the fall film challenge recap

December 12, 2015

one. any set in new york city. the intern. i wish they'd cast someone other than anne hathaway. normally i don't mind her. but you can't pair her with someone like robert de niro. and the dude who played her husband? he basically ruined this movie for me.

three. any that features a child as the main character. stand by me. so good. SO, SO good. best movie on my list. easily. i don't know that i'd watch it again, though. i feel like once is enough.

four. any disney film. brave. i dozed off a lot in this one--not so much that i was oblivious to the plot and all, but... ugh. the only thing i liked were the triplet's scenes.

ten. any mentioned in denim in the oscars: a look at jeans in cinema. erin brockovichi liked this one a LOT (except for aaron eckhart. pansy). i'd watch it again.

eleven. a film about a knight. gladiator. man, i miss richard harris on the screen. that man had mad skills. connie nielsen's pretty good here, too. the rest of it, though... meh. not russell crowe's best work. and i definitely did not care for the story.

twelve. a love story. the duff. it's cute. completely unbelievable, of course. i liked the main characters quite a bit, though. i love mae whitman, and the boy's nice looking... for a boy. i ended up buying this one.

thirteen. a movie about something miraculous. cinderella. so bad. SO SO bad. richard madden was too pretty... and not anything like i imagine prince charming being. no. just... no. cate blanchett wasn't quite awful enough. helena bonham carter wasn't quite magical enough (and usually, i LOVE her).

fourteen. a film starring an actor/actress with the same first name as yours. alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. meh. i have no strong feelings about this one. didn't love it, didn't loathe it. won't watch it again.

eighteen. any film with a score of ninety percent or greater on rotten tomatoes. how to train your dragon two. cute. i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE toothless. i liked the first movie better, but this one was alright. i'd watch it again.

nineteen. a film about a superhero. avengers: age of ultron. meh. not nearly as good as the first. parts of it were alright. it's not one i'd make an effort to see again, but if i came across on one of the television's movie channels, i might watch it again. it's got some nice eyecandy.

twenty-two. a film about a personal victory. big eyes. i'm glad i watched it. but i'm over amy adams, and while christoph waltz typically owns despicable and loathsome, he doesn't quite do so here--though there surely are moments of utter nastiness. it's not a film i'd want to see again.

twenty-four. any set in a country you would most like to visit. woman in gold. i'm glad i watched this one, too. i can't say the cast does a remarkable job of telling the story--even helen mirren--but they do well enough. i liked it. i'd watch it again.

twenty-five. a film set in a zoo. fierce creatures. kevin kline's got skills, too, yall. i forget. it's a pretty funny movie. complete nonsense, of course, but i knew that going in. my older brother loved movies like this. i'm sorry i couldn't watch it with him. i don't know that i'd watch this again.

so...that's my list. as for the challenge's collective results, check this out:

andrea: fifty! finished original list thursday, october fifteenth; finished bonus list monday, november second.
christina: fifty! finished original list friday, october second; finished bonus list tuesday, november third.
christopher: fifty! finished original list tuesday, october thirteenth; finished bonus list thursday, november twenty-ninth.
michael: forty-five. finished original list monday, september twenty-eighth.
karen: forty-two. finished original list thursday, november fifth.
stephanie: thirty-six. finished original list friday, september twenty-fifth.
cherie: twenty-five. finished original list monday, november thirtieth.

strategy matters

November 29, 2015

excerpts of a guest editorial by the caledonian record of st. johnsbury, vermont:

"Black Lives Matter" student protests are happening on college campuses throughout the country. The following represents a small sampling of some of their demands:

Smith College: Media must pledge support for protests or they can't cover them.

Amherst College: President must make a written apology for "institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latino racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism; White students who put up "All Lives Matter" and "Free Speech" posters must be disciplined.

Emory: Raises and promotions for all black faculty.

Towson, Brown: White students stop protesting in favor of black students.

Kansas: A separate, black-only student government.

A number of protesters called for buildings to get name changes. Still others, ironically, have demanded separate buildings and/or campuses exclusively for minorities. In all cases, people who disagree with the protesters or who won't bow to their (often ludicrous) demands are being labeled bigots.

this post is not an attack of the editorial. the piece concludes with the counsel that a different strategy might be best.

i work for a newspaper. my job is to cover the news. i don't have to agree with or even like the people about whom i write. i don't have to attend the events i cover, unless i feel a personal interest in doing so; many of the articles i write are either about individuals who seek to raise awareness of a cause or have an impressive story to tell or about upcoming events of interest to a majority of the community's residents. my editor says write this; i write it.

the requests made by these individuals ARE ludicrous. a man should make more money because he's black? my standing with my black friends who feel slighted is offensive? a separate, black-only student government?

are you SERIOUS???

thousands of african-americans have fought for equality in this country. it's been sixty years since rosa parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus. it's been fifty-two years since the march in birmingham.

martin luther king, jr. and his friends marched in suits. they presented reasonable, eloquent arguments to sway the majority to be better to each other. they had patience and class.

what the hell is this with wanting separate student governments? why are we regressing? why are these people so incensed by past tragedies they themselves have not experienced? how can they justify such egregious demands?

some citizens of this country have done AWFUL things to each other. SOME. the answer is not perpetuating this by exacting awful revenge on ALL people of a particular race by making such ridiculous requests. this disrespects everything for which king and other civil rights activists fought. there's a right way to fight. it's not this way.

