03 November, 2009

It Begins

To tell the truth, it?s been a long, long time since I?ve sat down in front of a blank monitor screen and belted out a good ol? fashioned story. Blog posts, sure ? Facebook tirades, of course ? fiction? Wellllllllllllll, that?s a horse of a different color.

Inspired by a couple friends who won it last year, I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month ? nanowrimo.org) in September and have been eagerly awaiting the start of November to finally belt out some good ol? fashioned story. I sought long and hard for the story ? this isn?t short fiction where I can just peer into the crack of the blinds and make a coherent 5,000-10,000 word observation about two people and their dysfunctional relationship to one other. 50,000 words is a lot of words. The story has to be big enough for the number.

I found the story, actually, in an old short story I?d written about a jillion years ago. While the short story was a day slice of life for a distant brother and sister, it was clear enough to me that a much bigger story existed around it and so I decided to take that on.

During the last half of October, after deciding on my course, I bent my head to the task of fleshing out the characters and story arc, with the emphasis on character. If I had to place myself into a genre box, I would confidently climb into the one marked Literary Fiction; I have great faith in my characters and their ability to create story where I falter. So I plotted out a beginning and a middle to my story but chose to not plan out the end, preferring to let my characters who will be fully functional by that point, do so on their own.

So with much anticipation, November began. And I didn?t. Up until last night at around 11:30pm, I have been on vacation for the Phish Halloween weekend in Indio, CA.

(Coincidentally enough, much of the story is located in a town not far from Indio called Victorville where I spent a few years visiting my dad and stepmom. So we?ll call that trip research. LOL)

I did manage to cobble some 2,000 odd words together between the airport and the airplane last night so I?m not starting from scratch. But I look forward to this weekend when I can do all the catching up and pulling ahead that I will need as the month waxes and my attention wanes.

Good luck to all the NaNo-ers!

05 October, 2009

The Antediluvians

If you were in a club of obsolete professionals and aficionados, what would you formerly have been?

10 September, 2009

Oh, Joy

Phish released their new album, Joy, on Tuesday. I bought the digital files Tuesday night for $3.99 ? Thank you Amazon! I couldn?t listen to it yesterday, of course, because yesterday was Debbi day / Beatles? day and my ears were solely dedicated to another groundbreaking quartet of amazing musicians and writers.

So this morning I eagerly clicked my way to Joy on my poor, aging iPod (:hint: birthday coming ? I could do a lot of things with 160 gigs :endhint:) and, with windows down and car stereo very, very, very loud, I sped off on my way to work.

The first song up happened to be the very first new Phish song I had heard post-Coventry. Trey and Mike played Backwards Down the Number Line at Rothbury, nearly three months before The Announcement that Phish was getting back together. Backwards is a pop-y kind of tune and not really in keeping with the Jamtasticness that is Live Phish but I really like this song. It reminds me of my friends:

Laughing all these many years / We?ve pushed through hardships, tasted tears

If you walked backwards down my number line, you?d walk past years and years of laughter, tears, hugs, shouts, red cheeks and more. And all my friends. We go back a long time, not so much because we started early but moreso because we?ve had many years since. When Phish opened with this song at Deer Creek ? the first show back for all the friends I was sitting with who go way back down the number line with me ? the association became cemented. For me, that song is about Mel and Danielle and Craig and Peter (though he was absent from the show). And that?s who I think about when I hear the song now.

Next song is Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan. My husband really likes this song. I?m meh on it but it does have a really great line that is begging to be turned into a bumper sticker, if it hasn?t already been:

Got a blank space / where my mind should be

This is a harder rocking song, so no wonder my husband likes it. Have you noticed guys generally like their music a little louder and a little faster than gals? I don?t have a problem with that, just an observation. And yes, there are exceptions to Everything.

The title track follows in the third spot. Now, I like this song, it?s a little less loud and a little less fast. My husband, of course, doesn?t like it so much. But this song hits a little deeper when you find out that it was written toward the end of Trey?s sister, Kristy Manning?s, battle with cancer. She died April 29th of this year, less than two months after Phish conquered Hampton. I don?t know if she was an older sister or younger but I assume they were close in age and if he?s 45 years old (and he is, born September 30th, 1964, Happy Almost Birthday Trey), she died too young. Fuck cancer!

-- Sidenote: while looking up his age on Wikipedia, I discovered that the name Anastasio derives from a Greek word for Resurrection. No kidding? That?s poetic.?

So anyway, Joy, the song. It?s funny, I would not have pegged these lyrics to have come from the emotions Trey must have been mired in when he wrote the song but I can hear it in the music. A little bit haunting, a little bit tender with a cheerleader chorus trying very hard to see out the other side of tragedy:

We want you to be happy / Don?t live inside the gloom / We want you to be happy / Come step outside your room / We want you to be happy / ?Cause this is your song too

Phish doesn?t have many emotional songs. They have fun songs and they have story songs. This is a new kind of song. While I?m still firmly in denial of the fact, this song reminds me that we are all mortal and only getting closer to the edge of the coil. And that we can?t just pshaw inevitability. I don?t know if that?s in the lyrics or the music.

The next song, Sugar Shack, is a Mike song and it sounds like a Mike song ? part bluesy, part silly. I like it. I don?t love it but I like it.

Following Sugar Shack is the song that drives my husband nuts: Ocelot. Now, I may be a big reason why he loathes the song. When I first heard, it was catchy enough that I sang it often ? but I only knew one refrain ? so that?s what I sang a lot:

Ocelot, Ocelot / Where have you gone?

To me, Ocelot is a quintessential Phish song and deserves its place in the pantheon of silly Phish-animal tunes. Let?s see ? they have Ocelot, Possum, Llama, Sloth, (Run Like an) Antelope, Bug, Birds (of a Feather), Vultures ? Lizards. And I?m sure I?ve forgotten several and before you say it, Dog Faced Boy doesn?t count. They really like animals.

Following Ocelot is Kill Devil Falls which has earned much praise from fans. Jamworthy is the highest praise a new tune can get and this song has been linked with that word on several message boards. Another song I?m meh about. I get it and Stealing Time mixed up.

The next song starts off completely different than the live versions I?d grown used to; I thought Amazon had snuck a Thievery Corporation song into my shopping cart. I like the song, Light, but it isn?t one that sticks out in my mind. I can?t say I really know the words or the meaning and the tune is fairly generic to my ears ? but I like it.

Following Light is another Mike song, I Been Around, from the sounds of it, all 1:57 minutes of it. It sounds like the lyrics to a country song on repeat and it isn?t long enough to annoy me, so that?s good huh?

Onto the opus. Time Turns Elastic. Phish is a very symphonic band for being the rock band they are. Trey clearly dreams of being remembered for his compositions as much as his guitar greatness. In general I like his lofty compositions, even love some of them. The instrumental portions in songs such as Harry Hood, The Lizards, Divided Sky and Walls of the Cave are many of the reasons I spend as much time and money as I do on Phish. There?s something just otherworldly and yet so succinctly human about standing in a sea of people swaying to perfect music.

Unfortunately, Time Turns Elastic isn?t swaying me. There are, what? Three, four separate sections in this song? And the only part I really like in the nearly 14 minutes comes in the last three and a half minutes. Up to then, I?m just not feeling it. But then again, if memory serves me, when Phish released Walls of the Cave prior to the release of the Round Room album, I felt the same about that song. But I hadn?t yet heard that song live ? it was the live version that reformed my thoughts about it. I?ve heard TTE live, a few times. I really only enjoyed one of those versions and that may have been because I was in the lawn with husband and friends and simply enjoying the company.

I hope this one grows on me because I know they intend to play it a lot for awhile. I?ll keep an open mind and try to find more good in it than just the last three minutes.

Which brings me to the last studio song on the album and definitely my favorite: Twenty Years Later. Okay, is it just me or is practically this entire album about growing older and having memories? Get out of my head, Trey!

This song isn?t so much look back and laugh as Backwards is but rather more of an I-can?t-believe-twenty-years-later-and-I?m-still-upside-down* This is a song that soars. Eagle with outstretched wings circling high over the Grand Tetons, the whole deal. I love the chorus, it sounds like all four guys are singing on it. I have this thing about songs that escape the ABAB CDCD trap. Give me some lyrics that just barely fit into the refrain and only nominally, and not necessarily rhythmically, rhyme and I?m intrigued. This isn?t Britney Spears people! Twenty Years Later will be a welcome addition to any shows I am able to hear, most especially if I am at the shows. I will enjoy it very much.

The album ends with a live version of Backwards signifying that they do indeed expect that to be the one song that would get radio play if they were any band other than Phish. I?m cool with only the one version of the song on the album but they didn?t ask me.

So, since this morning when I listened to this album the first time, I have heard it two more times as I drove around to various locations for work and then at the gym. I don?t usually have the attention span to listen to an album so thoroughly but feel that I got an immersion in Joy today and it was joyful. I really like it. I really do. Bravo and welcome back!



*actual lyrics

09 September, 2009

Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine

Anybody who knows me, knows that today, September 9th, 2009, aka 9/9/9, is a Debbi day. Yes, technically, Debbi day doesn?t start for another 9 days (you think there?s a preponderance of 9?s in this post ? you should see my life!) but this year, I get an uber special Debbi day to precede the less special, but hopefully present-laden, Debbi day to come ? and oh, what luck, it?s turning into Beatles? day to boot!

Ok, so my thing with 9. Born in the 9th month, on the 18th day, in 1971. At 4:32pm PST. The 261st day of the year. All of those numbers divisible by 9.

So what does 9 signify for me? Apparently that I?m arrogant & self-centered. Oh, and compassionate, generous, creative, yadda yadda yadda. All true. The first two moreso. I?m a skeptic, always, but if you follow the ?science? of numerology at all, the number 9 is said to be a particularly spiritual number. It is a fleeting glimpse, though, more like a vague impression or d?j? vu that, when analyzed, breaks up into a wispy fog. I know this wispy fog all too well.

9 times any number equals a number that when broken down adds up to 9. Always.

