31 July 2006

Bob and Karen Had It Right

I hate Mondays. Always have, since the second grade. For forty years I’ve suffered from a raging case of Sunday afternoon malaise. Nausea begins its swirl around 4:00 p.m., when I hear the clock chime and realize the weekend is nearly done.

I don’t have a reason to hate Mondays. I have a decent job, one that allows me to be creative. I like my boss and coworkers. I work in an environment where I can be any one of my selves — the outrageous girl, or the arty tart, or the sociable hermit.

But I do. To quote that demigod Bob Geldof, during his tenure with the Boomtown Rats, “I Don’t Like Mondays.”

Did you know that Bob Geldof read the news wire that inspired "I Don't Like Mondays" in the WRAS studios? 'Tis true.

I run late nearly every Monday morning. I rarely sleep beyond 7:30 on weekends (I’m a world-class napper). But it’s all I can do to get out of bed by 7:45 on the moon’s day. I stay up until at least 1:00 a.m. Sunday, trying to squeeze in every precious second of weekend freedom, so I’m dead tired when that damn screeching alarm announces the birth of another work week.

And my Monday mornings are peppered with meetings — thirty minutes in a meeting, half an hour at my desk, another thirty in a meeting, and so on until early afternoon. I hate meetings.

WARNING: If you have bad news to deliver, save it for Tuesday. I don’t always handle it well on Mondays. As Ms. Carpenter sings in “Rainy Days and Mondays,” they always get me down.

So I do what I can do to survive. Buy baubles online. Flirt via e-mail. Daydream about my secluded life as a writer. Concentrate on brainless tasks. Listen to my dance and alt/rap playlists (nothing like The Replacements and Public Enemy and The Ramones to soothe my Monday soul).

But sometimes Mondays bring surprises, something that chases away my blues. I came home tonight to Oh-OK’s complete recordings. Lively, alive Athens pop, finally on CD. And I danced as hard as I could to “Lilting” and “Person” and “Such and Such.” I haven’t danced to these songs in years, maybe decades. I feel twenty years younger. And this Monday ends in ninety minutes.

And just this moment I bought a ticket to tomorrow's Tom Waits show — at face value. Craigslist never lets me down.

So, maybe sometimes Monday is a good day. At least the evenings can be.

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The Cup Challenge

I’ve made my living as a copywriter in the corporate world for many years. And I've been lucky. My boss encourages me to push the copy limits, to write the unexpected sentence. However, there is just so much pushing and unexpected you can get by with in a newsletter.

And that’s where the saving grace of this blog came in. I’ve been able to write what I want and to go further with language. I've watched my style evolve during the four months of the Cup's existence. But I’ve also become aware of my limitations. Specifically, a writer’s biggest pitfall: overusing certain words, to the point where those words lose their power.

I recently mentioned to my professorial pal that I wanted to break out of my writing trap. His response: “In other words, you want to stop writing like a fag?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Both the professor and I are liberal-minded souls who love and embrace all cultures and persuasions, never discriminating against others simply because they are different. I cannot speak for the professor, but I am proud to have many friends who are gay, most of whom rarely use fabulous or brilliant in conversation.

Yes, the professor is correct in his assessment of my style; at times I do write like Richard Simmons on an endorphin high. I have an effusive personality. In conversation, my sentences are punctuated with exclamation points! And lots of arm-waving and extremes (I love it or I hate it; very few in-betweens). That over-the-topness comes through in my writing. I enjoy being the Auntie Mame of Blogger, but there are limits. I've worn out the fabulousness of fabulous. Great is no longer great, thanks to my pounding it into this site’s ground. Brilliant, well, it ain’t so brilliant when used eight times a day. And I’ve cried too many wonderful wolves (lower).

That’s where The Cup Challenge comes in. For one week, I will not publish a post using the any variation of these words:
  • brilliant
  • excellent
  • fabulous
  • fantastic
  • great
  • love
  • wonderful
I will also strive not to publish posts that read like an IBM newsletter. A tough challenge? You betcha. But I need this challenge to help me strengthen my writing style. There’s a deadline in 30 days that requires me to be at my literary best.

If I were truly daring, I would also ban starting sentences with So and And. But there’s just so much a girl can give up for a week. Maybe during the next Cup Challenge.

So, you’re on notice. Nail me if you see me slip in one of my lazy words. And let me know how I’m doing this week. It’s gonna be fabu… um, marvelous (a little faggy … but it ain’t on the list. And it’s the first day, Rome being built and all that).

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28 July 2006

Guilty Pleasures Week: That Perfect Moment

Driving home a little before 5 a.m. (don’t ask). Streets empty, sunroof open, windows down, the breeze sailing through the car. I hear waves. The first few seconds of “Champagne Supernova.” Crank Dave FM, crank my vocal cords. Take the long way home to enjoy seven and a half minutes of Oasis perfection. Zooming down the road, keeping in time with Noel’s guitar and the bass. Air-drumming throughout the chorus, dancing and bouncing in my seat, singing with Liam as loud as I can. Turning left on reds so I don’t lose momentum. The little drummer boy drums and the guitar fades as I slide into my parking space. Perfect timing. Perfect moment.

Liam Gallagher, posing for Cindee and me • Atlanta, 9.27.05

Perfect Moment #2: Saw Johnny Depp on Letterman last night.

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27 July 2006

Happy Birthday, Simeon!

In his part of the world, his birthday ended a few hours ago ... but I still have the luxury of Eastern Standard Time to wish Simeon a very merry birthday. Sim, I hope you're still out dancing and celebrating somewhere.

Simeon is one of my favorite humans, probably among the top five who don't share my DNA. He's funny, he's irreverent, he's a great traveling companion. He's just damn fun to be around.

Simeon is also (believe it or not) more obsessed with music than I. We'd talk and talk and talk and talk about records. Shop for records (how many hours and dollars do you think we spent at Fantasyland during those two years?). Play records. Argue about records (and I was the one who discovered "Voice of Harold," my friend; it was my 12"). We fell in love with R.E.M. together in 1983, dancing away many a night to the sounds of the boys.

But, most of all, Simeon is a brilliant, talented artist. I have several of his works hanging on my walls, and they're among my most prized possessions. He's currently working on his Web site — which I'm forbidden at this time to share with you. Once he gives me the go-ahead, expect a splashy online opening on this page.

We have too many adventures and photos not to share with the world, so watch for a Simeon post in the coming weeks.

Hope to see you this spring, Sim. Love you.

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Guilty Pleasures Week: Books

I have pretty respectable taste in books. (Personally, I think my taste is brilliant, but I would since I’m the one selecting and reading them, right?) I can hold my own against most lit-snobs. In fact, I have to admit I’m a bit of a lit-snob myself, more so after working in a bookstore for two years. I’d rather read Tim Sandlin than John Grisham, Flannery O’Connor before Danielle Steel, T. Coraghessan Boyle over Stephen King. I love language as much as story, and it sends a little shiver down my spine when the two come together on the page.

But sometimes I don’t want to read a great novel. My head’s too tired, too fried to fully enjoy a great sentence, to absorb and get lost in a wonderful story. And that’s when I turn to my literary guilty pleasure: mysteries. They’re quick, and reading them relaxes me when I’m in the midst of a heavy workload, when I don’t have the energy for literature. OM also read mysteries, and I always enjoyed swapping books with him and talking about what we’d read.

Following are some of my favorite mystery and crime novelists.

The Four Noirs
Maybe you haven’t read anything by the quartet who rules the noir shelves — Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, and Raymond Chandler — but you’ve probably seen the movies based on their novels and short stories — The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (Hammett), Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Mildred Pierce (Cain), The Getaway and The Grifters (Thompson), The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely (Chandler). Even if you’ve seen the movies a dozen times, you should read the books. They’re great. I have most everything these four wrote, and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed.

