Suavity's Mouthpiece

In college, my escapades on the newspaper staff and my interest in music (understatement) brought me to Suavity’s Mouthpiece, the musical project of Justin Trafford. What’s the genre, you say? I’m still trying to figure that out. When I try to describe the sound of Suavity’s Mouthpiece, I end up staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor.

The latest release is “Mixed Media.” Since I’ve covered SM before, Justin kindly sent me the single and asked if I could write about, which I would’ve done anyway. The new single just gives me a reason to do it sooner! Now, thanks to two music websites, I’ll probably do a proper review for at least one of them. So rather than be all official, I have decided I’m going to talk about “Mixed Media” in a bulleted list because

  • Lists are fun.
  • They’re easy to read (and write).
  • I’m almost more likely to stick to the point. Almost.

So, “Mixed Media,” plus “Pavarotti” and “Kill Mellencamp,” all three of which are available from Broke Whore Records for free. Which leads me to

  • Broke Whore Records is my new favorite label by virtue of name alone. It’s also Pittsburgh-based. Bonus!
  • Pittsburgh music right now is lots of pop punk bands, which I’m cool with because they actually do a great job, and Wiz Khalifa. Suavity’s Mouthpiece isn’t like either.
  • Justin’s voice is among my favorites in music right now because it stands out so much. And I like his style–crooning, warbly at times, smooth at others and therefore just as varied as the music itself.
  • Suavity’s Mouthpiece is hard to peg to a genre because of the variation of sounds. In “Mixed Media” alone, you have piano, electronics, and horns, so multiple genres are easy to pick out. Electronic (or one of its many variations) is obvious, but “Mixed Media” presents some Latin flair, a little jazz, hints of big band, and even some ballad qualities.
  • The electronics remind me of space lasers.
  • “Mixed Media” might  be my favorite Suavity’s Mouthpiece song. I say “might” because I hate picking a favorite anything.
  • Musical variations can get too busy, but Justin knows what he’s doing. Some would argue, but Suavity’s Mouthpiece does not sound like a bunch of random sounds thrown together or the musical equivalent of throwing Scrabble tiles against a wall, which is why I don’t call it “experimental.” To me, that implies a lack of direction or making art for weirdness’ sake. Or lazy music reviewers. This is also why any rock that’s not Nickelback is emo. Anyway, each sound has a place and a role.
  • SM is kind of like anti-pop. Is that a thing? Can I make it one, even though I’m not positive of what I mean? I guess mainly that it’s lush, well-planned, enjoyable, and can be upbeat but not saccharine. It’s also music for the sake of music/art and not money or attention. Any idiot can write a pop hit.
  • The lyrics are good and smart, which adds to my anti-pop business. My brain hones in on bad lyrics. It’s a curse. Cases in point from the past few days alone when I was on Spotify: “What Makes You Beautiful,” Katy Perry’s “Hummingbird Heartbeat” (no matter how catchy it is), and for that matter, every Katy Perry song ever. In fact, maybe my next post will be all about why “Teenage Dream” is the worst song ever. Just three hours ago, the boyfriend of one of my housemates mentioned the line “You’re on my heart just like a tattoo” and I yelled, “That’s stupid.” Are you chuckling and nodding in agreement? Then Suavity’s Mouthpiece will save your brain.
  • SM has a kind of Morrissey mood going on. The music is more upbeat than the lyrics. Except Morrissey is the angriest man in the universe and if I accidentally listen to Suavity’s Mouthpiece when I’m sad, I won’t feel worse or panic.
  • If you’re bored with most modern music, Suavity’s Mouthpiece will also save your ears. And therefore your heart. And every song is different.
  • “Kill Mellencamp” has excellent beats. Remixed by DropStacks. It also has this haunting quality. Like you could totally get down to it but it’s also kind of dangerous.
  • “Pavarotti” is one the crazier side of things. If robots could sing, this is how they’d do it.

Bonus Suavity’s Mouthpiece talk!

