Fourth of July 2011

Yes, even though I post misanthropic things about government and politics at times, I still celebrate the Fourth of July. Well, sort of. I mean, I go to celebrations, and I enjoy them. I don’t feel particularly patriotic about it, and never have, with the exception of July 4, 2002, when everyone was still feeling patriotic on a daily basis after the events of 9/11/01. I bought a Boston Pops CD then, and the music made me cry. It was a good release. I still have it on my iPod, and I listen to it every Fourth of July, but it hasn’t stirred the same emotion since then.

This year was my first Fourth of July in Alabama. One of my friends’ coworkers invited us out to her house at Lake Martin for a get-together involving grilled meats, tossed footballs in the driveway, and jubilant children passing out tiny flags for waving. As it turned out, the husband of said coworker has family and roots in North Carolina, although they came here via Michigan most recently. We had a great time talking about differences in barbecue and between the Deep South and the “regular” South. How people are mistaken when they call a cookout a “barbecue,” how we both get challenged on whether North Carolina is even “the South” on a regular basis. (Seriously, have you people never heard of the Mason-Dixon Line? Can you not hear the way I speak?) There were some other coworkers of theirs present with their families and some neighbors from the street passing in and out.

I am a big fan of being near any body of water, no matter how large or small. So, I was very excited when we decided to caravan from their house on a small peninsula down to the neighborhood docks. What a beautiful spot of Earth! We sat out over the water, drinking beers, watching the sunset, craning our necks up at amateur fireworks being set off all around us, and watching kids and dogs swim merrily in the lake nearby. It was breezy and balmy and felt amazing. I can totally see why people dig living out there in the heat of an Alabama summer.

Lake Martin is about 40 minutes from where we live in Auburn, mostly two-lane back roads with nary a house in sight. It always sort of amazes me at how rural everything is here as soon as we get out of the city limits, particularly going west. I don’t feel like I live in the middle of nowhere, but it only takes driving for fifteen minutes to discover that in fact, I do.

According to my research, Lake Martin is actually a lot bigger than I thought it was when I was there. It’s about 40,000 acres and is actually one of the largest artificial lakes in the United States. I’m guessing I thought it was smaller because of the way it’s shaped, dipping in and out of many small peninsulas. I kept thinking I was looking across to the other side of the lake, but I think I was just looking across to other peninsulas. In a way, it reminded me of Lake Lure, which I grew up near in North Carolina, but without the mountains. Only Lake Lure is about 800 acres. Okay, so really not at all the same except they’re both lakes with houses and boats and docks.

Very interestingly, both Lake Lure and Lake Martin feature a rock formation called “Chimney Rock.” Here’s where I get to brag about mine. Alabama’s Chimney Rock is about 60 feet tall, and people jump off it into the water. Which sounds really frickin’ fun. But our Chimney Rock, in North Carolina, is 315 feet, and sits at a mountain-top elevation of 2,280 feet. You do not jump off that. You stand at the top and survey your 75-mile panoramic view. And yes, while a couple people have died jumping off Alabama’s Chimney Rock over the years, and it’s always possible because shit happens, I guarantee you if you jump off our Chimney Rock in North Carolina, you will absolutely die. No two ways about it.

Here’s a pic of Chimney Rock in Alabama:

Here’s the Chimney Rock I grew up with in North Carolina:

Incidentally, I think the North Carolina one looks a lot more like a chimney than Alabama’s. Although for years I’ve thought it looked more like a penis than anything else. Juuuuuuust sayin’!

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The Dogs Have Their Day

One of my favorite things about Alabama so far is Tuskegee National Forest. I am sort of a lazy hiker, meaning I like to be outdoors and in the woods, and I enjoy admiring trees and rocks and animals and streams and the amazing feeling of relaxation this brings me. But I don’t like to work too hard for it. I am seriously appreciating the fact that I can go hike at Tuskegee and have a nice little workout but not feel like I’m going to die, because while the trails are not completely flat, they are also not that strenuous. And, as I have mentioned before, living in the river region of the state means there’s always some good water to visit at the end of the trail, and the prospect of water keeps me moving and motivated.

A couple days ago, I went with a friend and our dogs to the woods for a hike. Her dog, Delilah, and Birdy get along very well together, and we try to let them play a lot. They have similar personalities, although Lilah is still a puppy and more energetic. But Bird has her energetic moments still, even in her middle age. They seem to be a good influence on each other.

So we grabbed some subs and headed out to Macon County for a nice hike that ended at a little secret beach by a creek that she visits frequently. The beach is mainly pebbles, but there is a small sandy spot where we spread our blanket, cranked up the Bob Marley, and ate lunch. We spent a few hours out there letting the dogs run around to their hearts’ content, getting all sandy and nasty. The creek was pretty low because we haven’t had much rain lately, but it was still deep enough in places for the dogs to pretty much submerge themselves. They would alternate soaking, running, and wallowing in dirt. Then, rinse and repeat. We hung out in the creek for a while, where we could walk rock-clay flats in between clear ankle deep water, gently streaming and gurgling.

In the afternoon, it began to thunder, so we checked the weather on her phone (oh, technology!) to discover a severe thunderstorm warning for pretty much right where we were sitting. She was ambivalent about leaving just because of a little rain, but I figured based on where the storm was, we’d probably have just enough time to hike back to the car before the rain started if we left right then. So, we did that, and enjoyed a wonderful, dark, cool, thundery hike back. I love being in the woods just before it storms. We lost a little time when the girls wandered out of eye-shot and we had to wait for them to find their way back to us. But we made it back to the car with just enough time to change back into flip flops before the rain started. It stormed on us all the way back to Auburn and a good while after, but thankfully no tornadoes or even warnings.

