Friday, May 31, 2013

Boston Strong Concert Wraps Mays Month of Music

Almost every single artist listed on this concert promo picture showed up last night at the Boston Garden to celebrate a city as diverse and amazing as this lineup. This morning my friend Keith (of Williams Street fame) called to give me a recap of the Boston Strong concert held last night to benefit the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. I was psyched to hear all about it.

How much awesomeness can one person fit into a ten minute phone call? A lot.

All I know is that he ended the call saying “I’ve seen everyone and this was by far the best fucking concert I’ve ever been to in my life.” And for a guy who has probably seen everyone live, that’s sure saying a lot.

He said that Boston (the band) opened the show and then the surprises really began.

I’m a former Blockhead, this isn’t a secret or anything but because of my former obsessive love of all things New Kids on the Block, Keith sent me a text last night to say that in my honor he’d rock out to the now-man band. I thought that was a pretty sweet gesture, of course I also thought he was full of crap. Well this morning he was adamant saying that the band actually won him over with their live performance in their Bruins jerseys and with their fun vibe.

I said, see, that’s why I used to love them!

So then Keith says that the Dropkick Murphys end up out on stage with the New Kids. Um, I’m sorry but holy awesome!!! When will that ever happen again? Never. The answer you’re looking for is never. It isn’t like those two bands have anything in common other than the city they call home. The likelihood they would grace a stage together again in this lifetime is none to zilch.

But they weren’t the only crazy fun pairing of the night. NKOTB also rocked out with Boyz II Men, Doug Flutie and Tedy Bruschi talked to the crowd (OMG that’s like football nirvana thank you very much!) alongside Julian Edelman and freaking Boomer (Chris Berman), Keith pointed out that James Taylor and Carole King were the second to last act of the night. No shock that Aerosmith closed the show. What is kind of shocking is that just about everyone from the night came out to close the show with them.

Dane Cook, Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffet, Extreme, and New Kids on the Block all on the same stage at the same time? Seriously how surreal would that be? I can’t even fathom it. And my friend was there to see it all happen. Lucky bastard.

Although I suppose running into Dane Cook at Nicola Pizza in Arlington a couple days before the show would've been just as exciting.


But probably not nearly as likely to turn my friend into a (dare I say) fan (?) of NKOTB.

Ok, to be fair he will probably never do anything like this 

(in my defense it was Keith who forced me to wear the jacket on my wedding day)

But just hearing him say how much he enjoyed the whole show made me smile. I was living vicariously through you last night my friend and I’m so glad you had such a great time.

But as a side note, Keith, I still think you should’ve gotten her number…

May’s Month of Music
Every Boston Entertainer – And then Some!
Some info was gleaned from boston.com but I can no longer access the website without registering for updates so I’m sorry that I can’t provide a link to the story. I didn’t use any quotes though, just looked at photos to see who was with who. All photos on this post are either mine or from Keith with permission.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

From Creative Non-Fiction to Freelance Writing in One Easy Step

With only two days left on my self-imposed May’s Month of Music challenge I’m finding motivation for writing over here has come to a screeching halt. Maybe I ran out of stories to go along with the music? Whatever it is I think my creative non-fiction brain is just shut down for a while.

And that’s okay. I’ve discovered something else I’m really enjoying in the writer world and reaping the benefits of it being in my life. I started Freelance Writing and just the other day I got paid for my very first article. (Okay, to be fair I once made about $2 in ad revenue when writing for a blog that is no longer operational but this is an article.)

The more I uncover about this fascinating industry the more I’m realizing that I’ve actually been Freelancing on Green Leaf Reviewer, EcoEtsy, and my Jenn Flynn-Shon Author blog for a collective of about five years. In addition to those blogs I’ve also written a bunch of articles for eZine and HubPages. So it finally hit me about three weeks ago…

I’ve been Freelancing for five years for FREE!!!

Uh, that’s not cool. And I needed to figure out what to do about it.

Last night while I was at my Scottsdale Society of Women Writers meeting one of the ladies got up and started talking about how she’s doing something similar right now after spending years on books. Because, as she said, sometimes writing isn’t only about helping other people, sometimes it’s just about making some money.

My head almost snapped right off from nodding so furiously.

I’m not planning to be one of those monkeys who write these rambling 300 word paragraphs that make no sense and are terribly written just to make a quick buck though. I plan to do the same level of quality in my writing and research as any and all of those resources above. And so what if I only make enough to buy a cup of coffee every day (right now). It’s sure more than I was making before.

The cool thing about Freelance Writing is I can be as aggressive as I want and the more I write, pitch and land the more I can get quality content out into the world and quality duckets into my PayPal account.

