Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How To-Do St. Louis in 48 Hours



Dave and I ventured to STL for the wedding of a friend this past weekend. I have not been back since 2006; Dave recalls a couple of business trips between 2007 and 2009. So enough water has passed under the bridges at 64/40... and 70... and 55/44... and 364... to make a return trip.

What did we do? After a clever Chicago construction detour (CCCD!?), and an amusing romp through an Illinois Route 66 truck stop (rhinestone belts! glass figurines! shot glasses!), we arrived in St. Louis at about 4:30. We freshened up and met old friends Chris and Tracy for a four-star meal at Annie Gunn's. We were greeted with tiny champagnes then a decadent meal that lives up to the reputation.

Early the next morning, I was on the ice at 7:30 for lessons with Mandy and Kelly, old friends/coaches at the St. Peters Rec Plex. I was skating poorly due to injury, and it was bittersweet to be back where I spent lots of my free time. It was nice to see a few familiar faces, but I missed sharing the ice with my other adult skater friends, esp since Saturdays were when Joyce and I skated a couple hours together, sneaking off to grab a quick breakfast in between. Pam did come out to skate with me, which was awesome! I was invited to join the moves in the field class after freestyle.

Dave and I took off in pursuit of breakfast and a run through of O'Fallon. Lots of things changed, lots of things still remained the same. Relieved to see the berry fields on Mexico still exist, and La Chata is still thriving. Dismayed that I couldn't find Dr. Georgia's office and got turned around a little. Driving through the old neighborhood, I felt... nothing. For someone that gets nostalgic for a lunchbox I owned for 9 months in 1976, it's startling that I could care less for a place where I lived for 5 years. All I thought as we stared at the house is how lonely we were.

Curious to see all the new construction west of where we lived, we headed towards Dardene Prairie and Lake St. Louis. Oh holy crap, did everything change. Bonus: scored a pinstriped shirt dress for $2.47 at Old Navy. Drag: our favorite breakfast place, the Breakfast Nook, was a victim of the freeway construction or possibly the smoking ban in restaurants.

Revisiting O'Fallon, drove by the Rascals ballpark, the city center where I took fencing lessons, Lynch Hummer where Dave knew all the guys and did the off road excursions, and other points of interest.

We headed out for the Daniel Boone Home for Ana's wedding. Yeah, hated those roads then, hate them now but oh so worth it when we got there. The wedding was beautiful, Ana was a drop-dead gorgeous bride and it was so nice to hang out with the rest of the adult skaters.

With a 3 hour break in between the wedding and reception, we were starving and ready to score some favorites. Dave wanted Chik-Fil-A, and I wanted soup from Applegates. Score x2! Reception was at Maggiano's in the Maryland Heights area, absolutely delish. Sat at the VIP skaters table and attempted to speak Spanish to Ana's mom.

Next morning we were faced with the dilemma: do we stick around for another day in St. Louis, or do we pack up our crap, and head back home to our boy? The decision was to pack it up and see where the day took us. And the day took us to:

St. Charles to buy fireworks;
Creve Couer for Lion's Choice roast beef sandwiches;
Central West End for Steinburg Rink and the rest of Forest Park;
Down Lindell Blvd to tour my old haunts;
World's Fair Donuts for treats;
Tower Grove Park for PrideFest;
The graffiti wall for tagging with chalk;
Riverfront for the Mississippi River and the Arch;
and Busch Stadium for a game!

Busch was a treat, and we blatantly worked a deal with a scalper to get $66 tickets for $22.50, first base side, 10 rows from the field. I sat next to a Norm MacDonald sound-a-like who kept running commentary of the game's progress WHILE HE WAS EATING. After 3, Dave asked if I was ready to explore and I practically leaped down the row.

New Busch is fantastic, and a HUGE improvement over "old" Busch. We were stunned to experience a breeze, something you never felt in the sweaty bandbox before. The concourse was wide, appealing, interesting, with lots of food vending and MLB shops, and that was only the first level. The second level featured open-air Budweiser bar, a Fox Sports Midwest lounge, and the Championship VIP club. Third level was more regular concessions, but allowed you spectacular views and a great spot to do a little standing room only in the shade. I even got my mom voice goin', and snarled at some kid, preventing her from spitting on the spectators below.