  • “I Get Abstract” has more of a rock feel. Mostly.
  • “The Rape of Laura Ingalls” is kind of funky. The beginning reminds me of something from Hair for some reason.
  • Wait, maybe “The Rape of Laura Ingalls” is my favorite. The line “You’re 16/You’re homely/And you’re mine” is certainly wonderful. Look at that sly reference.
  • Wait, maybe it’s “Know Your Place.” I told you I can’t do this.
  • Wait. “I’m Sick of Your Tedious Girlfriend.”
  • Writing and listening to SM at the same time is hard. The music is distracting but in a good way. I can’t think of things to say because I’m too busy listening.

So, what have we learned? You should go download all the songs and I should not write at 2:00 in the morning.

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Last-Day Blues

Meri seemed to be in a bad mood Friday. Could’ve been just because she was sad to be leaving. She’s like that. She’s always the one to be the most vocal about not wanting to leave a place.

The day was spent in Playa del Carmen. We split up again because some of us wanted to leave and others wanted to shop more. I was on a mission to get a souvenir for Paul, which I ironically found at the resort that night. Figures.

I did get lots of neat stuff for everyone, though, including cigars for my dad and Brandon, some handcrafted stuff for my mom, and a chess set for Paul. Everyone else made sort of similar purchases, and Emily decided to get a little heart tattoo like Marion, Nolan, and I have. Hers is the cutest looking, aided by red ink.

Meri and Erio had their pictures taken with lion and tiger cubs. I wanted one, but I was too skeptical of the guys to pay them, and turns out I had a point. A bit down the street was a man with a monkey who said he was from a sanctuary where they help them out and release them into the wild. He had a badge, told us a lot, and only had a suggested donation for pictures, all of which at least made him look good and gave him more credibility.

Naturally, there were dissenters. A woman came up and yelled, “You killed his parents to get him! Well, at least he’s alive.” All while taking pictures. Her arm is totally visible in Meri’s pictures with the monkey. We think she’s going to report them or raise hell on the internet, so if you see an angry woman talking about a monkey along with pictures of it with a blond girl, you know why!

When we got back, we stopped by the pool and just missed the rest of our crew. Erio, Marissa, and I got room service to end the night, even though the original plan was no room service so we could have the bill totally calculated and ready to go, but we were hungry. The man who delivered it set the table, brought us flowers, and everything. Very sweet.

Saturday was pretty much a travel day. Lots of turbulence. Emily cried. It was the worst I’ve ever experienced, but I wasn’t too phased. Erio said he’s seen it so bad that grown men cried.

Marion and Emily spent then night, and then I went back home to see Paul, who was just getting in for spring break.

Secrets and Friends

Okay, so, I can’t tell you everything about Thursday. But here’s what I can tell you.

We drank again. Duh. We split up again, I think because Marion went back to bring Emily down to the pool but by the time they made it, we were leaving and ran into them on the shuttle. Apparently, at some point, they’d met and entertained this Canadian chick with their shenanigans.

(Marion was fond of trying to talk to the drivers or other passengers. One night, Emily, Marissa, and I sang a very high rendition of “On Eagle’s Wings.” It was late and only the driver had the pleasure/horror of experiencing it.)

Turns out this chick was across the hall from us vacationing with her mom. Naturally, she thought we were cool. All her mom said was, “You guys order lots of pizza.” Oh, how true. Almost every night.

The chick’s name was Jenny and she came over to drink. She was a pretty good time, too, although she told us lots of personal stories after a very short time. We also think she clogged our toilet. Marion, Nolan, and Brett claim the maids tried to fix it by hitting it with a broom handle. Out of all the Craigs, I trust their stories the least, but they’re really sticking to this one so I might have to start believing it.

I liked her, though. And she told me I was “cute as a button,” so points for her! She also led me to the kitchenette by the hand for drinks. Specifically, a haircut.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what the origins of the haircut are, so I’ll explain. The person getting it leans back. Someone else pours into their mouth first their liquor of choice then their mixer of choice. Close your mouth, swallow, and you never taste the alcohol. Everyone wins! I advise having a trustworthy person do the pouring or else it’ll either get messy or they’ll give you things you don’t like. Jenny and I were new to it, but she did a good job. She hung around for a while, and then serious conversations were had.

Disclaimer: I’m at least pretty sure serious conversations were had. I’m not 100% positive that Jenny and serious conversations were had. I was a bit drunk, as with everyone else.