The song inspiring today’s post is basically about getting over yourself so you can find the “me” you were meant to be. Maybe it’s exactly the lesson I need to learn right now. In fact this line:

Looking everywhere only to find that it’s not the way I’d imagined it all in my mind.”

Is kind of exactly where I’m at with all of this writer’s life stuff.

At first it seemed hard to justify moving onto a new facet of the Writing industry after spending so many years working on fiction. But I finally had to realize that no matter how much I beat my head against the keyboard I was just spinning my wheels, digging into nothing. I have some amazing friends and family behind me and supporting my writing but I will wide-open admit that even though I love that I’m also looking for the financial validation of all my hard work.

Freelance Writing lets me explore that world. I can work as much or as little as I want to make as much or as little as I want (essentially). There are a billion assignments for Writers out there I just have to learn how to find them, pitch them and land them.

Getting over fear of making a living instead of starving to death on my complete lack of royalties might sound ridiculous to some but it was exactly where I was at in my head – a sense of obligation to keep doing what I’d always done even if it never brought the results I wanted.

Yeah, I’m over that now.

I kind of feel like Jerry Maguire telling Bob Sugar to go pound sand:

Now I want all my clients, and yours too.”

Just because I Freelance doesn’t mean I give up fiction writing completely. In fact one of the main reasons I’m doing this is so I can put some extra money in the bank in order to fund my future book projects. And like I said, I can work the hours I do or don’t want.

For now I’m still learning so much so I’m only writing part time (like VERY PT, about five to seven hours a week). But I already managed to get paid for an article. Before I even knew what I was doing. Before I even knew the best places/ways to pitch.

It was under $4 but a completely successful experiment – if I can sell something before I even know what I’m really doing imagine what I can do when I know how.

And the monetary validation for working hard on something I enjoy writing about was a nice feeling.

My article is called Natural Ways to Kill Weeds without Breaking the Bank and comes from a place I hold near and dear, my eco-conscious lifestyle.

Writing about Green stuff just comes naturally so maybe for once I have found the “Somewhere I Belong”. At least as far as my writing goes. I sure plan to keep doing it, and enjoy the benefits of selling work, for as long as I can.

May’s Month of Music
Somewhere I Belong – Linkin Park (Pandora first track)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thanks to the Armed Forces

Today I’m just going to post the lyrics to a song I think about when I think of the armed forces. I’m thankful to the many men and women who protect our nation so selflessly. They have a hard life sometimes and it’s important to remind them how much we appreciate their efforts. The song isn’t a very happy one but it sounds like a pretty realistic portrayal of war. While everyone in the USA celebrates a day off today remember to thank a soldier!

Rooster
Alice in Chains

Ain't found a way to kill me yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to nowhere
Wife and kids household pet
Army green was no safe bet
The bullets scream to me from somewhere

Here they come to snuff the rooster, aww yeah, hey yeah
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no, ya know he ain't gonna die (x2)

Walkin' tall machine gun man
They spit on me in my home land
Gloria sent me pictures of my boy
Got my pills 'gainst mosquito death
My Buddy's breathin' his dyin' breath
Oh god please won't you help me make it through

Here they come to snuff the rooster, aww yeah
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain't gonna die
No, no, no ya know he ain't gonna die

May’s Month of Music
Rooster – Alice in Chains (Not a first track, just appropriate to the day. Happy Memorial Day everyone.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Creative Non-fiction: Molded by Music or Just Moldy?

Yesterday I was sorting through some of my posts from the past nine months to see if there was anything worthy (in my eyes) of being included on my creative non-fiction tab. That’s where posts live that I think are the best I’ve written for this blog. While sorting I found that, not only in May but many times in the past I’ve written posts inspired by the music that shaped my life.

Not a huge shocker I suppose. For me, writing and music have almost always been a happy couple. When I started writing back in the day I sometimes had the boom box blaring. I’d fling myself face down on my bed and scribble blue ink into a journal for pages and pages. Only pausing long enough to flip the cassette. Now I find it hard to write to music when I’m working on fiction. But I don’t usually have trouble when I’m writing up creative non-fiction for my blog.

Creative non-fiction is just that - artistically treated stories about things that actually happened to me. I sometimes enjoy writing about times in my past; when a memory hits me just right. Music always manages to conjure up some kind of memory. Whether I want to tell the story is another story.

After finding a few decently written posts yesterday, that are now freshly linked, you’d think I could come up with something fantastic for today. But I’m at a complete loss. The song is a good one, I love the Foos, but I have no memory connected to the song or the album.

I’ve never seen the band live (which is a downright travesty if you ask me). And I’m struggling to think of a time we might have listened to this song on a road trip or something more fun than just having it play on CD while going to and from the grocery store. But I got nothin’.