The Chinese Dragon (my favorite animal, real or imagined) is made up of 9 separate animals (head of a camel, eyes of a demon, ears of a cow, the horns are branched antlers of a stag, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, the soles of its feet are a tiger?s soles, its claws are that of an eagle?s & 117 scales of a carp).

Anton LaVey applied the number 9 to Satan. Anton LaVey, a San Franciscan, is the founder of the Satanic Church which is a religion exactly like Christianity, only worshipping downward. Did you know they disapprove of sex before marriage too?

Cats are said to have 9 lives. My cat is down to 3. 3 is a magic number, so sayeth Schoolhouse Rock. 3 x 3 = 9. Thus, 9 is magic cubed.

My best years in my adult life have been divisible by 9: at 18, I began to make the best friends of my life in college; I was 27 when I first moved out on my own and also when I met my husband, 36 when I finally began my career path.

While my favorite band is Phish, my all-time favorite band is the best band that ever is or was: The Beatles. They are often associated with 9 due to their song Revolution #9, so it comes as no surprise that today is the release date for all sorts of new Beatles? swag that I?d sell my mother for. Okay, fine, maybe an aunt (hi Aunt Barbara tee hee). John Lennon, of course my favorite Beatle, was obsessed with the number 9. He was born on the 9th of October, the Beatles were discovered by Brian Epstein on the 9th of November, John met Yoko on another November 9th. He felt that the number followed him so, naturally, it tended to pop up in his music.

Coming at the end of the single digits by which numerology is defined, 9 is symbolic of the end. And this is the end of this post. Coincidence? I think not.

26 June, 2009

Trudging Through Green Lot with The Lizards

Last weekend, starting a week ago today, as a matter of fact, I hopped on a little mini Phish Tour: one night at Deer Creek (Noblesville, IN) and two nights at Alpine (East Troy, WI) ? my two favorite venues and so close to home.

There is nothing finer in this world than a summer Phish show. Even 13 years after my first show and 13 years closer to an un-cooperating body, I can still dance and smile my way through the entire first set. And, if I happen to sit down during the third or fourth song in the second set, well, it?s not because I don?t like the song. My feet and my back and my thighs and my calves just have a different idea of fun these days than my heart and mind do. They have been carrying this body around for nearly 38 years and they like it when I lounge; they are top-notch loungers.

However, the true test of my body this last weekend came hours before the Saturday show even started. We had booked a room at the Alpine Valley Lodge, which boasts the advantage of a short walk into the lower area of the venue from your room. Jason had news of the Alpine dates prior to the announcement so he managed to score one of the Lodge?s very in-demand rooms for us, citing the expense as a reasonable cost to celebrate Phish and our fourth anniversary Saturday night.

The disadvantage to staying at the Lodge is that while you have an entrance to the lower area, the parking lot is in the upper area and the lower area doesn?t open till doors open and then, once in the venue, you can?t leave out the other side unless you have another ticket to return. So the only way to experience the parking lot is to walk about a mile around (and wayyyyyyy up) the venue or to drive in like everyone else.

Once we were in our room, we discussed our options because Jason wanted to get in the poster line, which was up in the parking lot. We could walk the mile around (and wayyyyyyy up), or we could just go ahead and drive into the lot and not use the Lodge advantage this night. I was skeptical: I am essentially a frugal person and like to get my money?s worth when I put my money out and other than the advantage of walking in from the bottom, there wasn?t much worth in this particular lodging. Plus, if I remember correctly from wayyyyyy back when I used to follow Phish because Phish used to be a band before they weren?t (and then before they were again ? after, of course, before they weren?t and then were again the first time), wasn?t there one lot at Alpine Valley that really, really sucked? Like, it was a color lot, right? Blue? Did Blue Lot suck? Red? Is there a Red Lot? I don?t know ? all I know is I remember horror stories about this lot even though I don?t think I ever got stuck there.

So, finally, I agree. We will park in the lot this time, so Jason can get his precious posters and we can see some friends we haven?t seen in a long time, and the next night, we?ll walk in from the bottom.

So we pull out of the Lodge driveway onto Highway D and the turn-in for the venue parking is the very next driveway on our left. We follow the waving arms of the yellow-shirted crew and pull into Green Lot.

Once we were parked, near the treeline at the end of a middle row that was quickly filling up with tents and other large obstacles that would be impossible to drive around, and unfolded ourselves out of the seats, I recalled the color of the bad lot. Green. Green is bad. Shit.

I turned to Jason and let him know we just screwed up, but he?s a guy, he?s younger, he?s in better shape and I?m not sure he?s heard the horror stories I have so he looked at me with a blank stare, shook his head and started to walk down the treeline toward the path. And I followed.

So, what makes the Green Lot so bad has nothing to do with the lot itself. It?s grassy and large and they leave enough aisles so that getting out of Green Lot isn?t a horrible ordeal at the end of the night. No, what makes Green Lot so bad is not Green Lot itself but rather, Green Lot?s location. Imagine the Himalayas, okay? You?ve got the picture in your head? Stately peaks rising up so incredibly high, into the clouds, covered in snow and Sherpas. You feel a profound weariness looking up at those peaks because it will take everything in you to ascend them which is why you are just staring up at them from afar because there is no way in hell you would agree to ascend them ? your last name isn?t Hillary! Now, remove the snow and Sherpas. Welcome to Green Lot.

Green Lot runs parallel to Blue and Yellow Lots, but is separated by a river (or creek or swamp, some body of water that is impassable). They are about the same level above sea level but on different peaks. So to get from one to the other, you have to descend for about 10 minutes then ascend again for about 20 minutes, each way.

The lesson I learned from Green Lot, and I think it?s a good lesson for life, is to look down. Don?t look up. Hope is a pipe dream. The ascension never ends so there?s no point in hoping or looking up. Just look down. Keep looking down. Keep saying to yourself: Look down, don?t look up. Sing a few songs to yourself. Hell, you might as well sing the entire Beatles catalog in chronological order to yourself. Just do it while looking down. And when you feel the ground start to level, your body start to come back to a reasonable non-leaning state, then you can look up. But not until that very moment. Oh, and don?t forget to breathe.

Once we reached the other peak, the Blue-Yellow peak, my vision and other senses slowly came back to normal. It was hot over here. So hot. But we were here and this is where we wanted to be and that was great. Jason went and got his posters, stood around and talked to some friends, we mingled and met someone who was taking my extra ticket and then Jason asks me if I?m ready to go back.

Go back where?

To the car?

WHAT?

Debbi, we have that champagne and strawberries and water and ? we have to go back to the car. Fred?s heading that way too and Jim will walk with us.

You can go back to the car. I?m staying here!

Debbi, I?m not going back to the car to celebrate our anniversary with champagne without you. Come on, it?s not that bad.

Apparently, his defense mechanism to that climb was to send his mind somewhere completely different from here. On what planet is it not that bad?

So, of course, I followed the pack of in-better-shape boys down the Blue-Yellow peak (10 minutes) and up the Green peak (20 minutes ? this hill was longer but less steep, so completely equal to the other hill in exhaustion).

We spent about an hour to an hour-and-a-half at our car. I drank three waters and toasted with a red plastic cup of champagne. I had some baby carrots thinking the vitamins would help me negotiate the mountain heading back, then I remembered that carrots are great for your eyesight and I stopped eating them because I didn?t need better eyesight to look down.

Then the dreaded moment came when Jason asked me if I was ready to head back. It was about 6 at this point and he wanted to get into the venue a little early. I laughed ironically to myself and then began the process of psyching up for the descent and subsequent climb. I knew the pot of gold awaited us at the top and whereas posters didn?t hold much motivation for me, the band did. So I nodded and fell in line.

The walk back up was as grueling but less horrific since I had, by now, become quite the expert at looking down. I was midway through ?Don?t Let Me Down? when I felt my feet hit ground that wasn?t at a 55 degree angle. Jason and the other guys smiled benevolently at me and I?m afraid I may have growled in their general direction. Had Jason made any mention of forgetting something and needing to go back at that moment, divorce papers may well have been served. Stupid Green Lot!

The good news is, the mountaineering was well worth it. That night?s show rivaled some of my favorite shows in Phishtory. The highlight came deep in the second set as I sat through the ending strings of Ghost (second set, on the lawn, had to sit) and the beginning notes of my most favorite Phish song tinkled out over the audience. I?ve mentioned the song in this blog, of course - http://9lizards.blogspot.com/2009/02/me-music-part-ii.html ? and perhaps the name of the blog itself derives in part from this song, definitely from the reason I attached this song to myself so many years ago. I immediately jumped into a standing position. This was only my third time hearing this song live and I had not expected it ? they?d already played it once on this early summer tour and I had thought that audience very lucky to have gotten it and assumed that would be its only show. Sometimes I am very glad to be so wrong.

I sang out loudly, though not as loud as I could since the volume wasn?t so high on this part of the lawn; I didn?t want my nearest neighbors to hear my voice over Trey?s. And when they got to the oh-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-umby-downt-downt-downt-umby-downt-downt-oh-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, I closed my eyes over my budding happy tears and enjoyed the perfectly played instrumental section that has always made me so glad to have found this band and stuck with them through the funk years and the all-night sets and the hiatuses and the drug years and the break-ups. That moment of closed eyes, perma-grin smile, thinking about all my friends and how much they have been around me all these years and being so grateful to have my wonderful husband standing behind me, no doubt smiling ear-to-ear for me ? that is the moment I am always looking for and always so blessed to be able to find, even if it?s been a few years since I last found it. You don?t want that moment everyday ? it would lose its luster fast. So long as I can get it every once-in-a-blue-moon, I am thankful.

At the end of the night, as I was descending from Blue-Yellow peak, preparing to ascend Green peak, I had that Lizards to buoy my tired bones as I gave them one last, great workout of the night. In some philosophy or theatre theory class in college, I had become fascinated with Aristotle?s Poetics and his theory of the necessity of bad in order to know good (he used the terms non-musical and musical, which is very fitting in my life sometimes). That you can?t know what good truly is without having had bad to compare it to. Which is true ? try defining the word good without using a single synonym or antonym. You can?t. You have to have the bad to know the good ? and vice versa, yes. I have lived that philosophy and it has gotten me through some of pretty harsh things life has throw at me. And while Green Lot might not be all the way up there with some of the more depressing moments of my life, as I ascended Green peak, I infused myself with the musical so as to get through the non-musical and the path was so much easier than it had been before.

