29 July, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Ooooh

Discovered a new beta search engine today that knocked my socks off and no, it's not Cuil. Found a link to this one in an article about Cuil's crash and burn.


It won't replace the functionality of Google but it'll be good for seeing the pages before linking to them.

27 July, 2008

Music to My Ears

Our air conditioning is out. Well, not out, per se, but not entirely working, let's say. The ... people ... who put together our condos weren't exactly working on all cylinders (that's me being nice) and so made it practically impossible to reach the filters for our air conditioner. They (the filters) are supposed to be changed 2x a year, we've been here since March, 2005 and this is the first time we've realized we can't reach them because they (the cylinder-less nincompoops - that's me being less nice - that built these condos) put riveted obstacles in the way - to the point where we will have to pay to get these things replaced. It's 86 degrees out there today. Oy.

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On an entirely different subject (I just thought I'd mention the above paragraph so you got a good picture of my environment), I have been inspired to write a post about one of the things closest to my heart: music. But first, let me put some on so I can get further inspired ...

Mmmm Vampire Weekend, hell yea ... let's go.

We'll start with my favorite band of all time and no surprise because in this, I am as normal as a heartbeat: The Beatles. Seriously people, this IS rock music. Everything stems from The Beatles and [rant]don't give me that shit about Elvis or -god forbid- The Rolling Stones. I am firmly in JohnPaulGeorgeRingo camp and couldn't care less about MickDruggie1Druggie2Invisibleman1Invisibleman2 - the Stones would never have left London if not for the initial Invaders: The Beatles.[/rant]

The Beatles are the best selling group in musical history, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could have been built on them alone. They enjoyed only one year of success in England before exploding into America and starting an audio revolution that would never again
(yet) be rivaled. With the exception of Yellow Submarine, every album The Beatles released both in the UK and US held the #1 sales positions for multiple weeks. Between 1962 and 1970, The Beatles songs grew from short, Pop-py sing-a-longs to wandering, mind-bending exercises in existentialism - pretty much, as they grew so did their music ... and so did their audience. A young girl who might have screamed her entire way through a concert in 1964 would later be tripping face to "Dear Prudence" or "I Am the Walrus" as she enjoyed the farther reaches of her wild oats. I believe that is one of the most amazing legacies of The Beatles, that they could grow with their fans and avoid being looked upon as "a band I liked when I was young" of which there are SO MANY. And that they could then speak so clearly to those fans' children, of which I am one.

Despite all the great new bands I've been exposed to and fallen in love with in the years since I first built my appreciation for The Beatles, I will always consider them my favorite because they will always be the best. They are the Michael Jordan of rock and roll.

Holding the second spot in my heart, and a close second at that, is Phish. For this one I have my college friends to thank. One friend brought over the album "Rift" one night in our last week at school. He bought it for the album art and thank God for great album art because Phish pretty much defined my 20s and early 30s and has infiltrated so many parts of my life, I'd be a completely different person otherwise. I think some people find something a little pathetic about that statement but really, it is no different than saying a god or a faith defines you: it's all subjective, it's all opinion and it's all individual to the person and therefore nobody else's business to judge. I am defined by my faith and that is in music and not in air.

All-in-all, I've seen many Phish shows. We'll leave it at that. I could count them down (I have before, I've forgotten before) but the count is for competition purposes only. "Many" is as good a count as any.

My first Phish show was 8/10/1996 at Alpine Valley, WI. It was the first Phish show for many of my friends and, unbeknownst to me at the time because I hadn't yet met him, my husband. The experience and music both had such an amazing impact on me that I came ->thisclose<- less than a week later to heading to Plattsburgh, NY - ticketless and solo - for the tour-ending Clifford Ball Festival. I had my boss on-call, I had a ride from Detroit to NY - I was missing the ride from Chicago to Detroit and that, in the end, was what undid my plans. I still regret that.

Until their quote-unquote end in 2004, I based most of my vacations and family visits around Phish shows which makes me a bad daughter, I know. But they were THAT important to me. I met Jason because of Phish. And when they return (note the when and not if), I will find a way. Despite the facts that I'm in a new job now with a much stricter vacation policy and that we have goals now that require savings accounts and that the economy is such that both driving and flying are financially tough ... I will find a way.

In the meantime, I am satisfying myself with new music that excites me and makes me wish - just a little - that I was in high school now and therefore didn't look quite so silly as a thirty-something woman blasting The Killers or The Raconteurs in public. I have three favorite stations programmed on my car radio that fulfill most of my needs when not on commercial: WDRV for its devotion to the 60s and 70s (and sometimes 80s but only the good 80s), Q101 for its love of the Alternative (which is now mainstream, of course, as alternative must always become one day) and XRT for the blend of both and some new stuff to boot. XRT introduced me to Vampire Weekend which I started playing at the beginning of this (went through that self-titled album then onto Yellow Submarine during The Beatles portion of this posting and now I'm into The Killer Hot Fuss for what probably should be the wrap-up since I am supposed to do other things today).