We stopped on the way home at the dog wash place, which still didn’t remove all the sand from Birdy’s coat but helped a lot. She was very excited to receive a bag full of organic peanut butter kiss treats after her bath, which she hates. She stood as immobile in the tub as possible while I tried to manhandle her 75 pounds around in it and glared at me angrily when I sprayed her face with water. There was absolutely no way she was coming back into the house coated in creek sand. And it probably washed off some ticks and other gross things as well.

I remarked to my friend on the way home that being in the woods/hiking/relaxing by the water makes me feel the same as if I had just had a massage. Two days later, Birdy (a.k.a. OLD LADY) is just now recovering her energy and for the last 24 hours has not moved from one of two spots in the apartment like she has never been more exhausted in her life. It’s days like that which reinforce my belief that Birdy and I were just meant for each other. I spend a lot of time thinking about making my dog happy, and when we are in the woods, and she gets tired of running and exploring, she will lay down near me so that she is touching me with some part of her body just slightly, and we’ll just look at each other contentedly, silently understanding that this is a good life we have; that we are lucky to have each other. Lucky to be friends.

Gold Shoes, Chicken Salad, and Stingrays

Life in Auburn continues to be pretty entertaining. I am still doing a lot of unpacking and arranging, running errands, and doing laundry. A lot of laundry. But in between the mundane aspects of getting settled into a new place (like needing to go buy something ridiculous like a dust pan, because I expressly remember choosing not to pack something that costs one dollar to save space), I’ve found a few fun things to do as well.

A couple weekends ago, I went to a Valentine’s Masquerade Ball, which was a benefit for a local nonprofit arts group. It was held at a local historic property called Pebble Hill — an antebellum cottage with great Civil War history that is now owned by the university and houses their Center for Arts and Humanities. We went with a big group of friends, and it was so much fun to get dressed up for something for the first time in a long time. I generally don’t enjoy being dressed up and prefer my tattered hemp pants and long-sleeve t-shirts to hose and heels. But every once in a while, it is kinda nice to feel all pretty and feminine and dare I say hot, to get dolled up and accessorize and play that role for an evening.

Adding to the excitement was the fact that this event required an arts-and-crafts session AND thrift store shopping. Carter and I spent an afternoon making our masks together. We bought parts at Hobby Lobby, like the eye covering, handles, and decorations like feathers, flowers, berries, and ribbon. And glorious things like glitter, paint, and glue. Putting the parts together required a little elbow grease. I got to bust out my jewelry making supplies to wire things together. I also got to wield my Dremel (one of my favorite things in life) to cut some of Carter’s metal flower stems and to drill holes in her mask for wiring. I really wish we had filmed it — Carter holding a stem of fake flowers as far away from her face as possible, and me slicing into it with my diamond-chip Dremel bit, sparks flying, trying to shield my eyes. Both of us laughing hysterically at the scene. It was like freaking light-saber action! I felt so powerful! God, I love my Dremel.

I found the perfect red belt to go with my outfit for a dollar at Goodwill and selected an awesome retro-fabulous 1960s-esque dress at Sears for $25 — black brocade, with a knee-length full skirt and cinched waist. Black alone is a little boring to me, so I found a cute pair of red patent-leather peep toe pumps, and accessorized further with a black-white-red chunky bangle bracelet and a white scarf, which I only sort of carried around but did not wear. It did come in handy when taking smoke breaks in the chilly night air, so I wrapped it around my shoulders and felt good that I had an actual practical accessory to my outfit. I have an awesome black beaded clutch that is very turn- of- the-(20th)-century that went perfectly. So the red belt I found at Goodwill actually was from the 1960s — geometric resin buckle on wide elastic — and it accentuated the cinched waist of my dress and complemented the red of my shoes and in my bracelet. When I was completely dressed, with smoky eye-makeup finished, my date said, “You look hot. Is that supposed to be an ‘Alice in Wonder-ho’ look?” I could have died, I laughed so hard! Leave it to a man to equate “retro” with “fairy tale.” Actually, I could totally see why it reminded him of the dress Alice wore, white with the blue sash. And why my red-and-black motif seemed to say “reminiscent of sweet and innocent, but actually fierce and sexy.” I think I’m okay with that! Truth be told, it probably sums up my mojo pretty well. We all had an awesome time enjoying the performance art, music, open bar, and extensive buffet, and afterward we ended up at the Olde Auburn Ale House, a cool bar downtown with live music, not wanting to take off our finery too early.

I’ve decided that so far my favorite restaurant here is Chappy’s Deli. They have a lot of Southern charm, complete with an explanation for being closed on Sundays on the door (“Resting and being with family”). The reason it’s my favorite is that they have the best chicken salad I’ve ever tasted. I’m a connoisseur of chicken salad, among a few other things, like French onion soup, french fries, salmon, grilled chicken sandwiches, guacamole, and fried oysters. These are things I will order over and over again, at various restaurants around the globe in hopes of finding the perfect and best one in each category. It’s like my own private Food Network program that I’m living out, and no one cares but me. Chappy’s chicken salad is perfectly Southern — creamy, smooth (not chunky), without too many additional ingredients to add interest. Essentially mayonnaise, shredded chicken, maybe some finely diced celery and onion, salt, pepper, and a dash of lemon juice. This is served on a kaiser roll, with lettuce, tomato, smoked cheddar, and bacon. Oh, my lord. Best. Chicken salad. Ever.