06 May, 2009

Flunk Day

Most of my Flunk Day memories are at the bottom of a Kwik-Stop squeeze bottle, along with my sobriety; memory and vodka don?t mix well (nor, for that matter, does blue Kool-Aid mix well with vodka ? just a friendly little piece of advice from a former Flunker).

Nonetheless, over fifteen years later, I still vividly remember the rude wake-up, the instant perma-grin, the rush to mix a drink, meet with friends, head to South Street and start the day. Flunk Day is Christmas, birthday and St. Patrick?s Day all rolled into one fabulous 16-24 hour random day each year.

The worst thing about Flunk Day ? in fact, the only bad thing about Flunk Day, unless you?re one of those people who have the alcoholic version of Foot-in-Mouth disease ? is that I only had four years to truly celebrate it. After that, my days belonged to someone else and usually, that someone else frowns upon open containers in the office.

So, I am left with dwindling memories of hazy events as I sit here in my nice clothes and wish that the email had arrived fifteen minutes earlier.

I could use a day off. I could use an opportunity to flunk. And God knows, I could really use a drink!

01 May, 2009

H1N1

I got a memo from work today, a general email sent to every employee. If we call in sick, one of the Public Health Nurses will call us and our absence will be monitored to determine if we are sick with H1N1.

I am officially OVER this pandemic.

This will make a great movie someday, though.

29 April, 2009

Hey, I Know You - You?re The End

With this early-rising job of mine, I have had to develop a morning routine just to successfully get out the door on time. I get up, use the restroom, feed the cat, put in my contacts (that?s a new move and not one I?m entirely sure will stay on full-time ? my new, un-broken glasses should be ready this week), get dressed, make coffee (if Jay didn?t already set it to go off), make breakfast and sit down to eat while watching the morning news on Fox ? the local Fox channel, not the national ?news? outlet (in quotes because the terminology is in question in regards to that channel). Chicago?s Fox channel is nothing like the national Fox channel and I like the anchors and the traffic lady and weather man are usually pretty spot-on.

While watching the local Fox news yesterday morning, I had an eerie d?j? vu.

Jan Jeffcoat and Patrick Elwood, the anchors of Good Day Chicago, spent much of my viewing portion of the newscast discussing the Swine Flu epidemic sweeping through Mexico and starting to pop up in various other countries, including America, while, at the same time, the same news monopolized the ticker at the bottom.

I?ve seen this before, somewhere. And no, not on 9/11.

I racked my brain till the second I turned the TV off and headed out to work, but came to no conclusion. It was most likely a misplaced d?j? vu, as most are. And my mind swirled around larger issues ? I had an appointment in court that morning for a speeding citation (46 in a school zone ? my invisibility cloak is no more).

After court (the cop never showed, the citation was dropped), when my mind had cleared, I remembered the d?j? vu and I realized where the memory came from. I had seen a very similar TV broadcast scene in I Am Legend, and perhaps several other end-of-the-world movies, like The Day After Tomorrow or 28 Days Later.

(Perhaps one of my favorite genres in film ? the Apocalypse, sans religious connotations, of course. I don?t know why but the end of the world fascinates me, and if New York City is, in any way, shape or form, involved, all the better. Which is not to say I have anything against New York. I?ve been to the city, once, over a span of 20 hours, on New Years Eve, for a Phish show, their first in over 2 years, my now-husband asked me to marry him there, at the Phish show, one of the best shows I?ve ever seen, and I?m not saying that because of the music. I thought New York was exciting. Of course, I was in Manhattan ? roaming around Madison Square Garden before and after the show ? and that is probably one of the most exciting 22.7 square mile regions in the world. I think what gives me the extra thrill boost when the Entertainlypse happens in New York City is that it literally takes the region from one very vibrant extreme to another. Face it, if you showed the effect of an apocalypse upon Sapulpa, Oklahoma, the entertainment value would be far, far less.)

So, once I realized where the memory came from and the outcome in that memory, I started to wonder if I (we, but I always think in I because I?m a narcissist) was witnessing the start of an apocalyptic snowball. The signs were there ? sober newscasters, ticker full of dire tidings, people wearing surgical masks in public. This could very well be The End. Fini. Fin. I?m so glad I realized that before it actually got here. It would have sucked if I had been surprised. At least now, I have time to take up smoking again. I?d hate to die of a pig virus without a cigarette on my lips. Phew. Thank you Good Day Chicago!

Hold it, you mean I probably won?t die?

Shit.

Pass the Nicorette.

23 March, 2009

Pins and Needles

This is the state of my mind today. I have six outstanding bids in for two sets of four-night passes to what will be one impossible ticket. (You don?t need to know math to puzzle through that last sentence.)

Fingers crossed, Jason and I will get tickets for all four nights of Phish at Red Rocks this summer. More fingers crossed that our friends Fred & Jewel and Jim & Kate also get tickets. Hell, for that matter, all fingers crossed that scalpers and haters are shut out entirely and only those most deserving get tickets.

But wait, would I be on that list?

Scratch that, let?s just go with Plan A.

19 March, 2009

The Roller Coaster

Last night, Jason and I spent the evening at a funeral home saying goodbye to his Grandma who died Saturday at the amazing age of 94. It is customary for Catholics to have open casket wakes the day before a funeral and today is the funeral so last night, Grandma was in attendance. I spent most of the evening in the kitchen of the funeral home. Lifeless bodies make me nervous.

Everyone from Jason's family was there except his brother and sister-in-law in Arizona who had very good, job-related reasons to be absent. Jason's grandma had two children and he hadn't seen the family branch from his uncle's side since he was in his single digits so I was a little overwhelmed by the Whole Family Reunion thing.

The members of the family who organized the wake brought out some old family albums from his grandmother's life with pictures of family life that ranged from, I would say, the late 1800s up to a picture from our wedding and Jason's younger brother's wedding. Some of those older photos were Fabulous. We think our digital point-n-shoots now take good pictures? These pictures were just as good but with less technology. And back then for some of those old pictures, you paid a pretty penny to have them taken so that you could have only one picture of yourself to pass down. How many pictures of myself have I thrown away while spring cleaning?

While sitting in the kitchen, avoiding the room with Grandma in attendance, Jason began receiving urgent phone calls from various friends. He ignored a couple of them but then got curious as more calls came in, so he stepped out to answer one of the calls.

Within a few minutes, he appeared in the doorway and gestured for me to come out with him.

"They're releasing 4-day Red Rocks passes on TicketMaster now!"

Turns out that someone, at some point this evening, had pushed the More Info button on the TicketMaster page for the Red Rocks onsale that is supposed to lead to information about when the tickets go on sale. That button will turn into a Find Tickets button next Thursday at 10 a.m. But instead of leading to information, it led to a Captcha page where TicketMaster is supposed to weed out the Bots from the Humans with a word or phrase that you have to type before moving on to a waiting screen. And once the Captcha was entered, the waiting screen appeared and after about a minute or so, the Purchase Tickets page came up.

Was it intentional? Was it a mistake? Two biggest questions of the night, only asked After people got the confirmation page and email that they had just purchased 4-day passes.

One of the calls Jason received was from a friend who assured us she had us taken care of but we knew of a couple of friends that needed to be taken care of so I ran out to the car to grab my phone. I thought I might have a chance at getting through TicketMaster on my Dare but Verizon's web service isn't accessorized enough to get through Java and Flash requests. So I called my friend Stacey.

"Are you by a computer now?"

"Yes, why?'

"Can you go on TicketMaster and search Phish Red Rocks? People are getting tickets now - there's some sort of mistake or something."

So she heads to the page and sees the More Info button. As a TicketMaster veteran herself, she knows that means that it isn't onsale yet so she tells me so. I tell her to click the More Info button. She is more and more shocked at each subsequent page that comes up that she shouldn't be able to get to but can. When she pushes the Submit button with my credit card information, neither she nor I expect it to go through, but it does.

Holy Crap, I have 2 4-day passes to Red Rocks. Holy Crap.

I head back into the funeral parlour, avoiding the front room where Grandma is, with a huge smile on my face. Totally incongruous to the surroundings and our reason for being there. I managed to duck my head in time to avoid being seen by a mourner, but couldn't erase my smile.

For the next two hours, Jason and I talked quite a bit about the possibility of this going through. Ever the realist, I presented a pessimistic viewpoint and gave reasons for why I thought this way. Jason is much more of an optimist than I but even he was questioning the likelihood of this actually sticking. Despite our personal views on whether or not it would stick, however, we were both very excited and hopeful that yes, it would actually be *that* easy.

When I got a chance, I checked out bank account online (my phone can do that, at least) and the money was listed as pending. Holy Crap.

I was heading off to bed when the cancellations started coming in for our friends and acquaintances. I haven't yet gotten mine - the email went to Stacey since she completed the transaction under her own account - but I know I will. According to a TicketMaster-employed source on one of my message boards, this was a huge error in event scheduling and, as soon as it was discovered, TicketMaster's I.T. Department scrambled immediately to correct it. Supposedly, the source is going to fill us in more around lunchtime when he can escape from the all-day meetings (oh, to be a fly on those walls today) and let us in on details. It doesn't matter much; the upshot is that it was, in fact, a mistake and that all orders are canceled, all monies will be returned and all of us will have to return to stroking our lucky idols whilst placing our lottery orders. And when/if those come back unfulfilled, all of us will be taking a break from our jobs a week from today at 12 p.m. mountain time to overload TicketMaster's server in an attempt to get those damn tickets back in our hands.

I have various people helping me place lottery orders because I know my chances with TicketMaster on the work T1 next Thursday are very, very slim. I would love to have more. If you have about $450 room on a credit card and want to help me out, I would love you forever and ever. Or if you have a lucky idol you want to throw my way, that works too. Sigh.

