Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Lease on Life

As you can tell, I've been a little busy since getting a new job. I want to keep updating this for the pure pleasure of writing but admittedly, most nights I collapse exhausted in my chair while me and Dave binge watch Mad Men.

It's been great getting back in my field, officially but with the freelance gigs and writing my stories, I feel like I never left.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

April Playlist: This is Me in Grade 9

I'm very giddy to be skating to the Barenaked Ladies' Grade 9 for this year's comedy/light entertainment event. Grade 9 happened to be the '83/'84 school year, and the height of the MTV/new wave/second British Invasion.

To compile this list, I went with international acts that put my heart and head squarely at the Lumen Christi Friday night school dances, pogo-ing with my girlfriends, wistfully wondering if any of the guys were going to ask me to dance. Answer: no. *sigh*

Every Breath You Take, The Police

Down Under, Men at Work

Sweet Dreams, Eurythmics

Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran

Let's Dance, David Bowie

Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant

Too Shy, Kajagoogoo

Goody Two Shoes, Adam Ant

Come Dancing, The Kinks

Pass the Dutchie, Musical Youth

True, Spandau Ballet

Don't Cry, Asia

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stories for the Boy: Happy Birthday

HBD baby


So you've had your sixth birthday this year. In case you forgot, your day included blue and blue baseball cupcakes with custom made Whitecap logo sticks for your party at school; presents in the morning which included a Star Wards pretend shaving kit and Lego accessories for your iTouch; and dinner at Applebees by request.

Since you share your birth month with your dad, I think it's appropriate to tell you about how we celebrated his birthday, our first as a couple. That would have been 1992.

Since I didn't have quite enough money to go whole hog on the day, I recreated our first date for him, the best I could. I "took him out" on a date in his living room, serving pizza and a six pack of Killian's Red. We opted not to return to Bilbo's in Kalamazoo. There was no cake, but we met with friends after. I know I got your dad a car, but cannot remember if I got him an actual present. Maybe a bow on the beer. Kind of a big deal.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Typing Out Loud: At Last!


Woooo!

It's been a long time coming. In a few days, I start a new marketing position for a local university.

When I started this blog back in 2008, I had a feeling change was on the horizon, and my fears were later confirmed when my position was eliminated, and I faced coping with defeat. To paraphrase the recently departed Toller Cranston, he based his creative career, artistically and athletically, on making up for loss of the Olympic gold in '76.

I think I have too.

I became a runner.

I rediscovered myself as an artist.

I became a silver level figure skater and an ice dancer.

I became a gold level figure skating judge.

And I chronicled it all the last 6+ years over the course of 260 blog entries.

Writing this blog was not only a way to cope, it was also a way to fire up my creativity and keep my writing skills sharp.

I've taking a lot of hits too. I've joked often about the interview process being like a series of blind dates and I have had my share of nightmare situations that have, quite honestly, done a number on my self esteem over the years. I could really write a book about this series of disasters alone.

Which makes it deeply satisfying to move on.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Playlist: Marty Robbins, El Paso


First, some facts:

El Paso was a number one hit, pop and country charts, in 1960.

It won a Grammy for Best C&W recording in 1961.

It is considered one of the top 100 country songs of all time.

It was used in the finale of the show Breaking Bad, a perfectly heartbreaking narrative.

So why the love?

My grand mother was a huge Marty Robbins fan. My dad used to sing this song while listening to the oldies station.

The song is a narrative ballad and tells the story of a cowboy in love with a dancer from Rosa's Cantina named Faleena. I love the flamenco guitar work and the haunting harmonies. And the end is so damn heartbreaking...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Art Matters: John Irving

Wrestler turned author.

I backed into Irving fandom in '88, a homework, dinner and a movie date with a boyfriend at the time. The homework was chemistry, the dinner cornish hens and the movie The World According to Garp. The relationship (and my pre-pharmacy major) didn't last, but my relationship with Irving's stories did.

His work has been described as similar to Charles Dickens, a fact I can hardly argue but I see his style as uniquely his own. He set his characters in absurd situations for which they act perfectly normal. His worlds are filled with bears in crisis, hookers with sage life advice, horny teenage boys, the world of wrestling, mental illness and finding yourself in Vienna. What is consistent is his blend of comedy and drama, like the grudge one man held against a baby since his dog was hit by a diaper truck. Strong female characters are also a constant.

