It’s just my luck that when I actually win tickets to a Pirate game at work, it ends up being on a day they’re calling for thunderstorms.

So I kept checking the weather, hoping things would change, and I kept checking the team’s Twitter, hoping that if they decided to delay or even cancel, they’d announce it early enough that we wouldn’t be, like, on our way into the city. Although I figured if that did happen, we’d just make a dinner date of it.

We went to church earlier than usual–we got to church now, in case I never mentioned it–came back, changed clothes real quick, then got it in the car. We decided to take the subway from the South Hills because of traffic. They close some streets down around PNC Park on game days, plus the parkway would have the usual event congestion, plus the Pittsburgh Marathon was the same weekend, so we figured our lives would be significantly less stressful to spend a little more time (and money, depending on where we would’ve parked) by taking the T.

Seriously, though, the T is so easy. I have an app that helps plan trips so I know just when to catch it, and it takes the guesswork and advance planning out of working around traffic and construction and even weather sometimes. Outside of instances like having a tight window to catch it after work, I’m not really late for things in the city anymore. And you don’t have those rare but really frustrating cases of parking garages being full.

We actually got to South Hills Village quicker than usual, so we managed to catch the T earlier than planned, which was pretty awesome.

The weather was still dicey as we came into the city. We had a little bit of drizzle. But by some miracle, it all cleared up and we ended up with sunshine for the few hours the game lasted. I heard more than one person end up complaining about the clothes they’d worn, saying they’d thought it was going to be colder and rainier. I even ended up with minor sunburn because I hadn’t even considered the sun as an option.

It was a fun game. Started kind of slow, but it got more exciting when we started getting some runs. It ended up tied and going into extra innings, when we ended up losing–just in time for the rain to roll back in. We were hungry and walked down to Grille 36 to eat, and we made it in there just before a storm started. We stuffed ourselves and by the time we left, the weather had cleared up again.

From there, it was back to the T, then some grocery shopping. We were pretty much beat, so we went to bed not long after we got in. Paul spent part of the morning texting me about how he’s still tired, while I took today and tomorrow off because I can, pretty much, and slept until 10. Oops.

Saturday 9: Best Day of My Life

Saturday 9: Best Day of My Life (2013)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) This song begins by mentioning clouds. Do you see clouds in the sky this fine Saturday? Yes, and it was actually a pretty cloudy day in general. It’s been drizzling for the last couple hours.

2) Lead singer Zac Barnett sings that “Everything is looking up.” What are you looking forward to today? Well, now that my work day is over and it was my last Saturday on weekend rotation, I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend. I have three weeks of vacation time to use by the end of the year, so I took Monday and Tuesday off and gave myself a three-day weekend.

3) 2016 is not yet half over, but what’s been your best day so far this year? It has to be New Year’s, doesn’t it? That’s when Paul proposed.

4) The members of the group, American Authors, met in college. When is the last time you heard from a school chum? Do you know them from grammar school, high school or college? My best friend is a friend from high-school, and I’m still friends with Sarah and Stephanie from middle school, though we don’t get together or talk too often. My Facebook friends are a lot of friends that go back a bit, even if we’re not in regular contact.

5) One of the all-time best-selling American authors is romance writer Danielle Steele. She’s been writing for more than 40 years and has sold more than 800 million books. Have you read any of her work? I read some romance novel once that I found, like, lying abandoned in a middle-school classroom that might’ve been hers, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. In which case, no.

6) Have you ever dreamed of being an author? Ever since I was a kid!

7) Do you have an e-reader? Nope. I prefer physical books, but I’m not interested in arguing about which is better. It’s pointless. Just read!

8) American Authors rang in 2016 in Chicago, giving an outdoor concert on New Year’s Eve on a stage not far from Lake Michigan. There are 5 Great Lakes in all,including Lake Michigan. Without looking it up, name the other 4. Lake Erie and Lake Superior are all I can do, but I did ask Paul about the other two!