You're welcome, St. Louis.

And as we left, the street musicians were out playing, and I tried to slip a buck in the sax player's hat, but I was carried away by the crowd. A few quick turns by the old capitol building, and we were on 55/44 on our way across the river and out of town. The time? Approximately 4:30, or exactly 48 hours.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ArtPrize finalized!



My journey through registering with ArtPrize is now complete, with a few surprises.

First, I had a piece developed in my head, as previously mentioned, that I was going to call "My Valentine: A Confessional." I thought it was pretty good and was looking forward to making it.

A chance encounter at the health department changed that. Will's nutrition nurse is a "fan" (I have a fan, whoa!), and asked me what I was planning on creating for this year. A co-worker pops up like a prairie dog and says "artprize?!" She was in charge of distributing grant funds to artists, and one of her artists had just pulled out. Did I want to be one of their funded artists? Sure!

One catch: in order to recieve the grant, I had to change the theme of my art to something related to breastfeeding, as the monies are coming from the Kent Coalition on Breastfeeding. Since Will is my valentine now until forever, having the experience of being his mom served as the perfect inspiration.

Now, onto hooking up with a venue. I was somewhat selective in contacting venues. I wanted to be SEEN this year, and chose places closer to the heart of the action. I asked to be in art galleries, sandwich shops, boutiques, hotels, gyms, restaurants and bridal shops. One by one, I deleted half of my list, either because they weren't a great fit for me, or my work wasn't what they wanted.

Out of the blue, I heard from a nightclub that was interested in me, and asked me to come down for a visit. So I had a business meeeting - at 1am. The place? Rumors Nightclub, the premier gay establishment in town. Feeling strangely awkward for being a.)41 years old; and b.) straight, I held my head high and went in. Amazingly cool place, it was like being at the rink, only with a dance floor instead of ice. Tracy the bartender gave me a tour and Monica the DJ talked business with me. I eyed the dance floor, the balcony, the picture window, and both ladies steered me towards coat check. Small room with lots of visual exposure, the art would be protected behind a velvet rope (!), yet visible from inside and the large front picture window.

Outside, we small-talked about ArtPrize and what my work is about. Girls bein' girls, they both asked me "please do something pretty."

I was flattered by the welcome, and honored by their request. I was unofficially welcomed by Rumors last week, and today, they made their selection official. I can't wait to start.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Playlist part 2 - You Wrecked Me, Baby



So my play list idea was so popular for me, that I have to do this in 2 parts. Now for the rest of the alphabet:

Maybe, The Three Degrees - history is unclear why the band wasn't more successful, perhaps it's because radio couldn't handle the heat these ladies generated. Love the spoken word beginning, then it's pure torch.

Melt With You, Modern English - if you're going to have a one-hit wonder, make it this one. This new romantics song is pure 80s pop, and it was HUGE. Danceable, romantic, an iconic moment from the movie "Valley Girl." What a *sigh* moment.

Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight and the Pips - "I'd rather live in his world than live without him in mine."

My Blue Heaven, Smashing Pumpkins - This one may appear again as a cover better than the original. The key is the Pumpkins took it back to its original 1920s version.

Nearly Lost You, Screaming Trees - Grunge with a heart. A key single on the soundtrack for the movie Singles and one I listened to over and over.

Next Time I Fall, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant - does it blow my cred to have this lite-rock staple? I don't care, the harmonies on this are sweet and Amy rocks it a little harder than Pete.

Ooh Child, The Five Stairsteps - an old Soul Train song I remembered hearing as a kid. When used for the soundtrack to Crooklyn, it completely destroys you feeling for poor Junebug.

Ode to Billie Joe, Bobby Gentry - southern Gothic story song.

One for My Baby, Bette Midler - Sweet melancholy that evokes images of two people not wanting to leave the bar unless it's with each other. I'm skating to it.

Roll Me Away, Bob Seger
- Multi-faceted impression on me. First, from the movie Mask, a eulogy of sorts for Rocky Dennis. Second, the lyrics get you *rightthere*: "just then I saw a young hawk soaring and my soul began to rise, and pretty soon, my heart was singin'."

The Rose, Bette Midler - knockout performance and a signature song.