One day last week, I drove up to Atlanta to meet a friend who was in town interviewing for a fellowship. We spent a really awesome day at the Georgia Aquarium. I absolutely LOVE aquariums. I’ve written here before about my water fascination, and I really think I must have been an ocean dwelling creature in another life because I just connect with it so much. As a kid, I always really loved interactive museums, and as an adult, they’re still one of my favorite things. Museums of any kind, really. I can remember visiting Disney World as a kid and being somewhat disappointed that it was mainly entertainment and not so much educational. And their educational exhibits are kinda boring. I was that nerdy kid who wanted more “Hall of Presidents” type things and less “Tea Cups.”

Anyway, the Georgia Aquarium was amazing. Usually the otters are my favorite, and I was a little disappointed that two of the three otter installations were on hiatus at the time of my visit. The Charleston aquarium has great otters, full of personality. The only ones we saw were trying to nap while their pack leader pranced around preening atop rocks and looking cute for the onlookers. I was very happy to get to go down the kids’ whale slide, as the children waiting in line in front of me kept looking back at me like, “What’s she doing here?” And I got to pet a stingray, which came to me when I beckoned it with fingers underwater and spewed a stream of water at me as I stroked its fins. Who knew stingrays were somewhat intelligent? Not me. We saw beluga whales desperately trying to engage in coitus as if on cue when the exhibit’s lecturer began his spiel. Who knew whale dicks were enormous,, and seem to come out of nowhere, like a dog’s lipstick unrolling? Not me. Although it seems appropriate. I mean, they are whales. Observing the reactions of the people around us at the time was priceless, though. We saw whale sharks that were bigger than the beluga whales, and stingrays that I couldn’t have wrapped my arms around, giant grouper, dragon fish (they look like really colorful and really lazy seahorses), sea turtles (love them!), lion fish, and a whole hall of Amazonian fish and reptiles. It seems like every time I go to an aquarium they’re doing an Amazon installation. Which is cool, because I get to relive my trip to Brazil. There were lots of other exhibits going on that you had to pay extra to go into, but sometime I’d like to do all the rest of it. I’d particularly like to see the dolphins after watching “The Cove.” I have a new respect and admiration for them now, even beyond what I did previously.

It was also great wandering around and catching up with my old friend from high school, who I only see on rare occasions nowadays. It reminded me that some friends are forever, even after things change immensely for both parties in life. There are some people you just connect with, feel at home with, and enjoy every second with. No explanations necessary. No buffering of the true self needed. Birds of some sort of feather…perhaps a spiritual sort. My soul wants to connect with everyone, but it only gets to experience the real connection every few years or so. As a result, I spend a lot of time feeling a sense of loss for the ones who didn’t qualify. But there are few better feelings than seeing one of those old soul connections again, and being reminded that it does happen sometimes if we let it, and we’re looking. I cherish all of mine…the special, the few.

Thanksgiving Recap

My Thanksgiving was awesome. I got to spend a few days at home with my family before heading up to Asheville to visit with a friend and his family. While at home, I got to spend a lot of time cleaning out my grandmother’s house, since she has just gone into a nursing home.

The people who live next door to her house have a dog that they keep in a lot in their back yard. His name is Sandy. He never gets fed or loved or brought in out of the cold. I fed him while I was there and put blankets in his little house to shield him from some of the cold air.

Sandy is slowing dying. He is starving. You can see each one of his ribs. He has frostbite from the cold. The tips of his ears are black. He may have cancer or some other terrible health thing going on. He has a growth on his stomach and some sores on his hips. When I take him food, he practically rips it out of my hands. He is a sweet, loving dog. He presses himself against the chicken wire of his lot to be petted and loved while shivering against the cold.

I have laid awake many a night worrying about this dog, but my mother forbid my from kidnapping him, which is what I really wanted to do when I found out that calling animal control would only result in him being left there or taken and put down quickly. The legal options suck. Many people have encouraged me to just take him. But what’s holding me back is the possibility that I may end up living in that house (rent-free since I’m unemployed), and I can’t very well steal the next-door neighbor’s dog and then show back up living with it next door. Particularly in a place where you are liable to get shot for being on someone else’s property — never mind taking their property.

Animal control either hasn’t done anything or hasn’t been able to find the people at home, because Sandy is still out there starving in the cold. My mom says she might try to talk to the owners to see if they’ll agree to give him up. I can’t understand why someone would want to own a dog they don’t care about and don’t want to take care of. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want someone else to have it who would give it love and food and a warm place to sleep.

I didn’t grow up with dogs, but since I have owned one, I have not been able to accept animal cruelty or abuse in any way. My mom says things like, “You don’t just kidnap a child you know is being abused — you have to go through the proper legal channels.” And I think things like, “But that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you do have to take matters into your own hands.” It’s not like someone who is leaving their dog outside in the winter to starve, freeze, and die is going to hunt me down and press charges if I take it and give it something better. Right?

Anyways. I saw them feed him exactly once, by throwing a plate of scraps over the fence to him. His water bowls are all full of leaves and dirt. When I’m not there, my dad goes down and feeds him. Animal control has been called by several parties, but so far nothing has happened. The rescue agencies there say the only way they can foster a dog is if the owner willingly relinquishes it. And I’m also afraid that Sandy needs more medical attention and care than I would be able to pay for. So for now, he is still stuck out there, and we are doing what we can here and there. When he hears our cars pull into the driveway, he peeps his head around the corner of his little house to see if we’re coming with food and gentle stroking and soothing words. When we do, he looks up at us with huge, sad eyes and shakes.

