Vacation, Or Maybe I’m Just an Insensitive Bitch When It Comes to the Military

When Chelsea worked with me for a hot minute, she would alternate shifts for a few months while she was rehearsing to star in The Crucible–which, by the way, was fantastic–in Cranberry. So for a few days a week, Chelsea and I were one the same shift, and we’d usually eat lunch together and talk and e-mail all day. When we’d complain about relationship issues, the troubles were usually really similar–our boyfriends are both shy, they complain about things they can fix or change somehow, and their parents drive us nuts. So when I started talking about going with Paul’s family to Jacob’s graduation from the Marines on Parris Island in South Carolina, which is a solid 8-10 hour drive from good ol’ Pennsylvania, she pretty much immediately said, “Just take a flask and drink the whole way.” Oh, how I wish I really would have.

Thing is, I’ve had issues regarding Jacob and the Marines–or rather how his mother has handled it–since before he actually did it. Originally, he wanted to join the Air Force (in the end, I think his vision is too bad). Her version is she told him to wait until after college. His version, or at least his version as told to me by Brandon, is that she talked him out of it. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. And then after doing the college thing for a couple semesters, Jacob sprung for the Marines around Thanksgiving and took off in February.

Now, I’ve grown up around the military. Every summer, my dad would have to leave for two weeks for training. This has been the way it is literally since my birth–he left for his two weeks just a day or so after I was born. I’m used to the attitudes, the routines, the jargon, and the long absences. My dad deployed three times when I was a teenager–once when I was 13 to Italy, again around 14 or 15 but came home during training due to an error where he wasn’t supposed to have deployed yet, and for the last time when I was 16 to Iraq, where he was ultimately injured and then came home. I’ve seen the guys shipping off to go, I’ve seen the guys come home on leave, I’ve seen them come home.

The short version of what that’s like is high-stress, single-parent household, growing up fast, becoming more independent fast, adjusting to them leaving, adjusting to them coming home, your sense of normal changing all along the way. My dad and I have a mediocre relationship, but that doesn’t make it easy. It really made things confusing for me then and even now, but the bottom line of all the chaos and stress and absence–I hesitate to call it “missing” because I don’t think I truly dislike my dad not being home, it was just the Iraq part that was a problem–is that you just have to pick up and go on. My mom still had work, Brandon and I still had school, we all still had friends and activities and hobbies and things that all still continued in the midst of a deployment. My parents’ marriage may not be the greatest, either, and in some ways maybe that helped, because maybe my attitude all this came from the fact that my mother never broke down. I only remember seeing my mother cry the first time he deployed, and that was it. She was a stoic boss throughout the rest of it. The only breakdowns were mother/daughter fights and teenage angst when she wanted me to clean the house and I wanted to go out because, you know, I was 16. I still do feel like at least half of my teen years were kind of taken from me, but I digress.

Paul’s mom, though, seems to have spent a lot of time crying…over Jacob just going into training.

Like I said, maybe I’m just an insensitive bitch about this because I’m used to it and because I had an example of how to be a badass when times are tough, but the tears and the freakouts and the melodrama were too much for me. I never saw or heard her cry, but I certainly heard about it, and she certainly made no secret of it. All the while, I thought it was a bit much. People deal with things the best way they can and the only way they know how, but when your kid is just several hours away and at training, it’s a bit much. When her sister gave her a bottle of wine at the end of Jacob’s 10-day leave and said, “You’re gonna need this,” she was offended, saying it was as if she was an overemotional, unstable mother who can’t handle her kid leaving, and all I could think was, “But that’s exactly the way you’ve been acting.”

It’s probably also worth noting that when I’ve talked to my own mom about Paul’s mom, it’s been suggested that she can’t handle her kids being away, whereas my mom wants me to get the fuck out because if makes her feel like she succeeded as a parent.

Basically, I expected the trip to Jacob’s graduation to be high-stress and overemotional, and I was concerned about my sanity in a car with them that long. Not to mention I’ve discovered I don’t do too well on vacations. It’s taken me years to either figure that out or pay attention to it, but basically if I’m not with the perfect set of people or it’s not for the perfect time, I want to go home pretty damn early. One of my favorite Hemingway quotes (paraphrased) is, “Never go on a trip with someone you do not love,” and it’s proven to be frighteningly accurate. It also causes anxiety in the sense that I agree to a vacation and think, “Oh, God, I don’t love these people enough and this is going to be horrible.”