The conversation was personal but not bad, but it did get emotional. Lots of feelings were shared, that’s all, and naturally the conversation split in about 1,000 directions. This would become an issue two weeks later, but we’ll come to that.

In the midst of this, Erio got a little moody, I guess you could say. He went for a walk. He heard gunshots. He came back. That was when we decided no nighttime Playa del Carmen excursions the next night, and although other Craigs can be hard to sway and can also be careless, we had the majority rule on this one.

So after hours and tears and alcohol, we finally went to bed.

Playa del Carmen

In a way, there isn’t much to say about Playa del Carmen. Cities are cities, and unless something happens, not much will distinguish one from the other for me.

Fifth Avenue is where the nightlife and fun is, and that’s about all we did in town. We weren’t as paranoid as relatives and friends back in the states but we weren’t too keen on wandering too far from tourist destinations, either.

We went twice–once at night for drinks and dinner and a second time during the day to calm the fears of some Craigs who are distrusting of cab drivers. One driver had a knife down by the pedals, but driving a cab is probably just as unsafe as riding in one.

Mainly, we ate and shopped. Wednesday night got us to Frida’s with personable wait staff and a picture with sombreros that for some reason caused a big stir amongst the Craigs not in the picture because those of us in it actually wanted to pay for the picture, which we plan to split the cost of and make copies of. Sure, it’s a total tourist trap, but no one was willing to do anything that would cost a little bit more money–and in American money, it would’ve only been a few dollars. Maybe I care less because I’m the only one working full-time, but the picture especially became a much bigger deal than it needed to be.

Other than that, it was a good meal and worth Meri being picky over. She rejected almost every other place we passed because she wanted authentic Mexican. I was annoyed until we got our food, but again, I’m certain if I would’ve been adamant about a place one way or the other, no one would’ve listened.

Meri and Marion made guacamole. Meri love guacamole. In fact, I’m not sure if I saw her as excited about anything else the entire vacation. I’m not a fan of guacamole, but they did a good job, especially because they could add whatever they wanted so they gave it good flavor. Otherwise, I’m of the opinion avocados and guacamole have no taste.

Other fun things included men dressed up as Mayans on the street, a monkey who we will visit later, and wholesale stores with the most beautiful embroidered bags ever.

I’ll save the day-trip story for later. Thursday’s events need discussed first to put some of Friday in context.

And if you were holding out for Monday’s shenanigans, sorry! I wrote the post but kept it private to protect the identities and dignity of my drunken friend. In short: lots of alcohol, we were all drunk, one of us was more drunk than the others and thew up in the grass in front of the lobby and tourists, scared a maid, ran down the hall, banged on doors, and cried. The end!

 

Drunk

A pool with built-in bars is amazing but dangerous. I can swim right up, order a round, and have it charged to my room, you say? Party on!

This is how we were all trashed Monday night. When people keep buying you margaritas because they’re drunk, too, and you all think each other is cool, you don’t refuse or realize how much you’re drinking until you’re telling your friends you can’t go to the room yet because you need to lie down first, but they can’t go back anyway because another friend is across the pool recovering on a pool chair, too.

I don’t remember when we split up or why. I remember Meri and I were alone in the pool with margaritas. I was drunkenly rambling to her and she was drunkenly responding. We swam over to the bar to join what I think was the rest of our group. They’d made new friends. More drinks were had. Meri danced on the bar using lots of jazz hands. Note on that Mexico lawlessness I keep joking about: no one stopped her. Meri and Emily went to go to the bathroom and took a long time coming back, and just as we figured we’d give them five more minutes before going to find them, Meri came back as I was lying down to tell us Emily couldn’t get up. Which meant I had to.

For a little while, she just lied there. Erio offered to carry her but she insisted she could walk, and she could. She was pretty much fine until the shuttle stopped at the lobby. Then she started to lean over and I said, “We should probably get her off this shuttle.”

She went to the grass, did lots of dry-heaving as she yelled our building number and Spanish, and tourists getting ready to go out I’m guessing just kind of watched. And Emily has bright pink hair, so they were bound to remember her.