After spending Thanksgiving dinner with my own family on the farm in Mount Vernon, I headed up to Asheville to hang out with my friend and his family for a few days.

The night I arrived, I met some of his relatives on their way out, and ended up with a glass of wine in my hand and sitting in the den watching Punkin Chunkin with my friend and his stepdad on the Discovery Channel.

Apparently watching Punkin Chunkin is a holiday tradition for them that I had never heard of. It’s some contest in Delaware where teams drunkenly compete to see how far they can launch a pumpkin, using various apparatuses. I can totally see why people get into this based on the engineering involved. But the whole time I was thinking, “I have family in Delaware, and there is no way they know about this type of redneck shit going down in their state.” It was pretty durn fun to watch, though.

After more pie and more wine and more Punkin Chunkin, the evening found my friend and I in his childhood basement bedroom, where I used to read the homework reading assignments from his history book to him, playing Candy Land Bingo and drinking Cold Mountain Ale (local brew provided by his mom, because she is awesome like that). And watching Friday Night Lights, which is a TV show we’re addicted to about high school football in Texas.

The next day we drove around town reminiscing about when we both used to live there, and marveling at the new things that have been built since we left, and dreaming about a time when we’ll be able to afford to live there again. Had to get back home for the Auburn/Alabama football game, which his mom made like a Superbowl Party, complete with our favorite beers and buffet of chili cheese dip and all kinds of other good things to eat. We all had our Auburn game day shirts on and were completely psyched when Auburn won. War Eagle!

That evening, my friend’s mom took us out for a night on the town. We went on a tour of local microbreweries just to check them out since we hadn’t seen them. We went to the Biltmore Estate for a little while to see the new village there. It’s called Antler something and there are all these little shops and a museum, where we watched a short video on the history of the estate. After that we went to the winery.

And from there we went to a restaurant on the square called Cedric’s, where we warmed ourselves up, had some beers and decided what to do next. Cedric’s is named after the Vanderbilts’ beloved Saint Bernard, and there are pictures of him all over. There was a pretty good live blues guitarist playing that night, so that was fun. But we wanted to go downtown. So we didn’t stay too long.

Once downtown, it was a tough call as to where to go. We ended up having dinner at the Lexington Avenue Brewery, because it was a new addition to the scene since we’d both lived there. It was very cool, and crowded, so we sat outside on the patio under the heaters to eat, and that was kinda fun. The waitress asked me and my friend if we were family because we both ordered the same beer and red meat dishes, medium rare. Had to correct her that in fact no, we are not related. This helped my friend’s efforts to look down her shirt when she was leaning over the table, and I will admit, her boobs were worth staring at. So no grief was given. She was one of those Asheville girls who you know can’t possibly be FROM Asheville but whose sexy hippieness is  keeping her employed with good tips anyway. What? I’m not jealous.

The food there was good but the beer wasn’t that great, so we decided to go elsewhere before heading home. We wanted to go to Asheville Pizza on Merrimon to relive old times, but my friend’s mom said the bar they just opened downtown was cool. So we went there instead to check out the new place and scenery. It was cool. They have some new beers on tap which were good, and some new t-shirts, but they were sold out of those. It’s very industrial, but I liked it. We had some great conversation there, and some good beer. I got to have my old favorite — Shiva — which I had not tasted in years, and it was delightful.

Afterwards we stopped by the huge new Ingles on Tunnel Road (I can’t believe there’s a huge new Ingles on Tunnel Road) so my friend’s mom could pick up a potato to put in the homemade vegetable soup she was making for him to be able to take back with him. Then we went home and got ready to go back out.

My friend and I decided we had to go to Scandals to see what it was like now. We used to spend almost every Friday and Saturday night there at one or more of their bars, and we wanted to at least see a drag show for old times’ sake while we were there. It turned out that the multiple clubs we used to visit are all separate entrances now, so we just went to Scandals. We saw the drag show, and although it was not as fun as when we knew all the performers, it was still pretty fun. We still knew one of them.

It was a far cry from the days of sneaking underage shots through the mouths of friends and sneaking off to make out in various bathrooms and chain smoking in the pool room, but it was a fun night. We felt kinda old, though. We sat on the sidelines watching the dance floor, while saying things like, “Can you believe we used to come here and dance like that?”

Afterward, we went to Denny’s on Patton, which was always our old refueling station after a night at the club. We were going to get breakfast like we always used to, but there was a table full of redneck kids behind us making foul and hateful comments about some kids at the table next to us, and we had to leave so my friend didn’t beat the shit out of them. So we retreated back to Kenilworth Lake, to his parents’ house, for more Friday Night Lights and eating our take-out bacon and eggs on the water bed that I hate because it’s so hard to get in and out of. Seriously, you shouldn’t need abs of steel just for getting in and out of bed, for fuck’s sake.

Happy New Year!

One would think that being out of work would mean so much more time for fun things like blogging. Unfortunately, the universe took over my life for the past couple months, and I have been out of town more than I’ve been home. And away from a reliable computer with decent internet access more than not. Hence the reason for my being MIA lately. But I’m here now (for how long remains to be seen), and I’m blogging! Yes! Best way to ring in the new year! After this I’m going to do some catching up posts, but right now I want to go over the highlights and lowlights of my 2010, which I am not so sad to see exit through the gift shop.

