Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Silence is Golden ... Seriously.

After a morning of riding my exercise bike and doing some intense yardwork, my sis and I opted to take advantage of Bargain Tuesday* at the local multiplex and finally go see The Hangover. Everyone we know who has seen the movie has raved about it, and we both hated the idea of missing out on a great movie while it was still in town.

(* Bargain Tuesday at our local multiplex involves matinee pricing all day and free popcorn. Yeah, FREE popcorn.)

After running a couple quick errands, we arrived at the theatre with plenty of time to collect our free popcorn, drop $7.50 on drinks (yes, pretty much negating the free popcorn) and find perfect seats -- dead center. (Yeah, I'm one of those.) Minutes before the lights went down, a group of older ladies (I would guess they were in their 50's or 60's) came walking in, entered our row, and proceeded to sit just one seat away from me. I should mention at this point that there were probably fewer than 10 people in the theatre. It was 4:30 on a Tuesday afternoon -- not a prime moviegoing time. There were probably 150 empty seats in the theater, and yet these women just had to sit right beside me. I shrugged it off as kind of odd and settled in to watch the previews, which is one of my favorite parts of going to see a movie. ( Extract looks great, and I can't wait for Bruno!) This group of women next to me continued to chat through the previews, which annoys me, but I tend to let it slide since I realize not everyone holds previews in the state of reverence that I do. Certainly, the conversation would not continue when the movie started, right?


These old bats proceeded to chat throughout the movie -- explaining jokes, making observations, and more. And I sat there cursing my parents for raising me to respect my elders because I just couldn't bring myself to ask them to be quiet. I thought about getting up and moving to other seats, but I didn't want to disturb other audience members nor did I want to lose my "perfect" seats.

It's not so much that they ruined my moviegoing experience. That would be a little diva-riffic to claim that. I still really enjoyed the movie tremendously (if you haven't seen it, do!). It was really more of an annoyance and a continuing sign that we have lost our sense of basic etiquette when it comes to going to movies. We're more willing to chat with our friends, answer phone calls, and more when we go to movies, forgetting that such actions just may disturb our fellow audience members. I don't care that you've been to Vegas before, and I liked the funny line better the first time when Zach Galifinakis said it. If you want to visit during a movie, just wait until it comes out on video and let the rest of us enjoy the movie in silence.

Thank you.

And seriously, what were 60-year-old women doing at The Hangover??

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Most Excellent

This weekend was my (gulp) 20th high school reunion. I will admit I went into this weekend with a certain amount of trepidation. While I look back on my high school career with a certain amount of fondness (and probably more fondness than a lot of people tend to -- those adolescent years are killers), I also had, until recently, done a really lousy job of keeping in touch with anyone with whom I went to high school. Thanks to the wonder of Facebook, I've found quite a few people from high school and reconnected, but would that newly rebuilt friendship hold up in the "real world"? (And this made me also wonder -- if Facebook and its kin had existed in the late 80's and early 90's, would I have been a better friend post-high school? It will be so much easier for my students to maintain those high school relationships in our digital era when all it takes is a text or a quick comment on Facebook rather than writing a letter.) So while there was some excitement to see people, there was also a certain level of anxiety.

In a "perfect" world, I would have walked into the reunion Friday significantly thinner, perfectly dressed and coiffed, and on the arm of some delightful man with a wallet stuffed full of pictures of the perfect children at home with a babysitter, but in the real world I walked in as me -- weight to lose, hair not on its best behavior, and solo -- and there was this realization that I was perfectly okay with that. One of the friends with whom I spent a fair chunk of the festivities and I talked about how we've changed, and that was one of them -- that we have discovered in our advanced years that we are more confident and accepting of who we are. I have a job that I love, a home that I've worked hard to build, and have become a person that I really like. Who could ask for anything more?

