Posts Archived From: 'April 2008'

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A Dirty, Little Secret

So I have this secret, and I’d appreciate it you just kept it between us. (You’re good at keeping secrets, right?)

It usually takes place in my basement, with the lights off, when The Boyfriend isn’t home.

And most of the time, there are snacks. Lots of snacks.

I love snacks.

For some, guilty pleasures range from trashy celebrity publications to ‘80s pop music to plastic collectibles discovered at garage sales and taken home for pennies on the dollar.

For me, it’s teenage dramas on cable television.

I know, I know. I need help.

The first step in healing, they say, is admitting a problem even exists. Yet I can’t even do that.

At least, I couldn’t do that until this past weekend.

Shows like “The Hills” on MTV provide me the occasional adolescent escape from literature, academia and my so-called (adult) life.

But the problem is that I’ve fallen even farther than college-age shows, yet didn’t realize it until Sunday night.

While watching TV Sunday afternoon Matt and I learned of a new movie on the Nickelodeon network about some toe-headed nymph named Zoey and her pending (gasp!) high school prom.

Yeah, boring. I know.

Matt jokingly asked if I planned to watch said program, knowing my affinity for shows such as “The Hills.”

“No,” I responded defiantly. “I’m not into high school shows.”

I sure showed him, I thought.

I was wrong.

“Yeah?! What about ‘The Paper’? Or ‘The O.C.’?” he asked, that unmistakable smirk on his lips.

Damn. He was right.

He is right.

After only two episodes of “The Paper” (another MTV gem), I’ve become a fish-eyed voyeur of a high school newspaper staff in California. Having worked on the staffs of both my high school and college newspapers to the point of obsession, I can relate to some of the staffers and delight in sharing/boring Matt with stories of deadlines gone by. And I have a sizable stack of past newspapers to prove it.

There is something quite entertaining and, dare I say, intriguing about the senseless banter and ignorant observations tossed about as these kids juggle text messaging, lip locks and high fashion.

I think I need help. And “The Hills” on DVD.

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About Last Night

Last night I said some things in a manner and voice that, quite honestly, were not like my own. My blatherings and firm tone were the result of a Perfect Storm from the past week: stress from a rather large research paper due in two weeks; an onslaught of projects popping up at work; cocky confidence from a bottle of Budweiser and a shot; feeling more sensitive than usual about my personal relationships; and a slightly and silently bruised – but heal-able – heart.

And so I talked and spouted and sounded off. And in the night light, my words appeared so carefully chosen, so scripted, so honest, so effective.

But in the harsh sunshine and blue skies of this picture perfect April Saturday, I see now they were all wrong. The delivery, the premise, the language, the tone, the abrupt exit at the conclusion of my deeply pathetic manifesto.

And today, I feel terrible. Just awful.

There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

– from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

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Does The Music Matter Anymore?

I just finished paging through the latest issue of Spin and am a little depressed.

I’ve subscribed to the magazine for, oh, a number of years now. Until recently I always cherished the day its slick pages and obscure, random photography arrived in my mailbox. It was, for quite some time, a Badge of Cool I proudly toted in my messenger bag for about 12 bucks a year.

But now?

Now, I flip through the entire magazine in about 20 minutes, scanning articles on bands I enjoy, completely skipping those I know nothing about and admitting to myself that I probably won’t touch the magazine again.

Am I getting old?

There was a time when I regularly attended countless shows in Omaha, some of bands I loved, some I knew little about, others I knew nothing about. To quote a former friend, I’d savor and experience “weird bands just for weird’s sake.” I was happily single at the time and soaked up the experience all the way down to my Low-Cut Chucks. In way, it was a benchmark I used, keeping track of how many shows I attended at Sokol Auditorium and other venues around town. I suppose I felt a need to maintain my Indie Cred by making regular appearances, standing alone at shows (which I didn’t mind one bit) and chatting up more accidental acquaintances than close friends.

I’d sip one beer the entire night, making it last through the opening and headlining acts, plus any encores. I’d make unnecessary trips to the bathroom just to scout out the room and jockey for better footspace on the floor.

Today I’ll view any number of online calendars, alerting me to bands I should see but, quite honestly, don’t care to see as much as I once did. Being a fan of Omaha’s music scene — both its natives and welcomed guests — has become a much more selective process. It’s rare I’ll venture to an unknown show on a weeknight, not only to hear the music, but to say, “Damnit, I was there! Where were you?”

Nowadays, it’s about more than the music. It’s about going to my select few bars, venues and holes-in-the-wall where I’m guaranteed to see the familiar faces I’ve grown to enjoy. And if a good band is playing that night, it’s a bonus.

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It Was Sknyrd Versus Brownies, And Skynrd Won.

On my drive home from work last night I succumbed to a craving for chocolate. After “grilling up” a hamburger on my trusty-yet-grimy George Foreman and downing leftover stuffing, I got comfortable on the couch to continue reading “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff. With the rain and wind and fog outside my window, I deemed it a perfect evening to stay indoors with a good book.