This year,

1) I reconnected with more than one old friend, and I am a better person for it.

2) I got laid off from my job.

3) I moved out of my apartment and into a house I love but am close to no longer being able to afford due to number 2 above.

4) My grandmother went into a nursing home.

5) I started a charity project that has yet to make any money.

6) I traveled A LOT but only regionally.

7) I met some awesome new people at home and in other towns.

8) I fell in love for the fourth time in my life.

9) I let go of old flame number 2, to the best of my ability, which was the only one still hanging on to my brain.

10) I learned quite a bit about football.

11) I tried and failed to rescue an abused dog.

12) I was reminded that sometimes you lose no matter how great you do.

13) I was reminded that when life closes a door, it often opens a window.

14) I went to some really good concerts and music festivals.

15) I saw in person a dream come true for a friend of mine.

16) I witnessed the birth of (and helped deliver) my goddaughter.

17) I learned how to sew properly.

18) I developed relationships with extended family members that I am grateful for.

19) I learned how to cook the world’s best filet mignon in my own kitchen without using a grill.

20) I was reminded that life just goes on, no matter what good or bad happens. It keeps going. And I keep thinking of new adventures I want to experience and trying to figure out how to make them happen.

There’s a whole lot more that happened this year, but those are probably the main highlights, broken down to a basic level. I don’t make resolutions, because I think they’re crap. So I will leave you with the words of one Benjamin Franklin of rap legend (ha).

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”

 

Good Lyrics: We Belong

Posting this will probably date me very unfortunately. This song was on my first favorite pop music album, around age 5, because my older (and way cooler) big-girl neighbors were all listening to it. I was the youngest initiate in that first neighborhood circle of friends. Also attributed to their influence is a story my cousin likes to tell at holiday family gatherings about me running outside the house (around the same age) wearing a white lace glove and screaming, “Madonna’s on MTV! Madonna’s on MTV!” And when everyone came to see what I was being so spastic about, they saw the “Like a Virgin” video. I”m positive I had no idea what she was singing about, but I did know — because of the neighbor girls — that Madonna was cool and I should like her. LOL. Anyway, Pat Benatar was my first pop love. This song actually still speaks to me, 25+ years later, and it’s speaking to me in particular today. Heard it on the radio while driving home on a road trip and contemplating the trip’s events, and realized that it pretty much sums things up.

We Belong
by Pat Benatar

We Belong, We Belong to the light
Many times I’ve tried to tell you
Many times I’ve cried alone
Always I’m surprised how well you
Cut my feelings to the bone

Don’t want to leave you really
I’ve invested too much time
To give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate your mind

CHORUS:
We Belong to the light
We Belong to the thunder
We Belong to the sound of the words
We’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace
For worse or for better
We Belong, We Belong
We Belong together

Maybe it’s a sign of weakness
When I don’t know what to say
Maybe I just wouldn’t know
What to do with my strength anyway
Have we become a habit
Do we distort the facts
Now there’s no looking forward
Now there’s no turning back
When you say

CHORUS

Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream
Clear your mind and do your best
To try and wash the palette clean
We can’t begin to know it
How much we really care
I hear your voice inside me
I see your face everywhere
Still you say

CHORUS

Birthdays, Phish, Traveling

I’ve been taking advantage of my recent forced unemployment by traveling a lot — something I love to do but never seem to have time for. It’s lovely not to have an excuse to stay home now. Traveling is one of the things I love most about life, even if it’s not very far away. Lately I’ve been reminded that I haven’t been doing nearly enough of it in a while.

So last week I had a birthday…the 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday to be exact. Ha! My friend Jeff took me out for a kick-ass Japanese dinner and gave me a beautiful silver initial necklace that I love (it looks like a wax seal), and we watched the new Robin Hood movie with Russell Crowe — one of my favorite stories and kind of Jeff since he had already seen it.

I went back to my hometown for a few days to visit with my family and friends. I got to see my goddaughter for the first time since she came home from the hospital, and she is already looking more like her dad and acting more like her mom. My mom makes me a birthday cake every year, and usually I choose coconut, because she makes the world’s best coconut cakes. This is also my dad’s birthday cake of choice. But this year things were a little rushed so I opted for something easier for my poor mama — a heath bar chocolate sheet cake. It was fabulous. My cousins, grandmother, and aunt came over for pizza and cake, and it was so nice to hang out with them since we only see each other two or three times a year.

This is the first year in history I’ve felt completely ambivalent about my birthday and didn’t even really care about celebrating it at all. I feel so old. I know that’s silly to say. In the grand scheme of things I’m not old, and age is just a number anyway. I suppose I feel a bit down because now that I am “in my thirties” my life is not at all where I imagined it would or should be by now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But at times I do feel like quite a failure. I have been reminding myself for years that everyone has their own time line, but I still have trouble believing that to the fullest extent rather than feeling like it’s a cop out, or an excuse I’m making for why my life sucks.