Friday's festivities included a more casual get-together at a local bar. I arrived fairly early and pinned on my nametag which included our names (duh!) and our senior picture. I took a gander at that idealistic kid in that picture with the big glasses, the short hair with the swoop of bang over one eye, and the funky scarf dressing up the black turtleneck (yes, even then I was a black turtleneck sorta girl) and then grimaced at the name on the tag. You all know me as "Mel." For about 20 years, I have been "Mel", but for the first 18 years of my life, I was a . . . . sigh . . . "Missy." I fought long and hard to shed that name, and suddenly, there it was in black and white. SIGH! I decided to grit my teeth as people called me by the "Name to Which I Refused to Answer", but breathed a sigh of relief at the people who corrected themselves and remembered those last couple years of high school when I began the process of trying to shake the "Missy." The reunion was even more special with the arrival of the person who first dubbed me "Mel" during sophomore year and inadvertently sent me on the road to "Mel-ness." (He sat in front of me in English and intercepted a note intended for my best friend Caity, a note in which I asked her if she wanted to go see Lethal Weapon that weekend because Mel Gibson was so hot. He started calling me "Mel" as an homage to my Mel Gibson crush, and it stuck for 20+ years.)

As the evening progressed, there were a lot of squeals and hugs. Some people looked exactly the same; some looked, well, old. There were some extra pounds here and there, fewer strands of hair, but the same spirits and energies were still there. While just about everyone warmly greeted each other, we did tend to gravitate towards our old social circles, and I found myself at a table full of old "Stage Call" kids. (That was the name of our drama club) There were a lot of "remember when" stories as we reminisced about slumber parties, trips to the roller rink, and time spent cruising the "strip" (comprised of driving from the McDonalds on one side of town to the McDonalds on the other side of town). Because we are older and wiser and more open about things, we also had the chance to talk with a lot of honesty, telling each other how much we meant to each other back then and how glad we were to reconnect. It's always kind of odd to realize how much you've touched someone's life and vice versa.

Last night was the more "formal" reunion dinner. There was a dj spinning 80s classics (yup, lots of Michael Jackson) and a dance floor calling our names. It took us awhile to get out there, but all it took was "Thriller" and there we were -- a bunch of 37 and 38 year olds getting down like it had been 20 days rather than 20 years since high school. There's something refreshing about looking across the room to see a 38-year-old man doing his best Michael Jackson moves, right down to the crotch grab, before dropping to the floor and spinning on his back like an extra from Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. When the dj so kindly spun a little REM and The Clash, we were pogoing, heads and arms flailing, and I could feel the years just slipping off.

Sure, there were a couple people that did not come that I wished had -- in particular Caity (the aforementioned best friend from high school) and Betsy (who introduced me to some of the best music and rescued me from the pop doldrums by slipping me copies of REM, The Cure, The Smiths, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more) -- but it was so nice spending time with people who knew me when and to realize that, despite the 20 years, some things remain the same -- we still know how to make each other laugh, we still are there to offer supportive shoulders, and we still mean a lot to each other. It's just that now, we're better able to express all of those things to each other without all that teen angst bullshit getting in the way.

Can't wait for our 30th!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Are Not Alone

He had become a joke, a punchline, and yet . . . .

For people my age and older, Michael Jackson was always something more. He was that endearing little boy with the amazing voice promising us that he'd "be there." As a kid, I can remember watching the Jackson 5 show and idolizing Michael -- a kid not that much older than I who was on tv and singing and dancing. He was a hero.

By junior high, Michael had become a pioneer, a trailblazer. Kids nowadays may have no idea just how much ground Michael broke with Thriller, but those of us who were there in the early 80's probably still remember the first time we saw "Billie Jean" on MTV. It rocked our world, and if you go back and listen to it or "Beat It" or just about any other song from that album, it STILL rocks your world. You basically could NOT not like Michael Jackson back then.

As the 80s wore on, Michael became, well, odder. While Bad was still a pretty cool album, it was becoming more and more difficult to overlook some of Michael's eccentricities -- the house, the pets, the rumors. Did these eccentricities get in the way of his artistic genius, or did his artistic genius just get overshadowed? If we were to pick up one of his later albums, would we hear that same revolutionary genius that we heard on Thriller? I don't know. Like many kids of the 80s, I abandoned Michael probably in the early 90s when it stopped being cool to like him, as he became more of a punchline than a visionary. Like many, I cracked my jokes about him, rolled my eyes at reports of his crazy purchases, questionable marriages, and legal problems. And yet, every now and then, my mp3 player will stumble across one of those early songs like "Beat It" and I still stop and wonder at the gift that he shared with us. Now, that wonder will be mixed with sadness at the loss we've all suffered today as well as the knowledge that this will just become more punchline fodder. I can't help but think that the guy deserves more than that -- and so do the people to whom his music meant so much for so long.

