Monday, December 28, 2009

Working - Part 1

I've been talking about writing a book about work for quite a long time. The only problem is, I haven't finished editing/completely reconstructing the book I'm currently working on (which is a memoir examining the loss of my brother.) So I've refused to allow myself to do any sort of pre-writing or out-lining or treatments until I'm done with the first.

But, I figure blogging about it (since I'm already self-committed to trying to post something every five days) is altogether different...

It's no longer news that I am, after a long and tedious search, currently employed. I am still in the stage of being deliriously relieved, still able to viscerally remember that conflicted feeling of the stress of not having a job combined with the guilty freedom that comes with having so much time on my hand.

One thing I've discovered is how much I instantly delight in the early days of a new routine. The making my lunch while the coffee brews, the starting up of my computer while I get into the shower, the checking emails and making a concerted effort not to get absorbed into something that will, fifteen minutes later, cause me to flee from the house in a panic, applying eyeliner in the car.

Then there are the delights of the logistics of each particular job. Last summer, I worked downtown. Because it was early fall, it was perfect weather to walk the block and a half to the bus stop. Then at lunch, there was the small thrill of sitting among the other downtowners, nestled in the strategic sunlit spots between the buildings.

For this job, its the close proximity (2.9 miles to be exact, a drive so short it is rivaled only by my walking-distance fast-food job in high school) that I'm reveling in. Being able to run home and throw a load of laundry is (for now anyway) a small pleasure.

Then, of course, there is the job itself. Acclimating to new places among new people has always come easy for me. It took me many years to realize this is not the case for everyone. I naively assumed people who didn't take to new circumstances simply chose not to. I like having already aligned myself with allies at the reception desk, shipping, the warehouse, and finding out who brings in the good coffee.

Surely, as always happens, these minor thrills will be replaced with the stresses that come with increased responsibility. But I'm willing to take that on for some peace of mind in the other areas of my life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Throw Your Arms Around the World at Christmastime

I think I did a Christmas card topic on this a few years ago, but I've decided it bears repeating.

Christmas songs.

Every year I always think, I'm not sure I'm up for it, the same old "have yourselves" and "chestnuts roastings." I blame 93.3, which starts broadcasting their holiday music 24/7 on November 1. I've had to start purposely removing them from my pre-settings on my car radio to avoid routine irritation.

But by about December 6th or so, I'm ready.

I grew up going to church, so I'd learned all the Christmas staples early on. I'm not sure of my favorite, although it's hard to go wrong with a whispy rendition of Away in a Manger. My mom's favorite carol is O Come All Ye Faithful, so we sang that one a lot at bed time. I'll will say, the minor-chords of We Three Kings scared me a little.

The first "modern" carol I learned was Rockin Around the Christmas Tree. My fourth/fifth grade teacher taught our class this song in some elaborate gymnasium-style circle dance. I can remember being thrilled by the jaunty guitar riffs (or maybe I am only remembering the Hall and Oates version a few years later...)

Lately, there are three songs in heavy rotation on my iPod - a James Taylor version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (this was on his October Road CD that my brother and I listened to constantly the year I worked for him and the meloncholy tone often tears me up, but I cannot not listen); Sheryl Crow's take on The Christmas Song, complete with a Memphis-horns-worthy brass section; and a soul-melting rendition of Ava Maria by Chris Cornell (then again, I could listen to this man sing cat food commercials all day long...)

My favorite Christmas songs, though, will forever be the ones I heard in the early 80s. It was the birth of MTV, and, again, I was excited to discover a world beyond We Saw Three Ships. Billy Squire recorded a new song called Christmas is a Time to Say I Love You, and sang it with the entire staff at MTV during what looks like their holiday party. It played in heavy rotation among the already heavily rotated fifty or so original songs already playing in 1982. Elton John made a deliriously fun song/video called Step into Christmas, much of which he is engaged in a wobbly kick line with his band mates.

Of course, the grandaddy of all MTV-era Christmas songs is Do They Know it's Christmas. In November of 1984, Boomtown Rats lead man, Bob Geldolf, called in favors on all of his British buddies and sparked the trend famous-people-on-a-riser music (on a side note, anyone who hasn't seen the "Kidney Now" parody song on 30 Rock, should find it on YouTube).

When I first heard the song - or rather, saw the video - it was difficult to simply get over the novelty of having all of your favorite musicians together in the same room (this was before We Are the World and the string of other knock-offs.) Sting and Bono, Boy George, George Michael and the gals from Bananarama: a perfect marriage of abundant young hair and earnest expression.

I will shamefully admit that I began making fun of the song in my twenties - There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas... Far as I can tell, there's never snow in Africa ever. Do they know it's Christmas?.. Um, no, because they are Muslim and don't celebrate that particular holiday.

Maybe it is just a function of aging sentimentality, but my love for this song has returned with a ferocity I cannot fully articulate. Perhaps it is like looking at an old yearbook and marveling at the young faces of the musicians who are still recording today, perhaps it is the deepening understanding what it means to have so much when so many have so little.

Or maybe it is just the chimes. It's hard to resist a song with a rocking chime section...

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three Shelves

Historically, I've not been much of a grocery shopper. Even when I lived only a half-block from Kroger, I rarely made it over there more than a couple times a month.

What I didn't realize then was, the longer I put off shopping, the harder it became because I was trying to plan for a whole month rather than picking up things here and there to fill in with what I had.

I'm not sure when I made the switch. Even though I moved into a different neighborhood five years ago, I still go to my old Kroger, because they have "all my stuff" and I know where things are. I've also started shopping at Whole Foods which is way too far away to justify the extra expense, but I do love it so.

Anyway, at some point, probably because I was unemployed for the good part of two years and had an excess of free time on my hands, I've started going to the grocery with greater frequency, sometimes just to replenish my produce, which would positively baffle my twenty-five-year-old self. I've also found myself filling regularly filling in blanks of my regular stock of on-hand items, like honey and spices, chicken broth, beans, and on-sale jars of pasta sauce.

For years, I could store everything I bought at the grocery in 2/3rds of a shelf. Just last week I found myself clearing out a third shelf for bags of snacks that were starting to get smashed. What I love is that it came about without any deliberate effort.

Before you know it, I will be moving canned goods into an honest-to-god pantry in my basement (although foods for indefinite use still kinda freak me out, so maybe not just yet...)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Road That No Longer Goes to That Place I Never Went

The Target near my house was once a Drive-In Movie Theater, The Holiday, nestled into a giant wooded lot and adjacent to a tiny neighborhood consisting of two streets of small houses and a VFW hall.

I'm not sure how often we went to The Holiday. As a child, I can remember the thrill of wearing pajamas and sitting atop a nest of sleeping bags and pillows in the backseat of our 1971 Plymouth Fury. In high school, I sometimes went with friends who piled into the back of a pick-up. The night before graduation I watched the characters of Platoon shed their innocence, while I shed a little of my own with my prom date.

Needless to say, it is impossible for me not to think of the Holiday each and every time I pull into the Target parking lot. The narrow grassy strip, at the end of which held the ticket booth is still there.

As far as the neighborhood, one street survived the demolition. The other street (including the VFW hall) did not. If you are driving south on Wilson Road, as you approach Broad, you will see a road that goes about 100 feet and abruptly stops. That is the road that wound around behind the gas station (still there) and lead to the VFW hall. I never even laid eyes on the building.

You might wonder why a VFW hall could hold such intrigue to me. I am not a veteran, I do not like honky-tonk music. What that hall represents, however, is an event of my teen years that has grown to mythological status in my head. When I was a freshman in high school, I was a pretty nosey gal. One can argue that I still am, but now I am able to allow significantly larger quantities of information about people's lives pass me by without notice.

But not then.

I didn't want to miss anything, ever. And I rarely did. This is why, as I have mentioned before, I was always the last girl awake at a slumber party (that, and I was bound and determined never to have my hand submerged in warm water or my bra frozen...)


One night, my freshman year, a band made up of guys from my high school (one was a friend's brother), were playing at the VFW. Everyone was going. I could not, as I was out of town that weekend. This concert would have faded into a heap of other semi-interesting events had I not returned to school on Monday to find out just what I had missed out on - a popular couple had broken up, a mild-manner friend got into an actual fist fight, two unlikely people hooked up, and someone else got into major trouble when their parents found out they'd gone when told they weren't allowed.

I will fully admit that the scenarios I created in my head for weeks are, by now, wildly inaccurate and could not possibly stand up to the reality of what probably actually happened that night. But I love the myth just the same. It has taken on a life of its own.

Which is why, I believe, they don't just tear up that road and make it into the parking lot.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Lost Gloves Found...