But when it comes to maturity, I don’t feel old AT ALL. I have friends who are 10 years younger than me that I completely relate to, and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing, but it is what it is. I feel like there are two distinct sides to me — one that is very mature and wise beyond her years, who is fairly responsible and shit, and another side that is still a kid and just wants to have fun, party, break all the rules and be rebellious and live it up while I am still unencumbered by attachments and responsibilities. Maybe that’s why my mom says people don’t really become adults until they have children. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t want children. LOL. But seriously? When I’m not at least aware of current pop music, I feel like a geezer, and my younger friends keep me in the loop. Pop music is like my crack — I’m so ashamed that I like it but I can’t quit. (Luckily, I listen to lots of “good” music also.) And when I hang out with them, I still have to say, “Wait, who is this?” every five seconds. Anyway, enough about being old.

I’m really excited about this coming weekend because I get to do some more traveling to Charleston with my friend Swampman for Phish! We are only going to one of the two shows because he (fortunately) still has a job to go to on Friday, but Saturday will be amazing with communing with fellow Phans and camping and hiking in Congaree National Park. Swamp and I don’t go anywhere we can’t incorporate a camping/hiking excursion. Also promise a post on that after the fact. With pictures.

Random Guilty Pleasure: I-85

I imagine it is a common motherly trait to be overly cautious and paranoid and worrisome. I think my mom takes it to a new level, though. Any time I do anything remotely adventurous — well, what I consider normal adult activities, she considers adventurous — her first response to the mere mention of it is worst-case scenario, what could possibly go wrong, what I should be worried about, and why I should reconsider doing it in the first place.

You should have heard her when I told her I was going to the Amazon. “What if you get malaria? What if you get lost?” What if what if what if? If I tell her I’m going to a party, it’s “Watch your drink — people can drug you.” If I tell her I’m going shopping, it’s “Don’t talk on your phone in the parking lot. That’s what they look for.” If I tell her I think I might like to live in Colorado one day, it’s “But it’s so far away and it snows too much and we would never see you again because we can’t afford to fly out there all the time and you might get there and hate it and it’s so expensive to move!” If I say I’m going for a run, it’s “BY YOURSELF? Don’t go after dark, and be sure to take Birdy and your phone with you.”

I’m convinced she was a guilt-inflicting Jewish mother in a previous life. Actually, a famous holocaust survivor, Rena Kornreich Gelissen, once told her she looked exactly like her mother, who died in a concentration camp. “You have my mother’s eyes,” she said.

I have heard the phrase “Ohhhh, Maegan. You’d better. Be. Careful.” so many times that I have started waiting until after the fact to tell her about things. Like, when I went to Alabama the other weekend, I couldn’t tell her. The Alabama friends said, “You can’t tell your mom you’re driving to Alabama alone? You’re thirty fucking years old!” (I know. Believe me, this is my thought also.)

Obviously my friends knew where I was going, and I told my dad so someone in the family would know where I was in case of emergency, and because I knew I could trust him not to say anything. Because he gets it and he lives with her and he needs to keep his household drama to a minimum. Like a good child, I let her discover it on her own. On Facebook.

I think my mom made an effort when I was a kid to not be too overprotective and to let me experience things. My best friend’s parents were way more overprotective than mine. They wouldn’t even let her go to the beach with my family until we were in college, because, AND I QUOTE, “Something might happen.” But my parents let me do all kinds of cool stuff when I was a teenager. When I was a senior in high school, they even let me go to my college boyfriend’s fraternity formal for the weekend in a city 4 hours away. That’s pretty cool.

In my adulthood, she seems to be more open about expressing her fear at the mere notion of me existing in the world alone. I try to tell her that she should trust in her parenting skills and take comfort in the thought that she (and my dad) taught me how to make good decisions. I mean, I am a pretty level-headed person, generally. I’ve heard her warnings enough that it’s the first thing that pops into my mind as well when I think of doing something. I’m just able to suppress it so I can live my life and have fun without being completely afraid of everything.

Want to know the completely baffling part? She actually wants to go skydiving one day. I do, too, and I think I am going to do it for my birthday this year. Nick and I have the same birthday, so we are trying to do something crazy fun. But part of me thinks I should go with her so she actually does it, and take pictures and put them all over the internet to document her one adventurous, thrill-seeking moment. When she and my dad were in college, they talked about moving to Australia. What happened to that person?? I could have been an Aussie!

When I was younger, I was taught to fear most busy freeways more than most things in life, but I-85 in particular. My grandparents lived in Atlanta for a while, and when we would go down to visit, my nervous-wreck of a mother (I say that with love) would squeal and fake-brake and white-knuckle the oh-shit bar and caution my dad to slow down and watch out for that truck the entire 4 hours it took us to get there. Then, while we were there, she would talk incessantly about how fast everyone in Georgia drives — like they think 85 is the speed limit and not the name of the road. And how it’s no wonder there are so many accidents on it all the time. And how all the cops must be downtown busting up drug dealers because they sure weren’t giving out any speeding tickets.

Back home, where there were no roads more than four lanes wide, she beat into my head which intersections were considered “baaaaaad” way before I could drive myself (as in “That’s a baaaaaaad intersection,” every time we drove through it). Like where my grandparents’ road met the Rock Store in Shiloh before they put in the stop light. Or the intersection of Hwy 221 by George White’s store in Oakland. Or the place where Hudlow intersects Whitesides Road on the way to my cousins’ horse farm in Mount Vernon before they put in the caution light that senses when a car enters the danger zone and flashes to let you know to wait.

Inevitably it was a “bad” intersection because  someone she went to high school with or rode horses with or someone my cousins went to high school with or rode horses with was killed at it…probably because they pulled out in front of someone or were drunk. They were usually places with blind hills. Or blind curves. And when you live in the foothills of the mountains, blind hills and curves are pretty common.

