Words and Guitar

Words and Guitar

“Live music is pointless.”

This is what my husband’s co-worker said when my husband told him we were going to Columbia, Missouri, to see the band Sleater-Kinney.

My husband was dumbfounded. He is a man who had his glasses smashed in the mosh pit at a Nirvana concert and wears that fact like a badge of honor, so this statement just didn’t compute.

“What? Why?”

His co-worker shrugged. “I have the recording. Why do I need to see them perform it live?”

On one age-spotted hand, I could kind of see his point. For some people, there comes a time when it’s not cool to have your glasses smashed, even if a living, breathing Kurt Cobain is providing the soundtrack. Your home is comfortable and glasses are expensive.

I also might have been more receptive to this guy’s agrument because, honestly, I didn’t really want to go. In fact, I actively avoided planning the trip, which is weird for me because I love to control – I mean, um, plan things. My apathy led me to do things like encourage my husband to book us a room at a bed and breakfast and stop at a winery along the way. Woo. Rock and roll.

I didn’t want to go because I wasn’t a fan of the band, and I felt bad about it. I wanted to like them. I tried to like them. I felt like I should like them. I just didn’t.

Sleater-Kinney was one of the original “riot grrrl” bands back in the 90s. They were fierce and smart and punk. Being a young woman in the 90s, they were exactly the type of band I should have been into. Unfortunately, the closest I got to being a “riot grrrl” was an Alanis Morrissette CD, a pack of Marlboro Lights, and a tattoo…of a butterfly…on my ankle. At that point in my life, I didn’t really know where I fit in. I was stuck in this weird space where I admired both Mariah Carey and Courtney Love.

There were certain aspects of the band I was into – mostly the girly stuff like how they dressed – but sonically I just wasn’t there. Deep down I thought their music was noisy and abrasive and felt some of their lyrics were just flat-out stupid.

But my husband loves Sleater-Kinney and I love my husband, so I agreed to drive four and a half hours, pay $56 for tickets and stay in a bed and breakfast in a college town I didn’t want to be in to see a band I didn’t really like.

As we hurtled over the Iowa border and through Missouri toward Columbia – anti-abortion billboards, fireworks emporiums, and businesses with names like Curly Judd’s Motors flashing by – we put in a Sleater-Kinney album and I tried to work up some enthusiasm.

When we got to the venue, I realized it was a general admission show, and it made me feel about a hundred years old. No seats! How was I going to make it through the entire show? The opening act wasn’t due to come on stage for another half an hour and my feet and back were already aching. I found myself wondering if I should have grabbed the free earplugs off the nightstand at the bed and breakfast. Once I started thinking about our room, I started thinking about bed and how tired I was, and I just wanted to leave.

As soon as Sleater-Kinney took the stage, though, it was like I snapped back into place. Corrin Tucker’s vocals weren’t abrasive. They were powerful. Carrie Browstein filled up that stage in a way that would put Mick Jagger to shame. And the drummer – Janet Weiss – oh my god. I couldn’t stop watching her. This is embarrassing to be saying in 2015, but I have never seen a woman play drums live outside of marching band. And she was beating the shit out them.

I was into this band in a way I hadn’t been into a band in a long time. I was surprised to feel music so intensely. When I was younger, I could lay on my bedroom floor and listen to music for hours. At that age, you feel everything so deeply – maybe because you’re falling in love and getting your heart broken on a seemingly endless loop so all those sappy love songs and rage-filled anthems just make sense to you.

But, you get a little older, and you get a little more comfortable in your life, and music can become like wallpaper. It’s nice to have it there, but you don’t need it to be there.

As I watched those three women kick ass on stage, I felt that old rush. It was like I was hearing the songs for the first time. The whole thing was mind-blowing. And I wasn’t drunk. No way was I going to pay $7 for a beer.

I also had fun watching my husband enjoy the show. He nervously bought a t-shirt and pulled it on over his button-up. He didn’t want to go the bathroom for fear of missing a single song. He bobbed his head to the beat. He jumped. He hollered. It reminded me of one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place. He got music the same way I did.

