18 August 2007

To the Class of 2011...

It's funny and awesome and more than a little disorienting to read the class of 2011's brand new plans and listen to them wonder about dorms and tutorials and roommates, because it doesn't seem like thaaaaat long since we went through the very same (or a similar) process. (It was nine years ago, young freshmen. I realize that, at 27, I am almost inconceivably old to an 18 year old.) A part of me envies the brand new Grinnellians, recalling all that my freshman year and my Grinnell time was, on the whole, to me.

A bigger part of me, though, would not trade 27 for 18, for anything. I *LOVE* being 27. I'm so much less angsty than I was nine years ago, so much less likely to binge drink or smoke too much out of sheer despair, just looking to get out of my own head. I remember, freshman year, sitting in Cowles over coffee and a muffin trying to explain to someone how upsetting I found the fact that I could never get out of my own body, my own brain, my own limits of perception and experience. ("It's like, did you ever see that episode of Duck Tales where The Beagle Boys were in that giant robot, inside his head, and stomping through Duckburg? That's like me!" "You have Beagle Boys in your head?" "No! It's like I'm in my own robot head -- I can't -- argh, you know what I mean!") God, that bothered me, at 18.

I worried what people thought of me, all the time. I chose to do or not do things based not on what I wanted, but what I thought I should do or who I thought I should be. I made decisions out of fear and shyness and worry. I said no when I should have said yes. I was sooooo awkward. I was so goddamn moody. I don't know how I hung on to any of the friends I met freshman year, or even sophomore year -- how the hell did you people stand to be around me? Other than the fact that you were 18 and 19, too. We all were.

27 is so much better. I feel so comfortable in my own skin, and so much less apologetic for who I am. I'm still awkward, and crazy shit still happens to me all the time, but I'm less embarrassed when it does. I laugh more, and drink less. I have a belly and the other day Natalie claimed to find a gray hair, but I don't care. It's cool.

So, to the class of 2011... enjoy the hell out of the next few years. They'll be exciting and fun, but crazy hard as well. There will be times when you're losing your mind, planning your escape, counting the minutes til you can leave. And when you hit those walls, just remember: your years at Grinnell may be golden, but they are not the only years that will be. It gets better and better.

09 August 2007

Magical Musical Tour

Best musical influence from your mom:: Everything good. Jazz, Bluegrass, Folk, Rock, Blues, everything from Leadbelly to Joni Mitchell. New Orleans jazz. Stephen Grappelli, the Chieftains, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Doctor John, and anything on WORT weekend mornings. The woman has had a subscription to Rolling Stone since its inception. That's 40 years, folks...

Best musical influence from your dad:: Anything sing-a-long-able. Musicals & folk songs & mournful teen ballads from the 50s. He has a song for every situation. Also, he made us learn classical music over dinner & used to give us a quarter if we could name the artist and song on the radio.

Theme song to you closest sibling:: Froggy Jamboree, Teenage Suicide… Don't Do It, and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from Little Mermaid

Theme song to your childhood:: "Stop in the Name of Love"

First album you ever purchased:: Debbie Gibson, Out of the Blue

Album cover that scared you as a kid:: I don't remember…

Song that scared you as a kid:: Hotel California… it still scares me. Also, "Summertime," from Porgy & Bess – the lines "one of these mornings / you're going to rise up singing / you're going to spread your wings / and take to the sky" – I did NOT want to take to the sky, goddammit.

What were you forbidden to listen to as a kid:: Literally, nothing, though my mom got a little nervous when I started listening to xtian rock in college.

Theme song from your junior high years:: Nirvana, "Heart Shaped Box," Duran Duran, "Come Undone," Metallica, "Enter Sandman," and Kriss Kross, "Jump" (which defined a generation of junior high dances)

Favorite album from your junior high years:: Shakespear's Sister, Hormonally Yours; Nirvana, In Utero; Belly, Star

Song that played when you were grounded at home:: Nine Inch Nails, "Something I Can Never Have"

First song you danced with the opposite sex to:: I don't remember. Probably "Come Undone," though it very well could have been "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard or "Achy Breaky Heart"… it was the early 90s.