Shame on the Moon, Bob Seger - country blues waltz that sounds like there's only two people in the world.

Bette ~ Bob ~ Bette ~ Bob!

Slow and Easy, Whitesnake - the case to make if someone dismisses 'snake as a novelty act with models writhing on cars. Simply sexy.

Solitary Man, Neil Diamond - a dated song that is somehow timeless. About a guy who can't get it right.

Something, The Beatles - the moment when George Harrison trumps John and Paul for the best Beatles ballad.

A Song for You, Leon Russell - back when my folks first sprung for the deluxe hi-fi stereo, the album Americana sat in the cassette deck, unlistened by me and my two sisters. My penance is that I did not discover the delicate whiskey ballad until much, much later in life. I think of that time as wasted.

Someone Saved my Life Tonight, Elton John - Sir Elton's symphony for having been rescued by a friend from drugs or a miserable love affair.

Sour Girl, Stone Temple Pilots - I liked the band, then this song sent me over the edge to adore. Scott Weiland's talented slithering around harmonies are tragic and sexy.

Stay (Far Away, So Close), U2 - poetry set to music, delivered with Bono's haunting vocals. Gorgeous video too, makes you feel like seeing an indie band's rehearsal to see the guitarist flirt with the lead singer.

Sukiyaki, Kyu Sakamoto and Taste of Honey - one version in Japanese, one in English, hits 18 years apart, yet both artful and touching.

The He Kissed Me, The Crystals - sweet teenage lyrics that bebop with a charm all its own.

Thief, Belly - "because of you I came, because of you I breathe."

This Woman's Work, Kate Bush - a beautiful song coupled with a skating performance that defied the skater's maturity. I got to see this performance twice, and it wrecked me for the rest of the day.

Try a Little Tenderness, Otis Redding - thank you John Hughes for creating the character of Duckie, just so he could perform an impassioned lip synch to Andie in Pretty in Pink. Alas, you got the love story wrong, because who could resist Duckie after this?

The Unforgiven, Metallica - "what I felt, what I know, never shined through in what I shown, don't see what might have been." Talk about regret.

Violet, Hole - strangely prophetic, the song is steeped in anger, helplessness and loss.

When Will I See You Again, The Three Degrees - had I been a bettin' man, I would have put up all my Cheerios back in the 70s that this group was going to be bigger than the Supremes. That I was wrong doesn't change my opinion.

When You're Next To Me, Mitch and Mickey - real song, fake band, from the movie A Mighty Wind. Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy portray star-crossed folk singers that managed to produce some quality music for the mockumentary.

Where the Boys Are, Connie Francis
- ol' Connie manages to color her song with that hopeful, wistful longing so important to teenage pop.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the Beatles - one of the best things about the White Album.

Why Can't I Have You, The Cars - one of my biggest regrets to date is the fact I've never seen The Cars in concert. This song is one of the reasons why it is necessary that I do.

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot - it's a Michigander's duty to know this song by heart. It's on this list for the mere reason that I bawled my eyes out during my pregnancy when I heard this. "It's just so SAD!" I wailed, "twenty-nine souls!"

You're in My Heart, Rod Stewart - so sweet, a touch of sexy, a girl could be easily seduced by this.

Your Song, Elton John - no list would be complete without it.

1952 Vincent Black Lightening, the Mammals - one of those epic folk story songs, that ends tragicly but with lots of passion inbetween.

Next month: Rock Star, or songs I'd sing if I were lead singer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why Art Matters - Franz Marc, The Fate of the Animals



Perhaps I could chalk it up to being introduced to his work at the passionate age of 20, because my affair with Franz Marc's work was love at first sight. Seriously. I was in art history class, viewing slides from the impressionist/expressionist/cubist era and this work, The Fate of the Animals, hit me like a shot to the heart. If it were at all done, I probably would have doodled "I love Franz!" on my Trapper Keeper, and attempted to mimic his play of color and light in the margins of my $100 used textbook.

Marc was a German expressionist that created at the turn of last century. His work is bright, colorful, abstract, organic and alive. He used primaries to communicate masculinity (blue), femininity (yellow), and conflict (red). His favorite subjects were from nature, notably deer, horses, tigers and lambs. His use of both created art that was dynamic and seemingly lit from within.