Tonight I took my friend's son to see a movie. He's nine. After being easily persuaded to drop more than a few tokens in the game room, (even though I knew we were rapidly approaching bed time), my "adult-in-charge" kicked in and I noticed he was not wearing gloves. I knew he'd left the house with them because, as we were bundling up he said, "Do you think I should take my gloves." I said he should and he did, so I knew they were at least with us when we left the house.

But there were more than a few places they could be - my car, the theater parking lot, the theater, the lobby, the hallway to the individual theaters, the game room.

I was instantly taken back to my own nine-year-old days and could physically recall that low-grade shame and panic of losing something else, again.

For those of you who don't know, I wrote an early entry explaining the name of this blog - that I was a former loser (of things) and now, for the most part, do pretty good at keeping track of what I have. I say "for the most part" because I do, still, tend to leave a good deal behind. However, they tend to be things like earrings and face lotion and pens. I don't tend to lose my purse or credit cards or other items that are cause for a higher level panic. Or perhaps it's just that now, as an adult, I have access to the means to replace my things without others being involved...

Anyway, Ely and I searched the car with no luck, and went back inside the movie theater. The concession cashier walkie-talkied a manager who went to look. I remembered that waiting feeling. The waiting while someone went to look for something I'd left, and the anticipation of either relief or doom.

In the car, we talked about strategies of how to remember not to forget things. I came up short because, while I can usually explain something in a way a kid can understand, the only things I could conjour were "adult" suggestions or empathetic antedotes on how I could remember feeling what I felt. I must have been offered tons of advice on this topic as a child, and I cannot recall a single one. After a silence, Ely said, "I'm just glad we found the gloves. My dad would have been really mad."

"I know buddy," I said. "I know."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Huge Sigh of Relief

Tomorrow I start a new job.

That's right, a full-time, permanent, skills-appropriate, within-salary-range honest-to-god job.

I've been looking in earnest for two years (with three or four "filler" jobs I got as leads from friends.) The first thing I did when I got the news was retire my "job search log." This is really just a spiral notebook that I kept all my leads in. I didn't start keeping track of the exact numbers until June of this year. I had applied to 89 jobs since then - five interviews, two second interviews and one offer.

I went to the store this weekend and bought things to pack for my lunch. I also loaded up my iPod and have already picked out my "first day of work" clothes. I love those first days of work. If I thought about it long enough, perhaps I could examine if that is, perhaps, the reason why I've had so many...

But I won't.

I'm anxious to move forward and feel the benefits of going to work everyday in a place that fits.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Much as I Want to Resist, I Really Like That Song

I won't even beat around the bush, the song is Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA..."

Yes, that's Hannah Montana.

I make this statement knowing that, in a mere month, after the inevitable airwave over-saturation, when I get my life-long fill and I can't escape it, I will be begging for the torture to stop.

Until that point, I will say it again, I like that song. It's really catchy.

The middle-brow music snob in me will not allow me to make that statement without qualifying it. What intrigues me is that in my listening, is that the song does not make me like Miley Cyrus and want to explore her work. In fact, part of my amazement is how much I like the song despite the sheer machinery invoked to alter her voice. (I watched her unadorned performance with Sheryl Crow on the VH1 Divas and felt bad... for her being so eager, so in awe of Crow, and yet so unequipped to pull off a live version of "If It Makes You Happy.")

Back to the song... I did a little poking around and discovered it was written by a guy named Lukasz Gottwald, who has also written songs for Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Avril Lavigne, and Katy Perry. What I find interesting is that I like all of these artists, despite the fact that I often consider myself older than their "target demographic." What they have in common that draws me in, appears to be this songwriter.

Which leads me to the value of a singular "voice" in the arts. Surely, this guy is somehow obligated to appeal to the particular qualities of the singer he writes for, but it's the guitar lick, the jaunty sway, the hook, that brings me in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hitting the Road, Hitting the Books!

I year and a half ago, I graduated with my master's degree in writing. The program is "brief residency," meaning I traveled to Louisville twice a year for workshops and lectures and did the rest of the work from home, mailing it to an assigned mentor. Ever since, several friends from the program go back to visit, usually the final weekend of the residency, to just hang out and catch up.

This time I am going early, to meet up with some friends who have each completed a manuscript (as have I.) We're planning on spending the next couple of days holed up in a hotel room and having discussions of our work and really digging in.

The fact that I had two promising job interviews this week allows me to feel like I'm not just going to "play," that the timing is right to get this thing to the next stage.

Wish me happy insights!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Biggest Fan, My Dad...

Now, there's nothing inherently special about a parent being unequivocally bias toward one's child's abilities. Legends are made of fierce stage moms of mediocre talent everywhere. Perhaps because of this, I take for granted my father's genuine enthusiasm for my work.

Here is a typical telephone conversation I've had with my dad:

"I need a copy of that essay on ironing."

"Why, Dad?" I finally got smart enough to ask.

"Because Judy at the bank wants to read it."

While part of me is touched that my passion and efforts regularly surface in my father's daily tasks, the other part of me treads lightly. I try to explain that Judy at the bank really doesn't want to read my essay, that Judy at the bank finds my father charming and genuinely approves of his allegience to his daughter.

He takes this to mean that I have no self-confidence as a writer. He is offended that I don't think he has the ability to recognize quality writing. I don't believe this. My father has good taste. He also, as all good father's do, has a blind spot when it comes to his children.

So I've spent a fair amount of energy trying to resist this kind of attention from my father, as though accepting it somehow dimishes my credibility. Until I realized that there are many people who don't have this kind of support, who spend their whole lives soliciting their parent's approval. And so I surrendered to it. And it feels pretty good.

Just the other night, I'd dropped by my parents' to help my mom out with some tasks as she is still recovering from a broken leg (and who, also, it should be noted, is a proud supporter and good sport about being portrayed in print...) Dad walked in the door with a plastic grocery bag hooked over his arm. When I went to tell him that the new (614) magazine in which I had an article was out, he pointed to the bag. "I've got about seven copies already," and proceeded to stack them on the table.

A few days later he told me he had had lunch at Columbus Brewing Company. While waiting on a table, he saw two business men with (614)'s tucked underneath their arms being seated. He waited for them to get settled, approached them, and said, "Page 24," tapping the cover. He said he waited for them to finally turn the page, and continued, "My daughter wrote that."

I'd be a fool to not fully embrace this kind of support.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Double Dose of Dylan

When I told people I was going to see Bob Dylan live, I got a variety of responses, almost none of them positive.

"Is he still alive?" was the common refrain from those under 45. Those older could often vividly recall being dragged to a show sometime in the mid-70s or late 80s. "That was the worst show I've ever been to in my life." With all this lackluster response, you'd think I'd be thwarted.

But no.

My goal here is not to spout the merits of Dylan's significance or convince you to like him. Admittedly, my interest came seemingly out of nowhere, and I thought I had set up pretty solid resistances.

My first real exposure to Bob Dylan was in the summer of 1994. I'd just returned home from living in Rochester, NY for a year. On one of my first nights back, I went out and met Peter, a fun, interesting, cute computer programmer/music enthusiast. We started dating and we were often at his place (I was living with my folks at the time.) Peter had great tastes in music and the stereo played all of the time - Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, the newly released Counting Crows "August and Everything After", even some classic Journey. The only thing I had a hard time taking was some of the Tom Waits (although I could be easily swayed with the songs that incorporated carnival sounds) and the Dylan.

I just couldn't take the voice.

I don't remember what Peter might have said to try to convince me, but I wasn't having it. However, he did insist I go with him when Dylan played at the Ohio State Fair later that summer. I'd talked about taking Peter to the Fair since I'd met him (he was from Chicago and never been to any county or state fair and I was looking forward to being his guide.) The Dylan show at the end of the day was the compromise.

The fact that he was actually playing the Ohio State Fair was evidence enough for me of his lack of importance. There were only two reasons to play such a venue - you're either on your way up, or down. But we went, and I can remember being really impressed with the band. And the songs. I walked out, not converted, but impressed that I didn't hate the experience.

Three years later, I met and started dating Rob. He, too, had great tastes and played music constantly. But so did I. By this point, I was living in an apartment and the unspoken rule was whomever's place we were in got to decide the music, and I was a little more tolerant of being exposed to things outside of my realm, as long as it wasn't forced upon me.

"Time Out of Mind" came out around that time. It was in heavy rotation at Rob's, but I still didn't pay close attention. Over the next decade, as Rob and I would drift in and out of each other's lives, I noticed that Dylan remained a constant staple at his house. When I expressed my opposition, saying that being a bad singer when you were a singer was pretty big barrier, he said, "His voice is really not the point."