. . .

this, yall... THIS. the president of oklahoma weslayan university nails it.

tunes for tuesday: songs for which i am thankful

November 24, 2015

so yesterday, i wrote about one favorite song and how music for me can be a form of prayer. today i'd like to talk about how it can inspire creativity.

a couple of years ago, while driving into houston on the eve of an aggies' bowl game at reliant, i heard a song by the airborne toxic event called half of something else. 

i rushed to my destination so that i could record the vision it brought to my mind -- a scene with the lovely, funky, magnificent catriona and her wayward, errant, musical kyle. he'd vanished years before and had come back in town because two of their friends were getting hitched together. she had managed to endure all the festivities leading up to their nuptials without speaking to him. but he cornered her at a bar. i remember, even now, years later, how vividly that scene came to me. i love remembering it. i love that that song brought that scene to life for me. i wanted to post it here, but the videos i find for it aren't nearly as impressive as the recorded version. it's a really pretty song, yall. check it out.

another that spoke to me on cate's behalf is sting's fortress around your heart. my girl, catie... she'll let you in... once. and her boy, kyle? getting back in her life's gonna be a bitch (which is why their story'll be the last one i write).

anyway. i'd been working at target in the wee, wee hours of the morning, plugged into music while i hung the day's clothing shipment on the racks. and this song played, and it just struck a cate/kyle chord.

with the lonely and melancholy isabel, there haven't been too many scenes inspired by music so much as tunes i know would work well with what i've written. she's the angriest and most troubled of my girls, so for her, it's songs like korn's twist, staind's just go, nine inch nail's eraser and tori amos' precious things. once the anger's spent, she goes to songs like fuel's hideaway and a fine frenzy's hope for the hopeless. the scene in which her relationship with reese begins, she's listening to christina perri's arms. it's kind of perfect for them.

erin and jana conspired for this post. share with them the songs that matter most to you.

the thirty-fifth question

November 23, 2015

this post is one of many for a creative nonfiction project i began several years ago. i call it the griffin inquisition. i've asked my friends and family to pose questions, things they want to know about me that would require more than a yes or no for an answer. the most recent addition comes from my friend, erin.

i know you are a big fan of music. pick a song that is a favorite lyrically, and tell me why and how the lyrics speak to you so strongly.

the prince of darkness
the indigo girls

my place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark
and i do not feel the romance; i do not catch the spark
i don't know when i noticed life was life at my expense
the words of my heart lined up like prisoners on a fence
the dreams came in like needy children tugging at my sleeve
i said i have no way of feeding you, so leave
but there was a time i asked my father for a dollar
and he gave it a ten dollar raise
and when i needed my mother and i called her
she stayed with me for days
now someone's on the telephone, desperate in his pain
someone's on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine
someone's got his finger on the button in some room
no one can convince me we aren't gluttons for our doom
but i tried to make this place my place
i asked for providence to smile upon me with his sweet face
but i'll tell you my place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark
and i do not feel the romance; i do not catch the spark
my place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark
(by grace, my sight grows stronger) 
and i do not feel the romance; i will not be
(and i will not be a pawn for the prince of darkness any longer)
maybe there's no haven in this world for tender age
my heart beat like the wings of wild birds in a cage
my greatest hope my greatest cause to grieve
and my heart flew from its cage and it bled upon my sleeve
the cries of passion were like wounds that needed healing
i couldn't hear them for the thunder
i was half the naked distance between hell and heaven's ceiling
and he almost pulled me under
now someones on the telephone, desperate in his pain
someone's on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine
someone's got his finger on the button in some room
no one can convince me we aren't gluttons for our doom
but i tried to make this place my place
i asked for providence to smile upon me with his sweet face
but i'll tell you my place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark
and i do not feel the romance; i do not catch the spark
my place is of the sun, and this place is of the dark
(by grace, my sight grows stronger)
and i do not feel the romance; i do not catch the spark
(grows stronger)
by grace
(my place is of the sun and)
my sight
(and this place is of the dark and)
is growing stronger
(i do not feel the romance)
i will not be a pawn
(i will not be)
for the prince of darkness any longer

the song is the fourth track on the indigo girls' self-titled album. i was sixteen, i think, when that album was released. i'd been battling depression for eight years. i was terrified i would lose the war. every night i cried myself to sleep. every night i prayed i wouldn't wake up. every morning i woke. every day i was certain i was in hell.

there were songs that i favored, like bette midler's the rose, for example, and this one that i would sing to myself. and if i couldn't sing them, i'd be writing the lyrics down. over and over again. 

it didn't occur to me that the songs were prayers. not until i was in college, and my aesthetics professor was telling the class that singing was the highest form of praise, of prayer. and maybe i survived then, maybe i survive now because i sing. maybe it's because of songs like this.