Now, he can finally find some peace.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The High Gear of My Soul

So yesterday, I wrote about my adventures at Deer Creek -- my first time showing up ticketless, the drenching during an amazing "2001", et cetera. Today, let's trek on up to Alpine Valley.

Craig and I spent the night in suburban Chicago with some friends after pulling in about 5 am after the Deer Creek madness. By about 11:30, we were on the road to Alpine. Alpine is one of my favorite concert venues if only because of its beauty. For a lot of my phamily, it was also the site of their first Phish concert. In 1996, a group of us headed up to Alpine to catch Phish. Of the group of about 10 or so of us there that weekend, only three of us had seen Phish before, so Alpine holds a great spot in the hearts of my phamily because it was where it all began for them (much as the UIC Pavillion holds a special spot for me because it was the site of my first show). Alpine was going to be a big reunion of most of that original group who'd trekked up to Alpine 13 years ago, and we would be joined by some new additions -- spouses and even children who'd come into this world since that August in 1996.

Craig and I made excellent time to our campground -- the lovely McIntyre's in Delavan, Wisconsin. Ironically, we pulled in maybe seconds after more of our group -- Bonnie, Dug, and their two children. We quickly unloaded all of our gear, a process that made me chuckle a little as I thought back to our first time at Alpine when all I'd brought was a sleeping bag and a backpack and all of us had slept in a giant tent together. Now, here we were unloading tents and Rubbermaid tubs and stoves and canopies and all sorts of stuff. Craig's Explorer was packed full -- for two people. The times have certainly changed!

I hadn't been camping in five years. The last time I'd set up my tent was in Coventry, and I'd torn it down with the thought that I would probably never set it up again. Wrong! I was a little rusty and needed some help setting the tent up since I'd forgotten a lot of its "quirks." (I can remember setting that tent up all by myself at Coventry and it taking a matter of minutes. Alas!) Once we were all set up, we hit the road for the parking lot, having received a text from Debbi (who was staying at Alpine's lodge) to avoid the green lot. The green lot became synonymous for us all weekend for hell -- an opinion that seemed to be shared by everyone we ran into. We headed into the venue pretty soon after pulling into our parking spot so that we could try to find a good spot on the lawn. The lawn at Alpine is a beauty but it is also very steep and we wanted to try to find a spot that wouldn't destroy our pushing-forty-year-old joints too terribly! The spot we secured was pretty high up on the hill but gave us a gorgeous view of the stage and the surrounding countryside.

Before we knew it, the band was taking the stage and launching into a glorious "Punch You in the Eye." MUCH better opening (for me anyway) compared to Deer Creek. The hill was boogying down as the band roared through a monster first set that included "Runaway Jim", "Stash", "Ya Mar", and "Bathtub Gin" which had been high on the "wish list" for Bonnie and Dug's two kids. The set also included "Sparkle" which for a lot of us was our first Phish song -- not the first Phish song we ever heard but the first Phish song that really hooked us. Everytime I hear "Sparkle," I am taken back to sitting on the floor of my apartment my senior year in college, surrounded by the people who are still my closest and dearest friends to this day, all of us just laughing uproariously as we listened to this crazy song with its absurd lyrics. We were hooked. So needless to say, we all flipped to hear "Sparkle", a "flipping" that only increased for me as the band closed out the first set with what is my absolute favorite Phish song -- "Run Like an Antelope." I was near tears by the time they were done, overjoyed to be home with my phamily and my band.