That didn't really go over very well and I refused to listen to any more for several years.

What did it for me was, not surprisingly, a movie. In 2007, Todd Haynes released "I'm Not There", an unconventional Dylan bio-pic that wooed the critics but confused regular audiences. I've read a lot of interviews and was intrigued. Instead of the traditional linear approach of following a life, Haynes chooses to assign six different "personas" to define Dylan - the impostor, the earnest folkie, the superstar, the family man, the poet, and the recluse.

This, I thought, is the future of narrative film.

From there, I started exploring Dylan's various "phases" and found myself more interested in the lesser-known stuff than the classics (not because I think they're better, but more because pop culture tends to over-saturate its heroes.) Then I picked up an audio-book version of "Chronicles," Dylan's long-awaited autobiography and was impressed by his constant struggle to remain true to his direction and expression. There has never been a time when this man has not produced the kind of work he wants to, with limited outside influence. Turns out he wants to play places like the Ohio State Fair and the Canton Civic Center. Some artists say that because they have no other choice. I think if someone like Bob Dylan wanted to regularly sell out arena venues, I'm sure some executive at Frito-Lay could make that happen.

Over the past year, I've added albums from his back-up-singer infused seventies period as well as the vastly under-rated Born Again records. Still, I will admit some of my favorite renditions are covers by other artists, but I'm gradually developing some immunities.

So I was looking forward to the opportunity to re-examine my Dylan live-show experience with all of this new-found fan status under my belt. The fact that I was able to enjoy one show with Allen, a former co-worker and long-time Dylan enthusiast, and the second with Rob, with whom I've been enjoying a recent, renewed relationship, was a real treat.

I'm not much of a concert reviewer. I will say, however, that it was, again, the band and the music that stirred me. Dylan is now old enough that his voice (once described by Bono as a dirt bowl yelp, bluesy street howl) has deepened into a tolerable, gravely monotone that almost functions like a harmonium.

And just when I thought I was immune to the over-played older stuff, I was caught up, just like a 1960's London teenager, in the exuberance that is "Like a Rolling Stone," Singing along, hands cupped around my mouth for effect, in an exaggerated declaration of long-vowel sounds:

How does it feeeeeeeeeeeeel
How does it feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel
To be on your oooooooooown
With no direction hooooooooooooome
Like a complete unknooooooooown
Like a rolling stoooooone

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another Article

A few weeks ago, I interviewed the new CEO of the Columbus Symphony. My first face-to-face (I've done email exchanges and phone interviews, but there's something to sitting in front of someone having a conversation "for the record.")

Find it here -


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hymns at the Gym

I went to the gym today after a month hiatus. It felt good to get back into the routine. I even bought one of those devices where I can wear my iPod around my arm instead of tucking it into the waistband of my underwear.

I used to build playlists for exercise, but stopped when I found what motivated me one day, irritated me the next, or made me wonder why I thought a particular song made for a good workout song.

Too much effort for thirty minutes of cardio designed to relieve stress.

Now, I'm content to put it on shuffle and go on.

The afternoon before my mom went in for last week's minor surgery - one where we thought she would be conscious - a neighbor suggested she listen to music during the procedure. After browsing my music library that night and deciding my selections were more likely to irritate than soothe my mother, I went to iTunes and to search for hymns.

I had an earlier post where I talk about how picking out harmonies to the Sunday hymns is one of my consistent pleasures I can count on (I'd point it out, but, as you might have learned, I'm not yet so "interactively inclined.") So I thought some old-school, piano-based pew-hymal might be just the thing.

And I found some among the vast array of foofy televangelist renditions and goth-for-God groups. I handed my iPod to my mother in the waiting room, but, ultimately, it didn't work out. Not catching on to the right spinning motion needed to work the controls, she grew easily frustrated. And then she ended up being unconscious anyway.

I planned to delete them because, while I genuinely like the hymns, did not want to listen to them outside of church.

However, while at the gym this morning "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" came on, and I didn't forward it. I found it to be a pleasant surprise, tucked in between Pink's "Funhouse" and a Lucinda Williams cover of AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top if You Want to Rock and Roll."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old School Ode #7 - Camp Friends

Tuesday morning I went to pick my mom up from her stint at a convelescent home, recovering from hip replacement-turned broken leg. As I walked in to get her, she came rolling out into the hallway saying, "I'll be right back, I have a few more addresses to get." I didn't understand at first, but when she handed me her little notebook to put in my purse, I got it. They were addresses of the friends and staff she had met over the past six weeks, people whom she wanted to send notes to when she got home.

This reminded me of my own notebook of addresses I had when I got home from camp.

There are certainly kids who were more immersed in "camp culture" than I (see "This American Life" for a borderline cultish version), but I was certainly a full-on participant. If there was a craft to complete, consider it done, a chore to be responsible for, you could count on me, a talent show to be had, you could find me, Indian-style on someone's bed, wearing a wig, brainstorming until the wee hours of the night. And if there were a social construct to fit into, I fell right into it. I was the disarming, funny, everyone's-friend-don't-want-anyone-to-fight gal with the goofy t-shirt and impressive tape collection.

I can still remember those personal dynamics, the girls who demanded to be picked up, the ones who got homesick, the ones who were born leaders and inevitable sociopaths. My first camp crush was on a boy whose name I only remember as Toad. He liked me back and that was good enough for me.

I can't tell you how many letters I actually sent once I got home from camp. I seem to recall a slew sent out while I sat at the orthodontist, being fitted for braces. But that's hardly the point. The gathering of the names, the saying closure of saying goodbye and believing you actually will keep in touch is totally worth it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How You Want to Live Your Life

My mom has been in a rehab/nursing facility for five weeks now, slated to go home next week. She was supposed to have been there for ten days, following a "routine" hip-replacement surgery. She is now recovering from a broken leg, a nasty stomach infection from the strong anti-biotic, and is concerned about the slow healing of the incision that needed suturing.

In visiting every day, walking the long halls of the facility, and interacting with the staff and other residents, I cannot help thinking about the complexities of our life experience. I am continually struck by the we are equally compacted by both the deliberate choices we make and circumstances we can not foresee.

In the first few weeks, I'll admit my main concerns were self-centered. I'd drive home thinking, I do not want to end up with some condition brought on by a lifetime of indifferent disregard of my body or mind.

But now that I've gotten used to being around people with health issues, I am starting to notice the personalities that emerge. Because I am an extrovert, I have found myself in the types of casual yet consistent relationships that I can recognize throughout my life. Wandering into the dining room to speak to friendly older gentleman sitting by himself reminded of wandering into my dorm's common area on the first night of college and making friends. I am comforted by the fact that, regardless of life-circumstances happen to befall me, I am likely to find connections with people.

Doesn't mean I'm not still highly motivated to eat better and get back to the gym...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On a Newsstand NearYou...

Or conveniently located on line for your viewing pleasure...

I got a gig writing for the new monthly glossy, (614) Magazine.

Check it out.

Next month I'm doing a piece on the Symphony. I think the editor thinks of me as the cultured grown-up of the group. I'm doing my best to step up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Behold the Power of Cake...

So I had a birthday over the weekend.

A big one.

It was an enormous amount of fun. Friends piled into my usually quiet house and I loved every moment of it. Especially a newly implemented tradition I intermittently refer to as either the Cake Parade or Cake Walk (this is only the third year I've done it, so I have some time to let a name settle.)

Anyway. All this really consists of is me picking up my own cake at Resch's bakery on Livingston Ave. and digging into that box with a fork on the drive back home. Then I proceed to spend the day taking the cake with me wherever I care to go, with a stack of plates and forks. Last year, the West High Homecoming parade came down my friend Mary's street, so I walked my cake over and enjoyed it with her family and other neighbors who either dropped by, or whom I saw on my way home.

This year, since I had a party (and I suppose it could be considered tacky to bring a half-eaten cake...) I got two cakes. I took a slice over to neighbors on both sides and had some for lunch.

Forget the presents (not that I don't like presents), forget the booze (although I did enjoy some delicious bourbon-soaked cherries...). Give me cake.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rediscovering Some Old Friends

In this time of an unstable economy, it becomes more difficult for me to justify spending money on entertainment. I still do but I feel increasingly guilty about it. So I've taken to digging back into my collection to see if that would lessen this constant desire to find something "new."

I'll admit, at first I wasn't so convinced. I have often, on my way out the door, rifled through my CDs to swap out a few mixes that I've gotten sick of playing. Once I'm in that mindset it's hard to be satisfied - No, no, no... Sick of that, reminds me of that person, or that time, or.... on and on.