Memorable characters include Owen, who believes he was conceived in a VIRGIN BIRTH; Garp, conceived by an asexual nurse who rapes a patient as he lay dying; Freud, the Viennese innkeeper who believes he is training a bear, who is actually a woman in a bear suit; Dr. Wilbur Larch, head of an orphanage who is also an abortion doctor; Piggy Sneed, a man of no consequence made heroic by a child's blatant lies; Ruth, used as a pawn in her parents dissolving marriage turned novelist, who of course befriends a prostitute in Vienna.

Even though Irving has his own unique set of tropes, he never relies on cliche to complete his story. His stories are never neatly tied in a bundle, yet you do not feel cheated out of a satisfying ending. You are offered redemption in one way or another, at the end.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Typing Out Loud: Bang, Bang I Am the Warrior

In my continuing saga with the River Bank Run, I submitted an application, three times I may add, to be a Road Warrior in the 5 and 10K divisions for the annual race.

Road Warriors represent the race at community events and trainings, as well as blog about the experience. Right up my alley.

First thing was the application. My first application was crafted carefully, an epic tome meant to make readers laugh, cry, be inspired and thus be nominated for the first-ever Pulitzer for online applications. So when I hit send... I got the dreaded 404 error.

Second application was an edited version of the first, emphasis on inspiration, a "chicken soup for the runner's soul" that was so heavy on syrup, I hesitated hitting the submit button. Another 404 error.

I gave it a few days and submitted a dashed off third try. I was borderline smart-alecky, inserted some trademark humor, and when I hit submitted and got the "accepted" page, I mentally ticked the "do something brave today" box, pretty certain I was not the type of runner they wanted or needed for their program.

Until I got the "congratulations!" letter from officials while I was eating supermarket sushi in a hotel room while off to judge a figure skating competition.

I was very surprised and immediately bashful. Me? No really, me? Before any reader think this is false modesty, you have to know how I think. And it isn't pretty. I probably have the worst case of conflicted self image in the history of self images. Immediately upon reading the news, the vicious, cynical side of me woke from her sleeping slumber and unleashed a series of worst-case, ego destroying wicked vile that made me toss and turn most of the night.

Ever had your own brain tell you such things as "you're a loser"? How about "you're not a real runner"? Or even the litany of put downs such as "you think you're so special" and "you think you're all that" or "attention whore."

Niiiiiice.

The first ring of the circus was the community vote. You were given the link to publicize your intention to be a warrior. I skipped Twitter and Instagram, and opted to get the word out on Facebook. I composed my post at Starbucks and sent it out into the world. It got liked, shared, reposted, etc. Friends rallied to cheer me on. There were also a few notable exceptions to the support, which send my negative Nancy on a rampage.

I didn't win the community vote.

The next phase was the personal interview, conducted at Gazelle Sports. I was funny. I was gracious. I got arms and limbs involved in telling stories, swooping in for effect. They loved me. But it all came down to I think one key question: "what are you not looking forward to in this process?"

I wanted this, but I also wanted to be honest. Skating is a huge part of my life, and working at the hospital, I work odd shifts that don't always work with someone's 9-to-5. I reviewed the listing of events I was required to attend and worried out loud I wouldn't be able to make any of the Wednesday trainings, and most of the Saturday runs. For the first time, there was a wrinkle on the brows of the women conducting the interview. Game face still on, I was pretty sure I was sunk.

Less than 48 hours later, my fears were confirmed when I got a "thanks but no" email from the committee. As an added bonus, I also got a rejection letter from a place I had applied to for a writing position.

Negative Nancy had a field day on me on my way to work. The way I figured, NN had somehow found her way out of my brain and managed to have not one but two entities vocalize what I had been thinking all along. You're nothing special. You're a loser. They're all laughing at you.

I took another day to reflect, and give myself perspective. After running for only 4 years, I managed to hang with the best the Grand Rapids running community had to offer. Even before when I thought I had a chance, I was worried about the time commitment, knowing full well that work, family and skating took precedent. I represented myself well and conjured up some confidence I didn't know I had.

I posted today a thank you to everyone who supported me, and to tell them I wasn't chosen. I rewrote it carefully as I intentionally omitted negative words like "loser" from my phrasing.

I'm still doing the run, and as a reward for my efforts, I was given yet another free entry to the race. So I got a prize after all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stories for the Boy: My Favorite Valentines



Valentine's Day for the younger set thankfully had none of the angst that teenagers faced or the relationship land mines for those slightly older.

One of my favorite projects in grade school was decorating a cigar box for Valentine's Day. It was a flurry of craft paper, glitter, paper lace, bugle beads and cotton balls. It was a beautiful box.