After an equally solid second set (one that included "Ghost", "NICU", "You Enjoy Myself", "Maze", and a "Character Zero" encore), we headed back to the car. By this time, the lack of sleep and lack of food (at this point, all I'd eaten was a couple pieces of string cheese and some pretzels about 1:00) was catching up with me as I crawled into the front seat of Craig's car and almost immediately fell asleep. I dozed off and on for the next two-plus hours that we spent trying to get out of the parking lot. We did finally make it back to our campsite where Tim fired up the grill and made us the most amazing cheeseburgers before I crawled into my tent and crashed.

Of course, I woke up in the morning and was once again reminded of my age. My air mattress had lost air in the night (like the tent, it hadn't been up in 5 years), and so I had pretty much been sleeping on the ground and my back was killing me. KILLING me! I managed to get up and stumble down the alley to the porta-potties (getting there just as they were being cleaned -- meaning that I got to use a fresh porta-potty!) and then downed some water and Advil in the hopes of getting my body back to "dance shape" by evening. I am naturally an early riser (thanks to the fact that I have to wake up so early for work nine months out of the year), and am even more so when camping since the heat of the tent usually makes sleep impossible once the sun is up. Bonnie and her kids were up shortly after me, and they invited me into their canopy to enjoy some mighty muffins and fresh fruit.

We all spent a rather chill afternoon hanging around the campsite, including celebrating the birthday of Bonnie's daughter. We had decided that we wanted to try to get into the venue as soon as we could to try to get closer to the front of the lawn. While we could see well the night before, the sound wasn't stellar. In addition, being that far back had made it difficult for the little ones to see. We got into the lots shortly after they opened (once again avoiding the dreaded green lot), hung out a little, and then headed to the gates. We were right at the front of the lines and spent about 20 minutes waiting for the gates to open, visiting with the very nice venue staff. We were among the first people through the gates (I think Tim actually WAS the first person inside). Craig and Tim took off on a run to get as close to the front of the lawn as they could. I took a more mellow time, enjoying the sight of standing at the top of the massive hill and seeing the gorgeous expanse of green being slowly filled in by happy hippies. Tim got us incredibly close to the front of the lawn, just a little to the center -- perfect view for a practically perfect show that opened with my first-ever "Brother" as the children of the band members walked onto stage and got into a large metal bathtub at the front of the stage.

This was followed shortly after by Phish breaking my heart. A little backstory: I've seen over 40 Phish shows in my life. In all of those shows, there is one song I've always been dying to hear live and have never heard -- often missing it by one show or even having it played at a show I was SUPPOSED to go to but had to back out of at the last minute. That song is "Sneakin' Sally Down the Alley." I love that song. As we were waiting for the show to begin, we saw someone walking down to one of the front rows of the pavillion holding a sign that read "Sneakin' Sally" on one side and "Phunky Bitch" on the other. Danielle and I grew excited (she is in on my "Sneakin' Sally" jones and would probably be more excited if I were to get one than I would be -- that's the kind of best friend she is).

Anyway, after an amazing "Wolfman's Brother," Trey asked the person holding the sign what it said. I grew excited. Danielle grew excited. Trey laughed and said, "You're not the first person to try that. Well, we're going to play a song for you." We all started going crazy . . . my moment was here. FINALLY! And then the band launched into . . . . "Funky Bitch." So "Sneakin' Sally" remains my Moby Dick, the great white whale I continue to pursue through shows. Sigh!

The rest of the show continued on mightily with more and more mindblowing jams, finishing with a "Frankenstein" encore that featured Page on the keytar, Mike on this crazy flame-y bass, and Trey on a five-neck guitar that had Craig repeatedly screaming, "What the f&#& is that? What the f&*# is that???"

We returned to the lot where we had decided to be smart. We had brought our chairs and a grill and so while others were waiting in line to try to get out of the venue, we were enjoying tasty burgers and relaxing before hitting the road. We easily got out of the lot and were home to our campsite in no time.

It was quite a weekend, and I will probably write even more about it later, particularly about what it all meant to me as I reflect back on my fifteen-year relationship with this band. Right now, though, my main objective is to find a ticket to see them at Toyota Park in Chicago in August because I still didn't get my phatty grilled cheese sandwich (Alpine really cracked down on vending!) or my "Sneakin' Sally" or my fill of the beauty that Phish has to offer in this new chapter of their relationship.