But. Last weekend, while cleaning my house for guests coming this weekend, I was able to slow down and come across some disks I'd forgotten I loved. Because I had the time, I made a little pile and have been incorporating them in the rotation.

Sheryl Crow's self titled album is at the top of that list. It came out in 1996 and features her big hits "If It Makes You Happy" and "Everyday is a Winding Road" but, I swear I love every single song every time I play this disk. Beyond being well-crafted, there is a deliberately controlled yet highly vulnerable emotional thread that runs through the whole thing that appeals to me. It confirms the notion that even though craft is essential to a good product, artists use their life-experience as raw material.

If you like Sheryl Crow, but are a little sick of seeing her in the news talking about toliet-paper squares (an out-of context criticism, but still it distracts..) or hanging out with her celebrity friends, you should pick this up. My favorite tracks are "Sweet Rosalin," "Hard to Make a Stand," "Ordinary Morning," "Oh Marie"... (did I mention I love the whole thing?) Getting caught up in the whole essence of a complete piece of work is what I live for (and strive for as an artist in my own right...)

Willie Nelson's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is another re-find in heavy rotation on the turntable in my household. This was an impulse-buy as I was walking out of a record show several years ago. The ablum cover shot of Willie in his signature bandana and braids combined with a promient pair of early-eighties tennis shoes amused me. And it was a dollar.

But I'd never listened to it, not once. Until last weekend.

Willie sings a worthy cover of the title track, as well as "Mona Lisa," "Who's Sorry Now," and "Won't You Ride in My Little Red Wagon." This may be harder to find, but totally worth it.

Hard to say who's next, perhaps that Kajagoogoo cassette has some hidden gems after all...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kind of Another Cheater Post

So my mom had her hip replacement surgery two weeks ago (second hip, she had the right one done in May.) Things started out okay, she got through the surgery and first half of the rehab pretty smoothly.

Then things went rather wrong rather quickly. She started experiencing pain in her knee which, over the course of a few days, escalated into intense pain and imobility.

To make the story of two incredibly long days short, the hardware has slipped, fractured her femur, and she's about to go into surgery again to have it corrected.

What makes this a "cheater" post is that, while I had thought I'd get to a few of the ideas in my queue, anyone who's been in this "wait and see" mode with a patient (and I've had my share) there is an inclination to not want to do anything.

Still. I'm still committed to posting at least once a week.

Blog geek... who knew...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Experiment is Over

So I was a kid who grew up watching televison. Okay, so it's not like that makes me so unusual; that's almost like saying I was a kid who grew up liking candy...


Our family was one that revolved a fair amount around the events on television. My brother and I watched Batman and the Brady Bunch every day between school and dinner and the four of us settled in each night from 8 to bedtime. On family vacations, the Today Show was the first thing we heard in the morning and The Tonight Show was the last thing we heard before falling asleep.

Then we got QUBE, Columbus' first cable. That was the beginning of the end. I suspect a good 70 percent of my waking hours between the ages of 10 and 14 were spent watching either The Movie Channel or MTV.

So many would be surprised to know that I have never had cable in my home in my adult life. Part of that decision was restraint - I didn't quite trust that I would go to bed at a decent hour if there was a Behind the Music episode or Golden Girls rerun to be found. Another factor was cost - when you're intermittenly employed as I am, it's good to cut costs where you can.

I've also always had "issues" with most of the actual television sets I've accumulated over the years. Fifteen years ago, when I went to live in Rochester, New York for a year, my parents bought me a nineteen inch color set. It was great for a while, until I permanently lost the remote (how that happened is still a mystery), then it got banged around in the move home and the on/off button no longer recognized "off" so I had to unplug it from the wall to turn it off.

A few years later, I obtained a bigger model, with its own built-in swivel cabinet from a neighbor who failed to sell it at her garage sale. This was nice, until something went wonky with the contrast function and half of the scenes on any given show are too dark to see.

Which left me with the nine-inch portable DVD player I got for my birthday a few years ago. I love this thing, I can carry it around with me and listen to movies while I clean out the garage, make dinner, or put it on my nightstand for a late-night flick before I fall asleep. But then the switch to digital came around. That's where the "experiment" comes in.

We all knew it was coming, we were bombarded with commercials for a solid year, and then they extended it for an additional four months. I planned to ride it out, put off getting a converter box and wait until I couldn't possibly stand it.

And I made it through the whole summer, priding myself on not watching re-runs, not brainlessly watching something I didn't deliberately pick. I still watched, but documentaries, whole series of shows I'd been meaning to catch (or couldn't see because I don't have cable.)

But now I'm coming to the end. I've fully scoured the shelves of my library, I've about flushed out my queue in NetFlix. I'm eager for a little mindless veg in front of the tube. My birthday is around the corner. I want a brand new, digital, flatscreen televison. Perhaps even a Blue Ray player.

And if I get a job soon, I just might even get cable...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Holding Hands

I was driving down Broad Street yesterday, and passed a family (or at least two adults and five children) walking together. They were in two rows, each adult on the side closest to the street, with a chain of two and then three children. What struck me about the scene (admittedly, a passing glimpse) was that two of the boys in the back row were shirtless and kindy stompy in their gate. They looked like that could be, perhaps, tough little kids. But that image was immediately softened by the image of them holding hands with each other and their mom.

Which got me to thinking about holding hands.

I had my first boyfriend when I was fifteen. He was six-foot-four and my whole hand could almost fit into the fleshy palm part of his. I liked holding hands with him and feeling small. Often, while holding hands in the movies, he would run one of his slender fingers through the center of my palm or stroke the outside top of my thumb. If I'd known about this earlier I would have, perhaps, tried a little harder to be less awkward around boys. This was something.

There is also something undeniably instinctual about holding hands with children. I am continually amazed at how the smallest gesture of merely opening your hand and moving it slightly toward a child can cause them to grasp onto yours. Except when they don't want to. And I get that. Sometimes I am even especially proud to find that a child is expressing their independence by declining the hand. Although it is a little sad to discover, even if you do see it coming.

Most of the kids I spent the most time with these days are moving out of the hand-holding stage. One of my best friends lives across the street and I've taken probably hundreds of walks with she and her family. On many of them, I have held her son's hand. I have teased him about having "sticky and/or sweaty boy hands." Of course it doesn't bother me enough to let go. But he, too, is eight and I suspect we are the beginning of the end...

I recently came across a photograph of my family at Kings Island. I am probably eight and I am holding my father's hand. Despite his seeming discomfort in being dressed in brown polyester slacks and matching polyester shirt-sleeve leisure shirt, and the existence of my side-ponytail, our holding hands looks like the most natural thing in the world.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My First Vogue

Growing up, I was a voracious reader of magazines - Dynamite, Rolling Stone, 16, then 17, the occasional Marie Clare and Cosmo for the horoscope, perhaps a tip or two... But I was never much of a fashion mag gal. To me, then, high fashion was something to be mocked ("Look at the sleeves on that thing... do they really expect real people to wear that?")

I didn't ever consider that, no, no they don't, and that that's hardly the point...

Any peek at any photograph of me pre age-thirty will reveal I had little to know fashion sense. It's not that what I wore wasn't in style, it might have been, but only on a middle-aged JCPenney model. It wasn't like I suddenly "discovered" a sense of style in my thirties as much as I got smarter about wanting to look better and realizing I could look at friends who I trusted to be stylish and paid closer attention to what they were wearing (it also helped when women's casual fashion stopped defaulting to frumpy, thank you 1994.)

All of this lead up to simply say I finally purchased my very first issue of Vogue the other day. I will have to admit, the impulse was driven by more by my love for film than budding love of fashion. There is a new documentary coming out called "The September Issue" which is about Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of Vogue (for anyone who's seen "The Devil Wears Prada," she is the basis for Meryl Streep's character.) Anyway, I recently saw a trailer for the doc (as well as a 60 Minutes interview with her back in the Spring) and was very intrigued.

So I picked up a copy of said issue on impulse on afternoon while browsing through Barnes and Noble. A couple of days ago, I poured myself a glass of wine and started browsing. What I love about flipping through the pages is how each designer has his or her own distinct style (you can put a Dolce and Gabanna photograph next to a Marc Jabobs without the label and you'll definitely know who's who) there is a cohesiveness to the whole issue. This is cutting-edge style as it's being defined right now.

I still don't know how it all works, what makes something a trend while something else fall flat, but I feel better about depending on my smarts to help compensate for my inherent lack of fashion. I can tell you heels on shoes are now straight sticks affixed into the center of a heel, and most of the models resemble the lead singer from Missing Persons, sans the electrical tape. I'm not saying this to mock, honestly, I think it's kind of cool.

