Saturday 9: We Need a Little Christmas

Saturday 9: We Need a Little Christmas (2006)

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

1) At the beginning of this recording, Daffy says he hopes all his friends remember his size, style and favorite color. What piece of clothing would you like to add to your wardrobe? There’s not really much I need, except maybe a couple pairs of jeans.

2) His friends are late for Daffy’s holiday soiree. Think about the last get together you attended. Were you early, late or right on time? We went to a friend’s house this evening and got there about when we said we would.

3) It hasn’t a snowed a single flurry where Daffy is. Have you had to shovel yet? We had one day when we probably should’ve done something to the driveway, but my winter gear like gloves and boots is all still kind of scattered randomly around the house from moving in.

4) Daffy sings that he’s looking forward to fruitcake. How about you? Are you a fruitcake fan? Never tried it.

5) Daffy is an American Black Duck. Their usual diet doesn’t generally include fruitcake. These ducks more commonly dine on seeds, foliage and bugs. What was your most recent meal?  Homemade sushi and pad thai, followed by milkshakes, at a friend’s house.

6) The only Christmas card Sam has received so far this year is from her insurance agent. She never sees her agent socially. In fact, she doesn’t think she’s seen him at all in 2018. Have you received many cards this year? If so, were they from people you feel close to? I’ve gotten three, I think, all from relatives.

7) When do you start holiday shopping: Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving/Black Friday, Halloween? After Thanksgiving. Black Friday would technically count, but I don’t bother with it.

8) Sam was recently driven crazy by kids running through store aisles wearing elf hats with bells. Do you have any apparel that makes noise? I don’t think so.

9) This time of year is big for charitable fundraising. Here’s your chance to plug a cause or organization that’s near and dear to you. We adopted a cat from our local Humane Society in the fall, and one of the things I’d like to do is either give them a nice monetary donation or put together a big basket of things they need like towels, food, and toys and deliver it to them. In the meantime, though, donate to your local animal shelter–Humane Society or otherwise–whether it’s money or checking in to see when items they could use. Or even better, adopt a pet to give them a loving home and free up space in the shelter for other animals needing homes. And if you can’t, some shelters offer programs where you can sponsor an animal, which is what I planned to do last year and never got around to it. But I guess actually adopting an animal is a fair trade.

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Friday 5: I Spy

  1. How do you feel about candy sprinkles (on ice cream, doughnuts, cupcakes, or whatever)? I’m a big fan of sprinkles. I almost always get them when I have the chance.
  2. Where’s a good place to look at Christmas lights? Any upper-middle-class neighborhood or better.
  3. What’s a good idea for a drive-through service or product that doesn’t yet exist? I don’t know that this is a good idea, but it’s certainly one I’d appreciate–a drive-through pasta place. Now, a place did try this in my hometown, but it went out of business before I got to try it. I imagine it’s super impractical.
  4. How confident a parallel parker are you? I haven’t done it since I took my driver’s test. I live in an area where it’s easily avoidable. When I was tested on it, I was able to do it perfectly and I’m confident that with a little practice, I could do it again, but if you made me do it right this second? Probably a mess.
  5. How much plaid do you own? Not a lot. I’d actually like to add a little more plaid to my wardrobe. All I really have is a couple shirts, a dress, and I think the leggings I have on now.

As always, from Friday 5.

I didn’t realize this until I really thought about it, but other than Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., might the place I’ve visited the most. We took a few trips as kids–and I recently learned this was solely to give my mom an empty house for the weekend while she was studying for the CPA exam–I went a few times in my teens, went again once or twice in college, and then went yet again over the weekend with my mom and her best friend, Lisa. It’s funny that that interesting trio also took a weekend trip to New York once.

Honestly, the main reason we went was because my mom heard about Snoopy ice sculptures at a resort in Maryland, and it just so happens that AAA was taking a bus trip to that very resort for a weekend. Paul kind of teases her about this but also sees it as a “Oh, that’s why my wife is the way she is,” moment, because she showed up to our annual zoo trip and lunch afterwards with printed itineraries of this trip so we could all decide if we were interested. In the end, clearly, I was the only one who went for it.

I’m scrambling to use the last few of my vacation days–and it’s looking like I’m gonna lose two because we’re so busy at work–so just for the sake of it, I took off the day before the trip. I spent that day running errands and doing stuff around the house before I left, and then since I was gonna be gone all weekend, Paul and I went to our favorite Italian place in town for dinner before I took off to spend the night at my parents’.

We got up early Friday morning, Lisa came over, and we piled in the car for my dad to drive us to the Bob Evans where the bus was stopping. We got there early to have breakfast, then boarded the bus for the four-hour-ish drive down to the resort. The drive went surprisingly quick and I slept a little, but in retrospect, I really should’ve caught up on my podcasts and I’m so annoyed with myself for forgetting all about them.