Lawrence Block: Matthew Scudder series
My favorite boy French turned me onto the mystery genre in December 1992, when I was home for a week with a nasty flu (originally self-diagnosed as my stomach’s rebellion over a dinner of nachos, salsa, and a well-bourboned tumbler of eggnog, but that’s another tale for another day). He brought me a stack of Lawrence Block paperbacks, the first six Matthew Scudders, I believe. I read all six in two days. And was instantly hooked. I’ve enjoyed Scudder’s character development throughout the twenty-some odd years of books, and I’m still reading the Scudder series. I haven’t read much from his other series, except for his new Hitman series. French likes the Burglar Who series. Block’s a good read.

Robert Crais: Elvis Cole series
This Robert Crais series was the second one to hook me, a few months after I started reading Block. Elvis Cole is my kind of man: tall with dark hair and one helluva smart-ass mouth. (God, I love smart-ass men.) He’s good to his one-eyed cat, the women he loves, and his partner — the cool, cold Joe Pike. He’s smart, he’s wily, he’s a PI in L.A. A lot of humor is mixed in with the terrible deeds and body piles. One of the better written series in the mystery section. Crais' standalone books are good, too. Hostage, recently starring Bruce Willis, was based on a Crais novel (he may have written the screenplay, too).

Elmore Leonard
You gotta love Elmore Leonard. He brings crime novels to a new level. He’s been at it for fifty years, and he just gets better. Leonard’s oeuvre is another one mined by Hollywood, some of which have made great films (Soderbergh’s Out of Sight is my favorite Leonard book-cum-movie). Jackie Brown, The Big Bounce, and Get Shorty are just some of the movies made from Leonard's novels. Last year’s The Hot Kid may be my favorite Leonard novel; I loved his tale of gangsters in Oklahoma and Kansas City during the 1930s, and couldn’t wait to talk to OM about it. Damn, I miss OM.

And my true guilty reading pleasure
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. These I feel guilty reading. I think French first introduced me to this series. Light, silly, fluffy, and very formulaic. But I have a soft spot for klutzes, so I stayed interested for a while. These books are about the length of a good plane ride, and I’ve read many crammed in a Delta coach seat. OM and I used to share this series and talk about them, but we both started getting bored by the sixth or seventh book. We kept plowing through, though. I haven’t read a Stephanie Plum since OM passed away last summer. Don’t think I will again; they remind me of him too much and the writing isn’t good enough to read through that.

Wonder what guilty literary confessions Haahnster's Hallucinations will have for us today …?

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26 July 2006

Are you Atlanta-based with a great ear?

Then you need to become my new best friend. Today.

I want to go see Tom Waits at the Tabernacle next Tuesday, August 1. But I can’t find anyone to go with me. Who wants to experience the rare opportunity of a live performance by one of our greatest songwriters and most distinctive voices? If you’re interested and you'll be in Atlanta next Tuesday evening, contact me. You can find my e-mail address on my profile, or you can leave a comment with your contact info. Now I'm off to Craigslist to find a ticket I can actually afford.

Can’t believe I had to resort to online solicitation …

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Guilty Pleasures Week: Movies

To me, the definition of a guilty pleasure movie is different than that of a guilty pleasure song. The song must have some cheese factor to it, to the point where you’ll St. Peter it in a crowd, denying your love for its beat. A guilty pleasure movie is one you can watch over and over and over, without ever growing tired of it. You can recite large chunks of dialog, often mimicking the actor’s actual movements. You watch at least part of it — but always to the credits — at least four times a year. You can’t move on if you stumble across it while channel surfing. And you’re rarely embarrassed to admit how much you love the film (well, unless two of your dearest friends are film professors; they might sneer if you rave about Rushmore, so you tell them Jules et Jim is your guilty pleasure). A guilty pleasure movie isn’t necessarily on your list of favorite movies of all time (check the profile for that partial list); it’s just the most fun to watch.

The Haahnster no doubt trumped me with his movie list, so be sure to check his site today.

And so, I’m proud to list my guilty pleasure movies. I broke the list into three categories. We're starting off with the great romances. You’ll notice pretty quickly that I’m a sucker for celluloid romance. It can’t be helped; I was raised that way.

An Affair to Remember (1957)
Probably my favorite movie of all time. It has everything a girl wants in her guilty pleasures. A smart, independent woman in love with Cary Grant, a woman whose love makes him a better man. European and Manhattan (fake) locales. High drama on the high seas. Fabulous fifties fashion (one day, I will wear an evening gown just like Deborah Kerr’s white-with-red dress). The swooniest ending of all time. I was in junior high the first time I saw An Affair to Remember. It was running during romance week on “Dialing for Dollars” — five days of the best in 1950s romance. Unfortunately, each afternoon movie started before we got out of school — but Mama always had her priorities in place and got us out early each day so that we could see every minute of those classics. And that week I fell in love with Cary Grant. Love at first sight, love him to this day. Elegance, beauty, and self-deprecation are hard to beat.

The Way We Were (1973)
Mama (her again; I guess that’s where I get my love for romance) took Holly and me to see The Way We Were when it first came out. I’d had a thing for Robert Redford since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting (which I also saw with Holly; she preferred Paul Newman), so this was a swoonfest for me. Again, my favorite romantic setup: strong, independent woman making a beautiful man a better man through her fierce love. Unfortunately, this one ends in heartache and bittersweet reflection (“Your girl is lovely, Hubbell”; I use that line with guys all the time, but they never get it.) — but we need a good sob once in a while, don’t we, ladies? And has there been a more beautiful moment on film than Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardner in his dress whites, dozing at the bar? Just damn.

Truly Madly Deeply (1991)
Anthony Minghella’s first movie is one of my favorite romances and the most romantic ghost story ever. I never imagined Alan Rickman as a romantic lead until Truly Madly Deeply, but he completely won me over (completing that win-over with his role in Dogma). The five-second plot: Nina is still grieving after the sudden death of her longtime love, Jamie. She hasn’t moved on, so his ghost returns to help her through it. The last 15 minutes rip my heart and bring me to sobs (not tears, but full-out sobs) every time I see it. What beautiful, selfless love.

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Guilty Pleasures Week: Richard Curtis Collection

If Richard Curtis wrote it, I probably love it. And Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are probably in it, which are added bonuses. Here are my Curtis classics (hey, I left a couple off the list):

The Tall Guy (1989)
A brilliant mocking of all things Andrew Lloyd Webber, featuring a musical of The Elephant Man. I’ve had a thing for Jeff Goldblum since The Fly. (The Fly, not The Big Chill or Transylvania 6-5000? Yes, The Fly. His vulnerability, I guess. And he’s tall and dark-haired and intelligent and self-deprecating.) The Tall Guy is funny, sweet, and includes my favorite film sex scene, with Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson; all bedrooms should be destroyed that completely the first time.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
My first real introduction to the greatest head of hair in Hollywood (although I did enjoy Hugh’s Chopin to Judy Davis’ George Sand in Impromptu). Light, romantic, funny, sad. Hugh exudes charm (and great hair) in every scene, and the rest of the characters are perfect. Even Andie McDowell’s wooden line readings in the final scene can’t ruin Four Weddings and a Funeral for me (damn, I wish I had her hair). The WE network seems to be required by the FCC to broadcast Four Weddings and a Funeral at least twice each weekend, so I can pretty much pick up during any of the weddings and watch through to the rainstorm and Elton John's cover of "Going to the Chapel."