So of course my first thought is that I’m out of words again. That happens periodically where I just use them all up and have to refill before I can put anything of value out there again. That happening is never my first choice, I hate the pendulum swing of writing 15-26 posts a month and then crashing back to like 3 or 4. But sometimes it transpires and I just have to go with it.

There are three posts that will go up to close out May’s Month of Music next week and then I’ll likely be taking a break from blogging three times a week.

Or maybe not. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see if inspiration hits and write when it does.

I liked the challenges to keep me writing the past two months but, just like the song title, my brain feels like it’s tumbling right now trying to be witty and creative in this space so maybe it’s time to focus on other projects for a while.

May’s Month of Music
End Over End – Foo Fighters (Pandora first track)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Assonance or Asinine?

It’s no secret I’m a Writer. This is a profession of slogging and pimping yourself out there as best as you possibly can to scratch a few bucks together. Nothing about the job is forgiving, save for maybe the fact I don’t have to listen to idiots drone on about nothing all day. But being a Writer also brings up other less savory things like assessing spelling and grammar everywhere I go.

When today’s track started playing I immediately had a rush of memories back to a time when a big group of us used to hang out over one friend’s house and play music, dance around and generally just joke and have a great time with each other. Listening to pop music was always a fun way to spend a day or night.

But the cuteness of the lead singer has worn off and even though the track is upbeat and fun I’m having an extremely difficult time getting past the title now. In fact, seeing the little red squiggle line under one of the words in the title is making the vein in my forehead actually throb with irritation.

Your Da One I Onena Love” is a track off Color Me Badd’s first album cleverly titled CMB.

Go ahead and read that title again, I’ll wait.

See? See what I mean? Let’s just break it down, and not in a pop boy-band dance number in the middle of the song kind of way.

Your. Definition: “a form of the possessive case of you used as an attributive adjective.” Better known as something only the ‘You’ in question can have – your jacket, your kitchen renovation, your snarky attitude.

If the boys in CMB (or whoever wrote it) had titled the song “Your Love’s Da One I Oant” then by all means this would be an appropriate use of this word. But they didn’t. Since they immediately tell the ‘You’ in question that they are ‘da one’, it means ‘Your’ should’ve been ‘You’re’. As in ‘You are the one I want to love’ (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah – but don’t even get me started on the lack of chorus, this is about grammar).

You’re. Definition: “contraction of you are.” Better known as something the speaker is assigning to you – you’re the best, you’re a terrible driver, “You’re Da One I Onena Love”.

Da. Not much to say here other than street slang has been known to make an appearance in song titles for years. I don’t love it but it’s ingrained enough that I know the word means ‘The’. I’ll let it slide just this once.

One; I. I have no issue with these words. They’re both spelled correctly and placed to get the point across.

Onena. Okay, what the fuck? I mean, I know the song so I understand this is supposed to be some type of cryptic spelling of ‘Wanna’ (though I’d prefer ‘Want to’) but wanna is a slang only added to the dictionary in the last few decades. And now they want to change it to onena? Really? Are they trying to throwback to two words ago? Someone should’ve told them that assonance is better left to poets and scholars who understand how to use it without creating erroneous words of their own that will never make it into a dictionary.

Love. The real truth. The thing I hate to admit. Despite all the title’s flaws I do still love this song.

Self-proclaimed pop princess over here and damn proud of it.

May’s Month of Music
Your Da One I Onena Love – Color Me Badd (iTunes / Pandora first track)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dave Matthews Band: There when I need them

There isn’t much I can write about this song or Dave Matthews Band. Well, not a specific personal backstory type of piece anyway. Dave has been part of my musical catalogue for so long now I barely remember a time the songs weren’t playing on a device of mine. Every Dave song seems to have some kind of meaning, deep connection to most of the people in (and out of) my life, work, jobs, houses, everything.

DMB is just part of the soundtrack of my life. And “Lie in Our Graves” is one of those songs that always seems to play at the very moment I need to remind myself of the lyrics. In a nutshell – don’t die without living first, enjoy life and everything it has to offer so your mind, body and soul are satisfied.

For me right now the thing that’s unsatisfying is the financial aspect of my job. Which has really been taking a toll on the mind/body/soul if I’m being completely honest. So I finally came to the conclusion that I’m just a person who needs to have an income associated with the work I do all day to feel fulfilled. I don’t want to be a starving artist stereotype anymore. I’m over it. Luckily there’s a way to garner the income I’d like to earn from the work that I love to do.

