Riot Fest 2014 Reflections

Ramblings, Reflections, and Tiny Confessions

(Concise Music Journalism this Is Not…)

Back in MY day, music festivals TOURED, dammit. None of this all day-weekend 80 hundred bands kinda thing. I went to the first four Lollapalooza tours from 1991-1994, a period spanning high school into college. I stayed in Kalamazoo in the summer of 1995 for theatre stuff, and then didn’t Metallica headline at one point? I mean, no offense to Metallica (I dig ’em), but Metallica? Whatever. I’ve not gone back to Lolla even though it sits in my own backyard.

I would’ve last year. For The Cure of course. Alas, I was unavoidabley out of town, and that post-Lolla Monday, I sulked on my hotel bed in Stratford, Ontario while my husband and his parents went swimming. I watched the video of the entire set on my phone. I wished I’d been there, despite all the…people.

So when Riot Fest announced The Cure as a headliner, it was a no brainer that I’d go. If I missed them AGAIN for this their second summer in a row in Chicago, then I’d officially suck and have to turn in my Cure card. I bit the bullet and got a 3-day pass (thank you, honey!) as they hadn’t announced each day’s line-ups (that’s how they get ya!) and I didn’t want to stress over single-day ticket stuff. No VIP thing for me (I was tempted by the better bathrooms and lounges…) For the last September of my 30s, I thought I’d “slum it with the kids” and just deal with the mess. Didn’t imagine how messy it was going to be. But we were all in this together: the “babies” (literal babies and teen-and-20-somethings both) and the more vintage of us. And really, there was something for everyone based on age and styles. I had an awesome time, and now that my bones are like Oh, you’re not going to be standing in mud all day? and they don’t hate me so much, I get back into the groove of my week and take some time to reflect on my adventure.


The early weather forecasts for this first Riot day had called for cloudy and 72. Yeah, not so much. Ever the Boy Scout, I packed my satchel with essentials including a travel poncho, sanitizer, earplugs (!), water bottle, sunscreen (for later in the weekend…), my ticket folded into a plastic bag, and Cold-Eze to fight the cold I picked up on Monday after my dentist appointment. I was actually feeling better by the weekend, but ya know, keeping myself in check. Properly layered with my outer jacket good for any light to moderate rain. I made it to Ashland after work and took the bus down to North. Was going to take the North bus, but kept waiting and waiting and, eff it I’ll walk. I joined up with others doing to same thing and talked with Javier and Kristie (??) along the way. We parted ways at the gate. Hope they had fun.

Okay, so here we. My goal was for a 5:00 arrival, and I made it with time to spare. My first band of the weekend was The Hotelier over at the smaller Revolt Stage. Found a tree on the edges of the healthy crowd to hold off the rain that was somewhere between a mist and a light drizzle. Good opening act for me! They describe themselves as a anti-pop anarcho punk band, but they still have some catchy pop sensibilities. In the best, accessible way if I’m making sense. I preferred when the vocals were melodic and clear over when they got screamy. The inner sanctum of the crowd was way into them, and they had their fans who knew the words and communally thrashed their heads. My favorite was the dude in the pink plastic hat thing. Looking forward to listening to more of their recordings.

After a little time to peruse the spiky jewelry and t-shirts with cool stuff on them that I’d never buy or wear and getting better acquainted with the lay of the land, I was back at the Revolt Stage for From Indian Lakes. They brought a more chill Northern California vibe. A slightly cleaner sound, though I felt like the bass levels were way up in general on this stage. Listening to them as I type, and I dig how they can switch from Fleet Foxes mellow (but not as wispy if that makes sense) to punk rock heavy without missing a beat. Again, I look forward to listening to more of their stuff.

Good starting at this smaller stage. Got me acclimated to the festival, the crowds, the people watching opportunities, and I didn’t feel like the world was pressing in on my organs. That would be later. From there, I made my way to the main Riot Stage and saw my friend Anna. Cool! I helped lead her to the left side of the sound booth where her friend Trish said to meet her. The weather was getting worse–colder and rainier. But I was good. Anna not as much. Trish arrived, and we were there in time for Gogol Bordello. They obviously have a large fan base, and I know they’ve been around, but they’re new to me. A Gypsy punk band with a Ukrainian lead singer (Eugene Hütz from Everything Is Illuminated!) The music is exactly what you’d expect, and it was awesome! One song intro sounded very traditional, and I said to Anna, this is the part of the show where Ernie’s mother starts dancing a traditional Romanian peasant dance. Loved every second! So now I’m sold, and I’ll listen to them more. During the show, the rain fell harder, but Trish had an umbrella even though they were on the No-no list. Since were further back, I didn’t feel so bad. From my angle, I loved watching the Pokeman and lit-up Mario on sticks bouncing in the crowd. The girls were done and over it for the evening after GB. So as the crowd moved out, I moved up and got a pretty sweet spot for Jane’s Addiction.

The rain continued, but never so torrential that I was like I hate my life. My poncho never did make it out of my bag, though it probably should have. My layers and Makers Mark baseball cap kept me decently dry, but I asked a lot of them. Got to talking to folks waiting with me. A few of my vintage who also remembered seeing Jane’s headline the first Lollapalooza tour. Tim and Desiree. And nutty Jean from Pensacola, Florida who flew up here primarily for Jane’s. She wasn’t letting anything rain on HER parade, yo. She loved how everyone in Chicago was so nice to her and made her feel like a part of the city. Glad we’re doing our part to be hospitable.