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
It’s rare to love the book and the movie; this is one of those rare times. As I mentioned in a recent weekend wrap-up, I love my Bridget. I’ve seen it so many times I can tell you how many minutes in for Hugh Grant’s big entrance and that look Colin Firth gives at the birthday party. It’s funny, it’s romantic, it’s a little too parallel with my life at times. I can repeat the dialog, complete with facial expressions and arm movements. I can even tell you what tunes are playing in the background during crucial scenes (best use of a song: Shelby Lynne’s “Dreamsome” during the birthday party dinner).

Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis + Hugh Grant + Colin Firth = romantic gold. Every time. But Love Actually goes further, bringing in Liam Neeson and several beautiful boys we’ve never really seen before (yeah, the women are gorgeous, too, but I’m writing this post). Again, it’s light and romantic and sweet — and Hugh Grant picks the chick with meat on her bones. Emma Thompson should have been nominated for her scene in the bedroom after she opens her Christmas gift; rips my heart out every time. Love Actually leaves me wanting to spend Christmas in London. If I were Richard Curtis, I would have cut the storyline with the guy going to Wisconsin; the rest of the vignettes I love.

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Guilty Pleasures Week: The Fun Movies

It was hard to narrow down this list. Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Harold and Maude? About a Boy or High Fidelity? Ghostbusters or Purple Rain? Edward Scissorhands or Pee-wee’s Big Adventure? Evil Roy Slade or The Big Bus? But those seemed a bit too hip for a guilty pleasures list. So, following are my fun guilty confessions.

Help! (1965)
I know, I know, it’s cooler to prefer A Hard Day’s Night, but I can’t help it. This soundtrack was the first album I bought, and so Help! holds a special place in my heart. Plus, I was six when I first saw it; don't we tend to love everything from the year we turned six? A perfect viewing night is watching A Hard Day’s Night, immediately followed by Help! Damn, were there ever four cuter, more charming boys than The Beatles?

Dogma (1999)
I like Kevin Smith. His dialog is a little over the top and his potty humor a bit much at times, but I still enjoy his movies. Chasing Amy is my favorite (loved Ben Affleck before he jumped the shark into Jennifer Lopez’ arms; take a look at Dan and see why), but Dogma is the one I must watch. Comedy Central shows it a lot on Sunday mornings (I guess it's their religious programming), so I can get a viewing in at leaste every six weeks. Alan Rickman steals the Dogma show. It’s not sacrilegious, as many (and many who’ve never seen it) claim. Irreverent, yes. Sacrilegious, no.

And now for the oh, no, she didn’t moment:

Independence Day (1996)
Don’t ask me why, but I like this movie. It’s dumb, it’s stupid (yes, it deserves both dumb and stupid), it’s loud, it’s (good Lord!) an action film, it's cheesy filmmaking at its finest … and I can't turn the channel if it's on. I want Bill Pullman as my president (yes, the dreamy Bill Pullman, who almost put While You Were Sleeping in my Guilty Pleasure: Romance category); I love it when he roars “Today is your independence day!” Jeff Goldblum (already gushed about above) and Will Smith play off each other quite well, and I love their cocky, cigar-chomping stroll at the end. Added bonus: Very few brain cells are needed to follow the movie.

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25 July 2006

Guilty Pleasures Week: Music

Because we’re celebrating Guilty Pleasure Week here at the Cup, I’m skipping today’s weekly soundtrack series. Instead, I’m going to embarrass myself by revealing my musical guilty pleasures. We’ll return to the highly popular soundtrack series next Tuesday morning.

You know you’re too cool to love it, but you can’t help it. You love that guilty pleasure playing on the radio, blaring through your iPod speakers. Maybe there’s a wonderful memory attached, or maybe it’s because it gets your hips moving, or it’s a great heartbreaker. Whatever the reason, we all have guilty pleasures in our song closet, and today I’m woman enough to admit to mine. I had to narrow it down, and classics such as Elvis’ “Kentucky Rain” and Richard Harris’ “MacArthur’s Park” didn’t make the final cut … but I secretly enjoy those, too.

“Everything She Wants”
I. Love. This. Damn. Song. It reigns at the top of my guilty pleasures charts. Must sing loudly and dance wildly whenever I hear it … and, I must admit, I tend to raise my right arm and punch the air with every “Somebody tell me.” Sadly, this display of complete uncool is a common Cup occurrence since “Everything She Wants” is on my favorites playlist. I was never a Wham! fan (although I do enjoy their cheesy Christmas song), but this one is brilliant. And I’ll punch the air until you agree with me.

Duran Duran
“The Reflex”
This was the number-one song in London the first time I went to Europe, in May 1984. The sister and I heard it everywhere we went, and we both love “The Reflex” to this day. Always reminds me of the excitement of your first time abroad. I cannot control the urge to dance whenever I hear the opening notes of “The Reflex.” It’s so of its mid-1980s time and not the best Duran Duran tune by a longshot … but it will always be my favorite. And you have to respect a song that rhymes "valentine" and "the danger line."

Justin Timberlake
"Rock Your Body"
Dance beats seem to rule my guilty pleasures. This is another one loved by both the sister and me. “Rock Your Body” has a beat that demands my hips and shoulders must move and sway whenever I hear it. Sadly, the rest of my body feels it must move like a Timberlake dancer, which can be embarrassing for both me and those who catch me at it. I never thought I’d own a Justin Timberlake single, but this is a prized, much-played possession. Sexy, too: Gonna have you naked by the end of this song. Oh, yeah; he just might.

The Carpenters
Nobody pops schmaltz like The Carpenters. When you’re filled with self-pity and want to nurse it, you need Karen to help you through the long night. I must duet with her, loudly and passionately. And this is my favorite; a paean for groupies. It demands the singalong, accompanied by a single tear. Okay, so I’m not really that dramatic when I listen to “Superstar” (having graduated from high school a very long time ago), but I love singing along with Ms. Carpenter. Have you seen this scene in the Carpenters TV movie? Heartbreaking.

The Free Design
“Kites Are Fun”
An excellent example of goofy, shallow, hippy sixties pop. (Is that a pan flute I hear?) “Kites Are Fun” is, well, it’s as much fun as flying kites: See my kite it’s fun / See my kite, it’s green and white / Laughing in its distant flight / All that’s between us is a little yellow string / But we like each other more than anything / And we run along together through the field behind my house / And the little drops of rain caress her face and wash my blouse / And we’d like to be a zillion miles away from everyone / ‘Cause Mom and Dad and Uncle Bill don’t realize / Kites are fun. It does have a level of cool, though; the Twilight Singers did an awesome cover a few years ago. And I’m proud to say that I own both recordings.

The Coolies
“Having My Baby”
If you weren’t living in Atlanta and following the music scene in the early 1980s, you’re woefully unaware of this vinyl gem. The Coolies were a local band helmed by the great Clay Harper, already a local legend as cofounder of Fellini’s Pizza. Their first album included punk covers of Simon & Garfunkel songs (on the liner notes, the band is asked why they didn’t recorded original songs; they pointed out that they did, that Paul Simon wrote all but one). Their S&G covers are fun and silly. But their cover of Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” wins the prize. I think it’s Clay’s freeform moment in the middle of the song: But woman, you ain’t the only woman in town / And, come to think of it, baby / Come to think of it / You ain’t the only woman in town that’s / Having my baby. It’s just this side of stupid. You had to be there.

A Guilty Pleasure Confession
I can’t close out today’s post without admitting that I have every guest appearance of Misters Buck, Stipe, Mills, and Berry. (For the uninitiated, those are the original members of R.E.M.) These tunes even have their own MP3 folder, titled (yes, embarrassingly titled) Wandering Dreams. Two or three times a year, I execute an extensive Google search to ensure I’m up to date. Do you know how many records, CDs, and MP3s that is? Peter Buck can’t go a month without sitting in with someone (he even sat in with Tony Trischka and Cedell Davis, by God), and Michael Stipe’s in big demand himself. Name one recording (no bootlegs, although I have a helluva lot of those, too) and see if you can trump me.