Well, Life Just Got Harder . . . .

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that, starting with this year's nominees, the Best Picture category will feature TEN films instead of the usual five. This is a return to the roots of the Oscars when more pictures were able to be nominated, and many feel that this will allow more commercial films find a seat at the Best Picture table. This change could have benefited, say, The Dark Knight or Wall-E last year and still have allowed for "artier" movies like The Reader and Milk to find some exposure to wider audiences.

While I applaud this idea for its recognition of history and such, my first thought when I read this was a prolonged, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I mean, I have a hard enough time tracking down the five best picture nominees and seeing them before the ceremony. Now, things just got a lot harder since they've doubled my mission. SIGH! I see a streak falling and falling soon. :(

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back on the Train

I don't even know where to begin to talk about my Phishing weekend. It was amazing, inspiring, emotional, exhausting, and so much more.

The adventure started on Friday as I loaded up my camping gear into my friend Craig's Explorer and we headed for Deer Creek. It seemed so appropriate that things should begin like that. After all, my Phishing journey had begun relatively similarly fifteen years and one day earlier, on June 18, 1994, when Craig and I hopped into his old Buick and cruised down Ashland Avenue to the UIC Pavilion in Chicago to see our very first Phish show. And now, here we were again -- the two of us tooling down the highway. Just like fifteen years before, we weren't exactly sure what the weekend would hold. We'd been listening to some recent shows (ah, the beauty of the Internet -- where you can download a show less than 24 hours after the band has played the last note), but we wondered how the band was really sounding on this reunion tour and if the mojo would be there for the last three shows of this tour.

As we got closer to Deer Creek, we had another concern and that was the fact that I had no ticket. I had decided at the last minute to add Deer Creek to my journey and thought that going to the show without a ticket (the first time I'd ever done that) could be an interesting adventure. As my sis pointed out, at least I could listen to the show from the lot (more on that later). We were about an hour from DC when my friend Danielle called and told us they were checking tickets to get into the parking lot. EEK! Danielle offered to scout the lots for a ticket and meet us at the gate. In the meantime, Craig and I concocted a series of potential "stories" to get me in -- I was meeting the person with my ticket inside, my ticket was buried in the back, etc. Danielle called with updates and told us that the only ticket she could find was $100 (too expensive for me) and that she "wasn't having any luck." I was beginning to despair and imagining spending three plus hours in the parking lot while my friends were inside getting down.

When we got to the lot, the event staff had clearly given up on any premise of a ticket check and waved us in without even a word. As we pulled into our space, I pulled out my cell to call Danielle and let her know we were in. At the same time, a man walked by holding two tickets up, looked at Craig, and pointed questioningly. Craig waved him over and before we had even stepped out of the car (the engine was still warm!), I had a ticket! I did pay a little over face and probably could have gotten it significantly cheaper had I waited to hit Shakedown (or waited about 30 seconds when my friend Debbi called to tell me she had found someone with an extra ticket where SHE was parked), but there was something exceptionally cool about not even having to step out of the car to get my ticket.

Craig and I took a stroll down Shakedown, figuring we'd check more out later, met up with Danielle and Tim, and headed for the gates so we could get in early enough to get a good spot on the lawn. Our other friends, Debbi and Jason, showed up within seconds of us joining the line, and the Phamily was reunited. We got into the venue pretty quickly and Tim took off running to find a good spot on the lawn while Craig and Jason took off to buy posters. Tim did find us a great spot -- almost right up front and center with a perfect view of the stage. Then, it was just time to chill and relax and wait for the band to come out -- and ignore the increasingly ominous looking sky overhead.

The band took the stage and started off with "Backwards Down the Number Line." I'll confess that the petulant child in me was a little disappointed that the first Phish song I was hearing live in five years was a song I didn't know all that well. I had had visions of exploding with joy upon hearing my first live Phish since Coventry, but my honest reaction was a "meh." It was, however, a "meh" that didn't last long as the second song was "AC/DC Bag" (the song I will admit was my "fantasy opener" when I imagined seeing Phish live again). The set continued to rage from there with "Limb by Limb," "Moma Dance," and a "Split Open and Melt" that left me feeling like that literally had happened to me. The set just kept going and going and then suddenly the opening notes that I had secretly been hoping for since listening to the Hampton shows but "knew" would never happen -- "FLUFFHEAD." Needless to say, the crowd went crazy. Absolutely amazing.