the lyrics with which i most identify are these: 

the words of my heart lined up like prisoners on a fence
the dreams came in like needy children tugging at my sleeve
i said i have no way of feeding you, so leave...
my greatest hope my greatest cause to grieve
and my heart flew from its cage and it bled upon my sleeve
the cries of passion were like wounds that needed healing
i couldn't hear them for the thunder...

it's so easy to get lost. it's so easy to give in. to feel as though there is no good within you, that no good can come from you. that all your dreams are wasted. i struggle, even now, especially now. the thunder is so raucous, so ominous. and hope can be so vicious. 

but there was a time i asked my father for a dollar
and he gave it a ten dollar raise
and when i needed my mother and i called her
she stayed with me for days

and i know that's the other reason i've survived... because of them. because when i woke, my mom had my clothes clean (and sometimes pressed), and my breakfast made and my lunch packed and a smile on her face. and when i came home she was there with a snack and kind word and all that jazz. and even though i didn't see my father much in my youth, i knew he was always there, giving... and that his extraordinary generosity wasn't limited to the cash in his pocket. they give and give and give. i do my best to be as generous as they.

it's hard for me to sing this, now. it doesn't work quite so well as it did in my younger days. but i have loved this song for decades. the lyrics... the melody... they can be soothing. also, i like the reminder that everyone struggles with something, and maybe my struggles are much smaller than they seem. maybe i am much stronger.

what tune(s) do you most love and why?

the picky playlist

November 22, 2015

erin made a soundtrack for her life -- her hot one hundred -- using billboard's year-end lists. i'd originally done the same, but i didn't love the result, so i redid it. instead of using the year-end's selections, though, i'm using hot one hundred lists compiled each year (mostly) the week of my birth, only i don't love anything on the charts that week, so we'll start with the year after. and it's hard whittling it down to one hundred, yall. it hurt to cut some from the list.

la grange. zz top.

dream on. aerosmith.
bohemian rhapsody. queen.

go your own way. fleetwood mac.

you really got me. van halen.
mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. waylon jennings and willie nelson.
we will rock you/we are the champions. queen.

i will survive. gloria gaynor.
roxanne. the police.

lost in love. air supply.
the rose. bette midler.

don't stand so close to me. the police.

open arms. journey.

separate ways (worlds apart). journey.
should i stay or should i go now. the clash.
photograph. def leppard.
i melt with you. modern english.

against all odds (take a look at me now). phil collins.
hold me now. thompson twins.

crazy for you. madonna.
save a prayer. duran duran.
don't you (forget about me). simple minds.
everybody wants to rule the world. tears for fears.
the boys of summer. don henley.

kiss. prince.
why can't this be love. van halen.
your love. the outfield.
the power of love. jennifer rush. 

livin' on a prayer. bon jovi.
with or without you. u2.

hysteria. def leppard.
angel. aerosmith.

one. metallica.
wind beneath my wings. bette midler.

nothing compares to you. sinead o'connor.
hold on. wilson phillips.
personal jesus. depeche mode.
i remember you. skid row.

get here. oleta adams.
where does my heart beat now. celine dion.
silent lucidity. queensryche.
she talks to angels. black crowes.

right now. van halen.

ordinary world. duran duran.
i will always love you. whitney houston.

streets of philadelphia. bruce springsteen.

name. goo goo dolls.
i got id. pearl jam.
caught a lite sneeze. tori amos.
high and dry. radiohead.

foolish games/you were meant for me. jewel.
secret garden. bruce springsteen.
the freshmen. the verve pipe. 
silent all these years. tori amos.

sweet surrender. sarah mclachlan.
given to fly. pearl jam.

angel. sarah mclachlan.
back to good. matchbox twenty.
special. garbage.

two thousand
breathe. faith hill.

yellow. coldplay.
pour me. trick pony.

in the end. linkin park.
how you remind me. nickelback.
wherever you will go. the calling.
a thousand miles. vanessa carlton.
standing still. jewel.

i'm with you. avril lavigne.
unwell. matchbox twenty.

my immortal. evanescence.
numb. linkin park.
someday. nickelback.
you raise me up. josh groban.
when i look to the sky. train.

she will be loved. maroon five.
collide. howie day.
somewhere only we know. keane.

because of you. kelly clarkson.
photograph. nickelback.
over my head (cable car). the fray.
black horse and the cherry tree. kt tunstall.

how to save a life. the fray.

love song. sara bareilles.

the climb. miley cyrus.
so what. pink.

when i look at you. miley cyrus.

don't you wanna stay. jason aldean.
for the first time. the script.
arms. christina perri.

stronger (what doesn't kill you). kelly clarkson.
rumour has it. adele.
shake it out. florence and the machine.
lonely boy. the black keys.

stay. rihanna featuring mikky ekko.
just give me a reason. pink and nate ruess.

all of me. john legend.
say something. a great big world and christina aguilera.
brave. sara bareilles.

shut up and dance with me. walk the moon.
shake it off. taylor swift.
believe. mumford and sons.

what songs comprise your hot one hundred?