All-in-all, I would say that of all art forms - even writing, says the writing major - I find more comfort and a Home in music. Some songs can tell a great story while other songs can influence a heartbeat and give my restless toes something to do.
When I was younger, I went everywhere with my walkman (yes, I know that is a brand name but, like xerox and tivo, it has become the term for all in its category and, while I never owned a brand-name Walkman, I did own several of its competitors) and I couldn't even begin to impress upon you how exciting it was for me to graduate to a portable cd player and let's just say that my iPod is my 2nd best friend (behind Jason, of course) and, despite a 60 GB capacity, is nearly full with so much not yet on it. I like music too much for 60 GB to properly express.

There is music I dislike, certainly: a flat twang or an overplayed song (cough-stairway-cough) or what I call noodling which is a state of guitar-play in which the tune meanders hither and thither without actually going anyplace, and the only noodling I will put up with is Trey Anastasio because I know that eventually, he will go somewhere.

But for the most part, music is one of those subjects that I like to keep an open-mind on because I don't want to miss the best stuff each era has to offer by being mired up to the knees in my own era. My inspiration on this is my own mom who opened herself up to my music when I was a teenager and even though I won't have a child to do the same for me, I think I will succeed just fine on my own.

25 July, 2008

The History Boys

Briefly, my apologies for so long a lapse - it seems that the proxy server (aka The Great and Powerful Censor) is at least partially A.I. and in less than a week "learned" to ban my access to all things Blog and Interesting. It's becoming a challenge; thankfully, I am enjoying the job and colleagues.

Jason's working a rehearsal dinner tonight so I've got the television to myself and Friday is a typical, dreadful night for programming. But I've got free HBO and free HBO On Demand. Scrolling through the list, I ran across The History Boys. I'd only heard of this play/film from a former co-worker who is an anglophile to the nth degree in addition to being a theatre person (said in a snooty aka uppercrust British accent of course) but it sounded very interesting and not something Jason would enjoy so I settled in and clicked on it.

Originally written for the stage by Alan Bennett, The History Boys is a multi-layered coming-of-age story set in 1980s Sheffield, England. On the surface, the story of 8 boys hoping to be accepted at an Oxbridge school (a cute term for the two pinnacles of English educations: Oxford and Cambridge Universities) is about education and the black and white difference between learning and testing. They have been well-groomed by two very hands-on teachers but, while they know an awful lot about a great many things (can recite Auden on call and play-act a transaction with a prostitute in French), they don't stand out. Enter Irwin, a much younger teacher bringing a little bit of a No Child Left Behind theory (minus the complete and total ignorance of the very definition of education, of course) mixed with a healthy dose of salesmanship to these ambitious boys' study plans.

Undulating beneath school boy tales comes the real meat of any coming-of-age story: the sex. In this case, both hetero and homo and a little here and there. The General Studies teacher, Hector, has a tendency towards pederasty which would typically be cautionary Hollywood fare if not for the unique characters of the boys who play along without playing along. It is a laugh to them, something to even the field between teacher, who should normally be of a vaulted stature, and student. At the end of their first classroom scene together, Hector turns to each boy to ask if he wants a ride home on the back of his motorcycle. This is apparently a standard offer and to be followed by an expected grope before reaching home. The boys aren't homophobic and they aren't afraid, it's a joke to them to see if they can avoid the grope while Hector believes he got the grope.

I am very pleased with the movie. The accents can get heavy at times, I made friends with the rewind button, but it's a different coming-of-age movie than I am used to. I liked it very much. The ending almost seemed a little Hollywood to me and not having seen the play, I don't know if that is unique to the movie, but I wasn't upset at it, I just wasn't surprised.

17 July, 2008

Googling Oneself & Other Oddities This Thursday

Oh c'mon, don't act all innocent - you know you want to know alllllllll about you, even if that you isn't you but someone else who dares to have your same name - bitches! So, in the act of googling my maiden name for images, I ran across this paragraph and while I am not the one who wrote this, I can tell you she is my long-lost twin. Does this not sound like me (and true enough to be kinda scary too):


I'm Debbi and I really don't care if you put an "e" on the end of my name or not. I came up with the "Debbi" spelling whan I was about 7 and my teacher insisted I choose a spelling for my name: "y" or "ie." So I choose neither. In any case, I've been using it since.

So … yea. You can tell I didn’t write this – I would have spelled “when” correctly and put the period after the end-quotes, but that’s just me and my OCD

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It’s been awhile since I could post – I have very tight restrictions on Internet and email access where I work and while I HAD blog capabilities last week, that is apparently no longer true. Makes me wonder if I’m the first person at my company to attempt to visit or compose blogs and if the proxy server made an executive decision to ban me.

The good news is, I am very, Very caught up on current events. CNN’s website is allowed. I could tell you all about the Florida woman with a missing toddler who didn’t tell police for 5 weeks that her child was missing (can you say, killed her?) I’ve been keeping track of oil prices – dropped the last three days. Local gas stations … have not dropped. But they’ll crank it up as soon as the drop stops and the oil prices go up. What goes up … must stay up. New rules, you’re outta here Newton!