17 March, 2009

The Cover Song

How many of my last posts have been about music? As you can see, I am clearly a music junkie. I am obsessed with Sound. So, I figure, I might as well continue in the same vein and return to the almighty soundtrack. It's only about half-burned now, we need to fill this sucker out.

___________________

One of my favorite things about music, both recorded and live in concert, is the way in which artists express their respect and appreciation for other artists: The Cover Song.

I have several albums devoted to this genre on my iPod - various artists singing Elton John & Bernie Taupin tunes on the great album Two Rooms, various other artists putting their own voices to the epics from the Grateful Dead on one of the first CDs I ever purchased: Deadicated. I've got an entire album covering Cole Porter as well as a live recording of the Jamband supergroup Brain Damaged Eggmen covering the Beatles and Pink Floyd. It's a win-win situation for me: I get to hear Brendan Bayliss of Umphreys McGee singing Dear Prudence from The Beatles. Buy one, get one free.

As well, it's always interesting to see what spin a band or singer will give to the cover song. Will they play it true to the original artist or will they make it their own frankensteined version that is just as good but not the same?

Phish - I'm sure you've heard of them, perhaps I've mentioned them a time or two in this blog? - has devoted an entire holiday to this genre four times in the 90s (and I can only hope will continue the tradition a fifth time in 2009). They don a "musical costume" on Halloween, paying their deep respect to an entire album for the second set of their typical three-set Halloween shows. And while they attempt to play the album true to the original artist, it isn't ever difficult to hear Phish in the music.

In 1994, the first year of the musical costume, Phish started out at the very top covering The Beatles' White Album. The next year, a couple of my friends attended the Halloween show in Chicago to experience The Who's Quadrophenia after some teasing of Michael Jackson's Thriller. (I know I am a child of the 80s, but I applaud Quadrophenia and the decision to merely tease Thriller. They could not have pulled off Michael Jackson's opus and that is not necessarily meant as a criticism.) In Atlanta, in 1996, they covered The Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense and then the last one, in Las Vegas, the only one I attended, they covered Velvet Underground's Loaded. Many of the fans in the audience were disappointed that they didn't cover Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (they covered it a few days later - tongue-in-cheek, raised eyebrows and all that - at the very under-attended show in Utah), but I felt that I had received a little gift I hadn't expected at all: previous to that show, I didn't know a lick of Velvet Underground but with that particular costume, Phish introduced me to and helped me gain an appreciation for something I likely would not have otherwise heard. That's the very best outcome of The Cover Song.

One of my three favorite cover songs, I heard as a cover song first.

Back in the 90s - oh so long ago - when I lived with three roommates in Chicago, I shared an obsession with a couple of my upstairs neighbors: the Indigo Girls. I had been listening to the Girls since I'd lived in San Francisco and randomly purchased their self-titled album on cassette. I wore that cassette out, I enjoyed their music so much.

When I met and got to know my neighbors, I discovered this about them also. In order to expand my Indigo horizon, one of the neighbors, Missey, loaned me her 1200 Curfews double CD (a mish mosh of many of their best tunes, live, studio, in-studio) and I fell head over heels for one of the songs in particular, a cover of Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue.

I don't know how I hadn't heard this song before. After hearing it that first time, I seemed to hear the Dylan version on the radio at least once or twice a month. It is possible I had heard it but it hadn't registered because I find Dylan's voice worthy of changing the channel? But I consider the first time I heard the song to be credited to the Indigo Girls.

I will give Dylan this: he is by far, the very best troubadour modern America has. Tangled Up in Blue is a sad kind of story about two people who once had great passion but over time drifted apart in time and space. And barely recognize each other when they have a chance run-in later in life. Like many of Dylan's best, it isn't a short song. If he has a story to tell, he needs the time to tell it and this song can linger, but that's a good thing. I want to keep listening to it.

The Girls definitely put their own mark to this song around the fourth refrain when they push the song into an intense, slow blues rhythm and Emily sings the stanza - where the two characters in the song find themselves at the place they left off but older and as different people - with a raw voice not holding back. By the end of the song, I feel like I've been lifting weights for an hour: dog-tired and head-high. Every time I listen to it. Still.

I've heard Tangled Up in Blue covered by another band, another great version. I would choose the Indigo Girls' version for the soundtrack because theirs was the first version I heard, and still my favorite. And this other band sings another of my favorite covers that I will attribute to them even though I mention another band covering this song earlier in the post.

Of course, I had heard Dear Prudence before. I've owned The White Album on CD since high school and if my mom hadn't "stolen" it from me when I went off to college, I probably would have worn it out by now. On the album, Dear Prudence was one of those songs that contributed to the Whole but didn't so much stand out on its own to me.

But when I heard the Jerry Garcia Band play Dear Prudence on their Live album, oh wow. It's a completely different song. Paul and John are the ultimate lyricists. Their music is good, but it exists as a background player to their amazing lyrics in The Beatles' catalog. The Jerry Garcia Band realized this and brought that background to the front in a nearly-twelve minute live version of the song.

I can remember the Where of discovering this song, if not exactly the When: the apartment I shared with three roommates in Chicago. One of them owned this CD and occasionally interrupted the constant stream of Phish to play it. Oh how I wished for many years that I had stolen that CD from him when I moved out but it's never a good idea to get Tim angry so it was probably best I didn't. And after so many years apart from that beautiful song, I found the CD at a Disc Replay and purchased it. That version of Dear Prudence is now safely permanent on my iPod.

One evening not long after the purchase of the long-sought album, I set the iPod to wake me up in the morning with this version. I'm a snoozer - when my alarm goes off, unless I have very exciting reasons to wake up that day, I hit that snooze button four or five (or seven) times till I can finally motivate enough to rise. All the while, waking my husband who doesn't need to get up nearly as early as I do.

That morning, the iPod went off and I heard the first few notes of Dear Prudence, and I just stopped my hand that was reflexively heading for the snooze button. The volume was at a perfect level to enjoy the song without - hopefully - waking my husband as well. I laid there for the nearly-twelve minutes dreaming through the bouncy rhythm and Jerry's perfect voice, smiling and waking gently rather than the usual blare and jump weekday mornings tend to be.

At the end of the song, when my hand softly pushed the Alarm Off button, my husband turned to me and said That was very nice before falling back to sleep.

We went to Jamaica in December, for the Caribbean Holidaze festival put on by Umphrey's McGee and the Disco Biscuits. The best memory from that week comes from the last night, the Brain Damaged Eggmen show. Each night before, we had arrived a little too late to the shows to grab a lounge chair and enjoy the music from a horizontal perspective and my great hope was that we could do just that for this last show which I knew would be heavy on The Beatles and I really just wanted to listen and not be body-conscious as I sometimes am when I am standing or dancing.

We got there a little late this evening as well and would not have found extra lounge chairs if not for the brief downpour that chased off many of those formerly lounging. We chose two chairs a-ways back, nearer to the crashing waves than the stage. I'm a huge fan of ambiance.

Five songs in, the Eggmen play exactly what I was hoping and expecting to hear. I leaned back, closed my eyes, concentrated on the combination of waves and music and let go. They played a shorter version of the song than JGB but with added ambiance, it became a different song to love just as much. A cover of a cover.

When I was a kid, I was allowed to stay up late for only two television events each year. The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music. Now, this was back in the day before HBO or even VCR -gasp!- so if you wanted to see either of these movies, you had to wait till ABC or CBS had their yearly television event. I still have a love for each of these movies because of their associations with the good parts of my childhood. I own the CDs of both of these soundtracks. I randomly find Oz and Sound songs in my head throughout the day. I don't mind them there.

Perhaps the best of all these songs, certainly the most famous, is Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It is a sweetly sung melody that captures peoples' hearts even as it annoys them dreadfully. I have always liked it for that ability. Part of me would like to think I have the same qualities.

Watching the television show Scrubs one day, I heard a version of this song that knocks out the annoyance factor and actually makes me want to put this song on a soundtrack. And when it catches in my head, I don't want to bang my head into a doorjamb till it's out. Because I love the song, and I love Judy Garland, but I don't so much love Judy Garland singing that song.

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is the singer of the version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow that I love. I don't know who he is, I have never heard anything else by him, but his version pulls the song up off the ground and sends it soaring above the rainbow as the lyrics have been requesting all these years. After listening to this song on my iPod, I have sometimes pushed Back and Play because this is a song I can listen to twice in a row. Even though it is a cover, it isn't faithful to the original and thus stands entirely on its own. I would never listen to Judy Garland's version twice in a row voluntarily.

I think when an artist performs a cover song, s/t/he/y are openly flattering the original artist or writer of the song. And whether they have intentions of being faithful to the original or quite the opposite, there's nothing in the rule book that says the original version must always be the best. Sometimes a person may start a work of art that another person is supposed to finish. It may be the original artists' destiny to simply put the framework out there so that the artist performing the cover can make it beautiful. I have many more examples of this but these three are definitely on the soundtrack as the best.

16 March, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

I know ? it?s Monday, Monday, Monday today. I missed matching a Sunday event to a Sunday blog. But I didn?t want to cheat you of the Sunday story so better late than never huh?

I had a feeling Sunday would be the bust-out show of the weekend. A lot of people were talking about hitting Friday/Saturday and heading back home Sunday so they could be at work Monday morning. Hell, I had to be at work Monday morning and gave it brief thought but I had the tickets and I can?t miss a Phish show I actually have tickets for. That?s wasteful. There are music-starved children in Africa and I must think of them, it?s only right!

So the plan was: sleep in Sunday, enjoy a leisure lunch with friends, mosey on over to the line, get in and get good seats, rock out at the show, head back to the room and quickly pack, get a couple hours of sleep, wake up at some ungodly hour, get in a taxi headed to the airport and get on a plane so I could get back to Chicago in time for work (well, a couple of hours late but in time to be at work).

Sunday went according to plan.

There, that?s my blog post. A day actually went according to plan. Isn?t that exciting enough for the interwebs?

Oh whatever.

