at least he'd be dry, well fed and away from the crazy land warfare. 

Turns out the government yahoo in charge put him on the WRONG TRAIN!! He ended guessed it, in the Army marching in Patton's Third division. He marched from Africa to Germany. He was cold. He was hungry. He was tired. He was wounded twice--one of the times he begged the doctor not to amputate his leg. He had the most impressive five inch x two inch x 1/2 inch deep scar on his thigh. I remember putting my little hand in that huge divot, marveling at the depth of the hollow. He would never talk about it. And he would never wear shorts, no matter how stinking hot it was. Then to top it all off, when he came home the ship carrying his belongings sank. All of his stuff was gone. 

When he met my Mother on a blind date, he was going to art school. My Dad was a really good painter/sculptor and dreamed of being a commercial artist. 

(All of my siblings are talented and take after my Dad. My oldest sister, Weezie has a fabulous eye for photography. Her compositions are effortless and outstanding. My second sister, Vicki, is the painter. She was really good and had a nice flair. I hope she finds time to pick up the paintbrush again. Toni has a gorgeous singing voice, just like my Mother. And my brother has all of the musical talent in our family. He was fantastic on guitar. I think he could have been a session musician, but like Daddy, life got in the way. Someday I hope he starts strumming again. Me, I don't know. I'm really good at wasting time.)

Anywho, back to my Dad....

He met my Mom, fell in love and six months later was married. Ten months later my sister, Weezie was born. A couple years later Vicki was in the picture. Four months after that my Mom was pregnant with Toni, and he finally had to face the fact he needed a full-time job to support his growing family. I think leaving his dream in the dust crushed his soul a little. He went from creatively expressing himself through oils and clay to sorting other people's college acceptance letters into tiny slots over...and over... and over... and over... and over.

There were times when I think he resented us kids. Our very existence represented a constant reminder of a life lost for him. A bitter pill to swallow. But I know deep down and especially at the end of his life, he loved us and was glad we were his. 

But I get it now. I get how his life not turning out the way he envisioned it made him bitter, resentful and pine for things that could have been. Who knows how his life would have turned out had he skipped that blind date or met my Mom 10 years later. We all have crossroads from which we must choose a path. Sometimes the choice we need to make is not the one we want to make. After circling the sun for a few decades, now I can understand his frustration. I couldn't then. I hadn't lived enough. Hadn't made enough choices between want and need. Life was too black and white. I couldn't see the gray. 

In time everything is illuminated.

My Dad's been gone 20 years. 20 years... It's hard to believe it's been that long already. He wasn't always the easiest person to get along with, but he wasn't an ogre by any means. He would always take us kids to the zoo, the drive-in, searching for leaves for a school project. Whatever. He was honest, earnest, had a great sense of humor, a yen for teasing my Mom and a tremendous work ethic. He did whatever it took, worked wherever he could to support his family. He instilled that ethic in all of us. Oh, and he could be charming, especially to my Mother the morning after a drunken Saturday night.

We all had issues with my Dad, but luckily his lingering illness afforded us all the opportunity to mend our respective fences before he passed. Sometimes life gives you what you need without you asking. 

I never told him I loved him until he got sick. Strange since we're Italian and you'd think we'd say that all the time, but we didn't. It felt really weird at first. Uncomfortable. Awkward, even. But then it felt wonderful...natural. I'm happy to say I tell my Mom I love her every time we talk. That, too feels natural now. That, too is a gift from my Dad.

I think about my Dad a lot. I miss him. You never really get over the loss of a loved one, no matter how flawed he might have been. Our flaws make us human. Our family wasn't Ozzie and Harriet. It was what it was. He did his best. That's all you can ask for. 

I don't know...I think we all turned out alright. 

This is a picture of my parents taken right before they married. They were 25, playful, carefree, vibrant and crazy about each other. They were in love and had the world by the short hairs. They had no idea what lie ahead for them or where life would take them. Nothing else mattered except the love they shared. Look at them. It's as if their radiance is glowing from within. The essence of the hopeful nature of youth captured in one perfect moment in time. 

I adore this photo.  

In time everything is illuminated.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's Stay Together 
in which the citizens stand up for America 


That's me, breathing again.

I'm not gonna lie, I was nervous as hell about this election. It was much closer than it should have been. Women and women's rights were being attacked and compartmentalized by the Right, and yet, too many intelligent women were blindly supporting the Big Red Machine. But in the end, we ladies of America--white, black, hispanic--stood up, stood in line and declared, "Not on our watch, Jackhole! You will NOT send us back to 1950s." And we hit the polls in record number.

Brava, Sistas! Brava!

Now comes the difficult part. Getting both parties in Congress to work together to restore this great nation. To heal, to grow, to embrace ALL who live within its shorelines. As President Obama said in his speech last night, we are all part of the same family. We are stronger together than apart.

"We remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be, the United States of America, and together... we will continue our journey forward." 


I haven't heard him be this dynamic, this inspirational for a long time. Last night, THAT was the Barry who moved people to action back in 2008. Who reached out to the disenfranchised. Who gave us hope again.

Yesterday, my friend and I canvased a nearby neighborhood asking the resident democrats if they had voted, intended to vote or needed a ride to the polls. We were almost finished with our list when we knocked on a door of a woman in her late 50s named Marilyn. She lived with her elderly father. Marilyn had a stroke three years prior. She had come a long way, regaining much of her mobility (with the assistance of a walker) and most of her speech, but she lamented not being able to get to the elementary school to vote. So, we took her.

She was beyond excited.

We had enabled her to perform her civic duty, a duty too many are all too willing to disregard. As we helped her make her way back into her home, I was filled with a sense of community. I felt responsible for her. Protective even.

This is who we are in a democratic society. We help those less fortunate, less strong, less able. Marilyn is a tangible in the fight to retain critical social programs. She is why we must save Social Security and Disability benefits and Medicare. She is who the President is speaking of when he presses for health care reform to prevent insurance companies from withholding benefits from anyone because of a pre-existing condition. She is who we need to fight for, because, honestly, there but for the Grace of God...

It felt good to help Marilyn be part of the process. Damn good. Hopefully, her participation in the election made her feel a little more connected, a little more excited and a whole lot more proud when the celebration confetti cannons went off.

We're all in this thing called life together.