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This picture cracks me up … googling images again … I have the song Mr. Horrible stuck on my mind (don’t ask, I have no answers), so I googled it. This is what I got. I thought it should be shared.

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On the subject of googling and the as-you-go-along spell-check on my Firefox browser: Get with it People, it’s 2008 and googling is the latest xeroxing … if we can’t use brand names to appropriately define our actions (when there are words that already exist to do so, yes, I know!) then we need to have a talk. I will not use the word “searching” when I can more aptly use googling to get the point across – and sound “rad” and “with it”. So get with it, spell-check, I don’t want to have to have this talk with you again! (Rad is too a word!!)

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That’s all I have today. I’m not trying to kill time at work, so no googling for intellectual purposes. Meandering and mumbling, that’s what I’m all about. Rad.

14 July, 2008

Real Estate Is the Best Investment You Can Make

So sayeth every American father to his son or daughter for the last 100 years. The best way to make money is to invest in real estate - you get a roof over your head, the tax breaks are great and real estate will always appreciate. In fact, despite the front page news of the last two years, my Dad is still advising me to continue on as a home owner. And on this, we will have to agree to disagree.

I've been reading the news and listening to educated opinions. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two largest mortgage agencies in the U.S., are floundering and in need of government assistance, in the form of bailouts. This, in the aftermath of a veritable free-for-all in the housing industry in which millions of mortgages were offered and approved to people who perhaps weren't precisely qualified to be homeowners just yet.

No-or-low money down (less than 20%) and Interest-only mortgages are examples of subprime lending practices in which high-risk borrowers are given high-risk loans that previously, they never would have qualified for. The advantage to the investors, of course, is that low risk equals low profit, whereas high risk – when it works out – equals a higher profit. Which is why the subprime mortgages became so popular and so readily available: Greed. The disadvantage, of course, is that no-or-low money down and an interest-only mortgage mean that if the property does not appreciate between the time it is bought and sold, the buyer-turned-seller will be upside-down on the loan and have to pay the difference in full at the Closing. These practices are only advantageous when our fathers are always, entirely correct, which - my apologies to Dads worldwide - they are not.

The last interest-only mortgage craze ended with a wave of foreclosures in the Great Depression. Today's interest-only ARMs are even riskier … Interest-only mortgages were the standard mortgage in the 1920s, but they disappeared during the Great Depression, and for good reason.

Simultaneously, we experienced a too-good-to-be-true appreciation in many metro areas, including Chicago. Between 1997 and 2006 … American house prices rose by 124%. I guess the comforting thing is we were not alone?

America's was not the frothiest housing market: in the same period prices in Britain went up by 194%, those in Spain by 180% and those in Ireland by 253%. What was peculiar to America was the ability of large numbers of subprime borrowers—those with poor credit records—to take out mortgages and buy homes, lured by cheap credit and the belief that house prices could only rise. By 2006 a fifth of all new mortgages were subprime. The interest rates on many of these were adjustable, unlike those on most American mortgages. Low “teaser” rates were charged for a while before higher, market-based rates kicked in.

Fact is, the availability of the higher risk loans, the seemingly-sure gamble of doubling one’s real estate money within a year in conjunction with the never-ending American sense of entitlement as well as other timely factors have all come together to create this Perfect Storm.

I wrote a couple of days ago about the rising cost of gas and how it is now affecting my bank account with this new commute. Jason and I have discussed the possibility of selling our condo to move somewhere closer to both my work and his studio – for instance, the Edison Park neighborhood of Chicago would be nearly ideal (if you ignore the horrendous sales tax in Cook County, of course) due to it being a couple of METRA stops before Mt. Prospect where I work and I could ditch the driving commute almost altogether – and rather than sell and then buy again, I would almost rather sell and then go back to renting – find a safe harbor for the economic shit storm that is about to get even worse.

I explained this to my father yesterday and he disagreed with me, saying that we are making more money by owning than we would by renting which is technically true but there are large withdrawals from our bank account that would not have happened if not for being owners vs. renters. The opportunity (and often necessity) to renovate is hard to quell – since becoming owners, we have become regular customers at Menards and other home improvement warehouses. We have new appliances, new counters, new paint … lots of new things that we would never have invested in had we remained renters.

Did people actually think a half-million dollar one bedroom was going to last at that price? Economics is a roller coaster and what goes way up high must fall pretty damn far because our paychecks certainly aren’t growing that fast and we can’t expect our grandchildren to be able to afford a million dollar one bedroom in their time. As the housing bubble bursts and I see the appreciation failing to appear in many places, I worry about our chances at selling in what’s left of this summer but I think I might worry more about our chances to sell next summer. At least this summer isn’t at rock bottom which is where I think next summer might be, or close to it.