The dramatic highlight of Sunday, and I think I may have mentioned this in the very large blog post that began this, was of course the near-fight I got into with a large, shirtless man over an entire row of seats. Okay, if you know me, imagine me at my stubbornest, which I know is not a word but let?s make it one today, ok? I set my legs over shoulder-width apart, set my jaw and look you square in the eyes with a glare that says you don?t stand a chance with me. That was totally me last Sunday.

Fred & Jewel got in separately from me and after (I tried to grab Jewel and put her in front of me in line but the security guard got me before I could squeeze her over) so it was run for the seats and hope I could find them when I did (I didn?t have either cell number and would have had to coordinate with an absent-Jason in the chaos). I ran immediately for the lower Page-side towards the back of the venue seating thinking that it had the best head-on view without being all the way at the back of the venue. Unbeknownst to me, Jewel and Fred were thinking way, way forward and had I known, I might have saved myself some grief.

So I run in and see an entire front row empty except for one guy ? one large, shirtless guy. So I head down there thinking it?s about 14 seats, no way he?s saving all of them.

As soon as I reach that level on the stair and start into the middle, he comes barreling over from his side of the row with his hairy chest thrust out in some animalistic, territorial, instinctual ? thing. It strongly resembled any number of nature films where the leader of whatever pack of growling animals confronts the brazen intruder. And no matter how many seats the row held, he had every intention of ridding his land of this intruder: me.

So I set myself. I know when a large, shirtless man comes at you with his chest thrust out, there is a chance of violence and I also know that you?re less likely to get bowled over if you set your feet just right.

Okay, let?s pause here because something is bothering me. And this is one of those issues that kind of has two sides of me at odds but it was something I thought much about that day. Chivalry. Now, normally, I scoff at chivalry. I think the very idea of sitting in a car while the man turns off the car, opens his door, gets out of the drivers seat, closes the door, walks around the car and opens your door for you to get out is silly and a waste of time. If you have a 7 o?clock movie to get to, there?s no time to wait for that crap. And does the woman not have arms? Is she completely unable to open a door?

But then, in times such as when a man is barreling towards me with seemingly violent tendencies, I wonder whatever happened to the world in which men bore a gentle respect for women and even if they disagreed with them, handled their opposition in a respectful, if slightly patronizing, manner.

After this incident, this is what bothers me the most. Had he turned, saw me, saw I was threatening his territory ? which was not actually HIS, by the way ? and come toward me at a normal pace, with his shirtless upper body in a relaxed pose and said, I?m sorry, I?m saving these seats for my 13 friends ? I still would have argued (nicely), I still would have been irked at the audacity of it, but I wouldn?t be nearly as PISSED as I am about it. The dude came barreling towards a girl. It isn?t right. It isn?t respectful. I should have kicked him in the balls without saying a single word just for that; taught him that if he can?t be a gentleman, then he shouldn?t even have the equipment to be a man. And yes, that isn?t very respectful of me to say or even think that but he made the first impression that he did so I can?t help but to react in the way I do.

So.

In the end, I gave up the fight. Pragmatic me surfaced and reminded me the goal tonight was to get good seats and enjoy the show. I would likely not have succeeded at either if I had stayed and fought any longer. As it was, my fledgling voice was losing even more decibels, the more I yelled at him.

With one last extended middle finger and a choice phrase I won?t utter here, I took to my heels and ran up the steps to the next level up and managed to secure five seats on that front row. I threw my hoodie over three of them and paced across the section, happy that I got front row in a section, still fuming over the encounter.

Not long after I found the seats, I spotted Fred?s red cap, blue shirt coming in and called him over. He was impressed with the seats but once he called and talked to Jewel, he said we might have better seats, he?d go check.

While Fred was gone, I watched the venue fill in. The best seats were gone so people started simply looking for enough seats together. I had a few looks my way but they saw the hoodie and they saw me standing in front of the seats not yet covered and they got the idea. In the second row, I heard a couple of guys talking about the number of seats they would need and perhaps they could grab some from the row above them to get the number they needed. I spotted a few friends and waved.

Fred returned in a few minutes saying Jewel had much better seats. Front row also, and much further down, closer to the stage. And in his opinion, we should pick up stakes and move.

No sweat off my back, I just wanted to be in good seats with good friends so I turned to the guys behind me and let them know they had five seats in the front row if they wanted them. See the difference between me and Cro-Magnon man? Respect is the most valuable tool we have and it isn?t in limited supply so there?s no need to dole it out with caution. Be free, use it anytime you want. Respect Away.

Still steaming about that guy over a week later. Not that I would remember his face because my eyes were seared by his massive, hairy chest, but I do wish I could run into him again, when I am able to quell pragmatic me. I have a few things to say.

I did manage to forget the incident that night. As I had expected, Phish played the best show of the weekend, ending with a spectacular Tweezer Reprise after releasing the XXL balloons hanging above the audience. The best part: we were seated close enough to see their faces and they wore a perma-grin all night long. As did I.

Thank you, Phish!

14 March, 2009

Saturday

Saturday was the toughest day of the run for me. After a mind-numbing Friday that didn't end till 3 a.m. and an alarm blaring at 7 a.m., I knew I would have to rely on adrenaline to get through Saturday.

The reason for the early rising was the poster/art show Jason had organized at our hotel. Approximately 850 tickets had been sold to see Jim Pollock, Ryan Kerrigan, Fred Hosman, AJ Masthay, Tripp and several other well-known artists in the scene and, while much of the basic setup had been done already (thank you Fred, Jewel & Jim&Kate!!), we needed a few hours to get artwork up and ready to sell.

Jason asked me to assist Pollock in his room, so after a quick breakfast of free cereal, I began putting thousands of dollars of art prints into mylar sleeves to safely hang on the 8' x 6' cardboard sheets lining the back and one side of the room.

Around 11:30, Jason opened the doors and the immense line that had been building since 9 a.m. surged in.

Previous to the doors opening, I had penned a sign to be placed very prominently letting people know that we had NO Show Pollocks available. It was understood that without that sign placed so prominently, we would waste an hour of the day simply answering that one question from every person not within hearing distance that last time we answered the question. And even with that sign placed so prominently, I probably spent a total of 10 minutes that day answering that very question.

The people in line were patient and very excited to meet Jim. I heard one complaint about the time in line all day and if you know the Phish crowd, you know that a one-complaint day is a very good day indeed.

The hardest part of the day for me was simply standing in place all day long. When you walk, you are giving one foot a rest, even if for only 5 seconds or less. When you stand in one place, you are placing all your weight on both feet, all the time. It hurts after awhile. By the time the show was done, I felt as though I'd never had any arches in my feet. And I couldn't believe I still had to go to a Phish show. Yes you heard that sentence correctly: had to go. Saturday night, following Saturday, the Phish show actually became a bit of a chore. Any other band, even Umphrey's McGee, and I would have told Jason to sell my ticket, I'd be staying in. But it was Phish. I went.

I actually liked the show that night better than the first night. I got quite a few of my favorite songs and Phish seemed to be very sympathetic to my feet; they played plenty of songs I could sit down to. The promise to myself from the night before was made; tonight was about staying within my abilities and strength.

I was stopped three separate times Saturday night at the show by people who had seen me at the show. Each one asked, hey aren't you the poster lady? Jim was only stopped two times at the show, that I saw. That night, I was more famous than he!

Saturday night marked the first night of the end of my voice. I refused to hold back my exhiliration which meant that I was yelling and singing full volume each night. Friday night started to affect my voice but Saturday night really brought it to a croak. By the end of the night, my voice was as bad as it has ever gotten ... and I still had one more night.

Before bed, we decided to hit up Waffle House for an actual meal, my first since arriving in Hampton. It was greasy and it was good.

I went to sleep that night with a smile on my face. And I slept for seven hours.

13 March, 2009

Phriday Stories

I'm looking back fondly on events a week ago - do you ever do that, take a vacation or have a really great day that you memorialize by weeks gone past? - and, while I already posted about my BWE yesterday, I didn't necessarily go into individual stories, for lack of time or space. So thought I'd tell some Phriday Stories here, seeing as how today is Friday.

So, this was my first time at Hampton - actually, I don't think Jason or Jim Pollock had been there before either - so, on the walk from the hotel to the venue Friday night, I was playing the role of Tourist. I had my phone out and using it to take pictures and videos (my phone rocks). I made a joke when Jason stopped to take a video and Jim and I kept going that he had my tickets, he'd better keep up.

So, we get to the chaos surrounding the venue and I want to take a picture of the cardboard robot in the front fountain. So I stop, take my picture, put my camera/phone away and start walking in the direction we were headed. Except Jason and Jim were no longer in front of me. I stopped. Looked around. Nowhere. Gone. I felt like I was five years old, lost in the mall again. I have a tendency to do that. But Jason has my ticket. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit.

But aha, I have my phone. I get the phone back out and text him. Where are you?? He responds within a minute: Right behind you.

Doh!

So then, I'm antsy to get in. I want a decent seat and not to be stuck up in the nosebleeds or separated because there are no three seats together. But Jim has an extra (the Phish organization set aside 2 for Friday and Saturday for him) and we're trying to get in touch with any number of people we know who are there and ticketless for that night. Of course, they must not be too desperate; no one is answering their phone or texts.

Eventually, it comes down to two possibilities. One, we sell the extra and pay the security deposit for the poster show with it (the person who was supposed to pay the security deposit forgot and the manager had mentioned it a couple of times). Problem with this plan, of course, is that it is illegal to scalp on property and Jim Pollock being arrested for scalping wasn't a good story. None of us liked that idea and immediately rejected it. Which left the ol' miracle someone. I always like this; I love seeing people happy and I love seeing people amazed into speechlessness. A miracle to this show would catch the height of both of those emotions and I thought it'd be a great way to start the night. It was agreed.

So then, who to miracle?

We tossed ideas back and forth. Jason had his point & shoot which had video capability so he wanted to capture the transaction. Which meant we needed light. We walked to and fro, trying to find the right opportunity, the right light. It was nearly full-dark by this point and my antsy had by this time, turned into hyperactivity. I needed to move, to progress towards the doors, to get inside. When was the show supposed to start? If I miss that lights down, I'm gonna be PISSED.