ten quotes i like from books read in the past year or so

November 17, 2015

one. "there's no need to tell me i'm not brave enough to be in gryffindor, malfoy's already done that," neville choked out (harry potter and the sorcerer's stone. j.k. rowling. p. 218). 

because neville... god, love that boy.

two. sometimes i think people do things only because they're afraid of not doing them (finding paris. joy preble. p. 32).

just because you can sing trisha yearwood in the car doesn't mean you can do it on karaoke night (at least it was in fletcher, north carolina... where i knew NO ONE in a room of maybe a dozen drunks who couldn't sing, either). telling yourself you're a chicken shit if you don't get up there... it's so much harder to sing when there's a mic in my hand.

three. "they slow your brain down," he said, clutching an orange bottle of pills. "they iron out all the wrinkles... maybe all the bad stuff happens in the wrinkles, but all the good stuff does, too... they break your brain like a horse, so it takes all your orders. i need a brain that can break away, you know? i need to think" (fangirl. rainbow rowell. p. 224).

this. this is exactly how i feel when people ask me if i'm on meds. no. no, i am not. because the good stuff's in the wrinkles, yall. granted, for me, there's more of the bad, but damned if i'll iron out the good.

four. "somebody else got ugg boots for christmas," reagan said, watching the dinner line empty into the dining room. "if we had whiskey, this is when we'd take a shot" (fangirl. rainbow rowell. p. 256).

this, too, but replace the whiskey with tito's vodka. not that i can't down a shot of whiskey... 

five. i have a gifted mind, all right. i know enough to know that i do not want to turn out like mr. becker. and i know enough to know that to ask mr. becker about how to talk to alice would be more complicated than discussing quantum gravity (the truth about alice. jennifer mathieu. p. 53).

because damned if relationships aren't more complicated than rocket science.

six. he had no net, hook, or line, and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a sitter, no paint, no inscription, no appliance beyond a rusty boathook and a coil of rope, and he could not be a waterman; his boat was too crazy and too small to take in cargo for delivery, and he could not be a lighterman or river-carrier; there was no clue to what he looked for, but he looked for something, with a most intent and searching gaze (our mutual friend. charles dickens. p. 13).

that right here? my victorian literature professor got me to read the entirety of this novel -- and yes, it's a bitch to read -- because he'd gotten me to fall in love with that there paragraph.

seven. and it won't be the same if you have kids with some other, better girl, because they won't be alice and noomie, and even if i'm not your perfect match, they are. god, the three of you. the three of you. when i wake up on sunday mornings -- late, you always let me sleep in -- i come looking for you, and you're in the backyard with dirt on your knees and two little girls spinning around you in perfect orbit... and they look like me because they're round and golden, but they glow for you (landline. rainbow rowell. p. 164).

eight. she kissed me all over my face. she kissed my eyes that came down too far. she kissed my cheeks that looked punched in. she kissed my tortoise mouth. she said soft words that i know were meant to help me, but words can't change my face (wonder. r.j. palacio. p. 60).

nine. "are you aware that your real self is this anxiety-ridden, bursting, twisting, unhappy, buzzing, hate-filled, meandering, overtired sleepless boy?" (dr. bird's advice for sad poets. evan roskos. p. 202).

replace boy with girl, and i'm pretty sure that's exactly how much of my world would describe me. i'm pretty sure this is how i feel and how i see myself, more often than not... because this is what i'm told there is to see.

ten. tonight, i feel like my whole body is made out of memories. i'm a mix tape, a cassette that's been rewound so many times you can hear the fingerprints smudged on the tape... i now get scared of forgetting anything about renee, even the tiniest detail, even the bands on this tape i can't stand -- if she touched them, i want to hear her fingerprints (love is a mix tape. rob sheffield. p. 12).

which quotes have you found in stories that have resonated with you? link up here.

twenty-five favored sports flicks

November 15, 2015

entertainment weekly made up a list of twenty-five sports movies that score. and it's a pretty good list. i'm not opposed to it. but it failed to recognize some stories that are worth some recognition, and i felt inspired to make a list of my own.

the blind side
chariots of fire
chasing mavericks
cinderella man
the cutting edge
draft day
eight seconds
the express
fever pitch
for love of the game
glory road
happy gilmore
the karate kid
major league
the program
saint ralph
the sandlot
we are marshall

what's on your list?

the north and the south

November 13, 2015

shot seconds before the pack scored on the panthers 

myrtle beach... two days before departure

myrtle beach... two hours before departure

north carolina

bodie lighthouse, kill devil hills, mayberry, rodanthe and woodfin valley.

fall film challenge: bonus list

October 14, 2015

one film for each of the following actors. have fun.
and be sure of you what you pick... no changes permitted.

one. anne hathaway.
two. ben stiller.
three. miley cyrus.
four. vin diesel.
five. eddie murphy.
six. will ferrell.
seven. gwyneth paltrow.
eight. katie holmes.
nine. ione skye.
ten. jonah hill.
eleven. ashton kutcher.
twelve. justin long.
thirteen. maggie gyllenhaal.
fourteen. nicolas cage.
fifteen. owen wilson.
sixteen. pauly shore.
seventeen. john c. reilly.
eighteen. sylvester stallone.
nineteen. tyler perry.
twenty. channing tatum.
twenty-one. vince vaughn.
twenty-two. patrick wilson.
twenty-three. megan fox.
twenty-four. gary busey.
twenty-five. renee zellwegger.

