Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a sad song and make it better

The radio station I listen to has been celebrating The Beatles all month, in honor of that remastered collection thing that you probably heard about, unless you've been living under a rock or perhaps don't listen to a station that decided to talk about The Beatles all month. Tonight, the whole thing culminated in a countdown of the top 50 Beatles songs, as ranked by listeners. (Or rather, as ranked by the listeners who actually took the time to vote. I did not, but obviously that won't stop me from complaining about the results.) It was a reasonably solid list... not that I am any sort of expert on Beatles discography and therefore qualified to weigh in on this, and maybe the fact that I am not a Beatles expert accounts for my reaction when they played the number 1 song. Hey Jude? Really?? The song that starts out promising enough but then ends with approximately nine and a half gratingly repetitive minutes of "Na, na, na, na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na! Hey-ay Jude. (JudyJudyJudyJudeJudyJude!)"? That song? Better than all other Beatles songs? OK then.

It occurs to me that my dad once voiced that exact same complaint about Hey Jude, so now of course I am terrified I may be turning into my father. Next thing you know, I'll be driving as if every other car on the road is invisible, bringing my own spoon to restaurants, and spouting off about how that Rush Limbaugh really knows what he's talking about. Yeesh. Perish the thought.

In truth, I don't really have a problem with Hey Jude, but best Beatles song of all? Hardly. Of course, now I have to tell you what IS the best Beatles song, which is bound to be a bad idea, because at least 96% of you will disagree with me, and at least half of that 96% will actually lose respect for me because of my disturbingly bad choice. Or so I've been led to believe the few times this topic has come up in the past. Some people are serious about their Beatles cred. It may be on par with the pop/soda divide.

So I won't tell you what the best Beatles song is. Instead, I will tell you what my favorite Beatles song is. And then I will explain why it is my favorite, in an effort to calm whichever among you will tell me it is not a valid choice.

My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday. Not because it is lovely and sad (though it is) and not because I have a scratchy old version of it on a tape that my little sister once dubbed for me--a version that ends with Paul saying, "Thank you, Ringo; that was wonderful," which for some reason makes me smile. My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday because every time I hear it, I remember winding my way up the narrow staircase that circles the interior of Brunelleschi's dome in Il Duomo, the Florence Cathedral. I remember climbing to the top of that dome during the spring break of my semester abroad, with two German boys walking the steps in front of me, singing Yesterday to amuse themselves. Wait. Were they German? They may not have been German. All I remember is that English was not their first language, and as such, one of them mangled the lyrics into something entirely unrecognizable as English words. I know I have mangled some Spanish over the years; I once tried to sing the Tortilla Song that I learned in high school Spanish to a bartender in Cozumel, and though I was confident I was remembering all the words just right, he had no idea whatsoever what I was singing about. Mangled English I'm less familiar with. It's hard to imagine mangled versions of a language you know well. So when I heard the German teenager singing Yesterday and injecting words that were not words, my ears perked up in confusion and surprise. So did the teenager's friend's, because he whirled around immediately to correct him. "Half the man! Half the man!" he sputtered, one hand pounding the other for emphasis. After that chiding, the poor kid looked like half the man he used to be. But still, he kept on singing.

So when I hear Yesterday, I think of Florence. I think of exploring new places and learning new things and realizing the simultaneous fear and exhilaration of being in another country and knowing there is no one on the planet who knew exactly where I was at any given moment. And I think of those two boys in Brunelleschi's dome and I wonder what lyrics they are mangling these days.

Incidentally, Yesterday came in at #11 on the radio listeners' poll, so obviously I am not the only one for whom that song holds a special place. At #12 was In My Life, which is my second-favorite Beatles song (by a very close margin). I don't have a story to go with that one. I've just always liked it is all.

I wasn't actually planning on talking about the Beatles tonight. I certainly wasn't planning on talking about them for seven paragraphs. No, I was going to talk about my second vacation in the course of a month. Remember? I was so overdue for a vacation that I decided to take two? So last weekend was my long weekend in L.A., where it was ridiculously hot and where I saw more of the highways than of anything else (which, as far as I can tell, is about as accurate a picture of L.A. as one can get), but where I had an excellent time with some excellent friends nonetheless. I went to visit Darren and Heather (who some of you may remember from Look at Me... and Nabbalicious fame). I went with my friend Melissa, who lives in Minneapolis but who I had to meet through another blog friend in California (everybody's favorite tech support and car repair guru, Steve, who is the reason Heather and Darren know Melissa as well). See what a small world it is? Look at the Internet, bringing people together even after their blogs are long defunct. It's almost like... REAL LIFE. Crazy thought.