9) Random question: You see photos on Facebook of a dinner party hosted by a friend. You recognize most of the attendees, yet you weren’t invited. How do you feel? Left out and angry? Do you wonder what you may have done to offend your friend? Or do you just forget about it and move on? Depends on the friends, because if it’s people I don’t see too often, no. But this is a large part of what led to my falling out a couple years ago now with my best friends at the time, which is chronicled pretty extensively across this blog. But in short, someone took issue with some things I’d said, never brought it to my attention, spent the next year being really mean to me, basically, ultimately leading to a graduation party that was essentially kept a secret from me until I found out about it on social media. It did some damage and my friendships with the bulk of the group never recovered, in part because I chose to distance myself from what I truly felt–and still do feel–had become a toxic environment.

Dancing Queen

The weekdays have brought work, of course, plus a visit with my therapist to do some quality venting about wedding planning and a trip to the mall to buy shampoo from Lush. I haven’t used it yet, but I will tomorrow. I’m so excited just to try a new coconut shampoo that it’s pretty dumb, actually. But hey, it’s the little things.

And then Prince died. My parents, brother, and I have a group text thread we use for general family communication, and my mom actually told us in that. When David Bowie died, I was convinced it was a hoax at first, but this time, coming from my mom, I knew it was real. I also knew she’d be in serious mourning–anyone who knows my mom knows she loves Snoopy, Stevie Nicks, and Prince. More than once in the few days since now, she’s mentioned how she still remembers sitting on the beach with her best friend talking about how they couldn’t wait to go see Purple Rain. This one hasn’t hit me the way David Bowie did, but it’s still sad. I used to joke that I knew Prince lyrics without ever remembering having heard the songs because I grew up with them. It was like one day, I realized I knew every word to “When Doves Cry” and I didn’t know how it happened.

So I wore a purple shirt and purple shoes to work last Friday.

Now, our favorite disco/funk cover band, Dancing Queen, was in town down at the casino just minutes from my apartment. We first saw them at a fundraiser for a fire hall where Terra and her mom volunteered, and it’s become something of a tradition now to go. I missed this past one–it’s every January, and it got rescheduled this year due to a snow storm. It was rescheduled for March, but it was the same day that I had tickets to see Jukebox the Ghost and went to look at our wedding venue, so I had to miss it. But my mom went with her Aunt Elaine and a friend of hers, and when they found out Dancing Queen was gonna be out here and for free, they were all about that.

So I came home from my Saturday shift, hung out a little, and changed into appropriate dancing attire. As it turns out, I found the perfect shirt from one of the many boxes Terra gave me before she moved. And appropriately, it was purple.

In fact, when I got to the casino, the stage area in the back was lit purple, and in the hour before the band started, they played all Prince music. Before Prince started, they had a moment of silence in his memory.

We ordered some food and gambled a little and lost, but most of the night was just dancing. That’s why we have so much fun going to see them. I do enjoy a lot of the songs they play–and they even played Prince’s “Kiss”–but it’s just so fun to go out and dance like that. It’s just music and a good time in the most basic of ways, and everyone is having fun.

It was great. I loved it. It was unifying and cathartic. It’s what music is about. There’s just something about a dance floor packed full of people, especially in the middle of a messy election year. Nothing else mattered for those few hours. Everyone just had fun. It’s something everyone should experience in some way, just something that lifts them out of everyday life and bonds them with other people, even if it’s temporary.

The catch is I’m out of shape. Sure, Paul and I have been walking regularly now that the weather’s warm, but we’re talking like half-hour walks on warm weeknights. Not almost a full three hours of dancing. Fortunately, I didn’t pay for it too horrible the next day, but I was definitely feeling it. I was achey. My mom even texted me and said, “My ass is draggin’.”

And for the rest of the weekend, we pretty much just stayed in. We’d gone out and done stuff the past couple weeks, and Paul, true to his introvert self, wanted a more low-key weekend at home. Worked for me. I danced too much.

While I was still getting over my cold, Paul and I made a trip out to the history/art museum. They’re having a special dinosaur exhibit until May, and while he’d never be like, “Oh, we have to go!” I knew he wouldn’t object if I suggested it. I was right.

I’d wanted to have breakfast at the crepe place in Oakland, then go to the museum when they opened at noon, but Paul was really hungry and concerned crepes weren’t gonna be filling, plus the line was long. So we went to a bagel place instead, which was good but kind of a letdown when I had my heart set on crepes.

Paul actually wanted to go over to the museum early, which I thought was unnecessary, and then he teased me about it when we ended up having to stand in a short line to get in.