For a while, I was actually fine. The night before we left, Katie and I stayed over their house, and all of us girls made a banner for Jacob’s motivational run and stayed up late and talked. Honestly, I really loved getting to just hang out together like that, especially after everyone else went to bed and we could talk a little more freely. In the three years Paul and I have been together, I think I learned more about–and shared more with–his sisters and Katie in that one night than the duration of our relationship, and that was a nice pattern that continued throughout the trip.

Even the drive started fine. We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel, which I’ve always found to be mediocre, and stopped here and there for gas and sightseeing. I went straight-up bum–sweatpants, tee shirt, and glasses with no makeup while the rest of the girls were aiming for cute beachwear, but I was like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna be in a van for God knows how long. Comfort first.” I slept some, talked some, and things were going well…until exhaustion and cabin fever set in when we were getting really close to the beach house.

Top 5 on Friday: Summer

Top 5 “Summer” albums

 1. The 2nd Law by Muse I know this because I was driving to this album really fast on Friday, and it was fantastic. It’s typical Muse with a little more synth and hints of dubstep, so you end up with these very big, fun songs that aren’t too serious for summer fun.
2. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac First of all, seeing them live was one of the best last-minute musical decisions I’ve ever made. I haven’t been able to listen to “Second Hand News” the same way since. The live version just slayed the studio version. Really, Rumours is perfect for all seasons, but some of its more upbeat and airy songs make it perfect for summer–“Second Hand News” is one, plus “Never Going Back Again” and “Go Your Own Way.” Even slower, darker songs like “The Chain” and “Gold Dust Woman” work. It’s all appropriate. It helps that we listened to it on the way to the beach. It’s just a perfect album.
3. Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer I think the sentimental value of this album is a large part of why it keeps coming up, but seriously, it’s fantastic. I’m partial to it because when everything with the Craigs went to shit, the buildup to this album was happening, so I was, say, depressed and driving to/from/around State College listened to songs Amanda leaked herself. I associate “Trout Heart Replica,” “Do It with a Rock Star,” and “Want It Back” with State College, though fortunately in a good, nostalgic way and not the cranky “I don’t want to be home right now so fuck it” way. And then the release party happened in early September and it was hot as balls and I watched it online. And most of the songs do have that catchy, upbeat summer feel–just probably not, like, “The Bed Song” or “Trout Heart Replica,” beautiful as they are.
4. The Origin of Love by Mika Mika is still make glorious pop, but it’s pop that has grown up a little and it’s the kind that’s perfect for summer. Try to listen to “Origin of Love” without wanting to hang out a sun roof and sing. Try.
5. Rockford by Cheap Trick Honestly, this is probably my favorite of Cheap Trick’s. They have some real classics, but this whole album is a little harder and faster, just the way summer music should be. It’s great concert music, which is also perfect since I’m seeing them in August.

Where to Pick Up?

So normally, I would pick up where I left of posting, but I don’t remember where that was. I could check, but then I’d have to actually remember what I’ve done since, which is mostly work, writing, spending time with Paul, and unwinding on occasion. I had the time to blog most of this week and I read two days this week, which is a big deal for me. That rarely happens. I unfortunately sometimes go weeks without touching the stack of books by my nightstand. Same goes for lots of other things–I don’t get to them unless I spend a whole weekend at my apartment with no one else here, which almost never happens. I haven’t played guitar in months, I don’t normally get to play X-Box, and watching Netflix is not as uncommon as reading but uncommon enough.

So other than work and writing and ignoring how messy my apartment is…

I had a nice Friday night in last week, which I’ve come to love because I get the most done. By Friday, most editing things have been taken care of, so I have time to play IYS catch-up where I can crank out some news pieces for us or update our lists of desired show reviews and interviews. I can even clean, and I did, even though the empty Smirnoff and beer bottles and random objects scattered around suggest otherwise.

Brandon, Kelly, and Paul came over Saturday. Poor Paul is still on night shift, and Brandon wanted to be here so damn early in the late morning/early afternoon that he never got a chance to…until he completely crashed in the car.

