It’s got to be some sign of true friendship when one pretty much drops everything to drive an hour to their best friend’s house to take their dog to the vet. Or a sign of loving dogs. Or both.

Just when I was getting ready to stop lounging around and make diner one night, Terra texts me saying that her dog, Lilly, had gotten into a cabinet while Terra was at work and eaten just about everything in it. Terra can’t drive for medical reasons and all of her closer options, like her brother and new beau, were unavailable, so that left Paul and I to save the day and take Lilly to an emergency vet appointment. So we got our shit together, jumped in the car, and went to take her.

Now, when one hears that the dog ate a bunch of shit not good for dogs and that her stomach is a little hard, one would expect to show up to a sick, lethargic dog. But not Lilly! Nope, Lilly was running around like nothing was wrong, which I guess was a good sign, but I don’t blame Terra for being cautious, especially when Lilly got into things that are known to be bad for dogs. Like hot chocolate.

And of course Lilly was excited to go in the car for a ride, so really, she was having a pretty good day. She even peed on me a little while she sat on my lap, which I didn’t even notice until I got out and noticed my thick, warm sherpa hoodie felt a little damp all across the front. And that’s the true test of friendship and animal lovers, kids. It’s not dropping everything to drive an hour to take your best friend’s dog to the vet, it’s not even caring when said dog pees on you. For other similar tests, try your willingness to put your hands in your friend’s dog’s mouth when you think she’s eaten something she shouldn’t have, or your willingness to take a bone off the dog when it’s time to leave the house. It helps that Lilly is the most docile beagle I’ve ever seen.

The vet was backed up, which was a surprise given the hour at that point, and we had a good wait before they took us. By then, the feeling was that if Lillith had eaten anything really bad in high enough quantities, she’d be showing it, but they gave her some fluids as a precaution. Terra bought us Taco Bell for our troubles, which was great for us since we hadn’t eaten at all by then and the whole thing had taken a good bit longer than any of us expected. We were out late enough that calling in sick was a pretty serious consideration for the next morning, but when I woke up feeling more rested and alert than I expected, I took advantage of it and just went in as normal.

Lilly, for her part, is fine. I think she thought the whole thing was fun, and her nose prints are still on my car window.

When Paul’s sister Emily went off to college in the fall, she kind of went and did all the things. Way more than I ever did, which I do regret looking back. But one of the things she signed up for was the Drama Club, so we’ve seen her in a couple of plays at this point and I think one more is coming up this weekend. One of them was pretty neat–for 24 hours, the students were locked in a theater and wrote a few original short plays, then performed them at the end of the 24 hours. Of course, Paul and I went to see the result.

It was fun. The plays definitely had a bit of an unpolished feel to them, but for having been thrown together in 24 hours, they were still good, and the students all did a good job with them. They were all really different from each other, which was nice. It’s a project that would probably be intimidating and kind of stressful to take on, but I think sometimes, pushing yourself like that can lead to some good things. They can always take those little plays, tweak them, and keep building on them.

Afterward, we went out and got something to eat with Emily, then pretty much called it a night.

Saturday 9: Heat of the Moment

Saturday 9: The Heat of the Moment (1982)
Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) What’s something you did or said “in the heat of the moment?” I can’t think of specifics, but I know I’ve said some shit when I’ve been angry and that kind of got the better of me.

2) Asia’s founder and bass player, John Wetton, passed away in January. One of his bandmates remembered him as a reliable performer who made everyone around him look better. Do you enjoybeing the center of attention? Or would you, like Mr. Wetton, prefer to play a supporting role? I think I’d prefer to play the supporting role, especially when it’s important.

3) Asia is a British band who played their first US concert at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. The nearest major city — Ottawa, Canada — is a 90-minute drive from Pottsdam. When you were last in the car for an hour or more? Where were you going? I was coming back from my best friend’s house after taking her to get her driver’s license. Ah, the beauty of coming home from the city in rush-hour traffic.

4) The song refers to disco hot spots, which apparently, by 1982, no one wanted to go to anymore. Let’s make that negative into a positive.Describe your perfect night out with friends. Where would you go? It depends on the friend because different friends prefer different things, and I can have fun anywhere with the right company. I’d go dancing with some, dinner with others, stay in and just hang out with others.