Finally, we're standing in a decent pool of light next to some glass vendors when Jason takes off at a run. I turn to Jim wondering what the hell that was about (because of course, I stopped paying attention to anything but the doors by this point). He tells me that Jason heard someone singing a Happy Birthday song and wanted to see what that was about. Cool. Cool.

Two minutes later, Jason comes back with this smiling, but confused man and his entourage.

It's true. It is his birthday, Jason says, handing Pollock the drivers license in his hand.

So while Jason captured the video, Pollock miracled a birthday boy from Hampton. Which turned out to be really, really cool because the birthday boy's wife had One ticket. Which meant that only one of them would get in. And no husband is going to tell his wife that she can wait out alone in a dark parking lot for him or even head back to the hotel/home without him. Husbands aren't geared toward putting their wives in that kind of potential danger. Birthday or not, I have confidence he would have insisted she take the ticket and he wait outside. But the choice didn't even need to be made: with Pollock's miracle ticket, both Steve and his wife got to celebrate his birthday inside The Coliseum for the reunion show.

That was awesome!

12 March, 2009

Phishing in Hampton, VA

(Fred in the red hat and Jewel front and center, front page picture of the Hampton Daily Press Saturday March 7, 2009 - Love this picture!)

I know I'm a few days late on this - chalk it up to an attack of The Ick (awww, just like old times) - but I must interrupt the regularly scheduled programming (which for me is usually silence, is it not?) to gush about this last weekend, a weekend I heretofore dub: The Best Weekend Ever In The History Of The Whole Wide World or, BWE for short.

Okay, cut to the chase - if you didn't know already, Phish is my favorite band. Now, sometimes, I will say The Beatles are my favorite band because I believe they are Rock-n-Roll's quintessential Adam & Eve (don't give me that Elvis crap!) and I *so* appreciate their existence but to be completely honest: Phish is my favorite band. Phish shaped my mid-to-late twenties and early thirties as no other non-child-of-my-body entity possibly could have.

In 2004, when Trey announced they were kaput, I was bereft. What the hell would I do with my summers, how would I ever again enjoy music? I couldn't make every show they played after The Announcement but I certainly did my best! If they were going to make me say goodbye, I wasn't going to miss it.

Their last shows, in Coventry, VT, were a debacle. As if God mourned their goodbye as much as we did, the endless summer rains leading up to the festival so drenched the former cow pasture that non-economy sized cars were in danger of becoming mired in the festival for good. Saturday morning, a day after we pulled in and set up camp, I was awakened by The Announcement Part Deux on The Bunny, Phish's festival radio station: if your car hadn't yet left the highway, you weren't going to be able to drive in. The grounds were either puddle or mud, or both - it was by sheer luck that Jason spotted a hill when we pulled into our area Thursday night/Friday morning at 1 a.m. and forced me to help tote our gear up that hill to set up camp. The area behind our rental car - a non-economy sized car - glistened in the sun, as water will, and with my tendency towards laziness, our tent and gear would have been submerged in that, as many of our neighbors were. Thank God for sensible husbands!

The music at Coventry matched the conditions; the members of Phish mourned as we did, the end of this livelihood. Together, the fans and the band had enjoyed many years and the end wasn't just tearful on our side of the stage. I still have very strong emotions at the memory of Page cracking and breaking into a sob in the middle of Wading in the Velvet Sea. And when Mike and Trey handed their one-man trampolines out into the audience - the depth of the sadness that still hits me is kind of surprising even to me, especially given the events of this past weekend.

So. On October 1st, 2008, The Announcement Part Trois: We are coming back.

Getting tickets to the Hampton shows for March 6-8 was a little like getting your name called in the NFL draft. Good luck with that one. We did not have good luck. We were denied "mail" order (quotes around mail because it hasn't been Mail order since, like 2000?) and the TicketMaster onsale was a joke. If you didn't have 6 computers running consecutively on separate T3 lines, you didn't stand a chance. Or if you were a broker. That almost undid me.

So I failed to get tickets to Hampton and I was again, bereft. I couldn't miss the reunion show; I hadn't missed the first reunion show, how on earth could I stand to miss this one?! But, without a solution and multiple thousands of extra dollars and the lack of morals required to buy from a broker, it certainly seemed as though Hampton would go off without me. And in the meantime, Jason made other plans to help run an art show for Jim Pollock (Phish's main poster artist) for that weekend in Miami and it really seemed to be the end of the dream.

Then in January, I got a PM from a friend on a non-Phish message board who had managed to get 2 3-day passes to the shows. Turns out she and her husband couldn't make the shows and they wanted to offer me the tickets for only slightly above face before taking them to eBay.

Well, you can imagine what I did. I'm not even sure I got through the entire contents of the PM before yelling out a hearty Hell Yes!

From that point on, everything fell magically into place: Jason's art show plans in Miami fell through due to the cancellation of the Langerado Festival scheduled the same weekend as Phish's Hampton shows (you had to know that was going to be a problem!) so his anguish at possibly missing the first night (aka The Show) disappeared. Then he came up with a plan to have the art show anyway - in Hampton. Which then resulted in a free hotel room within walking distance of the venue. We found very inexpensive airline tickets to Norfolk, VA from Southwest Airlines. And my boss gave her approval for me to take off the Friday of the first show, asking only that I be back the Monday after the last show (another coworker in my 5-person department had already scheduled off for that Friday and Monday so getting even one of the days off was a gift).

By the time we had reached the seats our friends Jim & Kate saved for us Friday night, we were trembling with equal parts excitement and exhaustion. Jason had spent a hectic three weeks planning an art show from scratch and I had spent three weeks listening to his woes and trying to add insightful advice when I had it. And gotten four hours sleep the night before due to tapas and a Tea Leaf Green show with a friend. But mostly excitement.

Then the moment came: pre-show music faded quickly out, lights instantly down, the moment I had waited for for so long and been so lucky enough to get to experience when others, just as deserving or even moreso than I, were not as lucky. I had my phone out so that some of them could at least know the first song back practically when I did.

Fluffhead. Frickin' Fluffhead. NO WAY! How apropos. How long had people been clamoring for a Fluffhead and apparently, Phish had been listening. I quickly texted the name off and began a very long night of dancing. I had made a deal with myself that I wouldn't sit while Phish was onstage Friday night. Saturday and Sunday weren't part of the deal but my ass had no business cuddling up with a seat at the first show back. And I kept that promise to myself. They played a nearly two-hour first set, which sorely tested the promise, but the music selection and lack of Type II Phish jamming certainly helped. 17 songs were played in that two hours and I tried a mnemonic device to remember them all without the aid of paper or pen but eventually failed. I can remember a little bit still, though:

Fluff divided the chalkdust sample from his stash - aaaaaand that's where I decided to stop being a geek and just enjoy the moment (Fluffhead, Divided Sky, Chalkdust Torture, Sample in a Jar, Stash)

So, anyway, who knew buildings sweated? By the end of the show, the first time I ventured away from our seats up high Page-side, every surface of The Coliseum was moist, if not downright puddled. I avoided falling on my ass the entire weekend long (contributing, of course, to the BWE designation). I can't even do that in real life! Phish is magic. Okay, well lots of other people fell so maybe Phish's magic only extends to me and those with me. Fact is, I stayed upright all three nights and I count that as a resume-worthy achievement.

That first night back at the hotel, we (Jason, Jim & I) further plotted the poster show the next day. The hard work had already been done with the help of our friends Fred, Jewel, Jim M. and his wife Kate who all arrived in Hampton Thursday and could spare the time to help Jason set the stage and plan. But we still needed to plan Jim's room and so, stayed up till 3 a.m. doing so. Leaving us approximately 4 hours of sleep before we had to get up to finish setting up and run the show.

Due to the invisible partner's negligence, Jason had to take on the role of overseer of the whole show so I stepped in to assist Jim in his room. Luckily enough, the questions I fielded that day were ones I knew the answers to and we weren't in need of the particular insight that Jason or another person might have had on some of the pieces. My primary job was simply to take the money and keep the table full of prints, and I like to think I did an excellent job on the first, though I was remiss on the second (I forgot about the stash in the portfolio behind the cardboard until two hours before the show was over). Other than that, though, it was a very successful day for all the artists involved.

The show wrapped up late, as we knew it would, so we had to rush to break down Jim's room in order to get to the show on time with a little time to rest between - we had all been on our feet since 8:30 that morning. We made it in time, we found seats with some friends who had a nearly head-on view of the stage, and I enjoyed much of Saturday night's show sitting down, without any guilt. It was a great show and there were several parts I couldn't help but stand and dance, but there were several parts that made it easier for me to justify sitting down and resting my very tired feet.

Walking out of the Saturday night show, we stumbled upon a scene straight out of a nightmare: a group called the Nitrous Mafia from Philadelphia has lately become a gritty fixture at concerts and festival in the East and Midwest. They have backpack versions of nitrous tanks and can pick up and set down shop on an empty patch of earth and everywhere they land, wastoids follow. Saturday night, we chose the wrong path back and ended up walking right through a crowd of balloon-sucking shufflers, hisses of tanks and carnie calls snaking out into our path from the left and right. Jason grabbed my hand and veered us off the path and out of the uselessness and into some streetlights and we both made a mental note not to walk that way again. Wah-wahs make people dangerous.

Nearing our hotel, we met up with Jim and all expressed our great hunger so we ventured over to the Waffle House in our hotel parking lot and ended the day with some late night grease.

The next morning, we -gasp!- slept in. It was awesome. The bed in the hotel was very comfy. And yea, we did have to wake up to an alarm but not one set for two or four hours later. We managed to get a good seven to eight hours sleep and that was juuuuuuuuust fine.

We met our friends Fred & Jewel at the tavern across the street for lunch and ended up running into just about everyone else we knew, to boot. There we made our plan. Jason and Jim would go sell Jim's remaining prints in the parking lot and Fred, Jewel and I would go grab a spot in line and go for great seats. After I ran back to the room to get some necessities, we walked over.