The museum is fun, but at least for me, it’s not too exciting to go if there’s not a special exhibit–it’s just the same ol’ stuff. But the temporary exhibits were pretty neat, and we did have a good time. I was pretty worn out just by going through the history section, but Paul wanted to tackle the art section, too, although I know we didn’t see all of it. It’s a lot to do in one trip.

In the meantime, I took a couple sick days, recovered, and worked.

Last Friday was my college’s annual alumni night as part of their writer’s festival, and I always like to go because they usually get a good crop of well-known alumni writers. This time, it was also a night of readings from senior capstone students, who now get their own little chapbooks that they sell as part of the festival, which is a really cool thing I wish would’ve been around when I was there. But I’m glad to see the program is able to do things like that, especially if Paul’s sister Emily ends up going and majoring in writing.

I’d told my professor I was interested in possibly reading, but then I found out it was also a book launch for an alumni anthology that I was not part of on account of, you know, barely publishing anything. So basically, I freaked out, feeling like I had no place reading with this group of people and like I wasn’t good enough, basically.

Alumni readings tend to be informal. I scrapped my original piece I was gonna read in favor of something much shorter, in part because I still had the sniffles, and went with something much shorter but also stronger, in my opinion. Honestly, I wasn’t really set on reading. I was fully prepared to sort of bail. But Paul wasn’t having it, and of course my professor asked me to read, and in the end I was essentially volunteered and put on the list. It was nice to have the push, but it was still terrifying to actually get up and do it. Yet it’s also cool to put myself out there like that.

The reading went well. Everyone else, at least, was super talented, and even though I had to work the next morning, we went out for the usual drink at Headkeepers. Last time we went, we hung out and talked to other writers for quite a while, but our deal this time was one drink and then we go. But it was still cool and fun to do, and one of the other writers told me my piece was “pretty fucked up,” which is true–it was about a high-school teacher of mine sending sexual messages to girls after graduation. So I took his comment as a compliment, and it launched into a good but sad conversation about things like inappropriate student/teacher relationships in the news at a nearby high school, as well as the famous Penn State scandal.

So all things considered, terror and feelings of inferiority aside, it went well and I’m glad I did it.

Saturday 9: Little Red Corvette

This one hurts.
Saturday 9: Little Red Corvette
From the archives.
In memory of Prince (1958-2016)

1) The subject of this song is frankly sexual. Do you blush easily? Not at all. In fact, I’m usually trying to make other people blush, usually my dad.

2) Prince was his real first name (Prince Rogers, to be exact). Growing up, his relatives called him “Skipper.” Do you have any nicknames within your family? My mom’s called me Nellie Sue my whole life–obviously, there’s Nellie Sue Olsen from Little House on the Prairie, but it was like a shortened form of my first name, Janelle, and my middle name, Susan. It used to be a more common nickname with extended family than it is now, though, and I think she’s still the only one who calls me that regularly. And of course, Little Janelle is still common.

3) Prince said he was “obsessed” with Mozart and read whatever he can find about the composer. What’s the last book you read? The last one I finished was A Wrinkle in Time, but the last one I picked up and make progress on was Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers.

4) Between Prince and The Beach Boys, the Corvette is a much sung-about car. Tell us about your vehicle. It’s a silver 2005 Toyota Corolla that my grandma bought not too long after my grandfather died–they drove a Buick and she wanted something smaller. After she died, my family needed another car, so my mom bought out my aunt and uncle’s share and my dad drove it for a while. When I graduated from college and started working and was still living at home and driving over an hour to work every day, my dad bought a small used Yaris and the Corolla got passed down to me. It’s got nearly 130,000 miles on it, and I intend to drive it until I can’t anymore.

5) In the 1980s, when Prince was popular, MTV could turn a song into a hit. In 2016, where do you hear new music? Occasionally, the radio–I do listen to it on my way to and from work, and sometimes if I pop over to a current station, something will get my attention. But I’d say the bulk of it is going to see live bands and getting interested in the opening acts, plus my love of using Spotify’s social aspects to basically creep on my friends and see what they’re listening to. I don’t listen to every single thing they do, but if something comes up that I’ve heard of and want to check out, I listen. I also use the “new releases” feature.

