Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Live Event: Counting Crows and Matchbox 20

The last time we went to PNC Bank Arena in Charlotte, Charlie and I misbehaved. We were there to see Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 and Kristen (my sister) ended up babysitting us.

Since then, we’ve done Red Rocks twice and basically gotten our shit together. So the concert before the eclipse was not such a disaster. In fact, we did several things I’ve never done at a concert:

We arrived late.

Our friends Mike and Melanie live in Charlotte and we spent the afternoon pre-gaming on their back patio. Craft beers, snacks, shade, and comfy chairs are all better than sweating it out in the parking lot. Plus, Melanie is an old friend and Mike a new one so it was good to spend time getting to know them.

After we checked into the hotel, we wandered next door to TGI Friday’s for another pre-game beer and snack. Again, no hurry to get to the arena.

When we finally got parked and started walking in, we had missed the first two songs of Counting Crows’ set. Fortunately, our section was basically empty so finding our seats and settling in wasn’t too tough.

We sat down.

I only typically stand if the people in front of me are blocking my view. But that’s pretty much always the case. Except not this time. Our section was the first part of the outdoor half of the amphitheater, so a wide sidewalk separated us from the inside folks who all stood. We could see over them just fine. And we were only two rows back and no one sat in front of us.

So we sat. When it is so crazy hot, sitting or standing doesn’t really matter.

During our favorite Counting Crows songs we stood and danced, and the people behind us urged us to stand for Matchbox 20 and we did for the encore. Mostly, though, we just sat and enjoyed the live music and the light show and seeing Rob Thomas, who looks rather old by the way, on the big screens that flanked the stage.

We left early.

Apparently sitting and being hot is boring because by mid-way through Matchbox 20’s set we were kind of done with the whole thing.

It may have also been that our buzz was wearing off and the beers were $25 for two tall Budweisers and water was $5.

“You know it’s just water, right?” I said to the girl at the concessions. “And that $5 is way too much to charge?”

“Yes,” she replied.

When you can buy a case for $5 and that’s the retail markup you know you’re being gouged. Five dollars per bottle is $120 per case, or $115 worth of additional profit. What the hell? Price gouging always makes me angry but at concerts when it’s 100 degrees and it’s water-for-fuck’s-sake, I can’t hold my tongue.

“That’s ridiculous,” I told her.

“I agree,” she said. Then handed me my change and turned her attention to the woman behind me.

Anyway, we left early. We pretty much never leave early. I told Charlie I only cared about one song and as soon as Rob-looks-too-old-to-be-him-Thomas sang it, we could go. It was the first song in the encore.

So, we left.

Maybe it was that the tickets were Groupon and only cost me $17 each. Or maybe it’s that Charlie had to work on Monday so we needed to get up early. Maybe it was us trying to save money and therefore not drinking $25 beers or paying for an Uber.

Whatever the cause, we did this concert like grown-ups.

Counting Crows did not play as long as we would have liked but we did find that Matchbox 20 was better than we expected. We are now renewed Matchbox 20 fans. So, there’s that.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Live Event: The Great American Solar Eclipse

Is it possible for something to be amazing and kind of a let down at the same time? 

The word that comes to mind for yesterday’s eclipse experience is “confusing.” 

For several months, Columbia has prepared and planned for the event. Parties and performances and precautions have abounded since early Spring. The entire region was aware of our direct path status and the likelihood we would experience an influx of visitors. It was a tourism boon and one Columbia and its surrounding hamlets took full advantage of. Most impressively, the events of Eclipse Weekend were all very well publicized, rather inexpensive, and included free eclipse glasses. The only real price gouging I witnessed was the City of Columbia’s parking deck rates bumped up to a $10 event fee from their usual $1.25 per hour. But this was going to be a big deal, right? 

So we should make it one or at least participate in the well-organized suchness that others had orchestrated. We settled on the Blythewood Total Eclipse of the Park event at Doko Meadows which was both nearby and small enough that I was confident we would have a good experience. We packed coolers (against the rules) and took our own chairs and glasses with us. We listened to the live music performances and joined in the countdown. 

As the sky darkened and totality occurred, we whooped and wailed with the rest of the crowd. 

And then it was over. 

My friend Melanie’s kid said it first, “Can we go now?” 

Then HB chimed in, “It’s so HOT!” 

We had been sweating for over an hour, our hair stuck to our faces, ice cream melting before we could use the spoon on it, backs of thighs soaking the canvas tailgate chairs. We had eschewed the shade for a space in full sun and were paying for it. 

Then the moon began to assert itself and the eerie light of lunar shadow cooled the park. Not quite twilight, but a greyish flattening of shadow and light. There hung the strange stillness of celestial motion and the curtain of a black and white movie descended. The crowd turned glasses-covered faces skyward, mouths gaping in awe. 

I said to Melanie, “There’s a strange vulnerability here, like in a horror movie. As if this is the moment when, distracted by the sky, all humans are annihilated by invading aliens.” 

I cannot have experienced the Total Solar Eclipse without writing about it. There’s so much magic and mystery in it as to be completely surreal. During Totality when we removed our glasses and looked at one another, while the cicadas’ sound surged and the midday felt like late twilight, my writer’s brain was cataloguing details. 

Then it was over and we went back to day drinking, live music, exit traffic, and the Monday-ness of the day. 

It’s in the dichotomy of “rare celestial event on Monday” that my discomfort exists. 

The eclipse was everything I expected it to be. The park event and live music and visiting friends and open-air boozing were all I would have wanted. Yet, somehow, I feel let down. Like maybe I should I have also expected some cosmic insight, some spiritual revelation, or some life-altering change. Except eclipses are a predictable pattern, a scientific reality of a steady and persistent relationship between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. Which is comforting. 