And that’s when I start paying attention when I hear the names Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac uttered on CNN or when our mortgage broker sends us a newsletter with the dire warning of If you want to get a mortgage, even if it isn’t for the next six months, call me BY Monday! I perk up at things like that and I feel a deep sinking in the pit of my stomach. For those who have not bought yet, your best price is coming up really quick. For those of us who already own and would like to sell … yea … we might want to invest in four-leaf clovers and rabbits’ feet or resign ourselves to waiting it out. That’s what I think. And that’s what I think about.

12 July, 2008

Death Knell for a Car Culture

Gas prices these days, as my grandmother would say - and often, still, does - are rigoddamndiculous which, of course, is an example of an expletive infixation. In one year, the price of gas has risen by over a dollar a gallon (July 9, 2007 - the price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Chicago clocked in at $3.149; source here; in just 18 months, the price of a barrel of oil has risen from $50 to $140, source here) and this is in combination with an already depressed US Dollar and an economy that is heading into the proverbial shitter.

I used to work in the City so my commute involved a train, a book and my iPod and the price of gas didn't affect me so much. But I've filled up twice this week commuting to my new job and come to find out, it affects me quite a lot now. When the needle is on "E" and you have to choose the closest station, try not to be caught in the Schaumburg area. That's just an FYI. I actually paid $4.42/gallon for 2 gallons this week - I didn't pump anymore than that because I knew the stations closer to my house were a bit less rigoddamndiculous and all I needed right then was enough to set my mind at ease for the remainder of the afternoon commute.

Seriously, we are a car culture. We embrace all modes of freedom but most especially those modes that don't require someone else's schedule and sharing cabin space. We drive our cars to the most exciting events of our lives as well as the most mundane. Drivers define themselves by the cars they drive in a country where a 1964 - 1/2 Ford Mustang can cost you just as much as a 2008 Kia Sonata but is worth ever so much more to the driver who wants to make a statement more than s/he wants to get from point A to point B.

I blame Henry Ford a little bit, but as a fan of my own car and the freedom it affords me, I thank him as well. When cars were first introduced to America, only the wealthiest and most narcissistic families could afford to buy one. Ford understood this, wanted to change it and thus revolutionized the way his automobiles were built so that he could sell them for little enough to sell more of them. With the implementation of his factory-line methods, the Model T became the first car to be available to a more middle-class society and thus began an America-wide love affair with The Car.

The 1950s saw a great upswing in the car culture and in fact, this era is still the visual reference that comes to mind when discussing America's love for the automobile and our car culture in general. I was taught to tell the difference between a '55, '56 and '57 Chevy (the size and shape of the fins) and I think my mom would die happy if she were to obtain her dream car: a '58 Impala. The '64 - 1/2 Mustang mentioned earlier is still The Hot Car on most lists - tricked out to update to the 21st century, no doubt; I know I would kill a few people for one. The '65 was nice, of course, pretty much little difference, but it wasn't the '64 - 1/2.

When I traveled to Europe a few years ago, I was taken aback by how many bikes ruled the road where cars were few. We were told there was no point in flagging a taxi in Amsterdam and rather, we would be better off hoofing it or renting a bike for our time there. Don't grab a cab to get from the airport to Centraal Station, just take the train. From my many years living in cities, I had no problem understanding transit maps and taking the train in Amsterdam and Paris but our entire time there, I missed being in a car.

And now these soaring gas prices. Turns out, they're going to take down a few travel methods we've come to rely upon as well as the car culture. Airlines are charging for the most assinine of services, services that should logically be - and once were without a second thought - included. We're trying to find tickets to return to Jamaica for another music festival (Caribbean Holidaze)and trying to decide if we should buy now or wait. Two years ago, I would have said wait - there will be a sale and we'll get them cheaper. This year ... I say we buy now because gas is going to keep rising and if we wait, they'll raise their prices to accommodate and we'll be kicking ourselves for missing out on the high prices and being forced to pay the unthinkable prices.

And I think that's what's bugging me enough that I spend a Saturday afternoon writing about gasoline and not a new job or -gasp!- enjoying a summer day outside: as long as we are dependent on a very finite and rapidly vanishing source of energy and making it a speculator sport to boot, we endanger our freedom of both individual and group travel and as that is in my top 3 list of priorities in life, I have been driven to first: bewilderment, then: frustration and now: outright anger over this issue. Apparently, the United States is attempting to handle its oil and energy policies in a subpar fashion and is little concerned with the quality of life for the majority of its citizens. What other explanation is there? We know it's not a bottomless well and we know we're not terribly far from the bottom and yet we don't seem to be putting too much energy into finding its alternative. Instead, we barely fund scientists and engineers to come up with poor substitutes and then use them as excuses as to why we can't come up with anything equal or better. We are severely lacking a Plan B and Plan C mentality and that's going to create a more desperate situation than we can imagine even now.