I still harbored a crush, and in my second grade glory, I cherished the "Hot Stuff" fire engine valentine from Tommy.

It's sad that when a girl needs a Valentine the most is when you stopped receiving them. Seventh and eighth grade kind of suck.

Not that 9th was any better. I had a boyfriend, almost by default. I received his valentine and box of chocolates on the bus via Alison Wilson since I hadn't seen him that day. I was startled by the gift.

Your dad gave me the best Valentines for several years. The first year, it was the gift of himself, as we had broken up at the end of January. You will find, son, that the early part of a relationship can be touchy, when it goes from being casual to perhaps something more.

You are living proof that it did.

Ten years later, your dad delighted me with the Can You Dig It? box set, a collection of 70s soul music in a fake 8-track tape box. We were in the throes of remodeling the kitchen of our house in Saint Louis, and we listened over and over as we stripped wallpaper and changed knobs.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February Playlist: WRKX, home of Bulldog Radio

So many memories.


I was a radio DJ, first at WLCC at Lansing Community College, on weekends home at WIBM and WKHM doing the polka show with my great Uncle Joe and Aunt Lil (really), and then at WRKX, Ferris' AM station, aaaaall the way down the dial on 640, with a "powerful" 50 watts that barely reached the far edges of campus.

I had two shows a week, on Tuesdays (6-8p) and Thursdays (4-6p). On both days, Joe preceded me, while Greg "the S Man" followed on Tuesdays and Marcus on Thursdays. Joe was a Lynyrd Skynyrd devotee, heavily entrenched in classic rock. I played a blend of bar/club dance pop and college alternative rock, while S Man and Marcus played rap and hip hop.

Other characters hanging around our ramshackle studios above the copy center included Mike "The Stork", who later was my husband's roommate; Pat, a bland fellow with a frightening penchant for death metal; Esmeralda who loved the indie girls and ended up fronting a queercore band; Marc the DJ who also spun at The Alibi; my friend Shannon, lover of Van Halen and Morrisey; Mark and his girlfriend, who were co-managers of the station. They liked to hole up in production to fight, record commercials, make out, and watch satellite feed of television sitcom stars reading station bumpers in succession: "You can catch "Married with Children" on your Fox 17!" said Christina Applegate, who, after a pause, moved on to Fox 18.

What else can I say about those years... we had four major sponsors, in addition to the university.  ESPN and WLAV were the two stations we played while no one was on air. Old Spice and Domino's Pizza were supporting sponsors; we used to have free pizza and free Old Spice travel fanny pack giveaways. My mouth waters remembering the $3 Bulldog, which was just a personal sized Hawaiian.

I originally was going to showcase my 2/14/90 show, probably the only evidence I have left, other than the photo above, that I did this once upon a time. Somewhere, the house swallowed up the tape, left to be rediscovered another time. What I do remember about my shows was my mix of classic and modern rock, David Bowie alongside the Lemonheads, B-52s and J. Geils Band, and a couple new acts off the Subpop label, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden (LOUDER THAN LOVE!) and Nirvana. Kind of fun to know I did cool before it was cool. I was also wearing flannel before its time, but this was due to gong to school up north where it was freaking cold. Yes girls, Bean boots for fashion and function.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Typing Out Loud: Je Suis Everybody



Religious extremists bombard the offices of a satrical newspaper and kill many.

Religious extremists bombard a Nigerian village and kill many.

Religious extremists bombard facebook, outraged over the audacity that people may want equal rights.

See a pattern here?

It's this kind of behavior that make me question free will, the Bible, and morality overall. I want to respect all faiths and all spirituality but I cannot stand behind anger, violence, or discrimination.

Maybe I'm too much of a hippie liberal that truly believes in a to each their own utopia, but my wish for the future is truly for everyone to find their peace on earth. And restricting others' free will ain't the way to do it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stories for the Boy: Bath Time

These came as cats, dogs, and swans.


While getting Will ready for his Sunday night bath, he pulled his usual pranks, bubbles in his hair, scaling the walls of the tub while proclaiming himself Spiderman, blowing bubbles from either end and giggling over the outcome.

You come by this behavior naturally, sport. I was the queen of bathtub shenanigans.

Before grandma and grandpa made renovations to their house, they used to have an old-fashioned tub, a heavy porcelain number, with a curved edge that was perfect for resting your neck for a soothing bath. Or, as me and your Aunt Candy used it, slicking it up with bubble bath and turning it into a slide. And you had to do it just right, or else you would pin your arm between the tub and the sink, a special level of torture that would ruin the night.