So Jane’s: effin rad. A handful of bands were set to play an entire album in its entirety. Jane’s played all of Nothing’s Shocking from “Up the Beach” to “Pigs in Zen,” and including of course “Jane Says” (when they brought out the kettle drum), “Mountain Song,” and “Standing in the Shower…Thinking.” I hadn’t listened to it straight through in a while so I had fun listening and remembering. Perry Ferrel was crazy and cooky as ever and I loved him for it. Dave Navaro was tank- topped and rocker-hot as usual. Perry would just start monologuing about whatever, including how he could take a bubble bath on stage with all the rain water. A few times, a bass note would hit and it felt like the who city shook, like something was off with the sound booth (guess bass is a tricky wicket). Glad I had my earplugs. Looked like Dave yelled at one of the stage guys about it after the second time it happened. Perry did make his way into the crowd on my side. I was just out of reach, but I was so close. Jean freaked out, and was very explicit about the brick she shit. Ha! I grabbed a couple photos that turned out decent enough. Pretty awesome! The closed with a couple songs of Ritual de lo Habitual which is the album I got into them with, really based on my age and time of life and all that. “Been Caught Stealing,” where at the first Lolla, Perry introed the song by asking the crowd, “Do you like my pants? Well, why don’t you steal ’em?!” The closed with “Stop!” which is one of my faves. No “Classic Girl” unfortunately. In fact they stopped a few minutes early, I think cos of the rain. Looked like the fire marshall was on stage there. Perry was afraid we’d all catch pneumonia. With all that rain (among other rules…), there were of course no bonfires behind me like on the hill at Lolla where when I looked back during Jane’s, I counted at least 14 of them. Listening to Shocking as I type. I only have Ritual on cassette with the censored cover. Of all my old faves, that one never made the digital transition. Not even a CD from the South Bend library. I should fix that. Jean and I walked part of the way to the gate together. We gave each other a big wet hug before parting ways. I hope she had a fun rest of her weekend!

Getting home. Best way really was the North Ave bus to the Red Line. I waited in line to get on one of the extra long CTA buses, and managed to snag the last seat across from the back door because the couple sitting there kept smiling at folks so no one sat next to them. I didn’t even notice their moves and saw the empty seat. Getting out of the way plus getting off my muddy (!) feet were my motives. Very friendly folks. Didn’t catch their names. But the guy, a cute buzz cut Latino was jovial and conversational. He asked a number of questions including what art form I’d perform on (he named a plaza) in Madrid, and how many wash cloths I could stack on my erect penis (we got a little more in depth about the varietals involved, but I’ll spare you all that as perhaps I’ve already gotten a little TMI here, ha.) We all talked about our experience so far, comparing notes and commiserating/celebrating the rain and mud.

When my new friends got off at the Blue Line, another couple sat next to me. A New York couple where the fella was very tattooed and I think ear gauged. We got to talking, and then they asked me the best way to get back to Lincoln Park. I started to suggest they take the Red Line one stop up to Fullerton, but then I didn’t know which part of LP they needed to go. Further up to the Halsted and Diversey area. Since the Red Line station is right at Halsted, they I think asked if they could walk, and I said Yeah, that it was only a half mile up. BUT. As I rode up the train toward Fullerton, I realized I had them walking up from Fullerton and not North, which adds another mile to their walk. Ugh! I felt SO bad. Like Mortified at my dingbattedness. My brain did not reboot from the earlier part of the conversation. So yeah, I should’ve had them come with me to the train and then they could walk from there. Here I was trying to be nice and helpful and welcoming to our fair city and I totally bombed. I was like They hate me! I am cursed! If they see me the rest of the weekend they’re going to kick my ass. I knew where they were staying and even thought of calling the hotel to leave a message apologizing. But that would’ve been weird, eh? So, I Tweeted my apology along with sending it through the more traditional Through the Universe route. My Tweet was randomly re-tweeted by a couple folks with not very many followers. Not sure if they were trying to help or laughing at me. I deserve both I guess. At least my new friends who probably hate me got to pass such Chicago cultural institutions such as Steppenwolf and Kingston Mines. So there’s that. Again, SORRY! I obsessed about it some, but as I started thinking about how I’d write about it (here and through more creative means), I calmed down. The power of turning ridiculousness into art. 🙂

Saturday Wait, Sunday Always Comes to Late (Click “more” for the rest! Scroll Down for The Cure.)

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Mortified in Photos

Thanks to everyone who came out to Mortified Chicago to “share the shame” with me as I presented a collection of high school poetry and song lyrics affectionately titled Angry Young Man. As I navigated through the music-inspired personas I put forth, I shared such titles as “Downhill,” “Get Off My Foot,” and “My Bleeding Soul.” I had a blast and can’t wait to to do it all over again.

Photos by my fabulous cast mate Jill Howe who shared with us her take on The Crucible by way of Alanis Morrisette.

UPDATE: Listen to the audio at!


My inner Robert Smith and I.

Mortified 2

Giving the Censor Board a piece of my mind, yo.

My air guitar and I "sing" about a love that's gone "Downhill."

My air guitar and I “sing” about a love that’s gone “Downhill” from 8th grade.

Mom's "moody one."

Mom’s “moody one.”

It’s a Book! It’s a Miniseries! It’s…History!

The following was originally written for Open Books’ Read All About It blog, August 23, 2011. Re-posted with permission. Support literacy in Chicago by supporting Open Books.

Band of Brothers ~ The Book

Band of Brothers ~ The Book

One of our getting-to-know you questions we sometimes answer around the room during Open Books writing field trips is “What’s your favorite kind of book.” Depending on the age of the students, we’ll get an array of genres, titles, series, authors, etc.  “Scary books” and “funny books” are popular amongst the younger ones.  Harry Potter, Junie B. Jones, fiction, non-fiction, and adventure books are all cited.  When I’m feeling a little sassy and want to get a reaction, I’ll stray from the more conventional “literary fiction” and answer “World War II Memoirs.” Yeah, that’s my field trip trump card.