So here’s where my husband’s co-worker’s logic is flawed – I was not a fan of Sleater-Kinney before this weekend. If my husband put on one of their albums, I would generally leave the room. But about two songs into the show, I was in love with them.

Going to this show made me experience things I never would have if I had just stayed home and listened to their albums in my living room. It blew my mind. It made me crush on my husband again. It made me love a band I previously hated.

Live music did that to me.

I Have a Weed Problem

I Have a Weed Problem

Boy, it feels good to finally say that! I’ve been trying to hide it – from my neighbors, friends, family. It’s embarrassing, after all. But I’ve been thinking about nothing but grass for weeks now. It’s been keeping me awake at night. “Grass, grass, grass. How can I get more grass?” I can’t take it any more. I need to share my weed problem with the world, and today just felt like the right day to clear the smoke from the room.

The problem started slowly – a little here, a little there, off in a dark corner. I thought I could keep it under control. But years have gone by and now the problem is getting out of hand- its long green fingers choking the life out of a once-vibrant existence.

A whole afternoon can go by where I just stare out the window, my eyes glassy, my mind in a fog. I feel tired and lazy. I should really be outside, doing more.

I never really worried about this stuff in college. Back then I was so carefree. “Whatever, man.” But now I’m an adult. I realize I have a responsibility to nip these kinds of things in the bud.You can’t just sit around all day on a Sunday feeding off a bulk bag of Costco chocolate chips, alternating between naps and Simpsons episodes. You have to stay on top of things. There is no such thing as a kind bud when you have a weed problem.

So that’s it! Its high time I did something about it! Tonight I’m going to throw on a pair of gardening gloves, get down on my hands and knees and rip that friggin’ creeping charlie out, roots and all! Dandelions? Gone, bitches! My grass WILL thrive this spring! I will make it my personal mission to have the best mother-flippin’ lawn on the block!

And when I’m done, I’m going to whip up a batch of my special brownies.

Dial “D” For Dummy

Dial “D” For Dummy

We have a madman living in our basement.

As far as blood-thirsty lunatics go, he isn’t so bad. He mostly keeps to himself. If any dastardly deeds are going on, we don’t know about it. In fact, we have never even see the guy – I mean NEVER. Maybe because he is purely a figment of our 8-year-old’s imagination.

It started about six months ago. Zoe was down in the basement looking for popsicle sticks and glue to make a table for her dollhouse, just as sweet and innocent as can be. As she turned off the lights, she looked back and that’s when she saw it – or thought she saw it. It was the hand of a shadowy figure curling its long fingers around the doorframe of the laundry room.

Her 12-year-old sister was upstairs at the time, so Zoe bolted up the stairs to tell her what she saw. Instead of putting her fears to rest, Amelia egged her on, convincing her that what she saw was real.

And that one little lie has led to this imaginary deranged psycho taking up permanent residence in our home. We should start charging rent.

My husband and I have tried to tell her it’s all in her head. We’ve pointed out numerous times that if there was a madman who lived in our basement, wouldn’t he have gotten to one of us first? We go down there almost every day to do laundry. Does he have something against middle-aged people? Is our flesh too tough or too flabby?

But like a science-denier in a climate change discussion, Zoe refuses to accept logic in the face of zero proof.

If she needs to go down there she will whine, beg and plead for one of us to go down there with her. If she is forced to go alone, she will stand timidly at the top of the stairs, staring down into the darkness, dramatically biting her nails and knocking her knees together like a cartoon character until one of us finally mutters, “Oh, come on already.”

She will then take a deep breath and hurry down as fast as she can. Once she’s finished her business, she hurries back up the steps two at a time, as if a madman is chasing her, which, of course, she thinks there is.

Because her sister made her think there was one. That’s what big sisters do. They are evil. I should know. I have two of them.