5) In 1982, the year this song was popular, someone laced bottles of Tylenol with cyanide. That’s why we now have tamper-proof caps on many products. Have you used anything in a tamper-proof bottle yet today? Not today, and I don’t expect to.

6) In 1982, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year wasn’t a person at all, it was “the computer.” What do you use your computer for most often? Dicking around on the internet.

7) 1982 also saw the premiere of The Weather Channel. Where do you learn the day’s weather forecast? (Watching the local news on TV, checking your phone, looking out the window …) I check the temperature on my phone, then in the winter, I’ll look out to see how much snow we have, if any.

8) In 1982, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie, Conan the Barbarian, was a hit in theaters. When you settle down to watch a movie, is it usually a fantasy, like Conan? Or do you prefer another genre (action, comedy, adventure, romance, drama, classic …) I lean towards drama, sci-fi, and horror, but I can find something I like in just about any genre. Typically, I just grab what’s next on my Netflix list.
9) Random question: What is something you try to avoid? Shitty people.

Friday 5: Food Me Once, Food Me Twice

From here.

  1. What do you like on your frozen yogurt? It depends on the flavor of yogurt, but I tend to stick to fruit. When I’m keeping it really simple, sprinkles.
  2. How do you feel about hot breakfast cereals? Growing up, I never did like oatmeal, despite giving it a few tries. But when my fiancé made it for me, I ended up really liking that. Turns out I just like it the same way he does–a lot thicker than most people make it.
  3. What did you last put brown sugar in or on? Probably oatmeal, but possibly tea.
  4. What’s a food item you willingly overpay for? Honestly, if I know it’s good quality, I’ll overpay for anything when it comes to food.
  5. What did you last add vinegar to? As far as I can remember, just homemade salad dressing.

Since about Christmas, my grandfather’s health hadn’t been great. He was too much for his wife, Joanne, to handle on her own, so she put him in a nursing home nearby, where he proceeded to do things like try to break out and get his cellphone confiscated for calling the police and telling them he was being held against his will. On top of that, he didn’t exactly listen when they told him not to walk around on his own and he wasn’t exactly stable when he tried, so he fell a few times and broke some bones.

So knowing he wasn’t doing well and since we don’t visit with him much, Brandon, Kelly, Paul, and I took a weekend at the end of January, packed up the car, and went out to see him on the other end of the state. We got in Saturday evening, checked into our hotel, then went straight over to see him.

I felt bad for the staff taking care of him, honestly, because I’d heard enough to know that he was a difficult patient. But I felt bad for him, too, because if I were in his situation, I’d be miserable–and it seemed like the staff kind of ignored him at times, which I have mixed feelings about. I get that he was a lot to handle, but it’s also not fair to just pretend he’s not there when he’s getting on your nerves. When we walked in and the staff told us where his room was, they commented on how he’d been yelling. Well, we found him just outside of his room with a part of his wheelchair caught on like a laundry bin, so he couldn’t move. I kind of felt like he’d gotten himself stuck and had been down there yelling about it and they just assumed he was being difficult.

But like I said, I did feel bad for the staff, too. The few times we saw him interact with them, he was snippy and a little uncooperative. Us being there probably worked for everyone–he got visitors, and they got a break.

That Saturday night, he was actually pretty talkative. He was diagnosed with dementia, and my mom had told us that when she and my dad visited a few weeks prior, he would get things confused then get frustrated with himself for doing so. So we did have some idea of what to expect, but for the most part, he was doing well. He knew who we were and perked up when he saw us, and he kept saying how glad he was that we were there. I’m not sure if anyone had told him we were going, and even if they had, I’m not sure he would’ve remembered. I’m not even sure when we went the next day if he remembered us having been there, although he did remember that my parents had been there recently.

Because he was so talkative, and partly going off past experience in similar situations with my great-grandma, for example, we stayed a little longer than we’d originally planned, then grabbed ourselves a pizza, went to bed, and did it again the next day. My dad told us he liked Dunkin’ Donuts, so we picked up a dozen that I’m not sure ever were eaten, but eh. He was much more confused that day, repeating himself often and seeming to struggle with things like which grandkids we were. But still, we hung around for a while, until Joanne and her son came by with some military paperwork for my dad and uncles to look into, then hit the road to come home, stopping at a rest stop for some fast-food dinner on the way back.