I blame Stephen Ambrose.  In 2006, I finally got around to watching the HBO-Spielberg-Hanks-produced 2001 Miniseries Band of Brothers based on Ambrose’s book, when I borrowed the DVDs from my brother.  A long time history fan, particularly that era that’s still (barely) within our grasp, I hunkered down in my and my partner Ernie’s house in South Bend, Indiana and followed the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne. And sobbed. And became a little obsessed. And found fan sites and official sites.  Looked up all the actors on IMDd, found photos of the real guys, found out who was still alive and who wasn’t. Wanted more, more, MORE. I bought my own DVDs in 2009, and have re-watched it in its entirety every summer since. And I’m still a sobbing mess at the end of each episode.

The Real Band of Brothers

The Real Band of Brothers

Of course, it started the book. Actually, it started with Hitler and that whole reality of WWII thing. But it started with the book.  Which I finally read (my brother’s copy again) last year (and since picked up my own at the Open Books store) and retraced the story, getting a different perspective and more behind the scenes.  I’ve also read (SPOILER ALERT) books by Easy Company vets, Easy Company Soldier by Donald Malarkey and Parachute Infantry by David Kenyon Webster (published posthumously and a major source for Ambrose and the screenwriters). Again, different and deeper perspectives.

When Hanks and company produced last year’s follow up series, The Pacific (also very good, though I don’t yet have the DVDs), I rushed out to pick up its source books, E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed and Robert Leckie’s Helmet for My Pillow (with an eye out for their other books, both fairly prolific writers).  I recently picked up a book by Gene Garrison, a veteran of Patton’s Third Army, entitled Unless Victory Comes, which will give me another in to the Battle of the Bulge.  Band of Brothers as a whole has served as a sort of gate-way drug to further reading, just as Harry Potter and the Twilight series (or Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary depending on one’s age…) have gotten even more books into young readers’ hands.  And all that’s a good thing.

Band of Brothers ~ The Actors

Band of Brothers ~ The Actors

There are more books by and about other veterans of both series, which I’d like to eventually pick up. Band of Brothers has really launched an entire niche industry of publications, artwork, lectures, and official tours to Normandy and other sites. It’s inspired a whole legion of fans from history and military die-hards to younger fan girls and boys (not that these groups are exclusive…) who post animated photos on, write fan fiction portraying the “characters” in less than chaste situations, and edit film clips to rock and pop songs on YouTube. There is also an ongoing series of actor interviews that’s been celebrating the series’ 10 year anniversary since June of last year.  Their Jumping For Heroes event to raise money for a memorial in Normandy took place on August 21 of this year.

Thinking about this fandom is fascinating–there is a sort of falling in love with these guys—the real guys, their personas and relationships as filtered through art, the actors who played them, what they did.  There is borderline fetish, hero worship, pride, and gratitude.  There is a trying to make sense of our own lives through them.  It is a connection to our own family histories. With that, I feel in some ways I know more about these guys than I do either of my own grandfathers.  I didn’t have all the conversations about these things that grandfathers and grandsons should have before it’s too late. I’ve since been going through my dad’s dad’s Army photos and learning more through my grandmother, and just working with what I have.


My grandfather, Frank Van Kerckhove (kneeling, 2nd from right), with his own band of brothers. He trained for the Pacific, but remained States-side working the Signal Corp and weapons inspection.

My grandfather, Frank Van Kerckhove (kneeling, 2nd from right), with his own band of brothers. He trained for the Pacific, but remained States-side working the Signal Corp and weapons inspection.

During Ernie and my recent trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, one of the Band of Brothers actors was in attendance at the play his fiancé directed.  I happened to know he was going to be there because of his recent interview.  I saw him come in and sit in his seat. My heart pounded and I squealed inside like the fan boy that I am. But I was cool, yo.  And I didn’t end up talking to him, which I’m totally (I think ) at peace with.  But it’s like–You’re here, and despite all the other work you’ve done you are still Webster—Webster whose book I’ve read!  What would I say?  Maybe just a Thank you.  That would’ve been good.  But I remained calm….

In an essay of mine entitled Playing Guns where I tackle my youthful war games with brothers and friends, my family’s own military past, and my interest in war stories, I write: “Give me one soldier’s memoir over a dry shot-by-shot account.  While the places and triumphs and losses in each tug at me, I ultimately prefer legends over maps.”

Double Whammy Public Radio Loss

I’m saddened today by two Public Radio deaths.  First, I learned about Dick Buckley, a recently retired Chicago Public Radio jazz DJ.  His voice, humor, and music got me through my earliest Chicago weekends as my roommate, Sarah, was turning me into an NPR addict.  He also gave me an even greater appreciation of classic jazz.

THEN, I learned of Daniel Schorr.  To me, he was a comforting grandfather who was on my side and made everything seem okay, even if what he was commenting on wasn’t really okay.

Both men gave a lot of people comfort, I think.  They and their voices will be missed.

Albums of My Decade ~ 2005

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 ~ 1999-2004. Instead of this being “Part 2,” well, I finished writing up 2005, so I thought I’d post.  The rest will come as they will.   Happy New Year! 🙂


Brokeback Mountain ~ Soundtrack. Haunting score for an amazing movie.  This album also introduced me to Teddy Thompson and Jackie Greene.  And only has minimal Rufus Wainwright who I can only take in small doses.

Depeche Mode ~ Playing the Angel. The last DM album in my collection was Violator on cassette (in a time before my laptop, iTunes, and replacing my cassettes with borrowed CD’s).  My friend Nikki snagged some floor seats for their Chicago stop.  So I snatched up the CD (I think at Virgin!) and recharged my love of the band, the last spike being in 11th grade.  It’s a more mature DM with a dark groove that drew me in.  Dark, but still accessible (accessibility may be what’s lacking in the new one, which I have, but really haven’t given a chance).  Fave songs are “Suffer Well” and “Precious.”  The concert was amazing, complete with old favorites that took me back to different times.