I put down my book around 7:30 p.m. to prepare a boxed brownie mix to assuage my chocolate fix. After mixing the necessary ingredients of water, oil and eggs with the prepackaged mix, I preheated my oven to a toasty 350 degrees.

As I poured the mud-like mix into a greased 9×13 pan, my cell phone rings. It’s my boyfriend calling.

“Get dressed as quick as you can,” Matt says.

Immediately I think something terrible has happened. But his voice doesn’t sound panicked, and he leaves me little time to worry.

A heartbeat later he puts my fears to rest.

“I got four tickets to see Lynrd Skynrd tonight. Meet me at the Mid-America Center at 8.”

Filled with glee, I agree to the night’s plans, quickly change my clothes, turn off the oven and hop in the car to drive the 20 minutes to the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.

Matt arrived later and we were joined by our friend Monty, and Matt’s brother, Ben. After Monty treated us to zealously overpriced cocktails, we ventured inside the arena as “Simple Man” blared through the speakers.

The place wasn’t filled to capacity, but those who attended were certainly of Skynrd’s die-hard variety: lots of patriotic gear, lots of leather vests adorned with lots woven patches, lots of long hair (on men and women) and lots of beards (on men, and some thinner versions on women).

In our great seats on the arena floor, the four of us sang along to Skynrd’s signature songs, pounding our fists and swaying when appropriate, and commenting on the aroma of marijuana in the air.

It was exhilarating to hear (and see) some of my favorites performed live by a band who looks a little worn for wear but still rocks, I would imagine, just as good as they did 30 years ago.

Shortly before 10 the band exited the stage only to return a few moments later for the obligatory 10-minute rendition of “Free Bird.” Often at Matt’s shows and other concerts I’ve been to fans demand “Free Bird” simply as a way to get laughs from other concertgoers. But possibly some of the same assholes who called for “Bird” last night meant it – and got what they asked for.

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Homework For Tonight

Before the sun rises on Wednesday, I need to have written a two-page paper and transcribe a 90-minute interview for my research project this semester.

Such work is foreboding, as the thermometer on my Macintosh tells me its 74 and sunny outdoors.

Writer’s motivation, don’t fail me now.

# # #

What’s Cookin’ In My Kitchen? Precious Little.

Last night I combined equal parts courage and energy to produce a rather delicious pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. The soup is a very easy recipe from my grandma, passed down to my sister, passed down to me. I didn’t collect any of my late grandma’s recipes, primarily because, in my younger days, I was too busy “playing office” on my Commodore 64. It was my younger sister who found a home in the kitchen and soaked up all my grandma’s tips and tricks for delicious food.

I, on the other hand, lack those skills. But when the opportunity strikes to prepare something in the kitchen that doesn’t merely require the removal of cellophane and continuous electrical warmth, I jump at the chance.

While slicing vegetables and adding cans of chicken broth last night, I’ll admit I, albeit briefly, entered a fantasy world where I hosted my own show on Food Network. Since becoming a slave to cable television a year or two ago, I’ve fallen in love with Food Network. The friendly, racially diverse hosts, the specials on candy and cakes, the cooking competition events: they all fill my head and heart with false hope that I am capable of such culinary pleasure.

If Food Network camera crews invaded my tiny, narrow kitchen, they would find the following:

• A stove top, oven and microwave that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned since I purchased my home five years ago
• A pantry stocked with a bizarre “collection” of canned vegetables, spices, canned fruits, Baker’s chocolate, dried up noodles and salt and pepper shakers lifted from more than one local restaurant
• Approximately 752 pieces of Ziploc and generic brand Tupperware, all peppered with water spots, the likes of whose lids and containers are anything but organized
• Approximately 354 dishes, plates, bowls and glasses, only 32 percent of whom actually match and create a dinner table pleasing to the eye
• A smattering of pots, pans, lids, cake pans and cookie sheets that would best be suited as scrap metal or kitchen “accessories” for a family of homeless gypsies
• Beer in the fridge (I should get some points for that one)
• A lovely (and complete!) set of silverware, handed down from my grandma
• Oversized packages of Jif peanut butter and Ritz crackers, courtesy of Sam’s Club
• Two cartons of ice cream in the freezer

It would worry me that any one of the talented Food Network hosts would recoil in disgust and hang their head in shame and grief at the state of my kitchen. I’m always amazed at how clean and well stocked the TV kitchens appear in the glorious images beamed back through my HDTV. The meals they prepare literally make my mouth water and continually cause my cravings to change directions. In fact, after watching an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” last weekend, I spent Monday’s lunch at Petrow’s, plunking down $8.91 (tip included) for a cheeseburger, fries and onion rings. It was worth every penny.

Now, who’s hungry?

Further proof of my culinary skills: a Christmas gift from my aunt.

# # #


The neon sign’s significance struck me immediately. It was a standard traffic sign designed and illuminated with pedestrians in mind. Only this one displayed both brief instructions simultaneously (sans proper punctuation, but I didn’t mind): DONT WALK hovering above its other instructional half of WALK.