wanna play? original list and rules are here.

what i don't want

October 13, 2015

i had lunch with a friend yesterday. we were talking about how she'd met her husband through a dating website. that instead of making a list of what she wanted in a man, she made a list of what she hadn't liked about her exes and then looked for the opposite.

that scene in the notebook when noah's badgering ally with what do you want? it's so easy to ask that question. answering it should be simple. but it's not. not for me anyway. i'm a typical aries -- the thing i want most in this moment could be the last thing i want five minutes from now. add to that the raging hormones of a bipolar gal. it's like i'm doubly-jinxed.

i'm off men at the moment... maybe forever. i don't even know why i'm writing this post.

except... i don't want to be off men. i like them... even when i don't want to... even when i shouldn't.

what do i want...

when i was a kid and people asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up, i'd always say teacher and a waitress because teaching didn't pay very well, and i wanted to make lots of money.

that's what i said. but what i really wanted was to be like my mother.

one of my oldest memories... and i don't even know if it's real because i can't picture it... but i sense it, i feel like it's true... coming home from elementary school, maybe when i was seven or so, to find her standing at the ironing board starching my father's shirts and the table linens while she waited on my older brother and i. it's a good memory... if it's true. i like thinking that it is.

my house had such warmth in it. the world was so cold outside. when i grew up, i wanted to make a home as welcoming as ours was... i wanted to be so giving, so good. i wanted to love that well and be loved that well.

i'm forty-two now. the likelihood of this want ever being a reality for me is almost nonexistent.

but... yesterday in my facebook feed... i kept seeing pictures like this:

that's not to say i'm not guilty of doing this with guys. the last couple i've played with... i didn't really care to know anything too serious about them... i just wanted the company. but even then, i strived for thoughtfulness -- i'd send them cookies and curb the sarcasm, and that, yall, is a rather huge feat for me. i didn't want to dig too deep into their histories. i didn't want them digging too deep in mine.

i was less compassionate than normal. mostly because i've all but given up on that dream i had as child. almost...

what i haven't liked:

the guy who showed up two hours before i was supposed to meet him and at my apartment, an address i had not given him. who'd researched every residence, every traffic violation and god knows what else before i'd even known he'd wanted to go on a date.

the guy who assumes that my seriousness is disinterest... i tend to clam up when i'm interested, the best kind of defense mechanism... the more interested i am, the less likely i am to speak... and then, when we'd finally gone on a date, he couldn't be bothered to park his truck and walk me back up to my apartment after having seen the movie... in fact, he was so eager to bail, he didn't even put the engine in park when he'd gotten to my complex... he'd stopped just long enough for me to get out and was out of sight before i'd even gotten to the sidewalk.

the guy who does what he needs to do get himself aroused without considering whether i am.

and...this is worse... the guy who arouses me and then disappears. bastard.

worse still... the guy who wows me and then vanishes. so rare. so beautiful. such jackasses.

the guy who holds you while saying he doesn't want a relationship. what the fuck are we doing laying on your couch then, with your arms around me? what's the point of dating, then? if you don't want a relationship why do you toy with a gal's affections? do you think we give them so freely? seriously... three guys have impressed me. in forty-two years. three.

the guy who can't say when he's not pleased by something trivial, let's the little things build until they've snowballed into something huge and unforgivable and walks without a word. and then, when confronted with the silence, says he thought he'd addressed it.

then there's the guy who says a gal's got reservations and internal conflict... he's aware there's an issue, he mentions it, but he can't be bothered to scratch the surface of the thing. can't be bothered to care. can't be bothered to help.

the guy who would rather make like there was bad connection and hang up -- because his gal was saying something he didn't want to hear -- over and over and over again.

the guy who makes a gal do things she wouldn't normally do because those things please him. and i'm not talking about little things -- i've put fake nails on my hands for a guy before... i've colored the grays because, while i have accepted the things are gonna be on my head, the guy doesn't want to see'm. it's my hair, and i've had enough of coloring it. god gave'm to me. i'm trying to embrace this. i've earned the damned things (partly from putting up with all this bullshit)... but those are little things. i've done bigger things i'm not proud of doing because the guy had asked me to, and i was weak... or something. i don't want to be pushed. i don't want to be made to feel like i'm less because i'm unwilling to do a thing.

the guy whose idea of a valentine's day gift is phone sex.

the guy who can't be bothered to remember my birthday, even with something so small and simple as a phone call... even when i'd told him twice that my birthday was coming up.

the guy who catches up to the gal in the bmw on the freeway to check her out because she'd been checking him out and paces her for a long moment... with me in the passenger seat.

the guy who takes a gal out for dinner while he's still married to someone else.

the guy who brings champagne instead of vodka... first of all, you can do a lot more with vodka than you can with champagne. second, i'm not posh and gloss, by any means... champagne's not my style. but mostly, when you offer to bring something over for the dinner i'm cooking you, and the thing i'm cooking calls for vodka... be a good listener. bring me my vodka. and it's tito's, dammit... not that skyy shit.