The Fray ~ How to Save a Life. Didn’t really get into this until 2006-07 when it exploded onto the world.  The whole album is amazing and I never get tired of the title song.  This album is the good memories from our time in South Bend, Indiana.  Haven’t picked up the new one yet.

Girlyman ~ Little Star. Discovered them when they opened for Dar on that year’s tour.  A gay-lesbian folk trio—how awesome!  Gorgeous harmonies, some banjo playing, and my first folk-star crush (Nate!).  Fave songs are “One the Air,” “Young James Dean,” and “This Is Me.”  This is their 2nd album (my copy’s signed as well), and their 4th just came out.  Don’t have anything else, though would like to.  If I never get around to it, I’ll always have this little gem.  Thanks!

Amos Lee ~ Amos Lee. Another random Virgin Music purchase that was totally on sale, Lee’s first album is soulful folk, a comfortable pairing with the first John Mayer.  Good chill out music without being boring, appropriate music for friends over.  Faves are “Seen it All Before” and “Love in the Lies.”  Like Girlyman, I don’t have any subsequent releases, but this one will always have a place in my heart.

Madonna ~ Confessions on a Dance Floor. American Life wasn’t bad, but this was the Madonna album we were waiting for!  The best dance album since Kylie’s for me this decade.  We first listened to it on AOL before the official release in November.  We rented a car for the holiday travels, rode with MK and this got us home.  As I wrote, the trip was “like Too Wong Foo, but without the break down.”

Jason Mraz ~ MR. A-Z. At first, it seemed like a sophomore slump for Jason.  BUT.  It’s definitely grown on me over the years and I love-love it.  “Life is Wonderful” is a fave Mraz song.

Dar Williams ~ My Better Self.  Another solid Dar offering.  A kind of return to form and clocks in 12 minutes longer than Beauty.  Dar’s signature mix of the quirky, serious, political are on here.  “Teen For God” gives us another side of the “Christians and the Pagans” story.  “Empire” is not playing nice, but doesn’t get ranty either.  “The Hudson” is an all time Dar fave, which I still haven’t seen her play live.  It takes us on a journey just as rivers do, and is the perfect album ender.

Albums of My Decade ~ Part 1

Okay, Friends.  I’m definitely one who is prone to year-decade-etc in review.  My journals are full of them.  There are Lists Aplenty this year, being the end of a decade (and please don’t tell me the new decade actually starts in 2011, for real.)  So far, the only List I’ve been feeling is a Musical one.  So, here are the Albums of My Decade!  It’s pretty different from Rolling Stone Mag’s list–no Coldplay found here, yo.

There are a few “rules” to keep me sane.  First, these are albums I acquired myself (purchased CD’s and those received as gift, iTunes and other downloads, etc.)  Maybe a couple that Ernie picked up that I “borrowed.”  Other albums were in my sphere, but I need to focus, people!   There have also been individual songs that made my decade (including those found on mix CD’s from Ernie), but I’m sticking to albums. Though I may break this rule.  We’ll see….  I’m listing the albums by year of release, which for the most part is when I acquired them/they entrenched into my soul, but there are a few instances when I got into them later.  I don’t include Greatest Hits and other compilations (though The Jesus & Mary Chain’s 21 Singles, Pat Benatar’s Greatest Hits and The Cure’s Join the Dots box set would apply), or albums from decades past that I acquired in the last (say, that Chet Baker With Stings album I love or when I finally got around to picking up R.E.M’s Up album.)

This list isn’t exactly always hip.  I’ve gotten less hip as the decade’s progressed, but oh well.  I’m not a ravenous music consumer.  There’s stuff out there I love but don’t have.  I like what I like and buy what I buy, so there you go.



A couple albums that crossed the Decade Threshold for me….

Dido ~ No Angel. She tied me over between Sarah McLachlan albums, but also proved amazing on her own.  Beautifully angelic turn-of-the-century dream chill pop.  This album got me through many sleepy Amtrak trips home.

Lucy Kaplansky ~ Ten Year Night. Discovered via Dar Williams, this was my first Lucy album purchased before seeing her with Dar and John Gorka in the summer of 1999.  Beautiful folk music (or “chick with guitar” music as Ernie calls it) riding the line between singer-songwriter and country (and hanging out on the side I prefer.)  This album = futzing around the kitchen of my Barry Street apartment, either on my own or with my roomie, Sarah.


Barenaked Ladies ~ Maroon. This is actually the only BNL studio album I own.  “Pinch Me” and “Falling for the First Time” would be on my list of Favorite Songs Ever.  I just made you say ‘underwear.’

Bon Jovi ~ Crush. The best Bon Jovi of the decade by far!  Rocking comeback after 5 years off.  This album for me was high school meets 20-something.  Well written and still has some grit.  The next two albums didn’t quite measure up, and I haven’t gotten around to picking up the last two.   I’ll always have “It’s My Life.”

The Cure ~ Bloodflowers. Much anticipated post-Wild Mood Swings album!  We were promised a return to the darkness of Disintegration (which is sacred ground itself and hard to compare the new album to after a decade plus of listening).  Not an album for the casual Cure fan or faint-at-heart, but still beautiful and agonizing and one I’ll listen to in full every once in a while.  That summer’s Dream Tour saw me at two AMAZING shows, especially 2nd row in Detroit, where my buddy Chris were totally 17 again.

David Gray ~ White Ladder. I mean, “Babylon” come on!  And “This Year’s Love” and “Please Forgive Me,”  Bliss.   It’s folk, it’s electric, he’s Welsh, what is this?!  I sometimes wonder if it has held up over the years.  Sarah and I had this on constant rotation.  Joined Dido on the train.