I was hoping to make it back up again soon–February and March were both busy, with me working Saturdays in March, so we were aiming for a weekend in April. Unfortunately, he died about two weeks ago. My parents were able to make it out one more time, but he’d declined mentally, which we think was partly the fault of the staff at the facility he’d been moved to. We don’t know for sure, but we think they were keeping him drugged up to deal with him better, and we think that had he been elsewhere, he might’ve lasted a little longer. When my parents came back, my mom said she was shocked and upset by how much he’d declined, especially having seen him a few weeks prior and even hearing us talk about our visit with him shortly after that.

So rest in peace, Pap Pap. You know we loved you, and we know you loved us.

Whether You Like It or Not

I’m not sure how I actually stumbled on Hedwig & the Angry Inch. All I know is I watched the movie and based on the description, expected something more along the lines of a comedy. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely is funny, but it was also so much more serious and moving than I expected going in. Maybe those expectations are why I like it so much–it’s one thing to go into something and come out let down, but it’s entirely different to go in expecting something lighthearted and come out impressed.

I really wanted to go see it on Broadway last year. Being a fan of it was enough, but the cast they had of Hedwigs was ridiculous. Neil Patrick Harris kicked it off, creator and original star John Cameron Mitchell returned for a run, Darren Criss of Glee and A Very Potter Musical fame did it, and even Taye Diggs took a turn. On one trip to the casino, I said that if I hit, I was going home and booking a flight to New York and scoring Hedwig tickets. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I knew that these things usually come around on tours.

And it did, for a whopping two nights in Pittsburgh. I’d shown Brandon the movie back when I first saw it, as I always did when I watched something I really liked when I was still living at home–I mean, I still do it now, but when you live with someone, it’s way easier to sit them down and make them watch a movie with you–so he said he’d go with me. We ditched our significant others for the evening and just went out on our own. I think Paul would probably like it, but I’d rather show him (and Kelly) the movie first before spending money on tickets to a show he may end up not liking after all.

And then when I went to order tickets, I got lucky–there were seats available in the second row. Normally, those are pretty expensive, but I guess since Hedwig doesn’t have the same draw as, like, the Hamilton tour will, they were cheaper. I saw it as an opportunity. Not only are those rare, but I was totally comfortable paying that price to get them and until we’re all totally rich later in life, this is one of the few chances we’re gonna get to do that. So I went for it.

So we get to the theater, and I’m pumped for these second-row seats. And then the usher takes us to…not the second row. It was a second row–the second row of the house seats–but the ones I thought I’d paid for were even closer, up in the director’s circle. At first, I thought that in my excitement ordering, I’d looked at something wrong and not ordered what I thought I was ordering, but then I looked at the tickets. Nope, they were for something like row BB, and we’d been taken to just regular B. So I asked another usher on my way back from a bathroom trip and sure enough, she took me to where I was sure I belonged, and I waved Brandon up to follow. For some reason, the ushers were off their game that night, because a girl nearby had the opposite problem where an usher took her to a seat that was better than what she’d paid for, which caused some confusion when the people who had paid for those seats showed up. It was strange. I’ve never had that happen before, let alone seen it happen to someone else the same night.

Having seats that close was really cool. For a more conventional show, I might not do it–being that close can actually make it tough to see what’s happening, but because Hedwig is presented as almost more of a concert, that wasn’t really an issue. And because you’re so close, you feel like you and the people around you are the only ones there. Sure, you can hear the cheering and applause behind you, but all you see is the row in front of you, the stage, and the people in the immediate vicinity. I was really glad I went for it, even when we were in danger of being groped and spit on by Hedwig. Like I said, more like a concert.

And that’s the major difference between the movie and the stage show, which I knew–the format of the show wouldn’t translate well to film, honestly. The film takes a more standard narrative approach, where you watch things happen and play out. But again, onstage, it’s more like a concert. The cast is just Hedwig and her band performing right in front of you, and rather than watch a story unfold, it’s like you’re actually at Hedwig’s concert. She tells you about herself and her life, and in that sense, it is exactly like the movie, just presented differently. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have a clear plot, because it does, and in a very typical sense. You have character development, you have a narrative arc with a climax and denouement, all that.