By Sunday, the security working the lines had their job down. Friday it was pure chaos, Saturday, it was approaching some semblance of order and Sunday it was a no-brainer. We joined the left-most line and enjoyed a warm day in the shade.

Once it got close to doors opening, the order began to disintegrate a little. People from the back or people who hadn't been in line at all, attempted to move forward and circumvent those of us who had been waiting but we were ready. We heckled, jeered and outright blocked most of the rudeness coming forth. But when it came right down to it, trying to get good seats at a Phish show is no different than trying to get home in rush hour in a timely manner - you have to be out for yourself and you have to be willing to move past the slow people in order to get what you desire. I grabbed a guy I knew had been in front of me in line and told him I didn't mean to cut him off so he better keep moving but everyone else, especially the group of kids who successfully cut in ahead of us, I swept past. In this day and age, niceness is a luxury if you ever want to succeed. Sad but true.

And thanks to this attitude, both Jewel and I found perfect seats and it was up to Fred to choose which ones were more perfect. Jewel's seats won but I got the story:

Running in I saw a whole front row in the lowest seating Page-side and one large, shirtless guy guarding it. Now, chances are, he was trying to save the whole row, but it couldn't hurt to try, right? So I run down there and when he sees me, he pushes his hairy chest out and bumbles over.

"These are saved!" he bellows.

"You're saving a whole row?"

"They're saved! Move on."

"No, it's a whole row."

"I've been here since 2:30, get out!"

"Doors just opened, Dude. You obviously haven't been here since 2:30."

You can see where this is going. I'm like a little Yorkshire Terrier who thinks she's a German Shepherd; it makes life interesting. I'm not afraid of a fight because I'm not afraid of a little pain. That night, the only thing I was even slightly afraid of was getting mediocre seats when I'd had them the last two nights. That's what finally got me out of there with a "You're a fucking asshole you Goddamn prick, hope you fall headfirst - can't be any worse, right?" thrown over my shoulder loudly for good measure.

To his credit, he didn't chase me and kick my ass - the seats were that good!

So, Jewel's super spectacular seats were close enough that Jason & I could finally see the band's faces (Fred & Jewel had Rail first night so they enjoyed the seats). I do wish we'd put more effort into good seats on Friday night but at least we got them Sunday. At least I got the chance to see just how much fun the guys were having and how sincere their thanks was. All the joy we felt out in the audience, Trey and Page and Mike and Fish felt onstage.

So they opened that night with one of my favorite songs, a tongue-in-cheek older tune called Sanity and closed with one of my favorite songs, Tweezer Reprise, a call-back to the first night when they played Tweezer. By the time the last song finished, I was finished. I can't imagine having the energy I had in my younger days to go from show to show, spending all day in a car and all night at a show. Those were many, many years ago.

So, after three days and thirteen hours of sleep (4+7+2=Oy), what I hoped would be a good time but not the same as it ever was, was a BWE and I can't wait to go back. Farewell paycheck, farewell vacation days. I hope you saw enough of me in the last four-and-a-half years, Family 'cause if they ain't coming to your town, I'm probably not either.

The Boys are Back.

(my husband's video of the making of the official poster and some of the lot scene, including Pollock miracling a birthday phan)

04 March, 2009

2 Sleeps Till ...

... Hampton.

Oddly, I?ve been hoping lately that when I see Phish in two days, I will not be as impressed as I know I really will be. Meaning, I hope I am pretty Meh about the whole thing. I could surely use all the money and vacation I will continue to spend on this band for other things. Sans Phish, I could release myself from the chains of debt or afford a larger, more convenient home or go someplace fabulous every year for vacation.

I estimate, very roughly, that I have spent over $25,000 seeing this band. When you count the tickets, the plane fares, the hotels, the gas, the rental cars, the purchases in Lot ... it comes up to an insane amount of money that could have been a down payment on a condo back when I was single and prices were reasonable.

The reason Phish is back, of course, is that they want my money. Phish's return isn't quite so noble as missing the music ... they need the money. Times are tough for us all, even the rock stars. And you know what ... I'm going to end up beefing up their bank accounts because what do I need with my hard-earned money? Food? It goes right through me. A roof over my head? Why - summer's coming and I have a large tent. Why shouldn't I invest my portfolio in a prospect so promising as Phish?

I know, I?m aghast at my cynicism too. What is Debbi talking about? She Loves Phish. And I do, I really, really do. But 4 ? years ago, I said goodbye to them and hello to all the other really cool things I could do with my life. I got married in Jamaica, we bought a condo, I got a new, awesome job ? hell, I got a cat! And in that time, I have also managed to visit my family on my own schedule rather than around Phish?s tour dates in the area. When I told my parents that Phish had announced their return, I could hear in their voices a resignation: they knew they would soon be relegated to decreased visitations. What kind of daughter am I?

But let?s face it, I?m not going to get the change I kind of want because you know what I most wanted in these 4 ? years without Phish when I could have been embracing so many other non-musical things? Phish?s return.

Clearly, I am my own worst enemy.

2 More Days!

27 February, 2009

Me Music Part II

Having had my eyes opened by The Dead and how much fun really great, live music can be, the next summer I joined my friends in getting tickets to see the Jamband heir apparent, Phish for one show at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. We had all been listening to Phish for a few years thanks to the intriguing cover art on Rift, but most of us hadn?t yet seen them live and I wanted to have an experience like the one I?d had with the Dead at Soldier Field.

Alpine Valley is a ski slope in the winter and the trek between the parking lot and pavilion seats is steep ? down into the show, back up at the end when your energy has been completely drained from dancing through two sets. My friend and I were just leaving the beer platform at the border of lawn and pavilion seating when the band took the stage, and I have the most wonderfully vivid memories of taking long, smooth strides down the steep slope to our seats to the beginning notes of My Friend, My Friend.

At the end of the night, after having had the single best time to that point in my life, I realized that the Grateful Dead was just a very wonderful warm-up act for me. I came home from the concert completely rejuvenated and ready to hop on tour.

At the time, I lived in a three-bedroom with three friends from college, one of whom has a fascination with all things shaman. He had a set of animal medicine cards and profiled each of us with them, much as a Tarot reader profiles a client.

I don?t recall each of the individual animals that made up my profile ? perhaps *pt* does? ? but the reading as a whole was pretty spot-on in many ways and my totem animal, the Lizard, was damn accurate for who I was at that time. The card reads as such:

___________________________________________________

Lizard sat lolling in the shadow of a big rock, shading himself from the desert sun. Snake crawled by, looking for some shadow to coil up in and rest. Snake watched Lizard for awhile as Lizard's eyeballs went side to side behind his enormous closed lids. Snake hissed to get Lizard's attention. Slowly Lizard's dreaming eyes opened and he saw Snake.
"Snake! You scared me! What do you want?" Lizard cried.
Snake spit his answer from his forked tongue. "Lizard, you are always getting the best shadow spots in the heat of the day. This is the only big rock for miles. Why don't you share your shade with me?"
Lizard thought for a moment, then agreed. "Snake, you can share my shade spot, but you have to go to the other side of the rock and you must promise not to interrupt me."
Snake was getting annoyed. He hissed, "How could I bother you Lizard? All you are doing is sleeping."
Lizard smiled knowingly. "Oh Snake, you are such a silly serpent. I'm not sleeping. I'm dreaming."
Snake wanted to know what the difference was, so Lizard explained. "Dreaming is going into the future, Snake. I go to where future lives. You see, that is why I know you won't eat me today. I dreamed you and I know you're full of mouse."
Snake was taken aback. "Why Lizard, you're exactly right. I wondered why you said you would share your rock."
Lizard laughed to himself. "Snake," he said, "you are looking for shade and I am looking for shadow. Shadow is where the dreams live."
Lizard medicine is the shadow side of reality where your dreams are reviewed before you decide to manifest them physically. Lizard could have created getting eaten by Snake if he had so desired.

Lizard is the medicine of dreamers. Whether dreamers smoke you or dream you, dreamers can always help you see the shadow. This shadow can be your fears, your hopes, or the very thing you are resisting, but it is always following you around like an obedient dog.
___________________________________________________

Not long after the Phish concert at Alpine Valley, during the days of my roommate T blasting Phish everyday for a couple of hours after work, I first heard the song The Lizards. This was one of the songs comprising Gamehenge, a rock epic written by the lead guitarist for his college thesis.

Not surprisingly, given the elevated levels of my ego, I quickly adopted this song as My Song. Of course, in doing so, I had to ignore lines such as:

The Lizards were a race of people
Practically extinct from doing things
Smart people don?t do

Which isn?t at all difficult to do when the band stops singing and starts into the melody of the last third of the song. Like Harry Hood, like Divided Sky, like so many other songs they have written that don?t depend on the 3-refrain formula, the melody makes the entire song. Whereas the Dead excelled in poetry, Trey Anastasio?s gift is clearly in the notes between the poetry.

I have the most amazing time behind closed eyes at those moments.

The song is one of the rarer songs to catch at a show but I have lucked out and caught it twice, once at a show I brought my Mom to, which I thought was very nice of them. While I don?t feel much like a Lizard anymore, I still feel like the song is My Song and if they were to bust it out at the upcoming Hampton shows next weekend (starting a week from today EEEEEEEEEEEE), I would count myself even luckier than I already am.

26 February, 2009

Me Music Part I

I don't know if this is something unique to me and my overwhelming narcissism or if most people think about themselves this much, but I have a tendency to adopt songs that speak to me, that mean Me to me. They are my identity songs.

Throughout high school and into college, my identity pretty much escaped me. I adopted songs but they merely defined the amorphous shadow that teenagers still in flux tend to be. From Bruce Springsteen to The Beatles to Depeche Mode, I found plenty of songs I identified with, but no songs that necessarily identified me.

Once my identity really started to solidify and I looked more and more like the person I have eventually become, a completely different kind of music than I had previously enjoyed stepped forward and actually has taken quite a predominant role in molding my adulthood. Thus, no surprise, many of the songs of this genre have become the music I want to walk down the street to.