Anyway, I used to be very nervous about driving on I-85 due to said instillation of fear. But on my road trip down to Alabama last weekend, it was mostly I-85 the whole way, and I found myself marveling how odd it was that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. Not only was I not afraid, but I found myself actually enjoying it. I love how fast everyone drives on that road, because you get to your destination faster, and you don’t worry so much about getting a ticket because there is always SOMEONE going faster than you. Who doesn’t like driving fast? It’s fun. I’m a careful driver — I don’t follow too close (mainly because I perpetually need to have my brake pads replaced and don’t get around to it), I always wear my seat belt, and I stay observant and alert and defensive.

My mom (like most parents) would say, “It’s not you I worry about! It’s everyone else!” Whatareyougonnado. I’m pretty sure that just keeping up with traffic on I-85 shaved about an hour to an hour-and-a-half off my travel time in both directions. And the only accident I saw, both coming and going, was in Alabama on the part of I-85 that is probably the flattest, calmest, and least trafficked, where people actually pretty much do the speed limit.

While I was driving, I kept having to squash this guilt that was rising up my spine at the thought of what my mother would say if she knew I was embracing I-85 instead of being terrified. And I finally just decided, you know what? Screw it. You’re chalking it up to a guilty pleasure. And you’re listening to Eminem’s offensive lyrics on your iPod, and you’re stopping in Braselton, Georgia for gas AFTER DARK. And you’re not getting home til AFTER MIDNIGHT. And it was okay. Because I am “thirty fucking years old.” And I do what I want, yo. Just don’t tell my mama.

Crafty Love! Road Trip

This week I’m working a ton so I can take Friday off and begin my road trip to the deep South and spend the weekend with some friends. I got a hilarious voicemail last night while I was sleeping: “Booooo! You’re not answering! I guess I’ll get over it. Oh! I keep forgetting we have an hour time difference, yo! And you’re probably trying to get some sleep so that you can get up early and stay late at work tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day. So that you can come hang out with me on Friday. Sorry!”

I am so ready for a real change of scenery and to get the heck out of Dodge for a couple days. As much as I love a good road trip with friends, I also really enjoy traveling alone. It’s not as entertaining, but being alone with your thoughts for seven hours is pretty good meditation time. Plus, you get to listen to whatever music you choose. I enjoy feeling like I am feeding my independent, adventurous spirit. Birdy is going to be vacationing at Auntie Jenny’s house with all the animals at the zoo. Thanks, Auntie! She is in love with most people. Except small children and people on bicycles.

I found some great road trip stuff on Etsy today, so check it out!

Road Trip Chipboard Album
$25.99 by Sara Nicole Designs
I kept a travel journal when I went to Europe, and I really regret not having done so on all my other trips.

Car Litter Bag
$19 by The Mod Mobile
My friends are really kind not to mention the disastrous state my car stays in. But they all know I need one of these more than most people.

Diane Arbus Quote Fine Art Print
$30 by 3 Lambs Graphics
I love this quote and totally relate.

Postcard Passport Cover
$5 by Sugar Cane Train 808
A friend of mine collects vintage postcards, which I think is awesome. Love this passport cover.

Phish 2010!

Just got back from two amazing nights of Phish in Raleigh and Charlotte with Swampman. Our summer tradition continues! I have to say I think set list-wise these shows were way better than the ones we saw last summer. The weather was awesome — lately it’s been in the 90s here, but we ended up with breezy high 70s both nights, which was so pleasant and made my happy place that much happier. And the crowds both nights were wonderful — a great representation of the Phamily. Smiles everywhere, kindness everywhere. I love being surrounded by good people who think like me, live like me, dress like me, dance like me, and are made happy by what makes me happy!

This tour made me really appreciate living in Winston, because it really is a good central location. Two hours to Raleigh, and an hour-and-a-half to Charlotte. Actually, it took us longer to get to Charlotte than Raleigh because of Fourth of July beach traffic, which sucked. But Swamp let me sleep in the car a lot instead of doing my normal stereo duty, and he even bought some new CDs for the drive that he knew I would like so I didn’t have to focus on changing them out after my recent weeks of working overtime. Very considerate. We listened to a lot of the new Robert Randolph album, some Sound Tribe Sector 9, and of course, Phish.

The lot scene in Raleigh was cooler than Charlotte in some ways. We got there early enough to cruise Shakedown before heading in and check out all the cool glass work and jewelry. These days it’s all about feather earrings and druzy crystal pendants made from the inside of geodes (awesome), in addition to the standard blown glass. I could have spent a lot of money there if I had had it. Got complimented on my necklace by someone from Asheville — she thought is was amber but I corrected her. Actually carnelian. And got to tell my story about the history of carnelian from ancient Roman times. Tons and tons of good kind veggie vendors that made me SO HUNGRY and good beers for cheap. Got a couple of dollar waters on the way in and breezed through the bag check thanks to my skirt’s secret pocket, which has a broken zipper, but that was fixed easily by Swamp’s random safety pin on the tag of his shirt. Eagle Scouts rule!

The lawn at Walnut Creek is Raleigh is very steep, and I could actually see well, which is abnormal because I’m short and usually have a view of the backs of tall guys’ heads. We had a perfect spot right in the middle.