I am in fear of seeing a sign that starts with a $5... I kind of know it's going to happen and there isn't much we can do about it but I'm going to remain in denial for now because I have to drive my car to work and I can't carpool because no one I know of yet lives as south as I do and I really can't consider moving because the housing market sucks and we would be selling in order to get closer to work so really, all I can do is live in denial and hope that some semblance of our car culture and our travel desires can be preserved until at least the day after I die.

07 July, 2008

Rothbury (This One's Long and I Mean It)

I’ve been having a difficult time describing my experiences this past weekend at Rothbury so I will borrow the words from a headline I found online:

Rothbury: Summer Camp for Adults

We arrived on Thursday, about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. According to the signs on the highway, the next two exits led to the festival so we took the second exit and watched in our rearview mirror as all the rest of the cars behind us took the first. I don’t know if the first exit led to a line as I’ve experienced at past music festivals (Phish’s Big Cypress at 15 hours and Coventry at 14 hours to name a couple) but the second exit was clear sailing all the way through to the security line. Past that we hit a line of cars about a mile long and coasted at a nice clip for less than fifteen minutes into what looked like the Day Camping area on the map we had just been given. That is where they directed us to park and put up camp. I was behind the wheel so I gave myself as much extra space between our car and the one in front of us – now parked to our left - as they would allow – our tent is large enough to have closets so a measly two-to-three feet between the cars wouldn’t suffice.

Turns out the car to our left held only the driver, who had every intention of moving her car to wherever her group of friends was parked as soon as they could send her the emissaries to guide her there. Within another fifteen minutes, we had a good seven-to-nine feet of space between us and our neighbors: the Georgia Boys.

It took us about an hour to get our living tent and our bathroom tent (port-a-johns be damned!) set up, our clothing in the living tent’s closets, the bed inflated (manually) and sheeted, the cooler squared away and the bags that held everything thrown into the back seat of the car at which point we began making friends with the Georgia Boys.

Let me just say, there is something about southern young men and their impeccable manners that makes even the most cynical of people generally happy with society. If these young men had come from anyplace other than the South, their boisterousness would most likely have bothered me at some point during the weekend. But that accent, and the individuals themselves … we clearly won the camping neighbor lottery again.

It become clear as the first day wore on, that our campsite was a makeshift campsite, originally intended to only hold the cars of the people coming for the day and not staying through the night, but heavy downpours the day and night before flooded some of the intended camping areas and so the organizers had to improvise. We initially thought we got stuck with a very short straw when we thought the walk to the festival grounds entrance was a good 30-45 minutes but we took a closer look at the map after taking that long walk one time and realized that there was an entrance to the festival grounds just outside our camping area and that’s when we knew the second exit off the highway had been a smart move.

That first day, we took care of some poster-related errands as well as some exploring and that evening, we entered the festival grounds for the first time.

From our entrance (noted on the map at top), we could go to the right and experience the raves and discos and yoga sessions (2 hour-long sessions in the morning: Spiritual Gangsta Yoga) at the Tripolee Domes or go further and wonder at the giant art installation of flying monkeys (more on that later) or step into the giant tent coined The Establishment for environmental discussions and music or even head outside the main entrance near there and hit the General Store for replenishment.

After checking out some of the sights to the right, we took a left from where we first entered and headed to the Ranch Arena, the smallest of the three main stages, but not small by any stretch of the imagination. We caught the last few songs of the Zappa Plays Zappa set and decided to move on and catch the Mickey Hart band. We took a right out of the Ranch Arena area and walked under a banner proclaiming Welcome to the Sherwood Forest. The surrounding pine trees were entirely branchless up to about 20 feet, plentiful and seemingly-ordered in rows to the sides and between the two paths running parallel through the forested area. In various clearings, the Rothbury crew had built large onion-looking pods for people to sit in and chill. (It’s funny, I’ve heard many different names for these “gathering pods” and they are all food-related: one girl called them the big pumpkins, someone else called them the Apples and I think they look like Onions with open segments for people to walk through.) In addition to the Onions, the crew had randomly strung up dozens of hammocks between the trees for intense relaxation. Unfortunately, you had to be a very lucky person to get some swing time on one of them and we had no such luck all weekend long.

About halfway through the Mickey Hart set, we headed back through the forest to catch the Disco Biscuits set. By this point, the sun had gone down (10:30pm sunsets in the middle of summer in north Michigan) and both forest paths were lit up with an abundantly imaginative display of lighting and suspended, black-lit installations that held everyone’s attention (resulting in a lot of collisions and apologies). At that moment, I realized that the long weekend would be well worth the unusually pricey ticket; they aimed to blow every other festival out of the water.

Once we reached the Ranch Arena stage area, we headed up to the sound booth to meet up with a couple friends taping the show. I enjoyed some of the Bisco set but I don’t do very well in crowded situations so after a few songs, I talked Jay into walking out of the crowd with me and finding some food. Various food booths were operated at the perimeters of each main stage field so we found one at the edge of the Ranch Arena that looked good, grabbed our food and drinks and sat down at one of the picnic tables and enjoyed our meal as the Biscuits played.