On the whole, it’s a serious, moving story about Hedwig’s botched gender reassignment, hence the “angry inch,” and he relationship with an aspiring rock star who essentially steals her songs and hits it big with them. And although it’s a pretty funny show packed with wit, you’re essentially watching Hedwig become more and more unhinged, being hostile and even aggressive toward her band until she completely loses it in the end. But I think what I love about it and what makes Hedwig more sympathetic than one might expect is that she’s angry, and for good reason. Sure, the issues of sexuality and gender that the show explores are something I can’t relate to, but I totally relate to Hedwig when it comes to how upset and angry she is. Maybe not for the same reasons, as I’ve obviously never had a lover steal my work and become hugely successful with it, but I have been there emotionally. And even if one hasn’t, it’s not hard to feel bad for her and feel like she’s been put through shit she doesn’t deserve. And although those things don’t justify how she behaves, they explain it.

Maybe that’s why I’m so moved at the very end and cried a little during the final song. Which is a great song, by the way. They all are, even taken out of context.

And despite its at times serious tone, humor is one of its strengths, with plenty of wit thrown into the lines and characters. I don’t know who’s responsible for this, but I have to give them credit–many of the jokes and references were to local things. One of the second-row perks was being able to hear Hedwig yell, “Too many fucking PIEROGIS!” when one of her costumes wasn’t zipping, and one of our favorites was a line about going to Eat ‘N’ Park, where Hedwig “neither ate nor parked.” A blog post I stumbled upon later from a North Carolinan said Hedwig mentioned the controversial bathroom bill, saying that she couldn’t use any public bathrooms in the state. There was also a running gag about Hedwig following a shortened run of Hurt Locker: The Musical, and they went so far as to scatter fake programs for it all over the theater so that they littered the floor when you came in. When I first saw them, I thought they were leftovers from the previous night’s show, then I remember that 1) the Benedum cleans and 2) the previous night’s show would’ve been Hedwig, meaning that even if I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see that they clearly said Hurt Locker, they still obviously looked nothing like the Hedwig programs. After their purpose became more obvious, Brandon and I grabbed a couple as we left just out of curiosity, and the effort put into them was ridiculous. They’re much shorter than a real program would be, but they still include photos and bios for the fake cast. Some poke fun at actual actors, but others make fun of theater and the entertainment industry in general.

And of course, the cast/band was excellent. With so many high-profile Hedwigs gracing the stage on Broadway, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with high hopes from the touring cast, and they absolutely delivered. Hedwig sounded great and had the perfect attitude and was so fun to watch.

The whole thing was great, and I loved it. I hope it makes a return.

There were three things I said I didn’t want to do until after the wedding: buy a new computer, buy a new car, and get a new place. Well, the computer went and needed replaced, followed a few months later by the car, and after some frustrating experiences, I was about ready to ditch the apartment, too. So I did some looking and lined us up a look at a place closer to Pittsburgh, which is more I want to be but admittedly takes Paul further away from work, tai chi, and all the other things he’s done. He moved in and actually established himself, whereas I went full introvert and almost never do anything ever.

We both liked the place we looked at. It’s about the same size as where we are now, just a little more expensive, nicer, in a better area, and more secluded. My favorite part was that the ground-level apartments include a little space for a garden right outside the patio doors.

When Paul happened to mention this at work, one of his co-workers mentioned that her sister was selling her house, so we tossed that into the mix, too. A house is definitely preferred at this point but a little unrealistic–my thinking was that we could upgrade to a better apartment before the wedding, then focus on house-hunting after. But we were willing to take a look, especially as the idea of owning a house kind of seeped into our brains more. We probably walked into that house 100% in love with the idea of the house as opposed to the house itself. I mean, we were ready to go for it, but smart enough to be realistic.