Over the past week or so I’ve been reviving my desire to be a Freelance Writer, something I’d started researching last fall before I was sidelined. I really love writing in my own voice. And I’ve been writing direct response sales letters since as far back as I can remember. Since way back in my selling Tupperware days. Maybe even earlier than that.

I know everything I need to do to get this going so I can make some money as a Freelance Writer. And the very first thing to do is learn how to become a Freelance Writer.

I know you’re saying – wait, what? If you have to learn how to become a Freelancer how is it you know everything you need to start doing it?

What I mean by I know it all is that I put an outline together for studying every facet of the business in becoming a professional Freelance Writer. And there’s a lot to learn.

I figure once I break it all out into subjects, reading, and practice time it’s going to be like going back to school. So I guess I’m designing my own Freelance Copywriting study program, something I can use to learn the industry from the start. I figure it’ll take about four weeks to get through all the information that I have on my lesson plan.

Books are on order, websites bookmarked, and time during the day earmarked for research and studying (this is a part time thing for me, going back to “school”, I’m still working on my personal projects as well). Just thinking about learning more about this industry has me really excited about the prospect and possibility that lies ahead for selling my words regularly enough to garner a stable income.

So thanks for your reaffirming lyrics today Dave. I’m definitely not going to be lying in my grave wishing I’d gotten out there to start living the life I really want, I’m just going to take life by the balls and live it so that when I do die it’ll be with a big smile on my face for having followed my own path to being “ok, ok, ok”.

May’s Month of Music
Lie In Our Graves – Dave Matthews Band (iTunes first track)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Low Ceilings, Dark Walls, and Lots of Smoke

Life shifts, life changes in the blink of an eye but we're required to keep at our battle to live the best possible life we can. For the first few months after all my health stuff started up I’d been worried I wouldn’t be able to work out ever again, and with good reason.

Back in November Matt and I were walking for health. We’d only started walking a few weeks before Thanksgiving and during that weekend we were joined on our walks by my mom and sister. It felt great and I believed I’d be able to get into bathing suit shape before we opened our pool for the summer. The week after the holiday it was back to the two of us and we went out one night to do a short three mile walk around the neighborhood.

I don’t know if maybe I hadn’t eaten enough or if it was related to the something else starting to go on with my body but about halfway through I started getting lightheaded and feeling like my legs were weak. Very weak. To the point I wasn’t sure I could actually make it the rest of the way home. I held onto Matt’s arm, we both slowed down and he continued to encourage me to just steadily place one foot in front of the other. It wasn’t easy; it was as if I was on a rocking boat inside my head.

By the time we got home Matt said I was as white as a sheet. I had been drinking water and ate a granola bar before we left the house like I always did but maybe it wasn’t enough this time. I felt like my blood sugar levels were down around zero so when we got home I got more water and a fistful of almonds to try to regulate. Matt went out and got me a steak and cheese sub. I leveled off some after eating dinner but my constitution hasn’t been the same since and the serious wonkiness took hold right around this time.

For the many weeks after that night I’ve been taking it easy on workouts, generally sitting around most of the time so as not to disrupt whatever balance I seemed to maintain by being somewhat sedentary. As you know, if you’ve been around here since last year, I went to just about every possible doctor and / or specialist in the phonebook to figure out what’s wrong with me (still to no avail).

Slowly I started adjusting my food intake and maintaining levels of sodium, fat, fiber, protein, etc. on my own. I started ramping up nutrition, weeded out coffee almost completely, and hardly ever drank anymore. Slowly I started incorporating some form of work out back into my routine.

I think I’m at a pretty good place right now as far as managing my nutrition and water intake and my work outs are getting longer and slightly more intense. I haven’t felt even a hint of what happened that night back in early December but I do still experience the wonkiness sometimes. Just depends on the day. But it seems I’ve been able to manage it to a point. So it’s time to change my whole routine and get my total body health back under control.

We own P90X, Bob Harper’s (holy-mother-effer) workout, a few other yoga/Pilates DVD’s, and the stationary bike. But I’m somewhat bored of these choices. So I started thinking about what I could do to get back in shape and lose the few (ahem, thirteen) pounds I put on since moving to Arizona. I started to reminisce on when I was in the best shape of my life.

Two distinct times come to mind – when I was doing faux finishing full time and back in my club days.

Now I don’t have the capacity to do painting jobs out here in Arizona, plus I’m finally working the way I really want to be, by writing full time, so I don’t plan to go back into a career in the trades. Which leaves dancing as a viable option.

When I was clubbing I went out to dance Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights almost every weekend. And I felt great (if not worn out) because at some point during that time in my life I stopped drinking when I went dancing. Water only. I was there for the moves, not the booze.