I just hope to God big, puffy sleeves aren't coming back into style. Seriously.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Foot Heater Weather...

Some people just know - creepy old ladies with one glass eye who, in psychological thrillers, can accurately predict the coming of winter by merely squinting their eyes (or eye...), war vets who can predict rain by a slight tingling feeling around the piece of shrapnel lodged deep in their thigh.

For me it's my feet. My feet can tell me, no matter how much warmth I've generated overnight or how many layers of socks I stuff them in, that Fall is here.

And Fall seems to have officially ascended upon us, because I woke up this morning compelled to dig out my seven-inch square ceramic heater. While I'd rather not have to use it, I love this thing. In the winter, it follows me throughout the day. Sitting at my desk, checking emails in the morning, eating meals at my kitchen table, to work (depending on the place), and, finally, stretched out into the plug closest to the chair where I watch television.

The worst are times when I am working somewhere where, understandably, having these devices hooked up en-masse creates an enormous fire hazard. Then I'm just extra careful in my smuggling.

I'm sure we're still due a few Indian Summer Days, those don't-waste-em-let's-get-outside-quick delights, but I'd say you're pretty safe to change out the wardrobe and let the kids bust out the Grannimal corduroy combo.

(Do they still make Grannimals?...)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Helloo Colummbuss!

So I took my eleven year-old goddaughter to see the Jonas Brothers Wednesday night.

While I was never the biggest boy-band follower, I find it difficult to pass up opportunities to be "the cool 'aunt'." Okay, now that I think about it, I might have to take that back. I did see Rick Springfield two years in a row, when I was twelve and thirteen, and appropriately swooned (albeit quietly in the awkward-girl manner... just because I wasn't a screamer doesn't mean I didn't know all the lyrics to every song and totally understand his pain when wrote that song about his Dad dying.)


What I loved most about the evening was observing the blend of how some things have changed tremendously, and other things remain exactly the same. The main difference, it should be no surprise, was the difference in technology. Verizon had this texting "station" set up in the lobby where you could send a text that would be displayed, one after another after another, on a big screen up in the arena. We got there early so we saw, perhaps, 1400 individual texts, most variations on the same theme - Scream if you love the Jonas Brothers... scream if you wanna marry Joe... Scream if you're from Upper Arlington... Despite the predictability of the message, it was impossible not to look away. My personal favorite was Scream if UR not here.

Kid after my own heart.

Another difference was the complexity of the staging. When I was twelve, it was a stage, a banner in the background, and some pyrotechnics that shot up from the floor. Any "special effects" were performed by the artists themselves (usually reduced to scaling their own equipment.) In the past several years, live shows have been taken to a whole other level. The Jonas Bros stage was a sprawling feat of set-design that took up a good chunk of the arena floor. The center stage also revolved in two directions (which, honestly, made me a bit nauseous, but I'm sure didn't bother the little girls at all.)

What remained the same, I was pleased to experience, was the genuine excitement of seeing a live show. I love the impractical enthusiasm that still exists only in the young or the profoundly naive. I played along, standing in the throng near the backstage door - certain that the Brothers were long inside the building - happy to relish in the optimism of what might happen. We rarely experience that emotion as adults and I kind of miss it. So, when asked, "Where do you think Nick should sign my t-shirt?" I took an earnest look and pointed to a space that looked good and said, "Here." "I thought so too," she said with a satisfied grin.

Another thing that remains unchanged is crowds still eat it up when you say their name. Doesn't matter the context - "Hello Columbus!" or "We love Columbus!" or even a chatty, "When we arrived in Columbus..." - we can't help ourselves.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

70 West...Way Out West

This past week I had an extrodinary opportunity to accompany a friend to Vail, Colorado (well, it was Edwards, but there are a lot of little teeny community/towns out there and Vail is the closest that people have heard of) to help prepare a home for ski season.

It was stunningly gorgeous out there. Although I used to ski back in high school, I was mediocre at best and certainly a place like Vail in the winter would be wasted on me. But being there in the summer is something all together different. It seems made for simply finding yourself in an elevated position and taking in the view (okay, so there are plenty of people hiking and mountain biking and such, but I was there to work so my leisure time was spent gaping at the landscape.)

Even the Wal-Mart seemed almost quaint nessled in the foothills of a huge mountain range.

While running errands one day, it occured to me that we were driving on Route 70, the very same Route 70 that runs just a few miles from my home. There was something very grounding about this revelation in a very freeing sort of way, as though I were still on a sort of tether, albeit a very long tether.

Perhaps I'm just finding a way to reconcile these twin desires of wanderlust and sentimentality.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Love Letter to the CAPA Summer Movie Series

So much for the break... Sometimes inspiration just comes when it comes...

Went to see Wings at the Ohio last night. It was magical and important on many levels.

First of all, Wings was the first Best Picture Academy Award winner. Anyone who knows me knows my life-long immersion into all things Oscar and how important this ritual was/is to my family.

It was also the only silent film ever to win an Oscar. While I don't have a huge personal knowledge of silent film, I have been increasingly smitten with the silent-film-score, and the concept that there used to be people who worked in movie houses whose job it was to accompany the film on a piano or organ. For the past ten years, on and off, I've attended a trade show of sorts, the Cinevent, held at the Ramada in north Columbus. While I initially just wandered around the memorabilia room, occasionally I'd slip into showings of silent films. Once I discovered there would be a person playing the score live, I made it a point to see a couple every year. I've come to learn that sometimes there is specific sheet music for a specific film, but very often it has been lost and the accompanist is left to improvise according to the action.

Not an easy feat.

That was the case last night. The Ohio's "house" organist, Clark Wilson, who always plays for a half-hour before every show, played for the entire two-and-a-half hour epic. He played it all from memory. Talk about smitten. I didn't even notice this until my date leaned over and said, "How can he possibly remember all of that."

Speaking of which, while I'm not inclined to go into the direct details of my personal life in this medium, I will say, having a date at the Ohio with someone you really like doesn't get much better.

There's really no reason not to try to go. There are nine more movies. Perhaps I'll see you at Evil Dead II, Steel Magnolias or South Pacific.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bit of a Brain Break

I suppose, for all intent and purposes, this could be considered another "cheater post." Maybe. Bottom line is, I've started a couple entries, but all have been rather lackluster attempts at some typical meditation on daily life that this blog has become.

But, I've also managed to complete a manuscript lately. A draft, but, by far, the longest and most intensive thing that I've written. It is now in the hands of readers, and I am compelled to take a little rest until I ramp back up into revisions.

Feels good, though. Real good.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Viva La Jupiter Jump

In almost forty years of life, I have missed the Ohio State Fair only one time, and that was back in 1978 when my parents went to Europe and my brother and I went to stay at our grandparents in Chillicothe (and even then, I'm wondering why we didn't finagle a little day-trip down to Columbus...)

Anyway, I've been twice this year, once with a friend a night (I haven't trolled the Midway since I was like seventeen, so that was pretty fun) and then yesterday with my mother (right when it opens, as is our custom.)

Instead of reporting on my goings-on, I thought I'd just offer some suggestions of some of my favorite things to maybe assist those who still need to go (you've got until this Sunday...)

If you think you want to go, but don't want to fight the crowd, consider going early. Gates open at 9 (although, it should be noted a lot of the buildings and things don't open until 10 or 11.) But here's what you can do. Have someone drop you off at the big Ohio gate at 11th Ave (there's a big turn-around for easy drop-off/pick-up.) Once inside the gate, you can go directly to the Mini Donut stand locate right in front of the Commercial Building. Get a bag of mini-donuts (there's enough to split) and a coffee and sit on one of the near-by picnic tables.

The Natural Resources Park is right behind the Commercial Building. It is open early. You can wander around the park, see Smokey the Bear although he's "sleeping" so you don't get the full affects of kids freaking out when he speaks their name (a brilliant bit of human coordination in action going on in this bit, like watching a good con act operate.) New this year is man-made kayak pond right in the middle of the park. I looks like they hold informational classes for people who want to learn. If it's still not 10 by the time you come out, you can wander through the Rabbits and Roosters building, say you saw some live things.

Food - Of course, it's hard to go wrong with Fair Food (unless you get the cheese on a stick; seriously, it's like a soggy piece of cornbread with a heap of runny cheese at the bottom...) but you should consider some of the things you can only get at the Fair. My all-time favorite is the Swiss cheese sandwich at the Dairy Building. Not much to it, but it is fresh, fresh, fresh (oh, it also contains a smear of butter, which freaks some people out, but I personally like it.) Equally good at the Dairy Building is a strawberry ice cream. I usually just have a bite of my mom's.