And it was cute, about the size and price we had in mind. It needed a little bit of work–we didn’t like the kitchen–but nothing huge and nothing we weren’t willing to tolerate until after the wedding. We went back with our parents, talked about it with them, talked about it ourselves, and ultimately, reason prevailed and we ruled it out. For one, Paul’s dad found roof leaks that could’ve either been an easy fix or required a new roof, and then the ceiling in the finished basement was so low that Paul, who’s 6’5″, could just barely stand in it. The roof was concerning alone, and then I started thinking about the fact that we’d pretty much be paying for a nice basement that Paul wouldn’t even be able to use. So we ruled it out.

But we were kind of bit by the house-hunting bug, so I did start devoting some time to looking at listings. We did schedule one other tour and while we did like it–more than the other, in fact, and it was even cheaper–it wasn’t really the one. And between wedding planning, working full-time, writing on the side, and the rest of life, I haven’t had time to look at anything else since, and our window of buying and moving before the lease is up is quickly closing. At this point, if we did find something, whether or not we’d close in time to notify apartment management is a huge toss-up. But we were expecting this. We knew we had time to look before the six-month mark of the wedding, but now that we’re past that mark and very nearly five months out, more and more of our time is being taken up by meeting with caterers or having to sit down and make decisions about things like the layout for the reception. That’s just going to get worse, so house-hunting has been pushed to the bottom of the list. It’s right above looking for a new job, which is on hold for kind of the same reasons, as well as the fact that getting a new job and buying a house at the same time isn’t a great idea.

So for now, apartment life it is. We’re still gonna look when we can, but it’s most likely gonna be one more year on the lease for us.

So, here’s the thing. In December, I signed up to write all of AXS’s New Year’s concert previews. Not too long after I finished those, an editor asked me to take on all of AXS’s Valentine’s Day concert previews. Not too long after I finished those, I volunteered to help tackle some of the St. Patrick’s Day because I’m an idiot, I guess. I mean, I’ll probably change my attitude once I get paid–all the Valentine’s Day ones should hit, well, today, followed by St. Patrick’s Day next month–but what ended up happening every time was I had less writing time than I expected and ended up coming home from working full-time and spending entire evenings for days, in some cases over week, finishing the things. It wasn’t even that it was difficult work, it was just that some cities don’t have as much going on as others, so hunting down, say, five family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day events can take a long time.

I keep saying when I finish up that I’m taking a writing break for a week, but at this point, not even I believe me when I say that. I’m just grateful that the only possible holiday they could throw at me next is Earth Day, and I don’t think that’s a thing an event site cares enough about.

In the midst of all this, Terra started working at a crisis call center and wanted to spend one of her nights off seeing a movie, so I ditched an evening I should’ve spent writing to hang out with her and her new beau, this guy she’s been friends with for a little while that I always kind of thought had a thing for her. Well, with her husband turning into a colossal shit, one thing led to another, and bam, we go on double dates now.

Look, here’s the thing: it’s super easy to start comparing someone’s ex to their new significant other, and on top of that, hindsight is 20/20, as they say. I never had a problem with her husband–we actually got along pretty well–but this new guy, whose name is also Scott, just seems…so much better. He’s a good few years younger than us, meaning myself, Terra, and Paul, so there are some things that come along with that difference in age, but that’s been our only real complaint. He’s easier to talk to, he’s more friendly, he’s more compassionate, and so on. Her husband had this impatience and harshness to him, even pre-Navy, that this guy just doesn’t. He’s more fun to hang out with, and he seems to just be better for her, too.

So we met up in the South Hills. I made a pit stop to unload a stack of old magazines at Half Price Books and got like a whole two bucks for them, but hey, I’ll take it–better than the stack taking up much-needed space in my apartment, especially considering I never read almost all of them. I don’t even know how I got them, either, aside from Rolling Stone, which I know comes with certain Live Nation ticket orders. But I don’t know how I ended up with Better Housekeeping and Ebony. I have an unsubstantiated theory that it has to do with my FYE membership.

We grabbed a quick food-court dinner since car trouble had Scott and Terra running late. Now, I’ve never had to worry about a movie selling out pretty much ever, yet sure enough, when we went back to the theater, Split was sold out. After doing some Googling, we figured if we left fast, we could make it back to Washington for the next showing there, and we just barely made it–it was close to selling out, and we ended up not being able to sit together.