We got her on another shuttle and made it back okay until she flung open the door, terrified a maid, and someone kept apologizing to her in Spanish. Emily ran down the halls pounding on doors as we chased after her to try to get her to stop.

In our room, she sat by the toilet. I took her water. Somehow, Marion a little later ended up being her caretake, ultimately getting her to take a shower. Sort of. We heard it all from the other side of the door as Emily cried and begged Marion to leave her alone and go have fun without her. She kept on crying when she came out and Skyped Joel, asking if he still loved her since she was so drunk. It was simultaneously the cutest and saddest thing ever.

My room was up late that night, and Marion made herself throw up just to feel better. It triggered Emily in the other room. As gross as it was, it was also funny.

This was our second night in Mexico. Emily had to take a midterm the next day.

Random Tidbits: Cancun Version

  • I have very dry skin. Pennsylvania winters and a kind of old, creaky house in Pittsburgh case my physical pain. My skin soaked up all the Mexican humidity and felt and look so much better than usual. It’s probably so sad to be back.
  • Mexicans are really nice people. In fact, the only rude people in Mexico are tourists but even then, the only rude tourists in Mexico are sober and in airports.
  • Mexican drivers are pretty terrible. They don’t give a shit about anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure our beloved driver, Martinez, sideswiped someone lightly and not a single fuck was given by either driver.
  • The highest speed limit I saw was 100 kilometers an hour. That’s about 62 here in America. You know where Pennsylvania has a speed limit that high? A few open stretches of highway. If you’re lucky.
  • They have highway checkpoints with uzis. Martinez said they were to check for weapons and drugs. We were never stopped at one and never saw anyone stopped, but just seeing those dudes was intimidating as fuck. At the same time,  those dudes made me feel kind of safe and like Mexico isn’t the lawless, heathen-filled country white upper-middle-class Americans tried to get me to believe. I never felt unsafe. Well, expect maybe whilst being driven.
  • Iguanas are to Playa del Carmen what deer and squirrels are to Pennsylvania. Throw in some lizards and alarmingly spindly spiders and you’ve got a bunch of girls screaming. And nothing says “tourists” like taking pictures and ogling at ever iguana ever. But seriously, you guys, I only ever see that shit in zoos.
  • The Mayan Palace seemed more of like a rich old people resort the a spring break resort, but whatever. I could afford that vacation. Suck it, rich old people.
  • Mexico either doesn’t card anyone or I look like I’m at least 18. Since relatives of my boyfriend thought I was finishing high school rather than college when I met them, I’m not inclined to believe the latter. In fact, when I ordered a water after I’d already had my fair share of margaritas for the night, the waiter chastised me and called my drink choice “boring.” I ultimately ordered a margarita.
  • The resorts truly take care of your every need. If the Mayan ruins and beaches weren’t so alluring, one would never need to leave the resort. And upper-middle-class Americans will tell you not to.
  • Some in our group were made very uneasy by cab drivers at night. I’m either fearless or stupid because I was unphased. Cab drivers are cab drivers. They all suck.
  • Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue is the place to go. It’s almost entirely pedestrian-traffic only and has plenty to do and see.
  • Everything everywhere is dirt cheap. Some places are just slightly cheaper than others or have better selections.
  • My favorite person ever is the very flamboyant flight attendant who told us all about procedure coming back into the country and said that if going through security a second time sounds stupid and unnecessary, it is.
  • My other favorite person is the customs dude who complimented my “Empire Strikes Back” shirt.
  • Vacation is nice, but so is sleeping in my own bed alone. Or with Paul. But I was alone.

Chichen Itza

As much as I love beaches, pools, and the promise of a week of margaritas and lounging, I think I was most excited about Chichen Itza.

I’ve never been out of the country before and haven’t ventured far within it, so I’ve never really seen much in the way of landmarks. Plus US landmarks don’t have a history as dense as Mayan ruins.

Martinez from the car service picked us up bright and early in the morning. Naturally, those of us in the smaller bedroom had been up late laughing at silly drawings Erio made, but more on that later. That night is one of the few deserving of a recap. But we got up like champs and set out for a long day, as Chichen Itza was a good two to two-and-a-half hours from our hotel.