A piece of corn is also a great choice. My friend Kim used to get a piece every year when we were growing up. I declined, but now realize it was because I couldn't get over the smell of burning husks. But it doesn't taste like burning; it tastes like good, Ohio-grown corn. There are a couple of Bulk Candy bullpens. What's good about these is you can typically find candy you can't seem to find anywhere else (for me it's chocolate bullseyes and vanilla Tootsie Rolls.) Be warned, though, it's all pay-by-the-pound, they give you a basket and send you through a maze. Impulse-buying is very easy to do. You will be shocked to find that you just purchase twelve dollars in candy and will be too embarrassed to go back and replace it (my lesson from a few years ago...) Go easy.

A word on the exhibits. I hate when people go off and trash the Fair in a "it's not like it used to be." Those people tend to leave out all of the good things that replaced the crappy stuff back in the day. But, I will say the things like the crafts and things have dwindled considerably in volume and quality, so that's a little sad.

Likewise, the era of the etched locker-mirror is also over, and seemingly not replaced with a contemporary equivalent. My friend Bridie's mom mailed me one with the MTV logo with a note (I was cleaning out the basement. Bridie said I should mail it to you.) Of course I equally remember Def Leppard and Van Halen-adorned mirrors as well... There were plenty of over-sized, inflatable baseball bats, but, they seemed destined for another demographic.

I was, however, delighted to walk by one of the many rides flinging teenagers about and hear the song "The Final Countdown."

It's been several years since I've braved any rides (more a matter of the "temporary" nature of the rides than the rides themselves, althought there is that.) But the Sky Ride is a nice way to end the day, especially if you're there at the end of the night and you can get on at dusk.

I asked my mom if there were things my brother and I particularly liked to do at the Fair as kids. "Well, you always liked the rides," she said thoughtfully. "Most of them, but those inflatable ones in particular. If there was one of those in the vicinity, anywhere you went, your shoes were off and you were in it."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Old School Ode #6 - Riding the Window

This is for the 35 and over crowd...

I've been watching Mad Men Season 2 on DVD, ramping up for the upcoming Season 3, and every time there is a shot of someone in a car, I can't help but think of the backseat window. Remember being allowed to crawl up into that tent-like space of glass and upholstery and bake in the sun? It wasn't even taboo or rebellious, it was simply a fact of riding in the family car.

The first family car I can remember was a chocolate brown 1971 Plymouth Fury. As if that couldn't be beat in size, my Dad then traded that in for a emerald green 1974 Cadaliac Coupe DeVille. The thing was a living room on wheels. The biggest thrill was when my brother became, literally, too big to fit himself in the window. Then it became all mine. The only problem became the inevitable fight when my dad would have to hit the breaks, sending me flying through the air and on top of my brother. Not my fault.

Obviously, I can understand the neccessity for change (and the very moment someone chimes in with a story of a friend of the family who was gravely injured this way, the bliss will be gone forever.) Still. The memory of something so common and yet so dangerous and now atiquated.

Riding in the hatchback of the Chevette was simply not the same.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vicky Christina Barcelona

So I rented the Woody Allen movie before I went on my trip, so that I would have some idea of the landscape. But then I stopped it half-way through because I was irritated by the dialogue (after forty years of filmmaking, Allen still insists on characters who speak in the neurotic, superior, brain tumble, only now it comes out the of the mouths of gorgeous twenty-somethings... but that's for another post...)

Anyway, once I got home, I found myself curious as to how certain places that I visited might have been portrayed in the film. So I put it in my Netflix queue. It showed up in my mailbox the other day. It was pretty interesting to realize how many things shifted into context. There really is a sort of "tourist-y" element to the film that appeals to me. It doesn't pretend to be authentic to Catalonian daily life. Instead it is told through the perspective of two Americans traveling abroad. They even did "tourist-y" things like Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, and La Padrera. It occurred to me that this was kind of like setting a movie in New York and having the characters be enthralled with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.

But, again, I found this an interesting, authentic even, way of portraying the way we (including the filmmaker, I assume) discover new places and then burrow down into them once the basic landscape is covered.

Still. I did find myself fast-forwarding through a lot of the dialogue. Geez.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Well, it's finally here... CAPA Summer Movie Series!


And last night, Tom and I went to see the 1951 Sci-Fi classic. Okay, so I'll admit I didn't know much about the film except the fact that it starred Michael Rennie (and I only knew that because of the opening song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show that goes Michael Rennie was there the day the earth stood still, and told us where we stand...) and that it had a giant robot.

But I didn't care. I was just glad to be in the "air-conditioned splendor of the mighty pleasure-dome" that is the Ohio Theatre. What was super-cool was being able to play "host" to a first-timer, telling the tale of how I sat under the giant chandler in 1980 watching Gone With the Wind with my mother and watching it shake, only to find out later that Columbus had experienced an earthquake that no one felt except those in high places.

So one down. Oh, and if you go, the best seats are the front section in the balcony. You've gotta get there early because they fill up fast. People actually get there and camp out with a book. But the organist starts playing half an hour before show time.

Totally worth it.

Next up, Rebecca on Wed Aug 5th. I've already got one taker....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tapas, Tapas, Tapas.

In Barcelona, the big meal of the day is "Siesta", which takes place between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. Businesses close down and waiters are in no hurry to take your order (also, they are paid a livable wage and do not depend on tips to make up for their salary, which means they don't "have" to like you either.) Being on a trip made these outings very lingering and pleasurable.

Because they eat so late in the day, "dinner" is a lighter meal, between 8 and 10 at night. And the name of the game is tapas, small dishes that can be ordered and shared. This is what we did most nights. What made it nice for me is that I've not had a lot of exposure to authentic Spanish food, so it was good that everyone threw out a few choices from the menu and we shared them.

Among my favorites were bombas (little deep-fried potato-y things), Spanish omlette (overcooked version of a regular omlette that can be sliced like a pizza), Spanish almonds (softer than ours, almost square), and, I can't believe I'm saying this, but baby squid were pretty delicious.

I have always had a very midwestern pallate, so I'm pretty proud of myself for being "experimental" (especially with the baby squid advertised "in its own ink.")

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Home from Barcelona!

Hello Folks.

For those of you who didn't know about my trip, I traveled to Barcelona, Spain for twelve days with the MFA program at Spalding University during their "residency abroad" program. As a student, I attended the Paris trip two years ago and had a life-changing experience. This time, I went as a PGRA (post graduate resident assistant.) Hard as it is to admit, this experience was even better. I just got in last night after traveling all day and am still in the process of acclimating to being home. I suspect it will take some time to organize my thoughts and pictures, but am looking forward to sharing my experience.

My first impressions were how very large and metropolitan the city is. Also, it is located right on the coast of the Mediterranean, which gives it an added appeal. Can't wait to write in more detail.

In the meantime, I am glad to be home.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another Cheater Post...

So I'm headed out of town (I realize I'm probably not supposed to publicly announce that, so I'll disclaimer it by saying I have someone staying at my house and my neighbor once tackled a guy who was stealing another neighbor's mower in the middle of the night and sat on him until the police came....)

Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to post from the road with some interesting stories.

If not, I'll check in when I get home!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!

A remembrance.

When I was a kid, our family would go to my Nan and Pap's, along with my aunt and uncle and cousin. They lived at the top of this hill and owned a decent chunk of the surrounding property. After cooking out (in the attached garage to avoid the heat), we would drag our lawn chairs out into the gravel driveway and wait for it to get dark.

My dad and uncle would go about setting up the fireworks while my brother, cousin, and I dug out the "snakes" (those black disk-like things that expanded into ropey smears on the sidewalk.) At dusk, everyone was in place. There were always a decent mix of cheap and more elaborate fireworks. Most worked the way they were advertised. Only one time did I feel at ill-at-ease, when a flying saucer device came shooting into the garage just over our ducked heads and smashed against the wall.

I should re-phrase that. It was the only time I felt ill-at-ease that night around my dad and uncle. My Pap was another story. He liked setting off the pinky-sized firecrackers that came braided together in packs of like fifty. Someone decided to give him a pack and a candle, a lopsided Christmas tree candle. He sat there throughout the night, lighting one after another, tossing them wherever he please.

Wherever he pleased.

Now, he never directly threw any fireworks at any of us, but he would routinely toss them into the gravel in front of your chair, at my Nan's feet as she brought out a tray of red, white, and blue cupcakes, and or into the smoldering remains of the grill. While I'm sure my mom considered taking away his candle, I think secretly we were all more than a little amused.