The resort, the Gaylord, was impressive. We didn’t have time to take advantage of everything it had to offer–and by that, I mean I didn’t get to squeeze in a massage at the spa–but it was a big, beautiful waterfront resort with plenty to do, with a lot included in our package for the weekend, like most meals and…the Snoopy ice sculptures. We made that our first stop after our luggage made it to our room and we got ourselves organized.

To keep the ice sculptures frozen, the entire exhibit is kept at a delightful 9 degrees. They give you these blue parkas to wear through it, and frankly, I’d love to have brought mine home. And the sculptures are pretty big, so the whole thing is pretty impressive. And of course, my mother loved it. I mean, we all enjoyed it, but it was very much her thing. And she and Lisa went down this big slide made of ice, which I enjoyed watching. And my mom left the gift shop with a healthy armful of stuff, and that was with controlling herself. My plan was to try to go down before we left and pick up the things she’d put back down, but I ever had the time or opportunity.

We didn’t have much time left before dinner, which was a buffet in the hotel’s main restaurant, and we grabbed a few drinks, ate plenty, and debated going to the nearby casino until we decided we were too tired.

Saturday 9: I’m Gonna Put Some Glue ‘Round the Christmas Tree (So Santa Will Stick Around All Year)

Saturday 9: I’m Gonna Put Some Glue ‘Round the Christmas Tree (So Santa Will Stick Around All Year) (1954)

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

1) This week’s featured songstress, Peggy King, sings that she’d like to extend the Christmas season all year. How about you? Do you wish the season was longer? Shorter? Or do you think things are fine as they are? I love Christmas, but I hate the commercialization and materialism. This whole thing of getting ready for Christmas after Halloween–and for some stores, in the middle of summer–is ridiculous. The month of December is plenty.

2) She specifically mentions toys. Have you purchased/will you purchase any toys as holiday gifts this year? I haven’t and I don’t think I will, unless I pick up a few things for my niece or nephew on the way. But I’m trying to control myself on that front.

3) Search for “glue” on The Home Depot’s website and you’ll get more than 3,000 results. There’s heavy-duty adhesives, all-purpose glue, clear epoxy, wood glue, and more. Do you currently have glue in your home? If yes, how many kinds? I do, but maybe just two or three–your typical all-purpose and a fabric glue for sure.

4) What’s the last thing you used glue for? That fabric glue is amazing on just about anything that needs a strong glue. I don’t remember when I used it last, but most likely, something broke and I knew what would fix it.

5) This week’s featured artist, Peggy King, was a TV staple in the 1950s. With her perpetually upbeat persona, she was known as “Pretty, Perky Peggy King.” Do you consider yourself upbeat, aka “perky?” Nah. I’m pretty calm.

6) Ms. King got her start singing radio jingles for Hunt’s tomato sauce. Prepared tomato sauce, properly stored, can safely be kept in the refrigerator for days. Do you have any leftovers in your refrigerator right now? Some pheasant soup from my mom and mu husband has some leftover pork, but I’m pretty sure that’s getting sketchy.

7) Her biggest movie role was in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). Do you watch scary movies and shows all year around? Only at Halloween? Or not at all? All year!

8) In 1954, the year this record was released, President Eisenhower dedicated the Marine Corps. Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington DC. If you were to play tourist in our nation’s capital, what site would you be certain to visit? I just got back from there! I went a few times as a kid, a few times as a teenager, once (or twice?) in college, and again over the weekend, so I’ve pretty much tackled every monument, memorial, and museum. Weirdly, it might actually be the place I’ve visited the most. I would like to go down to see the cherry blossoms, though, and the only place I’ve wanted to go to and never made it to in the Newseum, the museum for journalism and the press. I also think everyone should visit the Holocaust museum at least once in their life. I’ve been twice.

9) Random question: Which of these common household items would you miss most if it suddenly went on the fritz — your bedside lamp or your hair dryer? Neither? Our bedroom still needs some organizational help and because it’s a small room and I crammed a queen-sized bed in there, there’s no room for a nightstand, at least not with the way it’s arranged right now. The bed’s almost against the wall on one side, and on the other is a heat vent. So I don’t have a bedside lamp right now. And I use my hair dryer pretty infrequently, so…