So in the spirit of my favorite club back in the day (Envy, now closed and called something else), I’m turning my office into a club every day at lunch. I’m dimming the lights, turning up my iTunes playlist (titled Ass Shaper of course), and starting to swing the flab right off my body. No one else has to see me jiggle to-and-fro but I’m going to imagine being in a Boston club from the mid-nineties and start rocking out to today’s pop rock grooves for about an hour every day.

It’s just too bad the ceilings are so high and the walls are peach. I could really use a nice dark room with low lighting. I wonder how much it would cost to buy a smoke machine?

May’s Month of Music
Get Back in My Life – Maroon 5 (Pandora first track)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Friday Night it was late…

Music can transcend time and place. It can make us feel more than we ever thought we could. It can make us laugh, make us cry, and every host of emotion in between. For me there are some songs that speak to me about a time and place even though I never heard the song while having the time/place experience. It’s just that sometimes the words are so evocative of something I’ve lived that the song takes me there. Today’s first track meets those criteria.

I’m talkin’ about a lifetime plan…

Years ago, long before Matt and I were an official couple we used to get together randomly for weekends in either New York or in Boston. I like to tell people we were pseudo dating for the three years before we decided to make the leap into a defined relationship. Before that we were just “friends” but our nomadic personalities were so perfectly matched there was no chance we weren’t going to be together…eventually.

Hurry don’t be late…

I was a traveler back then too. These were the days before 9/11 when I could pack up a tiny overnight bag and fly down to North Carolina for a weekend leaving only thirty minutes before a flight to get through security and get on the plane. If I left work at lunchtime on a Friday I’d be in Raleigh by dinnertime, have a whole weekend to chill, and be home before the clock struck ten on Sunday night.

I can hardly wait…

When I went to see Matt in New York it was the same story with my drop-of-a-hat travel enthusiasm except most of the time I jumped on Amtrak to get there since it was cheaper and easier than flying.

A couple times I took the train all the way to New York and Matt met me somewhere either on Long Island or otherwise but the majority of the time we met somewhere in the middle. And that somewhere was New London, Connecticut. About halfway (give or take) for both of us to travel it was the perfect spot to meet up. Not to mention it was always far less crowded and insane than the New York train stops.

The only thing with New London is that it is a popular launching point for other places that travelers can get to via ferry, train, or car so the town is full of people in transition.

Once I was headed out to Fisher’s Island to visit the vacation home of my sister’s then serious boyfriend and I took the train into New London to connect with the Fisher’s ferry. Matt took another ferry out to New London from The City to meet me for dinner before I hopped on my ferry to Fisher’s. I tried desperately to convince him to call in sick the next day and come over with me but he said he couldn’t. Instead we just got some food and hung out for a while.

I said to myself ‘when we’re old’…

The town didn’t have too many options back then for places to eat but we both loved Thai food so we ambled on into Bangkok City, the restaurant choice on State Street. It wasn’t anything too fancy – dated carpet and furniture with lots of kitschy “western friendly” décor – but we were hungry and there were hours before either of our boats departed. I got the Tom Ka Kai and Matt got a beef satay for our appetizers. The food was delicious otherwise I never would have remembered what either of us had because we didn’t stop yapping each other’s ear off all afternoon.

Who knows what we talked about. It didn’t matter. We were spending some time together, in each other’s space and smile. We were figuring out that we were falling in love.

We’ll go dancin’ in the dark, walkin’ through the park…

After our meal we decided to walk off some calories and I wanted to smoke a little weed before getting on the ferry. So we headed up the block to the corner of Union where there was a small park with a couple of benches. After the short walk there we plunked down on the park bench and continued to talk like no words would ever be enough.

After a short while and a couple hits from my pipe, the Fisher’s ferry was in dock and ready for passengers. But we weren’t done talking. We weren’t done spending time together even though the schedule was telling us we had to be. There was family waiting for me on the other side and I was very likely in roaming mode on my cell phone back then so there was no way to call and cancel. Matt and I hugged our goodbyes and both took the correct ferry to our individual destinations.

But we weren’t done. Not by a long shot.

Not too long after that we officially got together, engaged, and married. For the first handful of years after we got married we made a special point to go back to New London, sans train and sans pot, every year on our anniversary to have a fantastic Thai meal at our favorite little spot. It was still the perfect place for conversation…

And reminiscing…

May’s Month of Music
Reminiscing – Little River Band (iTunes first track)

Friday, May 10, 2013

(Re) Run Back in Time

As soon as today’s song started playing I knew this post was going to be a re-run. The album Ten by Pearl Jam came out in the summer of 1991, just after I graduated high school and long before I started college. Though if I’d gone away to college that fall like most of my friends had I’m sure I would have taken a shine to the album a lot sooner. I was still shedding myself of my pop princess roots and hadn’t yet jumped into the grunge pool.