Raleigh Set List:

Set 1: Llama, Roses Are Free, Kill Devil Falls, Time Loves a Hero, Alaska, Water in the Sky, Runaway Jim > The Moma Dance > The Divided Sky, Cavern

Set 2: Backwards Down the Number Line > Halley’s Comet -> Light > Fluffhead > Have Mercy, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone -> Free > Wading in the Velvet Sea, The Squirming Coil > Suzy Greenberg

Encore: Boogie On Reggae Woman

I thought that was pretty much the best show I’ve ever seen. Already have it downloaded if you want a copy. (Just leave me a comment.)  I think (although y’all know my memory is not the best) it was my first live Roses Are Free. Runaway Jim is my second to least favorite Phish song (besides Maze…I just can’t get into the coked out songs because I am a mellow person, yo), so I took that opportunity to go get a beer, which Swamp anticipated on the first chord, naturally, and was already fishing out my money that he was holding by the time I said, “I think I’m gonna go….” LOVED getting to hear all my favorites from the newest album — Alaska, Kill Devil Falls, and Backwards Down the Number Line. Backwards is a me-and-Swamp song because of the whole calling your best friend on their birthday thing. I think the only times I stopped dancing were Runaway Jim and Velvet Sea, which is also not one of my favorites to see live, although it is a great song for chilling at home. I just prefer dancing music live. Upon hearing this statement, one of my friends said, “I thought you didn’t dance!” Because the last time we went to a club together I said that. But I am a hippie dancer, not a dance club dancer. Unless I’m really drunk, which doesn’t happen that often.

Halley’s Comet was the best I’ve ever heard with great sing-along power. Also, Fluffhead. WOW! And then Free! YES! The Have Mercy cover was better than the original Mighty Diamonds version…I love it when they reggae it out, man. Swamp was really proud to have called Squirming Coil, and I actually was really happy to hear Suzy Greenberg, which is not usually my favorite. And the Boogie On encore ROCKED MY FACE!

Lot scene in Charlotte was a bit more mellow, which is not a bad thing necessarily. Had to bum some cups off some neighbors. Met a guy from Maine who had been to all the festivals up there, so we shared IT stories, and I talked jewelry with one of the girls they were with who was wearing an awesome handmade silver pendant with inset stones made by one of her friends.

One of my personal highlights was seeing a family pass by the car — two parents with a middle-school aged daughter. The daughter was walking with her head down and arms crossed, and the mom was saying to her, “Honey, this is so exciting! Your first Phish show!” I felt really old in that moment. That could so be me. Would be me if I had a kid that age. Awesome that they are introducing her to coolness. Reminded me of my first concert experience that my parents took me to in Charlotte to see U2 and Pixies. Hell yeah! Looking back I guess that was not the coolest I’ve ever felt, but I sure do appreciate that now. I hope that girl had a good time and that she’ll be blogging about that experience (or telling her college friends or something) in the future so people know how cool her parents are. Some of Swamp’s students have started getting into Phish because he plays it for them during homeroom, and we were paranoid we might see some of them there. But I guess their parents don’t condone it because it’s evil hippie drug music. Much in the same way they don’t like the fact that their kids are all about their cool, young teacher.

Charlotte was way more packed, which made for excellent socializing and dancing on the lawn. You make a whole lot more new friends that way. 🙂 We also remembered the patchwork quilt that night, which is a huge conversation piece and friend-maker. Everyone wants a piece of that action at set break after grinding toes into grass and dirt.

Charlotte’s set list:

Set 1: Buried Alive > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother, Back on the Train, The Wedge, Mexican Cousin, Stash, Sparkle, Chalk Dust Torture

Set 2: Drowned, 46 Days, Twenty Years Later, The Lizards, Carini, Fuck Your Face, Also Sprach Zarathustra, You Enjoy Myself -> Proud Mary[1]

Encore: A Day in the Life

Wolfman’s Brother is Swamp’s all-time favorite, so it was cool to get that. For the first time ever, I called a song before he did (Wedge), and I was very disappointed Spar wasn’t there to high-five me and commemorate the 0ccasion. Since Swamp has been a fan for much longer than I have, it’s pretty much impossible to trump him, and I FINALLY DID IT! I was ecstatic. AC/DC Bag was a good sing-along. Mexican Cousin is one of mine and Swamp’s songs because of this lyric: “I’m awful sorry you got pissed! Just have to cross you off the list of my true friends. And tequila’s where it starts and where it ends!” Because we’re always getting in stupid fights and then making up and realizing our friendship is more important.

Highlights for me were Chalk Dust, YEM, and the a capella Proud Mary jam, which everyone was singing along to and jamming out and dancing hard. Made lots of friends on the lawn, from a cool kid with a YEM shirt I wanted and who gave lots of hugs and shared nugs (and stole my lighter, but that’s okay), to a guy behind us with a new Phish motif tattoo that honored his group of friends…a Penny Lane lookalike from Almost Famous and a  happy guy who COULD NOT STOP smiling. I felt the same way!

At one point, I went to get a beer, and there was all this cash on the ground in front of the beer stand. I picked it up and gave it to someone behind the counter, saying, “Can you hold this back here in case someone comes back for it?” Her response? “You guys are awesome. Out of all the concerts I’ve worked here, this is by far the coolest crowd. You’re just really good people!” I said, “I hope you’re also enjoying the music, because this is an awesome show so far!” And she said, “Yeah, I like this better than most of what I hear. Great night! Great crowd!”

And that pretty much sums up the Phish show experience for me. Random people being turned on by goodness and positivity and awesome music.

All I felt all night was love and happiness and joy and positivity and bliss. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that? I love my Phamily!

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