At intermission, the sky became impossible to ignore as we were witness to amazing displays of lightning -- horizontal lightning that jetted and branched across the sky. I was too happy and impressed to be worried until Page came out and told us that they were asking the folks on the lawn to return to their cars for safety but that the storm was not supposed to be long and they would come back onstage at 11.

By the time we got out of the venue and back to the car, it was nearly 11, so Craig and I took a couple minutes to relax before heading back in. As we were walking towards the venue, we could hear that the band had already started (playing "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing" -- another song that would have left me feeling a little "meh"). We were separated from the rest of our companions, so we went back and wormed our way into a great spot on the lawn close to where we had been before and again had our minds blown as the band took us through "Twist," "Tweezer", a "2001" that seriously almost knocked me over, "Possum", and a "Suzy Greenberg" that had Craig and I laughing since we'd had a long conversation on the ride to Deer Creek about the song and wondering if "Suzy Greenberg" really exists and how it must suck to go through life with that song being sung about you. During "2001," the rain began and continued to fall through the "Sleeping Monkey" and "Tweezer Reprise" encore. By the time we got out of the venue, I was drenched but too happy to care. Because of the rain, Shakedown was almost completely deserted, although we found some vendors selling an amazing French bread pizza (one of my favorite lot foods -- second only to garlic grilled cheese!). When we stopped for gas, I went into the bathroom and changed my clothes and then we launched into the three hour or so drive to Chicago where we would be sleeping at Debbi and Jason's house before heading up to Alpine. But Alpine is a story for another post!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Anniversary

As I get ready to leave for my Phishing trip, I wanted to take a moment to recognize that this weekend is the one year anniversary of The Ginger Files. It's been a great year spouting off, sharing stories, and making new friends. Here's to another great year. I'll see you all next week with tales of Phish and more, I'm sure.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Timber Ho!

My corner of the world was ravaged last night by a hellacious thunderstorm. According to the news reports this morning, we had winds of up to 85 mph starting at about 4am or so. The thunder and lightning woke me up, as did the wind hitting my bedroom window hard enough to knock it in. (I have those windows that tip in for easy cleaning, and it hadn't been secured well enough when we shut up the house to turn on the AC.) I got up to check the rest of the windows. The rain was so intense I couldn't even see my backyard. I crawled back into bed and eventually drifted back to sleep.

I woke up this mornin about 8:30 psyched to spend the day getting ready for my Phishing trip this weekend. I had a laundry list of things to do -- air out my tent, pack, go get cash, go stock up on water, etc. As I was traveling down our hallway, I happened to glance out the window in my sister's room and gasped aloud, running into the living room to get a better look at my front yard. The tree that once stood in the front yard was sprawled across the lawn and across our driveway. (Thank GOD my sis pulled the car into the garage last night about 10:00 or else it would have been under the tree!) I went outside to see if I could just lift and move the tree myself (yeah, I know) and then went inside and started placing some calls to find a chainsaw -- and to see if I could find someone who could come take my sis to work since our car was trapped in the garage.

Luckily, a friend of mine had this amazing tool called the Alligator which basically chomped through the branches. While he chomped, I hauled the branches to the curb. We were able to get the driveway cleared off before it started to rain again. The rest, we'll deal with when I get home from Phish.

Needless to say, I have an evening of scrambling to get packed and organized for the weekend. Sigh!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nature Girl Returns!

Longtime readers may remember last summer's adventures of Nature Girl as I discovered my love of playing in the dirt (aka gardening). I had intended to get out into the yard earlier this spring, but with icky weather and my mom's death, things just didn't get going sooner. Today, though, Nature Girl was back and happily digging away.