Sometime over the following eighteen months I started listening to the album and in June of 1993 when I moved in with Keith on Williams Street it became a regular album in our (widely varied musical taste) rotation.

There are very few songs on Ten that don’t remind me of this time in my life at my place on Williams Street – the poo brown wall-to-wall carpet, the tub that always backed up, the cool little niche where Keith had his desk, our hand-me-down living room furniture, the party where Michelle sang and that Keith tape recorded the entire night (which I still have somewhere, believe it!), those flowered curtains in the kitchen. But I’ve already written a pretty great post about those days.

Just click on over to Williams Street for the full story.

May’s Month of Music
Jeremy – Pearl Jam (Pandora first track)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kids Wanna Rock

There are a few moments in my life I can look back on and just smile at the luck, timing, and synchronicity of it all. Winning tickets from my favorite radio station to see Bryan Adams in 1987 is way at the top of the list.

I’ve referenced this story before but I knew I wrote a longer piece about this event so I had a look through all my old posts. I admit, I was going to phone in a re-run for today’s post. But I couldn’t find the story anywhere. Which was weird because I knew I wrote it. I spent lots of time searching tags but to no avail. Finally I thought, maybe it’s not on the blog but somewhere else? But where?

Have you ever had that happen? You know you wrote something but when you go looking for it the thing just doesn’t seem to exist anywhere other than your head? So I did a search through my files and turns out I wasn’t crazy. I had written about it before. In a paper for school. My upper level English class got to read about my fun win before you guys, sorry. So because I wrote an A+ version the first time I’m just going to run the story in its entirety here. Please note it’s kind of long (1500-ish words). Also please note I’m including a lot of school related stuff to the original post date.

Enjoy!

Thinking About Our Younger Years
By Jennifer Shon
ENG: 325 Intermediate Composition
Week 2 final paper
Ashford University
August 29, 2011

“In 1987 I was fourteen years old and like many teenage girls I had a burning love affair with pop music.  That year, just before I entered high school, my mom had managed to save enough to purchase her first home.  My parents had gotten divorced seven years prior and my sister and I lived very frugally with our mom.  Without much extra to go around, my sister and I turned to music as our most frequent source of entertainment.  There were only a few popular radio stations in Boston at the time and one of them was the seemingly everlasting Kiss 108. 

When I was a teenager Kiss would play all the top 40 hits and back then those hits were relatively light on hip-hop, heavy on pop and hair bands.  Bryan Adams was a staple of the station; not an hour went by without hearing “Run to You” or “Summer of ‘69”.  I wasn’t alive yet in the year 1969, I also didn’t have a clue what the six-string was that he sang about, but none of that mattered.  He just rocked.  His album Reckless topped the charts in the United States and I’d been a fan since his second album, Cuts like a Knife; in the back of my mind I was always humming “na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na.”  I heard that he was coming to play close to Boston, in Worcester, but there was no way I would be buying tickets without a job and my penny-pinching family certainly wouldn’t be taking my sister and I to the show.  Feeling defeat, I would turn the crackling speakers of my stereo way up every time his songs played and visualized dancing in the front row as he belted out his gravelly vocals. 

Most days after school I was either, doing sports, or trying to get out of going home to do homework by hanging out with my friends.  As freshmen none of us were driving yet and, as geeks, none of us hung out with the cool upperclassmen that had wheels.  Nearing the end of the school year, gymnastics was over, and I was feeling particularly lazy one spring afternoon so instead of walking to the center after classes I decided to just go home.  My mom worked until five o’clock and my sister was still in afterschool care so I was bound to have the house all to myself.  I was looking forward to turning up the radio, singing into my curling iron and writing in my journal.

Upon entering the front door I was greeted with the peeling wallpaper that came with the house.  It was an unusually warm day and the house was quite musty.  Humidity hung inside our little 800 square foot ranch house and forced dust to plume upward with each step across our pea soup colored carpet.  Some of that dust had probably been trapped in that carpet since my parents bought it in the early 70’s when they got married.  As I headed for my bedroom I wondered why they didn’t each get half of it in the divorce.

I tossed my school bag onto my bed and it immediately sank into the sea of laundry and blankets that my mom likely picked up off the floor that morning after I had left for school.  I frowned because the pile was so high I could barely see the top of the posters of Sean Astin I had hanging on the wall.  I shoved the blankets and questionably clean acid washed jeans down near the end of my bed and grabbed my dual-cassette boom box as I headed for the kitchen.  The radio was always set to Kiss 108 so I didn’t have to turn the dial; I clicked it to “FM” on my way to the fridge.