Madonna ~ Music. It makes the people come together.  Yeah.  Not as brilliant as Ray of Light, but a hell of a ride.  The cowgirl thing worked for me.  The “Don’t Tell Me” video is still playing in the Roscoe’s front bar TV screen in my mind.  Saw the Drowned World Tour the following year in her home town (or home state at least).  I managed to avoid knowing the set list ahead of time, so it was all new to me.


Carrie Newcomer ~ Age of Possibility. Another folk find of mine along the way.  Soulful, earthy, storytelling.  Saw her opening for Lucy and on her own at Shuba’s.  This and her next album were living alone in my studio on Aldine with a boyfriend around the corner.  “This Too Will Pass” was later put on a tribute CD for my mom.

Anthony Rapp ~ Look Around. My favorite RENT cast member solo album.  “Just Some Guy” would make it onto the earliest of mix tapes for Ernie (yeah, I was still doing tapes at this point…)  Saw him perform many of these songs live with his band at Halsted Market Days.  Got to meet him.  Then he performed solo at Un-Common Ground.  Awesome.

Dar Williams ~ The Green World. Dar did kind of become my post-Sarah M. female singer-songwriter obsession.  And holds that title today.  “After All” is an all time Dar fave.  I’ll always associate the opening drums and notes of “Playing to the Firmament” with my week-after-9/11 breakdown with my dear MK.  I saw her live this tour for my 3rd time–and first time with a full band.  I went with a friend from the bars, Dan, I think.  I grabbed the journal I thought this concert entry might be in, but then got sucked into reading lots of other things, and finally set it aside.  Not sure how much of 2000 I want to relive.  Anyway, still love this album!


Band of Brothers ~ Score/Soundtrack. This music didn’t take over my soul until 2006 when I finally got around to seeing the film when I borrowed my brother’s DVD’s.  Now, it’s my most played single album I own according to iTunes and  Beautiful!  The late Michael Kamen’s score with a dash of Beethoven plus all the film images they conjure, yeah, that’s it.

Lucy Kaplansky ~ Every Single Day. Another solid offering from Lucy!   My favorite of hers this decade (released on 9-11!).  I did pick up her next one, The Red Thread, and there’s another one I don’t have.  But  this and Ten Year mean the most to me.  “Written on the Back of His Hand” and “Broken Things” are highlights.  I also took a trip home and took my brother, Steve, to her concert at The Ark in Ann Arbor.  That was a pretty awesome night.  We met her afterward (though I’d met her a couple times), but Steve hadn’t.  We now both have signed copies.

John Mayer ~ Room For Squares. Probably my fave of the year!  He’s kind of a folky guy, but more rock.  I was needing that.  And so young, so innocent, SO not dating Jessica Simpson.  “No Such Thing” “3×5” and “Love Song for No One” = Joy.  Favorite Songs Ever for sure.

R.E.M. ~ Reveal. Big time R.E.M. fan here.  Not their best of the decade, but still a good one.  My fave track: “She Just Wants to Be.”




Norah Jones ~ Come Away with Me.  It’s jazz, it’s pop, it’s amazing!  I was seduced along with everyone else to “Don’t Know Why.”  The title track makes me wish I could actually sing.  I’ve liked her stuff since, but this is one that matters most to me.

Ben Kweller ~ Sha Sha. Picked up this debut after his 2nd album came out.  This may even surpass that one.  “In Other Words” is a Fave Song Ever.

Last Five Years ~ Cast Recording. Jason Robert Brown’s delicious off Broadway musical/song cycle about a couple’s five years together–she sings backwards in time and he sings forward and they meet in the middle.  An actor and a writer trying to make it work.  Before acquiring the whole CD myself, Ernie put “If I Didn’t Believe In You” on a mix CD for me, and it still drives me (and probably him too) to near sobs.  “Summer In Ohio” rules.

Kylie Minogue ~ Fever. Hey, it’s that chick who had that “Locomotion” song when I was in 9th grade!  Wait, I’m gay now and she’s a dance-pop diva.  It’s infectious pop perfection in an time when I thought I was somewhat less prone to the latest hot dance track (read: I’m not single any more and not at Roscoe’s as much).  I just can’t get you out of my head!  This one never made it into my iTunes for some reason.  Importing now!  (Sidebar: I love how she’s my friend CMT’s guilty pleasure!)

Carrie Newcomer ~ Gathering of Spirits. Along with her previous album, this is early decade folk at its best for me.  “Holy is the Day is Spent” blends the spiritual, worldly, and every day life.  The title track makes me think of all my friends.  “I’ll Go Too” has gone on lullaby CD’s for friends and family.


Sarah McLachlan ~ Afterglow. Oh, Sarah.  How I worshiped you in the ’90’s.  How “Good Enough” saved my life.  This, her only “real” album of the decade is still beautiful and spoke to me in a about-t0-be married-almost 30-something angsty kind of way, as opposed to a 20-something-college-kid angsty kind of way.  “Push” and “Answer” say it all.  Awaiting a new full length non-remix-live-greatest hits-Christmas album in the new decade….

Jason Mraz ~ Waiting for My Rocket to Come. So begins my love affair with Mr. A-Z.  No, we didn’t follow his rise on the indie coffee house scene, and to those old fans, we’re all posers (and maybe some of the BRAND new fans are posers to me), but Ernie and I saw the video for “You and I Both” and were hooked.  “On Love, In Sadness” is a Fave Song Ever.  A deserted island album for sure.

Dar Williams ~ The Beauty of the Rain. Is how it falls, how it falls….  Another beautiful, if not as epic than The Green World, album from Dar.  This album is winter into spring and the first sighting of boys-showing-skin, wearing- shorts-jogging along the lakefront.

Elefant ~ Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid. Okay, I love these guys.  First heard them when a manager at work played this album while we finished our late night side work.  Bass heavy, dancey, groovy, and melodic.  The American singer sounds British–love his voice.  With that, I think this is the band that wanted to be The Killers for me before Brandon Flowers and Company broke.  Good walking around the City music.  I’ll give an Honorable Mention to their 2nd and only other album, The Black Magic Show (2006), which is a little more–psychedelic, but still bouncy.   “Uh Oh Hello” is a Fave Song Ever.  I think I need to have an Elefant listening party.