I guess the crowds were on to something. The reviews I read before going in were all positive, and honestly, I’ve really been rooting for M. Night Shyamalan to make a comeback. I really liked his early films–I’m even a rare fan of Lady in the Water, or at least I think it has more merit than people give it credit for–and after movies like The Village and The Happening, where the quality really started tanking, I felt he needed to take a break and get back to more basic storytelling that didn’t focus so much on a twist. I knew, and I think a lot of other fans and general moviegoers knew, too, that he was capable of much better, and I really hoped he’d come back with something good and not just kind of disappear. And I think he’s done it with Split. It has received some valid criticism, but it was entertaining to watch, appropriately disturbing, and just delivered a good trip to the movies. I was so happy for Shyamalan when I left that theater because he finally got one right. It’s got to feel good to have your movies go from being panned to get genuinely good reviews and ending up #1.

On another Shyamalan note, I also Netflixed the Avatar: The Last Airbender not too long before we went. Now, I hear that the problems with that movie have less to do with Shyamalan himself and more to do with the script and studio, which I totally believe, but that, too, was bad. It kind of stripped the show of everything that made it good and paired it with a whitewashed cast–with the exception of the villains, who were of course still brown, because Hollywood–and bad acting. The exception was Dev Patel. Good for you, Dev Patel.


Saturday 9: Alone Again, Naturally

Saturday 9: Alone Again, Naturally (1971) 

Not familiar with this week’s song? Hear it here.

1. Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th! Did you celebrate with green beer or a green milkshake? I didn’t, but I did go out to eat at a local restaurant.

2. Did you remember to wear green? Again, I didn’t, but I did accidentally wear a turquoise-ish shirt.

3.  What color do you look best in? I don’t know what I look best in, but I wear a lot of dark colors and red.

4. This week’s featured artist, Gilbert O’Sullivan, was born in Waterford, Ireland. Waterford is famous for Waterford Crystal. Do you have glassware that you save for special occasions? Kind of? I have some wine glasses that are rarely used, and then I have a set of my grandma’s china, but I’ve never used it. It’s currently in my parents’ basement until I get a house.

5. This week’s featured song includes the line, “To think that only yesterday I was cheerful, bright and gay.” How were you feeling yesterday? Tired and lazy.

6. It begins with reference to a wedding that didn’t quite come off because the bride left the groom at the altar. When were you most recently at church? Was it for a holiday service, a regularly scheduled service, a special event (a wedding or baptism)? Regular Sunday mass, mostly so they’ll let me get married.

7. In 1971, when this song was popular, Malibu Barbie was a big seller for Mattel. This doll had a perpetual tan. For a human to achieve this, a tanning bed or self tanner is usually required. Have you used either method to give yourself a tan? I used to use self-tanner like in middle school, then stop caring somewhere in my teens. Been that way ever since, although I will lay out if I’m at a pool or beach. But that’s less about tanning and more about just enjoying the sun and sand.

8. In March, 1971, James Taylor appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. What’s your favorite James Taylor song? I don’t think I have one.

9. Random Question: What word or phrase do you hear yourself saying too often? Lots of cusses, mostly, and throwaways such as “like.” I also use “dude” as a throwaway.

Friday 5: Picture This

  1. What’s your favorite monster movie? I’m not too into monster movies, but of the ones I’ve seen, I think I most enjoyed Pacific Rim.
  2. What’s your favorite social issues movie? I don’t think I can pick one. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one, and of the ones I have, I can’t really single one out as a stand-out favorite.
  3. What’s a movie you dislike in a genre you love? I love horror movies, but I dislike a lot of the movies that have been put out lately. But I think the biggest surprise is probably that I don’t like The Exorcist, which is always praised. Although I’m starting to think that only gets hailed as terrifying by non-horror fans.
  4. What’s a movie you like in a genre you dislike? I dislike chick flicks and rom-coms, but I like a lot of the ’80s and ’90s ones, especially ones where Julia Roberts was involved. War movies is another one–they tend to bore me, but I really liked Blackhawk Down.
  5. What’s a movie everyone else has seen but you have not seen? Basically everything that’s come out in the past six to nine months. I only saw a couple things in theaters then, and I haven’t seen any of the big summer blockbusters or the number-ones lately.

From here.