They brought over a purse and wristlet I bought from a Thirty-One party Leah had a few weeks ago. The bag is much bigger than I realized, but I do really like it, and I’ve desperately needed a wristlet but hated al the other ones I saw until this one. I’m picky. Paul also brought me black-raspberry chocolates since they met Leah at her family’s candy store, which I may or may not have suggested everyone tell him to do. Unfortunately, they taste a bit too flowery. Will I still eat them? Hell yes.

We hung out for a little bit then went to dinner at Max & Erma’s together. A few weeks ago, Brandon and Kelly went with me Chelsea in The Crucible since Paul ended up having to do mandatory overtime on a Friday night, and as we drove 19 between Washington and Cranberry, where the theater was, we discovered about two or three Max & Erma’s and wondered what the hell it was and why the hell there are so many between Washington and Cranberry. Keldon (as I call them because I’m lazy) got curious and looked the place up. It’s basically your typical casual-dining place with burgers, seafood, and pastas, but it sounded pretty good, so we went. The drinks weren’t great and I think the bartender wasn’t very good, but the food was way different. I had pasta, of course, which was good and not impressive, but everyone else swears they had the best burgers ever. And our waiter accidentally dropped Paul’s, so he got a new one and a $10 gift card. How’s that for a cheap date?

The original plan was to go to the South Side and drink since Kelly is newly 21. We wanted a pit stop at South Hills Village first, but by the time we got there, Paul was completely out. We walked the mall, I got some nice striped pants that he insists are too tight to conceivably wear in public, and he sat down in a chair and fell asleep and possibly also scared a small child and entertained bros.

True love is when you really want to go out drinking but say, “Do you want me to take you home?” instead. At first, Paul said no, that we were already halfway there and might as well just go and he’d be fine, but Keldon felt bad enough about how tired he was that they said we could go another weekend instead and coming back was fine. Besides, I live within walking distance of a six-pack shop and at least two beer distributers. And at least one bar, but I’m sure there are more.

But we did make two more pit stops while Paul just slept in the car–Barnes & Noble and Half-Price Books. I blame him. He’s the one who said, “You know, there’s a Half-Price Books up here.” I left with new David Sedaris, old Stephen King, and 50 Shades of Grey because I’m curious but sure I’ll hate it.

I was worried the six-pack shop might close early because that’s the kind of luck I have, but no smart business owner in a college town would close early on a Saturday night. The lot was parked. There was a line that included a man with long, blond dreadlocks. It was a beautiful place.

So we came back, drank, and someone turned my damn air conditioner down so that I woke up to 65 degrees. Thanks, Brandon.

Friday Five: Summer Rules

  1. You are the boss of summer time! So what behaviors are not allowed until summer’s end? Nothing remotely resembling winter. No wearing of Ugg boots. No complaining about how much of summer is already over or how little is left–just enjoy it!
  2. And what is everyone required to talk about until summer’s end? Music, food, recreational activities, nature. Books are also allowed.
  3. And what songs must be in regular rotation until summer’s end? Might as well consult the post below about the top songs to get ready for summer. But I’ll throw in “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, too.
  4. And what must be eaten at least once per week until summer’s end? Some sort of frozen dessert of any kind, corn on the cob, pasta salad, and tomato sandwiches. And anything fried. Bonus points for Oreos.
  5. And since you are also the poster child for summer time, what activity will the poster display you engaged in? Lounging outside in a hammock with a book and stereo, with a split of me lounging in a raft on the river with some alcoholic beverage in my hand.