The funny thing is that I hadn't intended for NG to come out to play today. I'd woken up relatively late, ate a quick yogurt, and then headed downtown to see what the Farmer's Market had to offer. I bought some lovely tomatoes and green peppers as well as some fresh cilantro and then headed to Wal-Mart to grab a couple groceries after deciding that my Farmer's Market finds would make for some lovely homemade salsa with a couple extra ingredients that were not to be found downtown. (Yes, I KNOW Wal-Mart is evil. I've been making a concerted effort lately to shop there less, but there are just a few things there that are so significantly cheaper that my checkbook practically forces me to go there. For example, the exact same bottle of bleu cheese dressing is $3 at the other grocery store in town. It's $1.58 at Wal-Mart.) As I was pulling into the parking lot, I casually glanced at the outdoors gardening center and gasped aloud when I saw pots of geraniums on sale for 25cents a piece. For less than $5, I was able to buy 18 geranium plants that I promptly brought home and planted along my front sidewalk. They aren't the healthiest plants right now (thus the price), but all they really need is to get in the ground and get some TLC, all of which has now happened for them. After planting them, I watered them (including in the water a scoop of Miracle Gro) and then around back to wonder at what's going on in the crop circle. Last year's seed blanket that flourished late summer with great beauty has returned with another stunning display. And I didn't have to lift a finger!

So now I'm going to go tear into that homemade salsa that's been sitting in the fridge for the past hour or so and think to myself, "Damn, I love summer."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Big Announcement

It's been the topic of much speculation for many, many months. Rumors have been floating, pictures are out there on the Internet. The time has finally come to come clean and address all of it.

Yes, folks . . . . I am heterosexual. For the past 37 years, I have been attracted to and have been involved in several romantic relationships with men. I don't want it to detract from my work here. "I don't want to be looking over my shoulder all the time, thinking I have to hide, being scared of being found out, putting on a front, having a beard, going down the red carpet with some chick who is posing as my girlfriend. That's not cool, that's not being a rock star. I can't do that." So now it's out there, and I hope it doesn't change the way you all view me.


Isn't that ridiculous? Isn't it utterly stupid that I have to "come out" as straight here? Isn't it complete nonsense that my sexual preference could be the source of debate or rumor and innuendo?

And yet it has been major news all week that Adam Lambert had to deal with that exact same thing in his quickly-becoming-infamous Rolling Stone interview. His "revelation" that he is gay is, of course, not a shocker. As my sis said, "No straight man rocks shoes the way Adam does!" It's not, though, the anti-climactic nature of Adam's announcement that strikes me as ridiculous. It's the fact that the announcement needed to be made at all -- and that said announcement becomes "news." In the grand scheme of things, does Adam's sexuality matter? He's a talented young man; I don't care who he chooses to have sex with. It's such a double standard, too. Where is Kris Allen's "I'm Straight" magazine interview? Why is Kris's heterosexuality not news? Why is sexuality news period?

The other troubling thing about Adam's RS article is the implication that he had to downplay his sexuality (thus creating this "is he or isn't he?" debate for months) in order to be more successful on Idol. Other gay contestants in the past have reported they were told not to mention their sexuality. The implication is that if America knows you're gay, the calls won't come your way to keep you on the show. And yet straight performers can parade their spouses and kids all over the place to "woo" votes. (I still maintain that Nikki McKibben dragging her kid onstage was the key to her shocking third place finish, knocking Tamyra Grey out of the competition, but that's neither here nor there right now.) This all brings up a question -- is homosexuality "taboo" because we make it so or do we make it so because it's "taboo"? Wouldn't it be great if the number one show in America put someone like Adam Lambert onstage and said, essentially, "Yeah, he's gay, he's fabulous, and he's the next American Idol, er, runner-up"? Wouldn't it be awesome if we started sending the message that sexuality is meaningless? The past decade has seen a "burst" of what I guess you'd call a "gay presence" on television -- Ellen, Will & Grace, Richard Hatch, Project Runway, Ugly Betty, et cetera -- but the time needs to come when they stop being thought of as gay characters/personalities and just characters/personalities. Maybe that's the key to getting rid of the sort of narrow minded thinking that keeps us all from sharing in true equality.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Inspiration, Take Me Away!