If I had to choose one definitive action that turned my ears to this other sound, I would have to choose my ill-fated membership to Columbia Records. Don't laugh, this is real, and you know you had the same ill-fated membership!

After college, I moved back to San Francisco and in with my Mom. Most of my college friends had moved on to Chicago but I wanted to finally live in San Francisco as a sentient being, having been whisked away to Tulsa, OK in the middle of the night when I was a mere four months old. Okay, maybe whisked is a little dramatic and perhaps it was in broad daylight, but the fact of the matter is, my whole childhood in Tulsa was spent yearning to be in San Francisco. And after college, I had my chance and I took it.

I quickly became seduced by repeated tear-outs in magazines and newspapers offering 13 CDs for a penny. A Penny! Good lord, do you KNOW how valuable an offer that is?! I was on my own (separated from my peers) and bereft of their combined music collections and had spent my teenage years becoming dulled to my Mom's music collection. God damn, I needed fresh blood! So I sent in the card with 13 CDs checked off and anxiously awaited the new infusion of tunes.

When choosing my 13 CDs, I ran out of must-haves around #10 and began just picking things that seemed like they might have promise. Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead was one such choice. I hadn't been a Grateful Dead fan at all; I strongly dislike the song Truckin' which of course is one of the few Dead songs that made it to radio. I was generally meh about Touch of Grey when I saw the video on MTV. I had nothing really pulling me toward the Dead other than a need to fill out my 13 CDs for a penny, so I checked it off.

Most of the CDs I received in that shipment are gone now: given away or traded for better ones. Deadicated, The Smiths' Greatest Hits and the Indigo Girls' self-titled album are the only three that remain. Oddly enough, The Dead and The Girls are two that were throw-away choices for me - I really wanted The Smiths' album because it reminded me of high school.

Turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire Deadicated CD and gained a healthy new respect for the band. The one song that stood out to me, the one I fell in love with before ever even hearing The Dead sing it, is Cassidy. The poetry in Cassidy simply knocks me over.

___________________________________________________

I have seen where the wolf has slept by the silver stream
I can tell by the mark he left you were in his dream
Oh, child of countless trees
Oh, child of boundless seas
What you are and what you're meant to be
Speaks his name, though you were born to be
Born to me, Cassidy

Lost now on a country mile in his Cadillac
I can tell by the way you smile he is rolling back
Come wash the night time clean
Come grow the scorched ground green
Blow the horn and tap the tambourine
Close the gap on the dark years in between
You and me, Cassidy

Quick beats of an icy heart
Catch-cold draws a coffin cart
There he goes and now here she starts
Hear her cry

Flight of the seabirds
Scattered like lost words
Wheel to the storm and fly

Faring you well now
Let your life proceed by its own design
Nothing can tell now
Let your words be yours, I'm done with mine

Flight of the seabirds
Scattered like lost words
Wheel to the storm and fly
___________________________________________________

The song is about Neal Cassady who was on his way out of this world ("There he goes...") and Cassidy Law, the newborn daughter of one of the Merry Pranksters, on her way in ("...and now here she starts") and is absolutely brilliant poetry that just makes my head and heart soar like the seabirds.

The irony is, of course, that this throw-away CD choice put a musical fork in the road that I have followed wholeheartedly ever since. Two months after I moved to Chicago, after two years in San Francisco (I whisked myself away, this time), I went to my first Dead concert: 7/9/1995. When tickets went on sale, I hadn't yet found a job and the money I'd moved out there with was dwindling away much faster than I had expected, so of course I made the extremely logical decision to buy a ticket and join my friend who had jobs. I'm nothing if not logical.

After the amazing concert, I experienced a flood of understanding that in this universe music would be enormously significant to me and that this band was The One and I should endeavor to see them as much as humanly and financially possible. Unfortunately, my first Dead show was the last Dead show with Jerry. I had a job by this point, less than a month later, and I remember leaving for the day and walking home crying to So Many Roads playing on repeat.

I have only heard Cassidy live one time, despite the number of Dead and Dead side project shows I've seen. For our wedding party, my husband asked the two guitarists/singers entertaining everyone if they would learn to play Cassidy for me. They played a wonderful rendition that brought happy tears to my eyes and loved the song so much, they continued to play it for themselves at future shows.

(to be continued ...)

23 February, 2009

My Soundtrack: The College Years

It just so happened that the transition from high school to college for me and my classmates paralleled the end-transition from the 1980s to the last decade of the millennium: from glam to grunge. The hair bands stopped teasing their bleach-blond tresses and let them tangle and return to their natural color. I contemplated attending class in my pajamas. I love how the world imitates my life.

This is not to say that as the 80s turned into the 90s, I caught up to the music of the age ... that didn't happen till the 2000s and I haven't gotten there yet.

The soundtrack of my college years was greatly influenced by my friends and my weekly attendance at various fraternity parties across campus. Though I surrounded myself with people who had similar backgrounds and experiences, the collection of music that came to that collaborative table could not have been more varied despite the fact that it consisted of at least 98% rock and 2% everything else. From one end of the group, we had an obsession with U2 & REM while another person built their collection around Men Without Hats and Pet Shop Boys. Add to it my 60s retro collection-slash-Bruce-slash some few 80s MTV gems and throw in a few (several) drunken frat parties blaring dance classics such as Joy and Pain and Baby Got Back.

The songs that take me back to those days, like Joy and Pain, each have their individual memories attached so that when I hear the songs, I can propel backwards to that moment, that person, that time. I actually only own one of these songs, relying otherwise on the radio to transport me randomly.

I am not a Led Zeppelin fan. Chalk it up to being inundated with Stairway to Heaven throughout most of my high school years. I have a teeth-clenching reaction to that song and will leap tall buildings to turn off a radio when I hear those first few notes. Given this extreme reaction, I expected that I disliked all of Led Zeppelin and never bothered to buy any of their records. Until TKE.

TKE, Tau Kappa Epsilon, was a favorite frat of mine at Knox. I had been involved with TKE since freshman year when I in my yellow VW Rabbit helped kidnap 8 naked pledges and a shoe. Did I mention the yellow VW Rabbit? ... that comfortably held 3?

TKE wasn't as famous for their parties as, say, the Phi Delts were, but I enjoyed them ever so much more; I attended as many as I could which, to tell the truth, was probably all of them. At a Phi Delt party, you would hear Joy and Pain and be crushed on the dance floor while trying to keep the beer in your cup. At a TKE party, you would hear Misty Mountain Hop as you strolled through the empty dance floor from one conversation to the next, upstairs through the various rooms and eventually settle into an Indian squat up on the top floor bobbing your head the entire time.

In my opinion, Misty Mountain Hop is the finest of the Led Zeppelin catalog. Yes, the bulk of this reason is because it takes me back to TKE. That's what art is. It takes you back to something you fondly remember because you spend all of your time moving forward and you need something to take you back every now and then.

When Misty Mountain Hop comes on the radio, I am back to being 20 years old with schoolgirl crushes and little responsibility (honestly, looking back, I could have taken a little more responsibility but that's not the kind of taking me back art does for me) and a Saturday night that could go all weekend. These days, by Saturday night and the weekend being half over, I'm already anticipating Monday but back then, Monday was a million beers away.

College wasn't all classes and frat parties. Often, my friends and I would congregate in a room or a suite (or an apartment Senior year) and talk, nurse beers, listen to someone's CDs. Two separate friends owned the Billy Joel Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2 CDs. Often, these CDs would be in the carousel.

Coming into college, I knew Billy Joel for Piano Man, a song I don't like much more than Stairway to Heaven for the same reasons, some poppy 80s tunes he wrote after Christie Brinkley actually fell in love with him (oh to be an unattractive, wealthy man), a few songs I like very much such as Pressure and Allentown and not much else.

A favorite song on these CDs for many of us was Captain Jack. While not my favorite on the CDs - that would be Scenes From an Italian Restaurant - this is the song that takes me back to those conversations and relaxations so long ago. I was told the song is about cocaine and the lyrics bear that out. Perhaps in college, that was more akin to our lives though none of us ever strolled down that road. But the nihilism that is suggested by heavy cocaine use isn't rare among late teens/early 20s kids and with or without the expensive habit, that nihilism is what always attracted me to the song and still makes me smile when I hear it now, when I am far less self-absorbed. I enjoy remembering the carefree parts of college most, I think. And if I were ever to have a kid, which is not in the plans but God has a funny sense of humor sometimes, I would insist s/he have a few of those years themselves.

The one song that I expect will always draw me back to college and I hope we play every time we reunite is Layla by Derek and the Dominoes.

Speaking of self-absorbed - we suspected, while in college and I think not entirely jokingly, that our group, self-titled Idiots, was being filmed as a reality show by aliens. Now, this seems like less of a leap these days in which 60% of the shows on TV are reality shows but back in 1992-1993, the only reality show on TV was MTV's The Real World and none of us really watched it ... television in college is both a luxury and a waste of time; I didn't own one and rarely watched until Senior year when Jen Clark moved into my room with her TV and all I remember watching is the Waco showdown.

But we were half-convinced in our narcissistic group-think that we were so fascinating, we must be television fodder to someone, somewhere. Thus, The Idiots. Thus, the theme music, Layla. Not the whole song, just the instrumental portion that is also in the Goodfellas scene where all the bodies of Jimmy Conway's former colleagues are turning up. I've always enjoyed that irony, by the way.

What that piece of music has always meant to me (besides dead mobsters in pink Cadillacs and freezer trucks) is friendship. I had some of the greatest friends in college and while there were plenty of bad times with them, I couldn't have had good times without them. Paraphrasing Aristotle, one cannot have the good without the bad and vice versa. Without bad, it is impossible to discern or define good and good relationships need bad times to be really and truly good. That pretty well sums up my college friendships and even after. And I cherish them more for it. It has been an honor to see these friends grow and learn and love and live. Layla reminds me of that every time I hear it and inevitably puts a smile on my face. And inevitably makes me sit up straighter and smooth my hair ? just in case the aliens are still watching.