the guy who asks what i'm looking for... and in that moment i realize it's him and say so... guess what happens then...

twenty questions

September 9, 2015

one. given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? rainbow rowell.

two. would you like to be famous? in what way? i want to write one book that resonates with at least one person. if it takes being famous for that to happen, so be it.

three. before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? why? it depends on the situation; usually no, but i've that whole can't-talk-to-people thing, so...

four. what would constitute a perfect day for you? right now, i'd be content with a day where i'm not telling myself god, you're ugly first thing in the morning or look at how fat you've gotten; it's disgusting while i'm getting dressed or you're so stupid while i'm at work. if i could have a day where there's no hate in it--from within or without--that'd be a beautiful thing.

five. when did you last sing to yourself? to someone else? today. i can't remember.

six. if you were able to live to the age of ninety and retain either the mind or body of a thirty-year-old for the last sixty years of your life, which would you want? the body. i'm perfectly fine with getting alzheimer's. but not being able to walk would suck. i know, because i've had knee reconstructive surgeries. that pain's a bitch.

seven. do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? nope.

eight. for what in your life do you feel most grateful? i didn't have to watch alcoholism take my brother over a period of several decades. it was quick. and a few months before he'd died, i'd found a way to love him again; i hadn't been able to do that for a long time.

nine. if you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? we wouldn't've moved so much.

ten. if you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be? affability.

eleven. a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know? that a man could love me; that i could love him.

twelve. is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? why haven’t you done it? writing this stupid book i've been screwing with since college. because it's not an easy thing to do.

thirteen. what is the greatest accomplishment of your life? i'm still here.

fourteen. what do you value most in a friendship? humor.

fifteen. what is your most treasured memory? christmas eve morning, when my older brother came home after a binge that nearly killed him. we'd assumed we weren't going to see him. my mother was convinced of this. i'd happened to be coming down the stairs just as he'd gotten to the front door. i let him in the house. he looked broken. i'd never seen him like that before. i'd never seen him as weak. i knew he was, but i'd never seen it. i stopped hating him that day. ironically, that's the best christmas present he could've given me.

sixteen. what is your most terrible memory? playing with the boys in my adolescence.

seventeen. if you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? why? if you count taking a month off to go on a road trip of the southeastern coast as changing life, then yes, i guess. otherwise, no.

eighteen. what does friendship mean to you? listening, laughing, leaning and letting one lean. just being there... good AND bad.

nineteen. when did you last cry in front of another person? by yourself? yesterday. today.

twenty. your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. after saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. what would it be? why? the bulletin board of pictures of my older brother that mom and i made for his memorial here. because that's pretty much all i have left of him.

what would your answers be?

the good in my day: august

September 5, 2015

caitlin. bambam. miracle. for love of the game. shipley's chocolate-covered donuts. blue bell ice cream's back in business (thank you, jesus)! work. california pizza kitchen's blt. dosey doe's grits waffle. trainwreck. chic-fil-a. lara. mama. the broncos beat the seahawks. amy and frank. mama's cooking. black walnut. johnny. barnes & noble booksellers. monkey, jack and beto. phil collins. journey. u2. simple minds. lara, jan and tamara. katy. home. two news stories i've written... but more the subject of those stories, and the privilege i've had to tell them. coca-cola. macaroni and cheese. my bed.

saturday spotlight: prophets and outlaws

August 29, 2015

there's this place that's like five minutes from my house called dosey doe music cafe. (that's not it in that there photograph... the doe's a heck of a lot cozier.) they have some some pretty good food, yall. but more, they provide a pretty nifty atmosphere for listening to live music.

earlier this week, i wrote an article about the labor day festivities the woodlands had planned; one band scheduled to perform that weekend is prophets and outlaws out of dallas. i had a look at their website and thought they might be worth checking out, but i hate big crowds and most likely will be steering clear of the waterway that weekend. and then i noticed that they had a gig at dosey doe, and tickets were only twelve bucks. i figured, what the hell? why not?

the lead singer, matt boggs, looks like he's in his mid-twenties. he's thirty. for as young and preppy (because i can't find the word i want) as he looks, his voice has got a surprising amount of soul.

i love how the band blends rock, blues and country for its sound. they call it texas soul, and the term fits. the only criticism i can offer is that their lyrics sometimes could be stronger. but then, that's probably just the writer in me.

they've recorded four ep's: wolf howl, wanted, prophets and outlaws and texas home. i bought the latter two and am happy with my purchase. i feel like the self-titled recording is the stronger one, but that's not to say the most recent release isn't noteworthy. i like the folksy feel of texas home. i like the beat of goodbye kiss. and i love the groove of me and my guitar. i drove around for an hour or so after the show was over, just so i could listen some more. and when the last song stopped playing, i was bummed. just like when the band stopped playing their ninety-minute set, i'd wished they'd kept going.

the guys were kind enough to answer some questions for me. i get to post them here! YEE!

