Tuesday, August 20, 2013

THIS is 40

Yesterday, August 19, 2013 (at 2:18pm, if you want to get really precise)  I turned 40. I'm happy about it.

I'm thankful that I survived my twenties, a very difficult decade for me (I'm hardly alone on that one; most people my age say they hated their twenties). It wasn't all bad; I did have some great times in my twenties. But I wouldn't want to go back.

My thirties were decent overall. Things started out crappy. I had a few minor nervous breakdowns between the ages of 30 - 32. But by the time I was 33 (2006) I'd hit my stride. I was feeling happy and confident, and had finally landed a job I enjoyed. My love life was spotty--as it often was back then--but I had some great adventures. Even with all the mistakes and missteps I made during my thirties, I don't regret a thing.

So now I've made it to age 40. I'm a published author, I'm happy, I'm content, I'm married. Comfy home, purring cats, fantastic friends, great husband.

It's all good.


Now for some fun.

This milestone birthday has got me thinking. I've been writing a lot about my early childhood, and I'm amazed by how much I remember, especially about 1970's pop culture. I was born in 1973 and was only seven years old by the time 1980 rolled around. But, as I've discovered, I've retained a lot from that decade.

1970's Kid
My mom was a housewife (I guess "homemaker" is the correct term now) for a good part of my early childhood. She kept a small transistor radio in the kitchen of our house in Greensburg, Indiana--this was before we moved to "the big city" of Indianapolis in late 1978--and my first memories of pop music involved Paul Simon, The Carpenters, and John Denver, piped through that little radio in the kitchen.

The song: Paul Simon  50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.
The memory: I was about four years old and my mom was standing in the kitchen, making me a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. She was singing along to "50 Ways" as it played on that little kitchen radio. When it got to the "Hop on the bus, Gus!" part, I collapsed on the floor in a fit of giggles, picturing a little man named "Gus" hopping up and down on top of a school bus. My mom started laughing at me while I laughed my crazy little "Snoopy laugh" (as she called it), and the more she laughed, the more I laughed, and the longer the song played, the more we both laughed until she had to sit down on the kitchen chair and I was rolling around on the floor and my stomach hurt from laughing but I couldn't stop so I just laid there, all giggly and out of breath. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.

The song: The Carpenters Top of the World. (Oh man. Watch the video I linked to. It's adorable. Why can't we all be sweet and innocent like that again?)

I loved this song when I was a wee one, even though I didn't quite have a handle on the lyrics, as you'll see.

The memory:  My dad worked in advertising, and occasionally his colleagues and their wives would come over to our house in Greensburg for dinner and/or cocktails. I was about four or five years old, so naturally I took it upon myself to provide the evening's entertainment whenever my parents had "company" over.

The grownups would be sitting in the living room, enjoying cocktails and smoking cigarettes and talking about Billie Jean King or Barry Manilow or the energy crisis or whatever grownups talked about in the seventies. The living room was in full view of the staircase that led up to the bedrooms. We had this giant brown leather beanbag chair, and I'd drag it over to the bottom of the stairs, climb to the top of the steps (it was only about seven steps--we had a split-level home) and shout:

"I'm on the top of the world, looking down on creation, and the only essplanation.....I CAN FLY!" 

Then I'd take a running leap and cannonball down the seven steps into the big brown beanbag chair, to the delight of (most of) the adults. Their applause and laughter were like catnip to me, so I did it again and again. After about my fourth encore, my dad would say, "Okay, you're getting all wound up now. Time for bed." And then my mom would shepherd me to my bedroom even though it was WAY before my official bedtime and I hadn't even had dessert or watched Donny and Marie or anything. (Shut up. I liked The Donny and Marie Show). So unfair.

Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. 
Some years later, I learned that my dad's boss (one of the guests who frequented my parents' little cocktail hours) used to nudge my dad and say, "You gotta get that kid into commercials."

Alas, my parents didn't heed that advice, and so I was doomed to a childhood of anonymity.