Anyway, we had a hilarious time. Seriously, I do not remember the last time I laughed so much in a 72-hour span. We went to the observatory in Rebel without a Cause. I saw the beach club that served as 90210's Beverly Hill's Beach Club. (Or was it the beach club that everyone worked at on Saved by the Bell? Were they actually the same beach club? My memory of them is the same.) I had my first In-n-Out burger. I celebrated Guinness's 250th birthday. I lost a bar fight because I had only one arm. We had Darren's famous Cincinnati chili and Roscoe's famous chicken & waffles. We took pictures of creepy statues. And we made more terrible "That's what she said" jokes than Michael Scott has made on all five seasons of The Office thus far. Also, we learned all sorts of interesting things about each other. I learned that Melissa is an exhibitionist and that Heather hates Colonial Williamsburg. (She has a point: Why do Americans need their history safe and spoonfed, like Applebee's and network sitcoms?) In turn, they learned that I spent $18 on a bottle of deodorant, because the Internet told me to.

In short, I had so much fun that I don't even mind coming home with a cold that's left me feeling weak and stuffy for days. I probably picked it up on the plane, but since Heather was sick when we got there and Melissa was sick by the time we left, we've decided we must be passing it along to one another in batches, like Amish Friendship Bread. It is the Amish Friendship Cold. Who wants it next, folks? I've got plenty of germs to share, and plenty of Internet friends I'd love to see. Come on over!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Four things that have made me laugh in the past hour

  1. Kristabella's comment on -R-'s latest post, in which -R- mentioned preliminary plans for B's first birthday party. (Sidenote #1: How in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is B nearly a year old already?? Sidenote #2: I totally think a decision on the baked goods is a fully valid starting point for a party theme.) The comment in question? It went something like this:

    "You should do our family tradition that we have for 1 year birthdays. You set down a shot glass, a rosary, and a dollar in front of the kid. And then see which one he picks. Shot glass, he’s going to be a drinker. Rosary, he’s going to be a priest/nun. Dollar, he’s going to be rich. I’m pretty sure you can guess which one I picked."

    Those of you who have newborns (or are thinking of acquiring newborns), I do expect you to file this idea away (and provide video evidence once you've used it).

  2. The fact that I just saw my neighbor peeing from my kitchen window. You see, the window above my kitchen table provides a pretty direct view into the corner of my neighbors' bathroom, which usually doesn't present any problems, given that I rarely eat at my kitchen table (as you know, spinsters more often eat over their kitchen sink or, in my case, on their living room floor in front of the previous night's rerun of The Daily Show). Tonight, however, I happened to be sitting at my kitchen table, and I happened to glance up from my dinner at the exact same time my neighbor glanced over from his pee stance. (I saw him only from the chest up, but it's pretty clear what he was doing regardless.) We made brief, uncomfortable through-the-window eye contact, and I can't decide if I'm amused or skeeved out by it. No, scratch that. Obviously we must go with amused, if for no other reason than hello, I have meandered through my kitchen naked more times than I should admit, and I should just be glad the eye contact happened now and not on one of those occasions. Hee.

  3. Sizzle's friends and nephew. I'm telling you, cute kid stories almost make me consider possibly wanting one of those. Almost. Luckily, I have the Internet for a near-constant stream of cute kid stories, minus the perpetual drain on my bank account and the inability to sleep in for the next 937 weekends. I slept nine and a half hours last night, and it was fantastic. Garnering cute kid stories by proxy is fine with me, I say.

  4. Barry Manilow's Copa Cabana. A Facebook friend just posted a reasonable question as his status update. "Why do I have Manilow's Copa Cabana in my head?" he wondered. I know not, but it reminded me of the semester I spent in Great Britain, during which there was a Manilow-inspired musical playing in London, meaning that every time I rode the escalators in the Tube stations, I saw "Copacabana" posters all around me. Intermittently throughout the entire semester, I had that damn song in my head, and I don't even know the lyrics. So instead, I made up my own. "COPA! Copa Ca-BANA! I think I will HAVE a BANANA! And then I will go to MONTANA!" Try it. I'm telling you, it's fun! My Facebook friend agrees with me, as he followed up my comment with, "It's time to put ON my paJAMAS!" I could keep this up all night. Or, at least until I run out of "-ana" rhymes. Which might actually be now, come to think of it. All right then. Moving on.
Incidentally, I am supposed to be writing my next post for The Greenists (the blog formerly knowns as Allie's Answers) at the moment. But as usual, I am an award-worthy procrastinator and time-waster. I don't actually know anyone who's giving out awards for procrastination and time wasting, but I trust that if you do, you'll pass along my name, right? Meanwhile, I have to be content with this award, bestowed by the always brilliant Flurrious, who I'm pretty sure in real life is that famous Woman Who Can't Forget, because seriously, how many of you would have remembered that I am the keeper of the semicolon?

Not a lot of you, I would estimate. Flurrious, you crack me up. Which obviously means this post should be titled Five Things that Have Made Me Laugh in the Past Hour, but I have already turned off the numbered list formatting, and surely you can't expect me to go back and mess with Blogger's capricious formatting attributes at this point.

Tell me... what's amusing you today?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September doesn't officially start until after Labor Day anyway, right?

Just maybe not a full week after Labor Day. Whoopsie. Anyway, hello there. Fancy meeting you here. Wait. Is anyone here? It's entirely possible that after such a long hiatus I am now typing into the text-based equivalent of an empty and echo-y cave. The bad news is, perhaps no one is left to hear me. On the plus side, the acoustics are great!