matt boggs: vocals, guitar
steven guckenheimer: lead guitar, vocals
james guckenheimer: drums, vocals
jamie "jelly" ringholm: keys, organ, vocals
cj thompson: bass, vocals

how'd yall meet?
mb: i met brothers steven and james at jesuit college prep in dallas. steven first played guitar with me at my senior concert on the jesuit baseball field.

what bands/artists provide the greatest influence?
mb: we love a lot of the music in our scene: william clark green, adam hood, walt wilkins, midnight river choir, etc. but we also love r&b and jazz. dallas band snarky puppy is one of our favorites!
sg: the allman brothers, the eagles and the band had a big influence on the way we play and write. 

where was your first gig? how'd it go?
mb: our first gig as pao as it is presently constructed was at the blue light in lubbock. it was cj's first show with us. we had been a band long before that.
sg: one of our first gigs as prophets and outlaws, and THE first gig for jamie was big d nye. there were over thirty thousand people. let's just say jamie was in after that!

where was your best gig, and what made it so?
mb: our best gig was headlining larry joe taylor's music fest in april. we played the big stage, and the energy was amazing. can't wait to do it again.
sg: playing on the main stage at larry joe taylor this year was great. we got to share the bill with william clark green, stoney larue and josh abbott!

what's been the craziest gig?
mb: craziest gig?? right before our set at larry joe taylor's, extreme weather set in and we had to wait out tornado conditions with everyone in the vip tent. it was scary/memorable.

i've seen a lot of websites push their idea of the ultimate roadtrip playlist, with the typical on the road again, fast car, mustang sally, hit the road jack... i'm not impressed, to be honest. make me a playlist. 
mb: if we are on a long road trip, we might listen to some future-sounding jazz: qwuasimoto, madvillian, tribe called quest or maybe some smoother stuff like bonobo, teddy pendergrass, lauryn hill.
sg: we range from old soul songs to nineties country and everything in between. we spend a lot of hours on the road, so you will hear southern rock, blues, r&b, rap, jazz, etc.

what's been the biggest challenge about being in this band?
mb: the biggest challenge is dealing with our car and trailer. it's a full time job on its own, and none of us are "car" guys. we have gotten a ton of help from jamie "jelly" ringholm's father. he's a mechanic at sewell in dallas. life saver!

what's been the greatest reward?
mb: this might sound like a typical answer, but we love hearing fans sing our songs back to us. even the deep cuts.

how do yall handle conflict amongst each other? 
mb: we fight like brothers. we'll blow up at each other in the moment and smooth things over later. it helps because issues don't build up too bad that way.

what's a typical day like?
mb: day of a show, we meet at our rehearsal space and load our trailer with gear. we then try to stop for food--and not fast food. we love allowing more time and eating a little better. we'll try cafes, barbecue and anything we might find through diners, drive-ins and dives. after load-in, we typically do a harmony practice and warm up our vocals. by the time the show is over, there's only time to tear down and get home.

one of things i like about your music is that it meshes rock, blues and country so well. if you could NOT combine those three genres to make your texas soul... if you could only choose one, which one would you choose? 
mb: country.
sg: soul. 

where's your favorite place to play?
mb: we love panther island pavilion, the kessler, dosey doe.

what's the furthest you've ever gone for a gig?
mb: we've played gigs in denver; mobile, alabama; kansas and new mexico.

you've recorded four cds; which one is your favorite and why?
mb: it's hard to choose your favorite child, but i think we would all agree that texas home is our favorite. not only is it the newest, but it will have three radio singles come off it when it's all said and done.

which song is your favorite?
mb: texas home.
sg: soul shop. it was our first single, and it truly represents the type of music we are trying to create.

random, but not the quarter kind

August 24, 2015

this is one of those posts that i'm doing because i feel like i should post something, but i really don't have anything to say...

the random quarter posts began for this very reason. but i already did one this month. i can't do another one.

so i guess i'll just tell you about what's been going on with me.

my great aunt passed away two weeks ago.

i missed her granddaughter's--my godsister's--wedding that following weekend because the booking company my mother used screwed up our tickets. i could've spent saturday in san diego (bummer).

she got a voucher for their error for less than half the value of the two tickets. she let me use it. it's not easy, using one of their vouchers. it's not like you can go to their website and book the flight yourself and enter some code. you have to call. you have to spend three hours of your time confirming the flight details with a dude who can barely speak english, only to find out that he screwed your flight up, too. so for a second there, i was going to go to north carolina for a week in november (YAY!). but the idiot booked the flight for november first rather than november fourth (fucker). and i can't take ten days off work. at least i'm pretty sure i can't. i've asked my boss. she didn't seem too eager, but she'd said she'd ask.