Another reason to like him? He was a World War I hero, fighting on the front lines and dying tragically in battle in 1916. The Nazis hated him, labelling him "degenerate artist" in 1937, and ordering 130 of his pieces be removed from German art houses. Jeez failed-art-student Adolph, jealous much?

The Fate of the Animals is Marc's best-known work, and one of my favorites. But why stop there? A short list of must-Google works includes The Tiger, Horse in a Landscape, Deer in the Woods I & II, The Tower of Blue Horses and Fighting Forms. He was ahead of his time and took the sweet, dappled impressionism in a new, dynamic direction. I heart Marc!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Festival, Pinterest, and The Great Purge of 2011



First I must report about the lovely time had at Festival this year. To the uninitiated, Festival of the Arts is a 3-day celebration of culinary, performing, and visual arts. This translates into food, music, dancing and art. With great weather, it also means tons of people.

Performances: two set of little girls in pink tutus, a jazz band, a punk rock band, a swing band, Greek folk dancers, a couple of street performers and the GR Symphony Band.

Art: we toured the GRAM for free and were able submit our people's choice votes for the regional art exhibition. There were great pieces and I voted for the big sock monkey.

Food: the main attraction! I had halava with blue berries and strawberries; nimbupani, which is an exotic blend of lemon, ginger and rosewater; souvlaki, a marinated pork sandwich; pavlova, a meringue shell with fresh fruit and whipped cream; and split a mint ice cream cone.

Having experienced a few of my favorite things, I've spent some time playing with a new website that categorically keeps track of your favorite things, www.pinterest.com. It's mindless fun and starts getting pretty addiciting once you get into it. I have created a couple of new categories to list the concerts I've been to and my concert wish list.

And finally... onto the great purge of 2011, also known as garage sale prep. I've started slow, but have one, yes ONE room swept of excess crap. It took me one whole afternoon to purge 75% of the VHS tapes out, noting with sadness that it has been a long time since anyone watched a video in our house. It also took a whole afternoon to go through the main floor office cabinets and drawers - why did we need 27 Whitecaps and US Figure Skating pencils?

I move on with great repidation to the kitchen. Should be easy enough, I think there's very little to get rid of there, but I haven't been in the cabinets about the fridge in a long while...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June Playlist - Killing Me Softly with Your Song




The late spring rainy gloom of May helped me develop this list, only its going to be harder to remember what I originally wanted to put on this list in the bright sparkle of summery June. I'll do my best because nothing makes a heart beat a little harder than some sweet melancholy, perfect for swaying on the beach at twilight.

Just My Imagination, The Temptations - The history of the Temps should be enough drama (drugs! death! fighting! Diana Ross!), but we can ignore that for a second and wallow in the sweet falsetto of Eddie Kendricks imagining the girl of his dreams and Paul Williams punctuating his prayers, only to discover the girl doesn't even know he exists.

At Seventeen, Janis Ian - pretty for the unpretty girls, a rather radical song for the 70s. I've known girls like the ones Ian portrayed in her song, and at times, felt like one too.

Choices, Bettye Lavette - I know this was on the playlist for February, but who cares, this is my blog and my playlist. Lavette's wail of regret colors a story of someone owning up to living a life full of mistakes and "if only I had listened, I wouldn't be here today."

Tender Years, Eddie and the Cruisers (John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band) - some things don't age well, like soft cheese and cheesy 80s movies. But this ode to wistful rememberances of what young love feels like felt nostalgic brand new (a movie from the 80s about a band in the 60s that sounded like it was from the 70s), and the years that have gone by only reinforces that time-gone-by ache.

After the Love Has Gone, Earth, Wind and Fire - I first remembered hearing this as the love song for Bailey and Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP. That the affair didn't work out was not lost on me either, a kind of coulda/shoulda situation, sweet Bailey as the cute-behind-the-glasses muse to the maniac genius disco-hating Fever. I don't even remember how it fell apart, but I was all of ten years old and screaming "nooooooooo!" at the TV.