And rather boring.

Where were you for the Solar Eclipse? 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Live Event: The Girls Rock! Showcase at The Music Farm Columbia

Last week I sent Hollie to a Social Justice summer camp that uses music as their medium to discuss issues related to gender, race, and bullying. The first thing she said when she got in the car Monday afternoon was, “Can I come back next year?”

I said, “Let’s see how the week goes.”

She informed her MaMa later that night that at Girls Rock camp there was absolutely no room for ugliness of any kind. No mean girls. Period.

How refreshing.

All week she and her buddies learned about great female rock stars, played around on lots of instruments, formed bands, wrote songs, and performed. They danced and sang. They supported one another, encouraged one another, and felt good about being themselves.

I know no one sends their kid to mean girl boot camp. It’s an insidious competition for attention and validation that creates mean girls.

But getting a chance to go to Compassionate-Loving-Rocker-NonConforming-Brave Girl Camp is so totally amazing that Hollie and I were both blown away by the experience.

On Saturday, the camp hosted its showcase, a chance for the fledgling bands to perform their brand new songs, strut their self-made t-shirts, and be one in solidarity for all the values the camp promotes: Inclusiveness, Acceptance, Compassion, Freedom, Individuality, Love, and so much more.

The parents who gathered to watch the showcase all looked like me: concert t-shirts, tattoos, beer-in-hand-at-3-pm. It was my Unapologetically X Women’s March #Resist brothers and sisters and it felt awesome.

I know I’m doing this mom thing a little different than my neighbors and my Facebook friends, my college friends and my high school classmates, my PTO peers and business colleagues. But I’m doing it a lot like my Girls Rock Tattooed Music Fan Day Drinking Tribe.

And that makes me think it's probably an okay approach.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Live Event: Creative Mornings in Charlotte, NC

Before I left for Creative Mornings in Charlotte I dreamt about my older sister.

We were getting ready together in the bathroom we used to share as kids. Both of us planning to head to Charlotte on separate trips. As I descended the stairs, I noticed her bag sitting beside mine. It was one of those rack-mounted hiking gear things packed full. Mine was just a small duffle.

“Why don’t we ride together to Charlotte?” I asked her.

“Because I’m not coming back,” she said.

I haven’t spoken to my older sister in more than four years. We are estranged, to put it mildly, over some family business that others pretend never happened.

Dreaming about her is not unusual, she frequently appears in my dreams when I’m anxious or worried. Our estrangement is the biggest failure of my life.

What set this dream apart is that it preceded my drive to Charlotte for the July session of Creative Mornings, a gathering of creative professionals where one community member gives a talk on a global theme. This month’s theme was Equality and the speaker was a 19-year-old actress from Charlotte who is now touring with a Broadway show.

Her story of equality was that she was born a twin and her twin sister has Down’s Syndrome. She spoke candidly about the comparisons people made between the two of them and the ones she’d been making her whole life and how those comparisons always left her lacking in some way. They didn’t quite tell the story.

So, from my dream about my sister being on a longer journey than I to listening to a sister tell her story of equality, I felt there must be some greater order of the universe at work.

The truth is I never liked my sister very much. I loved her because she’s my sister but we could not be more opposite. There were a thousand little failures and fuck-ups that eroded my faith in her early on and I never trusted her to get anything right or do anything of value.

The truth is I never respected her enough to allow that her own opinions and ideas might be informed by her education and experience and that she had just as much right to them as I had to mine. I never respected her enough to allow that her mistakes are her own and she has every right to make them.

We are equal but we are not the same. That was the message from the “normal” twin Friday morning to a room full of creative-types in Charlotte, N.C.

We are the summation of our experiences and our hopes and our desires and our failures and the bloody cuts and missed opportunities and moments of joy and captured moments in photographs. We are all these things in our own myriad ways.

Imperfect and inimitable.
Equally able to hurt and love and dream. Out in the world as ourselves. Only ourselves.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Just Keep Writing

The best thing about submitting your work to a publication is that queasy feeling of sharing something important with strangers. 

The worst thing is a rejection email.

On the list for the 41st year is 40 submissions to literary magazines, agents, and small press publications. That means putting myself out there 40 times (at least) and the inevitable rejection that comes therewith.

Yesterday “Off the Shelf” got rejected. Again.

I can’t help but think those people who reject this story don’t have an Elf on the Shelf that fucks with their Christmas.

The story is from the elf’s point of view. Patrick Henry hates his job and is trying like hell to get the kid he’s supposed to scout to touch him so he can be ruined, shamed, and released from servitude. This story is my first Joss Whedon-hates-The Incredibles story: It’s me looking at something other people take a certain way and taking it a totally different way.

I love this story.

I love the urgency Patrick Henry has and the drama of trying to escape. I love the exposition of the list elves who act like the DMV and the way Patrick Henry sees Santa as a slave owner.

Alas, the story has been consistently rebuffed.

When I drag Hollie to swim practice every day, I tell her she’s learning things through swim team that I can’t teach her. The 41st Year list is teaching me, too. Submissions mean rejection and rejection teaches me to persevere, to revise and edit, and to keep writing.

Just keep writing.

The only way to produce good work that people read and love is to PRODUCE. I wake up in the morning and I race down stairs to write. I spend most of the day with my head in earphones and my fingers on the key board.

While I am in-between major work, I am writing my way out. Out of rejection, despair, and self-doubt, out of financial insecurity and uncertainty and failure. I am writing my way out.