The song: Any and all John Denver songs prior to 1982
The memory: Jeez. So many. My mom loved John Denver, and his music was ubiquitous in our household when I was a little kid. He was almost like a member of the family; the sweet hippie uncle I never had. (My mom's brother is a very nice guy, but he's a rich Republican--a white sheep in a family of black sheep.) I was devastated when John Denver died. It really was like losing a relative. I wish he was still around. I think he could have had a career resurgence, now that the Baby Boomers are all old and nostalgic.

If I could narrow it down, I'd probably say my favorite John Denver-related memory happened in 2000, when I was 27 years old and in love with a sensitive artist type, a 23-year-old painter who ate, drank, lived and breathed 1960's and 70's acoustic folk music. He loved the Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Paul and Mary, Don MacLean, Jim Croce, and John Denver. This guy--okay, let's go ahead and call him Louis, since he was the inspiration for that character in my novel and he's also very unlikely to read this--was the only person I'd met outside my family who shared my love for John Denver and his music. Louis and I drove from Indianapolis to Shades State Park in the summer of 2000, singing along to John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" on the tape deck for much of the journey. Yeah, that was a good time.      

I kinda like writing about this music/memory stuff. I'll be posting more bits like this in the coming weeks.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


Another REWIND! This time from 2009. I miss the Twin Cities. And I still stand behind all of these reviews.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A review of stuff I hate vs. stuff I love...

The Suck It List

Stella’s Fish Café
I can’t get past the name. I don’t know who Stella is, but I know that the words “Fish” and “Café” don’t belong together. It brings to mind fish-flavored coffee, which, ew. Plus, it’s not even a café, just another restaurant/bar, like a pretentious Old Chicago. With fish.

Chino Latino
I refuse to be swayed by the cheeky billboard ads and the glittery sign. Too loud, too yuppified, and the food is crap.

Paisano’s Pizzaria (St. Paul)
This place is utter crap. Mediocre food, messy dining room, excruciatingly horrible service. You’re better off staying home, heating up a frozen grocery store pizza and eating in front of the teevee.

Two words: food poisoning. Five more: dine at your own risk.

The Salon For You
I used to live above this place when I lived in St. Paul. I decided to check it out, and left with a fabulous haircut that I was extremely happy with, along with some funky reddish/pink highlights. Two months later I went back looking for the same stylist. She no longer worked there, they told me, but the owner of the salon was available to do my hair. I felt like I was in good hands—after all, if she’s the owner, she has to know what she’s doing, right? Wrong. She refused to do highlights because some weeks before I had experimented with a temporary color rinse and she said she wouldn’t color over that “as a matter of principle.” (?) Then, she proceeded to give me the worst haircut I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s saying something (I came up in the eighties, remember?) She just took the scissors, gave me a blunt cut straight across the ends, and she was done. It looked so horrible that I had to scrape together some more money and go find somewhere to get it fixed. Happily, I ended up with Mackenzie at Hair Police (see below). Her take on my botched ‘do? “Holy crap, this looks like it was done by someone who’s never cut hair before!” Thank God for Hair Police.

American Apparel
I understand that they’re famous for making their clothes in the USA by non-sweatshop labor, so good for them. But do their all-American, non-sweatshop workers have to make such fugly clothing? I mean, I don’t want my clothes made in Laos by a barefoot 9-year-old, but I do want clothes that are attractive and wearable. (Seriously, who buys this crap?)

Skintight shiny spandex? Really?

There was a time when nearly every scrap of my wardrobe came from Ragstock. Their clothing and accessories were quirky, functional, and reasonably-priced. Unfortunately, they have since gone straight down the crapper. I think they changed clothing suppliers or something, because they’re stuff has taken a sharp nosedive quality-wise; cheap-looking clothes that are more expensive than the lines they used to carry. And most of the clothing doesn’t even come in larger sizes—if you’re above a size 8, you’re shit out of luck. Also? Rude, unhelpful staff. (Oh Ragstock, why hast thou forsaken me?)

Luvs It

Live bluegrass every Saturday night, plus damn good pizza. You can’t go wrong. Bring a date here and they’ll think you’re offbeat and original for discovering it. You’re welcome.