So ... do you still respect my musical genius?

Now, head on over to Haahnster’s Hallucinations to check out his guilty confessions.

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24 July 2006

Guilty Pleasures Week: TV, Part 2

I should also mention that I love Gilmore Girls. Haven’t missed an episode during its entire run. I know it’s targeted for teen girls, but I don’t care. I block out every Tuesday evening so that I don’t miss a moment downing cocktails (sad, isn’t it?). I want to live in my own Stars Hollow — a small town filled with witty repartee and obscure pop-culture references, where neighbors are eccentric and loving, where Grant Lee Phillips is my town troubadour (doesn’t every good town deserve its own troubadour?).

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Guilty Pleasures Week: TV

I have a crazy week ahead of me, so I’m going to be blog-lazy with a theme week: my guilty pleasures. Each day I’ll spill the guilt in a different category. I just hope you respect me in the mornings. The Haahnster may join me in Guilty Pleasures Week, so click over to his (always entertaining) blog when you're done here.

My television viewing habits are somewhat respectable, maybe because the shows I tend to like — Arrested Development, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Get a Life, for example — are quickly canceled and my frustration leads me to turn off the TV. I get my news and commentary from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and my news magazine is CBS Sunday Morning (is it me, or has Sunday Morning lost its punch?). My late-night preference is Letterman (hate, hate, hate the Leno). I’ve avoided the reality show bug, having seen maybe 30 minutes of American Idol’s complete run and just half of the first Survivor.


I do suffer from one reality show addiction. Cannot miss it. E-mail with friends the morning after a new episode. Read the online blog and Entertainment Weekly’s wrap-up. Spread the viewing gospel to others. That show, my friends, is Project Runway. (Back me on this, Keith.)

Why do I love Project Runway? On the one hand, it’s fascinating to watch the designers’ process in concepting and creating an outfit from a given assignment — say, a frock out of flowers. They have little time and a small budget, and still some of them create works of art. Others design crap, which can be just as entertaining. I could almost forego the drama and cattiness. Almost. It does add to the fun, although that’s not why I watch.

On the other hand, I adore Tim Gunn. I love his dedication to fashion. The way he clucks and fusses over the designers’ ideas and executions. And, well, he’s just a wonderfully elegant man. Always impeccably dressed. (Did you notice that he was wearing jeans in this season’s first episode?) My friend Kathy saw him in Manhattan recently, and said he looked wonderful (she tried to get a photo for me, but the taxi was going too fast). But I think what I love most about Tim Gunn is his voice. Silky smooth. I actually miss Santino this season just for his dead-on imitations of Tim.

“Make it work, people.”

BTW, I was quite sad to see Malan booted off last week, even though the top of his dress looked like the tree that the Keebler elves live in. His story about his evil mother and his few friends choked me up. Wish they’d voted Vincent off; I hope the producers aren’t keeping that freakazoid on for the drama. He creeps me out.

The Guilty Runner-up

Really, my very favorite show is Isaac, Mr. Mizrahi’s talk show on the Style network. I’ve been an Isaac Mizrahi fan since I saw Unzipped in 1995. He’s funny, over the top, wildly creative — and great friends with Mark Morris. What’s not to love?

Isaac used to come on every evening at 7 p.m., which actually made me leave the office by 6:30. But Style isn’t running it much these days (I just checked; three airings this week, and all are reruns). Too bad. It’s the perfect end to a long workday: fashion and accessories, lightweight interviews, an outrageous gay man who makes me laugh. Just shallow enough to be relaxing, just interesting enough to keep me watching. I especially love Sketches & Answers, where Isaac takes questions from the audience and sketches out the perfect solution to their fashion predicaments.

Interesting. Both of my guilty pleasures involve fashion and fabulous gay men. Are we seeing a trend here? Although, I must admit that I quite enjoyed the few episodes of Flava of Love I saw.

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23 July 2006

Who was I?

According to this highly scientific, no doubt well-researched Web site:

My environment sometimes considered me strange. Huh.

Thanks to Dale (who thanked Casual Slack) for the link.

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21 July 2006

A Jackson Pollock Friday

Who wants to waste a steamy Friday using brain power and checking off tasks when you can be Jackson Pollock for a day? I discovered my inner artist at Write Procrastinator’s spot, and have thus far wasted 15 corporate minutes painting my own Pollock. [Hint: Click your mouse to change colors on the canvas.] Go forth and create, dear readers … and check back this weekend.

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20 July 2006

Grammar's Bo Derek

Another writing class, another perfect 10 rating from the participants. And this time I managed to keep my pants on. Charmed ‘em and wowed ‘em with sentence fat-trimming and the inverted pyramid. I must be good to make business writing interesting to the masses. (Yes, I am patting my own damn back; I deserve it today.) Maybe I missed my calling as a teacher.

Now, y’all move on down the page and watch that John Lee Hooker/ Van Morrison video. That’s one helluva “Gloria” they’re singing.

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Off to Save the Grammar World

I'm teaching another writing class this morning and won't have time to post ... so entertain yourselves today with John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison's glorious duet of "Gloria."

John Lee Hooker was. So. F*cking. Cool. As is Mr. Morrison.

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19 July 2006

Pete Yorn Loves His Band

Or so he said in song last night.

Cindee and I caught the lovely Pete Yorn and his acoustic show last night at Smith’s Olde Bar. It’s not a stretch to say that a good time was had by all. He had a great time on stage, even though it was his fourth show in 48 hours. Mr. Yorn has quite the darling personality, and charmed us with his onstage banter. (Gizmorox, he said he’ll be back in the fall, so keep that couch reserved.)

Yes, he’s pretty … but he can also sing

Pete kicked off the evening with his solo acoustic Divorce set, with “Life on a Chain,” Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds,” and The Smith’s “Unlovable.” He proceeded to play all of my favorite Yorn tunes, except for “Murray” — but I forgave him since we were so close to his adorable face.

Pete Yorn, in fine performance form

But there were two standouts for me last night:

Highlight #1: Pete’s cover of Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation.” It was glorious hearing that song live again; it’s been 10 years since I last heard Warren perform it. I blew out my voice singing along with Pete. “Splendid Isolation” followed his cover of The Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” — two songs, he noted, that don’t really go together. And yet they did.

Highlight #2: Pete started the encore with “A Girl Like You,” which may be my Yorn fave. But, then, I do love "Life on the Chain" and "Strange Condition" ... his cover of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" ... "Just Another" and "Closet" ...

Pete sings “A Girl Like You”

Pete also sang several new songs; based on what I heard, the new album (Nightcrawler, out August 29) should be good. Each show's setlist is on PeteYorn.com, so click here for last night's lineup.

Why the f*ck do people pay good money for a concert ticket just to chat and party and ignore the performance right in front of them? We were surrounded by a pack of thirtysomething post-frat boys reliving their glory days at the house, flirting and yelling and laughing and talking about the good ol’ days — everything but listening to and enjoying the show. During a solo acoustic set. At the front of the crowd. That room stretched far behind us, with plenty of room for socializing. Can’t they fraternize back there? F*cking rude weasels. I nearly kicked them in the shins, but Pete brought me from the negativity to the positivity (you had to be there).

You may think you’re unfamiliar with Pete Yorn, but chances are you’re not. He’s a regular on the soundtrack circuit, including:

  • Shrek 2: Cover of The Buzzcock’s “Ever Fallen in Love”
  • Me, Myself, and Irene and Forty Days and Forty Nights: “Strange Condition”
  • Spiderman: “Undercover”
  • Stuck on You: “It Never Rains in California”
  • Just Like Heaven: “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”
  • Hellboy: “Red Right Hand”

Pete has also participated on some good tribute albums, covering the Ramone’s “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (We're A Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones) and Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation” (Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon).