I've been pretty quiet lately. I don't really have a great excuse other than what is surely the bane of many bloggers -- writers' bloc. I just haven't been particularly inspired to write much of anything.

It's not that my life is especially dull or anything. I just haven't come across anything that particularly begs me to address it here on the Files. I could ramble on about my daily adventures working in the yard or catching up on the goodies stored on the DVR, but surely you'll grow bored with that. I could bemoan my sis's continued struggles to find a job in this devastated job market, but this is not a pity party. I could detail my efforts to try to get back in shape after a couple years of marked laziness, but again . . . not a pity party.

Surely, this won't last. Next weekend promises a little excitement in the form of a journey up to Wisconsin to see Phish at Alpine Valley. The weekend after that brings my high school reunion -- the big 2-0. (GULP)

So for now, just know that I'm here . . . I'm fine . . . I'm searching for inspiration.

UPDATE: As of this morning, my sis is now employed! It's been a long, hard search for about six months to find her a job, but she was hired today as a receptionist at an area salon -- that brings with it some sweet employee benefits that I'm hoping to share in. :)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Give Me a Break

The nerve of some people!

This weekend, our president had the unmitigated gall to take his wife . . . on a date. That heartless bastard took his wife to New York City for dinner and a Broadway play. Sickening!

Sarcasm setting off . . . . now.

Yes, this weekend, Barack kept a campaign promise he reportedly made to his wife -- that when the campaign and life had settled down, he would take her to see a Broadway play. So he and his wife, after attending their daughter's soccer game that morning, boarded a White House plane to New York where they had dinner at Blue Hill, a "low-key" restaurant that the New York Times reports "specializes in cuisine from the Hudson Valley," and then went to see the revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

"So what's the problem, Mel?" you may be asking. Well, for me, there is no problem. For Obama's detractors, though, apparently there is a huge problem. Obama was taken to task by his Republican opponents for lacking tact when so many people are suffering economically, that the date was "inappropriate" the same weekend when GM was about to declare bankruptcy.


So basically, the argument is that people who have a job should just hide in a hole and not enjoy your hard earned salary? That it's tacky for a couple to go support the arts and enjoy a nice dinner out? As a taxpayer, I feel that it's totally acceptable for my employee to spend his salary however he sees fit. If he wants to take that presidential salary and go invest in a warehouse full of Skittles, so be it. His rent is paid. His utilities are covered. He has what I assume is a kick ass per diem for food. His bills are paid, so I think that my president has a right to take his wife out on a date.

And as an artist, how wonderful is it to see our president and his wife supporting the theatre? How much do I love that Barack and Michelle did NOT select some splashy musical like Shrek or 9 to 5 and instead chose an amazing straight show like Joe Turner? If their choice of a straight show like Joe Turner maybe helps encourage more people to go see amazing plays like that, even better!

And before I get accused of a double standard ("You would have gone crazy if George and Laura had gone out on a date like this!"), I call shenanigans to THAT assertion. Had George and Laura done the same thing, I would have been pleasantly surprised perhaps but I would have applauded their humanity and their quest for some semblance of normalcy in their lives. Because that's really what Saturday showed me -- the drive that the Obamas have to preserve some feeling of normal lives. They did what countless couples across America did Saturday night: they spent time supporting their children and then took some precious (and rare) time for each other. They were probably joined in the theatre by many other couples just like them outside of the fact that you know, the other couples aren't president and first lady.

I, for one, am glad to have my president strive for those moments of normalcy. I mean, didn't people supposedly vote for Bush because he was the guy they'd want to have a beer with? Isn't that supposed to be the epitome of "normalcy"? So why is is suddenly inappropriate to have a president who takes his wife out on a date? Is it because they went to a Broadway play instead of a movie? Is it because they probably had wine with dinner instead of a beer? The reverse snobbery at play here (that a play is "elitist") continues to turn my stomach, and I wish that we as a country could find a way to overcome these sorts of "cultural divides" and just celebrate Saturday for what it was -- a lovely date for two people who probably don't get to have evenings like that very often.