Speaking of bubble bath... your great-grandma used to buy us girls huge bottles of dime store bubble bath. Yes, we got the plastic pink cats and black poodle bottles. But we also got generous vats of pearl yellow, iridescent white bath soap in scents not found in nature.

With grandma's house built in the early part of the 1900s, our shower was in the basement, a shower head stuck over a drain, sharing an open space with the washer, dryer, drain tub, walk-out entrance, etc. You ran the risk on any given day of tending to your personal care needs and suddenly being interrupted by the Servi-Soft delivery guy or told to hurry the hell up because there was laundry to be done and we were running out of hot water.

There was a gentle slope to the concrete floor, one that was perfectly suited for slicking up with the liquid Woolworth soap, to create a soap slide for your mother and your aunt to push each other to slide thrillingly into the shower spray and hope to Jesus you didn't slam into the concrete wall behind.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why Art Matters: Wesley Snipes

Fringe!
 
One weekend in December I was assaulted seemingly from all channels over the course of 48 hours by movies that featured actor Wesley Snipes. And much to my surprise, he was the best thing in them.

The first movie in question was the so-bad-it's-still-bad Demolition Man with Sandra Bullock (who was awful) and Sylvester Stallone (who was worse). Snipes plays Simon Phoenix (last name intended to hit you over the head with a plot bat), a criminal whose prison sentence was to be cryogenically frozen. While in deep freeze, he is subconsciously trained in secret to become a super-criminal. Snipes is a completely believable baddie, delighting in the advances in society and putting his real-life martial arts into play. Even though Stallone's character wins in the end, Snipes one-ups him for the entire movie.

Second was Too Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar, the ensemble movie where he stars as Noxeema Jackson, a drag queen intent on teaching Chi Chi how to be more than "a boy in a dress." With a cast featuring Stockard Channing, Patrick Swayze and John Leguzamo, there was a lot of star power, and a lot of comedy spiced with drama and heart. While Swayze and Leguzamo were more believable as drag queens, Snipes brought a level of New York attitude along with a ton of maribou.

Last one in the Snipes Film Festival was Major League, where he shined as the Willie Mays Hays, a brash non-roster guy who just shows up to play and makes the team based on his penchant for base stealing and swagger. A favorite among baseball fans, this movie is on heavy rotation no matter the time of year.

A fight with the government has created a gap in Snipes' resume as he served time for tax evasion, but now that he is out, he is expected to appear in The Expendables later this year.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

January Playlist: Beatles and Skating, of Course

A fiendish thingy!


Oh, my two favorite subjects together in one playlist.

The Beatles have been a favorite symphonic choice for figure skaters, and off the top of my head, memorable performances have included Michelle Kwan and Jeremy Abbott (Day in the Life), Debi Thomas (Oh Darling!), Davis and White (Eleanor Rigby) and Navarro and Bommentre (Abbey Road, side 2).

Outside of skating to My Sweet Lord for a Christmas show a few years back, my repertoire has been woefully neglectful of the Fabs. Only reason I can really come up with is nothing has spoken to me as a free skate, with normal jumps and spins. However, since passing my preliminary dance tests, this opens me up to the world of solo free dance in the juvenile division and as dance music, I'm hearing the music with new ears. I think it's the classic verse, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus that lends itself to dance steps, highlights, footwork and long edges.

Hey, we fortysomethings have to start somewhere! So why not make a sweet list of potential free dance candidates? Meryl and Kim would surely approve.

Day Tripper - this is one of those songs that came alive wearing earphones. The idea of bringing it to ice is very appealing.

Girl - there's some deep sighs that are perfect for long, deep edges and then the pace picks up for the bridge for some footwork. I've wanted to steer away from songs previously performed, so something is nagging me about this one. Yuka? Petrenko?

Good Day Sunshine - once you think of musical passages and melodies, you start choreographing. This gives me some serious step cross kick, twizzle, deep edge rocker action.

Helter Skelter - only if I pass senior free dance and am completely nuts.

Here There and Everywhere - this may have to happen for real.

I Feel Fine - this was once on my ISI freeskate shortlist. Hm.

Love You To - since skating to Song of India, I have been haunting online sari shops for a dance dress and racking my brain for an excuse to skate in it. This adds to my George Harrison love...

Something - love.

Taxman - dark. gloomy. menacing. cool.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps - this is turning into the all-Harrison list. And I think I really want to see this happen too.