Song that played when you thought you were about to get some:: Recently? Or in junior high?

Song that played when you got some:: that's between me and the givers

Theme song from your first high school breakup::
Indigo Girls, "Fare Thee Well" – still one of the greatest break-up songs ever.

Album that you stole from a friend:: The Best of the Doors

Favorite album that you think your friend stole:: Mazzy Star, So Tonight That I Might See. And I still want it back, K.

Theme song from your worst relationship:: Simon & Garfunkel, "I Am a Rock" – it was my boyfriend's personal theme song… why didn't I see it coming?

Theme song from your best relationship:: Death Cab, "I Will Follow You into the Dark," Nickel Creek, "When You Come Back Down"

5 songs you'd put on a mixtape for a potential love:: Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes" (maybe cheesy, maybe overplayed… but still classic, and still a lovely song); Ani Difranco, "As Is"; The Beatles, "In My Life," Sheryl Crow, "Strong Enough"; The Cure, "High"

First concert:: I don't remember, but I bet it was nerdy (I vaguely remember a Pete Seeger concert in the late 80s)

Most magical concert you ever went to:: Possibly the Peter Mulvey concert when I got to talk to him afterward and HE REMEMBERED ME from meeting me in Boston years earlier. Any Bobby McFerrin concert, especially the one I had back-stage passes to so that after the concert I could make an utter fool of myself in front of my idol. The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra playing Shostakovitch at Popejoy in 1995. An Indigo Girls concert in Madison where everyone in the entire theater was happy, and the Indigo Girls in Taos in the rain, where we moved into the front rows. The Nields at Grinnell when I got to sit and talk to them afterward. Kris Delmhorst at Bobs the time Matt, Jamie, and I fell in love with her. Dar Williams in Madison with Ali and Cindy ("I'm wearing the coolest dress!"). Lots of Youngblood shows in 2000/2001. The Alaska in Winter show at the Launchpad last spring.

Worst concert you ever went to:: the assholes who opened for Cougar at the Launchpad. Doug and I were ready to stick burning cigarettes into our eardrums just to save ourselves from one last song.

Song That Has The Ability To Make You Cry:: Lifehouse, "Everything." There are more – Leonard and I used to have this discussion often.

The One Song That Has The Ability To Make You A Kid Again:: Anything I used to roller skate to – does that make me sound hopelessly old? The Bangles, Belinda Carlisle, Blondie, Tiffany, apparently all songs popular in about 1986.

Song You Are Ashamed To Admit You Love:: um… Eminem, "Lose Yourself"… I'm not usually too apologetic about my taste in music… I'll defend my love of Prince & Journey to the end of time.

Song/Album That You Have To Gunpoint Others To: Depends on who the "others" is. I went through a period of trying to make Ali like country music, and then I couldn't get her to stop listening to the Dixie Chicks. I used to make people listen to Youngblood at Bobs… but not at gunpoint. I use gunpoint for more urgent matters, like making people give me their junior mints.

If You Were To Marry Now What Song Would Be Your Wedding Song?:: Rockapella, "Zombie Jamboree"

Favorite song as of now:: The Decemberists, "The Perfect Crime 2;" John Butler Trio, "Better Than;" Andrew Bird, "imitosis;" Peter, Bjorn, & John, "Young Folks;" Vienna Teng, "My Medea"

Favorite album as of now:: I don't listen to albums. Mix tapes, ipod shuffle, XRT and triple M.

Favorite artist as of now:: Once the Cure, always the Cure. I'm very excited to see Nickel Creek tomorrow.

Artist you hate:: Amy Winehouse. I actually like her songs a lot, I just don't like her.

Favorite type of music:: Depends on the mood, time of day, weather, season….

Type of music you hate:: Anything that promotes violence or ignorance.

Favorite singer:: There are so many. SO many. Dar Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Peter Gabriel, Kris Delmhorst, Peter Mulvey, Tracey Chapman, Robert Smith, Ani Difranco, Ben Gibbard….. ad infinitum…

Band that you liked but was ruined for you by somebody else:: Sparklehorse – I looooved them, but now they make me sad. Ditto for the Strokes, and much of what I listened to senior year of college. But I will NOT lose Journey.