Pretty boy. Great songs. Yep, I like that Pete Yorn. I might catch his show when he returns this fall.

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18 July 2006

Lyle Lovett: Lyle Lovett and His Large Band

I turned 30 in 1989. The must-have album for every single thirtysomething woman that year was Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time. I had it, I loved it, the grooves were well worn (because we were still buying vinyl back then, kids), and I went to see her at the Fox Theater that fall. It was an incredibly rowdy show. Bonnie was turning 40 the next day and this was her birthday party. She giggled and hinted about her backstage misdeeds with Lowell George and other Fox naughtiness in years past, and just kicked the hell out of the stage.

As great as Bonnie was, she lost me to her opening act: Lyle Lovett. Love at first sight and sound. I was vaguely familiar with him — he got some airplay on WRAS — but seeing him live did it for me. I fell deeply in love with his music right there, and went out the next morning to buy all three of his CDs. As did every person I know who was at that show.

And so I introduce you (actually, I pray you already love) Lyle Lovett and His Large Band.

A wonderful mix of country and Texas swing, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band is full of Lyle’s personality, with lyrics both funny and heartbreaking, and a grand cover of “Stand by Your Man.” The Large Band includes our hometown favorite, Francine Reed, raising the roof with her spine-tingling, blues-tinged backing vocals.

Every track on this album is near perfection. Some make me want to grab the first man to twirl and two-step around the room, while others drive me to the mic, ready to belt it just like Francine. My personal favorite is “Nobody Knows Me,” a beautiful heartbreaker about infidelity. It’s one of my ten favorites from Lyle’s catalog. (We girls love a good breakup tune.)

Lyle Lovett is hard to categorize, and so (sinfully, you boring, unimaginative radio programmers) rarely gets airplay. I think he’d work well on a couple of our town's stations, but no Lyle yet. Just trust me on this one and give him a try. I have yet to be disappointed by a Lyle disc. He's just damn cool.

Seventeen years after that musically fateful night, I’ve seen Lyle live about twelve or thirteen times. One of the best shows was a songwriter’s circle, with him, Guy Clark (who that night entered my top forty; if you love songwriting, you should know him or check him out today), Joe Ely, [and I’m afraid to say I’m drawing a blank on the other two; Ruth, fill in my memory gaps!]. They sat in folding chairs, went down the line talking about the inspiration for a particular song, then performed it together. Got to see a lot of Lyle’s charm and wit on that Variety Playhouse stage.

A few years later, I caught his Chastain show with Rickie Lee Jones — who was brilliant, but rattled by the rattle of forks and conversation that fill our local amphitheater. She joined him on stage to sing her part in my favorite Lyle tune, “North Dakota.” Beautiful, perfect for a dark summer night.

If you’ve never seen him, I urge — no, demand — that you catch him next time his bus pulls into your town. He’s a great performer full of personality and strong voice, and you’ll see why Julia got the best end of that deal.

Oh, and I love full-haired Lyle. That wild hair, coupled with a face full of personality and lives lived, and his sense of style makes for one damn attractive man.

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17 July 2006

A Grand Time Was Had by All (Well, Me)

Another Monday nearly done. I can finally exhale and relax … and remember my weekend that just ended. It was a typical weekend, and a great one at that.


Friday is my night. Time to slug, to veg, to fade away. I tend to cocktail a lot on Thursday, so Friday gives me a chance to recharge for the rest of the weekend and decompress after five days at the office. A perfect Friday night has yoga pants and R.E.M. T-shirt, take-home Thai and a good bottle of wine, a guilty pleasure movie and the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly. I don’t want to expend any energy beyond pulling the cork out of the bottle or flirting on the phone. You may be able to lure me out with the promise of cocktails and a cute guy clutching a microphone, but I’d rather share the sofa with my cats.

This past Friday night was perfect. An early Mexican dinner with a couple of magaritas, followed by my yoga-panted self drinking wine and watching Bridget Jones’s Diary. Twice. The 9 p.m. and the 11 p.m. broadcasts. (A call from a cute and tipsy boy at 9:03 made me miss Hugh Grant’s entrance, so I had to watch it all the way through a second time.) I know the dialog and facial expressions by heart, and can tell you to the minute when the elevator doors open on Hugh Grant and “Respect,” or when Colin Firth gives Bridget that look at her birthday dinner as “Dreamsome” plays in the background. I never tire of Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s like watching a documentary of My Life as a Single Girl. And, well, it has Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.


It was too darn hot for a delicate Southern flower such as myself to go outside (we mustn’t glisten around the menfolks, you know), so the canine nephew and I spent the morning watching a fun movie — Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Rent it today, and thank me tomorrow. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer are excellent in it. Added bonus: Robert Downey Jr. sings the song over the closing credits; downloaded it yesterday and like it.

My friend Jennifer, whom I’ve known since high school, came over Saturday night. She recently went to her class reunion (she was a year ahead of me), so we drank wine (well, I did; she’s a much stronger soul than I), studied each Flickr reunion photo (Jimmy Knight is still very cute and very tall, and his gold band is very wide), listened to the Retroactive channel, and talked and talked and talked and talked. Jennifer’s a very cool woman, and I should see her more often.

Jennifer and I were on the newspaper staff in high school. I was the first sophomore to make the staff, which was a big deal since we had the best paper in the state. I thought I was selected because I was one helluva writer with raw talent waiting to be tamed. But Jennifer and I soon found out we made it because we had short, dark hair … and the photography editor had a thing for cute girls with short, dark hair. But I learned how to write and today support myself as a writer, thanks to everything I learned during my three years on The Panther Tracks.

Speaking of Jennifer, her son is in an up-and-coming Athens band. Check out Thunder Chizzle; go see them if you’re in the Athens area.


A good Southern Baptist, I helped my mom fill in as teacher for the fifth grade Sunday school class. The kids were a lot of fun, and we got to arts-and-crafts it.

After we completed our Christian duty, we raced up to Lake Burton [for you non-Georgians, it’s a lake in the north Georgia mountains, one of the prettiest spots in the state]. My brother-in-law’s dad owns a home on the lake, and sister and hubby were spending a long weekend there. We had a fried chicken lunch on the porch, then the brother-in-law took me on a fast, fun boat ride. I’m considering pursuing the dad so that I can marry into that house.

And that was my weekend. I need to figure out how to live on five-day weekends and two-day work weeks.

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16 July 2006

I'm Disappointed in You

Yes, disappointed that nobody commented on the fabulousness of my necklace in the photo below. T. Coraghessan Boyle was mezmerized by it. Why weren't you? Yeah, yeah, y'all got all caught up in the T.C. moment ... blah, blah, he's wonderful, blah ... but what about that wonderful necklace? Anyone?


14 July 2006

A Day in the Life, Part 1: She Teaches a Class

I’m a communication project manager and copywriter. This year, because I’m a bit of a grammar nerd, I’ve been given a new responsibility: developing and delivering writing classes for our employees. Some are tailored for a department, while another is a grammar/writing course for our corporate masses. I started a series of writing courses yesterday tailored for our facility services department. Their manager has made it a requirement, so I’ll teach it every Thursday this month.

The first class went well. My students were some of my favorite people in that group — the head of fleet services, the head of our copy center and the cafeteria, one of our receptionists, and two of our hardworking service guys. We covered the basics of writing a clear, simple sentence, then dove into writing a good business e-mail (really, just about the only form of communication we corporate types have today. Why write a report or call someone when you can type an e-mail?).