6) In 1982, when “Little Red Corvette” ruled the airwaves, Braniff Airways shocked the travel industry and threw passengers into chaos by declaring bankruptcy. When did you last fly? Did your trip go smoothly? It was last summer, when my brother graduated from boot camp. Very smooth and pretty short flight.

7) 1982 is also the year Disney opened Epcot. Have you ever been to a Disney park? Yes, and it still remains probably one of the top five most fun times of my life. My senior year of high school, we went to Orlando and sang with the school Chamber Ensemble. We performed like once, but we got to spend a few days down there visiting the Disney parks. It was the best.

8) 1982 is the year Cheers premiered. The sitcom was set in a bar where “everybody knows your name.” Tell us about your favorite local bar or restaurant. Honestly, there’s this cool new place right on Main St. called The President’s Pub that I really liked–the atmosphere was neat, they had interesting cocktails, and the food was really good. But we’ve only been there once. I’d say our favorites in town are the Greek place, Mr. Gyro’s, and the Lebanese place, Markook, where the owner knows us since we went like the first week they opened.

9) The 1980s were considered a highpoint in professional tennis, with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominating the sport. Do you play tennis? Nope.

Friday 5: Happy Birthday to the Upstart Crow

  1. If brevity is the soul of wit, how witty are you? I think I’m pretty witty, actually.
  2. When did you last play fast and loose with the truth? Eh, dishonesty isn’t my thing. But I will say Paul and I aren’t particularly forthcoming with his mom about wedding plans–she’s thought this whole time a Catholic wedding was the only option, when in reality, we weren’t sure about it.
  3. When did the green-eyed monster last rear its head? I get a twinge of it whenever my writing peers have work published. Despite my own successes, it’s like it’s never enough and I’m always a little jealous when I see it happen for other people.
  4. What has often required you to screw your courage to the sticking placeWriting, I think.
  5. What’s a custom that you have found more honor’d in the breach than the observanceThis is a tough one–I legitimately don’t know.

Saturday 9: You’re Beautiful

Saturday 9: You’re Beautiful (2005)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) The first line is of this song is, “My life is brilliant.” Using one word, describe your life. Evolving.

2)  This is about a chance encounter between strangers in a crowd,specifically the subway. What “crowded place” were you most recently in? I don’t think work counts as much of a crowd. Proper crowd would be Steel City Con.

3) Near the very end of this song, James Blunt sings, “It’s time to face the truth.” Do you believe you face things head on? Or do you tend to deny or put off the unpleasant? Some sort of middle ground–I’m honest with myself about how I feel about things, but I have a hard time addressing them with most people. My fiancé is a huge exception, strangely, where I was never afraid to bring something up or be honest about something, which I guess is a really good thing. And I am getting better with being up front about things when necessary, but it’s a work in progress.

4) James Blunt went to an all-boys school. Some educators recommend single-sex classrooms because they maintain girls just naturally approach subjects like math and science differently than boys do. Do you agree? I’d have to look at the studies to make a full decision because to be honest, especially with the issues with women in STEM fields, it sounds a little sexist. That said, I do thin there’s something to be said for differences between genders.

5) Blunt put his father in charge of his finances. Income taxes are top of mind for many of us this time of year. Do you do your own taxes? Or do you go to an accountant or tax preparation service? My mom does my taxes, but my mom is an accountant. Saying “my mom does my taxes” feels so juvenile, but she’s a CPA, so why not have her do my taxes? She does it for my aunts and uncles and cousins, too, but “my aunt does my taxes” doesn’t sound nearly as bad.

6)  In 2005, the year this song was a hit, the sitcom How I Met Your Motherwas also popular.  Do you know how your parents met? They met when they were both working in a Sears store, which is hilarious considering my mom has been a long-term Sears boycott.

7) 2005 is also the year Tom Cruise famously jumped on a sofa. Do you remember where he did this? Oprah!

8) 2005 was also the year YouTube really took off. What’s the last video you watched? There were two, both shown to me by Paul by Extra Credits. Both were about gaming. The first was about how to combat the problem of harassment in the community, the second was an open letter to EA about poor marketing decisions.

9) Random question … Which of these high profile jobs would you enjoy more: head of General Motors, CEO of Apple or president of the New York Yankees? CEO of Apple. It’s the most interesting to me.