We skipped Tulum with the intention of going back, but it never happened. That’s my one frustration, really–I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who wanted to go, but even if I was, the others were, for the most part, given the “we’ll do whatever you want” treatment. I felt that I wasn’t. In fact, the week was split for me between wishing Paul was there, having a good time, and being irritated with people’s actions or behavior. The problem is I was starting to get irritated before the trip, and spending a week with a group where half of its members were getting on my nerves didn’t help at all. But I digress.

Martinez suggested we save Tulum for the end of the day since it was the closest to the resort, but we ran out of time and energy.

When I’m not driving or annoyed or hungry or something, I enjoy long car rides, and this was a good one. Plus I love gazing out windows, and what better place to gaze than Mexico? I was fascinated by the simplest things just because I was in another country, but I was also fascinated by how, away from town and the resorts, things degenerated and looked beat down or housed stray dogs.

Chichen Itza itself was wonderful and yet a typical tourist trap. It’s a little disorganized and confusing. You have to pay twice–once for the government and again for the site itself–and there are vendors everywhere. Unfortunately, we didn’t know this and couldn’t spend all our pesos, which I deeply regret because that shit was dirt cheap and awesome. The vendors were super willing to haggle and super easy to haggle with.

The ruins themselves were amazing. The grounds were much bigger than I was expected, but everything was fascinating to see. I wish we could’ve climbed the pyramid, but that’s not permitted anymore after one too many deaths.

We stopped for lunch next, where I did get irritated again when someone–most likely Nolan–decided we were ready to leave without warning while I was still eating. I feel ignored 99% of the time anymore. Like I don’t matter to half of my own friends. There ya go. Digressing again. Obviously sometime in the future I predict I post about deep shit.

The cenote Ik Kil was next, and that place was gorgeous. I was too scared to jump, as I always am, but I did get in. It was refreshing but scary but fascinating all at once to be in a natural pool of water with fish that’s quite deep and cold. It was tiring, too, as the frown upon holding the vines and roots on the side of the cave, so it’s swimming the whole time, and I’m too little to just float.

And with that, we called it a day. Those two things took all day, and we were exhausted. And probably downed some margaritas back in the room.

Lounging by the Pool

Our first full day in Mexico wasn’t much of a big deal. We headed down to the little store at the resort for some breakfast. The creperie wasn’t open, but I had this amazing fruit tart, and I regret not getting another one before we left. I felt like things were really expensive just because they were being charged to the room, but according to PNC, my share of the room charges was about $200 for a week. I spent that much in two days in Delaware, most likely. Shit in Mexico is cheap, y’all.

Then we split into two groups of four. One went shopping for groceries and the other hung around the hotel room. I was part of the latter, so I got in some Skype time with Paul and FaceTime time with my mom–the only time I really ended up having all week. With the group split in half, I was able to squirrel away in one of the bedrooms until the other four came back and we hit the pool and ordered more pizza.

Really, this is how we spent most days, so unless something notable happened, further posts will be focused on Playa del Carmen, Chichen Itza, and maybe some of the resort restaurants and such.

Hola from Home

Mexico was beautiful.

I don’t know where to start.

I came home from work Friday night to all my Craigs chilling in the living room as expected, since we had to leave for the airport at 3 a.m. Marion had eaten all my leftover cheesecake dip, also as expected and sort of as desired, but I would’ve liked to have had some, too. I’ve only been here a month and my food usually isn’t targeted by visitors, but this whole “come to the haus, drink all the beer, and eat all the food” thing is getting old.

Anyway.

I get home from work at 11:30. What’s the point in sleeping for a few hours? I stayed up. Everyone else intended to, but the only ones of us that actually did were me, Marissa, and Meri. Meri might’ve caught a nap somewhere. I’m not sure.

I used the time to finish packing. The bane of liking make-up and toiletries is that almost none of those items can be packed until after they’ve been used immediately prior to leaving. I also gave myself Mexico-ready nails: yellow polish with bright pink crackle on top.

Meri wanted to use what was left of the eggs, so she made the three of us omelets. Then we had the arduous task of waking everyone up. I missed Marion’s excited reaction to waking up knowing we had to leave for a week-long vacation in Mexico. I heard the laughter from my room below.