I was on a roll. I like the people. I’m passionate about the topic. I love performing in front of the crowd (because, after all, teaching is a performance, isn’t it?). About 30 minutes into the class, the lone female student gives me that nod … that check yourself nod. Oh, no. I glance down … and my pants are riding dangerously low on my hips, showing off my belly and my black silk panties. I’ve suddenly dropped 10 pounds, and it seems my brown silk palazzo pants — my favorite chic-yet-they’re-like-wearing-pajamas pants — aren’t keeping up with me. Or on me. With subtle grace that would make a princess proud, I jerk them back up on my hips, never missing a teaching beat. But, jeez … my pants fell down in front of the class?

They did rate me a perfect 10, though.

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A Day in the Life, Part 2: She Meets a Hero

I saw T. Coraghessan Boyle last night. Heard him. Touched him. I didn’t go all five senses on him, though, (barely) restraining myself from sniffing or licking him.

T. Coraghessan was darling. Brilliant. Much more personable and charming (and taller) than I imagined. He started out talking about writing and his background and his process. He read the first chapter of Talk Talk (and did a great job reading it; not every writer can read his words well), then answered questions (keep reading for the answers to many of those questions).

I also learned how to pronounce his name: cor-RĂG-uh-son. (Mary, practice it in front of a mirror before the next visit, okay?)

He mentioned (as Rita Mae Brown once told me) that he finds it strange that his publisher rarely includes Atlanta on his book tours. This is a short tour — originally just seven cities, now expanded to thirteen — and he requested that Atlanta be among the seven.

Invisible Lizard: He wore red Chuck Taylors with his black pants, cool black T-shirt with silk-screened fish, and light blue sports coat. And the necklace he’s wearing on the Talk Talk cover.
We then queued up on the front porch of The Dump (the apartment house in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind). He signed my book, warmly shook my hand and chatted me up a bit (he chatted with every person; very cool). He loved my necklace.

The book and the necklace:

I can’t quite make out what he wrote between my name and his; I think it reads “You’re a hot little minx, aren’t you?”

My Missed Opportunity

I’m dogsitting for my sister this weekend. She was a little anxious about my getting to her place so late, so I promised her I’d be there by 9 p.m. Got in line at 8 p.m. to have my book signed, so timing was good. Or, it appears, wasn’t. Behind me was this cute farmer/artist, with long, wavy black hair and a cute personality. He chatted and flirted and blushed when he looked me in the eyes. He told me about his crops, his books, why it wasn’t raining in Marietta, his favorite breakfast spot (he’s going to keep an eye out for me, because I simply must try it), and how close his farm is to my mother’s house. I wanted (oh, God, did I want) to ask him out for a drink … but my love for my canine nephew won out, and so I left alone. And spent the rest of my evening watching that beloved dog sleep on the couch.

Because I am a writer and a student of great writing (and because I’m one huge nerd), Professor Bastard will be glad to know that I took notes during T.C.'s chat. Among the things I learned from my Authorian hero:

  • He disagrees with the basic writing adage. His writing adage: Write what you don’t know, and find something out.
  • He does not think deep thoughts all the time, only when he’s writing. If you see him walking down the street, he’s probably thinking “Kill. Screw. Eat.”
  • He usually comes up with the title of the book first.
  • He had the idea of a book about identity theft, but couldn't get started once he completed his research. Then, he had an appointment with his recently divorced dentist, who kept talking about the hot deaf woman who had been in earlier ... and Dana and the Talk Talk story were born (with a nod to the dentist in the first chapter).
  • His favorite of his novels: Water Music, his first
  • He completed East Is East in a cabin in the mountains ... wrote the last word ... went for a hike to relax ... couldn't ... and came back in to write a short story.
  • His first two novels each took three years to write. His latest, Talk Talk, took eight months (excluding research).
  • He turns in a manuscript and that's what published. A little copy editing, that's it. His editor and publisher — both of whom he's been with since college (since college!) — don't bother it. They did, however, cut Dana's novella from the end of Talk Talk; that's now running in the current McSweeney's.
  • He hasn’t watch television since 1972.
  • He was a history major until he read a Flannery O’Connor story in an English class. He then became a history/English major.
  • While attending the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he was taught by or became friends with Raymond Carver, John Cheever, and John Irving.
  • He writes every day. After he finishes the day’s writing, he reads it aloud to his (he claims, long-suffering) wife. He loves to listen to the meter of the words as they’re spoken aloud.
  • As a professor at UCLA, he teaches just 39 days out of the year.
  • His favorite writers writing today include Louise Erdrich (who doesn’t love her?) and his friend Richard Ford (who will be at the Margaret Mitchell house this fall).
  • He does not like genre fiction because it’s flatly written. There’s no dimension, no beauty of the language.

And, that, ladies and gentlemen, was the beautiful end to two crappy days.

UPDATE: Click here for an interesting post on T.C. Boyle.

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13 July 2006

I Know, I Need to Post Something

But it hasn't been a good couple of days. Someone swiped my wallet in the Kroger parking lot Tuesday night (got everything, even my rare Athens Olympics Starbucks card, the one that was so pretty, dammit), so I was in too bad a mood yesterday to write (the only words that came to mind were of the curse variety, so I spared you). Today I have another new training class, so I'm a bit too wound up to write a coherent paragraph. But tonight ... tonight I get to see and hear T. Coraghessan Boyle, so life will be back in balance by nightfall.

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11 July 2006

R.E.M.: Fables of the Reconstruction

I hadn’t planned to feature another R.E.M. album so soon in my soundtrack series. Y’all know how deeply I love the boys, and how passionate I am about nearly every chord struck or note sung. I can’t describe the pure joy I get from listening to an R.E.M. album (Dan may be able to describe it to you, but I think he’s trying to erase all that effusion from his memory banks). But I love many bands and different genres, so I was planning to go all over the musical landscape this summer, and come back to R.E.M. in the fall.

However, while talking to this month’s crush Friday night, he mentioned — no, apologized — that Fables of the Reconstruction is his favorite R.E.M. album. Apologizing for one of their best (and, sadly, often overlooked) albums? I put on the album immediately, and haven’t listened to anything else since Friday. Thus, once again, we must go down that R.E.M. road.

The Facts
R.E.M.’s third full-length album, Fables of the Reconstruction (or Reconstruction of the Fables; you can't quite tell from the album cover which is correct) was released in 1985. The album was their departure from producer Mitch Easter and the South. They instead chose Joe Boyd — who produced some of the greatest work by British folk artists Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and Richard Thompson, among others — and recorded the album in London. Ironically, Fables is R.E.M.'s most Southern album. I’ve read that Bill Berry loathes it and Peter Buck hated “Wendell Gee,” but I think it’s brilliant.

Fables is, in a word, evocative. It conjures the feel of the South — kudzu and eccentrics and humid summer nights and the mood that permeates the region. It’s a mood that can’t be described, only felt — and it comes through when you listen to Fables from beginning to end. Hence, the obsessive, nonstop listenings of the last few days as I sat on the porch and stared into the trees.

There isn’t a bad song on the album. For personal reasons, my favorite is “Good Advices,” but I absolutely adore “Green Grow the Rushes” and “Feeling Gravity’s Pull.” Love the “Wendell Gee” lyric If the wind were colors / And if the air could speak; beautiful, visual words, Michael.

Why doesn’t Fables get its due? I guess because it was followed by Life’s Rich Pageant and Document, which took R.E.M. to a new level.

But enough with the music-nerd pontifications. What makes an album great is what it means to you, right?

Whenever I hear Fables, I’m transported back to a mid-September night in 1985. My paramour and I had attended a University of Georgia football game with my parents. We rode back to Atlanta with Renae, who was in school at UGA. We drove down dark two-lane roads, windows open, breezes blowing, listening to Fables, laughing and talking and singing along. In the dark, the three of us felt like the only people on the earth, the only ones soaking up the beautiful night and beautiful songs. It was one of those perfect moments that never fades. And that’s why I love Fables of the Reconstruction.