As long as one didn't end up in your lap.

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I'm so proud, Comfest

For you out-of-towners, Comfest (short for the Community Festival) is a Hippy-meets-Hipster gathering held in a small park in the Short North District of Columbus. In a nutshell, it is back-to-back bands, tents with political activism next to skirt-and-jewelry tents, food, and a Big-Gulp-sized beer in a souvenir mug displaying the Comfest logo winner (which always seems to resemble the last year's design, but not exactly...)

Good times, indeed.

According to their website, the festival has been in existence since 1972. But everyone I know started going in the early nineties. You could count on Mary Adam 12 being the headliner and you could easily meet up with people by saying "we'll be near that one tree by the road near the mainstage." In 2000, I was able to play Frisbee with some friends.

Not any more. And while my aging, curmudgeonly side finds this problematic (parking nightmares, long food lines, and a growing intolerance for drunken unpredictability), the young-at-heart optimist in me is thrilled (more bands, more food, growing mix of people co-existing peacefully.)

Every year it has gotten more and more populated, the festival literally bursting its borders and into downtown Columbus. But when I saw that the formerly modest "I Wish You Jazz" tent had been upgraded to a full-fledged stage at the corner of Goodale and Park, and the crowd ahead was officially a sea of heads, I thought how cool it was to be witnessing something grow, instead of lamenting a decline.

I did manage to find my friends, but not without significant cell-phone navigation. If you are interested in seeing photos of the bands, my friend Eric is posting his at (and managed to serve on the 12-2 AM clean-up crew... his energy and enthusiasm is unmatched, especially since he turned 40 last year and my turning 40 this year was my excuse for leaving at 8:30 one night...)

I do regret not getting a Comfest mug. Eric had just exited the line when I met up with him and I didn't want to wait. So if someone's got an extra they're willing to part with, I'd be willing to buy someone a Northstar chicken basil burrito in exchange.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Boom Box

Technologically delayed as I am, I do realize this is news to no one.

But I guess I always took for granted that one would always just be there, somewhere on the shelves of my nearby K-Mart when something went wrong with my old one. Not so. At least not the same form.

A few months ago I'd accidentally launched my old boom box off my bed in my sleep. I sometimes listen to audiobooks before I go to bed. Apparently that night it lead to some restless dreams and... Well, let's just say it's no longer functioning.

I have other devices. I love my iPod, and frequently listen to things on my computer. But the boom box is the thing I drag around with me - out in the yard pulling weeds, digging through my garage in search of something of my brothers, in the basement doing laundry - listening to books-on-tape I check out from the library.

So when my old one died, I went out to get another one. The standard know is a portable player with a spot for your iPod. Makes sense, and I'll probably eventually get one of these, but it doesn't help with the library audio books. So I asked a clerk, who was nice but treated me as though I'd come looking for flint-sticks to make fire. Together we found one portable player close to what I was looking for. But it only played CDs. No tape deck.

That's when I discovered it was really over.

Now, I know it's become an 80s cliche' - the tiny, zipper-clad break dancer with the boom box the size of a filing cabinet perched on his shoulder - but there was something incredibly liberating about being able to take music "out of the bedroom" which was where everyone I knew listened to albums. There were portable radios, sure, but you were at the mercy of the local DJs. In every group there was an opportunity to create a "personal soundtrack."

When I turned sixteen, I got carnations from my first boyfriend. For at least a year I carried cassette tapes around in the empty flower box and got attention about both. I drug that thing to band camp, parties, sleepovers, and weekend youth group retreats. I knew others who hauled their tapes around in a duffel bag.

Surely I'll get up to speed on downloading my audio-books on my iPod, but I'm sure going to miss grabbing that handle in my hand, finding just the right placement on the pavement (or flower bed, or dryer) and punching the play button with just the right amount of pressure.

RIP boom box...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ushering in the Era of the Reasonably-sized Cookie

I am currently sitting in Panera, enjoying a bottomless cup of coffee and one of their new offerings, the Petite Cookie. In fact, I specifically came to Panera today because of the petite cookie. I had a few decent leads on a few things, and wanted to treat myself with a little taste of toffee nut oatmeal or a perhaps a white chocolate "duet."

I wouldn't have done this before, gone to a coffee shop specifically for a cookie, because it has been impossible to find a cookie smaller than an average hubcap. It goes along with the general audacity ushered in in the mid-90s when one day it was suddenly perfectly normal to pay $1.75 for a 79 cent-worthy cup of black coffee.

And the tip jar. Seriously. That took some serious nervy genius to impliment the tip jar at a coffee joint. I feel that it's somehow supposed to balance out the fact that you are being served by someone with a PhD in Latin. Not that I am opposed to earning advanced degrees in things less than marketable... I have a Bachelors degree in Theatre and a masters in Creative Writing, after all... But seriously, the gal behind the counter at Chick Fil-A at the mall is running around just as much and I don't tip her.

I don't mean to be so snarky, I don't want this to become one of those kinds of blogs where I devote 1500 to how someone cut me off in traffic. But seriously, the $2.89 cookie is nothing more than pure, obvious greed. I dare propose that the complexities of the collapsing housing market and economy in general can be reduced to the over-sized cookie...

Which brings me to the delightful discovery of the Petite cookie offered at Panera. Just the perfect size, and .49 cents a piece. I even get two - a sugary chocolate or toffee nut, and a shortbread to cut the richness a bit.

I spark of hope for less than a buck. I think things are looking up.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Fleeting Homeless Guy

First, a little history. When it comes to people asking for money at freeway exits, my response is inconsistent. On one hand, I was raised by parents who are generous givers, and whom always roll down the window and give something. On the other hand, the campaign of a charity non-profit "give real change" (encouraging folks to give to them instead for the most effective use of funds) has always remained in my head. Of course, so has that fact that I have not yet ever given to this organization. Needless to say, pulling up next to someone holding a sign asking for help tends to fill me with a blend of anxiety, guilt, and ambivalence.

Anyway, on to the story at hand. I met him a couple of years ago. As soon as I began to slow to the traffic light, he reminded me of someone I might have worked with at the post office. I knew he wasn't, be the fact that he looked like he could have, somehow made me drawn to him.

So I rolled down my window and gave him some money and went on. The next day, I saw him again. This time I said, "Hey, what's your name?" I've never asked someone at an exit ramp his name. "Rambo," he answered. "Come again?" I said, thinking, Rambo, like the movie character? "Rambo," he confirmed.

The next time, I pulled up, I said, "Hey Rambo, how're ya doin today?" "Pretty good," he said, enthusiastically. "I had to spend the night in jail, but they washed my pants!" he said, smoothing his hand across the pant leg of worn jeans for effect. I jokingly told some friends that I admired his optimism. Later that night, I felt like a jerk for being condescending. Obviously this man was not some made-for-television caricature, and I knew better than to enter into some distorted fantasy of his life.

Still. There was something about this particular guy. Sometimes I'd come by his exit and there'd be someone else and I would be mad, like someone was infringing on my friend's territory. One day I came by and said, "How's it goin, Rambo." Well, something had happened to his tarp, it had gotten ripped and he was pretty pre-occupied by it. I thought, I can get this guy a new tarp. So I said goodbye, went home, and tried to figure out what I was going to do. I decided I would go back and ask him what he needed, maybe a tent? So I threw some things in a bag - some socks, a sweatshirt, a t-shirt or two - and drove back.

No Rambo. No more Rambo the next day. Or the next or the next. Soon, I forgot about it.

About a year later, I saw him. I rolled down my window, and like an old friend said, "Rambo! Where've you been!?" sticking out my arm to touch him. "Grove City!" he replied, as though it was the most exotic place and not just the nearest Columbus suburb. He grabbed my arm and I wasn't alarmed. I went home, dug the bag out from the bottom of my closet and went back. Gone again.

Then I got a new job and started taking 670. Several months passed. Then one day I was running errands and saw him at the bus stop right around the corner from my house. The first thing I noticed was how badly sunburned he was. I guess that's obvious, being outside all day, everyday, but it was worse than I'd ever seen. I was stopped at a light in the opposite direction and just watched him. He was agitated, pacing back and forth. I turned and passed him.

My first instinct was to give him a lift. Then my practical side kicked in, figuring it was not the best idea to allow an agitated homeless man into my car, connection or not. I was almost home when I thought I could at least turn back and give him some money. So I did. Rambo was gone. Probably on the bus, but who knew. That was last fall.

So yesterday I saw him, at the intersection of Wilson and Broad, near the bus stop. Again, I was driving the opposite direction. I should have just turned around. Instead I rushed home, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, stuffed the rest of the bag with snacks, and shoved a Popsicle in the top and headed out. By now you can see where this is headed. He was gone.