I heard Wang Chung begging everyone to have fun and opened the door to the fridge not expecting to find much that wasn’t at least a week old and starting to get fuzzy.  With a sigh I grabbed a box of crackers and started toward the sofa when the DJ’s voice came in at the end of the song “Caller ten wins a pair of tickets to see Bryan Adams at the Centrum.”  The crackers landed on the kitchen table as, in one smooth motion, I flung myself at the phone.  Faster than a tween can send a text message, I dialed the station.  Busy.  Hang up.  Dial again.  Busy.  Hang up.  Dial again.  Ringing!  I briefly considered that maybe they’d gotten their caller and killed the lines but my heart jumped into my throat when I heard “Kiss 108 who’s this?”

With that rapidly beating vital organ half blocking my windpipe, I stammered to utter my own name to the voice on the other end of the line.  I knew that voice well.  It was the voice of the afternoon DJ; the same voice I just heard asking for caller ten.  In one more beat of my heart I realized that I was caller ten.  I managed to swallow my heart back down into my chest as he confirmed my utter disbelief by saying “You’ve just won two tickets to see Bryan Adams!”  My immediate reaction was to yell “SHUT UP!” and the DJ just said “No.”  I thought we both laughed but I’m pretty sure I managed to squeal instead.  After five seconds of banter that felt like an hour to me, he asked “What station gives you the best tickets?”  With an overly excited, resounding reply of “Kiss 108!!” I knew I would hear myself on the radio in mere moments.  He asked me to hold to give my info and reality set in. 

I couldn’t believe it.  I won something.  On the radio.  I had never won anything in my entire life and I won tickets to see my favorite singer.  Tickets I had been dying for.  Tickets I knew we couldn’t afford to buy.  I couldn’t wait for my sister to get home so I could tell her the news!  As I gave my address to the woman who picked up the line my excitement to tell everyone I knew grew bigger than my bangs.  But when I hung up the phone I suddenly panicked – how would I even get to Worcester?  My sister was obviously going with me to the show but it wasn’t like an eleven year old had any better access to a car than I did. 

By the time I got around to calling my dad I was running out of options but he said he’d be more than willing to take us.  My fluorescent orange, size seven Keds left the floor at least five times while I jumped around for joy.  When my sister arrived home the two of us sprang around the house like Tigger as we hugged and screamed in decibels too high for even a dog to hear.  After living with two girls for so long I think it was safe to assume my mom had long before lost all her hearing.  She congratulated me on the win and I could tell she was a little relieved when I told her how we were getting to and from the show.

It was excruciating to wait for the tickets to arrive in the mail and even more excruciating to have to wait almost a month for the show itself, but the day finally arrived and my dad wasn’t a second late picking us up.  After selecting my nicest, oversized, cable knit sweater, ankle zip jeans with the little denim bow on the back, and ghetto-gold hoops I applied a half a can of AquaNet to my wall of hair and we hugged our smiling mom goodbye.  The forty minute ride to Worcester was the only thing separating my sister and me from the stage.  When we got there, my dad, worried we might get lost coming out, forced us to repeat the location of the parking spot at least five times.  After hearing the first note come blasting out of Bryan Adams’ guitar the only thing either of us remembered was song lyrics. 

My dad sat in that parking lot the entire three hours of the show waiting for my sister and me to emerge.  I can only imagine how bored he must have been without so much as a book to keep himself entertained.  But as my sister has reminded me, there were countless times our mom had to endure our hormone induced, megaphone like lungs so it was his turn.  We spent the entire car ride back screaming at each other due to concert induced deafness and teenage excitement.  He hardly seemed to notice and that was good because there was nothing quite as awesome to me at age fourteen than winning those tickets and going to the show.  That night, truly was, Heaven.”

May’s Month of Music
I’ll Always be Right There – Bryan Adams (iTunes first track)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Nevermind Should Be Two Words

When it comes to my musical tastes I’m usually pretty mainstream. I don’t consider this a bad thing though I’m sure some of my alternative music loving friends from early high school would disagree. But what other people think has never really been what draws me to any particular type of music.

While D&D were in town for their wedding last month we sat around listening to Pandora and I have no idea what station came on but the Smashing Pumpkins started pumping out of the speakers. I immediately groaned. D said she’s never liked them either and I thanked her for being (it seems) the only other one in the world besides me who feels that way.

I proceeded to say ‘Yeah, and I really dislike the Beatles, Stones and Springsteen too’ to which she replied ‘See, I knew there was a reason we were friends’. D groaned and asked us how we couldn’t like those iconic bands. We both shrugged because the only real answer is that we just don’t. Music and what attracts us to it is a very personal choice.