After we ate, we decided to head back to the Sherwood Court stage to hear a little of the Railroad Earth set but then, once we were there, we realized we were totally bushed and should head back to camp. After a few nights of little sleep and everything we had to do to get ready to go (as well as me getting ready to be unemployed and then employed again), we needed to get a good night in before the sun warmed the tent too much to sleep anymore.

So we ended up back at the camp a little early that night – about 1am. With the campsite so close to the festival grounds, we were rocked to sleep by the remaining Disco Biscuits set.

The next day, Friday, Independence Day, we woke up and joined the Georgia Boys for some early morning beers and conversation. Rothbury and its temporary citizens enjoyed a virtually cloudless sky all weekend so we lathered on the sunscreen and trekked to the first gig of the day at The Establishment, the colorful tent near the main entrance. They were broadcasting a weekly radio show called eTown on NPR from the tent that day with musical guest Michael Franti & Spearhead. We weren’t able to be there for long, though; the floor of the tent was covered in hay and Jason’s allergies began attacking almost immediately. Once the host requested that everyone turn off their cell phones and anything else that might make interruptive noise, we realized that Jason’s sneezing might be too invasive for the live taping.

We walked back to the campsite for a brief visit but then headed back in to the Ranch Arena stage to catch the Tea Leaf Green set that was about to start. I have been grooving on TLG for a couple of years now and am always psyched to see them play – they were a must-catch-set for me and they did not disappoint.

We left the TLG show a little early to head over to The Odeum, the largest of all the main stages where the biggest shows would occur. We wanted to catch some of The Wailers and get decent seating for the Snoop Dog set, sure to pack the field. The walk between the Ranch Arena and The Odeum is a solid fifteen minute hike through Sherwood Forest and beyond. Over the course of the exciting long weekend, we put some serious mileage on our feet.

I enjoy The Wailers very much; I think Bob Marley’s music is some of the very best music there is, and the legacy he left behind in his children and their love for his music is a gift to all the rest of us. When they began playing those first notes to “Three Little Birds”, the first song played after our Jamaican wedding ceremony, I couldn’t help but to tear up while looking over at my handsome husband. Never fails.

We waited through the 45 minute changeover from The Wailers to Snoop, watching as the largest field began to actually fill up. Snoop drew one of the largest crowds the entire weekend and no surprise: Gin ‘n Juice and Lodi Dodi off the Doggystyle album are mainstays in so many different collections. While we waited, the video camera on a large, rotating boom kept focusing on shoulder-riding girls with flimsy tops who didn’t even think twice before baring their breasts on the large screens to either side of the stage. Meh, different strokes for different folks. The next day, the camera found a couple shoulder-riders who politely refused to show their breasts to a bunch of strangers so, thankfully, not every shoulder-rider is a Girls Gone Wild wannabe.

Snoop arrived onstage right about 4:20 riding a totally tricked-out, adult-sized tricycle. His set was as bawdy as it could be and he pulled out a really nice Gin ‘n Juice early on. Three songs in (around 4:30) he called out for an onstage 4:20 break at which point, he took an onstage 4:20 break. He pulled out some new tunes which were a little too R & B for me but it was cool, he can sing too.

We left a few minutes before Snoop’s set ended and headed up to the Tripolee Domes at the other end of the festival grounds to catch a band we knew from Chicago that had won their spot on the Rothbury lineup. Casting Spells consists of a bass and guitar player and the music was pretty good although I miss a drumbeat. The bass player is a friend of a friend that we had met on a few occasions but we barely recognized him since he chopped off his long hair. We did a little catching up afterwards and he gave Jason a poster that he’d brought, hoping we’d be there.

As we were already in the neighborhood, we took the opportunity to head over to the General Store and pick up some necessities and not-so-necessities to take back to the campsite. We hadn’t brought a whole bunch of food since I had been at a loss as to what to bring without having a method to cook. Of course, once there, I recalled all the good things you can bring to camp that don’t require cooking but I didn’t remember any of them when it counted: before we left. So we picked up some snack-y type food at the General Store so we could nosh at home and not have to pay for every bite to eat.

When we got back to the campsite, we met up with the Georgia Boys who were getting ready to leave but had something for us: a steak and marinated, grilled peppers. The steak was delicious but the peppers were something completely out of this world. They gave me the recipe: equal parts vinegar, jerk sauce and evoo, marinade the peppers for 3 days and then grill them till they char. Oh hell yes I will! Gotta love the Georgia Boys.

We didn’t spend too much time back at camp; Jon Fishman was sitting in with Yonder Mountain String Band and we didn’t want to miss the first Phish sighting of the weekend!

I will admit, I do like me some bluegrass music. Perhaps it stems from my father’s love of torturing me with country music in the pre-Walkman days or maybe I just started liking it when I started seeing Leftover Salmon but either way, I was almost as excited for YMSB as I was to see Fishman for the first time since Coventry, if I remember correctly.