I didn’t need to gaze up at the sign for more than a handful of fleeting seconds to realize what the sign tried to tell me: In life, we’re often issued two — sometimes more — options at the same time. It’s up to us to make what we hope is the best decision in the long run. The conflicting messages we receive are there as a test. When experience, as some say, meets opportunity.

Perhaps I should step back, though. (Pardon the pedestrian pun.) I wasn’t on a public walkway but inside a bar in the 42,000-resident community of Grand Island, Nebraska. My boyfriend’s band played back-to-back shows there this past weekend and, as is my usual custom, I tagged along for an adventure and ass-shaking rock music. (An aside: I help Matt’s band with PR, but I’m not the type of publicity hack/hound who would post a link to the band’s MySpace page on my blog, or even link to his new comedic side project, mind you. What kind of person do you think I am?)

The bar is a renovated and oversized garage with the expected theme of cars, trucks, anything vehicle related, for that matter. And the name gives it away: the Roadhouse Garage. Hell, it’s even situated a broken-beer-bottle’s toss from the city’s main drag.

I will admit that when I noticed the sign I was sipping on my second (or maybe third) bottle of Budweiser. (Only Bud Heavy will do.) It is during these moments that I most readily relate to the late Hunter S Thompson who often wrote while experiencing a sharp buzz of booze. Alcohol tends to dilute my fear and doubt when an idea starts unpacking its suitcase inside my head. The idea may not stay for long, but bits and pieces find themselves strewn about like dirty laundry, used toiler paper rolls and empty shampoo bottles.

I am never without a pen and paper in public. Even while inebriated I’ve drafted and outlined essays and ideas that, I hoped at the time, would make sense in the morning or the next time I bellied up to my Macintosh with the frothy brew a distant memory.

If I were more socially obtuse I would carry my laptop with me everywhere and draft line after line of, what I hoped at the time, would be a brilliant marriage of wit and prose and language and punctuation. (Because in so many cases, good writing relies on properly placed punctuation.) The urge to write and generate copy, I’m sad to say, strikes hardest and quickest when I am tipsy on the right combination of too much alcohol and too little food. In more cases that I recall, this usually occurs during one of Matt’s gigs. The ideas swim through my head as lyrics such as “I want you down on your knees, Big Lady!”or “She’s 18 and she’s got me by the balls” serve as a bizarre yet pleasing soundtrack that makes writing copy (in my head, at least) pretty painless. I have zero explanation as to why lyrics about one’s private parts helps me write and move along the copy, but they do.

And I’m sure the small-town folk who see me writing away think I must be crazy. Or, at the very least, so drunk I’ve confused their pub for a library.

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Thank You For Shopping Walgreens

He stood in front of me, about five feet tall with a buzzed scalp, wire-rim glasses and a maroon, button-down shirt. The lack of a necktie, paired with khaki pants and expensive-looking leather shoes, made me believe he had left work hours before and stopped for a quick cocktail or two (or more). It was nearing 9 p.m., and he had that slightly disheveled look about him that said, quite simply, “happy hour.”

But one more stop was necessary before heading home – or to someone else’s home – this balmy Wednesday night.

The proof lie clustered together on the Walgreen’s check-out counter: a box of Trojan condoms, a bottle of personal lubricant and two bottles of Naked fruit juice, the flavor of which I was too concerned to confirm, as I didn’t want the shopper ahead of me in line to catch me peeking at his purchases.

I considered his items and made the expected assumptions of this man’s plans for the remainder of the night. I couldn’t say I was entirely surprised. This was, in fact, a 24-hour pharmacy.

Until, that is, I noticed the final item being rung up by the helpful Walgreens checker with the shaggy brown hair, the young face, the slight stubble and the signature blue vest: a can of Lysol aerosol disinfecting spray. It was the kind you might find under the bathroom sink, used to deodorize the smothering air after an all-too-unnecessary “meal” at Taco Bell or McDonald’s at 1:47 a.m.

The Lysol lead me to believe that the young lady (or gentleman; if anything I’m open minded) who would share in these purchases would most certainly spend the evening at the said man’s home.

The Lysol, he thought, would temporarily eliminate the funky odor emanating from the poorly lit and bacteria-laden latrine he calls a bathroom in his dingy, one-bedroom apartment in Dundee that he calls historic and trendy, while others call just old and sad.

It could be that the cheap and pungent sage-scented candle he quickly selected at his neighborhood gas station could not – literally – cut the mustard (odor).

And so the man who gently tossed down a $20 bill for his purchases – while I patiently waited behind him hoping to look like I wasn’t looking while waiting to buy bottles of shampoo and conditioner (on sale for $2.99) – looked eager to exit Walgreen’s and offered a “Thanks, man” to the cashier. It was clear our shopper was tense, and I got the impression he wanted to, in some bizarre and masculine way, bond with the male cashier behind the counter. He nodded his head in the direction of the cashier as he grabbed his change and bag of purchases without waiting for his receipt.

As I approached the counter to pay for my shampoo and conditioner, I nodded and raised my eyebrows in a way that said (without actually saying), “Whoa, what about that guy?”

But my feeble attempt at a non-verbal observation only left me looking like an asshole.

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