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10 July 2006

Mark, T.C., and Me

The bookworm part of my being is dancing and twirling with excitement right now. I have two literary events this week — one that will be fun, one that will be thrilling — both at the Margaret Mitchell House, through the Center for Southern Literature.

The Fun: Tonight I’m off to hear a talk by Mark Childress, whose latest novel, One Mississippi, was released last week. (Note to self: Pick up a copy at lunch.) I’ve been to a couple of Childress readings, so I know it will be entertaining. You might be familiar with him through Crazy in Alabama (movie sucked; book was good). My favorite is Tender, about an Elvis-type character; in fact, it was reading Tender that turned me into the Elvis fan I am today (well, that coupled with my fateful Memphis trip with Simeon during the 1991 Elvis International Tribute Week).

The Thrill: Thursday it's a reception for and talk by T. Coraghessan Boyle, who’s peddling his new book, Talk Talk.

I know he goes by T.C. these days, and I know it’s not his birth name, but I love saying "Coraghessan." I’ve often fantasized about being his girlfriend, just so I could coo "Coraghessan" in his ear. So, in my world, he’s still T. Coraghessan Boyle.
Boyle has been on my top 25 authors list since I read East Is East in 1990. He’s a publishing machine these days. Didn’t I just finish The Inner Circle? (OK, that was two years ago, but it’s still sharp in my mind; I liked it that much.) And I have yet to crack the spine on Tooth and Claw. I cannot wait to see The Man and hear The Man. I imagine him to be a witty, brilliant, eccentric smart-ass — my favorite kind of man. And I think he's kind of cute.

I hope you’re jealous.

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09 July 2006

Cool Puffy Cafe

Write Procrastinator turned me onto this week's bloggerific game: Sternest Meanings' auto-anagram. Type in your blog name or your favorite phrase, and it spits out an anagram.

  • A Cup of Coffey anagrams into Cool Puffy Cafe (I'd go there for my morning extra-shot latte).
  • Drop the "A" and you get Occupy Feoff (you occupying types better stay off my feoff!).
  • Radio Free Europe? Adore eerier of Up (so true!).
  • Gordon and Stella rather appropriately turns into Gallant or sodden.
  • I'm a uniter, not a divider becomes I'm a deviation intruder.
You get the idea. Let me know what you come up with.

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08 July 2006

One Happy Camper

Twenty years ago this week, I camped in the Vermont woods. In my own tent. Roughed it. Cooked over an open fire. Hiked mountains. Swam in a creek. Ate s’mores. Sang campfire songs. Battled bears. One of the best trips of my life. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

And, sadly, the last time I went camping.

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07 July 2006

A Final 10,000th Thought

I can’t believe I forgot to mention my favorite part of this blog: those of you who read A Cup of Coffey. I’ve had such a wonderful time getting to know you, even if it’s just through your own posts or comments. I’ve met some amazing people, and a few of you have become true friends. I’m learning a lot from your writing styles and stories. I’ve also reconnected with many people I let fade away. Isn’t this blog thing cool?

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The Cup Runneth Over

Yesterday was a momentous day on these pages. At 2:35 in the afternoon, Cup of Coffey had its 10,000th hit! I dug through the data to see who put the page over the top, and that 10,000th hitter was none other than HollyC (or possibly RCOFCHS) — a blog virgin until this page premiered, now a regular reader and commenter. (Janice, I hate to break it to you, but you were so close at 9,999.) HollyC (RCOFCHS) wins a lifetime supply of friendship … and a cocktail next time we get together.

Keep coming back, folks! Your comments always entertain me.

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06 July 2006

Casting the First Blog Stone

I recently mocked Professor Bastard over his blog admission that he first thought the Buffett giving away his millions was Jimmy Buffett. But, of course, I have no room to talk.

Cue up Wilco's "Pot Kettle Black":

During the fall of 2004, I was riding with my boss in his car. I spotted the umpteenth W window decal in a week, and commented that I didn’t realize so many Wesleyan graduates lived in Atlanta.

“Um, Beth,” he said, “That’s for George W. Bush.”


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05 July 2006

Another Night on the Porch

Perfect porch night. It started raining around 7 p.m. Bit of a thunderstorm with heavy rain at first, but now it’s just a steady rain. The rain broke the heat wave we’ve roasted through the last week. It’s cool again, thank God.

You can hear the rain dripping on the leaves and pouring out of the spout. Crickets are singing and lightning bugs are zipping. Since everyone else has their windows closed tight, I don’t hear any blaring TVs or radios. I get to enjoy the sounds of a summer night. Nothing more relaxing than listening to rain and crickets while watching for lightning bugs. I'm even sipping lemonade and eating watermelon. I am Southern, hear me drawl.

I’ve pretty much moved out here this summer. There’s a lamp on the table, so that I can read in the evenings. The cats have moved out here, too. We’re getting some flying bugs inside the townhouse, but that just gives the cats more toys to bat around.

There’s a leaf I always stare at when I’m zoning on the porch. It has a hot-pink squiggle across the top left. It usually takes me a second or two to find it. Once found, I can stare at it for quite a while, as I empty my brain or work on a story idea or chat on the phone.

Here’s a photo of my porch, from the office. As I type this, I'm sitting in the chair you see, but I have it turned to face the trees.

My monitor is sitting on my great-grandfather’s desk, which is in desperate need of refinishing. I’m looking for a computer desk so that I can move that equipment to the other side of the room. Once that’s done, this will be my writing area. It’s the perfect spot since I’ll have the breeze from the porch, but I won’t be distracted by the trees and the chipmunks and the lizards.

Expect great words from that corner of my world.

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Chip and Dale Hit the Town

I spent Saturday shopping and lunching with Janice, my best friend in high school. I came home with bags of baubles, three writing journals, and a lot of good stories.

Janice and I met our first day of high school, in typing class. She was new to town, and I was ready for new friends. We were inseparable for four years. Teachers called us “Chip and Dale,” because we talked so fast when we were together — animated, colorful, giggly, silly.

Looks-wise, we were complete opposites. Janice had long, straight blonde hair, I had short, curly black hair. She had the T, I had the A.

Janice and (a slice of) me, our sophomore year
(Photo courtesy of the Panthera)

We loved boys, and music, and the soccer team, and boys, and coaches Sumara and Duncan, and boys, and each other. (God, yes, we were boy crazy.) I dumped two boys for her (Rick Brown, Janice? Were you crazy?), and she cried with me through dramatic heartaches that rivaled Douglas Sirk films. She was with me when I was first French kissed (Wayne Boylston, homecoming dance, sophomore year). We had different tastes in boys, so we never competed for the same affection. (Again, Janice, you dumped Rick Brown?)

How we got out of high school with nary a psychological scratch is beyond me. We put ourselves in many reckless and stupid situations — usually accompanied by Paige and Lorraine. We shared our first drunken moment. Our first police pullover (in the back of a car that was drag racin’ down South Cobb Drive, baby). That party with the soccer team, Paige, and Lorraine; Janice saved my virginity that night (damn her). My infamous night on Vinings Mountain. Drinking lemonade Slurpies and Johnny Walker before school every Friday of our senior year. Getting nailed by Mama for drinking, right after graduation. Those mountain boys, right after graduation.

Spending the night with Janice was always a treat. She had an older brother (I had such a secret crush on him; he was cute and cool and drove a motorcycle), a younger brother, a younger sister. Most times, all the kids hung around when I stayed over. We’d cook and goof and stay up way too late.