Sometimes I feel music is such a powerful influence in the world that it can solidify relationships or raise a cause for the best debates about merits of melody, style and genre. But just like religion, abortion, and war, no one will ever be able to prove that their side is the right one. It’s all personal preference. I favor a plethora of varied musical stylings but that doesn’t necessarily include the bands that revolutionized the music industry.

As you already know I was a girl who loved (loves) both pop and hard core rock. In the late eighties most of the rock bands I listened to would’ve been considered metal, be it heavy or hair. Bands that wore makeup and tight leather pants back then were either hair bands (Poison, Warrant) or music for the freak crowd (The Cure, Duran Duran) and I liked them both.

Pop radio wasn’t entirely sure what to do with these songs and bands. Back in the late eighties and early nineties radio was pretty well segregated. Nowadays you might hear Katy Perry, Bon Jovi, the Foo Fighters, Metallica and Carrie Underwood all on the same radio station. It wasn’t like that back then.

In the early nineties the label ‘alternative’ had a very different meaning. The music in that category was probably in rotation on WFNX (RIP) and was perhaps a local band that had gained a modicum of stardom in their current scene but hadn’t taken it national. They weren’t going to be played on Kiss 108 or any of the other pop stations. But by the time I graduated high school that was all about to change as Nirvana hit the mainstream and started a new style of music pouring out of speakers everywhere.

The Music was as Grungy as the Place

I remember the first time I saw the cover for Nevermind because the image was so striking compared to the other covers of the time. I was walking through Harvard Square, something I did regularly back in high school because Cambridge was just the next town east of Arlington, and came up Mt. Auburn Street which intersected with another main drag, JFK. Tower Records was right there on the corner in a prime location for all to peruse the latest selections. And for some of the skater kids who hung out in the Pit to shoplift with a clean getaway, no doubt.

The building was diagonally across the street from The Garage, a former parking garage refurbished to house commercial stores. At the time it had a little Mexican joint and a pizza place (at the top level of the former car spiral) where the slices were about a quarter of a pizza for only a couple bucks. I frequently spent the only money I had left on a slice to keep myself fed while the bulk of my money was spent on music. The Garage also housed my favorite record store, Newbury Comics, which I preferred to Tower because it had a true Boston vibe and they played rock in-store. Newbury was grittier, more real, and less expensive than its commercial counterpart.

The Square was full of dirt, grime, grit, the most interesting people, and all the music anyone could ever wish to feast their ears on. Music in every genre was available in Tower Records though and the window posters were big enough to attract people from blocks away. The cover of Nevermind hanging in the window the day I passed by didn’t disappoint.

A naked baby, almost smiling, was fully submerged in a pool and looked to be chasing a fish hooked dollar bill. The message was powerful and I interpreted it as us Americans chasing the almighty dollar from birth whether we drown or get snared in the process. The interpretive message worked for their visual art but it didn’t sell me on the album. I just didn’t feel their particular music because the lyrics seemed to be just as shrouded in mystery as the cover art. I didn’t get it.

Yes I’m admitting it out loud – I wasn’t, and still am not, a fan of Nirvana.

I definitely found music that spoke to me out of that era – Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam – but Nirvana just didn’t do it for me at all. But I can’t discount that music was forever changed after the release and mainstream acceptance of their second album.

Moving On

I stopped hanging out at the Square regularly shortly after graduating from high school. As a gal working and/or going to college there just wasn’t time to hang out and spend my lazy days perusing music I really wanted to buy but couldn’t afford without a job. Believe me, the irony of finally having the money to spend but no time to go and do it was not lost on me. It’s probably one of the main reasons I later got a job at a record store in the suburbs near where I lived.

Since Nirvana hit the scene over twenty years ago there really hasn’t been another huge game changer in the face of musical direction, but, instead, music itself seemed to take on a new direction. Stations started playing cross-genre artists so it wouldn’t be strange to hear a country, rock, and pop artist played on the same station. These days I can buy single digital tracks of songs by bands from whom I may not want to hear an entire album.

And though I’m not much a fan of the band there are one or two songs I own by Nirvana simply because they were/are so influential it would be hard to keep them totally out of my collection (that goes for the Beatles, Stones and Springsteen too). Plus Matt was a big fan so their albums live on in our house.

In the end I should thank Nirvana for helping to bring an end to music segregation on major market radio. As a gal who enjoys a slew of different genres I like that I can put on one station and comfortably listen to as much mainstream music as I choose despite what their genre label might be. Because these days alternative is just as mainstream as pop.

May’s Month of Music
In Bloom – Nirvana (Pandora first track)