The Cure ~ The Cure. This is what I wrote in ’04: I love the new album. It grows on me more and more. But I don’t listen to it with the heart of 17-year-old anymore. There are plenty of actual 17-year- olds to do that. This is their time, I guess. I listen as someone who loves their music, who gets goofy over a crafty Cure pop song and who dives head on into the sonic epics (I LOVE “The Promise”!!!) Someone who hears a familiar strain in a new song (that riff in “Fake” gets me every time) and can celebrate the past 15 years of life and listening to their music. Someone who listens to “Taking Off” and thinks about my annoying waiter job but knows that I now have a wonderful partner in life who makes all the bullshit not matter, who rubs my feet and cracks my back and pours the wine. Someone who’s about to turn 30 and maybe isn’t as “Lost” as he once was, but damned if I don’t know what Robert is whaling about.

Green Day ~ American Idiot. Some times things just really work out.  Time, mood, needs, talent, energy, etc. all come together.  And the creation of the album has an interesting story.  This was another rock album that I think we all kinda needed.  I know I was fed up with the country, especially goings on in the White House and that year’s election and all.  The music is loud and aggressive (with softer moments of course) and the storytelling epic.  I love Billy’s voice and the harmonies with the band.  Thanks, guys!

Patty Griffin ~ Impossible Dream. This was the first album of hers I picked up since her debut, Living With Ghosts (1996), and I absolutely love it.  Another train CD, it’s a genre blender that comes out pure Americana.  The piano ballads, “Kite Song” and “Mother of God” transform me, as do “Rowing Song” and “Useless Desires”.

The Killers ~ Hot Fuss. Yay, a NEW band that made me feel young again!  And a rock star crush to rival Billie Joe Armstrong (which started with Dookie and was revived with American Idiot.) This is where Rolling Stone and I actually agree!  That opening bass riff was enough to get a lot of us going.  This is warm weather walks along the lake and music to get me home from my lunch shifts.  Love all their stuff, but this is the best.

Ben Kweller ~ On My Way. This was a total impulse buy at the Virgin Music Megastore (R.I.P.) one day before or after work.  They had listening stations for new releases and this CD was a part of all that.  Love his piano heavy Texas singed rock bordering on alt-country.  And his voice.  I’ve found I’m picky about male singer’s voices.  “Living Life” and “Believer” immediately made it onto a mix CD (yes, I eventually graduated) for Ernie.

R.E.M. ~ Around the Sun. Funny thing is, I didn’t even know this was coming out until I saw it on the shelves at Virgin!  I know Stipe and Company would rather forget about this one.  All the press surrounding Accelerate referred to this one as just  The Last Album, but that’s so not fair!  I remember hearing that this was basically a glorified Michael Stipe singer-songwriter solo album.  But okay, admission: That’s kinda what I love about this one.  I love the stripped down reflective nature of it.  It’s wandering around on a Fall day, and is still the one most entrenched in my soul since Automatic for the People. “Leaving New York” “Make it Okay” and “I Wanted to Be Wrong” are faves.

~ ~ ~ ~

That does it for Part 1.  Stay tuned for the rest of the decade, plus more Honorable Mentions, and maybe an individual song or two….


I should have included a “No Miley” clause.

One of the drawbacks, I’ve recently discovered, of being married to a Theatre for Young Audiences professional is that on any given, say Saturday morning before the coffee kicks in, one can be subjected to/blasted with Miley Cyrus.  Not an enjoyable experience!   Though slightly less painful than dealing with the Jonas Brothers (here’s where I chime in with my “I’d rather eat glass.”)  “It’s for the children!” my beloved will remind me.  Yes…  I guess he does have to keep up with what the kids are listening to these days.  But I don’t have to like it.

I’m including the video because Kathy Griffin told us to look it up. So suffer with me. ;-P  Levi Johnston (who was KG’s date at the Teen Choice Awards) was all like “Um, isn’t she only like 16?”   This reminds me (sort of) of when my mother complained about Kids Incorporated making the kids look too grown up.

Still, I’d rather suffer hours of Miley than be without my TYA guy. 🙂

Hangin’ with KG!

The Fabulous

A couple months ago, I surprised Ernie with Kathy Griffin tickets.  Last night was the night!  A lovely time together and break from creating all our art. 🙂 We had pretty cool balcony seats.  This was my best, most focused shot.  Not bad!

She opened the show with “Fuck the Olympics!”  She went there for a brief glorious moment–and then moved on to all the other topics she had to cover.  Like Oprah, Whitney, Miley (who totally deserved the KG treatment!), Barbara W, MJ, Paula, Britney, Levi Johnston (her new “boyfriend”) and of course, the Gosselin’s!  Her fave Gosselin kid is OUR favorite Gosselin kid.  I knew we were in sync. 😛

When it ended, were like Oh!  Then looked at the time, and it was almost 10:00.  We’d been hanging out for a couple hours like old friends just shootin’ the shit where time slips away and you end up staying up all night talking the time away.  There could’ve been hours more!

We watch her specials and show on Bravo, and that’s amazing, but she’s still this image coming out of our TV’s.  All these other people she talks about come to us in various media outlets–TV, online, our music delivery media of choice, and they all seem a little unreal after a while.  But having Kathy with us in the same room was a reminder that we’re all people in this world and we’re talking about what some of them are doing.  I just felt this deeper connection to all the craziness.

So, thank you Kathy Griffin!

Sold Out!