All I Ever Wanted and Stand By My Woman, Lenny Kravitz - I could realistically put the whole Mama Said album on this list and be done but choose these for two different reasons. All I Ever Wanted *sigh* was written by Sean Lennon and delivered with sexy sadness by Kravitz. "Remember dancing in the moonlight, where we held each other all night?" *sigh* Stand By My Woman is a plea by a man who effed up and is begging for another chance. *sigh*

All I Want is You, U2 - The gem of the Rattle and Hum soundtrack with a bizarre little music video is definitely one of my favorite all-time U2 songs. The lyrics are sparse and lovelorn, the score builds from a simple guitar chord to a sweeping sonic symphony.

Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House - This is their most iconic song here in the United States, an often-used graduation song that has endured since the spring of '87. Why? CH mastered Beatlesque harmonies and pop hooks, while adding a bit of New Zealand quirk. "you'll never see the end of the road while you're travelling with me."

Thinking About You, Norah Jones - The video, adorable, as one scene collapses into another, all connected by her heart. The song is a smoky country blues ballad teeming with wistful yearning. Makes you want to fall in love.

Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time?, The Delfonics - 70s ballad with the Philly soul vibe.

Don't Toss Us Away, Lone Justice - indie country folkie pop band from the 80s. Maria McKee is soft and torchy in her deliverance of a song saying no one thought we'd last yet we have so far, so don't give up on us now.

El Paso, Marty Robbins - "down in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl." It ends bedly, but at least with a kiss. Cowboy tales.

Evergreen, Barbra Striesand - Surprisingly, huge fan of this song, esp. when she did it singing to Kris Kristofferson in the movie. Super sexy, and very bold lyrics from a woman when ballads were typically coy. Babs didn't just want sex, she wanted each time to be a first, a beginning. Don't we all.

Maybe I'm Amazed, Paul McCartney - Mac's first post-Beatles hit is a gorgeous vignette that starts with him on piano and the band joins in for the chorus. This song is better than any of his work on Let It Be, but maybe than could be blamed on Phil Spector...

I've Been Loving You, Otis Redding - Most anything done by Otis sounds like it's been steeped in tears overnight.

In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel - there are different types of girls, those that wanted to blow out candles with Jake (16 Candles), wanted to be serenaded to by some Flyboy (Top Gun) or those of us that wanted John Cusack to blast a boombox outside our bedroom window (Say Anything). I was a Cusack girl.

Jai Ho!, Pussycat Dolls - from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, the song is desperately romantic, and the Bollywood sound so exotic.

Jolene, Dolly Parton - how could it be that the poster girl of femininity could lose a man? Dolly's desperate lyrics speak of pain and loss - of all the men you could have, why mine?

Killing Me Softly, Roberta Flack - the subject of this song is pretty much what this blog entry is all about. Flack wrote this to Don McClean for writing American Pie, and how the song made her feel.

Kiss and Say Goodbye, The Manhattans - The end of a messy affair, when there's not much more to do or say. Longing and regret.

Kiss From a Rose, Seal - our wedding song. We had a hard time choosing one, but when this song came out, suddenly it became easy. Strong visuals with Seal's signature vocals.

Leather and Lace, Stevie Nicks and Don Henley - rock's Lady and the Tramp/Romeo and Juliet, beautiful lyrics "you in the moonlight/with your sleepy eyes/ how could you ever love a man like me."

Love Walks In, Van Halen - this may be when Van Hagar lost their hardcare partyboy fans, but this may be where they got a few female fans. Hard rock power ballad at its best.

Lovin' You, Minnie Riperton - she of seven octaves, singing a pretty song about her baby daughter, the future comedian/star Maya Rudolph.

Whew! I think I will tackle M - Z some other day. Go load the 'pod and cry a little.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ArtPrize 2011 - My Valentine: A Confessional



ArtPrize entry for this year is pretty much poking fun at myself. The premise? Telling the stories of past Valentine's Days through collages. The inspiration? In the depths of my basement is a collection of Valentine candy boxes that practically beg for their stories to be told.

I'm going to incorporate the candy boxes into collages of pictures, and short (we are talking 2-3 sentences) stories of VD's gone by. I'm hoping that my writing style creates something that is visually interesting as well as pretty damn funny.

Some of the more embarrassing details? Sending a bunch of boys candygrams in high school. Breaking an ex-boyfriend's stereo in a fight. Nakedness.

I have my application out to about 25 venues. Let's hope I hear from someone.