Unfortunately, we didn’t catch a whole lot of YMSB, having spent too much time gorging ourselves on steak and peppers. Once we got there, we thread out way through the crowd so we could get close enough to see Jon behind his kit. It was nice to see him again.

After YMSB gave their final bows, we joined the crowd heading from the Ranch Arena stage into Sherwood Forest on the way to the Odeum stage for the two Widespread Panic sets. Our friends were taping this show too, so we headed immediately up to the sound booth to meet up with them.

I don’t usually go crazy for Widespread … I’ve send them several times at several festivals (only once or twice on their own) and they just don’t do it for me. I think they’re talented and I know they have a million fans who adore them but I can’t ever remember a single song of theirs like I can with so many other bands. Nothing gets stuck going round and round in my head. The same could be said for this show. I enjoyed myself while there, danced a lot and had a great time but please don’t ask me what they played or even to hum a little bit because I can’t remember. Nothing got stuck.

Between sets, we headed back to the Ranch Arena stage to catch a little bit of the Of Montreal set because Jason had heard a little bit by them and wanted to check them out. We weren’t there very long – turns out he didn’t really like their music like he thought he would although I was kind of digging on it – but I clearly remember a strange stage show with kids dressed up in strange costumes flitting all about the stage. After a couple songs we headed back to the Odeum to catch the second set of Widespread.

As Widespread left the stage after the second set, we saw the first fireworks pop overhead. Rothbury put on a decent fireworks show – not nearly as great as July 3rd, Taste of Chicago fireworks but pretty good. I saw some new spectacles in the sky that night – amazing how fireworks can assume familiar shapes when the wind is low. I bet the Chinese never envisioned that level of progress to their invention.

Once the fireworks were through, we headed over to the Sherwood Court to catch a little of Thievery Corporation. I saw them at Lollapalooza 2006 and really enjoy their music so I was happy to make a stop to see them here for a little bit. I was pretty tired so while I liked the little bit of Thievery Corporation that we saw, I was ready to head up to the Ranch Arena stage and catch the much-anticipated Primus set.

Primus is one of those bands that likes to add a lot of spectacle to their shows, often in the form of large balloon-like figures on the stage as they play. At Rothbury, they played an amazing set in front of two gigantic, inflatable astronauts. I love Les Claypool on bass; while I think Mike Gordon of Phish is an incredible bass player, Les Claypool sounds like no other bassist and gives Primus a unique twang that people love so much.

Eventually, it was time to head home and get some sleep. We did not get to go to sleep to the strains of Primus that night as they ended their set before our heads hit the pillows.

The next day, Saturday the 5th, was a day we planned to explore and enjoy the non-musical elements of Rothbury. There weren’t many bands playing that day that thrilled us and we felt there was so much of Rothbury we still hadn’t seen.

We put on our bathing suits and headed out to Big Wildcat Lake, just beyond the Ranch Arena stage area. The weather was hot and humid so we thought it would be phenomenal to cool off in a lake. And it would have been … if the lake hadn’t been half mud and entirely too gross to swim in (which didn’t stop me from swimming in it for a little while.) The problem was that the line for the shower afterward was very long and getting longer with all the line-cutters. We didn’t have the time to stand there all day for me to wash off the mud that was lining the inside of my bathing suit so I had to wash off with wet wipes later at the camp and deal with being a little dirty for the remainder of the festival.

After cleaning off back at the campsite and sitting around a little while enjoying the sun (which I enjoyed far too much according to my lobster-tinged skin), we headed out first to the Ranch Arena stage to catch the last few songs of Gomez (introduced to them by The O.C. … what hasn’t that show taught me??) and then to the Sherwood Court stage to catch Medeski, Martin & Wood before heading back to the campsite to wait out the Dave Matthews set. We still ended up hearing it from our campsite and that was fine, but neither of us really wanted to brave the crowds to listen. We even had the time to grab a nap since we knew we wanted to stay up super late.After the naps, we re-entered the festival grounds and stopped by the Ranch Arena to check out the Sound Tribe Sector Nine set. I had never been a very big Sound Tribe fan; I saw them last summer at Camp Bisco in Mariaville, NY and I left their set unimpressed but I knew so many people who thought they were the greatest band since Phish so I keep giving them chances. And this time it caught. I don’t know why I never really liked them, this time I really liked them.

After a few songs, we decided to head down the to Sherwood Court stage to see The Crystal Method which was the reason we took our naps in the first place. I knew nothing about this band so imagine my surprise when I realized it wasn’t a band, but rather a set of DJs. They spun hardcore techno music in combination with a crazy light show – it was the perfect late-night party.

After awhile, we decided it was time to head back to the Sound Tribe show and get some food and then head back to camp. On the way back to camp, we detoured slightly and headed over to see the Flying Monkeys, an art installation named Homouroboros, at night. When we saw them during the day, it was merely a static sculpture, strange to be sure but the point was hard to make without the motion. So we went back this night to see it in action and it was amazing. The amount of thought that went into that piece – let’s not even discuss the architecture and process – is mind-boggling. Jason has great pictures both static and in action as well as an excellent description on his page of the meaning and action into it; check out Jason's post

Once back at camp, we ran into one-half of the Georgia Boys sitting around and enjoying the late night so we joined them. The other half came back within an hour with 2 girls in tow and the group of us pretty much stayed up till sunrise.