Friday Five: In Retrospect

  1. What seemed like a good fashion choice once upon a time but now seems kind of dumb? Probably any choice I made in middle school, on both ends of the spectrum–I went in with more of a preppy style, came out more punk/goth. Aspects of punk/goth have stuck around, but beyond middle school, I have no regrets, except for the fact that some of the shirts I wore were way too big for me. That wasn’t necessarily by choice–I was just a little girl. I’ve learned to buy as small as possible if they’re tees designed for men.
  2. If you knew then what you know now, what might you not have put in your mouth? Well, this has nothing to do with current vs. prior knowledge, but I wish my friend Steve’s tongue would’ve never ended up in my mouth with various reasons, but mostly because he was my first kiss, turned out to be a huge creep, and it was the worst kiss I’ve ever experienced in terms of both skill and execution.
  3. Now that he or she has been a great friend for a while, your initial uncertainty about whom seems silly? Hmm. I remember thinking Sarah herself was silly, but that’s about it. My uncertainty about people usually stems from a bad first impression or being put off by their behavior/statements, and I’m usually right about those things. Only a few stragglers I’m uncertain about are still around. Watching tons of Oprah shows at work over the past year hasn’t helped, but I have fully adopted her advice of “If someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And my uncertainty usually stems from people showing me who they are, and my problems come from not believing them.
  4. Somebody should have warned you never to go where? Steve’s bedroom. Arguably Mexico for friendship/personal reasons only, not safety reasons or bad decisions.
  5. Who now seems to have been right whenever you were wrong? Paul, almost always, but we joke that him being right about something is never actually a good thing. He’s always right about bad things. For example, he saw the Craig fallout coming almost a year before it happened–not in specifics or not why, but he voiced some things to me that nearly broke us up because it was a bad time and not carefully worded, but he was right. He’s also  been a much better judge of character than I care to admit (he attributes this to his self-proclaimed “social ineptitude” in that he spends more time observing than he does participating). I think he tens to be a little too harsh or maybe overstates negative attributes, but when you look at the core of his criticisms, he’s right. In retrospect, I can’t think of a person he had pegged completely wrong. Even if I give someone the benefit of the doubt, he usually ends up being right or he’s noticed or experienced things I haven’t. And as if my experience with all that isn’t enough, two fucking mediums who knew too much freaky shit about me and about him told me that I need to listen to him because he’s usually right. If he were not such a humble man, I would be hearing this repeated every day till I die.

Top 5 on Friday: Summer

As always, from The Music Memoirs.

Top 5 songs that get you ready for the summer

1. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk The album itself may be receiving mixed reactions, but honestly, with a great beat and hints of funk and disco, it’s a great dancey song that’s fun and perfect for summer…and summer nights of getting lucky, of course. Not to mention it was first teased at a music festival, which we all know are defining moments of summer.
2. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke If you’re surprised I like a Robin Thicke song, so am I. But it’s catch, again, with a great beat, and it’s sexy both musically and lyrically. And with summer heat and romances and such, for some reason, such a song seems perfect for summer.
3. “Jessica” by Major Lazer With a bit of a reggae feel and even lyrical mentions of bathing suits drying on porches, this song just sounds like summer. It’s the kind of song that’s designed to go on a summer 2013 playlist to be listened to in the car with all the windows down on a sunny day.
4. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits Honestly, this song has nothing to do with summer and isn’t necessarily the typical song you’d associate with summer, which tends to be either bubblegum pop or reggae, but the guitar riff is awesome and just sounds summery to me. Maybe that’s because it’s really good and sounds good really loud, and loud music is best enjoyed in none other than the summer in the car with all the windows down.
5. “Dreams” by The Cranberries It’s such a light, dreamy song that it’s wonderful for summer. Music that gets you ready for summer has to be uplifting–which is why lots of catchy yet angry songs got booted out of this list–and this nails it.

Friday Five: Ding

  1. When is *ding* a most welcome sound? When I get a text. Bitches love texts.
  2. When is *ding* a most unwelcome sound? When I get a text and I know it’s not from Terra or Paul because it may be someone I don’t want to hear from, though that’s extremely rare. Or it’s my Pens alert and someone got traded, though that’s occasionally welcome news.
  3. If a *ding* could be heard only by you to warn you about something in social situations, what might that *ding* alert you to, and how many times do you think you’d have heard it this week? Whenever I’m talking about the same thing too much to someone who does not give a shit or is getting annoyed. I would’ve heard it zero times this week, because other than talking to people online or through texts, I haven’t socialized at all.
  4. A Ding Dong is a hockey-puck-shaped chocolate cake(like) dessert filled with cream and covered with chocolate. Its name is somewhat suggestive to some. What other food items have names that inspire you to think naughty thoughts? Bangers. Ho hos. Spotted dick.
  5. What’s an item in your possession that recently received a ding, and whose fault was it? Most likely my phone, definitely my fault.