Friday 5: This Spud’s for You

  1. What’s your favorite dish in which potatoes are a supporting ingredient (and not the star)? My first two answers were potato salad and Taco Bell’s potato tacos, in case you’re wondering how easily I could think of potatoes as “a supporting ingredient.” And then I thought of gnocchi, and then pierogis. So…I give up.
  2. What is your favorite type of french fry? Crinkle-cut fries are pretty cool. In general, I like a thick fry, especially if it’s practically just potato wedges.
  3. How did you last use a potato in your cooking? I haven’t made anything with potatoes in a while, other than instant mashed potatoes. My husband did attempt my grandma’s potato salad over the summer, though.
  4. What’s your favorite potato chip? I’ve really been enjoying restaurants that make their own chips, because I like the crunch and the thicker chip that you get as opposed to store-bought. But when it comes to said store-bought chips, barbecue is my favorite. My favorite brand is probably Miss Vickie’s, I think because they’re kind of similar to restaurant chips.
  5. What’s a word you pronounce differently from the way most people around you pronounce it? My friends and I used to intentionally mispronounce words as I joke, and then I started doing it with my husband, so if any of us forget we’re in front of normal people, you’ll hear all sorts of bizarre word choices. I can’t think of anything I pronounce differently just, like, in normal conversation, though.

As always, from Friday 5.

We had another thrilling, fun-filled weekend.

First, we went out Friday night for dinner and to see Craig Ferguson. I think I’ve seen him three times now, and he’s always hilarious and a great time. He swore us to secrecy, though, and we’re not to repeat any of his jokes. He was talking about how people get in trouble for what they say these days, but honestly, he didn’t say anything troubling. I’m a firm believer that “everyone is too sensitive these days!” is way overblown and the vast majority of people are fine. But I digress.

Saturday, my mom was making soup, so we all headed over (minus Paul, who was doing an escape room with coworkers) and had lunch and hung out for the afternoon before Brandon and I drove back to his apartment to go see The Struts.

We made the fateful decision to not take the T from the South Hills like usual but instead take it from the slightly closer station in nearby Library.

So we go to the concert, have a great time as I mentioned in my previous post, the band’s kicking ass and playing a good bit longer than we expect, and the show runs after 11, finally wrapped up around 11:30, and the audience slowly makes its way out of the venue and we head to our T station.

This was, like, the perfect storm of mishaps and bad timing. It turned out that the final train for Library left at 11:40, and we’d missed it by minutes–like, maybe five. If anything was a tad different, if the band maybe spent less time between songs or people walked faster, we probably would’ve made it. Sometimes, though, especially for events, the schedule isn’t completely accurate, so I figured we’d wait it out until we saw a train arrive twice, because then we’d be pretty certain that there wouldn’t be one for us.

In the meantime, both of our phones had died. And again, if we figure this out a little sooner or Brandon’s battery doesn’t die down on the platform, we could’ve called Katie and Gage, who were with us, to come get us and drive us to our car. My first plan was to just take it the T somewhere we could use a phone, but Brandon was worried that the time that would take would mean we’d potentially miss the other final trains, especially since at this point it was midnight. The thing that made the most sense in the time we had to figure something out was to ride to South Hills, especially since we’re familiar with it, and borrow a phone on the T to call Paul to pick us up there and drive us back to Brandon’s car.

The first woman we asked said the phone wouldn’t work underground, which…true, but we were gonna wait until after that and were asking people early so we’d, you know, have enough time to make the call and get picked up. So after she got off and we were out of the underground section, we went for two middle-aged ladies, I called Paul, who was like, “Great job, guys,” and we rode on to the South Hills.

You have to pay to park in the garage right above the T, and I didn’t want Paul to end up paying just to pick us up, so I was hoping we’d beat him there. And we did. We stood at the best stop, well-lit and right along the road right in front of the garage, and…he didn’t see us and drove right by. I sent Brandon running and yelling for him, who probably looked fucking nuts, and fortunately, Brandon caught him before he made it to the ticketed entrance. Turns out he’d initially missed the turn to where we were and had to turn around and was so focused that he just blew right passed us. He said he even thought maybe we’d be doing, well, exactly what we did in waiting on the sidewalk.

So he drove us to Brandon’s car, and since my car was still at Brandon’s, I went with him. I mean, we could’ve gone home and gone back for it the next day, but that seemed like a bigger hassle than it was worth, especially since at that point, we weren’t far.

So finally, around 2:30 in the morning–a solid three hours after the show ended–I was home. And Paul says to me, “Before I knew you needed picked up and were gonna be this late, I told Terra we’d help her and Jon move him out of his apartment tomorrow.” Well…fuck it, okay, I’m getting a much-needed snack, going to bed, and getting up to move someone out, I guess.

Pretty much my whole body hurt when I got up, but a hot shower pretty much fixed it and we were out the door. Jon had surgery on his Achilles’ tendon a few months ago and during his recovery basically was living with Terra, so with his lease up, we were just moving what was left. We filled our cars twice, had some lunch, and ended up being gone basically all day. Moving is such a bitch–it never goes as fast and as easily as it seems like it should.

And that’s how I managed to not be home pretty much all weekend.