Debbie and I are closer in age – we’re only 15 months apart – so it goes without saying that I suffered the most at her hands. She was mean. I need to reiterate the WAS part here, because Debbie is a truly great sister…now. But, growing up, she was my own personal nightmare. You know that bully from “A Christmas Story?” Scott Farkus? Well, imagine you shared a room with pre-menstrual Scott Farkus and you get a rough idea of what it was like to have Debbie as an older sister. I feared her wrath on a daily basis.

But Debbie’s tricks, while cruel and oftentimes inventive – there was one infamous incident where she poured bacon grease over my head – were nothing compared to the psychological damage inflicted upon me by my oldest sister, Christi.

Chrisit is 10 years older than me, and, in general, is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. She was a great big sister to me and Debbie. She would do things like curl our hair, let us play with her makeup, and take us for rides around town at night so she could smoke cigarettes.

The problem with Christi was you would never see the torture coming until you were “stranded” on the side of a gravel road next to a darkened cornfield on one of those cigarette runs and being told the only way you could get home was to go through the cornfield – on foot – after just being told the terrifying true story of a girl who was raped and murdered in a cornfield in your hometown.

Probably the worst thing Christi ever did was make me believe a ventroliquist dummy was trying to kill me.

I was 6 or 7. Christi was home babysitting us. We had just finished “The Love Boat” and I thought were were going to watch “Fantasy Island” next like we always did. Instead, Christi turned off the TV. There was a scary movie on that she and our older brothers wanted to watch and she wanted us to go to bed.

We wanted to watch the movie, too, but Christi wouldn’t budge. We stormed off to bed truly pissed. We weren’t going to go to sleep. Skip that! So, Debbie and I laid there laughing and giggling, hitting each other with pillows, being as totally annoying as we could.

That was when we got our first warning. Christi opened the door. “Knock it off!”

Of course, we didn’t. In fact, we probably ramped it up just a bit.

A little while later, the door creaked open again, but this time it wasn’t my sister. It was my brother’s ventriloquist dummy.

“If you girls don’t settle down, I’m going to get you!”

Now, I was already a little jeebed out by the thing. He lived in a black suitcase at the back of my brother’s closet, and the suitcase was lined with red velvet, just like Dracula’s coffin. When my brother would get him out of his “casket,” his arms and legs would just hang there lifelessly. The only thing that would move was his head. It was quite an off-putting effect.

But I knew the thing was just a puppet. And I knew it was really just Christi in the doorway trying to scare us into going to bed. I’m pretty sure you won’t find this strategy mentioned in any babysitter’s handbook, but I guess you could give her points for ingenuity. Unfortunately for her, it was pretty ineffective. We didn’t quiet down.

A little while later the door creaked open again and the dummy’s head reappeared.



What happened next is a little confusing. Again, up until this point in the story, I knew that it was just a puppet and my sister was controlling it. But after screaming at us from the doorway, the thing took flight – its skinny appendages flapping behind it – and the lines of reality began to blur. How could the thing fly across the room like that if it wasn’t possessed? It had to be an instrument of the devil! And then it landed on top of me! I started to scream and flail around, which made it seem like it was flopping around on top of me. I thought it was actually moving of its own free will! And not just moving, but trying to murder me!

I don’t remember what happened next. Maybe I blacked out from terror.

But every night after that was a nightmare. I would wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I could hear the dummy’s wood feet slowly making its way down the hallway from my brother’s room to ours. I could imagine its arms and legs moving in the jerky, unnatural way that puppets move, one hand clutching a kitchen kife, its head moving from side to side to make sure no one was around to witness his diabolic act. I swore I could see its unblinking blue eye staring at me through the peephole. I would lie there frozen. He would reach his hand up to turn the knob and….

I can’t even finish. I’m starting to give myself the heebie-jeebies.

To this day, I hate ventriloquist dummies with their stupid plastic hair and their idiotic bow ties. I’m not supposed to be terrified of them! I’m supposed to find them amusing and whimsical like everyone else. Thanks, Christi!