Feeling the Heritage with Joe Frogger

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On Labor Day, Ernie and I bussed it downtown to see Julie & Julia (and had to walk an extra few blocks due to Oprah’s blocking of Michigan Ave.)  The film, as you probably know, is in part based on Julie Powell’s book, which in turn is based on her blog (and by the way, she has a new one.  Cool.)  Ernie bought the book on CD, which served us well for travels to Detroit this summer. The CD, with Julie herself reading & living in the moment, was a wonderful way of experiencing the book.   And I’ll say here that some of the naysayers on Amazon are just mean.  The film of course is also in part based on the life/biography of Julia Child, who I mostly knew from glimpses on PBS and SNL reruns with Dan Ackroyd , etc.  Didn’t Phil Hartman do her too, or am I making that up?  We both loved the book and the movie, and now we have a steady supply of Rose’s Lime Juice for gimlet cravings (Julie should look into getting a cut of the increased Rose’s revenue, yo.)  After the movie, we had lunch outside at Bistro 110, who all through August definitely worked the Julia Child tie-in.  We were unapologetically dorky about it with our server.  We craved sauces loaded with butter and were not disappointed.

The experience of Julie Powell’s story has naturally lead to discussions of what kind of project can I do? I’m sure I’m not the only writer who has been inspired to commence on a project of a parallel nature, and dreamed of their blog/book/life being made into a film with Ethan Hawke starring as himself.  Right?  While a few ideas ranging from the tongue-in-cheek to the legit have bounced around in our brains, I’ll keep those to myself for now.

In the mean time, I can write an occasional post here detailing a cooking/baking experience that maybe someone out there in WordPress/Facebook/InterWeb Lands may care about.  So Hello.

While my mother did not own a copy of Julia Child’s cookbook, she did have her share, a few of which I’ve acquired since her passing in 2002.  Recently, in a final purge of things in the former family home basement before my brother sold it, I picked up Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. Originally published in 1963, my copy is the sixteenth printing from 1974, my birth year (while quickly googling the book, I saw it was re-printed/re-published in 2002.)  It’s a beautiful specimen in all its vintage glory. (Did I just call something from the year of my birth vintage??)  The drawings and photography are quite simply–awesome.  The book wasn’t exactly and everyday staple for my mom, but it was handy to have.  As it will be handy for me to have.

Flipping through it, I was amused by the section on “Heritage Cookies.” Maybe “amused” isn’t the right word.  More like fascinated.  The intro blurb conjures images of pioneers harvesting maple and making their own sour cream while also addressing the, um,  modern 1960’s palate.  Made me want to take a trip to Greenfield Village. The first Heritage entry is a recipe for Joe Froggers, rich with Autumnal spices and molasses.  Every year, I set out to get into the kitchen with a couple personal traditions on or around the first day of Fall (High Holy Day!)  I thought some of these Froggers would make a fun addition to the mix.  So I set off….

I admit to not knowing the term Joe Frogger whether in or out of relation to what is a basic molasses ginger snap type cookie.  Call me Cooky Challenged.  So, there’s a person and a story behind the recipe–I like that.  The recipe shares a little info about the cookie’s origins, but I wanted more.  Somewhere between making and baking the dough, I looked up the name and found THIS ARTICLE from Marblehead Magazine. Cool.

Let me pause to say that I was slightly miffed to discover several recipes online include rum, while Betty Crocker’s does not. This makes me wonder if there was some sort of Prohibition type thing going on in the BC world of books.  Rum is not listed anywhere in the index. I smell a conspiracy theory.  Next time I make these, there will be rum.  Oh yes, there will be rum.

I read through the recipe Tuesday morning and realized a couple things: I had to refrigerate the dough.  Okay, no problem, will adjust my plans.  And also, I would need a rolling pin.  Did we even have one?  While talking to Ernie shortly after making this discovery, I was like, Hey is there a rolling pin anywhere in this house?  He thought maybe, but also thought it could’ve disappeared in our recent move and donations to his mother’s summer garage sale.  I know I owned/had access to one a one point–but it could’ve belonged to my old roommate, Sarah.  I looked.  Didn’t find one.  So to my list it was added.

Did a little seasonal shopping for this and other things.  I needed shortening.  Our last, half used and yellowing can of Crisco was pitched in the move. I hit up our local chain supermarket, picked up a few things, but was thwarted by the kitchen aisle: No rolling pin!  Whole Foods was next–it’s a beautiful and dangerous thing to have one in walking distance and so much more rejuvenating than the supermarket.  In the baking aisle, I had a flashback to helping a friend of mine reach for the molasses at the back of the top shelf a few weeks ago.  Whoa.

Following the recipe was a pretty basic experience accompanied by my Folk music mix on my iTunes.  Adding the water to the sugar-shortening-molasses mixture made for some inedible looking soup, though.  The recipe also called for me to “Measure flour by dipping method….”  I was referred to page 5 where I learned that this basically means to just dip the measuring cup into the flour and level off with a knife.  Okay.  But this implies  to me: A larger than life bag of flour; actually keeping the flour in a canister all old school; maybe scaling down to measuring one cup at a time.  With valuable cupboard and counter space at stake, we have a normal sized bag of flour and no canisters.  I used the “Pour the flour right into the measuring cup method”  which totally works for me.  Once everything was mixed together, it all made sense.  I wrapped it, and let it hang out in the refrigerator for the rest of the day and overnight so it could do all its scientific stuff.

I did make a special trip to get a new rolling pin that evening–a focused bus ride down to Bed, Bath & Beyond.  An accomplishment among many.  Rolling out the dough yesterday afternoon definitely took me back to the work days of Christmas cut-out cookies with my mother and her mother.  It’s amazing what rolling out cookie dough can do–and I wasn’t even planning on it.  All that inherent knowledge got me though it for sure as I rolled and cut out with my 3 inch circle cutter (from a set purchased at Whole Foods, bless them.)