Top 5 on Friday: CDs

I’m not dead! I’ve just been crazy busy with actual life things and other day-to-day tasks I prioritize over this blog. Like, you know, being an editor and having a boyfriend and another blog.

Top 5 reasons CDs are better than mp3s

1. Reliability. My CDs are gonna be around unless I horribly maim one somehow or it’s lost to a fire. Technology is nice, but it’s not always reliable–any writer or college student who’s experience a computer crash the night before a paper is due during finals week will tell you this. Something goes wrong, there goes all your mp3s. Sure, you can restore your purchases, but what a pain in the ass.
2. Financial support to the artists. Sure, they tend to get very little either way and filesharing means I can get music without financially supporting an artist I may dislike as a person or who might support things I don’t, but at least with CDs, the price means their cut is slightly bigger. And at the end of the day, the artist doing the work (most times) deserves that cut.
3. Cool collector’s items. I’ve backed two Kickstarters in the past year, which is far fewer than I’d like, and one of the great perks–and one of the things that makes Kickstarter great for artists and music lovers–is that most of the time, the CD you get is somehow unique. Sometimes, it’s completely unavailable or hard to find elsewhere. Other times, like in the case of Amanda Palmer, it’s just nicer. Buy her new album in stores and you get that pretty pink cover, but Kickstarter backers got a case that’s a little book full of lyrics and artwork. AFI fans, think Clandestine. And can you get a badass limited-edition box set of mp3s? No, you can’t.
4. Resell value. Taste changes. I liked things years ago that I don’t like now, and years from now, I may not like a lot of what I like now. With mp3s, especially if you paid for them, tough titties. If you didn’t, you can delete them with only the tiny guilt the recording industry will try to impose on you for allegedly costing them millions of dollars when you really probably didn’t. But if you got them legally for a price and you delete them, money wasted. iTunes and Amazon aren’t likely to say, “Sorry you thought ‘Gangnam Style’ was a good idea to buy. Here’s a full refund.” With CDs, you can sell it online or take it to a store that will buy it or give you store credit, and there are enough music fans that this is still a worthwhile thing to do. And if you have some of those aforementioned Kickstarter releases or limited-editions or box sets, more money for you. When I die, if no one wants my music collection, sell it. Guarantee you a good couple hundred bucks off of some of that shit.
5. The experience. This admittedly isn’t gonna matter to casual fans, but if you’re a music-lover, you take pride in your collection, love adding to it (or scaling down when you move on from a love affair with an artist), and want the whole package of liner notes and a full album right there in your hands to enjoy whenever you want. It’s more personal, and you don’t get that when you click “download” on the internet and just have files sitting in front of you.

Friday Five: Warming (Or Cooling)

  1. As the weather in the northern hemisphere begins to warm, how do your days and nights change? In general, I just spend more time outside. The longer hours of daylight also mean I’m more inclined to use natural light and not electricity during the day, plus the sun is actually up when I leave for work. And I can wear more fun clothes. And my hair gets lighter.
  2. In what way do your dining habits change as the weather turns warm? I eat healthier because when it’s hot and I get in from work, I don’t feel like cooking a hot, heavy meal most of the time. So I eat lots of fruit, salads, and light sandwiches. I went grocery shopping yesterday and had one of my lowest bills ever, in part because I bought almost all healthy foods–yogurt, milk, salad, corn on the cob, tomatoes.
  3. What’s the best thing unrelated to weather about the warm-weather months? Concert season!
  4. What are some strategies for dealing with those especially unbearable warm nights? I have air conditioning and am sensitive to cold. I sleep in flannel in the summer. I still have flannel sheets on my bed, although Pennsylvania’s been weird and we had some mornings below 30 last week or so. So generally, I don’t get unbearably hot, but I go for sleeping either naked or wearing as little as I can and giving up my beloved blankets. Paul once pulled a pillow out from under my head while he was mostly asleep and delirious so he could flip it to the cold side.
  5. What words of encouragement do you have for the you of six months from now? You’re not as shitty as people have made you out to be and have made you feel, and you know that. You’ll get your shit together, you just need time. In the words of Terra, keep on keeping on.