We tried to cram eight people and eleven pieces of luggage into Nolan’s Volvo. We failed and had to take two cars.

I haven’t flown since I was 17. Security still makes me nervous, and it’s still all a hassle. At least I know I’m relatively safe on the plane.

The flight went well–short and uneventful. I read.

Then came the five-hour Atlanta layover.

Emily and Erio booked their flight at a different time and ended up with a different and faster connection, so they were spared. Nolan and Brett got fast food while us girls got a real lunch at a Friday’s. That’s when I felt myself crashing. I was going on about 26 hours without sleeping.

We spent some time reading and napping while we took advantage of the charging stations for our phones and iPads. We also played our favorite game–count the stares while Meri and Marion jokingly hold hands in public or lie on each other to nap, as female platonic friends sometimes do. The number and intensity of some of these stares is astounding and disgusting. Interestingly, women look more than men.

I slept on the flight to Mexico. The cost, however, was the most hideous pictures of me in existence thanks to Marion. I have no neck.

Immigration was terrible. I’m pretty sure hell is an airport and the final level is an immigration line in Mexico with multiple recent flights crowding in. Getting through everything took us two hours. As Erio and Emily waited for us, he thought that the plane must’ve gone down.

Immigration was hot and stuffy. My bags were heavy. A cranky British man wouldn’t let us stick together when we got split up, although Brett probably shouldn’t have cut the line. The British man’s bag ended up getting searched. Airport karma.

At the end, we were given free beer by our car service, I believe Best Day Tours. I’m not a beer drinker, but I was hot, tired, and cranky from TWO HOURS OF IMMIGRATION. I MEAN, REALLY, so I was not about to turn down an ice-cold Corona.

Speaking of that Corona, Mexico has a certain degree of lawlessness, which meshes with the fears of basically everyone in my life when I said, “Hey, I’m going to Mexico!” For spring breakers, this means not getting carded and just being handed beer and not even being questioned when you climb out of a large van with said Corona.

Our resort, The Mayan Palace, was gorgeous. So gorgeous that my first thought when taking it in was, “This is too nice for spring break. This is a honeymoon resort.” And it truly was. I honestly never thought I’d go somewhere that nice until my honeymoon.

The lobby smelled like flowers. The staff was all friendly and spoke English, which was a funny reminder of the American sentiment of learning the language of the country you’re in. We had to sign in and get wristbands, which, regardless of the resort’s reasons, actually made me feel safe and like they were keeping track of their guests in a non-creepy way.

We decided to forego the shuttle and walk to our building, the farthest one on the property. Despite the heat–which we weren’t used to–and our bags, the walk was pleasant. The walking path is full of palm trees and flowers so that it resembles a jungle.

The buildings, for the most part, are open. Later in the week, this meant seeing large insects and lizards hanging out on the walls, but we only had one spider come uninvited into the room. The halls echo and do cause some noise, but the building was never crowded enough to warrant real complaints. We got shushed one morning, but the volume wasn’t entirely our fault.

The room was lovely. We had a kitchenette with a mini fridge, some appliances and dishes, and a small stove. The living area had two large, soft couches with pull-out cots, but Emily and Marion opted to just sleep on the couches, which they found to be more comfortable and the maids eventually made up as beds. We had a nice, large marble table, a TV, and a safe to stash money and passports, though we greatly trusted the staff. We had two bathrooms plus a third sink outside of one. The toilet and shower are behind separate doors, so one person can use the bathroom while another uses the toilet. We had one large bedroom with a king-size bed and another room with two fulls, where I slept with Erio, Meri, and Marissa. Each had its own dresser, TV, and balcony, plus the living area’s balcony. We all had chocolates on our beds.

Initially, we decided against room service, but when we saw the prices were much more reasonable than expected, we sprung for some pizzas. We got some almost every night. They were amazing–thin, charcoal-cooked, and almost completely free of grease.

Other than food, our only order of business for the day was to go to the pool, which is the largest in Central America. No photos can capture its size, and there was even a separate smaller pool we never even went to. We climbed over walls and waterfalls and enjoyed margaritas at the swim-up bar.

My love affair with Mexico and the Mayan Palace began.