Later in the afternoon, while stopping at the supermarket for dinner stuff, the kitchen aisle was full of rolling pins.  I swear they were not there the day before!  Oh well, the one I got is bigger, badder, and can do more damage.

I of course had to try one from the first batch, and it was delightful.  And tasted like our heritage.  In that I mean, from my taste buds, I felt a little stirring of patriotism–in the good sense of the word.  The real patriotism and not the haters twisting the word around and making me feel ashamed.  At the same time, I still had images of watching the highly offensive yet fascinating slavery-era film, Mandingo, bouncing around my head from my Tuesday film night with friends.  The story of Joe Frogger and his wife and the cookies is a story that seems to overcome the gross racial issues from our Revolutionary and Antebellum pasts.  Right…?

Yep, all that in a cookie in my 21st century kitchen in Chicago.

According to BC, “the cookies are as plump and dark as the little frogs that lived in the pond near Joe’s cottage.”   But I gotta say, they fit  more with lily pad comparisons I’ve read.  Good and soft, but not exactly plump.  Except for that last one, where I balled up the last of the dough and just flattened it with my hands. Its lumpy density and not as circular shape gave it the rightful name of Frogger.

They’ve had their time to cool and hang out on our counter.  But now it’s time to get them into the cookie jar. We may not have flour canisters, but we do have a corner reserved for the groovy ’70’s dark green mushroom cookie jar of my youth, and that seems to be a perfect place for them.  Luckily, I won’t have to climb up on a chair to get to them.

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Band of Brothers Revisited


This afternoon, I finished watching the special features in the Band of Brothers DVD set.  Thus completing my 2nd full viewing of the film. I’d been keeping an eye out for a discounted copy since last time I watched it, I borrowed my brother’s set.  While back in South Bend for a day trip to teach class, we ventured over to the Best Buy, and there, on the shelf in the HBO section were new copies at 50% off for a limited time.  So for only about $30, each episode plus extras was mine.  Score!  AND with cheaper Indiana sales tax to boot.  Once upon a time, Ernie had expressed interest in watching it with me–mostly I think because of Ron Livingston and his Sex & The City connection.  When I brought it up with this purchase, he’d forgotten about his initial interest.  So I was on my own.  While Ernie was down in Kansas City this past month working down at the Coterie Theatre, I had plenty of time.  Watching it solo means I can rewind parts and get as obsessive as I want.

I’ve written about the film and its connection to my writing & family projects–and general WWII interest before.  So I guess this is a follow up to previous posts: Workshopping “Guns” and  The War. I’m not completely sure if this follow up will have a conclusive point, but we’ll see.

I’ll report that I’ve recently revisited my piece, Playing Guns. This past May had me working two deadlines.  I had my Solo Homo piece to work as well as my 2nd Story submission.  I wrestled with starting from scratch for this submission, but given the state of Life and Art I had to make some executive creative decisions.  I ultimately didn’t get a slot for the next round, but I feel good about my work on the piece.  I received some solid feedback and totally agreed with the things to work on as far as fitting the piece into the 2nd Story aesthetic.  I’ve also chatted with my new 2nd story pals and don’t feel discouraged at all. I love what the group does and hope to be more a part of it down the road.  This latest revision process found me restructuring and slicing and dicing (for both time and focus) and really had me looking at things with a magnifying glass.  I feel part of my problem, though, was that I was in a way trying to cram a non-2nd Story into a 2nd Story mold.  Some of it fit–and some of it didn’t.  Next time I can work on the piece with new found focus, but without any restraints (and I’ll have a better idea of what I’m doing for my next submission!)  Getting the piece readier and readier for Battles with Boys. It’s coming….

Back to the film.  I mention it indirectly in the piece.  War films and images play an important role in the story.  My interest and into obsession are a part of the story.  It’s so damn good.  I know it has its detractors and people who get their panties in a bunch over various things (various inaccuracies & poetic licenses, the anti-Stephen Ambrose camp, etc.), but I don’t get into that, and don’t let it bother me.  I appreciate and celebrate it for what it is (and before I forget, I can’t wait for the follow up, next year’s The Pacific!)  I love the story.  I love learning the stories behind the stories.  I love learning about the real guys behind the “characters.”  I love learning more about the actors (especially the lesser known ones.)  It’s EASY (pun intended) to become just a little obsessed. My “BoB” bookmarks are filled with things like THIS and THIS and THIS.  Though I do have my limits.  There are those who know which weapons came out when and who had what and noticed how they changed in the film and all that (even I, a huge Cure fan can’t rattle off remix titles like they were my own children as some fans can.)  But each to their passion, I say.  I haven’t read ALL the books.  The new one looks interesting.  I am interested in reading Tech Sgt. Don Malarkey’s (adorably played by Scott Grimes in the film), though.  I’m happy to have this film in my collection and will revisit it when inspired to–and continue to let it (and its gorgeous score) inspire me in Life and Art.

This all keeps me thinking about family and history and our own stories.  I caught Diane Rhem’s show this morning (not on Chicago Public Radio, but on Michiana Public Radio–yay internet!).  She featured Vincent Cannato, author of American Passage about the history of Ellis Island.  The subject of immigration to Canada also came up–which is what my Grandpa V’s parents did back in the day (making me part Canadian, ya know!)  I have his handwritten story about his growing up there and his move to Detroit.  One of my projects for the near future (I thought maybe today, but we’ll see…) is to start transcribing it into a Word file.  If for nothing else but to preserve and share it.  But there’s also some tidbits of inspiration in there for other projects.  It’s good stuff.

All this is connected. Other people’s old photographs and stories; MY old photographs and stories. Maybe getting a feel from their lives can add to an understanding of my own history.  I still have access to some things, but unfortunately not to everything.

Right now, I feel like I’m at the borderline of public musings and private journaling and things that will become other things.  So I’ll end here and wish you all much love.