For a music lover, I have a hard time getting excited about new stuff these days. I don’t know if it’s my eclectic taste or what, but it seems like it’s really difficult. It’s not that I don’t like a lot of what I hear, it’s just that I don’t love it. I’m rarely impressed or engaged enough to buy an album or song–or even put it on a playlist. Most of the big names right now? Don’t care for ’em. I just don’t find them interesting.

So when something does catch my attention, I get excited. It’s a nice change.

Enter The Struts.

So, after a long stretch of exclusively listening to my own music collection in the car, I was like, “Man, I’m so out of touch with the rest of the music world,” so I decided to prioritize radio for my driving–if nothing good is on, then I switch to a CD or my phone, and honestly, that rarely happens, which is kind of awesome. I almost certainly was listening to local alternative station The X when The Struts caught my ear. I don’t even know what song. But it was the kind of rock I’m drawn to, with electric guitars and a hook.

Said local alternative radio station announced their annual Kick Ass Christmas Show with The Struts as their headliner, and although I’d only really kind of dabbled in their music, I liked it enough that I wanted to go. And although my brother is often busy, when I mentioned it, he was in. And then when I shared the flyer on Facebook, his wife’s sister and her boyfriend were interested, too, and the great thing about general-admission tickets is that even though I already bought our tickets, they could get theirs and we could meet up no problem.

I kind of joked about this being a throwback show, because for starters, my brother and I haven’t hit a small-to-mid-size local show in a few years, easily, and it was something we did a lot in high school and college. And second, what that means is four bands on a bill, general admission, standing for a good few hours. Neither of us has done that in a while. A lot of what I’ve been going to lately has been in seated theaters or big stadium shows, so this really was like old times. Especially with four bands, because that’s starting to take up a chunk of time. Two is pretty common, three happens often enough, and then when you hit four, it’s starting to become a different beast. In the end, we were on our feet for about 5 1/2 hours, and the next day, Brandon sent a, “How does everyone feel? I’m exhausted,” message. But…worth it.

Because, see, The Struts put on a show.

The opening bands were all great, for starters, and I’m also a firm believer that way too many people are dismissive of opening acts, thinking of that time as a buffer for getting stuck in traffic or not having to wait in line to get in or to just keep tailgating. Some of the best new bands I’ve heard have been openers, and if you go to concerts even just on occasion, it’s one of the easiest ways to discover something new. I believe so strongly in this that I’d love to pitch a column to a music publication that solely reviews bands I’ve seen as openers. I could give you full lists.

I figured everyone would be good. It was just that kind of all-around vibe, where I could just tell it was gonna be high energy. But like…I didn’t expect the showmanship I got, I guess. From the second The Struts started, it was a fast-paced rock ‘n’ roll party, with the glam look and attitude that I’ve probably been wanting but didn’t know it. I haven’t seen a rock band with a male lead singer come out in glitter and makeup–and multiple wardrobe changes–in a long time, looking kind of like Freddie Mercury, and they won me over so hard like halfway into their first song. I was sold. I loved it. They were one of those acts that’s great recorded but even better live, where all the songs are enhanced and more fun, and that’s my favorite kind of show. (Related to that, the very first time I saw Fleetwood Mac, they played “Second Hand News” so wonderfully that the recorded version isn’t the same anymore.)

And they played a solid, long show. With a big-ish bill, Brandon and I kinda figured their set would be an hour, hour-and-a-half tops, but fuck no! Two hours. And it was great the whole time.

My favorite part, though? They did this stellar cover of “Dancing in the Dark” that had even security bobbing their heads, and about halfway through, the frontman announced he’d be bringing his very own Courteney Cox onstage. And I was a little concerned, to be honest, because rock music still has a sexism issue and stuff like that can delve into weird objectification territory. Now, I don’t know how this goes on a nightly basis, but for this show, his pick was this little girl in a homemade Struts shirt that was maybe 10 years old tops who was, so, so excited to be pulled onstage. She was adorable and her excitement was infectious. It was cool to watch this kid–who said she’d seen them six times!–get brought up to sing and dance with the band. The gimmick was that they’d get the crowd amped then have a dance-off center stage, and in the middle of that, she did this backflip and the crowd went fucking nuts. We all started chanting her name. It was impossible to watch her without a shit-eating grin on her behalf the whole time. She’s gonna remember that for the rest of her life.

I found out at the end that of our group, I was the only one who was seeing them for the first time. A couple years ago, Brandon and his sister-in-law Katie saw them at the same Christmas show except as one of the openers, and while he hadn’t seen them since, she was going for the third time and introduced them to her boyfriend, Gage, who was seeing them a second time. Brandon ended up sending us all a Snapchat of a list of tour dates with an Ohio tour stop this weekend, and honestly, if I wasn’t going out of town with my mom already, I’d be seriously considering it.

Needless to say, a great time was had by all, and we anxiously await their next Pittsburgh show.