I'm not sure what this all means. Obviously there is something to this man's behavior that I am alternately fascinated by and then ashamed of myself for possibly exploiting. Perhaps I just need to remember the name of that organization and make a regular donation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Viva La Chick Flick

So last night I was across the street at my friend Brooke's, and she handed me a stack of DVD's I'd loaned to her. Among them was In Her Shoes, the Cameron Diaz/Toni Collette/Shirley Maclaine show from a few years ago. "This isn't mine," I said. Puzzled, Brooke finally answered, "Right, it's my mom's. But you should borrow it; I think you'll really like it."

I was hesitant. "You'll love it," usually fills me with the instant skepticism I get from my mom when I say, "you won't like it." On one hand, here's a built-in aversion to being categorized. On the other, I know from too much experience that I'm often disappointed when going in with raised expectations.

But I took the movie. For one, my TV is officially out (I'm riding out getting a new TV or converter box until I cave, probably when the new season starts in the fall...we'll see.) However, I'd heard that the movie was good, better than one might expect from something clearly marketed as a "chick flick." Then again, I'd heard the same thing about The Holiday, another Cameron Diaz film with Kate Winslet, and, god, was that a drippy, predictable, insulting mess...

But. In Her Shoes, a totally different story. It's a terrfic film, a great story, with rich subtle undertones, and yes, explores the lives of not one but three women. I'll admit, it takes on pretty cliched territory - two women (sisters) at opposite ends of the smart-to-pretty bell curve who are wounded from the same life event. But it's also very true. From the beginning of time it seems smart girls just want to be found attractive and pretty girls want to be taken seriously, all the while using the inert pretty/smart ness as a weapon against the other. And of course, all damaged people seem to be ultimately haunted by the same major life-events rooted in childhood. But we never seem to tire of seeing this dynamic played out (well, as well as it's done with skillful dialog, acting, and direction...)

Speaking of which, it's directed by Curtis Hanson (who directed LA Confidential and Wonder Boys and 8 Mile.) I highly recommend any of those as well.

And I'm going to try to remain a little more open to more of those "you should see this..."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tom Petty Was Right...

...About waiting, that is (but probably other stuff too, but that's for another post...)

I had a job interview last week. On Friday actually. It was significant because the job was the first "full time/permanent" position I've been in consideration of (without a built-in end date going in) in...well, I know, but I'm almost too embarrassed to say....

But it was a big deal. And it went great. I walked in and felt comfortable. Now, I can usually go into any place and "find my way" in it, no matter how short the time I'll inhabit it. But this was different. Perhaps it was eagerness at the opportunity mixed with more than just a hint of desperation in this unshaky job market. But I'd like to think it was more than that. The job is a marketing/project manager hybrid at a financial insurance company. And still, the place was filled with art and interesting people (not to suggest financial/insurance people can't be interesting... Still, the stereotypes typically exist for a reason.) But, as I always seem to say, I can't resist people who "aren't what they seem."

So I got there, spent about five minutes mesmerized by the intricate painting in the reception area, and was lead through a maze of old, converted apartments and into a small conference room. It was me at the head of the conference table with eight other people. I'm glad I didn't know that going in, I think I would have acted differently. Instead, people just kept coming in and shaking my hand and handing me business cards.

No matter how many interviews I go on, I still seemed to get tripped up on opening interview questions. And I usually know how they're going to start: "So, tell us about yourself..." I think it's because there is something too big and broad and un-nerving about this question. Think about it. The person asking has your resume right in front of them. They've allegedly read it, or you wouldn't be here. My inclination is to say, "what would you like to know?" But that would come off pretty snarky. Or clueless. But with this place, I just kinda started. I said, "perhaps I could just go over the history of my experience, touching on relevant things along the way." I've never said that before. I've never been so pro-active before. I didn't talk in circles and, although I could feel my face getting red, I could somehow feel I wasn't breaking out in hives, but instead just changed skin tones (which I confirmed in the car mirror on the way home...)

I do know they won't be making a decision soon, which also works in my favor as I am slated to go to Barcelona in July. Regardless of how it works out, it felt good to feel that, for perhaps the first time, that my career path of varied experience might work to my favor.

I'd still like to know sooner than later...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

CAPA Summer Movie Series

It's that time... Well, not quite yet. The movies don't start until July, but the cycle starts the moment I pick up my pocket-sized, accordion-style pamphlet at the Columbus Arts Festival.

I love the summer movie series. For those of you who don't live in Columbus, or who are unaware of this awesome phenomenon, every year CAPA selects a couple dozen classic films to be screened at the grand Ohio Theater downtown. My mom used to take my brother and I growing up. I do not remember my first film, but the most memorable was Gone With the Wind and not simply because it is a quintessential film. This was 1980 and Columbus experienced a mild earthquake that few people could even feel unless they were in a tall building. [I'm not lying here, you can look it up...] We were in the balcony, under the giant chandelier that shook slightly, but being directly under the two-ton glass fixture was pretty un-nerving. I thought the building was falling down. But then it stopped. And we continued to watch the last hour of movie, only discovering what had happened when the paper arrived the next morning.

I've had other great experiences there too - a terrific first date with a significant boyfriend seeing An American in Paris, seeing Some Like it Hot for the first time and being positively spellbound by every bit of it. Kip and I saw Animal House one year and a group next to us had come in full toga regalia. Dad and I saw Young Frankenstein, his absolute favorite film, and I sat there delighted to watch him laugh so hard and lines he's heard hundreds of times.

I love the recent inclusion of "crowd classics" - films that are not critical darlings but crowd favorites. Last year they screened Top Gun which I missed because I was out of town. But that would have been so great. Top Gun is perhaps the perfect date movie ever made.

Every year, I get my list and plan to see about ten and end up getting to go to maybe two or three. Here's the list. The ones highlighted are the ones I really want to see and am available for. If anyone wants to go, let me know and I'll make some group plans. Especially if you've never been. It's the best $4 you'll spend all summer.

July 17 - 19 = Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
July 22 - 23 = The Awful Truth
July 24 = The Day the Earth Stood Still
July 24 (late night) = Slap Shot
July 25 - 26 = Show Boat
July 29 - 31 = Dirty Harry
Aug 1 (10 AM) = Cartoon Capers
Aug 1 - 2 = King Kong (1939)
Aug 5 = Rebecca (Hitchcock)
Aug 7 = Dirty Dancing
Aug 8 -9 = The King and I
Aug 12 = The Male Animal
Aug 13 - 14 Wings (Silent film, 1st Academy Award Best Pic)
Aug 15 - 16 = Raiders of the Lost Art
Aug 19 - 20 = Spellbound (Hitchcock)
Aug 21 = Gold Diggers of 1933
Aug 21 (late night) = Evil Dead II
Aug 22 (10 AM) = Cartoon Capers
Aug 22 - 23 = Ben-Hur
Aug 26 - 27 = Road to Bali
Aug 28 = Steel Magnolias
Aug 29 - 30 = South Pacific

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Old School Ode #5 - Field Day

For being a child so completely unsuited for (and uninterested in) athletic activity, I loved the concept of Field Day. However, for having such a strong feeling, I have surprisingly few specific memories. But they are strong. They are of the obstacle course and construction paper winner's ribbons. Perhaps this is because I won a ribbon or two in the obstacle course.

There is something inherently awesome about the obstacle course. Not the Army or Battle of the Network Stars style, where the feats are still based in athletic achievement. But playground style, where the more ridiculous the task the better the course. Run over there, spin around seven times, and run (without falling down or throwing up) over to that place over there to limbo under an impossibly low broomstick, skip hard to the pogo stick, bounce three times, put on a pair of men's pants, fill them up with blown-up balloons, and head for the finish line.

Good times.

I was reminded of all this because I passed by West Broad School this afternoon and there was no doubt today was field day. All I could pick out as I tried to slow down and take it all in, was a race involving hippity-hops and another activity involving copious amounts of tennis balls. Had I not had a time schedule to keep, I surely would have turned back to check it out more thoroughly.

And just last week, when I was over visiting my friend Brooke across the street, her son Ely asked if I wanted to watch him go through the obstacle course he had just finished assembling. Of course I did. His dad agreed to participate. The first "obstacle" was crawling under a A-frame thing just big enough to fit a small eight-year-old boy. This did not deter Steve, who immediately uprooted the thing and flattened his son in an attempt to gain some leverage. Ely eventually wiggled his way free, ran a few circles around some pylons, putted a golf ball into a cup, and came across the finish line.

It was ridiculously beautiful.