Biggest musical disappointment:: Youngblood post Nat.

Biggest musical surprise:: High School Musical. WHY do I spend so much time with it stuck in my head?

Who killed music?:: No one's managed to quite yet.

Who keeps music alive for you?:: Terri Hemmert

Song playing right now?:: Modest Mouse, "Missed the Boat"

03 August 2007

Moments That Matter

On the radio yesterday, they (Wisconsin Public Radio, the IDEAS network, something like that) were promoing a program called "Moments That Matter," which is probably just little stories about people's lives, a la This American Life or Storycorps, but the host who was promoting the show kept talking about how poignant the topic was when the moment that mattered could be the extra red light you hit or the elevator you missed that kept you off the collapsing 35W bridge in Minneapolis on Wednesday. So, right now, in my head, "moments that matter" has a bit of a depressing connotation. I am glad, though, that my brother-in-law had a moment that mattered that kept him from being on the bike trail under the bridge when it collapsed. That's how he gets home, or at least it was, until a bridge fell in the middle of the bike trail.

ANYWAY. I've had a few moments that mattered in the last few days.

1. Seeing Zeke. He is living with my mom in Oregon, so I only get to see him when I'm there (averaging once a week, lately). After his surgery he seemed to be doing better, but now he's failing again, his back legs are all weak and wobbly and his poop is really dark which indicates that he's bleeding internally again. He's been the only constant in my life since 2002. Now I'm trying to prepare myself to lose him... no easy task. I absolutely cherish every moment I get to spend with him, and I never leave without kissing him on the face and telling him I love him.

2. Yesterday I was in Madison, sitting at a stoplight on a bridge over the Beltline, listening to NPR talk about the bridge collapse and feeling just a tiny little bit of anxiety about the bridge I was on, when I looked over at the schoolbus next to me. The driver had pulled the door open, and he caught my eye, smiled a huge smile, and gave me a thumbs up. It made me laugh, and forget my worried little heart.

3. Also yesterday, Megan and I drove to a restaurant called Bunkys, then drove to our dad's house, then to our mom's. It was really nice to talk to her, for real. There are certain things that only your sister understands. I feel bad for only children, because nobody else in the world understands quite how mentally ill your parents are as your sibling. It looks like I'll be driving with her out to Portland, so then we can have six million hours of chatting time, and by the end of our drive we'll probably want to punch each other in the face. Which is how we were for like fifteen years straight, so that's okay.

4. Today I was getting gas in Huntley, IL, and while the gas was pumping I walked toward the store to get a soda when this little old lady called me aside. She was very short, but very well dressed and no more than 70. Probably more like 65. She asked, "Is anyone going to come out and help me?" She seemed lost. I looked around, as if some gas station attendant might be coming out at any moment, but then determined we weren't in Oregon and/or the 1950s. I shook my head. "No," I said, as kindly as I could. The lady seemed desperate. "Oh, please, could you help me? I don't know how." I know what you're thinking -- seriously, WHAT? Who doesn't know how to pump gas? But being the teacher that I am, I agreed and told her that first she'd have to pull her car up to the other side of the pump, and showed her where the gas tank was on her car. She was so flustered. So she pulled the car awkwardly across the space between the pumps, almost hitting a car full of old people who knew how to pump their own gas in the process. I showed her how to press the credit card buttons, how to select her grade of gas, and then stood around awkwardly while the tank filled up. She told me her name was Terry. She told me that her son usually takes care of all this, but he was in California. She had to get her hair done and realized she needed gas (which I doubt was true, because the car only took 9 gallons to fill). She thanked me a million times. I've been thinking about her all day. I wonder what her story is. How do you make it to 2007 without knowing how to pump your own gas? I guess she represents a whole different era of womanhood, where women just expected to rely on men their whole lives. And though I tried to teach her how to do it for herself, I'd be willing to bet that she'll be at the same 7-11 next time her son's out of town, cajoling someone else to pump her gas for her.

5. I got an email from a talking chimp. Man, that cracked me up.