You know, the more I think about this, the more I think that instead of being afraid of boogeymen, ghosts or ventriloquist dummies, what we really need to fear is our own flesh and blood. They are the real monsters.

Veggie Tales

Veggie Tales

I am possibly the world’s worst vegan. The fact that I’m saying that probably means I shouldn’t be calling myself one.

I’m not even a very good vegetarian. Saturday was a good example. I had ham. And bacon. And then some pork loin. If Easter lunch was like “Jurassic Park,” I went from being a big, friendly leaf-munching brontosaurus to a hungry, drooling velociraptor, sniffing my way around the kitchen for meat – sweet, sweet meat – in a matter of minutes.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, one time isn’t a big deal. Lighten up a little.” (People always think vegans need to lighten up. Omnivores are like alcoholics in that way – they always try to pressure you to join them because they think you are judging them if you don’t.)

But here’s the thing, I cheat all the time. I have zero willpower. I can find almost any excuse to fall off the vegetable cart.

Excuses I have made:

  • I want to see what the free prize is inside that bag of Cracker Jacks.
  • It would be rude not to eat the cake.
  • I’m having …ummm… “hormonal” issues. I NEED that pepperoni pizza, damn it!
  • It’s my birthday.
  • It’s Christmas.
  • It’s National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day.
  • Catholics don’t consider tuna to be meat.
  • I don’t know what’s in it, so it could be vegan.
  • Cadbury Creme Eggs aren’t real eggs.
  • Nobody saw me eat it, so it doesn’ count.
  • I’m drunk.

I was pretty good at being a vegan at first. This surprised me more than anybody. I come from a family that is more hunter than gatherer. Growing up, I don’t think I had a vegetable that wasn’t drowned in melted butter unless it was a salad and then it was drowned in ranch dressing.

But, my husband has been a vegetarian for 15 years, which kind of made me a vegetarian by default. And it wasn’t that bad. Going vegan seemed like a logical step. I would eat healthier, save a few animals and help out the environment.

(If you haven’t figured this out already, this isn’t going to turn into a rant on why you should stop eating meat. I want to clear that up, because people get really defensive when you start talking about food choices. I didn’t become a vegan because I think everyone should be a vegan. I became one because I thought I should be one. I could care less if you eat a Big Mac.)

Suddenly food became interesting again. I bought quinoa and nutritional yeast. I learned how to turn tofu from something that looks and smells like a Magic Eraser that’s been in a dog’s mouth to something that tastes as good as chicken.

I felt great. I lost 40 pounds and my double chin.

But I also got crippling gas. (I’m not sure what good it does to try and look good naked if you also smell like sulfur.)

And it was next to impossible to eat out. Any time we traveled, I had to pack a cooler full of soy milk and hummus in case we got stranded in a produce desert.

Which is how I got seduced in the first place. We took a four-day trip to Minneapolis and didn’t think ahead. We had trouble finding vegan-friendly restaurants and the hummus was running low. So, we gave in and found a place that at least served vegetarian. I don’t remember exactly what I got, but I’m pretty sure it was covered in cheese.

After that, it was easy to find justifications for cheating. A slice of pizza here, a bag of Cheez-Its there. Slowly, it went from a once-in-a-while kind of thing to a once-a-week thing. And now I’m back in the grip a full-fledged meat-and-cheese addiction.

It’s like Axl Rose sings in “Mr. Brownstone”: “I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do, so the little got more and more.” Only he was talking about heroin and I am talking about cheese. Some would say heroin is worse. I don’t know. I’ve never tried heroin. But I can’t seem to leave the cheese alone. It’s powerful stuff.

I guess all I can do is keep trying. I read somewhere that men are more likely to stick to a vegan diet than women, and that just pisses me off. So, if anything, I need to do this for womankind. It’s time to go cold Tofurkey – just as soon as I polish off this egg and cheese Croissan’wich.