Nina’s Coffee Café (St. Paul)
My original St. Paul hangout, located directly across the street from my first Twin Cities apartment. Great coffee, great atmosphere, and a fabulous place to hunker down and get some writing done. I’ve seen Garrison Keillor there twice! (He owns the bookstore down below Nina’s—Common Good Books.)

Buffalo Exchange
Since Ragstock has fallen out of favor, Buffalo Exchange has picked up the slack. I love this store. Fantastic clothes, shoes, and accessories, all reasonably priced. It’s all thrift/resale, but the staff are fairly picky about what they buy and they always have a good selection of clothes that tend towards the “gently-used” rather than simply “used.”

Eye of Horus
Yeah, I’m a bit of a hippie—you got a problem with that? Didn’t think so. Even for a non-hippie, this is a cool store. It has a wide selection of candles, essential oils, and incense—stuff anyone could use, right?—along with tarot cards, crystals, runes, and mojo bags, for those of us with more esoteric needs. All this, plus a friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Nicollett Village Video
Who needs a Netflix subscription? I’d rather support independently-owned video stores like this one. Village Video has nearly every movie category imaginable, including a wide range of foreign and cult films you can’t find anywhere else. They also have a huge “Brit Vid” section, featuring shows like SpacedThe Tomorrow People (remember that one, fellow Gen-Xers?) and Not the Nine-o’Clock News. It rocks. Hard.

Hair Police
As long as I live in the Twin Cities, I will never go anywhere else to have my hair done.

Blogger Ms Sparrow said...
Thanks for sharing all your hard-won experience and advice on great places to avoid. I've never eaten at Sawatee, and I hope I never will.

I've never heard of most of the Brit TV shows you mention. I don't even watch the Eastenders, but I love "Keeping Up Appearances" and "Mr Bean" always makes me laugh--except not in his movies.
7:42 AM

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Below is an old post from the wayback machine. I would like to amend what I said about Maya Rudolph. I didn't know her work at the time and barely knew anything about the 2005 SNL cast. What a difference 8 years makes! I think she's great.

Also, I wouldn't use an outdated Boogie Nights reference if I saw John C. Reilly. He's funny and he's a fine character actor. If I saw him today, I'd probably have to point, smile, and say "Brule's Rules! For your health!" (Tim and Eric reference). But that might be annoying too. Most likely I'd blush, smile, and look down.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The stars at night are big and bright...

Lindsay Lohan is in the Twin Cities filming the Prairie Home Companion movie (she's been seen out shopping at vintage stores in Minneapolis). And last week I saw something random in the People and Places section of the Pioneer Press (or the Star Tribune, or the other one--there's like 50 daily publications here and I can't keep them straight). The short blurb mentioned that John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph and some dude were spotted during July 4th weekend eating on the patio of La Grolla--an Italian restaurant that's within crawling distance from my apartment (literally). Now, Maya Rudolph I couldn't give a crap about (although she did interview Amy Sedaris for BUST magazine, which was cool), but I'd have died to meet John C. Reilly. Not that he's hot or anything, he's rather odd-looking. Most people probably remember him as Renee Zellweger's husband in Chicago, but the most awesome-est John C. Reilly movie is, of course, Boogie Nights, one of my favorite films in the whole history of the whole history. Dude, he was Reed Rothchild, a.k.a Chest Rockwell!!! I can't believe he was at La Grolla.

If I'd have happened by, I totally would have embarassed myself by staring like an idiot. I also would have tried to come up with some Boogie Nights quotes, thus embarassing myself further, but I'm not sure I'd have been able to stop myself. Like, "People say I look like Han Solo," or "That's not an MP, that's a YP--your problem!" Or "You're not the king of Dirk!"

Such a cool movie.


Marcus said...
I was at a party recently and someone told me I reminded them of John C. Reilly. I didn't know whether to be impressed or horrified. I went with impressed since he's one hell of an actor.

"You got the touch! You got the power! Yeah!"

andiepants said...
It's more like "You got the touch! You got the pow-eeeeeerrrrrr!" And "Heeeeeeeeat will rock you, and heeeeeeeat will roll you...." Mark Wahlberg is a fine singer.