Several times a year, we’d get dolled up and Mama would take us somewhere nice for lunch. To this day, Janice and I both love the full restaurant experience; Mama taught us well.

The CHS Senior Courtyard
Janice is laughing, second from top right;
I'm on the left side of the bench, next to RCofCHS

As with many great high school friendships, we drifted apart after graduation. I went to Athens for college, she stayed in town to work. She fell in love and married a few years after graduation, and soon had two boys. I was still living the single life and discovering who I wanted to be. She divorced him, then got marriage right with the second one. We’d get together on occasion, but our lives were too different and we faded away. I think we last saw each other at her 30th birthday celebration. Maybe a Christmas card every couple of years, with empty promises to get together soon.

I found her a few years ago on Classmates.com. I could never remember her married name, and luckily she was listed. We began trading Christmas cards, then e-mails. We finally made plans for lunch about three years ago. She lives an hour away, in a college town. I was a little nervous on the drive there. What if we didn’t click? What was I going to say? Did I need notecards?

But Janice is still Janice. Straightforward, honest, funny, chatty, happy with who she is. We picked up like we’d just walked out of Coach Sumara’s class — Chip and Dale, talking without taking a breath. She’s happily married to her best friend, has raised three great boys (and I mean it; these boys are well-mannered, smart, and going places). She works for the university, and begins taking classes there this fall.

It’s wonderful when you discover that a friendship is real, no matter how many years separate you. Janice is a dear friend again (still), and I love every moment I spend with her.

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04 July 2006

Four Fourths

It’s the Fourth of July here on the porch, where I’ve spent much of this holiday weekend. And when I’m on the porch, chances are I’m in a thoughtful, reflective, reminiscent mood. I’ve had some great Independence Days — Peachtree Road Races and fireworks, barbecues and patio cocktails, friends and family being the standard celebration (and there was the Nasty Clam Incident of 2004). But four were different.

Twenty Years Ago

Love of My Life: The 1980s Edition and I were driving to Vermont, where we would camp for several days on his family’s property. We stopped in Maryland to pick up his older brother, staying there for the July 4th weekend. His brother had three beautiful blonde girls — the oldest six, the youngest a toddler. I immediately bonded with the oldest, Emily. LoML was Emily’s godfather, but he shied away from her and instead played with the two younger ones. Why? Because Emily had cerebral palsy. And, as he said, she freaked him out. This beautiful, twisted child could barely talk, but communicated in so many ways. She was full of life and happiness and love and hilarity; you couldn’t help but be bouncy and bubbly when you were with Emily. And he couldn’t even look at her.

We watched fireworks on an island that July 4th. Emily sat in my lap, so LoML wouldn’t sit next to us. The bang of the fireworks at first scared the bejesus out of Emily, but I held her tight and talked to her and showed her how beautiful the sky was right after the bang. She soon relaxed against my chest and cooed “Pretty!” at each burst. Damn, I loved that little girl.

When we returned home, I saw him in a different, uncomfortable, shallow light, knowing that he couldn’t see beyond surface flaws. We broke up six weeks later, over something stupid and trivial I pulled. It was the most devastating breakup of my life. But in my heart I knew he was no man. Today, in my personal photo album, the one I keep on my bedside table, the one with the special photos, I have a shot of me on the beach with those little girls. No photos of him.

Eleven Years Ago

As the low man on the management totem pole, I was scheduled to work the bookstore during its abbreviated holiday hours. I brought in beer for the booksellers, those equally unlucky in shifts. The store was quiet, so we enjoyed our beer and our overly educated, book-snob selves.

The store closed early, around 7 p.m. There was talk about going on to Churchill’s, but instead I went to my parents’ house. I was depressed, and lonely, and alone, and lost, afraid that my life had stalled and wouldn’t restart, and I wanted the comfort of my parents. My dad loved watching the Boston Pops’ Fourth of July concert on PBS, and so I watched it with him instead of partying with friends.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the last day of My Lonely Year. The next night, at a party, things changed … and Love of My Life #3 and I began our interesting eight years of adventure.

One Year Ago

OM began losing the cancer battle about this time last year. There were July 4th parties to liven, races to watch, fireworks to ooooh … but instead I shut down and locked the door. I was consumed with sadness and fear and anger, and couldn’t bear to look at another soul, to celebrate something as trivial as a national holiday (it was the mood, kids). Such loneliness in realizing you’re about to lose your dad, this great strength you’d always leaned on, that this unconditional love that would soon be gone from your life. I stayed in all day, mindlessly watching mindless movies. I went to the barbecue drive-through down the street to grab lunch, and was so embarrassed about being by myself, I ordered two platters so that the drive-througher wouldn’t know I was alone.

This Year

We’re having an indoor picnic (which I think is actually called “lunch”) this afternoon at Mama’s. Fried chicken and cole slaw, sandwiches and chips, lemonade and watermelon. There are too few of us now for Mama’s banana pudding, but there is watermelon, by God. Holidays are strange these days as we create new traditions. And if my g*ddamn cable was working, I’d watch the Boston Pops tonight and hope he was watching with me.

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Jeff Buckley: Grace

What can I say about Grace that hasn’t been said? If you’ve heard the album, you love it. If you haven’t, you should pick it up today.

But quickly: a vocal range you rarely hear outside the classical/opera world. Guitar that strums your emotions, up and down, and back again. Unlike any CD you bought in 1994, maybe ever. There isn’t a throwaway among the 10 tracks.

Jeff Buckley’s influence didn’t come from his father (folk singer Tim Buckley), but from the great chanteuses — Edith Piaf and Nina Simone and Maria Callas — with a bit of Robert Plant thrown in. His vocal range nearly matches theirs, and the passion and pain owe much to them. Unlike Rufus Wainwright, in whose voice you often hear humor and a bit of joie de vivre, Buckley’s is full of pain and angst.

Buckley penned many of the songs on Grace. And they’re beautiful. Haunting lyrics, with guitar work that matches the varying emotions of his voice. This isn’t the kind of album where you recommend it for X and Y; every damn song works, and they work well together. He sings and plays the hell out of these songs. Buckley should not to be lumped with the singer/songwriters who’ve dominated the airwaves lately; there’s some balls-to-the-wall rocking on Grace, too. Album highlights? Every damn song.

Grace also includes some amazing covers. It’s pretty much accepted that his is the definitive version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (the song that introduced me to Grace; our radio station — at that time, anyway — had the guts to add it to the playlist). He also makes Ms. Simone’s “Lilac Wine” his own (and she covered his “Lover, You Should Have Come Over”). And I can’t imagine the angels up above sounding more beautiful than Buckley in “Corpus Christi Carol.”

“So Real” is my Grace highlight. A guitar that screams heartache and fear and passion. A voice that climbs and hits where you hurt the most. And that whisper. I recently found the video on YouTube, and now watch it several times a day. Take a few (to be exact, 4:48) minutes to watch it. He was so g*ddamn beautiful. Watch his fingers caress the handlebars (about 1:12 into the video). Just. God. Damn. Makes it hurt again to realize he’s gone.

Jeff Buckley died in 1997, in a freak accident just as he was beginning recording sessions for a new album. What a horrible, f*cking loss. For the full story, click here.

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01 July 2006

Dreams They Complicate My Life

Haahnster, my new favorite blogger (well, he's not new to blogging, but I'm new to reading his page), has a great post on R.E.M.'s Green. He's definitely worth the click, so "Get Up" and head on over there.

If you can't get enough of the Athens music scene, don't miss Dale's I'm Not No Limburger (one of the greatest song lyrics ever), or Savage Distortion's Talk About the Passion. And longtime fave Scrivener is mastering Neutral Milk Hotel (and he's definitely on the way to becoming one of the coolest people on the whole frickin' planet).

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