So then. August happened, and with it came... Man. What the hell did I do for all of August? I know that time speeds up as we get older, but still I would like a recount on this summer's length. Wasn't it June just two days ago? And now it's all leaves changing and spiced pumpkin lattes and skirt and boot season on its way. Madness.

Obviously I could rattle off for you everything I have done in the past month, in inevitably lazy bullet-point format. Frankly, however, August is a blur. I did some stuff. I hung out with some people. I probably had some wine. Most important, I took a vacation! A real one, where I left my house (and hell, the state) for a full week and everything! And it was excellent. I don't know why I don't do that more often. I'm allotted a reasonably adequate number of vacation days, and yet, it had been over three years since I took a solid week of those days at once. That's just wrong, people. WRONG. Must remedy that in all years to come.

You may recall that my plan was an old school family vacation, minus the family. Or rather, with urban family, which if you ask me is a much better way to travel. My pal Carrie and I road tripped it to South Dakota, where they have mountains and rock formations and rattlesnakes, making it feel like an entirely different world that's only one state away.

South Dakota was gorgeous, actually, and if you haven't been there yet, I highly recommend you go. Coming from the east, we made the requisite stops along I-90 at the Corn Palace (the world's largest bird feeder) and Wall Drug on the way out, but I suppose you could skip those trivialities (if you must) and proceed directly to the Badlands. You know, the Badlands! Home to an unspecified number of rattlesnakes that I was convinced would be our undoing. I mean, I suppose I didn't really think a rattlesnake would bite me and I would DIE, but I do admit I was convinced there would at least be a harrowing but ultimately harmless run-in of some sort, not unlike the late night tarantula scare in the motel room when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii.

Seriously, people, after talking to a NOT HELPFUL friend of Carrie's who had me convinced we would camp in the Badlands only if we had a death wish (his exact words: "They don't call it the GOODlands, you know!"), I was so convinced there would be rattlesnakes at our campsite that I did what any normal person (read: Internet addict who believes Google is the new Magic 8 Ball) would do. I Googled "Badlands camping death." And you know what? No matching suggestions appeared in that little drop-down list as I typed! No valid results returned! Clearly that meant all would be fine, and luckily, Google was right! As far as I'm concerned, the Badlands are full of grasshoppers, prairie dogs, and more than the occasional buffalo, but rattlesnakes? The Badlands are fresh out! Whew.

I was going to do a little photo essay of various highlights of my trip, but you know what? That shit takes time, yo, and if I sidetrack myself with a project like that, I may not hit that "Publish Post" button this week either. So how about you just pop on over to this Flickr set if you feel so inclined, and just imagine my witty commentary interspersed between ten or fifteen hand-picked shots? I mean really; do I have to do everything? Oh. Right. This is my blog. So yes, I suppose I do.

Moving on. Vacation was definitely the highlight of my August, but there were other victories as well. Like my winning a new pair of jeans in Abbersnail's Gap-tastic Pants Party! Whee! If I didn't know any better, I'd think my friends got together and somehow rigged that contest to declare me a winner, just so they could finally see me in something other than the four identical pairs of Mossimo jeans from Target I've been wearing for three years now. I do need a jeans upgrade, I'm well aware, so I entered Abbersnail's contest with the plea, "Help me, Abby-wan. You're my only hope!" And help me she did. Hurrah.

So I have new pants. Or, I will have, once I get myself to a Gap to pick them out. On an entirely different note, what I do NOT have is home-grown tomatoes. Friends, if this one first attempt can be considered a fair measure for future success, I'm going to have to say that gardening is not for me. I am pretty sure tomato season is officially over, and from my stubborn and temperamental stoop-side tomato plants, I got a mere handful of not particularly delicious cherry tomatoes and exactly ZERO beefsteaks. I should have had at least a few, but the damn squirrels got to every one of them just before they were ripe enough to pick. Bastards. When they're not dying in my yard, they're stealing the literal fruits of my labors. (That is, if watering a plant every day can be considered "labor.") So I guess I'll have to continue buying tomatoes like a common 21st-century capitalist. I should have learned years ago that a successful pioneer woman I am not. I've never been a quick study, obviously.

I'm sure other things happened in August, too, but as I said, it's a blur. So that brings us to September, in which, thus far, I have survived a visit from my family, had an uneventful trip to the dentist, went to the quirkiest show I've seen in a long time, and made my first quiche. (Note: I still don't love eggs, but it was delicious.) Oh, and today I took an invigorating late summer bike ride that was altogether lovely and perfect aside from the droves of gnats on a mile or so patch of the river-side trail. I have already showered off the ones that awesomely plastered themselves inside my sports bra, but if I find any in my teeth when I floss tonight, I may be too horrified to bike near a river ever again.

And on that note, I shall leave you, because there's no better way to say "Thanks for reading after I abandoned you for a month" than to end with an image like that. You're welcome.

And what have all of you been up to not-so-recently?