The Final Day.

Sunday was Trey Day, as far as I was concerned. I was unconcerned with any music until 4:15, which was Trey’s starting slot. We started out the day lazing around and then we decided to make a decision about whether we would leave that night or the next morning and that decision-making process took awhile and then we made the decision we would leave that night so the rest of the afternoon we had to kill was devoted to packing up. In the end, this turned out to be an excellent decision as the very first rain on Rothbury fell that night after we left and according to some people, it was pretty violent and made for a muddy pack-up the next day.

So, fully packed and ready to rock the hell out before rocking the hell back home, we walked into the festival grounds for the last time and headed to the very end, the Odeum stage.

Our friends were set up in front of the sound booth so we laid down an extra blanket with them and watched the end of the set before Trey: Rodrigo y Gabriela. Amazing … Phenomenal guitarists. No other instruments, just their two guitars and if you remember, I’m the person that needs a drumbeat? Well they played the drumbeat on the face of their guitars. Fantastic, I would definitely see them again! Got me right into the mood and anxious for Trey’s acoustic set.

So Trey comes out, he’s looking so healthy and happy. Watery blue eyes, face that should be under a hat brim in that sun and a smile as wide as they come. Of course, I instantly start tearing up. I had hoped that his legal troubles would put a fear of something in him and maybe they have because he seems not only on top of his game, but so happy to be playing in the first place. I will say that I wasn’t over-the-top impressed with his set but I was happy with it and when he brought Mike out (Mr. Purple Pants, himself – dude, you’re a guy … no purple pants, no), I was very happy and when he introduced a new song and followed up the introduction with “If only we could find a drummer and keyboard player. But it’s got to start with the songs, so you can be our test audience.” … oh yea, I was over-the-moon ecstatic. He ended it and he wants it to start back up. Hells yea!

The first new PHISH song was a nice little piece called “Backwards Down the Number Line”; I liked it, Mike seemed to enjoy playing it (Mr. Purple Pants and his boppy head). Tom Marshall wrote it and sent it to Trey for his birthday, I thought it was a lovely present.

The second new PHISH song was called “Alaska”. Catchy, will get caught in people’s heads, was okay – if it gets Phish back together I’ll even say it was amazing, best song ever, but in reality, it was okay. I liked it enough.

The sent ended with a nice little acoustic version of “Chalkdust Torture” – with a similar sentiment to “Backwards Down the Number Line” (Can't this wait till I'm old? Can't I live while I'm young?) at which point, Trey encouraged the audience to head over to the Sherwood Court to catch Mike’s set next and then to come back to the Odeum stage afterwards to see Gov’t Mule. So, we dutifully joined the herd and headed over to the Sherwood Court.

One thing stands out in my mind for the Mike set – as much as I love him, he’s a little too country for me, but there was one little, teeny tiny moment that kinda made me stand up and notice: When Trey AND Fishman joined him onstage for the last song. Okay, yea, it wasn’t a Phish song despite the fact that it was a THREE-QUARTER PHISH REUNION but it was fine because it was a Beatles song and I like them as much as I like Phish so if THREE-QUARTERS of PHISH wants to play a Beatles song instead of a Phish song, that’s fine. My only suggestion is to find that keyboard player and put him to work – I think you might have something then.

To wind this up, after Mike, we headed back over to the Odeum stage for the last 2 shows: Gov’t Mule and Phil Lesh. We ended up catching the last couple of Gov’t Mule songs and then only the first set of Phil before we decided we should get on out so we could make it home before 3am. I very much enjoyed Phil’s first set and would have liked to catch the second and had we not packed that day to leave, I definitely would have finished out Rothbury there but I started a new job a day later and needed the time to recuperate before getting back in the real world.

I had the time of my life at Rothbury: heard some great music, met some wonderful people, got my hopes up for a reunion and came out feeling totally invigorated from the whole experience. The organizers clearly put their best feet forward on this festival and accomplished some amazing things. Things that I’ll take away from the festival:

  • The green can is for compost, the orange can is for landfill and if you’re not sure, ask the person wearing the pink ONE shirt next to the cans
  • You can dance to music or you can hula hoop to music or you can do both and look really, really, really cool
  • Marinated, grilled peppers are my new favorite veggie
  • A case of Bud Light should NOT cost $35
  • Don’t swim in Big Wildcat Lake. Just don’t.
  • Bring shade, shade is good
  • Get into the festival grounds when they open and grab the hammock and don’t let go until the day is done. Everyone else is and when in Rothbury…Buy tickets early next year because you are definitely going!

For amazing pictures and videos of the festival, visit Jason’s page