me, my munkle and the red truck

my family went to utah this past weekend to see my munkle (for those of you new here, my great uncle--one of several older brothers to the great aunt who recently passed and the only brother left alive--is a monk). i did not get to go. part of me is bummed about that. in forty-two summers of going to utah, i've only missed two. part of me is just like my great aunt--not too keen on watching a loved one leaving. and he will be leaving, and soon. i know it. i know it. he walks with two canes now, relying very heavily on them both. from what my parents and brother have said, he's not all there--he's not quick-witted; he'll have conversations with my mother where he'll talk to her about her, like she's someone else. his hands don't work. he's a carpenter, my munkle. he makes the most beautiful things. the fact that he can't make his hands do the making is a source of great contention for him. understandably so. but mostly... what i remember most is the way his face beamed with pleasure and how fiercely he would hold on to me, his arms so much like the carpenter's vise. i don't want to see his face if i can't see it the way it's always been. i don't want to hug him if he can't hug me the way he's always done.

i've been working on five stories. one of them is about a woman and the efforts she's made to raise awareness for the fatal, degenerative, genetic disease that's plagued her son for seven years.

and i have friends who are very sorely troubled by life at the moment.

i need a light. has anybody got one?

. . .

and of course, moments after i post this... browsing my facebook feed, one of my friends had posted this hours before, and i only just now saw it:

you will be nowhere tomorrow where god hasn't been (max lucado).

that's a pretty good light.

random quarter: the q&a edition-august

August 10, 2015

one. do you need a cold shower? no.

two. describe the room you're in right now. office. gray walls and carpet.

three. what do you lie about? lots of things. hello? writer.

four. when was the last time you were on an airplane? july sixth of this year.

five. today you destroyed a box of club minis.

six. who are you? a modern-day miss brill.

seven. what was your last great meal? babin's halibut with lump crab.

eight. write down your last sent text message. you're pretty wonderful, as well.

nine. what are you running from at this moment? wellness.

ten. how many stamps are on your passport? no clue.

eleven. what is your resolution for tomorrow? get through the day.

twelve. what is your favorite thing to do on a saturday morning? sleep.

thirteen. what do you like best about your body today? the freckle on my heel.

fourteen. my body and my brain really bothered me today.

fifteen. in a hundred forty characters or fewer summarize your day. work, errands, shower, play, sleep.

sixteen. what can't you forget? all the ways i've failed.

seventeen. what would you like to tell your father? shouldn't be proud of me.

eighteen. what's the best part of your life right now? job. nights and weekends off.

nineteen. what did have for dinner? six chic-fil-a nuggets and water.

twenty. do you make enough money? yep.

twenty-one. did you complete your to-do list for the day? didn't have one... so, yes?

twenty-two. what question (or questions) do you love to answer? the ones in this book.

twenty-three. what's your favorite piece of clothing? this shirt.

twenty-four. write your recipe for creativity. pour madness into bowl. stir.

twenty-five. when was the last time you worked out? no clue.

the tunes i grew up on

August 9, 2015

the majority of my mother's family lives in colorado. we spent christmases there. and spring break. and summer vacations. i remember trips from my grandmother's house in grand junction to the cabin she owned in basalt. she'd drive her white buick riviera, with mom in the passenger seat and my brothers in the back. we'd listen to her eight-tracks: george strait, john denver, barry manilow, helen reddy and the carpenters.

lately i've been thinking about the songs i learned in my childhood. the ones i favored....

george strait's all my exes live in texas. john denver's annie's song, somedays are diamonds, the cowboy and the lady, perhaps love, san francisco mabel joy. barry manilow's mandy. helen reddy's delta dawn, ain't no way to treat a lady...

i googled the most popular songs of 'seventy-three (the year of my birth) and every year after for a decade. i surveyed google's list of the songs most frequently mentioned on the web for each year, and the ones i liked the best? 

delta dawn (there's a helen reddy version and a tanya tucker version, and i'm pretty sure we listened to them both). annie's song (john denver). send in the clowns (judy collins/barbra streisand). all out of love (air supply). king of pain (the police). owner of a lonely heart (yes). faithfully (journey).

delta dawn, what's that flower you have on?
could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
and did i hear you say he was meeting you here to day
to take you to his mansion in the sky?

she's forty-one, and her daddy still calls her baby.

isn't it rich? aren't we a pair?
me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air
where are the clowns?

isn't it bliss? don't you approve?
one who keeps tearing around, one who can't move
where are the clowns? there ought to be clowns.

just when i'd stopped opening doors
finally knowing the one that i wanted was yours
making my entrance again with my usual flair
sure of my lines, no one is there.

don't you love farce? my fault, i fear
i thought that you'd want what i want. sorry, my dear

but where are the clowns? there ought to be clowns.

there's a little black spot on the sun today.
it's the same old thing as yesterday.
there's a black hat caught in a high treetop.
there's a flagpole rag, and the wind won't stop.

i have stood here before, inside the pouring rain
with my world turning circles, running 'round my brain.
i guess i'm always hoping that you'll end this reign,
but it's my destiny to be the king of pain.

i know there was happier music. i know there was. i'm sure i liked it. but i don't remember it affecting me the way these songs did, even as a child. i knew how desperate some of them were, even then. 

the ones i remember liking the most were denver's san francisco mabel joy--my god, that's a sad story--and manilow's mandy. 

i can't listen to delta dawn now. i feel as foolish as the people in the town make her sound.

thank the lord for older brothers and their appreciation of things like acdc, zz top, van halen and def leppard. and mtv.